Most MPs stand up to speak on a regular basis and it is not at all surprising for some of the words that they have used to occasionally look a bit contradictory if they are compared over a period of time. However at the moment MPs are only able to speak occasionally due to COVID and so inevitably when an MP is in Parliament they will try to cover as much territory as possible on the same day. So on Thursday Caroline Ansell was in Parliament and she spoke in two sessions, the first which began at 10.30 in the morning and was under the heading of Covid-19 Update and Hospitality Curfew. The questions which were all directed at Matthew Hancock included this one from Caroline which took place about half way through the session and it seemed to be very understandable.
My constituency thrives on hospitality, and many jobs are dependent on it. It is also low-incidence when it comes to the virus and high-compliance when it comes to the safety measures around being covid secure. My right hon. Friend said in his opening remarks that the second peak is highly localised. In that light, how quickly can we look to move to a more localised, regional approach to the 10 pm curfew?
Now of course the phrase hospitality covers a wide range of elements and the closing of pubs and restaurants at 10pm is only one aspect of that hospitality. Hopefully Caroline is aware of this. However the next debate that took place at 11.45 was on the subject of the business of the house and it is an attempt to raise questions with Jacob Rees-Mogg who is the leader of the House of Commons. The question from Caroline was the last question that Jacob had to deal with and so it did take place about an hour after Caroline’s previous question
Last month, it came to light that a neighbouring council, Brighton and Hove, had, without any consultation with Eastbourne Borough Council, quietly moved over 130 homeless people into Eastbourne hotels. Those who it had moved along the coast in this way could not possibly be cared for at arm’s length by Brighton and Hove, nor could they be properly cared for in Eastbourne, unprepared and unaware as we were. Could we debate the framework that sits behind the way in which local councils operate together to consider whether aspects that are currently considered good practice might need to be raised to the level of a duty to make sure that a sorry situation such as this does not repeat itself?
It is very clear that all Councils should correspond with each other and sadly if one was to note all of the occasions when a Council has failed to do so, it would become a very long list. There is certainly a vital need for greater correspondence and for stronger cross council infrastructure such as reproducing the regional assemblies like SEERA that Caroline’s political colleagues ripped up a several years ago. Indeed the number of times that Councils fail to communicate with other agencies makes the value of a Regional Assembly even more significant as they included businesses, health, police, education and voluntary sector agencies. So it is certainly correct that if Brighton and Hove City Council which back at April was led by Nancy Platts (Labour) did not alert Eastbourne Borough Council led by David Tutt (Liberal Democrat) then our Council must apologise and ensure that this does not happen again. On the other hand the point at which homeless people were placed into temporary accommodation was in April because of COVID. If it took until last month (September) which was five months later for Eastbourne Council and their MP to be aware that this had happened, the impact was a lot lower than perhaps Caroline is suggesting. Given her comment earlier about Eastbourne’s hospitality it does seem to be a bit contradictory. Nevertheless to ensure that her criticism of Brighton and Hove was going to gain a significant profile this is what Rees-Mogg said in response to the question.
This is an example, is it not, of what goes wrong when the hard left are in charge?
Now to be fair to him that was only his opening sentence. He then went on to say
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. The homelessness legislation guidance sets out that in the first instance local authorities should try to place homeless households within their own area, and when this is not possible they should place them as near as possible to the original local authority area. We are clear that local authorities should, as far as possible, avoid placing households outside their borough. We are aware that, on occasion, in some areas where there is a limited supply of suitable accommodation, it is necessary to place households in temporary accommodation outside the local area, but this should be a last resort. If a local authority places a household in accommodation in another local authority area, it is required to notify that local authority of any placement. My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue and to put pressure on the relevant local council to do better.
It is clearly very understandable for someone like Jacob Rees-Mogg to be opposed to people who disagree with his political views. However to claim that the Brighton Council which back in April was run by Labour was the hard left seems to be rather sad and mistaken. Perhaps he is simply trying to polarise people who he disagrees with and who perhaps Caroline disagrees with, but Caroline is not someone I would describes as Far Right.
Having met Caroline Ansell long before she became an MP I can only hope that she does not agree with that sort of nonsense. I have also met David Tutt and Nancy Platts and the three of these people have a great deal of common ground when it comes to working to end homelessness which is what is at the heart of this issue. We must add to that the fact that the Conservative Government stripped out a great deal of the support for homeless people when they arrived in No 10 in 2010! It is certainly clear that our Council should have informed the Eastbourne Council and perhaps we can ask why that did not happen according to Caroline? However given that Eastbourne is a hospitable town and the apparent mistake was only discovered five months later suggests this was not as much of a problem as the question and answer seems to be claiming. Perhaps the lack of clarity could be unpacked between the two Councils and the apology could be made in an appropriate way that informs Caroline along with our three MPs, Caroline, Lloyd-Russell and Peter as the MPs from the two locations. In due course the response could then go back to Jacob in Parliament!