Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Open Letter To Lee Rowley MP

Image result for Lee Rowley MP
Dear Lee Rowley,

You will appreciate that as I first joined the Labour Party almost 60 years ago, voted Labour in 16 subsequent General Elections and served as the Labour MP for North East Derbyshire for 18 years, that I am not a supporter of yours. But on specific items in politics, opponents can sometimes find themselves looking in a similar direction. So on the matter below I am attempting to be helpful, in the hope that you can deliver on a matter of common concern.

During your election campaign you made numbers of commitments against moves towards fracking operations on the Bramleymoor Lane site near Marsh Lane in your constituency. It is quite likely that the stance you took was a key factor in your election.

Hopefully, you will now use your position as MP to press the case against INEOS pursuing its intentions in that area. Yet in doing so you may need to act as something of a rebel against the Government's current stance. The Government's minority position does, however, give you some leverage for the pursuit of your expressed concerns.

There are a number of early avenues which you can pursue. When I served as an MP from 1987 I only tended to come across these in bits and pieces. But you don't have this luxury as the Bramleymoor Lane situation is on top of us. Below I give something of a menu for you to draw from. What can be done and when, will (of course) rest upon passing opportunities.

First of all, you can put your name in to the Speaker to make your maiden speech as soon as possible. Some new MPs are even lucky enough to be called to do this during the initial debate on the Queen's Speech. Your maiden speech will then give you a clear opportunity to raise opposition to the Bramleymoor Lane proposal. For with a maiden speech you are not stuck to the subject matter of the issues under discussion.

You can then pursue numbers of other parliamentary avenues. For instance, you can quickly apply for an Adjournment Debate on the matter. This provides a half hour session at the end of the day, during which you can press your case. A relevant Government Minister will respond to you in that time, giving you a chance for then to intervene - especially if the Minister isn't being helpful. There are no votes on Adjournment Debates, but they are valuable for raising and pursuing concerns. And  on the back of such a debate, you can seek to get a meeting in the Government Minister's Office where you could lead a deputation from (say) "Eckington Against Fracking".   

You could also then seek to introduce a "Ten Minute Rule Bill" to place a ban on the Bramleymoor Lane development. That would give you ten minutes in which to spell out your case. If the Commons then agreed to the Bill being printed, you can announce the names of a dozen or so MPs who have agreed to back your measure - perhaps on a cross party basis. If the Government is not happy with your proposal, it will move to block further advances to your measure by its control over various parliamentary procedures. But your efforts will gain support in your constituency and add to your (and our) pressures.

To find out who might join you in supporting your efforts you can always put down an Early Day Motion (EDM), spelling out what you are seeking on the matter. The convention is that front-benchers won't sign these specific forms of EDM, but it will help you to discover what wider support you have amongst back-bench MPs on a cross-party basis.  

You will then have other avenues to pursue to further your case. These include parliamentary questions to relevant Government Ministers, weekly questions on the future business of the Commons (during which you can refer to your EDM) and a debate in Westminster Hall.

There is always the possibility that when the Government know what you are up to, they will make significant concessions to you to contain your pressures. You will, of course, find private avenues within the Parliamentary Conservative Party to pursue your concerns.

You also need to be in touch with the Conservative administration at the Derbyshire County Council to seek to block the initial application for the Marsh Lane area.

I hope that the avenues I have outlined are helpful to you on this issue.

Yours sincerely,
Harry Barnes.