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27th Nov, 2021

SPECIAL FEATURE: What do our MPs actually do in Parliament?

Joshua Godfrey 3rd Apr, 2016 Updated: 19th Oct, 2016

WE elect them every five years and are asked to place our faith in a man or woman we may never have actually met.

But once elected, what do our MPs actually do in Parliament? Observer reporter Joshua Godfrey spent the day with Robin Walker to find out more

“IT’S A CONSTANT juggling act, but it’s an exciting challenge,” Mr Walker said ahead of a busy Wednesday with a diary packed full of meetings and events to attend and of course the parliamentary theatrics session of Prime Minister’s Questions.

“There’s always a lot going on, there is always more than you can possibly do at any one time,” he added.

The day started off in one of the many conference rooms in Portcullis House, the modern looking building found next door to Big Ben, where the Alzheimer’s Charity was on-hand to speak to MPs about their report on how NHS trusts across the country were dealing with dementia.

Meetings like this are a regular occurrence for MPs, with charities trying to lobby them to support their campaigns and to try and give MPs a different perspective on issues a head of a vote on legislation in the House of Commons.

From there we headed to a vote on who should be the next chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee.

It may not seem like the most inspiring ballot to vote in, but these committees hold the Government, public bodies and private firms to account.

With his trusty iPad at his side telling him when and where he needs to be, Mr Walker already had to cancel two meetings to make sure he went to the ones which were most important to his constituents.

“And there’s always stuff going on in the chamber where you’ve got to decide whether you can make a difference,” he added.

It appears to be a constant challenge for Worcester’s MP, balancing the needs of the people of the city with what the Government and the Prime Minister may expect from the party’s MPs.

“There’s always going to be that challenge, but I think its often you can kill two birds with one stone in terms of asking questions which might be in line with party policy but also particularly draw attention towards your constituency.

“For instance, on apprenticeships or unemployment I’m easily able to combine some of my campaigns with Government policy.

“Sometimes you need to ask the challenging questions and it’s absolutely right that MPs should put their constituencies first and be prepared to challenge the Government over things that they don’t agree with.

Unfortunately Mr Walker wasn’t able to ask a challenging question in PMQs- the half-an-hour event every Wednesday where MPs from all parties can ask David Cameron a question.

The parliamentary spectacle is perhaps the one snap shot of life in the House of Commons that most people see on TV, this Mr Walker said can then make it difficult for constituents to understand the wider role of an MP.

“I think it’s always very difficult for people when most of what they say of Parliament is the theatre of Prime Minister’s Questions and the occasional debate to understand what goes on behind the scenes,” he said.

“So that’s one of the reasons why I relish people coming down from Worcester to visit me.

“And it’s why I also relish the chance to go and speak in schools and colleges and talk about what an MP’s role is; how many different responsibilities that there are because that gives an opportunity of explaining the wider role.

From PMQs we headed to an event on apprenticeships, one of the key priorities of Worcester’s MP when he was elected for a second time in May last year.

During the event, private firms with a successful apprenticeships programme mingled with MPs to see what more could be done to create more apprenticeships across the UK.

Mr Walker said MPs can even become ‘social entrepreneurs’ in terms of helping companies take on more apprenticeships.

“Nadhim Zahawi, the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, earlier at the apprenticeships event talked about how MPs are almost social entrepreneurs in some ways; they are driving change and activity in their own constituencies.”

With a quick walk over to a committee room on the other side of the vast Westminster estate, the day in Parliament ended with Mr Walker chairing a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on credit unions.

It’s another cause close to his heart as Worcester’s MP is pushing to help those who struggle to qualify for loans from high street banks.

A lot of the work MPs do in parliament goes un-noticed, apart from of course when Government legislation hits the headlines.

But, as Mr Walker pointed out, work in Westminster is only one part of his job.

“Equally important, and some would say is more important, is the work that we can do in our own constituencies.”

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