It is important that Parliament is at the centre of national life and that people feel connected to the work that goes on in the House of Commons.
To allow this to take place, it is equally important that people are aware of what happens in Parliament and how they can interact with me as the town’s MP.
To help this to happen, the first ever national Parliament Week was launched on Monday, and throughout this week, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are hosting events which aim to raise awareness of the work of Parliament and the importance of Westminster in our democratic history.
This will include Question Time being held, for the first time in the historic Westminster Hall. This Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, being almost a thousand years old, and is the venue for state funerals and where the pope and the American president addressed both Houses of Parliament.
Westminster Hall is my favourite part of the building, because of the unprecedented history that has been seen in the place. If the ancient statutes could talk it would be fascinating.
However, although I celebrate the tradition and history of Westminster, Parliament is far more than its past. It has a relevance to everybody who lives in this country because we debate the pressing issues of the day and pass laws which affect every citizen and business. Many people are put off by the arcane language and often apparently incomprehensible procedures we have in the House of Commons. However, it is important that people are aware of the work that takes place in this historic building. That is the objective of Parliament Week.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my column that I receive many pieces of correspondence relating to proposed legislation passing through Parliament. I actively encourage such communication and would actually like to see a lot more. I think it is very important for people to engage in the legislative process, and I always make a point of keeping constituents informed with legislation which they have previously contacted me about.
I was pleased to meet politics students from Hartlepool Sixth Form College this week in Parliament, where they had me on the rack over such issues as opportunities for young people, the One Life Centre, the state of the shopping centre and the inadequacy of bus services in our town.
On Friday, I will be meeting with students from St Hild’s School and participating at a Parliament Week event at Hartlepool College with other MPs James Wharton from Stockton and Ian Swales from Redcar to outline how businesses in our region can play a role in the legislative process.
As part of Parliament Week I have been given ten sets of beautiful postcards and posters of the Clock Tower, which most people know as Big Ben. I would like to give these away to ten readers drawn at random who either e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at 23 South Road, Hartlepool TS26 9HD by 10 November 2011.
I do encourage every citizen to take an interest in Westminster. Democracy is much the better with every single person’s involvement. I hope Parliament Week is the start of an annual event to encourage this to take place.