Each week in Parliament, there are opportunities for our local MPs to speak about their constituencies and also to focus on Sussex as a whole. In three weeks’, time there will be a great opportunity when the Sussex Day on the 16th of June will be significant for many people in our area. No doubt many of us would like it to be recognised in Parliament as well as in our region. Last week West Sussex County Council published an online newspaper which included a reference to the modern celebration for Sussex Day. This year it will mark the 15th anniversary of the modern Sussex Day. The text included that it is “a way for residents to celebrate the county’s rich heritage.” They referred to how libraries and a theatre will respond to it along with the Chichester Cathedral. It will be fascinating if our local MPs will add to this theme in Parliament. One of the challenges for this to happen across the whole of our area is that four of our Sussex MPs are Ministers in the Government. Most weeks the Ministers are kept incredibly busy to respond to debates and written questions and so it is very hard to find comments that they make which has a local element. Maria Caulfield who is the Lewes MP became a Minister last September and before that she was an Assistant Whip from the previous General Election. Prior to that she certainly referred to Lewes and Sussex regularly. Since her time as working with Boris Johnson within his team she has only referred to Sussex in the context of Hospitals and Health conditions as part of wider responses to MPs that have asked questions. On one occasion while she was the Assistant Whip Maria did speak in Parliament on the Women’s Day in 2020 and she referred to Lewes as follows
“Mr Deputy Speaker, as this may be my one and only appearance at the Dispatch Box, I am going to be cheeky and use an excellent example from my own constituency of Lewes. Lewes football club — I declare an interest as a community shareholder — has led the world in being the first ever football club to pay its female footballers the same as its men.”
Maria is of course the only East Sussex Minister and the other three Sussex Ministers are based in West Sussex. No doubt all of them will have been made aware of the call from West Sussex County Council so let us hope that they will speak up about Sussex over the next few weeks. Jeremy Quin is the MP for Horsham and back in November 2020 he did refer to Sussex “I should also declare an interest because I am a Sussex Member of Parliament.” Around 16 months earlier he also spoke about his constituency “I was glad to hear him talk about school funding, which is a very active issue in my Horsham constituency as well.” These are not as often as they could have been but perhaps, he will have the opportunity to mention Sussex in the next two or three weeks?
The Mid Sussex MP is Mims Davies who took over from Nicholas Soames at the last General Election. However, she was also a Minister when she was based in Eastleigh. As it happens, she referred to Haywards Heath in 2016 even though she was not their local MP. She also referred to Sussex a couple of times before she became a Sussex MP. Since then, the only location I have spotted that she has referred to was a mention of East Grinstead a few weeks ago. “The hon. Lady mentioned her train station. We have similar access issues in East Grinstead in my constituency, and we are trying to improve them. The Department for Transport also has an access programme under way, so she may want to look at that.” Let us hope that given she referred to Sussex when she was a Hampshire MP that over the next few weeks, she will refer to it in the context of Sussex Day.
The fourth Sussex member of the Government is Gillian Keegan who became the Chichester MP in 2017 and then became a Minister in February 2020 so she is the most recent Sussex member of the Government. She referred to Sussex regularly before she became a Minister and although she has not done so since, she has spoken about Chichester three times since she became a Minister. Last July she said “I am a regular visitor to Chichester maintained nursery, which does a fantastic job.” So perhaps these four Ministers along with the other 12 Sussex MPs across Sussex could speak about our region over the next three weeks in preparation for Sussex Day on the 16th of June.
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