The actions by Sussex and indeed Kent and Surrey MPs last Tuesday during a debate on matters relating to Northern Ireland have presented our nation with a very slim mechanism to avoid the new Prime Minister from shutting down Parliament when he comes into power until the 31st October when we have been told we will have left the EU, with or without a deal. The closing down of Parliament is called prorogation. It seems strange that most of the MPs in our region have not voted to oppose such a mechanism, but thankfully one of those votes did get passed by one single vote. Indeed it appears that the single vote was misplaced by a Conservative by mistake! Sadly there were no votes made by Lloyd Russell-Moyle which raises a question regarding why he was either not in the House or chose not to vote. All of the Conservative MPs in the region apart from Sam Gyimah voted against the proposals to stop Parliament being closed which were laid out by Dominic Grieve. However the support for them did come from a number of Conservative MPs across the nation as well as Sam. What was particularly concerning from the point of view of social media was an attack by Maria Caulfield on Dominic in twitter where she claimed he was behaving in a shameful manner and she accused him of not caring about the Northern Irish people which he did respond to during the debate, illustrating how little knowledge Maria has or was willing to acknowledge of his previous political involvement in the Irish region. Given that Maria has blocked me from following her on twitter for asking her questions and that MPs have been attacked on twitter by people, one wonders if Maria should now apologise to Dominic?
Trying to make sense of the various proposals that were voted on last Tuesday is not easy for those of us who are not professional politicians. However thankfully there was a clear statement made by Dominic which responded to a question by Oliver Letwin who asked “Would he agree that there is at least a perfectly serious argument that…these amendments would be sufficient to prevent Prorogation?” The statement from Dominic was “Yes, I agree. It is perhaps, as lawyers would say, a moot point, but my view is that because it specifies in statute particular days on which things should be happening in this House, it is arguable that it therefore replaces the prerogative because the Queen in Parliament has decreed that certain things should happen by law, and that, of course, replaces the royal prerogative as exercised by Ministers.” So the votes in our region including Sussex appeared to be reasonably party based with the 12 Sussex Conservatives voting to allow the Prime Minister to close down Parliament and Caroline, Peter and Stephen voting to prevent this from happening which got us through one of the amendments. Perhaps along with Lloyd explaining why he didn’t vote, that the Conservative cohort could explain why they don’t wish to prevent a prorogation. After all if Parliament was closed down between now and the end of October, some people might wonder how effective their votes had been at the last General Election? Sadly there were no contributions from any Sussex MPs in the debates about these amendments so we cannot turn to Hansard to find out why the MPs voted as they did (or did not vote).
The last week in Parliament also included a debate which Tim Loughton convened on the theme of drones which I found particularly fascinating. The claim by Chris Grayling after the appalling challenges at Gatwick over the Christmas period that in the future drone owners would need to register that they own such devices was clearly nonsensical at the time and this was part of the content of the debate. It has now been proposed by the Department which Chris works for that there will be an annual cost for the licence of £16.50 which as Tim and other MPs pointed out would cover the cost of running such a mechanism and so therefore a cost of a similar amount over a much longer period would work just as well. My own view was that if dog licences did not prevent people being attacked by dangerous dogs, that drone licences will not prevent people who choose to attack our transport infrastructure, or attack people by the use of high quality drones, even though people with low quality drones will end up paying for a licence scheme that will waste £2.8m a year!