This week is UK Parliament Week when schools and groups like Scouts and Guides learn more about how our democracy works. I had a lovely online meeting with Wickham Scouts on Monday evening where they grilled me on various subjects both national and local, including potholes and school uniform.
This evening I am visiting Clanfield Scouts to hear their views and answer any questions. I have been doing some daily short videos to give some more ideas about what goes on in Westminster for the week. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram.
The war in Gaza continues to dominate thoughts and I get frequent updates from charities working in the hospitals and other places in the warzone. Last weekend, I watched The Human Factor on Netflix about earlier peace processes from the American negotiators’ angle. It is very illuminating and depressing but I recommend it for anyone who wants some historical context. It is on until November 30th.
I have had a few emails about the Home Secretary’s article in the Times and do not agree with her interfering with the independence of the police. I know the Met Commissioner and he is an honourable and sensible man and will be weighing up all the risks very carefully. I hope that those marching for peace will not break the law.
I understand the strength of feeling about what is going on in Gaza but we must remember that Hamas started it with its murderous atrocities in Israel.
The death toll in Gaza is horrendous, especially with the huge proportion of children in the country. There was a statement in parliament on the humanitarian situation on Tuesday in which I asked a question about the issues in Gazan hospitals having received a desperate message from a doctor at the Indonesian Hospital. I did not mention the graphic parts of the letter but it was horrific.
Later in the afternoon, I went to a packed meeting where an Israeli talked about the Hamas attack in which his parents were killed as they lived close to the border. The body of his mother has not been found. He talked about how this should be the end of the Israeli government that failed to defend the border and he reflected that other families in Gaza will now be feeling the same as he is. He was extremely brave to come and talk to us when he was grieving.
On Monday, I attended the Speaker’s Remembrance Service and planted a cross on behalf of Meon Valley. Parliament was not sitting but my team was up in London to have a security briefing. Following the murders of MPs Jo Cox and Sir David Amess, we have to be more conscious of our safety and we were given some sensible suggestions. It is very irritating for MPs not to be able to announce where they are holding surgeries or events well in advance and more publicly. When we do events like my forums, the police must be notified.
On Tuesday, there was pomp and ceremony with the State Opening of Parliament and the first King’s Speech for more than 70 years. There were several new Bills to build on the legislation we have already put through. I was hoping for a Bill on a register for children not in school and spoke about it in the debate on the King’s Speech on Wednesday. I am assured the government will try to get this and other such Bills through another way. Tackling attendance, especially after covid, is a big issue. I am meeting with the Children’s Commissioner next week to talk about what can be done.
The Covid Inquiry continues to bring some interesting talking points about language and behaviour but I am more interested in hearing about what lessons can be learned in case of another pandemic. We need to know how decisions are made at No 10 and in Cabinet so that this can be improved.
I certainly had no idea what was going on inside No 10 as we were all working from home and trying to sort out pandemic support like furlough and business grants and many enquiries from concerned constituents. I am as disappointed as anyone to hear the language that was used, but it is more important to ensure that strategies are in place for all future eventualities.
I had a meeting at 11 Downing St with the Chancellor to discuss how the government can help small businesses maintain our economic growth, which remains steady. This is a topic I often raise in these newsletters and in Parliament, and Jeremy always welcomes the feedback.
It has been interesting looking at some of the things that went right or wrong in the Public Accounts Committee, this week we looked at the Whole of Government Accounts where all government departments, local authorities and public bodies expenditure is considered to look at how much public money is spent. Some accounts are very behind and make the overall picture difficult to read.
Tomorrow I will be out campaigning on the doorstep and will be attending the Remembrance Day service in Bishops Waltham on Sunday.
Have a good weekend.