Last week in Parliament there were many discussions that took place and which involved nearly all of our local MPs. Sadly in at least three of the cases, there were very damaging comments made even though each of our local MPs also made some good arguments. Sadly one of the cases involved an MP who started with a very negative question and then turned it around, but left the negative very clearly on the surface for the Minister to use. Another one involved an MP whose comments at the time were very good but they overlooked his own approach that he took a week earlier. The third example however was definitely in a different league as the question was very positive and it came from one of our MPs and the negative element came from Matthew Hancock who ignored the whole question which was clearly directed towards two vulnerable nations. When a Minister crosses that sort of line there must be some way of holding them to account for such a bad response? The Government constantly claims that we can hold our MPs to account and they are referring to the General Election. Now of course that only applies to our own MP and indeed many people including me would argue that a vote every five years is not adequate accountability. However, when it comes to Ministers, there is no form of accountability. We clearly need some way of resolving that gap.
The response from Matthew Hancock came following a question from Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion who as it happens is my own MP. I have the pleasure to be able to vote for Caroline but that does not enable me to prevent her from being ignored by the Government. Perhaps the even more concerning issue is that it does not help two vulnerable nations who were the subject of her question. The question took place last Tuesday and it related to the idea that Matthew Hancock should influence his colleagues to “back proposals from India and South Africa to address pharmaceutical monopolies and help ensure that the world can produce enough vaccines for every country as soon as possible?” Most people would support this call, but that did not persuade Hancock who stated that Caroline “would get a better hearing if she started on this subject by congratulating AstraZeneca.” The response from Hancock involved 149 words of which he used 132 to endorse AstraZeneca which we can all support, and he used the other 17 to explain why he was not willing to listen to Caroline. Sadly, he did not say anything that would help India or South Africa which is even more appalling than his rejection of my MP.
On the same day but during a different debate, there was a comment made by Tim Loughton, the East Worthing and Shoreham MP and it related to his criticism of the Government. What he said at that time I fully agreed with. However, they came following a very similar issue a week earlier in which he personally responded very differently. Mr Loughton stated “We have a very limited amount of time, and I am very sad today that the Government have chosen not to allow us to vote on the amendment.” His desire for a vote came on the theme of Parliamentary approval of international trade agreements and treaties and it was certainly correct that all of the MPs should have been able to vote on that subject. However, on the previous Monday the Labour Party organised a debate on the subject of “Unsafe Cladding: Protecting Tenants and Leaseholders” and a number of Conservative MPs including Peter Bottomley and Caroline Ansell took part in the debate. Tragically however when it came for the MPs to vote, all of the Conservatives MPs including Tim Loughton chose not to do so because that is what their political party called for. It is very sad that his anger towards his party last week for preventing his vote did not influence himself a week earlier.
The third matter took place a day earlier during a series of discussions with Chris Philp from the Home Office. Tragically the MP for Eastbourne, Caroline Ansell along with one of her colleagues asked a question “What steps her Department is taking to stop migrants crossing the English Channel illegally.” In her follow-on question, she endorsed the hard work of the RNLI and criticised the traffickers which were excellent comments. Despite this the initial question which she shared with the Dover MP were easily taken and used by the Home Office Minister to call for Asylum Seekers who are not illegal to be prevented from reaching our nation. Sadly, the good elements of her second question did not justify the first question that she asked.