By Poppy Bragg
Speaking to the group on Friday (May 13), Green Party Leader, Dr. Lucas, said her first few months in Westminster were “really difficult”.
As the first ever Green MP and the sole representative of her party, there was no one to explain to her the workings of Parliament.
While most MPs were helpful, she said there were exceptions – most notably the MP who, when she went to shake his hand after meeting him for a second time, almost recoiled in horror declaring: “In this House we only shake hands once.”
The MP told students of changes she would like to see at Westminster, which included making parliamentary working hours more family friendly.
She said: “Do we really want Parliament only populated by people who can afford child care or who do not have children and are not sensitive to the issues?”
Dr. Lucas also proposed introducing an electronic voting system to speed up the “massively time-consuming” process, which she said means that 250 hours of an MP’s time over a Parliament is spent queuing to vote.
Electronic voting is used in the European Parliament in which she sat for more than ten years before leaving to stand for a seat in Westminster.
Dr. Lucas said her decision to do so was influenced by the relative “invisibility” of MEPs when it comes to matters of public debate, given the general media hostility towards the EU.
She said: “In terms of influencing the debate there is an issue of credibility unless you are represented [in Westminster].”
When asked about the perception that prevails among some voters that the Greens are a “one issue” party, Dr. Lucas denied that this was the case.
She said that while environmental issues were clearly central to the Greens’ ideology, issues of environment and social justice are strongly linked to her party’s policies.
To assure voters that this was the case, the Greens made sure that issues such as health and education were the focus of their election campaign last year.
Speaking of her constituency work, the Brighton MP said that poor housing, incorrect benefit payments and visa–related issues were just three of the problems people consulted her on, during her weekly surgeries.
Dr. Lucas said that being able to help her constituents was one of the best parts of her role as an MP, adding: “You may not have changed the world but you have changed someone’s life enormously.”
Dr. Lucas said that Labour councillors have agreed to support the Greens in looking again at the budget set in March by the previous Conservative-led administration.
However, the MP pointed out that changes to the overall figure in the budget would be illegal – it will be the allocations that are under review.
She said the budget review would send “an important signal that the poorest and most vulnerable are protected to the greatest extent possible from the cuts”.
City College journalism student, Tanya Paulo, said she enjoyed the insight into the workings of Parliament gained from Dr. Lucas’s visit.
She said: “It was particularly fascinating to hear that while David Cameron has been preaching about the need for the public sector to become more efficient, Parliament is so wedded to tradition that it has MPs queuing for hours to vote rather than use an electronic voting system.”