Behind the Headlines - Lincolnshire MPs at work

On the terrace overlooking the Thames at the Houses of Parliament. Caroline Johnson with Sleaford Standard News Editor Andy Hubbert. EMN-171121-111506001
On the terrace overlooking the Thames at the Houses of Parliament. Caroline Johnson with Sleaford Standard News Editor Andy Hubbert. EMN-171121-111506001

Sleaford’s MP, Dr Caroline Johnson has now been in post for a year, so The Standard’s Andy Hubbert was specially invited to join her ‘in action’ at the Houses of Parliament...

After an early start I was welcomed at Westminster with a thorough ‘airport style’ security search, thanks to the recent terror attacks.

Dr Caroline Johnson getting on board with UK Parliament Week at Portcullis House. EMN-171121-110247001

Dr Caroline Johnson getting on board with UK Parliament Week at Portcullis House. EMN-171121-110247001

Checking in at Westminster Hall, the original Parliament building where notables such as the Queen Mother have lain in state, I joined a party for a tour of this historic complex.

We were aided by a knowledgeable guide of the workings of the various parts of the Houses of Parliament, the work done within it and how it has evolved.

The building has a palatial feel, but the bustle of a large office, coupled with the traditions of an old school. We toured the debating chamber of the House of Commons, which was smaller than I imagined, and the division lobbies used by voting MPs. We passed through the Central Lobby often seen on TV news, before admiring the grandeur and portraits of the Royal Gallery and the Robing Room where the Queen prepares before heading into the House of Lords to give her speech at the opening sessions of Parliament each year.

Her throne and gold-encrusted screen was so lavish that pop star Michael Jackson offered to buy it when he visited!

At work in her office in Parliament, Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham. EMN-171121-110750001

At work in her office in Parliament, Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham. EMN-171121-110750001

Dr Johnson was later due in the Health Select Committee and there would be more discussions about the Brexit bill into the evening. I caught up with her after Prime Minister’s Questions and she introduced me to her hard working office team of Emma Salisbury and Peter Worsley who help with correspondence and Parliamentary business.

Speaking over lunch, Caroline explained that often she would have to stay over at a hotel or catch the last train home at 11pm due to a late-running debate.

She said she was due at RAF Cranwell for a tour of the officer recruitment facilities the next day as part of an ongoing familiarisation with the workings of the Armed Forces provided for MPs.

With all the terror threats, the armed police presence was notable, but Dr Johnson said she had got used to the difference from living in quiet Lincolnshire.

Seat of power - the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. EMN-171121-110300001

Seat of power - the Houses of Parliament at Westminster. EMN-171121-110300001

She and fellow MPs are battling for fairer government funding for Lincolnshire and she sported a little badge highlighting the campaign.

She was confident of a positive outcome and said: “Historically, Labour governments invested in urban areas at the expense of countryside areas, leaving Lincolnshire behind. That money would pay for schools, potholes to be filled and social care. We want to make things fairer. Without borrowing, the only way to do it is sharing the money out differently, so this process is likely to be quite slow.”

PMQ’s

I was ushered into the gallery to witness the sheer deafening theatre of ‘Prime Minister’s Question Time’ when Theresa May fielded quick-fire questions on an array of topics.

Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn tackled her about a controversial letter issued to tenants by a landlord in Grimsby, warning them that they may face eviction due to the six-week delay in switching to Universal Credit.

Dr Johnson was joined by fellow Lincolnshire MPs Matt Warman, Victoria Atkins, Sir Edward Leigh and John Hayes.

There were urgent questions on Zimbabwe, a call for a pause in Universal Credit roll out and funding for families hit by infant death.