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Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Sunday, 18 July 2010 18:14 UK

Natascha Engel MP determined to make new powers count

By Allister Craddock
Politics show, BBC East Midlands

Natascha Engel
Natascha Engel, the Backbench MPs' Business Committee chair person

The chairperson of the new Backbench MPs' Business Committee says she is determined to make their new powers count.

Natascha Engel, the Labour MP for North East Derbyshire, has been elected to the job by her fellow MPs.

She saw off a challenge from long-established Conservative MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst.

The committee meets for the first time on Tuesday.

Talking to the press

Top of its agenda will be a demand that in future, Ministers make statements to the Commons before announcing policy changes to the media.

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, came under fire from the Labour MP for Doncaster Central, Rosie Winterton, for "giving at least three interviews to the media before coming to the House to announce his £80m gamble with the NHS."

And Natascha Engel cites the way the Government disclosed the axing of many school rebuilding projects on the Today programme before telling MPs.

She insists it's important for everyone that MPs are told first.

"We had to wait until the Minister came to the House.

"We had no details of how it would affect our constituents. Yet I was taking calls from head teachers wanting to know just what was going on."

She maintains it seriously handicapped their ability to cross-examine MPs and obtain the kind of information they needed when they needed it.

Some had wanted the new committee to meet in private. But she is adamant that its sessions will be held in public.

Adjournment debate

Another of its priorities will be ensuring that in future it, not the Government, decides who gets the chance to bring an adjournment debate to the Commons.

"At the moment, only one in eight get chosen. And the choice is made by the Government."

She'll be explaining more about the ambitions of her committee on the East Midlands Politics Show on Sunday.

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29 Jun 10 |  House of Commons
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