I WAS appointed Her Majesty’s Solicitor General shortly before the Queen died, and then re-appointed by the current Prime Minister in October. Some of you have kindly asked about this and so here is some detail about how I spend my days in Westminster.
I usually travel to London from Dorset late on Sunday evening, or very early on Monday morning, and return home late on a Thursday. My first meetings are often with the Attorney General (AG), and the team who work for the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General is my direct boss, and she and I have adjoining offices just off Central Lobby in Parliament. This has been the tradition since at least the latter part of the 19th century. Interlinking doors ensure constant communication, but there is no doubt her office is the grander of the two! We discuss the business in Parliament, and anything specific we have been asked to look at by the Prime Minister. Part of our job is to provide legal advice to the Government. This is always confidential and the convention is that this is not disclosed – not even the fact of whether advice has been given, let alone the advice itself.
I also sit on the cabinet sub-committee called ‘PBL’, the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee. This considers each Bill before it is introduced in Parliament. The Legal Department shares a building with the Ministry of Justice and is about half a mile away from Parliament, and being central London it is often quicker to walk. The department has staff who assist the Attorney General and I in our work, including preparatory work and research.
Following these meetings, I usually return to my office to catch up on paperwork. Behind my office desk is the Solicitor General’s red box. Lead-lined, and weighing in at around 5kg – about 11lb – when empty, I do not often carry it around! It can be locked and kept secure, but thankfully given the number of papers I look at, the vast majority can be considered electronically. There are always court cases to be read through, and there may be documents to sign.
On sentencing, anyone can refer a case to the Attorney General if they think the sentence was too lenient. I review all the evidence and sentencing guidelines, before deciding whether to refer it to the Court of Appeal for a fresh look. There are specific cases that can be reviewed in this way, the most serious cases, including murder, rape, child cruelty and sex crimes, serious drug and terror offences, and control and coercive behaviour.
My important work as a constituency MP continues, and during the day I speak to my senior caseworker in Dorset or my senior parliamentary assistant to discuss constituents’ cases and see regularly review any constituency-specific issues. If a Dorset school is visiting Parliament, I’m invited to do a Q&A session in the education centre, or I might meet a charity that wants to highlight its work in Dorset or the South-West.
If we have upcoming Oral Questions to the Attorney General, I spend time researching and preparing for this. The AG and I share responsibility for answering these, and it is important to be fully ready before standing at the dispatch box. If the division bell rings, it’s time to vote, and we all file through the lobbies to be counted. Each vote takes about 15 minutes, and there are often several votes, so it can be a long process. On Mondays Parliament sits until 10.30pm, though it can sometimes sit much later. I try to call my family in Dorset most days, and then usually do some more box work and preparation for the next day, before getting some sleep, ready to face another day.
I continue to hold regular surgeries in the constituency so please get in touch if there is something you need help with, or if you’d like me to visit your organisation or business. Email me on email@example.com or contact my office on 01202 624216. You can also follow what I’ve been doing on Twitter @Michael4mdnp or Facebook www.facebook.com/michael4MDNP or on my website www.michaeltomlinson.org.uk
Michael Tomlinson KC – MP for Mid Dorset & North Poole