The first installment in my monthly column for The Bath Chronicle...
...I am delighted to be able to offer a monthly update in the Chronicle to readers on what I’ve been doing in Parliament. Westminster is a huge place and is wonderfully complicated to navigate. But there are many friendly ‘doorkeepers’ in smart attire who can help you out: ‘Madam are you lost?’ Plus heavily armed police at every corner, who are also very friendly.
The chamber itself is famously small. It only holds half of all MPs. For big occasions like the weekly PMQs (Prime Minister's questions) you have to queue outside the chamber early in the morning to put a little green card into a slot at the back of the seat you want to sit in. They are called ‘prayer cards’, because every day the parliamentary sessions starts with prayers.
I knew from watching PMQs that they can be very rowdy. What surprised me was that so many MPs talk loudly to their neighbours and ignore whoever’s speaking. It becomes difficult to hear what the debate is about. It is rude and would be totally unacceptable in any other setting.
The state opening of Parliament was when the new government set out its plan for the next two years. The bulk of new legislation will be on how we leave the EU. Going through the voting lobby for the first time was a big moment. There were three votes - the significant vote for us Lib Dems was the vote on the Chuka Umunna amendment which we, the SNP and the Greens all supported along with 20% of Labour MPs while the rest abstained. Corbyn has made it clear that he is with the Tories in leaving the single market.
I made my maiden speech on the last day of the debate. The maiden speech is a big occasion for every new MP and only after you have made your maiden speech can you start making contributions in debates and ask questions.
I have been given the shadow brief for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The Grenfell Tower disaster comes under this brief and I am already busy scrutinising how the government is responding to this tragedy. I have asked two oral questions and I spoke in a general debate on the Grenfell Tower enquiry.
Parliament is now in recess and I am back full time in Bath holding surgeries and meeting with as many people as I can.