Steel, health and education: A working day in Westminster with Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 17 Jul 2017

“Steel, health and education have been my main priorities since coming into parliament” says Nic Dakin as we sat down on a hot Wednesday afternoon in Westminster.

The sun beams down through the skylight at Portcullis House – one of the more modern buildings on Westminster Bridge, a product of the Blair administration’s attempt to find more office space for Members of Parliament.

Elected back into the House of Commons at this year’s election, Nic finds himself back to work among the committees and parliamentary duties he had left back in April.

Resisting the Conservative effort to oust him in Scunthorpe, Nic subsequently increased his majority following Theresa May's snap election.

“It’s a chaotic day today,” he says as we make our way quickly through the commons estate.

A former principle of John Leggott College and long term teacher before that, Nic holds education as a high priority as a member of parliament.

Meeting with Chris Brown, principle officer at the National Union of Teachers, he sets out his commitment to education as one of his priorities.

“It’s so good to have Nic back,” says Chris.

“We need more teachers in parliament and this election has seen a new cohort.”

Following Nic into the house who are former teachers include Thelma Walker for Colne Valley, a member who Chis speaks highly of.

Nic Dakin MP and Chris Brown of the NUT at a briefing meeting in Westminster

The briefing takes place on the House of Commons terrace as tourists and MPs alike take in the view of the River Thames and the view of the city in the distance.

The conversation moves to school funding and how the NUT intend to take forward their lobbying campaign.

A date is suggested to begin lobbying as a newly formed union, the National Education Union, this autumn in order to focus on school funding and the Government's newly introduced funding formula.

"What we are hoping to do is to lobby parliament on school cuts and funding," says Chris.

"School funding was a big issue during the election, it was the third biggest issue."

Under the coalition government, a new funding formula was proposed for schools across the United Kingdom.

A consultation into the proposals closed in March and the Government says a 'soft' form of the formula will implemented in this parliament.

The Department of Education has said it wants to provide a formula that is "fair for schools and children".

Nic says he will support the formation of a new union and suggests a photo opportunity with other members.

Time is short though and the briefing is brought to a close with a promise to catch up on the date for a meeting with other union members.

We quickly move along – Nic has a whips meeting before Prime Ministers Question Time and he rushes off through the lobby where the Speaker's Procession is about to take place to start the business of the day.

Scunthorpe candidates vote share at General Election 2017

The attention turns to the commons chamber in the build up to the time of the week which often splits opinion among political commentators.

The public gallery fills up and Nic makes an appearance on the front bench during Cabinet Officers questions where

“I was offering support to Cat Smith during her speech,” he tells me later.

Education is raised again during Prime Ministers Questions in the shape of the public sector pay cap.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says teachers and other public sector workers are suffering due to the Government’s insistence of a continued cap.

Prime Minister Theresa May replies with the claim that Labour would just “raise taxes” and mismanage the economy.

Another Prime Ministers Question Time passes and the verdict is left for the public to brew over.

“I thought Jeremy had her on the ropes,” says Nic as we sit down in the canteen of Portcullis House.

The canteen bristles with members in a rush to get somewhere and others holding meetings with colleagues over coffee.

Fellow North Lincolnshire MP Andrew Percy stops by for a quick update on issues surrounding the steel industry before the conversation turns back to schools.

“I’m often told by constituents that school places is a problem in Scunthorpe,” says Nic.

Parents getting their children into secondary school places is a problem particularly in one school in the centre of Scunthorpe, he tells me.

Nic Dakin MP taking a phone call from a colleague in his office at Portcullis House, Westminster.

A quick glance at his phone and we move onto another appointment this time at Westminster Hall.

Surrounded by tourists and school trips visiting the place where former Prime Minister’s Winston Churchill and where once Margaret Thatcher lay in state, members gather for a well-attended debate on women’s pensions.

Gathered at the foot of the stairs waiting to go into the debate are the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaigners.

The debate surrounds the issue of women born in the 1950s who were not told by the Government of the state pension age changes that were introduced in 1995.

“We’ve had a lot of women suffer over this issue,” one campaigner tells me as we wait to be led into the public gallery.

The heavy attendance leaves room for just 25 places in the gallery for the debate.

Members file into the room in their droves waiting to hear whether colleagues support the campaign.

“I’ve never seen this many at previous debates,” whispers one campaigner during the debate.

Nic takes his seat in the committee room but misses his chance to make an intervention as chair Sir Edward Leigh limits speeches to just two-minutes due to demand.

“It’s one of the campaigns I’m very close to,” he tells me outside as we make our way down the historic corridors of the House of Commons.

“Something needs to be done about the issue but it’s whether the Government will listen.”

As the sun begins to set on the City of London, Nic heads back to his office before taking on more meetings late on in the day.

The heat settles in Westminster and tourists and parliamentary workers alike find comfort in more shade made available.

For members though, the day wears on and debates and speeches continue in the many corridors and committee rooms that grace the Houses of Parliament.


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