Last week, I found out that I have definitely been put on the Criminal Justice Bill committee. That means every Tuesday and Thursday will now be taken up with sitting in a committee room going line by line through the Bill. It is a very interesting Bill but, on top of all my other commitments, is going to be very difficult to juggle.
This week we have been taking evidence from the experts in Criminal Justice. I will try not to bore you every week with the details but I am interested to know your views on whether you think it is right to send prisoners to foreign prisons. I have reservations about this as part of any rehabilitation needs prisoners to be able to see their family.
The much anticipated vote this week on Rwanda did not go in the way that the press wanted. They were sitting like vultures in the press gallery during the debate and vote but were grievously disappointed as the government won easily.
As One Nation Conservatives, we decided that we felt it is just about in line with international law but any amendments that threaten international law, we will oppose. We had an hour meeting with the Attorney General who is usually part of the One Nation group and an expert in international law which she practised for over 20 years. Some of the other lawyers advising various groups are not international lawyers and that is important for interpretation of the law.
If you want further information on this, I am happy to send it on. The new Treaty is very clear that there will be no refoulement ie asylum seekers will not be sent onto another country and will be returned if necessary. That was the Supreme Court’s concern and the new treaty give us much more control. Just a thought though, the UNCHR have sent 130,000 asylum seekers to Rwanda.
On Monday, I asked a question about Ofsted and the workload of teachers. I have found as I visit schools, that Headteachers have put various visits and training on hold in case Ofsted turn up and I wanted to know whether there are any proposals to change the notice period.
The Education Select Committee’s report on Ofsted will be coming out in January and I have put my views forward particularly on the one word judgements which I feel are not necessarily reflective of a school.
On Monday evening after I had done some national media on the Rwanda Bill, we voted on the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. The Bill will make it cheaper and easier for more leaseholders to extend their lease, buy their freehold and take over management of their building.
On Tuesday, I had to miss various meetings such as the APPG on Chalkstreams in the afternoon because of the Bill committee but they know that I am interested in any case.
Later, we had a meeting with Dr Ghassan who has recently come back from working in Gaza. The descriptions of what he saw and had to dealt with which were horrendous. He started in some of the hospitals that we heard about in the north of Gaza and moved to other hospitals as each one was evacuated and closed. The lack of anaesthetic or medical materials to clean wounds is leading to sepsis and amputations.
They are using washing up liquid to clean wounds and vinegar where it is infected – you can imagine how painful that is. He talked particularly about the amputations he had to do on small children. It was very upsetting.
I signed an open letter about the increasing violence from settlers in the West Bank and was pleased to see the Foreign Secretary putting in measures to stop any violent settler from travelling to the UK. I was disappointed to see that we did not vote in the UN for a ceasefire and will be talking to the Foreign Secretary about that when I have time.
On Wednesday, it was good to hear that COP28 had come to an agreement about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Large countries like China and India are progressing with their journey to Net Zero especially concentrating on manufacturing renewables at scale so they are more affordable. My colleagues who were at COP28 came back very optimistic about the future.
At lunchtime, I sponsored the Guide Dogs to come into Parliament and hold an event to raise awareness. It was lovely to see Clive Wood again with his guide dog who is about to retire. He will have to wait months for a new guide dog. Clive lives in Winchester and we talked about the A Boards and market stalls which make it very difficult for blind people. I remember talking about this when I was on Winchester City Council and we removed them as they are hazards.
After the event, I went into a debate in Westminster Hall (our second Chamber) to talk about rural broadband and I mentioned how cross I am with Openreach and lack of progress in some of the villages.
I also mentioned Trooli which has just decided to stop providing broadband to some of my constituents in Woodlands. This is not acceptable and I was pleased to hear the Minister commit his department to look into it. The lack of fast broadband is very frustrating for everyone and particularly those in Woodlands who do not have 4G.
Thursday was taken up with an evidence session with the Bill Committee again – you must be getting the picture now that it is very time consuming!
My next coach trip to Westminster is on Monday April 22nd leaving from Bishops Waltham. Please book up early as the one in January is fully booked and there is a waiting list. You are welcome to come up on other Mondays as a family or group if you can’t make the coach trip but it may be more expensive and less convenient than sitting on a coach.
Lastly, my Christmas card competition was won by the aptly named Holly. Her drawing is at the top of this newsletter.
I managed to get a photo of the card with both the PM and Speaker. The theme, as usual, was Christmas in Parliament and I was very pleased with the quality of the pictures and loved the one with MPs on the green benches.
We are only sitting on Monday and Tuesday next week and I need to do some Christmas shopping so the next newsletter will be in January.
Have a wonderful Christmas and I hope 2024 is a successful year for everyone!