‘More to discuss than just Brexit’

Suffolk Free Press EU referendum debate

Pictured: James Cartlidge MP ANL-160606-093223009
Suffolk Free Press EU referendum debate Pictured: James Cartlidge MP ANL-160606-093223009

I found it particularly poignant this week in the Commons as two new MPs were inducted into the Chamber, to swear their respective oaths of allegiance.

Following two recent by-elections, Tracy Brabin was newly elected as MP for Batley and Spen, whilst Robert Courts was successfully elected in Witney.

The poignancy of seeing the new MPs sworn in stems from the people they were succeeding. Robert Courts took over from David Cameron, our former Prime Minister and someone who, in my view, was extremely gifted in the day to day discharging of his duties.

When I was fortunate enough to spend time with David Cameron, I found him unflappable in the face of the awesome pressure of the premiership.

Meanwhile, Tracy Brabin succeeded Jo Cox, a passionate campaigning Labour MP and mother of two small children, brutally murdered in June.

Jo Cox was born and elected in the same year as me - 1974 and 2015 respectively - and I will never forget the special session of Parliament that we held in her honour, her children watching on from the public gallery.

What links these MPs? In one way or another, they bear the indelible mark of our recent history.

We know that David Cameron’s decision to resign was driven directly by the Brexit vote; we do not know if Jo Cox’s murder was in any way related to the referendum.

But we know that she was killed at the height of the campaign and it seems like only yesterday that I was arriving in Bures for a Brexit debate with my neighbour James Cleverly, MP for Braintree, only to find that all campaigning was off out of respect for Jo who had been slain that very afternoon.

Currently, almost every debate or session of questions to Ministers is dominated by Brexit – even the decision to expand Heathrow is set against the backdrop of ‘needing to show that we are open for business’.

In Parliament this week we have been preoccupied with filling Select Committee vacancies.

The hottest competition was to be elected to two new Committees inextricably linked to the result of the referendum: the Brexit Select Committee, and International Trade Select Committee.

As it happens, I put myself forward for neither and was honoured to be elected to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

I entirely accept the result of the referendum and recognise the huge challenge we now have to make it work, but there is more to politics than Brexit.

We have a welfare state to reform, a task that will in itself be vital if we are to find within our ‘native’ labour force those workers who are willing and able to replace the foreign staff we need but no longer seem to want.

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