"The Nineteenth century saw a great Springtime of Nations as the revolutions of 1848 saw new countries created the length and breadth of Europe. In our world today we are now seeing our own Spring Awakening with people and cultures that have long been dormant and subdued asserting their right to exist, their right to dream." Adam Price MP
Thursday, 30 July 2015
Mundell Goes Where Angels Fear To Tread
David Mundell reported to Westminister authorities over opening of food bank
DAVID Mundell has been reported to Westminster authorities over claims that he broke the rules by opening a food bank in another MP’s constituency without giving advance warning.
The Tory MP, who represents Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweedale, was met by protesters when he opened a Trussell Trust food bank in Dumfries last week, having previously dismissed links between food aid charities and welfare cuts.
The food bank, at the town’s Apex Centre, is in the Dumfries and Galloway constituency of the SNP’s Richard Arkless.
Official notice was given by Mundell’s office just one hour before the event in a one-line email which failed to include the location, time or purpose of the visit.
Yesterday, Arkless claimed Mundell may have broken the House of Commons rules and the Ministerial Code by failing to declare an engagement in another constituency without informing the local MP in good time.
He has written to the Cabinet Office and the Speaker over the matter and called on Mundell to show “a great deal more respect”.
Arkless said: “It is completely unacceptable for Mr Mundell to try to make capital out of the hunger that his government has created.
“This is a clear breach of the House of Commons Rules and potentially the Ministerial Code. I have today written to the Cabinet Office and the Speaker to complain.
“He is Scotland’s only Tory yet he is riding roughshod over the democratic will of the Scottish people, who voted overwhelmingly against austerity. Well, he’s not going to ride roughshod into my constituency again.”
Around 30 protesters confronted Mundell when he arrived at the food bank on Friday, with many holding placards condemning Tory welfare cuts.
In February, the now-Scottish Secretary told Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee: “The three issues that are most commonly raised in relation to food banks are sanctions, delays in benefit payments and low income. I do not accept that those three issues are welfare reform issues.”
He has also criticised Mark Frankland, manager of established Dumfries food bank First Base, for linking food poverty to benefit sanctions and welfare reform.
The Trussell Trust also invited Arkless to the opening, but he declined to attend the press event, stating he would prefer to come and work at the service behind the scenes, as he has done with First Base.
Arkless called the decision to invite Mundell “bizarre” and said he had failed to speak up earlier for fear of encouraging more protesters to attend by “inflaming passions”, but has now broken his silence following representations by constituents.
The Trussell Trust contacted Arkless on July 13 in an email informing him that Mundell had accepted an invitation to speak at the event, scheduled for 11.30am on July 24.
However, Mundell’s diary secretary did not make contact with Arkless until 10.30am, sending an email which read: “Good morning Richard, this a courtesy note to let you know that David Mundell will be visiting your constituency this morning. Regards”.
Paragraph 10.9 of the Ministerial Code states: “Ministers intending to make a visit within the United Kingdom must inform in advance the MPs whose constituencies are to be included within the itinerary.”
The amount of notice expected is not given, but comments made by the Speaker of the House of Commons underline that “proper notice” should be provided.
Previous Speakers have made clear that: “If members believe that they have to go into another member’s constituency, proper notice is important.”
Arkless said: “What he’s done doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’m not going to attend a food bank if it’s to celebrate the opening.
“I wouldn’t have opened a food bank with such a fanfare. If I knew that I had a diary commitment in his constituency I would consider it incumbent upon me to let him know and give him full details.
“He has paid scant regard to both the House of Commons convention and it appears, perhaps, the Ministerial Code.
“The Ministerial Code is written down and studied. If he’s not aware of it, he ought to be.
“I would expect an apology and perhaps a greater level of courtesy between two neighbouring MPs in the future.
“We need to show each other a great deal more respect.”
Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager for The Trussell Trust said: “The food bank has been established to serve Dumfriesshire, which covers part of the neighbouring constituencies represented by both Mr Mundell and Mr Arkless. Given that Dumfriesshire food bank will serve constituents on both sides of the border, it was only right and proper for us to invite both MPs to the opening of Dumfriesshire food bank on Friday.
“As a charity, we are committed to tackling food poverty at a practical grass-roots level through the provision of emergency food and additional support. We also believe it is important, as an apolitical organisation, to raise the challenges individuals and families across Scotland experience to a political level with elected representatives from all parties in the hope that they can influence the political process to prioritise support for the most vulnerable men, women and children in our communities.”
A spokesman for Mundell dismissed the claims, saying: “David made the visit as a constituency MP to a shared facility covering both constituencies.
“He fully complied with the House of Commons rules by formally notifying neighbouring MP Richard Arkless of the engagement in his constituency.
“If Mr Arkless is claiming he still wasn’t aware, he must have been the only person in Scotland who didn’t know David was attending the event.”