It is always fascinating to read the comments and actions that take place in the House of Commons involving MPs which have themes that impact our communities directly or indirectly. Last week there were two significant elements that I spotted which seemed important on several levels. At the beginning of the week and indeed at the end of the week there were discussions that took place regarding the P&O Ferries and the appalling way in which they have treated 800 ex-employees. Also, at the end of the week there was a debate that took place on a Bill that is being set out to focus on the National Insurance Contributions. In the case of that debate not only is the context relevant but also a statement that was made by one of our local MPs was very significant as can be seen below. The debate that took place at the beginning of last week was set out by the Labour Party on Monday Afternoon and it was a very clear call for the P&O Ferries and Employment Rights. The person who began the discussion was Louise Haigh and she began by saying
“I beg to move, that this House condemns the decision of P&O Ferries to fire 800 staff without notice and demands their immediate reinstatement”
It involved a number of people in the debate and at the end of the session there was a vote. Sadly the Conservatives did not vote on this and indeed only one Sussex person voted which was Peter Kyle who is the Hove MP. However there was a statement provided by Huw Merriman who is the MP for Bexhill and Battle and in fact he was the only Sussex MP to speak during the debate. Although he did not vote for the Labour proposal, his comments were very supportive. His first few sentences were as follows.
“Last Thursday, I spoke in this place and asked the Government to do everything within their power and influence, including tabling emergency legislation if necessary, to ensure that this appalling employment transaction cannot be completed. I agree with Opposition Members—time is of the essence now. The gloves are off. It is very important that we take immediate steps. With that in mind, I have a whole series of questions to put to those on the Front Bench about what we can do within the scope of the redundancy procedure, wages, safety measures, Government commercial bargaining power, and our intent under the maritime 2050 strategy.”
Although there was no major call from the Government on that day, on Thursday evening I took part in the Uckfield Chamber of Commerce and Nusrat Ghani, the Wealden MP spoke online to the members and she stated that she had taken part in a Committee regarding the P&O Ferries. At the end of that day or early on Friday there was also a call from Grant Shapps for the senior member of P&O to resign following on from the action that his company had taken. That is a very positive call from the Government and we can hope that they will continue to respond to this issue.
The significant debate that took place at the end of last week for the House of Commons was the National Insurance Contributions Bill and the MP from Sussex who took part in it was Sally-Ann Hart who is the MP for Hastings and Rye. Her very positive contribution was
“My right hon. Friend will know that my beautiful constituency of Hastings and Rye has residents with some of the worst levels of deprivation in the country, and I obviously welcome this Bill on their behalf. Will he confirm for the residents of Hastings and Rye that this Government’s interventions have helped the poorest households the most through measures such as cutting the universal credit taper rate last year, increasing the national insurance thresholds, permanently increasing the local housing allowance for housing benefit and increasing the national living wage? Can he confirm that this will benefit my residents in Hastings and Rye?”
What was fantastic coming from the Government Minister Simon Clarke who is the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was as follows
“I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is a fantastic champion for Hastings and Rye, which I recognise is a part of the south-east that perfectly demonstrates that communities face very significant challenges in all parts of the United Kingdom. Sometimes the levelling up question is seen as the north and the midlands against the south, but her constituency is a very good demonstration of why communities in the south-east also need support.”
We clearly need all of the Sussex MPs to ensure that the Government will endorse his statement and that the communities in our area will benefit from it.