Day in the life of an MP
The derivation of the word Parliament is “to parley” —to talk with the aim of clarifying problems—said Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, MP, speaking to members of the Finchley Central Synagogue Friendship Club on Monday evening. Speeches in the House of Commons, today, were more reasoned and quiet than in the age of tub-thumping, soap-box oratory, but there was more heckling, and certainly more noise, especially from interruptions by the Opposition.
Modes of address in the House seemed complicated, until one became used to them. Members referred to in speeches were not personally named; they were addressed as the Honourable Member or the Right Honourable Member for the constituency they represented, Mrs. Thatcher instanced a typical day in the life of an MP, starting with morning Committee work, dealing with correspondence—she herself received many letters from constituents on varying problems—on to debates and to question time.
All questions had to be written down, or “tabled” , and in no other country in the world was there so great an opportunity for freedom of speech as in question time at Westminster. Ministers were responsible for answering questions on their departments, the Prime Minister had to answer questions on all departments.
The Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was the second biggest spending department in the Government, Defence being the first. On National Assistance, Mrs. Thatcher said it was not always realised that help to those in need through no fault of their own, could be obtained on application at the local office, without filling in a single form.
In reply to a question from the floor on the possibility of the label “Assistance” being changed because in some people's minds there was still a stigma attached to it, Mrs. Thatcher said that in fact, it was more often referred to as “supplementary” to a pension. The name had been adopted as an improvement on the old poor law; it was in no sense, charity, but what its name suggested—assistance or help to those in need.
Mrs. F. Rosenthal (Chairman) spoke of Mrs. Thatcher as a household name known throughout the nation. Mrs. J. Dobb in proposing a vote of thanks said that the audience would agree with her that they had learned a great deal about the House of Commons in a comparatively short time, and they were very grateful to Mrs. Thatcher for giving of her time to visit them.