Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Monday to Wednesday

Monday I had a kind offer of research help from a barrister with lots of international experience! The problem is, I have no office space in the House, no discrete research tasks that can be separated from the rest of the day's work, and a large amount of very humdrum tasks like trying to get bits of paper into the right files, and respomdimg to routine correspondence.

Afternoon, Select Committee, looking at the draft of the first chapters of the report on communicable diseases. Them, to Refugee Council reception, where they launched a campaign on allowing asylum seekers to work. That's been our Party policy for years. Its plain stupid to keep people on benefits when they are capable of earning a living.

Tuesday, chaired a meeting of the CHT Working Group in the Moses Room. There are some excellent people working on the issues and it would be useful to find ways of improving their links.

Then fielded questions on Zimbabwe, and the Government's insane policy of doubling the number of places in Immigration Detention Centres. They have a mania for locking up ever more people, instead of sorting out the problems. Two out of every five people who are detained in IDCs are subsequently released back into the community, and others spend months in the Centres because of administrative problems like getting their countries of origin to accept them back. But the Government SAY they are turning the cases round faster, which should mean fewer rather than more detention places. And they could put more effort into volumtary returns, where people have reached the end of the road.

Later, in the Moses Room, an order on the Fees being charged for Tier 2 and Tier 5 immigrants under the new Points Based Scheme. They haven't thought through how to deal with visiting Buddhist monks, who aren't employed, though in Tier 5 there is a category for 'temporary religious worker'. Before they launched the scheme they consulted two lay Buddhists but no representative of the Sangha. It was as if they claimed to have consulted the Church of England by talking to a couple of laymen picked at random and ignored the synod. I hadn't had time to warn the Minister I was goinfto raise this problem, so all he could do was promise to write to me.

Today, Wednesday, there were more votes on the Lisbon Treaty Bill in which the Government and the LibDems heavily defeated the Tories. The Tories say they're pro-Europe but are doing their best to wreck attempts to improve the way Europe operates.

Discussed next Monday's meeting of the International Organisations Committee with the Chair, Clive Soley. He has to be absent and has asked me to chair the meeting at which evidence is being taken from DfID and Health Ministers.

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