It was very sad that Parliament opened up last week for the first time since 1963 without our Queen able to attend and read the statement provided by the Government. She was previously prevented from attending when she was pregnant but last year may have been the final year that she could open Parliament on behalf of our Nation. This year was the first time that Prince Charles read the speech and it will be interesting to find out what will happen next year and over the next few years as the Royal Family changes their involvement to the Government. It will be interesting to find out if the Prime Minister will be regularly visiting the Queen over the next period and indeed if she will introduce her family to such activities. Back in 2008 I was privileged to organise a visit to Prince Charles for a group of people involved in a project that I coordinated. I visited his home prior to the event to meet some of his colleagues and to plan the arrangements. As I left his home although I had not seen the Prince, I saw the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson cycling into the same premises and he was clearly attending the home to meet the Prince which I gather he did regularly at that time. The Prince clearly knows the current Prime Minister very well, it will be interesting to find out what happens over the next few months. Inevitably there are some people who would like to see this sort of activity to end and indeed the Royal Family may well wish to change things over the near future.
Last weeks opening of Parliament was of course a traditional aspect of the start of the new year for the MPs and members of the House of Lords. Given that so many of the members of both Houses attended it is understandable that the debate that took place in the House of Commons after the opening statement carried on for many hours. What was concerning was that only two of our Sussex MPs spoke in the debate. Indeed, last week only four of the 16 Sussex MPs participated in any discussions. Of course, several of our Sussex MPs are Ministers of the Government so they rarely if ever stand up to speak unless it is as their role as the Minister. However, it was very sad that only four of the MPs in our region took part in the first three days of the session. Let us hope that this week we will see a much wider group of them involved. The MP who took part on Thursday was Henry Smith who used the forthcoming business debate to call for the Government to set out a discussion as part of
“may I call for a debate on corruption in local government among Labour councils?”
The basis for his call was explained by Henry Smith that the current leader of Crawley Council who at the time was a parliamentary candidate
“arranged for a housing contract that did not include Unite the Union. Unite the Union then said that it was going to withhold funding from his parliamentary campaign. That resulted, at a cost of over £150,000 to the taxpayer, in the council having to renegotiate the housing contract to include Unite the Union in it”
It is of course a challenge when conflicts like this take place and public money gets spent wrongly. However, it is very clear that all party politics can create challenges for taxpayers and we hope that politicians would not try to focus on the other party’s whilst ignoring the impact that their own party has created.
Last Tuesday the two MPs in Sussex who responded to the statement by Prince Charles were Caroline Lucas and Peter Bottomley. Caroline spoke during a speech from Ian Blackford, the SNP leader and she stated
“there was absolutely nothing new in this Queen’s Speech around, for example, a mass home insulation programme? Such a programme would be the cheapest, most effective and fastest way of getting our emissions down, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, and tackling climate emissions”
The response from Ian was “The hon. Lady is right” and he then he said
“In the Scottish Parliament, the collaboration between the SNP and the Greens is an example of two parties coming together to make sure that we prioritise the climate emergency, which is really missing from this Queen’s Speech.”
The next person who spoke was Peter Bottomley who was positive about all Councils including his own new Labour Council. He also spoke about the need for housing issues which is very positive and he also suggested that the 2024 General Election should take place in May which I agree with him.