Chloe Smith: Work of an MP does not stop over summer months
- Credit: Eliza Boo Photography
I laughed at the joke on the letters page recently – if Big Ben has stopped for a bit, can't the politicians shut up too?
It makes a pleasant, if cynical, change. Often the joke is more: when Parliament's shut for summer, politicians are lazy. However, I'm afraid I don't shut up in August!
As your MP I work for everyone across the community, helping to solve problems where I can and often taking up the biggest issues with the government. Parliament doesn't sit during August, but the work of an MP doesn't stop.
Here are some recent examples of the range of work I do to help individual constituents with problems or concerns. Obviously, I've made the names anonymous.
Mr A came to discuss the way that Norwich City Council interacts with those who've bought their council flat, when communal repairs need to be done. I've taken up his points in detail with the city council, following a meeting with the Norwich Leaseholders Association. Mr and Mrs B have some similar issues with Circle/Wherry Housing, in the Broadland District Council area. If you're in this position too, and have problems, please let me know.
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I was contacted by Mrs C who was concerned about antisocial behaviour and drug-taking in her area. I've been in touch with both Norwich City Council, who are taking forward the issue of antisocial behaviour, and Norfolk police, who are investigating drug-taking.
Mr D raised concerns about housing issues linked to the city council; they have since been in touch to explain what action they took and why, together with Mr D's options for the future.
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Housing allocation itself is not within my power an MP, but I will always aim to make the council aware of a constituent's concerns.
Following reports of rising attacks on prison officers, I've proactively written to the minister for prisons to seek reassurance on behalf of prison officers in the constituency, who I know will be very anxious about this issue.
I've also written to the chancellor, to ensure he has copies of all the concerns that have been put to me about public sector pay.
I've helped Mr E with a particular delay in some dealings with HMRC. As an MP I will always want to act if I see a public authority appearing to get something wrong – especially where small businesses are involved, who are often the lifeblood of the economy.
On behalf of Mr and Mrs F, and some others who campaign with them, I have written to the prime minister to convey their concerns about climate change.
I have represented Ms G's views on the position of EU citizens in the UK to the Brexit secretary, who quickly wrote back to confirm that the government has published proposals and does wish to reassure those who've made their lives here. Ms H had the mirror-image concern about the rights of British citizens currently in EU countries, and I have taken this up also.
I'm helping Mr J get a bureaucratic situation sorted out which affects his ability to train apprentices.
I am also working with a family and a charity to see what change in the law and sentencing might be needed after a most tragic death and recent court case.
I put a lot of effort towards correspondence with various public bodies to seek to hold them to account for what constituents need; and I dedicate a lot of time to ensuring that ministers know constituents' views.
Turning to other issues, Brexit negotiations are happening roughly in monthly stages. This month you might have seen the detailed papers published about what the UK would like in a future customs relationship with the EU, and how the UK intends to address the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland as we leave the EU.
As you know, I'm a minister for Northern Ireland so I am particularly passionate about making that a successful part of Brexit.
Support for the Belfast Agreement should be written into our EU withdrawal to reflect the absolute commitment of the UK government, Irish government, and the European Union, to the peace process.
PEACE funding – an EU funded programme to support peace and reconciliation and economic and social progress in Northern Ireland – for reconciliation projects in border areas should be continued.
There should be no passport controls for UK and Irish citizens travelling between the two countries and no question of new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
I've been speaking to Norwich businesses too to make sure I hear from them what they want from Brexit. I'm grateful to the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce for making sure that different sectors – which all employ a lot of people in Norwich – got their say and I will continue working with local companies to do that.
This month has also seen exam results for students at sixteen and eighteen. Congratulations to all who've worked so hard, including the teachers, parents and schools who are committed to students' success. Good luck in whatever path you choose to take next.
They may be just a little older than eighteen, but finally I would like to say a big thank you to Roy and Mary Hansell and the volunteers of St Luke's, Aylsham Road, who have served hot lunch to OAPs for over thirty years. It was an honour to join them recently.