One of the things I often tell students to help them understand what an MP does is that: “One doesn’t have a lot of power as an MP but we have access to power, and if you know how to use that, you can really make a difference for good.”
And I’ve had three classic examples of this over the last few days. Starting with car parking, of all things. A few months ago a local resident came to see me for a chat (thanks Alan Wood). He works for a parking enforcement company.
Alan brought me up to speed with the fact that he’d been doing various trials around the country with the modern vehicle identification equipment available nowadays, and was discovering that owners who were persistent parking ticket evaders were also, more likely than not, driving untaxed or uninsured cars and often had criminal records.
So I asked wouldn’t it make sense then to simply clamp the vehicle and when the owner returns, arrest them. Job done? Which is when I learned that the law doesn’t quite work like that. In fact it often makes it impossible to clamp a vehicle, even if there are numerous outstanding parking tickets against it, as if it’s parked legally at the time, it cannot be touched.
I thought this was a nonsense so endeavoured to do something about it, and this week had a meeting with the parking trade association in London, and will now be leading a round-table discussion in Westminster to identify what actions the government need to do to catch these persistent offenders. Who I suspect often make decent law-abiding people’s lives a nightmare across a whole range of areas.
The second example was to do with an issue many of the readers of this column will know about, whereby 20 or more years ago numerous elderly patients died in suspicious circumstances at the Gosport Memorial NHS hospital. A tragedy that was first brought to my attention by local resident Gillian Mackenzie, 11 years ago.
I have been campaigning on her behalf ever since, and the then Lib Dem Health Minister, Norman Lamb, was persuaded to set up a panel, led by Bishop James Jones, to investigate. Their report published only last year was utterly damning, and Gillian’s warnings, which had been ignored by numerous statutory bodies, proved true. In fact it was even worse than feared, with at least 456 people dying through the inappropriate use of diamorphine.
This week in Parliament the Secretary of Stare for Health updated us on lessons learned from the NHS perspective.
I asked him a direct question, seeking an assurance that the police assessment of the historical events which is now taking place, that when it concludes and, I hope, presents enough evidence to the CPS and the government to warrant a full investigation, that there will be sufficient resources to support this. And that the government remains wholly committed to the relatives getting justice against those who committed these dreadful acts in Gosport all those years ago.
I received this assurance from the Minister, which I’ve banked for the future, should the government prevaricate at any stage. I’m not saying they will, but a public commitment by a Minister of the Crown in Parliament is tantamount to signing an oath, so it’s very hard to break. He will also know I now have it up my sleeve just in case.
The third issue this week was my ongoing campaign to persuade the government to instigate a Police Royal Commission. To ascertain the real facts about what policing should look like in the 21st century, and what resources they properly need to do their job. Another initiative brought to me from a local perspective (thank you retired police superintendent, Kevin Moore).
The momentum has been growing nicely in Westminster as I brief other MPs from across the party spectrum to secure their support. My Early Day Motion now has 40 supporters, and I heard yesterday from the Police Federation that they wish to meet with me to discuss how they can get behind the issue. Three important campaigns, all started small, each coming to me from a local resident, and all of them standing a very good chance, if implemented of changing our world for the better.
This is why I love my job. I serve a town which means the world to me, and I work as hard as I can to do good both locally and nationally, on your behalf, as your Member of Parliament. It is a privilege I never take lightly, and it’s why I am there for Eastbourne and Willingdon every day of every week of every year.
That’s it folks. Hope you have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.