A view from within Parliament

Visit to the House of Commons - 30 Jan 2012

On 30 Jan 12 I had a tour of the Palace of Westminster in the morning kindly arranged by Sir Peter Bottomley MP.

In the afternoon I went to the Visitor's Gallery at the House of Commons to listen to the debate.

Questions were asked of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, on many issues including the steps that the Department has taken to increase transparency in Local Government and Departmental spending; plans to return empty homes to use; recent assessment regarding value for money and standards for tenants in the private rented sector; steps taken to make empty houses and vacant properties above shops available for rent and many others.

The next Secretary of State to appear before the House to answer questions was Kenneth Clark, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
He laid before Parliament a consultation on plans to improve the way the criminal justice system dealt with victims of crime.

The Secretary of State said that it is unacceptable that victims are frequently told too little too late about the progress of their case, or are expected in court to sit next to the families of offenders. He added that compensation should be targeted at the most serious cases and criminals should contribute to the costs of victims' services. Lord Chancellor said that British victims of terrorist attacks abroad should in future qualify for compensation on a similar basis to victims of domestic terrorism.

Shadow Secretary of State for Justice Sadiq Khan made the point that we must have policies backed up by adequate resources to ensure that people do not become victims in the first place.

In response to a question from Peter Bone Lord Chancellor said that a mass murderer in prison will not be entitled to compensation if they were beaten up by another prisoner.

Responding to an issue raised by Paul Goggins, the Secretary of State said that in cases where a miscreant leaves court and celebrates too vigorously the fact that he has not lost his liberty and starts adding insult to the court or his victims, some thing should be done to find a way of dealing with him under the rules of contempt of court.

The above is just a cross section of questions put to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Justice. There were many more.

I found it a learning and interesting experience.

Ahmad Khwaja