Friday, January 15, 2010

Back to school

Since the New Year my leg is more or less functional and I'm only using a stick when I go out on the snow and ice. The physiotherapist saw me today and was quite satisfied.

This week we had the last evidence session - from the Minister, Lord West - in the Select Committee's current inquiry into EU policy on protecting Europe from large-scale cyber attacks, and the report will be ready by about the end of February. (The session with Lord West is to be broadcast on
BBC Parliament on Monday 18 January at 10.50).

Monday I fielded a question about visas for athletes attending the Olympic Games, and moved two amendments to the Equality Bill. The first was to include caste among the protected characteristics, and in the debate, every speech was in favour except that of the Minister, whose argument was that no evidence had been produced that caste discrimination occurs in the UK. There will be opportunities of pursuing this further, both at Report stage and in the meanwhile, behind the scenes.

My other amendment covered Scottish Gypsy Travellers who, unlike their English, Welsh and Irish cousins, haven't been protected in the past. As a result of an Employment Tribunal case, they are now designated as an ethnic group, and contrary to what we had been told previously, this case is not being appealed.

Tuesday I spoke in a debate on the European Union Committee's recommendation that the UK opt into the EU's
Directives on Asylum Qualifications and Asylum Procedures. In the past, the EU's reports had been debated on a Take Note motion and there was no vote on them. But this was the first outing of a new procedure, in which the motion asked the House to approve the Committee's recommendation. The Conservatives abstained when we pressed the approval motion to a division, although the Conservative Members of the Committee including the Chairman, Lord Jopling, had unanimously approved the report.

Victoria very kindly came over today to help with office work. She tells me she has recorded a piece about the 1962 by-election for the BBC Radio 4 programme Broadcasting House at 09.00.

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