Two scandals last week have brought MPs into disrepute just when we all know it is so important for us to regain public trust.
The resignation of Liam Fox took only a week but it felt like much longer. I was in the Chamber when Dr Fox apologised for minor errors of judgement but insisted he would carry on. Day after day brought more revelations of the extent to which his friendship with Adam Werritty had invaded his professional life.
I find it hard to imagine how the different organisations I meet, in my role as Shadow Minister, would react if I turned up with a mate. And I am not a Secretary of State, responsible for a whole department, concerned with important questions of defence and security.
Now that the initial investigation has made clear that rules were broken, we need to ensure it does not happen again.
Those in Government must be absolutely transparent about connections and influence.
The British public needs to be better informed on the role that Lobbyists play.
The second scandal is equally worrying although the Minister concerned has not resigned.
Oliver Letwin was filmed throwing his constituents’ correspondence into a bin in a public park.
Constituents often write to their MP to question Government policies. But equally often, they appeal to an MP because of a problem they are having. And sometimes writing a letter as the MP can make a real difference, where a constituent’s own letters and phone calls and prayers have failed.
In my office in Pink Lane there are always a number of thank you cards on display. One might be because we were able to sort out someone’s parking fine. Another because the Inland Revenue reduced a claim after a letter I wrote. Or someone has had their benefit stopped in error, and that was put right when ‘the office of the MP for Newcastle Central’ made a call.
It is a real privilege to know that I can make a difference to people’s lives here in Newcastle, the city I grew up in.
But to do so sometimes I have to know intimate details. Why Mrs X should be entitled to such an such a benefit. The reason Mr Y could not complete a tax return in time. The exact relationship between Ms Z and a young man applying for a visa in a foreign country.
When people in Newcastle share with me the intimate details of their lives than you have a right to know I will treat that information with respect and consideration.
I want you to know your letters will never be found in a public bin!
Shadow Ministerial Role and POST
In the recent reshuffle, I retained my shadow ministerial role with an extended brief for science and part of the digital economy. We are continuing with our policy review and I expect to be in a position to start engaging stakeholders on policy options and strategies on innovation and science in the next few weeks.
As member of the Board of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology I was asked to represent them at the last weeks Science and Technology in Society. A report can be found here. Whilst in Japan I also visited a number of universities and research institutes, strengthening and emphasising links with the North East where appropriate.
Backbench Parliamentary Contributions
Before the Conference recess I spoke on student visas, highlighting the challenges faced by International House in Newcastle Central who is finding it harder to attract international students to because of the Government policies. I also spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on the Responses to the Riots to emphasize that Newcastle did not riot, but we still have lessons to learn.
- Quoted many times in Chronicle and Journal, as well as being cited in the Guardian as ‘one to watch’ and appearing on Metro Radio, BBC national and local TV. I also had articles published in ‘the Engineer’ and Research Fortnight Blog and recorded a video interview for Winkball
- I continue my Extra article every three weeks and use twitter extensively (@chionwurah)
We continue to receive a huge volume of letters, emails and phone calls, over 1500 per week.
- Meetings included: Teeside University, Women outside Walls, BDUK, Food Ethics Council, Lloydstsb, Show Racism the Red Card, Dementia UK, Chemical Industry Association, , RAEng Research Forum, British Retail Consortium, Gateshead Constituency Dinner, Lloyds Pharmacy West Road, EADS, CBI Northern Region, GMB Remploy, Vega Space, Engineering UK, Campaign for science and engineering, YHN, Alcyomics
- Speaking engagements included: Kenton School Sixth Form Prize Giving, Parliamentary launch of Jobs for the Girls, with Ascertiva Group, North East Irish Professional Network Launch, University Alliance; Chairing Westminster Forum Conference on Cloud Computing; Chairing Parliamentary Internet Conference session, Benwell and Scotswood Ward Meeting
- Speaking engagements at Conference included: Demos An Economic Tonic: Can investment in innovation deliver growth & jobs; Work Foundation exploring the UKs innovation eco-system; Royal Society Fringe The ideas economy: science, innovation & growth; Green Alliance Green Growth; NewStatesman ‘Why invest in UK life sciences; Demos Going for Growth: Strategies for economic recovery; Science Council Fringe Emerging Skills Emerging technologies