There are two main roles for a Member of Parliament these days. The first is as the representative in Parliament of the constituency that they were elected in. The second role is the work they do locally within their constituency as the local MP.
The second part of the job tends to get more focus because as MP I hold surgeries locally, dealing with an incredibly wide range of issues, and visit many different local organisations within the city. Carlisle has such a diverse range of businesses and organisations there is always a huge amount to see and attend to – and because these places so directly affect us in Carlisle, it is often this part of being an MP that understandably gets attention in the city.
However, the other part of the job which involves representation in Parliament is of course just as important. As MP I represent the whole constituency in the House of Commons – and help make the laws of the land, hold the Government to account, and participate in other Parliamentary activities from Select Committees to Westminster Hall debates.
At present I sit on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (‘PACAC’ for short). This follows the Cabinet Office which in many respects is the Department of the Prime Minister. It covers the senior civil service and ranges over much of Government and the relationship they both have with the constitution. I can assure you that it is more interesting than it seems.
Another committee I am a member of is the ‘1922 Committee’ – often just referred to as The 22 – which was actually set up in 1923…!
The 22 is made up solely of backbench Conservative MPs. Its job is to support other backbench Conservative MPs, make the rules about leadership contests within the party, and advise the Prime Minister and Chief Whip of backbench opinion and views within the country (which themselves are shaped by the correspondence and interactions we have with our constituents). The Labour Party have their own equivalent called the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
Recently I, along with my fellow members of The 22, met with the Prime Minister at Downing Street giving us all the opportunity to express our views on current political issues!!
I also held a Westminster Hall debate last week on the importance of food and drink to the country’s economy. Given the number of food manufacturing sites in Carlisle – and, of course, the agricultural history of our city – I am always using what opportunities I have to make sure the Government remembers how important these things are and it is these checks, balances, committees and interactions in Parliament that make our democracy work.
In the summary of the debate, the Minister at Defra referred to me as the hon. Member for custard creams – which, if you have ever been to the McVitie’s factory in Carlisle you will know is not too far from the truth. Perhaps the two roles of being an MP aren’t that separate from each other after all!