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Residents Association MagazinearrowWinter 2001/12

Cllr ANNETTE BROOKE MP - Mid Dorset & N. Poole Constituency

As I set off for the House of Commons the week after the election I realised that I really didn't know exactly what I was expected to do. It was very much like going off to University but without a Fresher's Pack! However, as I arrived at St Stephen's entrance all was well, I was greeted by one of the door keepers who happened to be one of my constituents from Corfe Mullen. I secured a pass, found my way round and bagged a place in a large room, temporarily labelled the Liberal Desk Room. I shared this room with 7 other new MP's with 2 computers between us until the end of this session.

The key to being able to raise constituency issues via questions and debate is to first make a maiden speech. I also felt that this could be a bit like getting into the swimming pool and so although I was nervous I decided to make this at the first opportunity. The Queen's Speech took place and I managed after 5 hours of waiting and bobbing up and down to make my speech the very next day. It was not the greatest of speeches but I did raise the issue of unfair funding for our schools.

The unwritten rules and regulations in the House are a minefield for the new MP and I am sure I will take time to adjust. However, my objective is to speak up for my constituents and accept that I will probably make a few mistakes in procedure in the first year.

I was dividing my week 3½ days in London and 3½ days in the constituency and using hotels in London. Immediately on from June 8th my mail bag was enormous and there were serious problems to tackle on behalf of constituents. However, as you may imagine when you are not inheriting 'a set up' it is impossible to open a constituency office, fully staffed, organised and equipped overnight. When, 'I broke up' on July 20th l decided l would just take a very short break and concentrate on working in the constituency until October 15th when the House was due to return. It was certainly not quite the long holiday it sounds!

The Holiday!

With an enormous amount of help from many volunteers and my newly employed staff, I now have a well equipped office in Broadstone. The address is 14 York Road, and it has been constructed within the Liberal Hall. It is extremely well located for serving the whole constituency and l am able to hold surgeries and meet people in the Hall. In addition,! have been holding many surgeries all over the constituency in libraries and so if anybody wishes to see me, you just need to ring 693555 for an appointment, there will always be a choice of locations. I am normally in Broadstone Library, the first Saturday in the month, 10am-noon, and there usually is an opportunity to speak to me in between appointments if you just turn up.

I am now back with my 3 day week in London, and I share an office with Patsy Calton, new MP for Cheadle. I am renting a flat in Dolphin Square which so far has a bed and a carpet! I am now a member of the Public Administration Select Committee. This meets weekly and so far I have grilled John Prescott, Lord Macdonald and Sir Richard Wilson (current Head of the Civil Service, who in my opinion outdid Sir Humphrey with his answers!) I am an assistant whip for my party and I have been asked to support the Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Team.

There is so much to learn and so much to do but I am loving every moment and I am determined I will give the best possible service I can to all my constituents. I might even take a holiday after Christmas!

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