Parliament proroguing early has meant the government have not only avoided scrutiny of their plans on Brexit, but everything else.
None of the questions to Ministers that I’d submitted last week when we returned to Parliament will be answered until after the Queen’s speech in over a month. Many were about the local victims of fraudsters who’d applied for Universal Credit in their name without their knowledge. Victims are being treated as criminals themselves, with their benefits stopped, threats of prosecution and interviews under caution – leaving families not only penniless but scared. It was noticeable that last week’s statement on government spending didn’t include any measures to combat the growing poverty that we’re even seeing in High Peak, with queues at our food banks over the summer holidays when it’s harder for parents to work. Before the summer holiday, then Secretary of State Amber Rudd promised me that the DWP would loan parents the cost of holiday childcare upfront so they could better afford to work. But it turned out most parents were excluded and I needed to follow this up.
Whilst scenes of Parliament on television this week have been far from edifying, the reality is that much of MPs’ work involves taking up detailed issues which affect constituents and trying to get them resolved. Whether it’s local issues – such as the ruling by Derbyshire County Council that building on a field that soaks up heavy rainfall in Whaley Bridge won’t affect flooding downstream in the town centre, which I asked the Minister to review as the County Council’s advice doesn’t seem to comply with planning laws. It’s an important issue that will also affect sites in Old Glossop that are due for planning decisions, and the County Council need to fulfil its duty of care to us as residents over flooding.
Where it’s not, then Ministers may need to step in as local MP I can ask them to, but it’s always helpful to be able to catch them in person in Parliament to make sure a letter is being attended to, and is harder when Parliament isn’t sitting. I’m always pleased to be able to spend time in High Peak to meet people and local organisations to check on local services. But that’s backed up by being able to ask questions and hold ministers to account. I shall make the most of the next few weeks in High Peak, but I objected to Parliament being prorogued for so long because there’s a huge amount to do there as well – on local issues as well as on Brexit, which become more urgent as more people suffer and I will be even more busy when we return.