Tuesday, 20 October 2015

The One to watch

The activities of the Health Committee have been interesting lately. Ahead of a government policy announcement in November on a new obesity strategy, it is holding a series of high profile hearings on tackling the problem. Yesterday, Jamie Oliver gave evidence.

Jamie's evidence begins 27 minutes into the hearing. Another hearing is going on as I write this.

But a row has developed over the Government's refusal to allow the committee access to the data upon which the strategy is based. Withholding information until it is too late - is one of the oldest tricks in the book - but one which is not in the interest of good scrutiny. For more information - and the exchange of letters - visit the Health Committee website - here

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Ofqual Session

I've just come out of the session that the Education Committee held with Ofqual. It was a very interesting morning. The committee had requested evidence and questions from both "the obvious suspects" - Exam Boards and Teaching unions; and from anyone who has an interest in the subject. These wider calls for evidence and questions are an encouraging development in the select committee system. MPs of course will use their own knowledge - and information provided by interested parties in their constituency - but this allows Parliament to be more effective  in representing the British people.

The questions asked, and answers given should be available within a couple of days as the uncorrected transcript is produced. The video is available athttp://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/5c18324a-e3ad-4efc-8b5a-acb00c017881

Education Select Committee

This morning I will be attending the Education Select Committee - as part of my long term study in the development of that committee. Today's witnesses will be Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator & Chief Executive, Ofqual Amanda Spielman, Chair, Ofqual.  This will be a one-off evidence session on the work of Ofqual, focussing on its work in regulating examinations, including reform of GCSEs and A levels.

More information about the work of Ofqual can be found on its website - https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ofqual

The video recordings of the first two evidence sessions undertaken by the committee can be accessed by clicking on the links below

Session with Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State.

Session with Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Education (Ofsted)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Today, the Health Committee will be meeting for an evidence session as part of their short inquiry into childhood obesity. It builds upon the Committee’s work in the last Parliament on the impact of diet and physical activity on health. This inquiry specifically considers what the Government’s policy priorities should be for addressing childhood obesity.

Their report on the impact of diet and physical activity on health can be downloaded from here.

Today's witnesses include -

Dr Paul Darragh, Board of Science, British Medical Association
Professor Graham MacGregor, Chairman, Action on Sugar
Malcolm Clark, Co-ordinator, Children’s Food Campaign
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability,
British Retail Consortium
Ian Wright, Director General, Food and Drink Federation
Chris Snowdon, Director of Lifestyle Economics, Institute for Economic Affairs

I very much wish that I could go - but am unable to. However I will be using the excellent facility on Parliamentlive.tv to watch videos of hearings. If you are a follower of Parliament, or have a specific policy interest, this is a website to bookmark.

Monday, 12 October 2015

What's Next?

It's been an eventful time of late. In the UK the Labour Party surprised itself by electing Jeremy Corbyn as its new leader. He has no ministerial or front bench experience - and is ideologically further to the left than most of the Parliamentary Labour Party - but gained an impressive win, and the term "Corbyn-mania" has entered the language. (I never recall the terms Wilson-mania or Callaghan-mania in my youth!). I attended the Party Conference in Brighton - and it was interesting to feel the strange mix of enthusiasm and trepidation - with some individuals showing both.

The Conservative Party Conference was even more interesting - as the battle for the succession to Cameron was clearly in full swing.

Parliament returns this week - and we will see how these developments impact on the atmosphere in Westminster - and upon events themselves.

In Washington, events took an even more dramatic turn - with John Boehner's shock announcement that he was standing down as Speaker. Then, as the GOP conference met to elect his successor, the favourite - Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy withdrew. The disruptive power of the small group of ultra-conservatives was evident for all to see. Further developments will be monitored closely!