Last Monday there was a Parliamentary debate which responded to a public petition that called for improved education to protect children in water settings. A few of the opening words from Catherine Mckinnell, the MP from Newcastle expressed very clearly that the Government needs to change its approach. Her introduction came because of comments by some of the young people in her constituency, even though fewer people in her location had signed the petition than did so in most Sussex settings. As she stated
The Government’s written response to this petition came as an enormous disappointment to Beckie, and to other families that I met on Friday ahead of this debate. Ministers have pointed out that water safety is already on the curriculum
and she also explained that
I met before today’s debate, including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, Swim England, the Swimming Teachers Association, the Royal Life Saving Society —all said exactly the same thing: in practice, it is just not happening in every school, and where it is, it is often delivered to a poor standard.
It is clearly vital for the Government to strengthen the educational provision for all communities including here in Sussex. Last week I had wondered why Catherine had organised the debate given her signatories but last Monday afternoon she explained
One of the reasons I was keen to lead this debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee is that the issue of water safety has been consistently raised with me when I have visited schools in Newcastle.
It was clearly vital for Sussex MPs to participate in this discussion partly because of the number of petition signatures from our area. Another clear reason is the impact across the whole of Sussex of many water locations and particularly on the South Coast in settings such as Brighton and Hove where our water challenges are very evident. In East Sussex the leader of our Fire and Rescue Service, Dawn Whittaker also leads the National Fire Chief’s Council on water safety issues. I was delighted that during the debate that Peter Kyle, the MP for Hove took part in the discussion, partly because he is the Labour Shadow Minister for Schools. However, he was also happy to talk about the challenges that the seafront provides to people who live and indeed visit our setting. One of the elements he referred to was how the son of a man who died on the seafront in the water, expressed he had “never been taught about the dangers of the sea and different tides.” Following on from Peter’s contribution Nick Gibb also took part, primarily because of his role in the Government as the Minister for schools. However also as the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton it is very clear that Nick should be aware of the challenges facing that part of the West Sussex Seafront. Sadly, although he said some very nice words about the person who set out the petition, he did not refer to his own location. He also merely told of the things that the Government has already done, not ways that the Government could improve matters in the light of the petition and these issues. However, he did invite Catherine and other MPs to meet with him and also external organisations that want to help provide more resources for schools. Perhaps Dawn Whittaker and some of the other organisations could be invited to that meeting so that they can add their views to this issue!
Clearly many other speeches and activities took place last week as they do whenever Parliament is open. Another debate was very significant and impacted most of the world which took place last Tuesday. The title for the event was “International Aid: Treasury Update” and the debate and vote was for the foreign aid commitment from the Government on behalf of our Nation. Many of us are very angry that they have cut this down from 0.7% to 0.5% despite what they promised in their manifesto back in 2019. The debate was very significant and it involved Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer as well as Theresa May and a number of other high-profile people. Two Sussex MPs took part in the debate who were Peter Kyle and Tim Loughton and both of them along with Peter Bottomley and the other Brighton and Hove MPs voted for the funding to return to 0.7%. Tim explained that
I voted and campaigned for that 0.7% commitment, and was really proud that a Conservative-led Government enshrined it in law. I proudly stood on a manifesto to keep it in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
Sadly, the other Sussex MPs apart from Nusrat Ghani voted to reduce the funding, perhaps they will explain if there are any other elements in their manifesto they disagree with?