Sometimes Opposition is a thankless task as you sit on those green benches hearing the result of yet another vote being read out where we are beaten by 80+ votes. But this week have come a couple of Government announcements which demonstrate the importance of opposition both inside and outside of parliament:
- The Coalition had announced an end to the funding of debt advisers in Citizens Advice Bureaux in England at the end of March. Today they have announced they have found some money to keep staff in post for the following few months until they introduce their ‘new system’ of providing debt advice. Specialist debt advisers in CABx enhance the sterling work done by the volunteers. Several of my fellow MPs had been raising this repeatedly at questions and in debates. Local bureaux had been lobbying their own MPs hard.
- Yesterday the Government announced it was putting ‘on hold’ its plans to sell 15% of forestry Commission land in England. Originally this sale was going ahead separately from the ‘consultation’ currently taking place on disposal of the remaining 85% on ‘long leases’. The proposals on forests had sparked a huge amount of opposition (one of the biggest email postbags most MPs have had since the election) and it was clear in the debate the Labour Party asked for last week that many Coalition backbenchers were very unhappy at the proposals – including a Tory MP for part of the New Forest who pointed out that overall the proposals weren’t even going to save much money.
We’re not out of the woods yet (apologies – the Forestry debate must have had the highest pun rate of any debate I’ve heard). The Government is still planning to replace face to face debt advice with some form of telephone/web based advice system, which won’t be nearly so good at dealing with the complex debt problems many people have. I know my English colleagues will go on arguing the case but at least there won’t be a gap left between the old service ending and the new one beginning. And the Forest sell-off is only on hold not abandoned.
But it does show that opposition can succeed. So I hope all you campaigners out there will keep up the good work.