The current arrangements for our national Parliament in response to COVID makes it more difficult than in the past to be able to observe debates on specific themes that involve a number of our local MPs. Of course, there are still occasional settings where several of them take part in the same debate but these are quite rare. Today on our Bank Holiday I am reflecting what has taken place in the last week in Parliament and the comments and indeed votes from our Sussex based MPs. Clearly the voting is a setting which involves most or indeed all of our MPs. Tragically in my view, the opportunities for MPs to break out of their party-political settings however is no more accessible than it was in the past. Perhaps that reflects the power and influence of people like Maria Caulfield who are Whips, in her case for the Government. That said there was a very clear example that took place last week which demonstrated that when there are strong views that impact certain Conservative MPs, that they are sometimes prepared to ignore Whips like the Lewes MP. Let us hope that in the future that this will happen on other cases. Sadly, one vote that took place last week related to the Domestic Abuse Bill. It is evident from the debates that a great deal of improvement has been made to the Bill thanks to the House of Lords some of which has been adopted by the Government to improve their original approach. It does however feel very sad that there are still some elements that are being called for from the House of Lords and from the opposition groups that the Government is refusing to deal with. Inevitably because of their numerical dominance and strong control, the Government has been able to move forward and so a piece of legislation that will certainly improve situations for many people will not go anywhere as far as it could have. Thankfully one Conservative MP stood up with the opposition MPs. Jason McCartney is the MP for Colne Valley and he should be applauded both by his own constituents but also by many of us in Sussex who recognise the need for the extra changes in this proposed Bill that the Government is resisting.
One of the rare settings that has demonstrated that a group of Conservative MPs are sometimes willing to stand up against their Government was in the voting for leaseholders in properties to be better protected when it comes to the costs for the fire protection issues. Sadly, the votes in Sussex only led to two Conservative MPs to try to protect leaseholders but they were part of the other 27 Conservatives who sought to oppose their Government. The comments over many months since the Grenfell fire from Sussex MPs have come primarily from Caroline Lucas and Peter Bottomley but more recently Caroline Ansell made the following comment in early February and she along with Peter Bottomley were the two Sussex Conservatives who tried to block the Government last week. Ms Ansell’s comment which focused on Eastbourne relates to other settings “Too many people have suffered the stress and the strain of looming costs” “Although we are focusing today on cladding, what further work will be done to help those leaseholders facing costs in relation to other fire safety defects—fire breaks, fire doors and those necessary works that can be very costly too—which were also exposed in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy?”
It was also encouraging that we heard another strong comment from Peter Bottomley on the issue of the Overseas Development Aid which was discussed last Monday. Although there was also a comment from Nusrat Ghani that was less direct towards the Government. This theme will continue to be raised until the Government reconvenes its promise from the 2019 manifesto to donate 0.7% of the Gross National Income to other nations that would benefit us all.
Finally, there was a theme which also occurred last Monday and which relates to the actions of our Prime Minister. The debate was on the subject of Ministerial Code which as Caroline Lucas stated “concerns about the Prime Minister and the ministerial code are not “tittle-tattle””. Sadly, there was a comment from Andrew Griffith that “UK Government are almost painfully transparent by any yardstick, and that while sessions such as this may be an inevitable part of the disinfecting oxygen of publicity…” It is very clear that many people across the whole of the nation are very unhappy with the way in which Boris Johnson has made a significant number of his decisions. Let us hope that in due course the residents in Arundel and South Downs who are angry regarding these matters will be heard by their MP.