Last week there were some interesting votes that took place which are effectively on our behalf. In the case of some of these votes it is not clear why our representatives have responded and indeed the decisions that they took part in. It does seem reasonable to ask our local MPs to explain why they have voted on behalf of us in such radical ways?
On Monday there was a debate and a vote focused on the “Social Security (Additional Payments) (No. 2) Bill: Clause 1 – Means-tested additional payments”. The vote was very significant because most of the Conservatives voted against that Clause but none of the Labour or SNP MPs voted in favour of it so the total number in favour were merely 9 MPs. They included Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat MPs. Interestingly three of the Sussex Conservative MPs did not vote either. They were Peter Bottomley, Nusrat Ghani and Henry Smith. However, Sally-Ann Hart did speak about the theme in addition to Mims Davies who as the Minister spoke nearly 10 times in the debate. This is the text from Sally-Ann.
I welcome the additional payments, but Conservative Members know that employment is the best way out of poverty, and part of getting people back into employment is the conditionality of universal credit. One key benefit of universal credit is that there is a clear incentive for claimants to get into work, preventing them from becoming trapped in welfare, which then creates a dependency. I know the Minister will explain this to the Committee, but I want to stress the importance of this in Hastings and Rye where, at the moment, one in five people—20%—are on out-of-work benefits by choice. I reiterate the importance of conditionality in gaining employment.
On the following afternoon there was a debate regarding Clause 9 of the “Public Order Bill” and that was listed as “Offence of interference with access to or provision of abortion services”. Sadly, there were no contributions from any of our Sussex MPs during the debate but there was a response in the voting from most of them. What is very hard to understand is why there were four separate votes that took place relating to that single clause and that one of them was dealt very differently to all of the others. The first of them was voted against by a total of 300 MPs which included over 100 Conservatives and most of the other MPs apart from all but one of the SNP MPs. The other three votes were dominated by the Conservatives in favour of the Clause and it was opposed by most of the other MPs including the SNPs but because there are not enough people to oppose the Government, they were all approved. However, in the second vote there were two Conservatives who did vote along with the other groups. The last two votes did not benefit from any Conservatives that opposed the Clause 9 proposal and so they were adopted for the Bill. While it is not clear how these four votes relate to the Bill in different ways, it was very interesting to see that on the first vote some of the Sussex Conservative MPs were very different to the other three votes. Caroline Lucas, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle from Brighton and Hove remained in opposition to the Clause for all of the four votes and most of the other MPs voted in favour of the three other votes. However, the first vote was a very different position. So along with the Brighton and Hove MPs who voted against Clause 9 on the first vote, several of the Sussex MPs joined them and they were enough to vote against it. They included Mims Davies, Tim Loughton, Huw Merriman and Jeremy Quin and three of them are actually Government Ministers. The Conservatives that voted in favour of that element included Caroline Ansell, Andrew Griffith and Sally-Ann Hart so one of them was a Minister and yet they all voted in favour of all Clause 9 views. It is not very often that I have seen such interesting votes from within Parliament in the last eight years so it was very fascinating to spot it. Another interesting element was that along with the three Sussex MPs that did not participate on Monday’s clause that in addition with Gillian Keegan who is a Minister they did not vote for any of the Tuesday items. There were two other Sussex Ministers who did not vote either way in the first vote but they did then vote in favour of Clause 9 for the other three votes who were Maria Caulfield and Nick Gibb. It will be very interesting to find out why the first vote was handled so differently?