As many people (fortunately!) realise, a lot of the most interesting work at Parliament goes on in the committees and informal meetings which take place alongside Prime Minister's Question Time and the big debates which, understandably, get all the publicity on TV. Last week, I was able to be involved in quite a bit of this less publicised work, but doing things which will hopefully result in some positive outcomes, eventually!
One of these was a big conference on "Energy Prices" which was organised by the "All Party Groups" on Debt and Personal Finance (which I chair), and on Poverty. We invited in a lot of local and national NGOs, experts, to look at ways in which something could be done about the changes (normally upwards!) in energy prices which can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable consumers, especially in the winter. We had a lot of really good ideas coming forward. We'll be publishing a report, and I hope we'll be able to have a real impact in changing policies here, to benefit both consumers on lower incomes and consumers more generally.
At other times in the week, the two committees of which I'm a member, the Environmental Audit Committee and the Modernisation Committee, held important meetings to take evidence on their current enquries. I've mentioned the Environmental Audit Commitee enquiry in another post on this blog - but the Modernisation Committee was also interesting. We've been looking at how Parliament can strengthen the role of the backbench MP, and also make better use of non-legislative time. Our witnesses this week were three of the best known political journalists at Westminster - Michael White, Peter Riddell, and Nick Robinson. (I think the MPs asking questions were more nervous than the witnesses!) In fact, there were a lot of good points made - I must check their blogs to see what they said about us!