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I'm sorry to have to tell you that the EU Referendum debate on 16th June has been cancelled because of a by-election in London.

I'm sure you'll be disappointed - as is Peter - and I hope you can re-arrange your evening.

We have tried really hard to re-arrange this, and although Kier cannot make it we have secured Chuka Umunna MP on 21st June. This will be at the Railway Inn, Station Road at 7pm. You can rsvp here: www.peterkyle.co.uk/chuka_umunna

 

EU Debate Cancelled

I'm sorry to have to tell you that the EU Referendum debate on 16th June has been cancelled because of a by-election in London. I'm sure you'll be disappointed -...

As you know I'm on the Business Select Committee which is a group of MP's that has a constitutional right to examine, challenge, and comment different aspects of government policy but also that of the business community too. Normally we do detailed inquiries that offer government suggestions to improve policies, but we also have the power to look into areas of business activity we feel needs extra scrutiny.

When news broke about a culture of bullying, exploitation, and sexual harassment that has developed within Sports Direct we invited its founder, owner, and boss, Mike Ashley, to come and talk to us. He refused. We invited him again and again and again...he refused. So we issued a summons, which he refused. Because my personal challenge to him about his behaviour, he then said he would attend only if I was removed from the inquiry.

So then we dusted down the books and threatened to press a law into action that has not been used for 400 years which would have involved sending the Sargent At Arms to put him in cuffs and drag him to parliament! It took six months, but today Mr Ashley came and faced our committee.

Before we met him we privately met with a group of former and current employees. All of their stories were harrowing but one in particular almost moved me to tears. We then met the companies that supply Sports Direct with several thousand temporary and flexible workers, all on zero hours contracts. I was disgusted by their lack of knowledge of employment law, of HR practice, and as I said to their faces, the sheer lack of humanity that they allowed to happen in the workplace.

Mr Ashley then arrived. I was pleased that he was upfront, unpolished, and remarkably honest about the problems his business faced. But I was staggered that he seemed oblivious as to how things got done, the managerial techniques being used, and the sheer moral corruption that had crept into his business.

I asked him if he thought he was a kind man, and then confronted him with the experiences told to us by his employees. I asked "Do you think your company has outgrown your ability to manage it?". His reply: "Yes, probably".

It takes so much preparation to get ready for a session like this. I wanted to try my best to hold him to account, to do justice to the employees who have suffered at his hands, but also to do so in a way that would lead to change and not destruction. I want Sports Direct to improve and to be a brand we can be proud of, not as it is now which brings shame on British business and pain to many of its employees.

I will not let this go, I will be following up. I think it is obvious that Mr Ashley is not the right man to run the day-to-day operations of the company and I feel strongly that the agencies supplying staff are not qualified or capable of dispensing their work with the humanity or professionalism workers deserve and should be dealt with urgently.

 

If you want to watch all of my exchange with him, you can click on this address and skip to 12:29:19 on the timeline:

http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/a870989f-3119-4e2a-9ea7-e6ab094e77d1

Challenging Mike Ashley of Sports Direct

As you know I'm on the Business Select Committee which is a group of MP's that has a constitutional right to examine, challenge, and comment different aspects of government policy...

Every day I am contacted by people struggling to get to work and struggling to get home again afterwards. 34,000 people leave our city by train to work every day and the service let's so many of them down day after day after day.

Even today I've been told by someone who's self employed how she may have to give up living here because she looses so much business due to late or cancelled trains. Every day at the moment I hear horror stories of cancellations, overcrowding, chronic delays, and trains terminating before reaching the destination.

I don't have to commute every day, I'm lucky. But I travel often enough to know how bad it can be. I know I can no longer rely on the commuter service so if I have to be at parliament early or for a meeting or debate where I want your voice heard loud and clear, well I always go up the night before and stay over with a friend because I can't trust the train service to get me there on time.

I have met, emailed, written to, and challenged ministers on the floor of the Commons many dozens of times. Not a week goes by when I don't make your voice heard to the rail companies and to government. I've spoken to the media more on rail than any other issue.

Yet at times I feel as helpless - which I hate. I know that you elected me to sort these problems out and it is soul destroying that so many promises to me have been broken. It's like our city has collective toothache because the pain caused by our rail service is constant, miserable, and un-ignorable.

Last week I wrote again to the minister demanding action. The very first meeting I had as your MP was with the rail minister and the promises she made about improvements in a six month period have not come to pass. Similarly the promises made by rail
Companies have been broken.

I am happy to call for the franchise to be stripped or for government to step in - but all I care about is what will make your journey home tonight better than the one you took in the morning. And the journeys you make next week better than those of this week.

There are big, big challenges in improving our rails service. We're talking about massive infrastructure and historic underinvestment. We have only one line which makes upgrading difficult. We have 5% increases in passenger numbers each year. Plus we have a huge two year London Bridge upgrade going on and new rolling stock being tested.

We also have a dysfunctional set of relationships at the heart of all this. Government and the franchises, Network Rail and the franchises, and worst of all at the moment is the deplorable relationship between staff and employers.

What I want is simple and twofold. I want every single organisation and body responsible for our rail service to start putting passengers first - they are not at the moment. And secondly I want government and rail companies to tell us what will improve and when it will improve by so we know what to expect and when to expect it and hold them to account. I have asked for his simple information since that very first meeting a year ago and even in the Commons chamber - each time they have refused to give it but the time for hedging has passed.

So many people being late to work is damaging our economy and livelihoods. People getting home late in the evening is damaging the family life of people who live in our city. Things have got to change and they have got to change now.

Next week I meet with the rail companies again. Within a fortnight I will meet with the rail minister. Within that time there is also another summit meeting where I will join together with other MPs in the area so we can continue to work together. I will work with anyone and do whatever it takes to sort this shambles out because I know just how important it is to you and how much pain it causes to people, families, our city and our economy. Yours, Peter.

Our Rail Nightmare

Every day I am contacted by people struggling to get to work and struggling to get home again afterwards. 34,000 people leave our city by train to work every day...

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