Thursday, September 15, 2011

The week in Parliament

Monday: Education Bill amendment on deprived children generally, in which I concentrated particularly on the worst off: those from the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

Tuesday: Question on the Tuaregs of Libya, on which the Minister promised to write to me. Question about the cost effectivenes of the UN-REDD initiative on deforestation, and the UK contribution to it, on which another Minister promised to write! Obviously at question time Ministers don't come prepared with answers to every possible supplementary, and if its my own question I try to warn them in advance of the area I mean to cover. But when its a supplementary to someone else's question, its often a last minute thought.

Wednesday: Education Bill amendment on religious discrimination against teachers, contrary to a European Directive and the Human Rights Act. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission had counsel's opinion giving chapter and verse (if that's the right expression!) for the alleged breaches, but the Minister who replied (Janathan Hill) contented himself with saying that the DfE's legal advisers were satisfied that the legislation complies fully with the Directive. I suggested that the Minister should let us have a detailed response to counsel's opinion, and that we should then have a meeting with the Bill team, each with legal advisers, to see whether the differences can be resolved. This the Minister agreed to, and today I've asked his office to suggest some dates - after we have their written response, of course. The Minister had also said in reply to an earlier amendment that he would let me have a proper reply to my points on collective worship, and that's still not arrive.

Evening meeting of the All-Party Group on Gypsies and Travellers, to decide on a letters to be sent to the Prime Minister and Basildon Council in a last ditch attempt to head off the Dale Farm evictions, due to begin next Monday.

Thursday, question about the compatibility of our general policies on helping Arab countries to promote human rights and democracy with inviting Bahrain to attend the arms fair in London, when their security forces are gunning down peaceful demonstrators on the streets.

Also on Thursday, a meeting of the Department of Education Gypsy Roma and Traveller Stakeholder Group, which I chair, to decide on our response to the Department's consultation on the funding of schools. It was a very useful discussion, and I think our submission will be useful.

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