by Zoe Hughes
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Sometimes it's just damned hard work being an MP, especially if you happen to be Sunderland North's MP Bill Etherington.
Not a man renowned for regular contributions to the Commons chamber; Mr Etherington was asked to fulfil one of the more mundane tasks of being an elected representative in Parliament last week - by presenting a petition on behalf of his constituents.
Generally well-meaning and uncontroversial, petitions require nothing more than the MP staying until the end of the business day to present a document that keeps voters happy by raising small local issues in the heart of British democracy.
Not for Mr Etherington. Unhappy at the task he'd been presented with, the MP launched a full-blown discussion with the Speaker; Michael Martin, about his disagreement with the subject matter.
"I have never come across a situation where an MP has brought a petition that he does not agree with," the MP said before warning the Speaker the man who'd handed him the document had had a "long-running dispute with just about everyone in society about asbestos in his house". Mr McQuillan, the man who'd organised the petition, had, Mr Etherington explained, "managed to get a few people to support him".
That would of course have been it for the MP had he not also forgotten to bring the petition into the Commons with him.
"It's in the table office," he admitted after being challenged on its whereabouts.
In the end it required another appearance in the Commons during which MPs left lingering on the green benches were told the petition - calling for improved testing of domestic warm air heating units and signed by 67 people - "goes into great length to lay blame as to how the situation it describes has come about. I made my views plain last night".
It's certainly a novel way of keeping voters happy.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
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