Monday, 2 February 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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Week beginning 26th January – Always be prepared for PMQs.

It is not unusual as an MP to have more than one meeting or event on at the same time and juggling them all can be quite a struggle. The job of managing an MP’s diary is not an easy one. However, Monday this week was quite extreme. I had four meetings on at the same time, all of which I wanted to attend but couldn’t. So at 4 o’clock I popped into my Select Committee meeting for 25 minutes and agreed I would try to get back before the evidence session was over. Then it was on to a planning meeting for the Speaker’s Conference to discuss how we would tackle our outreach programme. I was Chairing this meeting so I had to be there from 4.30 until it finished at 5.30. As I was rushing back to my Select Committee I discovered I was too late, it had already finished, so instead I put my head round the door of meeting number 3, with the Scottish Colleges, only to find out that it was also finished. I didn’t even try to get to my 4th meeting which was the Labour Party’s Prosperity and Work policy commission.

I finished the evening at a meeting of the European Parliamentary Labour Party where we discussed campaigning for the upcoming European elections in June. Not only was the Prime Minister there, but so was Eddie Izzard who is a passionate European.

Spent almost all of Tuesday attending debates and questions. In the morning it was the debate in Westminster Hall on Equitable Life. I have a meeting with constituents who have lost out because of the collapse of Equitable Life on Friday evening so wanted to attend the discussions. I spent the afternoon and evening in the Chamber, taking part in the 2nd Reading Debate on the Welfare Reform Bill. So many people wanted to take part there was a 10 minute time limit on backbench speeches. Although my question for Equalities questions hadn’t made it onto the Order Paper I was called to ask a question about equal pay.

Wednesday began as usual with a meeting of my Select Committee discussing our future programme. The first draft of our Report on Commissioning will be ready on Thursday so I will be reading up on that over the weekend so that I have my amendments ready before we discuss it next week.

I had come out at number 13 at Prime Minister’s Questions, way too far down the list to get called – we only reached question 6 last week. However, by Wednesday morning I was at number 12 as someone must have pulled out, but still didn’t think I would get called. Just in case I thought I better have something ready. Thank goodness I did, as I was the last to be called so asked the PM if he could persuade the SNP administration in Holyrood to provide treatment and rehabilitation for drug addicts if they wish to receive full benefits. This was one of the issues which I had been discussed during the Welfare Reform Bill debate the day before.

Later, I spent a very pleasant evening at a Burns Supper in the House. My Aberdeen colleague, Frank Doran, did the Toast to the Lasses and I did the reply. It was a good laugh and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Back to the Chamber on Thursday morning and a question on student debt. I also had a couple of meetings, attended the launch of a project called “sustainability” by Leonard Cheshire, and attempted to clear some of my e-mails. Before I knew it, it was time to leave for the airport.

It doesn’t look like I will be leaving the office at all on Friday, with surgeries pencilled in all day and then, in the evening, my meeting with constituents about the Equitable Life compensation scheme.

Another very busy week which included this zinger against the SNP on the question of student debt (emphasis mine):

While defaulting on their loan is always difficult for any student, may I advise my right hon. Friend not to go down the same route as in Scotland, where one political party promised that it would write off all student debt? It got elected and discovered that it could not do that, and that there is no such quick fix. [Hon. Members: "Which party?] It was the Scottish National party. Students voted believing it was going to deliver on that promise, but it turned out to be a mirage. Can I get the assurance that this Government will not give such false hope to students?

Anne Begg again showed this week her dedication to equality. Equal pay which she raised a question about in the house has also recently been an issue in the US, with Obama showing his dedication to equality.

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