Just like everyone, the first week back at work after the Christmas break is a bit of a shock to the system. In my case it was straight in at the deep end as I was kept in parliament until 2am on Tuesday for votes.
I was also signed to my second bill committee. Once legislation passes through the Commons or Lords for the first time it goes 'into committee'. At this stage a small number of MP's go through the bill line by line, debating it, scrutinising it, and trying to change it. It's on the same format as the main chamber of the Commons so if you want to speak you have to stand up and attract the speaker's eye and go through all the usual formalities (but because you're in a small room with 20 people in you feel a bit stupid doing it like this!!). You also vote on very particular parts of the bill but just as in the Commons, you need a majority to win.
This week I was on the committee for the Charities Bill. I know sitting in a committee room for five or six hours a day going through legislation line by line isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I care a lot about charities and feel strongly that this government have limited the ability of charities to speak up for the vulnerable. They've also patronised charities, such as the previous minister for civil society telling charities to "get back to your knitting", something that makes my blood boil every time I think about it. As you can imagine I spoke an awful lot and made full use of the chance to intervene on ministers and challenge them as much as possible.
We finished on the bill committee this afternoon and now it will go back to the Commons for two more stages, ending with the 'third reading'.
I'm still in the office at parliament now at 10pm on a Thursday - usually by now I'd be back home in Hove. I normally can't wait to escape London the second voting is finished but something really exciting happened today because I was selected to host a Commons debate on Wednesday next week. I've applied many times before but not been selected.
I've grown increasingly worried about adult social care, in particular the care of elderly who rely on council funded residential care. On Wednesday I am hosting a debate on this subject and will get to make the opening speech. Government ministers will be forced to come to the chamber to listen to my speech and answer my questions and that of other MP's too.
I've spent this evening speaking to people involved in the care sector and beginning the process of preparing for the debate. I'm so excited and I'm determined to use the opportunity to really challenge the government and press for improvements to the way we care for our elderly and frail.
I'll talk more about this next week, but please let me know if you work in the care sector or if you have relatives in care or indeed if you are living in assisted accommodation yourself, I'm very keen to learn from your experiences ahead of the debate. I have met with many people working in the sector and visited lots of local care homes. I'll be spending some of the weekend visiting homes in Hove and Portslade ahead of the debate too.
More meetings here in the morning then I'm back to Hove for a full afternoon and evening of surgery. I hope to see you around town over the weekend. All the best, Peter.