Parliament “rose” on Thursday for the Summer Recess. In common with most MPs much of this time will be spent on constituency issues. The first four days have included a wide variety of constituency events, a surgery in Broadbridge Heath and a “Meet your MP” open morning in the Lintot in Southwater. This morning (Monday) I was handing out copies of my Rail Survey to commuters at Billingshurst Station from 6am, I have two constituency engagements (in Turners Hill and Handcross) plus surgeries in Crawley Down and Horsham and a “Meet your MP” open evening in Ardingly. Recess is invaluable as a time to get away from the Westminster Bubble.
Generally I find that constituents are positive about the sense of purpose that Boris Johnson has engendered over the last week. Most, whatever their stance on the Referendum, want the issue resolved and for us to get on with the many other issues that we need to address. The Prime Minister’s focus on these issues alongside resolving the EU debate is widely welcomed.
In reforming the Government the Prime Minister has appointed me to serve in a more senior capacity in the Whips’ Office as “Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household”.
The position was first held in 1399 by Sir Robert Lytton and is derived from the medieval Household office of Controller of the Wardrobe! The duties accompanying the title have, fortunately, changed since and in practice it means that I will serve as “No.3” in the Whips Office alongside the Chief and Deputy Chief Whip. This is a demanding role at the best of times but absolutely critical given the current parliamentary arithmetic.
Unusually for a Whip (who do not generally speak except on matters of parliamentary procedure) I was also delighted last week to make my debut performance at the dispatch box (speaking as a Minister). This was replying to the debate on “Matters to be brought up before the Adjournment” - replying to MPs who in this debate can raise any local or national issue and require a response! The debate has been described as a “lucky dip” on the basis that the Minister responding does not know what MPs will raise and any subject under the sun can come up! However as is often the case these general debates often reveal common cause between MPs across the political spectrum and Thursday’s had a positive atmosphere. In responding I was able to mention issues that have strong resonance in the Horsham constituency – including school funding, concerns on UC raised with me by the Horsham Food Bank and Citizens Advice, both of which do so much good locally, and also the battle against human trafficking raised by our local charity “Streetlight. ( I attach a clip below.)
As a “Whip” my main task is to help ensure Parliamentary business is properly conducted in the Chamber and in Legislative Committees (often working with the Speaker’s team and Opposition whips). I also act as an interface between Conservative MPs and the Government.
While the main function of the role is within the Whips’ Office holders of the post of “Comptroller” are members of the Royal Household and as such it will be an honour to accompany the Queen and other members of the Royal Family to certain diplomatic and social events.