The Sussex MPs response to the NI Protocol Bill


Last Monday a debate in the House of Commons was set out by the government to change their existing Northern Ireland Protocol which Boris Johnson formed with the EU and that became formal at the start of 2021. That government now wants to reverse their agreement and they have described it as a red lane and green lane approach for goods exported from Britain into NI. The green lane would be for trusted companies sending goods to NI only which are exempt from checks and customs controls. The red lane is for products going to NI but which are possible to travel over to the Republic of Ireland and indeed over to the EU. These would undergo the full checks and customs controls. The government wants to make it easier for some goods to flow from Great Britain to Northern Ireland but the EU opposes this approach, saying it is going back on the deal breaches international law that Johnson approved several years ago. Last Monday’s debate was the second reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which is the new protocol and after that debate there was a vote that took place and with one exception all Sussex MPs participated. All of the Sussex Conservatives apart from Nick Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton voted Aye in favour of the Bill. All of the non Conservative MPs in Sussex voted Noe against it which was very appropriate given the way that the Government is proposing to reverse their own previous decision. We are entitled to know why Nick Gibb did not support the Bill and perhaps more significantly why did the other 12 Conservative MPs support it? The Government achieved 287 Conservative votes and 8 DUP votes for it. The opposition managed 221 votes which included an Alliance MP and two “Social Democratic and Labour MPs” so three Northern Ireland MPs voted against it. The reality is that there were many more MPs that could have voted and indeed they could have prevented the Bill from gaining approval at its second reading so it would be very helpful for us to be able to know why this result was achieved.

One of the reasons why this theme is significant here in Sussex is that Peter Kyle, the MP for Hove is also the Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Along with that political aspect there are also many people who live in our area who have been connected in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Last Monday along with Peter two other MP’s spoke during the protocol, they were Caroline Lucas from Brighton Pavilion and Sally-Ann Hart from Hastings and Rye. The first Sussex MP to speak after the statement by Elizabeth Truss, the Government Minister was Caroline who stated

Does the Secretary of State understand why so many people would accuse this Government of the most rank hypocrisy? First, this is a predictable outcome of the agreement that they negotiated when they did not give a fig for the situation in Northern Ireland, frankly.

And she ends with

Does she understand the concerns we have? What kind of reputation will the UK have on the global stage as a result of this proposal?

A few moments later Sally-Ann Hart spoke up and claims

this Bill is borne out of necessity: necessity to act in our national interest, to provide a permanent solution to a temporary measure, to preserve the Belfast agreement, and to preserve the constitutional settlement that keeps Northern Ireland as part of the UK? It is a necessity to prevent a democratic deficit and to use international law to safeguard and protect our essential interests while protecting those of the EU.

The challenge from that is that the new Bill is not at all effective for our nation or within an international setting. Later in the debate Peter Kyle began with

I want to begin with an apology to the victims of crimes committed during the troubles in Northern Ireland; they were expecting the Committee stage of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill today. Several had booked and paid for their plane and train tickets, so their money has now been wasted

He speaks very extensively and his final few words are

That is why we oppose the Bill. It takes us further away from the negotiated progress that is the only way forward. It is worth putting the scale of the current Tory incompetence in perspective. The previous generation, including John Major and Tony Blair, negotiated a framework that delivered peace in Northern Ireland. This lot cannot even negotiate a prawn sandwich across the Irish sea.

These words were very amusing, but sadly the Bill got through last Monday. Let us hope that it will not get completed.

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At what stage will this challenge get dealt with?


Back in April last year Johnny Mercer is claimed to have told the Conservative Chief Whip that he intended to resign and he was dismissed by Boris Johnson. His comment which appears here was collected by a series of newspapers. Late yesterday a chap called Jeff Stone @JeffSto40037019 published this image with his statement “This speaks for itself. Please retweet so the whole world can see what this government is really like.” and a friend of mine Bernie Mayall @MayallMMent retweeted it with the statement “One of the good guys.” which I certainly agree her with. The fact is that along with Johnny Mercer another 147 Conservative MPs voted for Boris Johnson to be removed as the leader of their Political Party on the 6th June and then as I wrote here back on the 24th June, that along with these 148 Conservative MPs at least one other Conservative person and possibly a second were also calling for Johnson to be removed post that voting arrangement. One of them was Michael Howard who stepped down from the House of Commons on 2010 so he did not vote. The other Conservative person back on the 24th June was Oliver Dowden who until that point was the Chairman of the Conservative Party and so he may well not have voted against Boris. These two people however were then very clearly calling for Johnson to go, even though the 211 people who voted for him on the 6th June and in effect gave him at least another year to work for his Party. On the same blog I also referred to the call from the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey who I met nearly 20 years ago. On the 7th June Ed Davey set out an Early Day Motion which can be seen here and provides this text

That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister because he has broken the covid-19 lockdown laws that his Government introduced, has presided over a culture of serial rule-breaking in Downing Street, has undermined standards in public life, and has failed to take action to support millions of families in the midst of a cost of living emergency.

Sadly apart from my MP, Caroline Lucas and a Northern Ireland MP Stephen Farry, so far the only people who have endorse this EDM are the 13 Liberal Democrats who were MPs when the document was published. Perhaps we could call on our own MPs to sign it as if there are a couple of hundred signatures it is possible for this to be debated in the House of Commons, based on the text for EDMs.

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An interesting Q&A for Eastbourne Railway provision


On Thursday several MPs spoke about a theme called the Modernisation of the Railway which was being responded by Grant Shapps. The first two MPs that opened the issue up were both Conservatives, one was the MP for Fylde, Mark Menzies and the other was Caroline Ansell who is the MP for Eastbourne. All of the questions and answers can be obtained from here but the question at the beginning was asked by both of those MPs and then they both asked a following question. So here is the initial question from Caroline and the following answer she raised that focused on Eastbourne.

Caroline Ansell: What steps he is taking to modernise the UK’s railways.

Grant Shapps: The Government are delivering on the reforms set out in the Williams-Shapps plan for rail, making passengers’ journeys easier, more reliable and more affordable.

Caroline Ansell: It was game, set and match Eastbourne last week, at the conclusion of our pre-Wimbledon tournament. That international event puts us on the map as a visitor destination, with its global coverage, but our great potential is wrapped up with our transport links. In that light, what progress has been made with Network Rail’s proposals to extend high-speed services to Eastbourne to enhance those links to the continent, London and the north?

Grant Shapps: My hon. Friend serves her constituents incredibly well. Again, a strategic outline business plan for high-speed services from St Pancras to Eastbourne is in, and I can confirm that the status of the project will be updated very shortly, in the rail network enhancements pipeline

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The Government must provide more funds for FareShare


Last Thursday in the House of Commons Jessica Morden who is the Labour MP for Newport East in South Wales raised a very significant question to the Government as part of several questions under the theme of Food Security. The Minister who responded was Victoria Prentis who is the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who works for George Eustice, the Minister in charge of the DEFRA agency. On the Same day that Jessica asked her question there was also a set of topical questions directed to Eustice and one of them came from Chris Stephens who is the SNP MP for Glasgow South West.

Jessica Morden: With studies showing that 9.9 million people across the UK cut back on food or missed meals altogether in April, why are the Government cutting money to FareShare, which, in my constituency, has supplied the equivalent of 63,200 meals to charities over the past year?

Victoria Prentis: We have worked very closely with FareShare, an organisation that I have the utmost respect for, during the last couple of years in particular. Tackling poverty in all forms is a real priority for the Government and the Chancellor has now committed £37 billion-worth of support as part of a package to help families with food costs.

Very sadly the Government response, while it sounded very positive, simply ignored the nature of the question. The question that came from Chris Stephens was

Chris Stephens: Almost 343,000 meals were redistributed in Glasgow South West thanks to FareShare and other charitable organisations, yet FareShare says that its Government funding has been cut. Does the Secretary of State intend to meet FareShare and concerned Members of the House to discuss its funding, so that we can support its #FoodOnPlates campaign?

George Eustice: I met FareShare recently to discuss a particular proposal it had around trying to ensure that waste on farms was redistributed where possible. We did increase the funding for FareShare temporarily during the coronavirus pandemic, and we continue to support it, but obviously I will look into the specific case he raises.

As it happens last June 29th I set out this petition which sadly only achieved 3,469 signatures which at the time I was very disappointed about it. However I was searching for it today and discovered that there are a total of 40,409 petitions historically. Of these a massive number of 36,009 received less than 100 signatures. As it happens my petition is 39,329 on the list so it is almost in the top 1,000 petitions which I found fascinating.

Provide additional funding for redistributing surplus food

In April the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee called on the Government to provide ongoing funding to redistribute surplus food from the farmgate and across the supply chain to food aid providers. In June the Government said there were no plans for further grants. This should change. A Minister at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair told the Committee “that the Government takes food waste very seriously” and that she expects “this to be an area in which we continue to work as Government”. We need the Government to provide public funding to enable the many agencies to carry out the work necessary to prevent food waste and improve food security.

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The proposed new trees for Lower Thames Crossing


Yesterday the Institution of Engineering and Technology published this piece focused on the current proposal from the National Highways agency to Plant more than a million trees to offset the environmental impact of the proposed new road tunnel under the River Thames. It states that “A community woodland and two public parks are among the 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of “landscape scale” forest creation that the government has planned to offset the environmental impact of a new road tunnel scheme under the River Thames.” The person who is referred to at the beginning of the piece is Matt Palmer, the executive director for the Lower Thames Crossing. His comments in the piece include “The Lower Thames Crossing will tackle the daily frustration caused by the congestion at Dartford, improve journeys and bring exciting opportunities for new jobs and businesses across the region, but we are determined that this will not come at the expense of the environment,”

The other person who is referred to on the IET article is Jack Taylor, the lead campaigner, Woodland Trust. Apparently Woodland Trust campaigners have criticised the scheme, pointing out that the construction of the road will still lead to the loss of  “irreplaceable” ancient woodland and wildlife, as well as an increase in carbon emissions. Jack stated “No number of new trees compensates for the loss of irreplaceable ancient woodland; centuries-old and nature’s own carbon stores,” he also said “We’re fighting both a nature and climate crisis and destruction like this for a road scheme beggars belief,”

However thanks to the internet it becomes clear that there are other people challenging this proposal. One key person is Laura Blake who is the Chair of the Thames Crossing Action Group. The TCAG has a website and they have elements that it is useful to see. This one was from 2nd September last year there was a piece on Essex Radio which involved both Matt Palmer and Laura Blake. A number of elements were referred to in the piece such as the claim from Matt that the Dartford Crossing currently reaches 180,000 vehicles on some days whilst the capacity is only 135,000 vehicles per day. The Lower Thames Crossing has suggested that the predicted traffic growth will have risen by 216,000 vehicles on the busy days by the time the new per day. There are other pieces such as this one that provides more information about the TCAG group and some of the challenges they have faced.

For those of us who live and work in the South East but are not based in Kent or Essex or East London it seems important for this theme to become better promoted so thank you for the IET piece and the TCAG pieces.

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The Government will send asylum seekers to Rwanda!


At 1.30am this morning the Home Office responded to a petition that some of us have signed calling for the Government to “Stop the government’s ‘one way ticket’ plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda”. Along with the almost 12,000 people who have now signed it there are some other people who are well known who have also called on the Government to reverse their decision. Sadly the Government are ignoring the calls from 12,000 people and the Prince Charles along with a significant number of Bishops and other leaders. Two of the most high profile people are Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. So if you have not yet signed the petition which was set out by a person called Simon Luke Bowen, please do now consider signing it as the next stage is to try to get another 88,000 signatures and then the MPs can potentially debate it. Three constituencies are very strong supporters of this call. Totnes in South West, Cambridge and Westmorland and Lonsdale up in the North West. There is only one constituency in the UK that so far has not signed it. That is Upper Bann which is part of Northern Ireland. It would be fantastic if we could get a wide range of other constituencies to match the three strong areas. Anyway here is the text from the Home Office that from my point of view makes it clear that they need to be challenged because many of their words are very poor quality.

The Government is committed to tackling illegal migration and breaking the business model of evil people smuggling gangs. Rwanda is safe and secure, with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.

The UK is a generous and welcoming country. There are numerous safe and legal ways for those who wish to come and live in the UK, and the Government is committed to continuing to offer safe and legal routes for refugees from across the world.

However, there is a global migration crisis. An estimated 100 million people are displaced and the current global approach to asylum and migration is broken.
The UK’s capacity to help those in need is severely compromised by those who come here illegally and who seek to jump the queue by paying people smugglers.

We continue to work closely with France, a safe country, on the shared challenge of illegal migration in the Channel and they agreed on the need to cooperate to stop people smugglers. The French and other near borders partners share our aim in preventing these dangerous and unnecessary crossings. This is a global phenomenon, and its resolution is not within the exclusive gift of any one country or administration.

The Government is clear that new and innovative solutions are required in order to tackle this problem. On 14 April, the Prime Minister announced the Migration and Economic Development Partnership between the UK and Rwanda to address the shared international challenge of illegal migration and break the business model of people smuggling gangs. Those making dangerous, unnecessary and illegal journeys to the UK may now be relocated to Rwanda, who will take responsibility for processing their claims and supporting them. The gangs use their profits for further illegal activity, including people and drug trafficking, and slavery.

All those considered for relocation will be screened and have access to legal advice. Decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis, and nobody will be relocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate for them. Individuals will have all their needs looked after while their asylum claims are being considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. People are free to leave if they wish and they will not be detained; but those in genuine need of international protection will be provided with it in Rwanda.

For those whose claims are accepted in Rwanda, they will then be supported to build a new and prosperous life in one of the fastest growing economies, recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants. They will be offered a comprehensive integration package lasting up to five years to help put down roots and start a new life there. For those individuals who are unsuccessful, they could still be allowed to stay in Rwanda if they wish, helped to return to their home country or be removed to another safe country.

This new and innovative arrangement with Rwanda fully complies with all national and international law, including the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights. Rwanda is a State Party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the seven core UN Human Rights Conventions. The Government’s own assessment of Rwanda and their asylum process has found it is a fundamentally safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers, including working with the UN Refugee Agency which confirmed the country has a safe and protective environment for refugees. Our Country Policy Information Note, published on 9 May on GOV.UK, provides further information on the basis by which we have determined that Rwanda is a safe place for refugees.

The Government is clear that decisive action must be taken to stop the abuse of our asylum system and tackle the scourge of the criminal gangs who play on the hopes of migrants by facilitating dangerous journeys including Channel crossings in small boats. This has devastating consequences for the countless men, women, and children who have tragically lost their lives or lost loved ones on these perilous journeys. The existence of these parallel routes is also deeply unfair as it advantages those with the means to pay people smugglers over vulnerable people who cannot. By reforming the asylum system and taking bold, international action to address the global migration crisis, we can ensure we can keep providing support and protection for those who need it, especially those most vulnerable, through proper safe and legal routes while tackling the criminality of the people smuggling networks.

Home Office

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Will our MPs get Government to help Ukraine children


There are many challenges that are currently impacting our nation and we all need our local MPs to be aware of these and for them to raise them within Parliament and get the Government to respond. The challenge is how we can raise the themes in an effective way? One of the themes arose last Wednesday when the Government through Michael Gove made a statement regarding the care of Ukrainian people. He began with the words

The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow eligible children and minors under the age of 18 who have already applied through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to come to the UK without a parent or guardian, the Government announced today. This policy will initially apply to the 1,000 children who have already applied to the Home Office but are unable to travel as they are not travelling or reuniting with a parent or guardian.

It became clear a few hours later that his statement and the action was not sufficient for the agencies he calls to assist on behalf of the people for our Nation. As it happened on the following day in Parliament the fact that this theme is impacting Councils across the Nation did get a brief mention. A relatively local person commented during a discussion that took place in the House of Commons. This involved Carolyn McKenzie who is the Director of Environment in Surrey County Council. She was one of the speakers in a debate on the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill which of course is a subject that Michael Gove is responsible for. One of her sentences was

Also, when you get things like covid coming along, or Ukraine, or inflation, the risk of dropping down the agenda is really high, so that sustainable approach to funding is needed, rather than there being small pots of funding and grant-based funding, which can change and is short-run and competitive.

On the day before Carolyn was speaking in Parliament and a few hours after the statement came from Michael Gove a very strong response emerged from outside of Parliament which came from a network of Councils. The statement included that “local authorities urgently need robust guidance and sufficient funding” so that they can support unaccompanied young people who will now be allowed to enter the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The person who made this comment is Steve Crocker who is the Head of Children’s Services in Hampshire and he is also the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. His group criticised the government after it failed to provide guidance to local authorities alongside its announcement. Steve Crocker went on to say to Gove and his Government to

support us to keep children safe and to meet their needs, we are disappointed that this was not published as this announcement was made.

Clearly there are very significant challenges which have been raised from Councils such as Hampshire and Surrey and indeed on behalf of all other Councils in the UK. That would indicate that this theme is a challenge here in Sussex as well as our neighbour Councils. There have certainly been very significant calls that have emerged from Brighton and Hove in the past and one would imagine that East and West Sussex County Councils would also be equally concerned. I recall a few weeks ago that challenges emerged that are facing the Ukrainian children who have been placed in a Hotel in Brighton and Hove. Indeed, Sussex Police and the Hotel management are working very hard to protect these children from the risk of people who are seeking to attack them. The reality however is that our local MPs with one very clear exception have not been raising the Ukraine issues in Parliament in the last few weeks. The one person who has raised questions about Ukraine on a number of occasions in June is Caroline Lucas who is the MP for Brighton Pavilion. She raised several calls which were not specifically about the children care issues but she has spoken on three occasions. The week before last she asked a very detailed question and a couple of days earlier, she asked

what steps she is taking to ensure that effective protection from abuse and exploitation is provided to Ukrainian refugees in the UK before and after their arrival.

A week before those questions she asked

if she will make it her policy to ensure the placement of large posters in all ports of entry with essential information on safeguarding in Ukrainian and Russian, including phone numbers of the police

These calls are vital and we need to applaud Caroline for asking them and we now need to ask all of the Sussex MPs to raise the theme that is a challenge for our Councils.

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Will the Government pay attention to Catherine?


The Departments for Education and Health and Social Care must respond very seriously to the call from the Duchess of Cambridge a few days ago. She was speaking to a group of people including Sajid Javid who is the Minister for the Health and Social Care and one of the junior Ministers for Education, Will Quince who is responsible for Children and Families under Nadhim Zahawi, the Department Minister. The details for this meeting was published by Children and Young People Now here. The person who wrote the document was Fiona Simpson and she stated:

DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE CALLS FOR EARLY YEARS TO BE MADE A ‘SOCIETAL PRIORITY’

The Duchess of Cambridge has called for early child development to be made a national priority in light of research showing many people do not recognise the importance of the early years.

The Duchess was speaking at the launch of latest research showing that seven in 10 adults believe the early years should be made “more of a priority” across society in England.

The research by the Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood, which was launched by the Duchess in 2020, also finds that while 91 per cent of adults say that the early years are important in shaping a person’s future life, just 17 per cent recognise the “unique” importance of ages 0 to five compared with other age brackets.

The research builds on responses to the Royal Foundation’s Five Big Questions on the Under-Fives survey, which received more than 500,000 responses in the first month after its launch two years ago.

The document goes on further but clearly our nations call is for these two Government Departments to pay attention to the research and actually respond to it very urgently.

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Sadly we missed out the Satterthwaites Happy Hippos


Today we travelled from Brighton where we live to Crosby to visit our family members who live where I was born many years ago. Sadly we did not manage to get to Crosby by 2pm and so we missed out the chance to obtain some Happy Hippos today. My favourite Bakehouse is Satterthwaites that is based in Crosby as it has been for many years. Today Satterthwaites announced on Facebook that

“It’s Saturday 🤩 we’re fully stocked with Happy Hippos and much more 😍 We look forward to seeing you – we’re open 8.30 till 2pm!! Happy Weekend everyone”

I will certainly get into Satterthwaites on Monday but this weekend we have not benefited from the Happy Hippos or indeed the other wonderful items. My favourite items include those on the image alongside the Happy Hippos.

One of my focus themes is political and in Brighton Pavilion we initially had a Conservative MP when I first arrived in Sussex, then in 1997 we achieved a Labour MP and since 2010 we have had the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas who is a fantastic MP. My time in Crosby was also initially managed by a Conservative MP and then a few years after I arrived in Brighton the first SDP MP Shirley Williams became the MP and then a couple of years later the Conservatives managed to get in charge again for nearly 15 years and then in 1997 when Labour took control over the Nation the Crosby MP became a Labour member. When the Constituency was changed to Sefton Central in 2010 Bill Esterson became the MP and he is still the local Crosby MP today.

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Three significant men who share the same view


Nearly three weeks ago Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party published an Early Day Motion 134 which is entitled “No confidence in the Prime Minister”. Sadly apart from his own political team along with Caroline Lucas from the Green Party who is my MP and Stephen Farry who is in the Alliance Political Party in Northern Ireland none of the other MPs have so far signed that EDM. However following the two by-elections yesterday the previous leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard has disclosed that he is calling for Boris Johnson to leave the Government. He stated that Partygate had revealed an “unacceptable” culture that “came from the top“. He said: “I think [the by-election defeats] makes clear that my view is shared by very large numbers of people in Yorkshire and Devon – places so different that I think they can reasonably be regarded as representative of the country as a whole.” Along with Howard, the Chairman of the Conservative Party since the 15th of September 2021, Oliver Dowden has resigned today saying that somebody “had to take responsibility” for a series of scandals that led to the disastrous result for the government in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton. Of course the 148 Conservative MPs who voted for Johnson to leave nearly 3 weeks ago were competed by 211 MPs who wanted him to remain. However following these two elections there is a strong call from a number of people for this to be reviewed now, rather than in a years time.

The Early Day Motion which Ed Davey wrote has the following text: That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister because he has broken the covid-19 lockdown laws that his Government introduced, has presided over a culture of serial rule-breaking in Downing Street, has undermined standards in public life, and has failed to take action to support millions of families in the midst of a cost of living emergency.

The votes yesterday included the following data

Tiverton and Honiton – Devon
 20222019
Liberal Democrats22,5378,807
Conservative16,39335,893
Labour1,56211,654
Green1,0642,291
UKIP241968
Turnout42,70759,613
Wakefield – West Yorkshire
 20222019
Labour13,16617,925
Conservative8,24121,283
Liberal Democrats5081,772
Turnout27,46645,027
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