It is very interesting to observe what takes place during the first few days of a new Prime Minister which has emerged more frequently in the last six years than before. I cannot recall much what happened when James Callaghan took over from Harold Wilson, but I certainly recall John Major taking over from Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown taking over from Tony Blair. These were all much less numerical than the four Prime Ministers that have taken over from David Cameron. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens from Rishi Sunak who today is starting his first full week as our Prime Minister. Inevitably the first few hours for Liz Truss as Prime Minister became a massive challenge when our Queen died and then for several weeks the Government was operating very differently than in many decades. Sunak is in a much more conventional position than was the case for Truss and so we can observe matters from him much more easily. Indeed, last week was a very interesting period and the Sussex MPs were very involved in a range of debates and events. Arguably one of the most challenging themes that arose last week from Rishi Sunak had also arisen from Liz Truss and many of us were calling for a change to emerge. Sadly, Rishi Sunak has so far rejected the call from many of us for him and the King to attend COP27 in the next few days. Indeed one of the people who raised that theme last week was Caroline Lucas who is the Brighton Pavilion MP and sadly he ignored the strong call from a number of MPs including one of our own local MPs. Nevertheless, last week there was some positive aspects in Parliament which were elements that we can applaud, even though they do not solve the COP27 theme.
One of the themes that seemed very positive was that the new Prime Minister has selected two Sussex MPs as Ministers in the Education Department. He has selected Gillian Keegan from Chichester as the Secretary of State for Education which is very significant as Gillian was a different Education Minister from February 2020 to September 2021 when she was transferred to another Department. The fact that she is in charge now is clearly very positive. The other person from Sussex who has become an education minister in the last few days is Nick Gibb from Bognor Regis and Littlehampton. He was involved in that Department from 2014 to September 2021 so for him to now be located in that Department again seems to be very positive.
Along with that aspect which came from the Prime Minister, there has also been a number of elements within Parliament that has emerged from our local MPs and we should endorse their activities. Last week two of our MPs submitted their own private members Bills that were due to take place last week. Early in the week there was a second reading from Caroline Lucas which was described as “Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill: Motion to decline” and then at the end of the week there were three more from Sussex MPs. There was “Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Bill: Second Reading” from Sally-Ann Hart in Hastings and Rye and there were two more from Caroline Lucas. They were “Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (Amendment) Bill: Second Reading” and “Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill: Second Reading”. These all sound very credible and we should endorse them.
Another theme that emerged last week was a significant debate under the headline of Agriculture in Sussex which was a very interesting session. The person who started the session was Caroline Ansell who is the Eastbourne MP and it was very useful that her debate included Maria Caulfield from Lewes and Tim Loughton from East Worthing and Shoreham. However sadly no others took part. Caroline began with “We are all clearly proud of Sussex, even if it represents only 2% of England’s farmed area. There is ambition and potential, and there are very many good people working in the sector whose cause we champion today. The farmed area of Sussex makes up 550,000 acres, 59% of the total Sussex area. Tenants make up 48% of all farmed land in Sussex—that will be a key factor later in the debate. Forty-five per cent of farmed land in East Sussex is used for livestock grazing, 36% for arable use, and only 2% for horticulture, though that is still highly significant for food production. West Sussex uses a higher proportion of land—45%—for cereal and general cropping, with 32% used for grazing and dairy.” The various words were all very inspiring. Let us hope that all of our Sussex MPs will support this in the future.