Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen's Week

Written by Stephen Williams MP on Mon 2nd Jul 2007

Monday 25th June 2007

Up to London. Greet a large party from Colston's Primary School. On Mondays and Tuesdays the Chamber is open to visitors until 1pm so I am able to show the school council the inside and one of the division lobbies. The entire party then visited the abolition of the slave trade exhibition and completed a session with Parliament's education unit. I then did a Q&A with the children in an upstairs committee room. I told them that the education select committee was that afternoon meeting with the Children's Commissioner - did they have anything they wanted to raise with him? The favourite topics were bullying, speeding motorists and smoking by parents at home.

So later on I raised all of these issues (and more!) with Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children's Commissioner for England. He has recently called for fewer tests in schools.

In the evening I chaired another meeting of the party's policy working group on further and higher education. This was a 'round table' with various representative bodies such as the Association of Colleges and Universities UK. It was under 'Chatham House rules' so we could all speak freely. We've got more such sessions coming up. Before going home there was a late vote on the Finance Bill at 10.20pm, with more votes scheduled for tomorrow.

Tuesday 26th June

Met with the Chief Exec of Stonewall to discuss their report, issued today, on homophobic bullying in schools. The report is based upon a survey of over a thousand young people in schools and youth clubs.

In the afternoon Sarah Teather and I walk over to the Department of Education and Skills for a meeting with officials about the final stages of the Further Education and Training Bill. The officials don't know who their Minister will be later in the week...and come to think of it Sarah and I could be re-shuffled off somewhere else too.

Evening, off to the Cinnamon Club, a posh Indian restaurant, for a dinner with the '1994 Group' of university vice chancellors. These represent the smaller research and teaching universities such as Exeter and Durham.

Lots of speeches from three VCs, Alan Johnson, Charles Clarke (the Education Secretary who increased tuition fees), David Willets for the Tories and finally me.

Back to the Commons for a series of votes on clauses of the Finance Bill.

In between them I sit in the Library, reading a biography of Mao! The final vote is at 12.20am and I finally get home at about 1am.

Wednesday 27th June

A historic day. As I walk in I can hear the constant buzz of helicopters overhead, presumably either TV crews or security. College Green has become a tented village with logos of the world's TV stations. In fact there are lots of tents around. Parliament Square is looking like a mini Glastonbury with all the tents and banners of the anti war protesters. Some of the banners still target Blair; others have already switched to Brown.

I order to get a good seat for Blair's last PMQs I make sure a put a card on a seat before 8.15am, as today the Chamber will be packed out.

But my first business of the day was Education Select Cttee, where we were looking at the draft of our report on the school building programme. Some of the sections need beefing up, so we will need another session.

Before heading over to the Chamber I have a cup of coffee in the atrium of Portcullis House. Suddenly heads turn as Blair and his security men stride through, on his way from Downing Street for the last time. Applause breaks out and he waves.

Over to the Chamber for 11.30am prayers and start of business. In the Members' guest gallery opposite I can see Cherie Blair and the children looking down, including little Leo swinging his legs against the balustrade. At noon the main show starts and it's actually a polite, low key affair. It ends with Blair making a rather good statement about the finer principles of politics. As he sits down (looking rather emotional) the Labour MPs all rise and clap. The Tories then stand and so do we Lib Dems, only the miserable nationalists don't bother to mark the end of a 10 year Premiership.

Then I'm off to a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Balanced and Sustainable Communities. This is the group of university city MPs concerned about the growth of houses in multiple occupancy. We hear from the leader of the national anti-HMOs lobby, from Leeds. While I'm sat in this meeting I am slightly rueful about missing the live coverage of Blair and Brown going to the Palace. Get a Tesco sandwich for a late lunch and catch the end of Brown's statement in Downing Street.

In the evening I went to the leaving do of the party's education adviser, Liz, who I will miss very much. Central London was plunged into the gloom of a torrential rain storm, a metaphor for the start of the era of Brown?

Thursday 28th June

I'm heading back to Bristol early today to interview for a new staff member. But I catch the outgoing Government Chief Whip, Jacqui Smith, make a statement at the start of business at 10.30am that one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair had accepted the nomination to the office of Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham. As this office means an MP must leave the House, the Speaker then declared a vacancy in the ex PM's seat of Sedgefield. As a nice twist, the nomination to the Chiltern Hundreds is made by the Chancellor. So Brown's last act was to trigger the resignation from Parliament of his predecessor!

Off to Paddington. On the train get pager messages and phone calls about Brown's reshuffle. He's split the Education and Skills Dept into two and made a new Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills which takes in most of my current shadowing role, plus research from the old Trade Dept. This means that both my existing jobs will change next week, as the Select Committee will also have to be reconstituted...

My journey is interrupted at Swindon where we are told to get off the train because of a suspect package on the line near Parkway. So I had to wait for a later train. On arrival in Bristol we interviewed for a new constituency manager and party organiser. I'm pleased to welcome Chris Luffingham to the staff team.

Friday 29th June

Down to St Nicholas Market for a meeting with the market manager and chair of the traders' association. We then tour the stalls and end up with an excellent Punjabi lunch at the Spice of Life cafeé. If you haven't been down to the market recently, do pay a visit as there's a lot to see and buy. The old Corn Exchange building is also one of the gems of Bristol, but it could badly do with some restoration to its roof and upper levels. The cellars could also be brought into use.

Round up the day with my usual surgery.


I spend Saturday morning dodging the showers in Westbury, doing a residents survey with our North West PPC Paul Harrod and a group of activists. In the evening I went to Wills Hall for a Bristol University alumni event.

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