Committees!

I imagine only a few people will read a post about committees but they've been taking up so much of my life this week I feel like I should explain what I've been up to!

I'm on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee. It's one of the forums that holds government to account by quizzing ministers in depth and undertaking detailed investigations into areas of departmental responsibility.

At the moment we have three inquiries underway. One on productivity where I've been pushing for small businesses and self employed to be included, this will be released early next year. We also have a detailed inquiry going on into skills and higher education. And finally we've done an emergency report into the collapse of the steel industry which is out on Monday.

And then I get put onto a bill committee too! This is where an act of parliament passes through its second reading in the Commons or Lords and goes 'into committee'. Here we scrutinise the Bill line by line. Yes, line by painstaking line! Sound exciting?! Actually, it can be amazing because you get to challenge government ministers on very particular parts of legislation.

This morning I had a Select Committee meeting on our higher education inquiry, and then ran straight into the Bill Committee for the Charities Bill. I spent much of the weekend getting ready for these committees because I've learned that the more information you have in your head the more likely you are to make a difference when your moment comes.

Some of you might remember that I was on a Bill committee soon after being elected. Looking back I can see how wet behind the ears I was! This time I was much better at trusting my instincts and getting stuck in. So when a whip turned to me and said, 'Peter we need you to do a speech NOW!' I wasn't totally gripped by fear as before but actually loved the chance to weigh in on an issue I care so much about.

Charities are under attack by the government. The gagging law stops them from speaking out in the run-up to elections. The previous charities minister told charities to 'get back to their knitting'. And now there are dangers that this Bill will clamp down further on charities who speak truth to power. So for me it was a privilege to be able to challenge the minister. And then challenge again. And again....and again all morning and most of the afternoon!

Then I had to run out into the chamber where I asked ministers why trade unions were not included in the newly announced Apprenticeship Institute. And then back into committee again!

If you want to keep up to date with what I say in the House of Commons, the link below is a great place to start. You can even subscribe to an email which updates you when I speak in parliament if you like.

Parliament goes into recess on Thursday which is why everything's happening at once at the moment, and to be honest I can't wait to get back to Hove and Portslade this week and work from my office there.

Forgive a long post about committees....well done if you've read this far! I just wanted to let you know what I'm up to. Soon I'll be able to go through recent posts and respond to more of the comments there when things calm down a little. I hope all's well for you in the manic build up to Christmas. All the best, Peter

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