It’s been an intense period in parliament and I’m just coming up for air! I finished on the Education and Adoption Bill Committee this week. It sat for almost seven hours a day, two days a week, so it was pretty full-on! We went through every line of the Bill, making speeches, putting forward amendments, and challenging the government on areas I felt they are simply wrong. Two government ministers were on the committee and I was able to interrupt and challenge them when they spoke, which I did frequently!
Sitting in a stuffy room with 20 MP’s for seven hours a day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea I realise, but boy did I learn a lot about how our laws are made and the opportunities for back benchers like me to shape the legislation that affects us all.
I jumped in with both feet and as usual got the odd slap on the knuckles. In committee it’s the same rules as the Commons chamber. I was gently told off for pressing witnesses too hard (‘Order! Will Mr Kyle please allow the whiteness to finish in his own time’) and for forgetting the protocols of addressing people (‘Order! Will Mr Kyle address the minister through the chair and not say ‘he’ again’). I’ll get there soon!
Budget day was the worst moment for me since I became your MP. The mood in the chamber was raw and angry on our side and senselessly jubilant on the government benches. Osbourne was having the time of his life as he alternated between announcing measures we had called for in our manifesto and savage cuts and reforms that will affect vulnerable and powerless people the most.
Most painful for me was the knowledge that all this was possible because Labour lost the election. For those of us inside the party’s membership we must save some anger for ourselves and channel it towards making us fully electable next time.
I’ve been contacted by loads of people who are worried about the impact this budget will have on them. If you have used the budget calculator on the BBC or somewhere else, please share your findings with me here or let me know your thoughts – both good and bad – about how the budget will affect you and our community in Hove and Portslade.
For me, I am most worried about people who are on low incomes but in work. The cancellation of tax credits before the minimum wage rise will simply hammer many people. I want to be clear that I support a wage increase that supplants the need for tax credits as it is right that work really does pay, but this must happen in a way that genuinely replaces tax credits with earned income and it must happen at the same time. This won’t happen thanks to the budget.
There are two other groups that concern me deeply. The first is young people who got clobbered with a triple-whammy. Being exempt from the minimum wage rise until 25, exempt from housing benefits, and the cancellation of university maintenance grants. This is savage treatment for the generation we are depending on for so much. It has also made me more determined than ever to fight for the vote to be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. They need the power to stand up for themselves more than ever.
Secondly there was not a word about the self-employed and precious little for small and micro-businesses. I have read the government’s ‘productivity plan’ from cover to cover and guess what, nothing there too. Self employed people are growing in numbers and together with small businesses are where most productivity gains can be made. This is something I will be following up assiduously, the government is letting these people down badly.
Finally, I’ve been getting stuck in about rail and commuter services too – challenging the rail minister and other ministers this week in the Commons and using other tools at my disposal like written parliamentary questions. I’m going to write some more on this in the coming days though….I bet you can’t wait!
All the best, Peter