Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 3:44 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mike Weatherley Mike Weatherley Ceidwadwyr, Hove 3:44, 26 Mawrth 2015

The two questions I am asked most frequently about being an MP are: “Is it what you expected?” and “Do you feel you have made a difference?” That usually draws me into thinking about the big-ticket items I have been involved in. The first, of course, is just being here and sitting on the Government Benches, from which our country is being turned around—supporting the Prime Minister; voting in the Lobbies the right way, mostly; and serving on Committees and so on. That has to be the biggest role of any parliamentarian.

Then there are my individual achievements on national issues. Early on, a constituent was affected by squatters, and my office took that up as a cause. I started with an oral question, followed that up with a Westminster Hall debate and got the Government on side, and the law was duly changed via an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. Changing the law on squatting was a huge deal, and it has virtually ended squatting in residential properties in the UK. Wikipedia now lists it as “Weatherley’s law”. At this stage I pay tribute to my office manager, Robert Nemeth, who has worked tirelessly on the issue.

Then there is my work on intellectual property, or copyright as many refer to it. I took that up as a cause and was appointed the Prime Minister’s adviser on IP. I have now written four reports, one of which was released today, and they have been well received internationally. The Trading Standards magazine was kind enough to sum up my achievements as

“changing the course of history in the UK regarding IP Rights”.

Back in 2010 we were heading in the wrong direction on IP, and now that has been turned around, with senior politicians on all sides keen to stress their support for the creative industries and protecting their rights. At this stage I pay tribute to my researcher, Michael Ireland, who has also become an expert on the issue.

It is probably right to mention the support initiatives that nudged along the IP debate, my Rock the House and Film the House competitions, which have become the largest in Parliament and culminated last week with the final awards ceremony at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield house. We brought live amplified music to Parliament, with the likes of Fat Boy Slim, Whitesnake’s Bernie Marsden, national treasure Rick Wakeman and Slash playing live, plus the engagement in politics of a large demographic not often easily engaged by parliamentarians. I pay tribute to Niki Haywood, who founded the initiatives with me. I also pay tribute to you for supporting that right from the outset, Mr Speaker. There are two other issues that I should mention: my support for equal marriage and my opposition to fox hunting, both of which I can claim to be achievements.

However, it is not all about the big-ticket issues. I have probably enjoyed even more the work I have done on local issues, from galvanising support for the new Connaught primary school it as soon as I was elected to taking on the Department for Education to stop building an unsuitable site on the BHASVIC—Brighton Hove and Sussex sixth-form college—fields and working with countless charities and other groups. The work is not done yet. The King Alfred site needs a world-class facility with a 50 metre swimming pool, so I intend to keep up the pressure there. The “Sage of Sussex”, Adam Trimingham, kindly referred to me recently as “the hyperactive” MP, and I am very proud of that tag.

May I also pay tribute to my other fantastic staff, Rachael Bates and Heather Newbury-Martin? All four of my staff have been with me throughout the five years. The zero turnover of staff must be some kind of record, and it has made working in Parliament an absolute delight.

So, have I made a difference? I think so, and from my mailbag it seems very many others do, too. Is it what I expected? Well, yes and no really. Much less time is spent on meaningful debates than I would have liked, and I would like more Bills from Back Benchers to have a chance of success. On the other hand, this is a great institution, these surroundings are fantastic and my colleagues are among the most dedicated and hard-working co-workers I have ever come across. And, yes, it has been a real honour to serve in this Parliament.