Last night (26 April), MPs debated and voted on the remaining stages of the Illegal Migration Bill. This is an important piece of legislation for our local area and for Bexhill, in particular, where the Home Office has proposed to site an asylum centre. The Bill seeks to fulfil the Prime Minister’s promise to stop small boat crossings. Importantly, it will make it unlawful to cross the channel via small boat to claim asylum.
As I was required to be in Parliament to vote, I was unable to attend a public meeting in Bexhill last night regarding the Northeye proposal which had been organised by Bexhill Town Council. The meeting had been arranged and advertised before I was invited to attend and I was not consulted as to whether I would be available. I did let the Town Council know why I would not be there and provided them with a statement to be read out on my behalf. Disappointingly, it is my understanding that the Town Council decided not to relay this information nor read out my statement.
I understand that a number of other protests have also taken place over recent weeks. These appear to have only been advertised on social media, and I was not made aware of who the organisers were, nor was I asked to attend.
I remain committed to ensuring that information about the Asylum Centre is made available to the public at the earliest opportunity. I also remain committed to holding a public meeting. Given that the proposed site is still pending results of contamination and environmental surveys, a public meeting will be best held when we have more certainty and information to discuss.
(***The following section was added on 12 May***)
On 11 May, the BBC filmed an edition of Question Time at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.
The BBC selects which guests they invite onto the Question Time panel. MPs and others do not apply to be panellists, and it is incredibly rare for the MP of the area where the programme is being filmed to be invited. I can confirm that I was not invited by the BBC to take part.
The BBC has published a Question Time ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page which provides an answer to the question “Why doesn’t the panel reflect the region they are in by having local politicians on the panel?”. Indeed, when the BBC invited me to take part in Any Questions on Radio 4 last year, it took place in Woking, to which I have no local link.