Friday, May 30, 2008

House Points: The Durham NUM, gypsies and Alistair Carmichael's dad

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Everyone writes satire nowadays and no one reports what is said in debates at Westminster. So maybe serious is the new funny?

A Westminster week

MPs are away for the Whitsun recess, so there is time to look at what was going on in Westminster’s backwaters last week.

In Thursday’s Commons adjournment debate Kevan Jones, the Labour MP for North Durham, used Parliamentary privilege to continue his campaign against the leadership of the Durham Miners’ Association - as the Durham Branch of the National Union of Mineworkers is now known.

He voiced concerns about the Association’s deduction of a percentage of the compensation won by former miners, the salaries paid to its president and general secretary, and their practice of holding some funds in an offshore account.

When Jones turned his attention to Lindisfarne, members must have feared he was about to allege drunkenness and fornication among the monks. But he turned out to be supporting calls for the famous gospels to be returned to the North East.

One the same day there was a Westminster Hall debate on gypsies and travellers, with the Lib Dems Andrew George and Lembit Opik to the fore. There was an impressive degree of agreement across the parties, with the view emerging that it is no use the authorities taking stronger and stronger action against illegal settlements when the law makes it so hard for travellers to settle legally.

As Lembit said:
Travellers … should be brought in to the community so that they have to pay council tax and everything that goes with it? They will then end up feeling that they are stakeholders in society.
Finally, again in Westminster Hall, this time on Wednesday during a debate on industrial relations in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Alistair Carmichael revealed:
It is ... a matter of some family pride that my father was for many years a member of the auxiliary coastguard, which is now a volunteer coastguard, on Islay. He was an active and leading participant in many rescue operations off Islay and several cliff rescues throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
As dynastic politics appears to be coming back into fashion, perhaps Alistair should make more of this. His father seems to have done more good than most politicians’ relations.

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