Last week in Parliament two themes emerged that also led to votes which help us as local residents and potential voters for local MPs to understand what position our representatives have taken. The first took place last Tuesday on the NHS Funding Bill which led to a call for the Government to assess its ability to fund the NHS and explain this to Parliament and us by the 31st March. It also calls on the Government, if it lacks the ability to fund the NHS to meet the targets set out in its constitution, that the Secretary of State Matt Hancock, will explain what steps he plans to take to address the funding gap. This is clearly something which most people in Sussex and indeed across our country expect to take place. Unfortunately none of the Sussex MPs took part in the debate and so in a more nuanced sense, it is impossible for us to know their views, however in terms of the votes this is a great deal clearer and it is disturbing that once again, the majority of MPs both in Sussex and across our nation voted to remove the call on Hancock to stand up and explain how things are by the end of next Month. That said there were a small number of MPs who deserve to be acknowledged and thanked for having a go at calling on our Government to be responsible. Three MPs voted for all of the elements of this call to take place, they are Caroline Lucas, Peter Kyle and Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Three other MPs did not vote to oppose it taking place. I recall from discussions following the EU referendum that some politicians claimed that abstaining was a way of showing a lack of interest in the issue and so some of us may feel that abstentions are not a good approach for MPs to take. However it is surely better to withhold a vote than to vote to prevent Hancock from having to make a statement about how well the NHS will be funded. These three were Sally-Ann Hart and Andrew Griffith along with Peter Bottomley who only abstained for 2 out of the 3 votes. Clearly there could be a range of reasons why the other 10 MPs chose to vote against the NHS statement being made. They may not want to trouble Mr Hancock too much, or they may be under pressure from Mr Johnson who is expected to give away the NHS as part of the trade deal with Mr Trump or perhaps and this is maybe being a bit cynical, perhaps some or all of the 10 MPs who voted to prevent Hancock from having to stand up and explain the situation, are so focused on their own private healthcare that they don’t worry about the NHS? If so this would be very strange given that Maria Caulfield was an NHS employee for many years!
The second of the themes was a bit more complex and thankfully one Sussex MP did participate in the discussion. Huw Merriman spoke, in part because he has been elected as the Chair of the Select Committee on Transport. The amendment took place last Wednesday when Labour had the opportunity to raise matters that concern them. Andy McDonald stated “that the UK’s transport emissions have not substantially fallen since 1990 and have increased since 2010; and calls on the Government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030, to decarbonise the UK’s entire bus network, to invest in an electric vehicle charging network that can support the majority of vehicles on the UK’s roads by 2030, to cut bus and rail fares, to increase public transport patronage, to provide funding for cycling and walking, including investment in cycleways and grants for ebikes, to introduce a network of clean air zones to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, and to bring aviation emissions within the UK’s climate targets.” The votes on this case were similar to the NHS votes except that Peter Bottomley voted against this proposal. Huw Merriman stated “It is a delight to speak on such a wide-ranging motion tabled by the Opposition. I do not agree with many parts of it, but I welcome the fact that we are debating them, and none more so than the need to decarbonise our transport sector.” It was clearly deeply concerning that most of our MPs have opposed this approach from the Labour Party. One of the interesting themes that emerged was a discussion on the proposal of implementing a new form of railway technology using Hydrogen rather than electricity or Diesel. However the rejection of this proposal demands an explanation and an alternative way forward on these elements, perhaps Huw can respond?