Thursday, 24 February 2011

Westminster Visit

Last week I made an annual visit to the Houses of Parliament to meet some of Scotland’s MPs.

This was the first visit to Westminster since last year’s General Election, and it was a good opportunity to remind MPs that the Church is very much interested in legislation and debates which raise awareness on those issues that we care most about, particularly poverty, justice, peace and climate change.

It is important to get face time with MPs. It reminds them who we are, and it allows for us to share ideas and information in a way that is not possible just be sending e-mails or reading websites. It’s important too for us to demonstrate that we are engaged with Westminster and legislation on reserved issues, and by making the journey south we show that we want to be taken seriously.

We spoke with folk from all four parties represented in Scotland, with our main topics the welfare reform proposals and the impact of spending cuts on the poorest. We also had a chance to just chat; these visits are as much a pastoral opportunity as a political one.

The Speaker of the House of Commons graciously lets us use part of his state apartments in order for us to have a meeting base for an afternoon. This way MPs can come to visit us in between their other duties in the House. This year we were in the Great Bedchamber, where according to tradition is where the monarch sleeps the night before their coronation – no doubt because of its proximity to Westminster Abbey. It is also a reminder that Westminster is a royal palace with an ancient history. The bedroom was rather larger than most houses, and was luxuriously furnished and contained portraits of past Speakers as well as other artefacts relating to the history of the Houses of Parliament. Quite a change from the routine!

Overall it was a good opportunity to share some ideas and concerns, and to help build those relationships which can be so crucial for when we are campaigning or just trying to have our point of view heard by law-makers.

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