Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to www.annebegg.com.

Week beginning 18th May – Goodbye Mr Speaker.


This week was an historic week obviously dominated by the speculation and then the announcement that the Speaker was to resign. As a result, I found myself doing quite a lot of media such as Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive, Scotland at 10, BBC2’s Holyrood Live and a long interview for the online Women's Parliamentary Radio.


Because the expenses controversy has been so damaging to the reputation of Parliament I decided to post all my claims under the Additional Costs Allowance here on my website. It took a large part of the weekend to get them in a form which wouldn’t reveal anybody’s personal data.  However, to show that I had nothing to hide, on Monday I also gave access to everything the Telegraph has to the Lobby correspondent for the Press and Journal. 


Of course the normal work of Parliament had to continue on as well.  Therefore, on Monday afternoon I also chaired a Statuary Instrument Committee on Climate Change. It lasted the full hour and a half which is quite unusual for these types of committees. 


Tuesday morning was taken up with a meeting of the Speaker’s Conference which had to take place on an informal basis as we were unfortunately not quorate.  However, it seemed that events were overtaking us. I had lunch with Mark Thomson, Director General of the BBC, and inevitably the coverage of the expenses story dominated.  The rest of the day was filled with the Speaker’s statement and other meetings but it was difficult to concentrate with such historic events going on around me.


On Wednesday the Pensions Minister, Rosie Winterton MP, appeared in front of my Select Committee as part of our pensioner poverty inquiry. I was able to ask her about the issue raised with my by a constituent just last week. One of the meetings I had in the afternoon was about setting up an All Party Rare Diseases Group, and then it was into the Chamber for a debate on the BBC licence fee for next year. After catching up with some work, the evening was spent at a reception held by the RNIB to say thank you to all the MPs who had helped in their campaign to secure the higher rate DLA mobility element for blind people. 


Thursday and it was back to Aberdeen for constituent surgeries. I also managed to pop in past the All Energy Conference at the AECC and meet some renewable energy companies from Aberdeen.  It is a conference which has really grown and is much more professional every time I visit.


Friday consisted of more surgeries and meetings about subjects ranging from the future of Aberdeen Airport to the Shopmobility scheme.

I would have some witty and intelligent analysis to share with you but alas I have an exam tomorrow so it'll have to wait. ;)

Friday, 22 May 2009

A 21st Century Parliament requires a 21st Technological Revolution

I am no fan of those that have used the expenses system for their own personal gain. And that includes all parties in parliament. Although, as with most press related campaigns there are incompatibilities that have forever tainted the work of fantastic MPs. These claims can never be removed and it is to the Telegraphs detriment that political journalism has made way for political point scoring and dilletant journalism. As I understand it, the Telegraph also has the information regarding MPs staffers (me being one) and their bank accounts. I hope that the Telegraph understands the implications of what they have done. Whilst those who have defrauded the public should face repercussions as should the civil servant who broke the most precious of democratic functions, that of the objective and annonymous civil servant.

But that is not the purpose of this blog. If expenses in parliament are currently the most noticed part of democracy, let us think of the repercussions. Creating a system of expenses that denies MPs the neccessity of expenses to ensure they can live day to day will mean that parliament will be full of individuals that can afford that lifestyle, thereby eroding the democratic value of equality of opportunity. This means that people can enter parliament regardless of wealth and ensure that they can fully represent their constituents without the worry of financial hardship.

But lets go beyond this to this question - do we need parliament? I am in no way suggesting that we get rid of parliamentary democracy. How about voting form wherever an MP is, using voice recognition and, just like businesses, utilise conference calling for committee meetings. This would ensure that expenses are kept at a minimum and would also ensure that MPs are closer to the people they serve. What does everybody think?

"I'm not greedy, you're jealous!"

This is what the Tory Party is all about. Individuals who are so privileged and comfortable that they have absolutely no ability to see things other than from their own rich man's point of view, and unable to understand that their wealth and position do not come about through their own innate superiority to the plebians. This Tory cannot conceive why anything he has done could possibly be criticised so he superimposes motives on others that are most flattering to himself.

Well here's news for you Steen. People aren't jealous, they're angry!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Hope not Hate

This is an extremely illustrative video showing exactly why it is so important that we make sure that the BNP don't attain electoral success. As the video points out just 9% of the vote would be enough to get Nick Griffin a seat in the European Parliament.

Thanks to John's Labour Blog:

Monday, 11 May 2009

Tackling Crime and Criminals

Working in a spar shop I see a disproportionate amount of crime. It's just the nature of the job. But the vast majority of crime I witness is perpetuated by the same people and the items they steal are not everyday items that are essential to everyday living like bread and butter, milk. The items that the thieves seem to take are bacon, carlsberg special brew, deodorants and dog food. If the coffee wasn't behind the till then I am fairly certain that would be stolen.
Why do I tell you this? Well, its because I believe that the current belief on crime needs readjusting slightly. It is right, still, that crime is a cause of poverty and alienation and a lack of ownership with their surroundings. The notion that crime is committed by an individual, who made an individual choice and that these people are essentially bad people, wrapped up in their own selfish means is antiquated.
And its also right that we provide the means for people to reach out of the traps of poverty by ensuring they have the financial means to provide for themselves, and providing the educational means to better themselves and securing their surroundings so they do not live in fear.
But with crime in shops, there needs to be a restructuring. Crime in shops is almost always done by the same people, the kind of people that have been trapped from early on and have become so institutionalised and see nothing but crime. For shops, the government must take a role in providing strategies for preventing crime occuring including the correct placement of products that are prone to be stolen, funding for improved CCTV, training for the correct way to deal with thieves. Added to this, I have found that the hardened criminals seem to hit an area, which is why I think its important to create a network that responds when an area gets hit. This, essentially, would be a phone network to be able to inform other shops.
Hopefully, these can help to further cut the rates of crime.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Anne Begg's Week

[Disclaimer]: Aberdeen University and its blog are not connected to Anne Begg MP in an official capacity. The writers of this blog are solely responsible for its contents, and therefore this blog may not reflect the views or positions of Anne Begg MP. For Anne Begg MP's official website please go to www.annebegg.com.

Week in Westminster - from soldiers to stadiums.

Another shortish week in Westminster as I returned to Aberdeen on Thursday morning for a meeting with Aberdeen Football Club about their plans to build a new stadium at Loirston Loch. The fans are against it, the people of Cove are against it, the people in Kincorth who use the area extensively are against it, and the land was zoned as Green Belt as recently as last year. Difficult to see how it can be supported.

However, it did mean I missed the votes on MPs' expenses. If anything is a poisoned chalice this is it.

Arrived in Westminster at lunchtime on Monday to speak at and then Chair a couple of sessions of an IPU (Inter Parliamentary Union) discussing the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities. The UK has signed up but has not yet ratified so much discussion around the UK reservations. The IPU brings together Parliamentarians from all around the world to discuss issues of common interest. The majority of the delegates on this occasion were from Eastern European countries.

The Equality Bill was also published on Monday so I attended a launch event with Harriet Harman who has been the driving force behind getting a Bill that was a well received as these things can be. (Harriet also came up to Aberdeen on Saturday to promote the bill)

If it's Tuesday then it must be Cambridge. My Select Committee was out and about speaking to pensioners about how they were managing financially as part of our new inquiry. I think it is important that MPs don't do everything in the Westminster bubble but get out into the 'real world' as well.

It was then back to Westminster in time for all the votes on the Budget resolutions. Only 4 this year went to actual vote so finished around 11 pm. Some years it takes us to well after midnight.

Wednesday began with a 6.55 am interview on Good Morning Scotland about my Select Committee Report on the Equality Bill which was finally published today. If you live in Aberdeen or the North East and listen to GMS but didn't hear me, that's because there is the North East opt out at 6.55! (Perfect timing)

Later that day, Prime Minister Questions is dominated by the Gurkhas. As is the discussion on Holyrood Live on BBC2 which I take part in at 3 pm while the debate was going on in the Chamber. At 4pm there was the surprise defeat of the government motion. The meeting of the Scottish Group with the Prime Minister which was to take place in No 10 is therefore moved to his Commons office. Interesting discussion! The day ended with a statement on what the government would do about the Gurkhas in light of the vote.

Oh, and a group of us had lunch with the Faeroese Foreign Minister.

As I said earlier, I came up early on Thursday to have a meeting with Aberdeen Football Club and then the rest of the day, and the whole of Friday, was taken up by constituent surgeries. I then got to spend an enjoyable night on Friday speaking at the Aberdeen University Debater.

An interesting week in Westminster it seems. Hopefully the issues regarding the Gurkhas can be resolved, given the work they've done for this country I think they deserve the right to live here and receive the benefits of our healthcare system.

Did anyone go to the debate? I was busy so i couldn't make it, and I haven't heard how it went.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Tory frontbencher with two jobs gets grilled

Tory Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley admitted earning £24,000, in addition to his work as an MP, for "ten or twelve" days work a year as a non-executive director of a company, which is gross in more than one way.

Clearly for a number of front bench Tories, including the shadow foreign secretary and de facto deputy leader of the party, beng an elected representative isn't a full time job.

It begs the question, what would they propose to do with these directorships if they entered government? Would they keep them? If they propose to drop them, do they mean to say that they believe that they hold themselves to a lower standard than their government counterparts? There aren't many corporate directors on the Treasury bench.