Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Anne Begg's Week

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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.

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