“YOUR voices are being heard loud and clear” – this is the reassuring message from Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans to all his constituents.
It follows concerns from a handful of Ribble Valley residents who fear they may be ignored and their issues might not be effectively represented in Parliament since the Conservative MP has taken on his new role of Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
The role sees Mr Evans and two other Deputy Speakers chair debates when the Speaker in not available. As well as keeping order in the House, the Speaker chooses which MPs to call to speak, has a say over whether or not a Government Minister has to make a statement about an issue and decides whether or not particular amendments are to be debated.
But crucially, the Speaker must remain impartial and does not have a vote, leading to claims the Mr Evans has given away his effectiveness as an MP.
Speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, Mr Evans said: “Being a deputy speaker enhances rather than diminishes putting people’s views forward because Ministers recognise the special position held. Yes, the speaker and his deputies cannot make a speech in a debate or vote at the end of the proceedings, however, I am able to see a Minister direct and highlight any issues concerning my constituents in the Ribble Valley.
“For instance, if there is an highway issue, I am able to speak to the Transport Minister face to face. Recently when Whalley residents contacted me regarding the proposed development of new homes in the village, I was able to speak directly to the Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, highlighting their fears.”
Mr Evans added: “For a Ribble Valley MP to be deputy speaker of the House of Commons is a huge honour for the area and its constituents.
“I would like to reassure everyone that my job has not altered in any way. The letters that I receive from residents are still being passed on to the relevant Ministers. There is no difference there. People’s voices are still being heard. The only difference is that I cannot speak to the Ministers while in the chamber, but I can speak to them privately.”