The poster promoting this year’s Parliament Week says “It all begins with you”. Our democracy does begin and indeed depends on engaged and well-informed citizens. To help citizens make informed choices, easy access to accurate and impartial information about the work of their elected representatives in Parliament, including their voting record is needed.
Arguably we live in an age when it is easier to access information than ever before. But the owners or editors of social media platforms from which many people gather information and shape their opinions don’t have any responsibility or incentive to provide accurate and impartial information about MPs work and voting records. There are no real deterrents to misrepresentation. Citizens often base their opinions about MPs on how they vote on particular issues. Not all votes are equal and some of our most important decisions are taken without a division. But most people don’t know this. I have received many communications from constituents, misrepresenting the facts, derived from the far from perfect reporting of MPs voting records on websites such as They Work For You.
This I believe is contributing to the poisoning our politics, corroding people’s trust in MPs and threatening the very foundations of our Parliamentary democracy.
Right now there is no trusted source of impartial, accurate information about MPs voting records and actions in Parliament to help you make informed choices. I am delighted that both the Leader and Shadow Leader of the House, accepted my challenge and agreed to work with Hansard to develop a new service, in addition to their excellent verbatim reporting of Parliamentary proceedings, to provide impartial, contextualised information on MPs voting records.
In the next Parliament this will need careful consideration and cross-party support and will do a great deal to shore up the foundations of our Parliamentary democracy and overtime restore trust in our politics.
This was my last week in Parliament and it was difficult to leave. While it has been a challenging time, being the local MP for my hometown was a job I loved and was the greatest privilege.
Thank you to both those people who sent me to Westminster to be your representative and those that didn’t but did work constructively with me here. Together over the last nine years or so we have made a positive difference. Here are just a few of our achievements: modernising the Coastguard Service, with Falmouth open 24/7; more naval vessels in Falmouth for years to come; the creation of Falmouth University and the development of Exeter; more funding for our NHS; more young people receiving a better education and apprenticeship opportunities; more people employed, keeping more of the money they have earned; new buses and trains with more frequent services; new cycle routes; inspiring new businesses and investment into Cornwall’s clean growth economic strategy.
Most importantly, new legislation, including on plastic reduction and a new net zero carbon target, will enable us to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation.
First published in the West Briton 06/11/19