I did a piece on Southall MP Virendra Sharmaâ€™s trip to Cape Town yesterday. I got it wrong. I assumed that he had attended the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Health which ran from 2nd to 6th December last week. The Syria vote was on 2nd December and Sharma had told his constituents in an email that he couldnâ€™t attened due to being in South Africa.
I have now been sent a copy of Sharmaâ€™s email. He says:
The date of the debate has only just been set, and it is agreed for the 2nd December. For many months I have been booked to travel to South Africa from the 28th November to the 3rd December to attend the ‘Global TB Summit’ in Cape Town. At this meeting I will be part of an international group of nearly 60 countries working to combat Global TB a disease which affects millions of the most vulnerable. I am unable to renege on my commitment to the ‘Global TB Caucus’ to attend this event, and indeed it would be impossible for me to return to the UK to vote without serious financial cost to the charity.
It seems that Sharma was in fact at an event for politicians called the Global TB Summit. Fair enough. Only that event was due to run from 28th to 30th November. In other words it ended on Monday and it would have been straightforward to get back to vote on Wednesday if he had wanted to – there are frequent overnight flights from SA to London. In fact the chairman of the Global TB Summit event was Conservative MP Nick Herbert who managed to get back and vote. Whilst Herbert makes frequent refernces to his TB work and South Africa trip on Twitter, Sharma says nothing.
So was Sharma working or simply not prepared to give up a planned post conference minibreak in Cape Town whilst Parliament was sitting? Is he back yet? Will he tell us?