Visiting the Arctic
At the end of August I visited the Arctic with Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee to understand better the impacts of climate change. The Arctic is warming at twice the global average, and people living there are literally on the frontline of the climate crisis.
I spoke both with scientists based there and with local people, and came back even more determined to push the Government to oppose any new extraction of fossil fuels in the region.
Getting answers on Preston Park
This week, local commuters and I met with senior figures from Govia Thameslink (GTR), Network Rail and representatives from the Department for Transport (DfT) in yet another effort to achieve redress for the hundreds of constituents who have contacted me at their wits’ end about the slashing of services at Preston Park station – in particular the loss of the Gatwick Express service.
GTR bosses admitted to us that their assessment of travel patterns and demand at Preston Park failed to count commuters on station platforms or trains – meaning their decision to scrap services at the busy station was based on deeply flawed data from ticket sales.
Representatives of the Preston Park Train Campaign explained that season tickets are the same price from Brighton or Hove, so they are rarely recorded as Preston Park passengers. There are no barriers at the station, so passengers can’t be counted that way either.
I also wanted to know who would make the final decision on our demands for urgent improvements, including the reinstatement of Gatwick Express services. It was eventually revealed that recommendations had to come from GTR bosses and these would be decided on by Network Rail.
We were also told Network Rail is about to look at proposals for future changes from GTR relating to several Brighton Mainline stations, and will respond later in the Autumn – but whatever improvements are agreed would not be implemented until May 2019.
Network Rail claims such a long lead-in time is now required to prevent a repeat of the extensive disruption caused by timetable changes across the country this May.
It’s vital rail bosses change their processes to prevent future problems – but for them to delay fixing the fallout simply to comply with those new rules is completely unreasonable. The situation at Preston Park is exceptional and a ‘computer says no’ attitude is unacceptable.
Rail bosses and their ministers should be bending over backwards to resolve this and take immediate action to restore Gatwick Express services – and I won’t stop campaigning until they do.
Protecting our most important wildlife habitats
I collaborated with Unearthed on their investigation into the Government’s failure to monitor our Sites of Special Scientific Interest. I used a Parliamentary Question to obtain figures showing almost half of these precious sites haven’t been assessed for at least six years.
The government cuts that have resulted in these failings are a glaringly false economy. These beautiful places and unique habitats are irreplaceable. It is short-sighted and downright irresponsible for the Government to neglect them. I’m calling on ministers to urgently reverse cuts to Natural England’s budget and expand its specialist team.
Campaigning for a People’s Vote
On Wednesday I took part in a cross-party event in Parliament with Best for Britain and colleagues including David Lammy MP and Dr Phillip Lee MP.
The more we hear about the Government’s disastrous Brexit plans, and the chaos that could ensue if we crash out without a deal, the clearer the case becomes for the people to have a final say – with an option to remain in the EU.
I was encouraged to hear MPs from across the political spectrum acknowledge that the People’s Vote campaign must not repeat the mistakes of 2016. It must be diverse, hopeful and it must tackle the very real problems that drove people to vote for such a drastic change in the first place.
Meeting striking Wetherspoons workers
On Friday I met with Wetherspoons workers in Brighton, who are balloting for strike action over the pub chain’s failure to pay them a wage they can afford to live on.
I’ve heard awful stories of constituents having to live in hostels and even tents, despite working incredibly long hours.
In the 21st century, people should have the right to unionise and to a fight for a basic living wage – and all those fighting for fair pay have my support.
I was honoured to be asked to speak at an AGM of the local Royal College of Nurses union. Top of the issues raised with me was the loss of the student bursary, which has had a significant impact on the number of nurses who are in training, and the importance of legislation on safe staffing levels. I’ll continue to push the Government to bring in policy on both of these issues.
I was interviewed for BBC South East Today for a story they’re running on the steep rise in the number of fines given out for failing to put recycling into the right container. While I’m as keen as anyone else to see our city cleaned up, I’m deeply concerned at the tactics of the private company 3GS, who have been contracted to “police” recycling in the city.
I’ve heard stories of small businesses being fined £300 when one of their boxes was found in the wrong recycling bin – even though it was a customer who made the mistake, not them.
Similar draconian fines have been meted out for innocent mistakes. I’m worried that people will be put off recycling altogether if they face fines like this, and I’ve urged the council to take the service back in-house.