THERE are times when the House of Commons chamber looks very empty and understandably people ask: where are all the MPs?

I can assure you that while we may not always be packed in on those famous green benches we are busy in one of the Palace of Westminster’s committee rooms. A huge amount of Parliamentary business is dealt with “in committee”.

There are many Commons committees. On any one day there can be 20 or more in session.

Some are select committees which scrutinise the work of government departments, like Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of which I am member. There are others devoted to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. And there are Bill committees which examine in detail proposed legislation.

This week I have been working on the Digital Economy Bill Committee. I have a strong interest in improving broadband and mobile services for everyone in the UK and spoke in the debate about the Bill a couple of weeks ago in the Commons main chamber.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the committee on which I was selected to serve, I spoke in favour of the Bill’s introduction of a universal service obligation for broadband of 10mbs.

This would give everyone a right to a decent broadband connection on request.

I stressed to committee members the practical difficulties faced by families, businesses, farmers and students in the most rural areas of North Yorkshire without access to broadband.

In this Committee stage, which is spread over half-adozen or more sessions, the Bill is scrutinised clause by clause and line by line. It is painstaking work but essential if the Bill is ultimately going to be a workable Act of Parliament.

Amendments are considered, debated, accepted or rejected and when the Committee stage is complete, the Bill returns to the Commons chamber for MPs to consider any changes before then going through a similar process in the House of Lords.

It seems long-winded but when creating effective new laws by which we are all governed, Parliament has to be diligent and thorough.

Another matter which hasn’t yet reached the stage of being a Parliamentary Bill is that of the UK’s constituency boundaries.

Parliament has previously decided that the number of UK constituencies should be reduced by 50 (from 650) and that the number of electors in each constituency should be about the same. The idea is that everyone individual’s vote is roughly equal in its power to decide who sits in the House of Commons. It is a principle I strongly support.

The independent Boundary Commission has published its initial proposals and they affect the Richmond constituency by transferring Great Ayton from my seat to the neighbouring Thirsk and Malton constituency.

I don’t think that makes a lot of sense. Separating Great Ayton from its near neighbour Stokesley flies in the face of all the longstanding economic, educational, cultural and historical links between those communities.

And on a personal note, I would be sad to lose the right to represent a wonderful part of the constituency.

I am party to an alternative proposal to be put to the Boundary Commission which would keep Great Ayton in the constituency while still meeting the Commission’s numerical objectives. Have your say on the proposed changes at