Hove’s Labour MP condemned the ‘sham consultation’ and the closing down of the Western Road Post Office during has a debate in Parliament this week about franchises.
Post Office bosses claimed that the number of customers using this post office had declined and said the branch was no longer “commercially sustainable”. After a public consultation over its viability, the Western Road Post Office was closed down in spite of public protests. Mr Kyle handed a petition with 5,400 names to the post office with community activists before the Western Road branch was closed in February 2016.
Only a year or two later, the Post Office has now installed a new branch in the Western Road newsagent, just feet away from the location of the closed crown post office.
This has raised questions over the sincerity of the public consultation as well as the Post Office’s stated reasons that the original crown office was “commercially unviable.”
Mr Kyle has taken a keen interest in post offices and other public services for many years. He chaired a public meeting about the Western Road Post Office closure back in the summer of 2015 and has followed all subsequent developments closely since then.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate about franchising last Thursday 10 January, Mr Kyle said: “I have absolutely no doubt that I was misled, that the community I represent was misled and—worst of all—that the customers who used and depended on that post office were misled and the staff who had given a career and indeed a lifetime in work to that western road post office branch were misled.
“The western road post office staff’s jobs disappeared and the jobs that have been created in their place have no pension liability and no guarantee that they would have the standards that people who work long-term in the Post Office can expect. And those workers were no longer part of the Post Office family.
“We have a Prime Minister who stood on the steps of Downing Street and said she was going to maintain those sorts of rights and tackle injustices.
“The Post Office is one of her companies; it is an organisation that she runs. However, she has allowed it to dwindle, to be stripped of assets and to be taken away from our high streets, and replaced with something that has less value, makes less of a contribution to our communities, and that offers less stability and value in the workplace to the people who work for it.”
Mr Kyle then called on the Business Minister responsible for postal affairs, Kelly Tolhurst MP, to intervene:
“I say to the Minister directly that I understand that she has said that it is not her job to meddle with the running of the Post Office.
“However, in times such as this, I and my community expect her to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in because if branches are being taken from our high streets, and MPs and our communities are being misled, we are their elected officials. She is speaking on behalf of the Government and we expect her to act.”
Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade has written to Charles Horton who is the chief executive of Govia Thameslink to make sure the rail company puts on enough fully manned trains for Pride. Brighton and Hove’s Pride festival is probably the most important date every year in Brighton’s calendar, bringing millions of pounds into the city over the weekend and in the surrounding weeks.
Peter Kyle wrote: “Efficient, reliable and comfortable travel will be key to ensuring an enjoyable weekend. I have no doubt that you and your team fully understand this and are committed to getting the transport arrangements right over the Pride weekend, but I wanted to add my voice and emphasise how important this is for the organisers, for our city, and for the thousands of people taking part in Pride.
Please do keep me updated as the weekend approaches, and do let me know if there are any issues. I will of course offer whatever support I can to ensure that Brighton and Hove Pride 2018 is the joyful celebration we all want it to be, and if there’s anything I can do to help ensure there is fuss-free travel please don’t hesitate to contact my office.”
Mr Kyle’s voice is an important one because he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Southern Rail with Conservative Sir Nicolas Soames MP. Mr Kyle and Mr Soames wrote last month to Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive of the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), emphasising the need for greater investment in the South East rail network. Plans for the future funding of the network are currently under consideration by ORR.
Mr Kyle and Mr Soames’s joint, cross-party letter stated: “Despite its importance, the service provided on the South East route is not currently able to meet passengers’ expectations, due in large part to the years of under-investment that the route has suffered.
“For many years, the South East has received disproportionately low levels of investment compared with other regions, and in Control Period 5, the route was allocated just 15% of national railway funding, despite carrying almost 30% of all passengers.
“Unsurprisingly, performance has suffered severely, and passenger satisfaction is very low. As MPs for the South East, we see the misery this causes to thousands of our constituents on a daily basis, and we are troubled by the damage done to the local economy.
“To address this historic imbalance, and in order to deliver the modern and reliable service passengers expect and deserve, we hope you will agree that sustained investment is the only solution.”
Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, has signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter this week, to support and protect any of his employees who become terminally ill.
The Dying to Work campaign was set up by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The campaign is calling for a change in the law to prevent the same thing happening to other working people.
Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “Workers should be able to expect support at an incredibly distressing time, and I am proud to have signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter to protect my employees. I will also be encouraging businesses in Hove and Portslade to follow suit and sign up to the TUC’s voluntary charter.
“In addition, I will be pushing for the Government to take action to ensure that every individual with a terminal illness receives the protection and support they deserve.”
Since its launch in April 2016, the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ Voluntary Charter now protects over half a million employees in companies such as Santander, Co-Op, Rolls Royce, Weetabix, Royal Mail and E.On. A number of public sector bodies including NHS trusts, police authorities and many local authorities have also signed up alongside trade unions and charities.
TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Serious illness is tough enough without having to put up with extra hassle at work. Everyone can surely agree that terminally-ill workers deserve protection.
“That’s why unions, MPs, employers and charities are coming together to ensure that workers get the support and protections they need when times are toughest.”
A Survation poll of over a thousand people found in March last year that 79% of respondents support a ‘protected period’ for terminally ill workers where they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition. Only 3% opposed the ‘protected period.’
Under the Equality Act 2010, employees in the UK cannot be dismissed because of their age, disability, race and pregnancy & maternity etc. These are known as ‘protected characteristics’ and the TUC proposes adding terminal illness to the list to prevent discrimination and unfair dismissal.
The TUC Dying to Work Voluntary Charter states:
We recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.
Terminally ill workers will be secure in the knowledge that we will support them following their diagnosis and we recognise that safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic in itself.
We will provide our employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.
We support the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind.
Reflecting on Brexit, Caroline Lucas said: “This General Election changes everything and the choices we all make matter like never before.”
On Tuesday 2 May the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats agreed to fight for Britain to remain part of the single market. Both parties want freedom of movement to become part of the Brexit deal.
For the Liberal Democrats, this means that Britain should be an open, tolerant United Kingdom where the rights of EU citizens are guaranteed and British citizens can live, work, study and travel freely in Europe.
Green Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, said she adds protection of the environment to Britain remaining a member of the single market and for continued freedom of movement.
Mrs Lucas joins Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in announcing a new pledge to give voters a referendum to ratify Brexit that will include the option to remain in the European Union.
A Labour Voice
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair agrees with Mrs Lucas and Mr Farron. According to the Guardian he said that while the final exit deal had yet to be agreed, the perils of a hard Brexit were clear: “The single market put us in the Champions League of trading agreements. A free-trade agreement is like League One. We are relegating ourselves.” Brighton and Hove Albion supporters know what that feels like and they know the triumph of victory.
In an interview with Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer on Sunday 30 April, Mr Blair said: “If we really do Brexit and we do Brexit with withdrawal from the single market, you can forget her ideas (PM Theresa May) of a more cuddly capitalism. A low-tax, light regulation, offshore hub economy, that is where you will end up. This is the right-wing fantasy. It’s driven by the right of the Tory party and the cabal that runs the right-wing media in this country…”
“It’s certainly true we don’t have a God-given right to carry on as a competing party of government. But there’s no reason why Labour can’t become the repository of that new coalition of progressive forces that is available to us in today’s society and which is basically the same progressive coalition that brought us to power in 1997.”
A Liberal Democrat Voice
Liberal Democrat Caroline Hynds, Hove Parliamentary Candidate, is also fighting hard against Brexit. She said: “The Liberal Democrat position is clear and consistent. We have long been calling for a referendum on the terms of Brexit and believe the people should have the final say on the deal.
“Our party believes in an open, tolerant and united future with the UK staying in the single market, guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK, and protecting our rights to live, travel, study and work in Europe.
“Caroline Lucas’ stance on this issue – fighting against hard, divisive Brexit, making the positive case for Europe and giving the people the final say – is an area in which we have much common ground, reflected in Lib Dem PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) Paul Chandler standing down in Brighton Pavilion.
“I’d like to see more from Labour on this as they are, after all, the official party of opposition, but Peter Kyle’s hands are tied by the policies of Jeremy Corbyn.”
A Green Voice
Mrs Lucas, arguing for public ratification of Brexit said: “This General Election potentially changes everything. We are at a crossroads – and the choices we make in the coming weeks will have huge consequences for the kind of country we’re going to be in the future.
“And the biggest choice we face is clearly about Brexit.
“Though my party fought hard for Britain to stay in the EU, and I voted against an unconditional triggering of Article 50, we accept, of course, that the referendum was an instruction to the Government to begin Brexit negotiations.
“We do not accept, however, that the decision should be irreversible. The referendum should be the start, not the end, of the democratic process.
“And it’s therefore right that people should have the right to a say on the final deal in a ratification referendum – with the option to remain in the EU if they so choose.
“There are those who will say that this is contrary to the ‘will of the people’.
“But the claim that the referendum produced an irreversible verdict is a sham.
“At a General Election, voters obviously have the right to revisit the choice of government that they made at a previous election.
“It would be ludicrous to suggest people couldn’t change their minds about which way to vote, as facts change, and experience becomes clearer.
“And in the same way, it gives them the right to revisit a referendum result, as long as the parties are clear about the options on the table.
“Whoever forms a Government after June 8 will have a mandate to negotiate with the EU on our behalf.
“But we live in a democracy and it would be deeply undemocratic to impose the terms of any deal on Britain’s citizens, on our communities, young people, and businesses. So let’s give people honest choices.
“Let’s be clear that there is a wealth of difference between a soft Brexit, with membership of the Single Market, and an extreme Brexit – the one our Prime Minister is hell bent on pursuing, where we’re out of the single market, out of the Customs Union, ending free movement, and with our key social and environmental protections at risk.
“The day following the EU referendum the Green Party called for the British people to have a further say on the details of any Brexit deal.
“We stand by that position and today we pledge to voters to go further.
“Our election manifesto will not only include a ratification referendum, it will also explicitly make the option to remain in the EU part of such a ratification referendum.
“Greens proudly and passionately campaigned to remain in the EU. And, unlike some, we’ve not changed our deeply held belief that we are better off in the EU…
“And while we’ve all learned to treat polls with extreme caution, it might just turn out to be significant that last week’s Yougov poll showed, for the first time, a majority of British people now oppose Brexit.
“And maybe that’s because the costs of Brexit are becoming clearer.
“Inflation is already rising as imported goods rise in price. Real wages are stagnating, investment is on hold. All these indicators will be worse by 2020 when the election was meant to take place.
“The referendum outcome last June was never supposed to be the final word. It was the beginning of a conversation.
“And this General Election is a chance to reflect on what we have learned since then….
“That Brexit is being used by the Tories to drive through an ideological agenda that champions deregulation and privatisation on an unprecedented scale. That people were lied to.
“That there is no £350 million each week for the NHS.
“That the PM has no intention of seeking to enable us to remain members of the Single Market.
“That immigration is unlikely to be controlled because, as David Davis has himself acknowledged, it’s necessary for our economy
“And indeed it’s become clearer than ever that immigration is not to blame for the lack of social housing, GP appointments or local jobs – government spending cuts are.
“What’s also become clear is that the official opposition has been no serious opposition at all. The Labour Party haven’t only given the Tories a blank cheque for a hard Brexit. They’ve given them a lift to the bank and helped them cash it in.
“If Labour had made the case for staying in the Single Market, they could have made common cause with other opposition parties, and together we could have had a chance to avoid this most extreme of Brexits.
“That was a tragically missed opportunity.
“Meanwhile their unconditional support for triggering Article 50 meant that the opportunity to secure some key safeguards was squandered
“Why would the Government listen to calls for an immediate guarantee for EU nationals living in the UK, or for a meaningful parliamentary vote, if the opposition had already made clear its intention to support Article 50 in any and all circumstances?
“The General Election makes a different bigger future possible and it’s crucial that voters are not lied to again.
“Brexit is not inevitable. The triggering of Article 50 is not irreversible. And we still believe we are better off as members of the EU. Greens see the bigger picture and what we stand up for matters.
“Not based on political expediency but based on principle and evidence.
“The Conservatives could have sought to unite the country by bringing leavers and remainers together.
“Instead they chose to sow more discord and division – they cannot be trusted…
“Our pledge is about standing up for young people too. For the generations that have most to lose if we cut ourselves loose from the EU.
“Greens want young people to have big opportunities and a big future. And that means the right to study, travel, work, live and love across the EU.
“A Green vote on June 8 is a chance to stay part of the EU because young people matter. A Green vote on June 8 is a chance to stay part of the EU because a resilient, diverse economy matters.
“And it’s a vote for the certainty that we will stick to our principles and use the negotiation period triggered by article 50 to fight for a deal that puts social and environmental justice first.
If the Government is so convinced that they’ll get a decent deal then there’s no reason that they wouldn’t trust people to have a final say.
“If the Government believes its own rhetoric about the will of the people they’ll respect that electorates are free to change their minds.
“This General Election changes everything and the choices we all make matter like never before.”
While Conservative MP, Simon Kirby, voted to trigger article 50 in February which gave the Prime Minister legal authority to leave the EU, Labour’s Hove MP Peter Kyle and Mrs Lucas voted against it.