Last week’s RMT rail strike caused huge disruption across the country, including in Kent, where most local services were cancelled, and many stations closed. This has stopped some people, including front line public sector workers, from being able to get to work, and also made the journeys harder for some students sitting exams; a concern they could have done without.
There was a reduced service on the High Speed One line from Ashford to St Pancras, one of the few to operate on the strike days, and I was pleased to be able to use that. However, this was only possible at all because of local railway employees who had decided not to go on strike and instead return to work to do what they could to help people who needed to complete their journeys. I am grateful to them for their service to their passengers.
We are all facing pressures on our household budgets because of the current high levels of inflation. This is a problem that is affecting the world, and has been caused by the rapidly rising demand for goods and services following the ending of the COVID-19 restrictions. Also the war in Ukraine and sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, are leading to high and sustained price increases for oil, grain and other important commodities. This is not the right time for the RMT to be demanding high wage increases for their members, in particular when the railways are still recovering from the financial impact of the pandemic. The railways received £16billion of government support during the pandemic, but now we need them to carry on with the job. I hope that the Union and the rail operators can come to an agreement in order to prevent further industrial action.
Last Friday I was pleased to meet with members of the GMB trade union in Lydd to discuss our campaign to secure a long-term future for the nuclear industry at Dungeness. The GMB supports the idea of locating a new generation of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) within the existing nuclear site at Dungeness and I look forward to working with them, as well as Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Kent County Council to deliver this for our area. Whilst trade unions and Members of Parliament might not always agree, I believe it is important that we support each other when we do, in order to help create new opportunities for the communities we serve.
Earlier in the day I met with Nathan Ingleston, a teacher at the Beacon School in Folkestone. The school accepts students aged from 3 to 19 years offering pupils with complex needs, profound and severe learning difficulties and physical and sensory impairments a wide range of educational experiences. I was pleased to be able to meet with a mixed age group of students, including representatives from the School’s Council and answer a wide range of questions about my work as a Member of Parliament.