Getting in on the debate...

When you think of the House of Commons, most people will think of the main chamber, where the big debates, votes and Prime Minister’s Questions take place.

When you think of the House of Commons, most people will think of the main chamber, where the big debates, votes and Prime Minister’s Questions take place.

But there is also a side chamber, the Grand Committee Room, known more commonly as Westminster Hall, because it is situated off Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster which dates back to the time when William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, was King.

Debates in Westminster Hall give MPs the opportunity to raise matters outside main government business. Each department gets three of four days per month allocated to them and as with other parts of the job, the MP submits a form asking for a debate on a particular subject - if your name is drawn out of the hat, your subject is debated.

It is important because the minister has to respond, so it is a very useful way of challenging the government on an issue.

Last week I took part in two Westminster Hall debates of importance to our city.

The first was about military base closures. The government wants to close the Dale Barracks, home of the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, successors to the Cheshire Regiment. We have a long and proud history as a garrison city and I treasure our close links to the Army. Many former soldiers settle in Chester after their service, and I oppose the government’s plans to move it all lock, stock and barrel to a new site near Preston.

The second debate was one I had called myself, with Ellesmere Port MP Justin Madders. It was about the catastrophic government proposals to cut our schools budget: £4.2 million in the first year, rising to £6.4 the following year.

Speaking to school heads, teachers and parents it’s clear how terrible the consequences will be: every school is looking at staff cuts and larger class sizes, a reduction in special needs support and less choice in subjects.

Meanwhile West Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey have all seen their schools budgets increase.

So it’s full steam ahead in my campaign to oppose and reverse these dreadful government proposals. I am confident it’s a fight we can win, but I am using every opportunity to raise it and make ministers absolutely aware of the effects of their actions on our schools. I will be writing to the Education Minister on behalf of parents in Chester - if you wish to add your name to my letter, please do so at chrismatheson.co.uk/schoolcuts.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.