Q&A with Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group For Textiles and Fashion (pictured centre, here with Tamara Cincik and Kelly Tolhurst MP).
Firstly, please could you let us know how you got into politics: the steps from working for the NHS to being an MP.
I got into politics after the Scottish referendum. I joined my local branch, and I became their women’s officer and then decided to send for Parliament at the next general election.
How do you manage the logistics of the busy schedule: flying in and out of Scotland to London when Parliament is sitting, constituency work, Parliamentary work and your APPGs?
I think the key to managing this is understanding that you're part of a team rather than doing it all yourself. For example, getting support from the APPG on Fashion and Textiles secretariat is vital in ensuring its efficiency. Also, getting better at rationalising my diary into things that are just essential while balancing work and life can be difficult but is really important for my well-being.
What advice would you give aspiring politicians?
I would advise them to gain experience before coming to parliament in an area they feel passionate about whether that’s fashion, disability, mental health etc. Just gain ‘real life’ experience before entering politics because then you can bring those essential skills to Parliament. For example, I believe that my time working for the NHS has played an important part in this.
You act as Chair for several APPGs, what led you to wanting to set these up and what value do you feel they give to community engagement and action in Westminster?
A combination of my interest in the subject areas and wanting to improve policy has led me to become chair of a number of APPG. It’s essential that these groups are active, gaining best practice and feeding that into government via meetings with ministers and raising important questions and debates in the House of Commons. While most only note that not all of our recommendations are taken forward, many of them are.
As Chair of the APPG for Textiles and Fashion which we effectively relaunched as it was dormant, what do you think we have achieved and what ideally would you like is to work towards for the coming year?
It was vital to reestablish the APPG for textiles and fashion, particularly mid-Brexit because the industry lacked a clear voice prior to this. It brings together cross-party politicians to collaborate with those in the industry and make sure their objectives are taken into account when policies are formed. Over the next year, I want to focus on mental health in the industry, along with disability, inclusion and sustainability. I’m also keen to bring attention to more young designers.
Have you seen a shift in perception of the fashion industry among parliamentarians?
Yes, there’s a surprisingly avid interest that I’ve noted amongst cross-party members regarding the fashion and textile industry. Since becoming chair and raising the APPG’s ambitions in Parliament, I’ve found widespread support for these aims across the house.
The EAC interim report was pretty damning of much of the sector, what more can governments do to safeguard and create a sustainable business?
It’s key that consumers have flair labelling so that they are aware and can choose ethical fashion going forward. I’m keen to see whether a traffic light system would work to improve consumer choice and knowledge. I think the industry will find that the key to their sustainability is taking these issues forward because consumers today demand ethical products, from workers who are paid adequately alongside the products overall value.
Lastly, Brexit: any thoughts?!?
With Brexit and following recent discussions in our APPG meetings, I would say we need a clear policy on intellectual property rights now more than ever, especially in regards with passporting goods and services and expanding the UK fashion and textile industry internationally.