Former Croydon MP ANDREW PELLING reviews last week’s parliamentary business for the borough’s three representatives, as well as Carshalton’s Tom Brake
Richard Ottaway was by far the most active Croydon Parliamentarian last week as he found himself with the opportunity to undertake extensive questioning of both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on developments in Syria.
Ottaway was elected by other MPs to chair the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, more than adequate compensation for his losing out on the chairmanship of the Conservatives’ influential backbench 1922 Committee, when David Cameron tried to impose his will on the make-up of that lobby. Ottaway was Cameron’s preferred candidate and in those early days of the new coalition arrangements, he was rejected by the suspicious Tory backbenchers.
While it is no way as prestigious as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in America, the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee offers Ottaway the chance to be glad-handed by senior politicians around the world. A tidy little position for the final five years of Croydon South’s stayaway MP’s Westminster career.
The chairmanship also means that Ottaway sits on the Liaison Committee, introduced under Tony Blair that allows all select committee chairmen to pose rather more reasoned questions than you see at Prime Minister’s Question Time.
Last week, Ottaway’s questioning revealed how the government feels much less at liberty to intervene in Syria than it did in Libya. HMG worries about identifying who actually makes up the opposition in Syria and what the role of al-Qaeda is there. The lack of Arab League support and a UN resolution stymies action. Russian reticence on the issue was discussed in detail by the Prime Minister. The Foreign Secretary preferred a removal of the head of government rather than a bottom-up civil war.
Ottaway, a long-standing Europhile, also quizzed William Hague on whether the government had rolled back from Qualified Majority Voting on economic matters in the EU by using the veto. He also posed the question as to whether trouble from the French could have been expected ahead of the presidential election there. Ottaway’s questioning also revealed some unpreparedness in the UK delegation at the veto summit.
Outside Parliament, all the Croydon MPs were drawn into saying that they would do their utmost to fight the possible closure of A&E and the maternity unit at Mayday Hospital. This in the week when Ottaway’s long series of questions about Purley Hospital saw some reward with the Prime Minister promising that £11.5 million would be found for a much reduced plan for a “health campus” at the site.
Ottaway will doubtless remain sceptical, as previous plans have not actually led to delivery on the site. Ottaway has taken the view that Croydon’s NHS has been unsympathetic to Purley’s needs.
Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks, who stopped the last review of services at Mayday under the Labour government, said that he would live with a review being held but found that removing one A&E from south London worrying.
Gavin Barwell now says that he will do all in his power to resist Mayday losing out. Which raises the question: what, quite, is actually within Barwell’s power or influence?
Before the election, the ever-keen-to-please Barwell had solemnly promised, “If you want the maximum range of services at your local hospital, you need to vote Conservative on May 6.”
And when Barwell had Andrew Lansley down to Croydon for a photo opportunity at the hospital, he trumpeted, “This morning, Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, joined Jason Hadden, Richard Ottaway (the Conservative candidates for Croydon North and Croydon South respectively) and I to visit the Accident & Emergency Department and stroke ward at Mayday Hospital.
“Andrew made it clear that a Conservative Government would scrap NHS London’s plans to downgrade Mayday.”
That went well then.
After the election, Barwell even said that no reviews of Mayday would take place. “During the election campaign, Andrew Lansley visited Mayday and promised to scrap NHS London’s review of hospital services in south west London, which would have involved downgrading Mayday. Today he has honoured that promise.”
Oh dear. Nothing like election promises to come back and bite you. The particularly shabby thing about Barwell’s promises on the Mayday Hospital made to the electorate of Croydon is that they have been broken so thoroughly so soon.
Before the election, Barwell said that his NHS promise showed how much influence he has. That the review to downgrade continues less than two years later must throw doubt on that rather self-regarding judgement.
No speeches, interventions questions or Early Day Motions from our Croydon MPs this week.
By comparison, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, who might yet run for a new Croydon Central and St Helier seat if the boundaries are changed before the next election, made an intervention in the debate on International Women’s Day and posed questions about fertility treatment and compensation given under the Riot Act. Unhelpful answers from his own government minister to the latter question, with the MP referred to Boris Johnson to get the answer he wanted.
MP activity this week
Votes (out of 3)/ Written questions/Speeches/Oral questions & interventions/Early Day Motions
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon