Last Thursday was the final day for the MPs working in the House of Commons and they are now able to spend some time with their families and friends over the Christmas period. They will be returning to the House of Commons on the first Wednesday of next year on the 5th of January. So along with a break from Parliament and time at home they also have some time to communicate with the people they represent and also to learn what is happening in their communities. It will be interesting to find out how many of them will do so and also to find out what their views are now that matters seem to have changed rather dramatically last week. There will clearly be many questions following on from the votes that took place in Parliament on the Public Health decisions last Tuesday and the votes that took place in North Shropshire last Thursday. The return to Parliament on the 5th of January will be an opportunity for any lessons that our Sussex representatives may learn over the next two and a half weeks to raise in Parliament. It will also be an opportunity for Helen Morgan to speak up on behalf of her constituents and also to reflect on how people are now willing to vote when it becomes tactical and changes can be made.
The votes on Tuesday were rather radical based on what has happened in the past and one wonders if this is the beginning of a much more diverse approach when it comes to voting in Parliament. Seven of the Sussex MPs out of a total of 16 voted in unexpected ways. The other nine MPs were all Conservative MPs who each voted for the call from the Government for three public health proposals. The first vote was extending the requirement for all of us to wear face covering in shops, on public transport and in banks, places of worship, public areas of hotels and hostels and museums. All of the MPs voted in favour of that requirement apart from Caroline Ansell and Peter Kyle who did not vote for any of the three votes and so appeared to abstain along with Nusrat Ghani who abstained for that vote. The second vote was to restrict access to venues and events which involve large crowds and close contact of people, who now must demonstrate their COVID Status or exemption. This will raise many challenges for these settings as obtaining proof of information from large numbers of people is almost impossible. Along with the two people who abstained to all three votes, the opposition to that came from Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Caroline Lucas and Henry Smith. All of them also voted against the final call which was a request to provide that the registered nursing and carers must not enter the care home premises unless they provide evidence that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Along with the four people who voted against that and the two people who abstained for all votes who were joined by Lloyd Russell-Moyle also abstained.
So we can now look forward for finding out how at least seven of our Sussex MPs along potentially with people such as Peter Bottomley, Huw Merriman and very occasionally Sally-Ann Hart and Jeremy Quin will move away from Government calls in the future. We can also consider how flexible the voting opportunities could be here in Sussex now that Shropshire has shifted after about 200 years of being Tory based. Perhaps we can also call on all of our local MPs over the next two and a half weeks to focus on settings in our area such as the Health Sector along with the large public sector venues and care homes who are all facing many challenges. Any contacts or visits will also be potentially very important given how those votes have taken place.
There are of course other schemes which need support from our MPs. Over the last few days Foodbanks have been working incredibly hard to help support vulnerable people in their communities. That will continue over the next few days and it would be really encouraging for the foodbanks and indeed for Sussex FareShare to get some support from local MPs. If they visit these organisations, they could rise issues in the New Year when they return to Parliament. Although the Sussex FareShare is based in Brighton it works across the whole of Sussex and so MPs from outside of Brighton and Hove could visit it to understand its activities and its challenges. Another element following on from the Nationality and Borders Bill would be for local MPs to visit community groups that are assisting asylum seekers, so that the Bill can be amended before it becomes law next year.