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Children’s Parliament event planned to mark Sir David Amess’ death

Courtesy of The Express

6 min read

In the latest issue of the magazine, we cover Westminster news, from a ban on MPs giving paid parliamentary advice to those drawn in the Private Members’ Bill ballot – and more...

Children’s Parliament event planned to mark Sir David Amess’ death

The Sir David Amess Children’s Parliament initiative is planning a special event in October to mark the first anniversary of the late Southend West MP’s death.

The organisers intend to bring together 650 would-be MPs aged seven to 11 for the occasion in Parliament, allowing children to take part in a commemorative debate in the Chamber, held one year after Sir David’s death.

New Southend West MP Anna Firth is also supporting the plan to launch a Sir David Amess Children’s Parliament All-Party Parliamentary Group. Talks are underway to set up the new cross-party group.

A second annual event was held online by the Sir David Amess Children’s Parliament project in May, involving 250 primary school children. It was attended by Sir David’s successor Firth, alongside Conservative MPs David Davis and Sir Graham Brady.

Former Manchester Police detective Maggie Oliver, who campaigns for abuse victims, and reformed drug gang leader Lennox Rodgers joined as guest speakers. 

“The consequences of grooming last a lifetime. We must equip young people with questioning minds,” Oliver said.

The virtual gathering was a collaboration between The Daily Express newspaper and digital companies Wakelet and Microsoft 365.

Sir David was murdered at his constituency surgery on 15 October 2021. His attacker was found guilty in April and sentenced to life in prison.

Report recommends ban on MPs giving paid parliamentary advice

A new code of conduct drawn up by the Standards Committee includes a proposal to ban MPs from providing paid parliamentary advice in a bid to ensure they act “solely in the public interest”.

The cross-party committee, chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant, has moved to clamp down on consultancy roles – but stopped short of supporting other limits on second jobs held by MPs, such as time spent or income earned.

The group, which includes four Conservative and two Labour MPs, one SNP MP and seven lay members, decided against further restrictions after failing to find “broad cross-party support” for them.

They also rejected suggestions of a cap on hours or pay on the grounds that this seemed to them to be arbitrary. For example, one witness pointed out an MP would be allowed to write a book that was commercially unsuccessful but would fall foul of the rules if it sold well.

The committee has recommended, however, that the exemption under which ministers do not currently have to register benefits gained in a ministerial capacity should be scrapped. 

The House understands that the Standards Committee hopes receipt of gifts and hospitality by MPs will go down, as they will have to think harder in future about what they accept.

Under the new code of conduct, MPs taking on outside work would need to have written contracts specifying that they will not lobby ministers, MPs or public officials on behalf of their employer.

In another effort to tighten lobbying rules, the existing distinction between MPs initiating approaches to government and MPs participating in approaches would be removed.

While the committee considers its code of conduct to be a package that should be taken as a whole rather than treated as pick-and-mix, the changes requiring motions to be passed in the House of Commons will be amendable.

Votes on the measures are expected before Parliament rises for summer recess, in time for the new rules to come into force when MPs return in September.

Two non-party political peers appointed

The independent House of Lords Appointments Commission has recommended two new non-party political peers to sit on the crossbenches.

They include Shaista Gohir OBE, a leading women’s rights campaigner and chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, who has worked in the charity sector for almost 20 years. She holds an MBE for services to Muslim people and community relations.

The other new peer is Katherine Willis, a plant scientist and expert on nature and the relationship between biodiversity, climate change and human wellbeing.

Willis is a professor of biodiversity at the University of Oxford. She received a CBE in 2018 for services to biodiversity and conservation.

The commission has recommended 74 non-party political peerages since 2000. It is also responsible for vetting life peers nominated by political parties.

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Speaker offers thanks to parliamentary chef

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has thanked parliamentary chef Nick Munting in the Chamber, after the cook had to leave his role and retire early due to ill-health.

Before undergoing palliative care, Munting worked in Parliament for more than 30 years as a sous-chef – starting when he was 21 – and as an Associate Serjeant at Arms. 

The chef set up a work experience scheme in Parliament, enabling school children to learn about catering. In 2014, he received an MBE for services to Parliament and young people in Croydon, where he lives.

Sir Lindsay said Munting, known as a dedicated professional and a team player devoted to his family, is “much missed by colleagues”. 

Meanwhile, Sir Lindsay also congratulated staffers who received awards in the Jubilee honours list for services to Parliament.

Matthew Hamlyn, strategic director of the Chamber business team, was awarded a CBE, while Wesley Auvache, parliamentary logistics manager, and Charlotte Every, an assistant to the clerk assistant, were awarded with OBEs. 

Jo-Anne Crowder, the Speaker's diary secretary, received an MBE.

MPs drawn in Private Members’ Bill ballot

Twenty MPs have been drawn in a Private Members’ Bill ballot and are now eligible to introduce their bills to the House of Commons on 15 June.

In total, 460 MPs entered this year’s ballot; the draw takes place at the start of every parliamentary session, allowing backbenchers to put forward legislation of their choosing.

Stuart McDonald, SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East, who topped the ballot, told The House: “There are lots of incredibly worthwhile causes that I’d dearly like to pursue – and picking just one will be a very tough decision. I’ll take a little longer to think through all the options, and speak to people who have offered some really good ideas.”

Dan Jarvis, Greg Smith, Mark Hendrick, Dr Liam Fox, Bob Blackman and Greg Clark make up the remaining top seven MPs drawn and are guaranteed a full day of debate on their bill.

Among the 20 randomly selected MPs is former minister Matt Hancock, who introduced the Dyslexia Screening Bill that ran out of parliamentary time in the last session. He intends to pursue the same change in law via his new bill.

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