Parliament will open up tomorrow after a short break due to the elections that took place last Thursday that have led to calls from Conservative Councillors to their MPs and the Government. One call is related to the many challenges set out by Boris Johnson and his Partygate actions. Of course, if there was a strong alternative person, perhaps he would have been removed many months ago. It will be interesting for us to find out who is going to replace him now given that the next General Election is within 31 months. Whilst it must take place by December 2024 it would ideally take place at the same time as Council elections so ideally by May 2024 or perhaps even May 2023? Of course, in addition to the Partygate behaviour that several Ministers have been involved in or have refused to criticise, there are many other themes that the Government needs to deal with in a meaningful way. One of these is the call by Nadine Dorries to sell the Channel 4 public television network to businesses or wealthy people who want to be able to control our public settings. It was encouraging that a few days ago, Peter Bottomley the MP for West Worthing wrote about it in his email to residents.
“Channel 4 and its viewers have my support. Sell-off is bad for the diversity of television, bad for viewers and bad for independent producers. Channel 4 was launched in 1982, in my early years as an MP. It was designed and committed to being different from the first three. Its approved remit has been to include programmes for minority interests and groups. My underlying question: why change the successful arrangements unless something substantially better is guaranteed? We recognise that there is a necessary discussion. Know that the Government will find opposition from all sides of the House.”
Another appalling subject that emerged recently was set out by Priti Patel to send people who reach our nation for Asylum seeking, to be sent to Rwanda. This is very disturbing and sadly so far few of our local MPs have raised the theme in Parliament and indeed at least one endorsed the idea on social media. Andrew Griffith is the MP for Arundel and South Downs and he stated
“the new arrangement with Rwanda, It is essential that we control immigration which is one of the drivers of the pressure to build on the precious green spaces of West Sussex”.
Thankfully the three MPs here in Brighton and Hove all opposed the Rwanda element in the Nationality and Borders Bill. Sadly, the other Sussex MPs chose to support it along with Andrew Griffith. However, there were a significant number of questions that emerged in Parliament on this subject as Parliament was closing due to the elections. The period of the closure is called Prorogation
“the action of discontinuing a session of a parliament or other legislative assembly without dissolving it.”
One of the disturbing elements was that several MPs and members of the House of Lords asked written questions and some of the Ministers refused to answer them publicly. The answers that many were provided were words such as
“It has not proved possible to respond to this question in the time available before Prorogation. Ministers will correspond directly with the Member”
The strange aspect is that some questions got answered but many of the Rwanda questions got closed down. I spotted eighteen in the House of Commons and nine in the House of Lords. It is of course not at all acceptable for the Government to propose to send people over to Rwanda and also for them to refuse to publicly answer questions from members of Parliament. This is because we in the public are entitled to read the answers as well as the questions. Although none of the questions involved Sussex MPs, the Sussex residents should be able to read them and the answers. One of the questions that emerged on the 28th April came from Ray Collins in the House of Lords from London. He did actually receive an answer from this
“My Lords, earlier this month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees warned that the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda violates international law. What impact does the Minister think that will have on the forthcoming CHOGM in Rwanda? Does he not agree that this unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy will undermine our influence on fellow Commonwealth countries to comply with international law?”
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was initially scheduled for June 2020 but it was postponed twice due to COVID-19 and it is now taking place next month in Rwanda. It will be fascinating if the Commonwealth will challenge our government on Rwanda when they meet next month.