Earlier this week, Parliament finished early for the conference recess. Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me to express their annoyance about this early finish- and I share their frustration.
Firstly, the early finish makes it harder for Parliament to properly scrutinise what government is doing- more important than ever, given that the Prime Minister continues to threaten to leave the EU without a deal. In fact, I had called for Parliament to be restarted earlier after the summer break to deal with pressing problems arising from the threat of a No Deal Brexit, like shortages of certain medicines, the current reductions in economic activity (GDP), and over-strained customs and tax systems.
Secondly, the early finish prevents parliamentarians from undertaking their usual legislative work.
Even before the early finish yesterday, two bills had already been dropped as a result of early recess – on stronger sentences for animal abusers, and on recognising that animals are sentient beings. Animal welfare is close to many peoples’ hearts in Oxford and it is frustrating that this legislation, which had broad support, was dropped.
This week, we should have been debating legislation on taxation and on children’s’ access to mental health services- now not possible because of the early finish. Although we have seen improvements to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services locally, problems remain, especially on transfer into adult services and for accessing non-acute support.
We should also have been able to hold the regular ‘Treasury’ and ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ sessions as well, and to question the Attorney General. I was hoping to raise the issues of support for businesses in the case of ‘no deal’ (both manufacturers like BMW Cowley, and service providers like our language schools)- but could not. I had also wanted to question why increasing numbers of my constituents appear to be waiting in limbo within the criminal justice system – but again, I could not.
The early recess also means I cannot obtain answers from Ministers to my constituents’ questions. The rapidly deteriorating situation in West Papua, which has strong links to Oxford given that the West Papuan exiled leader lives here, has gone apparently ignored by government. I am now unlikely to hear back from the Foreign Office until mid-October.
Finally, the enormous issue of the climate crisis continues to be ignored by the government, despite this summer’s record-breaking temperatures. While it was good to see some environmental campaigners in Parliament at a lobby on Monday, including from Oxford, they were all aware that the shenanigans over ‘prorogation’ and No Deal were sucking oxygen from discussion of everything else.
Of course other parts of Government thankfully continue to operate. My staff and I will still be able to help constituents with a variety of issues; from social security, to housing, to immigration. But it is simply wrong that our voice on so many other things- not least the threat of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit- has been prematurely silenced in Parliament