Brighton MP urges Transport Secretary to resign over rail fiasco
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas urged the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to resign today (Tuesday 19 June).
She was one of the first MPs to speak in a debate this afternoon about whether the House of Commons still had confidence in the Conservative cabinet minister.
The Green MP asked the Labour MP behind the motion, Andy McDonald, who represents Middlesbrough: “Does the honourable gentleman agree that it is not only GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway) that should lose its franchise?
“The Secretary of State should have his office removed as well because this is a façade of a franchise.
“We know that ministers are behind it and it is ministers who should be held accountable for the fact that passengers in places such as Preston Park in Brighton are losing their jobs, cannot spend time with their kids in hospital and are having their lives wrecked.”
Hove MP Peter Kyle intervened while Mr Grayling was speaking. The Labour MP said: “The network is incredibly complicated, with a whole range of different providers, both publicly and privately owned.
“Does he understand that passengers look to the government in their role of overseeing all the different providers?
“We do not have an independent board, with a chair and non-executives who scrutinise, challenge and support the network. We look to him as Secretary of State and to the department.
“He is entirely reactive and not entirely proactive, which is what passengers need.
“Does he not accept some responsibility for what has happened – for the lack of oversight, the lack of scrutiny and the lack of challenge while this was happening, rather than just reacting afterwards?”
Mr Grayling said: “I say very simply that the Labour Party argues that the railway should be run by the rail experts.
“When the rail experts advise, as they did in early May, that they are ready for the timetable change – the train companies and Network Rail – it behoves ministers to take the advice of those rail professionals.
“Labour is now saying that we should overrule the very people that it said, a few weeks ago, should be running the railways.”
Later in the two-hour debate, Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened.
He said that many commuters were angry, adding: “They have had years and years of disruption due to not only repair works, but the disaster of the franchise, and now the railway collapses under their feet. The government has a responsibility to take action.”
Mr Grayling became Transport Secretary two years ago when Theresa May became Prime Minister. He survived the vote of no confidence by 305 votes to 285.
Earlier, Caroline Lucas spoke in response to a statement by Home Secretary Sajid Javid about the medicinal use of cannabis.
Mr Javid spoke after two cases made headlines – those of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who has been gripped by seizures, and another epilepsy sufferer, Alfie Dingley, 6.
Caroline Lucas said in the House of Commons: “I, too, genuinely welcome the licence for Alfie today.
“But what a scandal it is that it has taken three months since Hannah Deacon (Alfie’s mother) met the Prime Minister and was promised swift and compassionate action.
“And what an outrage it is that, frankly, it is only the press attention that has finally shamed the government into action.
“With regard to the expert panel, what assurance can the Home Secretary give that there will be enough Home Office staff to deal with the thousands of applications that might well now come?”
Mr Javid said: “Let me say gently to the honourable lady that in the case of Alfie Dingley, of course we are all pleased that we have been able to issue the licence today.
“She should know that before the application – the approach by his clinicians – no government had even entertained the idea, given that cannabis is classed as a schedule 1 drug, of looking at this from a medical point of view.
“This government has done that. I hope that she can join us in not just welcoming that, but working together on how we can end the suffering of so many other people, particularly children, who could benefit from these kinds of medicines.”
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