THE VALUE of our MPs is an often-debated subject with much talk about whether they should get a pay rise.
To find out more about what their job entails and what happens on an average day in West Worcestershire representative Harriett Baldwin, the Observer’s Rob George spent a day in the Houses of Parliament.
TRAVELLING down to London I read both sides of the debate on MPs’ pay but amid all the hyperbole and argument, I was still none the wiser about what they actually did away from the major occasions such as Prime Minister’s Questions and Spending Reviews.
But walking into the imposing Portcullis House, I was soon transported into ‘their’ world and the daily life in what is crudely called the ‘Westminster Village’.
Portcullis House is where many of our MPs have their offices and it was the location of my first insight into life as an elected representative.
A main road separates Portcullis House and the House of Commons, but before you think our MPs are wasting time waiting for the little green man to appear on the traffic lights, they have their own tunnel under the road which leads into Parliament!
Once on the estate you are led into Westminster Hall which immediately leaves you in no doubt about the grand building which is the House of Parliament.
Once in the Central Lobby, I was presented with my ticket to the public gallery but before I could take my place in the theatre, I joined many to wait for the leading man to take his place.
And with all the pomp and ceremony which is unique to us in Britain, Commons speaker John Bercow made his way through the lobby, offering thanks for our attendance ready to take his place in the chamber.
It was time for the main performance, Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions and the audience in the public gallery were treated the main show with Nick Clegg mixing answers with fierce defence and robust attacks on his Labour rivals.
After an hour of verbal jousting, I returned to the central lobby to meet Harriett Baldwin, the MP for West Worcestershire since 2010.
Over lunch, Harriett offered an insight into her diary for that day which had begun at breakfast and was not due to finish until after midnight and even saw her spend time giving blood.
I joined her for the afternoon which included dropping in on a committee room where Planning Minister Nick Boles MP was holding a Q&A session with various local Government representatives.
Harriett posed questions relating to the South Worcestershire Development Plan and the impact the period between it being drawn up and implemented was having on local councils.She received a positive response and outside told me she would relate it back to her constituents and to the numerous local councils in her vast West Worcestershire constituency.
Meeting constituents and hosting a function on the terrace on the banks of the River Thames dominated the remainder of the warm afternoon.
Speaking on the terrace, I asked Harriett about life as an MP and what life had been like since she was first elected.
“It’s an enormous privilege to represent West Worcestershire in Parliament and I come here every day and try and work for what matters to all of my constituents.
“The interesting thing is when I get up in the morning I know there will be many changes that day, the diary has to be pretty flexible because you never know when the votes in the house will come.
“But you have seen how meetings work around the flexibility and allow MPs to dip into them and ask their questions,” she added.
Harriett also urged schools and local groups to get in touch with her to arrange educational tours of the building to see democracy in action.
“Parliament is for the people, its open to the people and any of my constituents can fill out a green card in the central lobby and summon me as their MP,” she added.
We parted company back in the central lobby, my time with Harriett was over but she still had numerous votes in the House of Commons, a dinner for a local group and even a reception in Downing Street ahead of her.
Do MPs deserve a pay rise? I am still not sure I am convinced either way but a day with Harriett taught me that our elected representatives certainly work hard for their money.