I received a response to my letter to my MP on supporting the APPG on M.E. It took nearly a month but his letter made me pretty confused.
He said he was referring the matter to the relevant Minister at the Department of Health.
I wondered why he was asking a Minister about me asking him to join an APPG – so I wrote and asked. I also asked if he would sign a couple of new EDM’s on Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
His response (quite a bit quicker this time) was that “as a Government Minister, I am not permitted to join All Parliamentary Groups or sign Early Day Motions“.
Now this really confused me. Because first my MP is low level Government Whip and therefore although he does have a Parliamentary appointment, that’s not what you class as a Minister. So what’s this Minister role I don’t know about and that doesn’t appear on his web site or his www.theyworkforyou.com profile?
Secondly, Ministers *are* allowed to be members and even officers of APPG’s. I found the relevant guide to the rules to send to him “Mostly they are run by backbenchers though ministers may also be officers or members of APGs and many groups choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities”.
In fact @lizziebee3 on Twitter let me know that the APPG on Diabetes has the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip as its chairman
I also discovered that strictly speaking Ministers and Whips *are* allowed to sign EDM’s but typically they do not. This I can understand even if I don’t like not being respresented as a constituent in this respect.
So I’ve written my 4th letter/email of this correspondance saying so and seeking clarification, especially on his reasoning for not joining the APPG on ME and his claim to a Ministerial post.
I suspect he’s not the least bit interested in the illness ME, the way people with it are treated or in supporting those doing valuable work to protect very ill, vulnerable and practically invisible people like myself. He just doesn’t want to state what his real position is.
Since his party became part of the coalition government he seems to be more bothered in the interests of his party than those of his constituents, so I said that too. Not that he’s ever engaged much with myself on ME or my husband on carer’s.
Here’s his first response to my original emails followed by the rest of the correspondance to date:
“20 July 2010
Dear Ms Groves
Thank you very much for your e-mails of the 24th June regarding Myalgic Encephalomelitis of which you are a sufferer.
I am grateful to you for writing on this important issue and have now referred this matter to the Minister responsible at the Department of Health, Paul Burstow. I have asked Mr Burstow for his comments on the points you have raised and for confirmation of the Government’s intentions with regard to ME.
I shall, of course, contact you as soon as I receive a reply to my letter.
My thanks, again, for taking the time to write.
In my emails I had urged my MP to join the APPG on ME and provided an example of how important the work of the group was. I specifically referred to
“The WMMEG (West Midlands ME Groups Consortium) is calling for role of the new British Association for CFS/ME (BACME), who have taken over as the training forum for NHS staff involved in the care of people with ME/CFS, to be examined by the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME (APPG) when the group reforms – preferably before the next BACME training and education conference due to be held in October 2010.”
I thought this would be of particular interest due to our local proximity to the West Midlands.
What I couldn’t understand was why he referred my letter to a Minister when I was asking for his support and for him to join the group. So I wrote back:
23 July 2010
Dear Mr Fabricant
Thank you for your letter dated 20 July 2010. However I am a little perplexed by your response.
I wrote to you asking you to lend your support to the APPG on M.E. which had a meeting to reform the group in June, (moved to 1 July 2010).
You tell me you have referred this matter to the Minister responsible at the Department of Health.
I do not see why you would ask Paul Burstow for his comments on my asking you to join an APPG?
I am grateful to the MP’s who did respond to the call to support the important work of the APPG on M.E. and ensured it was reformed. These include colleagues of yours from the Conservative Party such as David Amess (the newly elected Chair), Graham Brady, Laurence Robertson, Peter Bottomley, Nigel Evans, Iain Liddell-Grainger, Mark Garnier, Harriett Baldwin, Tony Baldry, Sajid Javid, Peter Aldous and Martin Vickers.
I’d urge you to read my previous emails again including the WMMEG paper which gives a briefing about BACME, a link to which I included in my last email and explained to you why it was so important
While I am writing to you in regards to the APPG on M.E. (a condition of which I have) may I also take this opportunity to ask you to sign the EDM’s on Disability Living Allowance?
EDM 369 – EFFECTS OF JUNE 2010 BUDGET ON PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
EDM 393 – DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE
I receive both the care and mobility components of DLA and they make a huge difference to the quality of my life. I do not claim other benefits, despite being eligible. DLA recognises that I encounter additional costs because of the level of my disability which has nothing to do with how much I earn (or don’t).
I would urge you as my MP to support these two EDM’s as your party pledged all through the election to protect the vulnerable people in our society. DLA helps me to be a little less vulnerable, taking it away will leave me with no support at all. It would place a considerable burden on an already stretched single income from my husband who already works full time as well as having to care for me.
Thank you for your time
And here is the response I have received today:
27 July 2010
Dear Mrs Groves
Thank you very much for your e-mail of the 23rd July.
You may be unaware but, as a Government Minister, I am not permitted to join All Parliamentary Groups or sign Early Day Motions. I, therefore, referred the issue of ME to the relevant Government Minister in order that he is aware of your concerns regarding this illness.
With regard to the EDM on Disability Living Allowance, again, I cannot sign this, but if you have a specific point you would like me to raise with the relevant Minister, please let me know. I am happy to do all that I can to help.
pp Michael Fabricant
So with the questions about the Minister position (I know about his being a Whip) and the rule I found that allows Ministers to be memebrs of APPG’s here’s my emailed response to him:
“28 July 2010
Dear Mr Fabricant
Thank you for your letter dated 27 July 2010.
I was not aware that you held a Government Minister position. Please could you tell what position this is?
According to your own web site and to http://www.theyworkforyou.com you are a Government Whip but there is no mention of a ministerial position.
The rules on APPG’s do allow Ministers to be members and officers.
I direct you to paragraph 3) of the House of Common’s “Guide to the Rules on All-Party Groups” published April 2010:
“3) APGs are essentially run by and for Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Mostly they are run by backbenchers though ministers may also be officers or members of APGs and many groups choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.”
Here is a link to the guide and I also attach a copy
So strictly speaking it is not accurate to say you are not permitted to join or support the APPG on ME on the basis of being a minister.
Also according to http://www.parliament.uk Ministers and Whips are also able to sign EDM’s although they do normally do so.
I understand not being permitted to sign EDM’s may be a party matter and due to your position as a Whip?
I do find it very disheartening that you proudly point to the 54.4%of constituents who re-elected you as an MP on your own web site but now as a Whip you seem to have the Conservative Party’s interests above that of your constituents.
As for raising a specific point on DLA that you could pass to the relevant Minister, it seems you are asking me to pick just one point from a complex issue. So I shall need to take some time to think about this and perhaps write to you again on that.
I look forward to hearing from you again.
Rachel Groves (Mrs)”
Ever get the feeling someone isn’t answering the question you actually asked?