MEMBERS of Parliament have come in for some strong criticism in recent weeks following issues around standards in public life and second jobs away from Westminster.
Tory MP Owen Paterson resigned last month after he was found to have lobbied for two companies paying him more than £100,000 a year. Another Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Cox, apparently earned hundreds of thousands of pounds as a top QC while also an MP.
There’s nothing to stop an MP having a second job… but what about their first job representing constituents. How much time and effort to do they put into that?
In a bid to find out we asked Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark to provide us with his diary entries for the seven days from Monday, November 15. Here’s what he sent us…
Each day we receive 300 emails
Monday, November 15
Like most mornings I meet with my team first thing (8am) to discuss what issues and casework constituents have raised overnight and how to respond. On an average day I receive about 300 emails and I always try to give a personal reply as quickly as possible, so there is lots to discuss.
Then I turn to write my regular column for this newspaper. Today I write about my reflections on the appalling David Fuller trial and how we must increase our protection for women and girls against violence.
I travel to the House of Commons where I speak in the Chamber in two short debates. The first is a question to the Prime Minister, who is making a statement about the COP26 summit which concluded on Saturday. The second is to Sajid Javid, the Heath Secretary raising two matters that constituents have contacted me about: asking for the Covid booster dose to be included in the NHS app, and for clinically vulnerable people who need third doses to be able to book online.
I spend the rest of the evening in other meetings with MPs before voting to approve the report and sanction against Owen Paterson, before the House adjourns at 10.30pm.
Hours worked – approximately 14.5
Meeting GPs to discuss pressures
Tuesday, November 16
After my morning meeting with my constituency team, I meet with the clerks of the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee, which I chair, to talk through tomorrow’s session.
During the afternoon I attend a debate to press for the release of Nazanin Zagari-Ratcliffe from detention in Iran.
This is followed by a meeting of Kent MPs where we meet with GPs from across the county to discuss the current pressures they are facing and what is needed to resolve them.
Later in the evening the Finance Bill, implementing the measures of the recent Budget, is debated and I vote for it to have its Second Reading.
Hours worked – approximately 12
Tackling violence against women
Wednesday, November 17
I start the day reading this week’s copy of the Times of Tunbridge Wells.
At 9am I take the chair for this week’s session of the Science & Technology Select Committee. Our 11 members from three different parties take evidence on satellite launch facilities in the UK, with witnesses from new launch sites in Scotland and Cornwall and companies including Virgin Orbit and Lockheed Martin.
In the afternoon, I attend the Liaison Committee, which consists of senior MPs interviewing the Prime Minister. I am on a group that co-ordinates the line of questioning and I arrange for a section to be devoted to tackling violence against women and girls.
Late in the afternoon I am answering questions myself – this time in a Q&A session with sixth formers at a school, conducted by Zoom from my office. We vote that night to further tighten up rules on outside employment by MPs.
Hours worked – approximately 12
Supporting victims’ families
Thursday, November 18
After my daily constituency team meeting, I meet in the House of Commons with Sir Jonathan Michael, who has been appointed to conduct the Public Inquiry that I called for into how the crimes of David Fuller were able to happen undetected. I have been meeting families of Fuller’s victims and made the case to him that they should be able to testify to the Inquiry in person.
During the afternoon, between answering constituents’ correspondence, I meet with the head of a charity – Listening Ear – that helps support the families of people who have committed suicide.
Hours worked – approximately 10
Lively mock debate with scouts
Friday, November 19
On many Fridays Parliament doesn’t sit, and so it is a day that I can reliably make visits in the constituency without needing to be within eight minutes of the voting lobby, as is the case on other days.
This morning has an NHS theme, I start with a call with Miles Scott, the Chief Executive of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Hospital Trust. I then have a meeting with the head of the Kent NHS to try to persuade him to provide a motorised wheelchair to a constituent who is in desperate need of one to get around, and to raise the case of a constituent who is housebound but has not been able to get a Covid vaccine.
At 11am I head over to Scotney Castle to meet the General Manager and his team and see what plans they have for one of our most important attractions during the months ahead.
I was hoping to pop by the opening of the Ice Rink in Calverley Grounds, but time is short and I have to be in Paddock Wood to meet the local scout troop at 7.30 pm, where we stage a lively mock House of Commons debate about the future of electric vehicles.
Hours worked – approximately 12
Day off watching sport
Saturday, November 20
I start my day off delivering leaflets with Conservative colleagues for our excellent candidate, Rowena Stanyer, in the Speldhurst and Bidborough by-election taking place the following Thursday.
After that, it is a sporting afternoon! I go to see my 15 year old son play in a rugby match and then I manage to race back just in time to see the second half of Tunbridge Wells FC’s FA Vase match at the Culverden Stadium.
Hours worked – nil
Getting a head start on the week
Sunday, November 21
Sunday morning is when I normally like to go for a long run with my dog Teddy as a pacemaker out of Tunbridge Wells and into the surrounding beautiful countryside. The late autumn leaves looked amazing today, but with plenty of mud Teddy needed a thorough washing in the bath when we got back.
Sunday evenings I try to get a head’s start on the week by going through the emails that have come in over the weekend – my inbox is almost as busy then as it is during the week.
Hours worked – approximately 3