It seems important now that Parliament is assembling each week, albeit for much shorter hours and with very small numbers of MPs that we pay attention to what our local MPs do say and that we try to pass over our views where there seems to be common ground. As I have written in the past there would be a great deal to gain if Sussex MPs were willing to use some form of video conferencing to sit down together and address the residents of Sussex on themes that matter to us. My views are of course personal but the following reflect wider support and matters that impact our whole region. Just over a month ago a petition was launched to call on the Government to give overseas NHS workers automatic UK citizenship if they stay and risk their own lives looking after the British people during the COVID crisis. The person who devised this is a worker in the NHS and when I first saw it there were just over 4,000 signatories. By the end of the following day it had reached the level when the “Government responds to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures”. Sadly it took until last Wednesday for them to do so and their response was quite disappointing although it did amount to 460 words and they could have said No with fewer words. There were some positive pieces which were “Migrant workers in the NHS are doing an amazing job and we recognise their commitment and dedication to keep vital services running and save lives. We hope our NHS workers from across the globe will stay and make their lives in the UK they contribute so much to. We are grateful for the amazing contribution that migrant workers within the NHS are playing at the current time” The response came from the Home Office and they also wrote “We keep all of our policies under review and are continuing to consider how we can best support the NHS and its staff” Given that nearly half of the Sussex constituencies have signed this petition at a higher level than the national average it seems reasonable for our MPs to correspond with us to see if we can help the Home Office to work out how to support our local overseas workers in the NHS Trusts across Sussex while they are working hard on our behalf. Also if people have not yet signed the petition it would be useful to do so over the next few days as at the moment it is just below 60,000 signatories and if it got to 100,000 signatures, Parliament would then have a chance to debate the subject.
One of the areas that is very supportive of this petition is Eastbourne and indeed their MP a few days ago asked a Minister “What steps the Government are taking to help ensure equality of opportunity for people throughout the UK”. Although the response did not come from the Home Office, it was a clear answer “that everyone in the UK has their opportunity and does not face discrimination or barriers to success” so presumably Caroline Ansell would support the views of her constituents who would like to give Sussex based NHS workers the citizenship if they have come from abroad and are working to protect our people from COVID-19? The discussion which took place also focused on education and Caroline raised her support for the Eastbourne Schools, particularly referring to Shinewater Primary. She went on to speak about the need for the Government to ensure that disadvantaged pupils don’t suffer from school closures, a theme that had been raised by Henry Smith and Lloyd Russell-Moyle the day before. Henry asked what steps are being taken “to ensure that vulnerable children are identified and supported during the covid-19 outbreak” and the response included “For those not attending, we have made it clear to local authorities and schools that they should be doing everything they can to maintain contact with and support for children not attending school.” Meanwhile Lloyd asked Nick Gibb what steps will be taken to ensure that students receive the learning that they may have missed during the lockdown. The response from Nick ended with “The Department is also considering, with a range of partner organisations, how best to support all pupils, especially those who are disadvantaged, to make up for time spent out of school?” It seems vital for communities in Sussex to consider how best to respond to these questions from the Education and Home Office Departments which our MPs can then help answer. Clearly if the Sussex MPs including these four were to hold discussions with our residents while we are all facing lockdown it may be possible for some of these requirements to get resolved.