This week will raise a number of challenges for many of us as well as some very positive actions which we can be delighted to find out about from the Members of Parliament. One of the really positive elements that began to emerge last Monday was the approval by the House of Commons to restart the Intelligence and Security Committee which has been absent for far too long. The response regarding the delay that came from Jacob Rees-Mogg is hard to treat seriously and indeed his competence is questionable.
That leads me to the point about the time it has taken to set up this Committee. A Committee of this importance needs to have the right people on it……That took time, as we needed to ensure that the right people, with the right level of experience and responsibility, could be appointed, and that they would agree to their appointment.
Thankfully the appointment of Julian Lewis as the Chair of that Committee which took place a few hours later has meant that the Committee will be a great deal stronger than the person that Boris Johnson proposed. It is of course understandable that Mr Johnson and some of his colleagues were disappointed that their proposal was rejected, however the fact that the Committee is meant to be Independent of the Government should have prevented him from trying to influence the decision in the first place. However his decision to throw Mr Lewis out of his political party as a result of that is much more concerning and sets out a very poor indication of his future as our Prime Minister. Given that Johnson has removed Julian Lewis from the Conservative Party for supporting the official independence of the intelligence committee, perhaps some of our local Conservative MPs may wish to consider joining Mr Lewis on the independent seats of Parliament? Whatever the local views on that issue, there is even better news for Sussex residents in that we have been informed that this week the Russian report will be published after an even longer delay. It was fascinating that at the end of last week a number of claims of the Russian impact suddenly emerged from the Government to include that the 2019 General Election result was under threat from Russian interference. We clearly need to find out if the 2016 Referendum result was influenced by their Government which of course has gained a great deal from our moving out of the EU. It was rather disappointing that last Wednesday Andrew Griffith from Arundel and South Downs spoke in a debate about the Scottish concerns of our EU departure, and criticised the small number of Labour MPs in the debate. Perhaps once the Russian report has been published he could agree to hold a local debate with all MPs on a theme that has great concern for many people in Sussex.
One of the other very positive matters which arose in a question last week relates to the outdoor theatres which of course includes the BOAT or Brighton Open Air Theatre in Dyke Road Park. There are a number of other locations across Sussex some of which may be a bit less formal than BOAT. Caroline Lucas asked the DCMS Minister last Wednesday to publish why the outdoor Theatres are not able to operate and got a very positive response which was that five days earlier, starting a week last Saturday that the stage had been reached where “Performances outdoors with an audience and pilots for indoor performances with a limited socially-distanced audience”. Clearly with the good weather set up for the next couple of months it would be fantastic if some of our settings could be adopted to allow external events to take place providing the spaces are carefully managed. However as last week was ending the Government Cabinet was meeting to discuss if people could be instructed to return to work, even though Patrick Vallance had explained earlier in the week that it was much more sensible for people to work from home if at all possible. We now need to wait to see what the official recommendations will be. Clearly there are very many businesses that have found positive aspects of people working from home and in settings like Sussex where parts of the area is rural and transportation is not always easy, the encouragement for people to work from home has proven to be very positive in a large number of cases. The challenge is to look for new ways of working for as many people as possible that will prove safe for the ongoing challenge of COVID-19 but can also help improve the life qualities of people who otherwise spend many hours in a week or even in a day to travel to their offices.