John Penrose MP...
PUBLISHED: 09:47 03 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:05 24 May 2010
Why can't politicians just get together and agree like normal people?" I've lost count of the number of people who say this to me. The worst of it is, they're absolutely right. Some politicians seem to like picking a fight over a minor issue, rather tha
Why can't politicians just get together and agree like normal people?" I've lost count of the number of people who say this to me. The worst of it is, they're absolutely right. Some politicians seem to like picking a fight over a minor issue, rather than agreeing on a major one.So it's a wonderful change to work on a select committee where there's cross-party agreement about something important. There are six Labour and two LibDem MPs with me on the Work and Pensions Committee and we've just uncovered a serious problem, but our report is unanimous. We've been looking at JobCentre Plus, which is supposed to help unemployed people get back to work, and to make sure they get the right benefits while they're looking. Eighteen months ago, the Government decided to close or shrink most local JobCentre Plus offices, including the one here in Weston, and move the work into call centres. But they got it badly wrong. During the summer of 2005, people claiming benefits couldn't get through on the phones, were never called back and had their benefit claims lost entirely as staff struggled to cope with a disastrous new IT system.But as we worked together for months to uncover these problems, all the MPs on the select committee banded together. We never said it out loud, but we knew this was far too important for party politics. It would have been easy for the Labour MPs to get defensive, or for the LibDems or Tories to be snide, but none of us did. In the end, even though there were enough Labour MPs on the committee to spike the report, we were unanimous.And a unanimous report means the Government will have to put the problems right. Wouldn't it be great if more politics was like that?