LEE ROWLEY IN PARLIAMENT
Since June 2017, Lee Rowley has been the Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire. I served as Labour MP for the same constituency from 1987 to 2005. With the proroguing of parliament he has just completed his first parliamentary period.
So far in the Commons he has involved himself much more fully with activities in Westminster Hall than with those on the floor of the Commons. He is seldom seen in his place in the Commons' Chamber.
Whilst Westminster Hall is an area which many MPs need to use on occasions, it is much smaller than the Common's Chamber and is more thinly attended, having no facilities for a parliamentary division to take place. So Lee Rowley sometimes uses it to criticise his own Government over matters such as their stance on fracking, but as there are no contested votes in Westminster Hall this will give him no real trouble from the Government whips.
On the floor of the Commons he has made 17 speeches. But these have lasted for only a total of 89 minutes, yet this time also covers intervention from other MPs. So they have averaged less than 5 minutes. He often leaves the Commons soon after he has made his contributions, so others don't respond to him in such circumstances. Back in March he carried the first reading of a 10 Minute Rule Bill to restrain fracking operations, but in the remaining seven months of the parliamentary session he did not then get the Commons' authorities to print the proposed Bill. Yet the authorities are helpful and skilled in providing the technical details of what any form of Bill needs. With the proroguing of parliament his former authority to print this Bill has now gone.
His equivalent contributions in Westminster Hall (who meet for much shorter periods) has been 24 speeches, lasting for twice as long as those in the Commons at a total of 181 minutes (again allowing for interventions). And whilst in the Commons he has only ever once introduced an item (the one under the 10 Minute Rule procedure), he has obtained the right to introduce debates on several occasions in Westminster Hall. These have added to his total number for such contributions, for they also lead on to him having concluding contributions and he has also intervened during numbers of these debates. Then an MP can barely disappear from a debate which they have introduced. Debates on a topic are normally much shorter in Westminster Hall than those in the Commons Chamber and are more thinly attended. It also meets for shorter periods than the Commons.
He has also submitted 94 Questions for written answer. 31 of these were relating to fracking, 16 to rail or other forms of transport, 7 to health issues, 5 to drones and only 3 on Brexit.
He involves himself with the work of certain All Party Groups. Chairing the groups on the Impact of Shale Gas and on Alternative Lending (who seek to ensure private market development.) Yet these two bodies have conflicting interests. He is also Vice Chair of the Group on Artificial Intelligence and a member of the group on Data Analytics.
He is also Co-Chair of a group of free-market freaks called FREER and has written articles for the House of Commons Magazine and newspapers on their behalf, expressing their free market ideas. FREER are a body which propounds free enterprise principles such as those pursued by INEOS and other fracking companies. This clashes with his anti-fracking stance, which he clearly pursues merely for local electoral purposes. See here and then here with its claim that “we need to make the moral case for capitalism”.
Then there is a helpful parliamentary avenue he just refuses to use – Early Day Motions. These are published by the Commons and are normally used by back-bench MPs only. Technically they seek a Commons debate on their proposals. Although very few achieve this objective, unless other avenues are then also pursued. But they can be used to publicise a proposal and give the MP who submits an EDM the opportunity to see which fellow MPs then add their signatures to their proposal. This can be very helpful in building up support on a issue – even cross-party support. In just over a week of the opening of parliament after I was first elected in 1987 I submitted an EDM aimed at the relevant Conservative Government Minister agreeing to meet a deputation to seek Government assistance to deal with the consequences of an underground fire in Dronfield. I then pursued other parliamentary avenues and the meeting was later granted. It was just a start down this track.
Excluding my own first two years as an MP for which I can't find relevant records, the Commons shows that over my next 16 years as an MP I submitted a total of 503 EDMs, seconded 31 and signed 12,010. Yet Lee Rowley has not yet submitted, supported nor amended a single EDM. He claims that they cost too much to publish and are just a pretense at doing something. But they can be used especially as the start of a parliamentary (or wider) campaign, with MP's then finding further opportunities to refer to their contents in relevant Commons' debates. They also let people know where an MP stands on a wide range of issues. Lee Rowley's refusal to make use of this established parliamentary avenue (along with his few appearances on the floor of the Commons) is a failure to undertake aspects of his parliamentary responsibilities.
On his facebook site Lee Rowley recently said "We’ve got to stop this; people are tired of MPs messing around and want Brexit sorted. I’ll keep trying to ensure that happens." So why did he not press his views about what should happen (and how) to the Commons during its recent recall ? The Speaker provided ample (and even excessive) opportunities for MPs to do this. Yet there is no record in Hansard of Rowley making a single contribution. And when I looked at the TV coverage at key periods he was nowhere to be seen.
Just who is Lee Rowley ?
He is aged 39. Although born in Chesterfield he later spent time outside our North Derbyshire area. First studying at Oxford and Manchester Universities, then holding various positions with Barclays, a multi-national professional services network called KPMG, Santander and then even with Co-op Insurance. From 2006 to 2014 he served served on the Westminster City Council (living in that area). He became their Cabinet Member for Parking and sort to introduce parking charges, but this was opposed by environmental and disability campaigners and he faced calls to resign. His stance was even criticised by Boris Johnson when Mayor of London and it was then blocked by the High Court. In 2010 he stood unsuccessfully for parliament in the Bolsover Constituency.
In the Commons he served on the Statutory Instruments Select Committee from October 2017 to April 2018. They check Government measures which are pursued under authority granted to them by Acts of Parliament. He then became a member of the Public Accounts Committee in February 2018 and then soon resigned from his position with the Statutory Instruments Committee. The Public Accounts Committee examines the value for money of public expenditure. It is currently examining the BBC's pay policy. He prefers to press for restraining public rather than private powers.
He records his parliamentary interests as being energy, housing, planning, financial services, transport and artificial intelligence. We need to appreciate that this is all in the context of his overriding commitment to free-market capitalism.