Column - Life at Westminster with Sir Greg Knight

The Summer Recess is now over and MPs are back at Parliament.
The Summer Recess is now over and MPs are back at Parliament.

Until this week, Parliament has been adjourned since July but the Summer Recess is now over.

The idea of a long summer recess was not borne out of some notion that MPs should be allowed to spend the summer in their own constituencies.

It derived from a rather unpleasant necessity.

Parliament sits on the banks of the River Thames and while today this is regarded as an asset it was not always the case.

Until the 1860s, the River Thames was effectively a sewer carrying excrement from our capital city out to sea.

In the summer the stench from the river became so bad that Parliament used to lock all the windows and soak the curtains in lime chloride to try to stop the awful stench. Eventually, MPs decided it was easier to send Parliament into recess.

Following a particularly bad outbreak of cholera, London eventually got its own underground sewerage system, but the practice of MPs having a summer recess was maintained.

During this recess one of the more startling news items I spotted was one in an obscure publication which proclaimed ‘Big Ben at risk of demolition’.

Now there are substantial renovation works going on at Westminster which, at some point, will lead to the House of Commons Chamber having to be evacuated whilst extensive repairs are carried out – but surely this is not going to involve the demolition of Big Ben?

I then realised that one of the EU’s more peculiar attractions is a ‘mini Europe’ – a sort of theme park which is home to miniature versions of famous monuments across Europe and a mini Palace of Westminster is one of them.

Now that Britain has voted to leave the EU, there is speculation that their miniature House of Commons will have to be demolished.

That is one demolition we should not lose any sleep over.

But some people are loosing sleep over possible loss of EU funding, so it is good news that the Government has announced that it will maintain payments to farmers, universities and others once we leave the European Union.

All of the money that the EU pays to UK farmers and others is part of the money Britain sends to Brussels in the first place.

Once we leave the EU, we can spend our own money as we see fit – or even, dare I say it, give some of it back to the public in tax cuts.