Today is the beginning of the new term for our political representatives in the Houses of Commons and Lords, although after three weeks there will be another long break so political parties can hold their conferences. This week will be a vital opportunity for politicians to carry out significant work as they meet together. However the published schedule indicates there are a number of gaps based on the priorities for our nation. As we are all aware, Parliament was reopened in the middle of August for a single day debate on Afghanistan and indeed last week there was also a session organised by the Foreign Affairs Committee. That was another opportunity for a few MPs to find out about the Government response to Afghanistan. Our Crawley MP, Henry Smith is a member of that Committee so perhaps he will be able to tell his community what happened and he could also spread that information more widely. The session was presumably intended to try to improve the situation for our nation. It does seem strange that there is no reference in this week’s schedule to address the Afghanistan issue for the whole of Parliament but perhaps the plans that have been published can be changed?
Another serious gap that has so far not been included in this weeks plan is a discussion on the Universal Credit which is about to be cut dramatically by £20 a week. Of course, the Government will not wish to discuss this anymore which is presumably why there are no debates planned for Universal Credit this week. However, there is an opportunity for something to emerge on both of these subjects on Wednesday this week. Along with it being the day when there is a relatively short opportunity for MPs to ask the Prime Minister some questions, it is also the 5th allotted Opposition Day. Apparently, there will be a “Debate on a Motion in the name of the Official Opposition.” So perhaps we can persuade our local opposition MPs, Peter Kyle, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Caroline Lucas to use that session to prevent the reduction for Universal Credit. Clearly any call from the Opposition Parties for such a change would not be enough to reverse the Government. We also need our local Conservative MPs to reflect on the decision made by their party which many of them have previously approved of. We clearly need them to reverse their own decisions and then to reverse the policy set out by their political Government. There has been a number of strong calls from a range of charities and individuals during the Summer for the existing Universal Credit level to be retained. One of the vital groups has been the foodbanks who are very aware of the impact that the cut will have on the people who receive Universal Credit. In addition, there has also been calls from some of the people involved in educational settings who have been aware of the challenges impacting the families of their pupils. Perhaps over the next 36 hours we could persuade our local MPs who are not already convinced that the policy needs to be changed to contact their local foodbanks and schools to find out how many of their constituents are likely to be seriously impacted by the loss of £20 a week at the end of September. If MPs ignore these connections and if the policy is retained, there will be a very significant level of impact onto our nation which these MPs will need to be held responsible for in the future.
In terms of the elements that are certainly planned to take place this week they include a debate which is being introduced by the Liberal Democratic MP Layla Moran on Wednesday under the title of Ending rough sleeping which should be identified as an important theme for our Sussex MPs. On the following day Steve Bassam is introducing a debate in the House of Lords for Raising sports participation levels in schools and providing additional funding. Although this is happening in the House of Lords it is clearly a very important theme to be raised. Another subject is one being introduced on Friday when there will be a number of brief debates or statements on a day that is often when MPs have returned to their constituencies. The MP who is raising it is Caroline Lucas and it is the second reading of a private members bill which she has introduced called the Climate and Ecology Bill. This is clearly a very important subject for our nation and indeed the whole world. It certainly justifies her decision to remain in Westminster on Friday. Let us hope that it gets adopted by Parliament along with the need for Afghanistan and Universal Credit to be dealt with this week.