Both old and new themes have dominated my last two weeks in Parliament and in the constituency. My work on the Leaving the EU Brexit Committee is a fast moving one. Last week we took evidence from the Secretary of State for Leaving the EU. Much is still hugely uncertain, notably what, if any trade ‘transition deal’ might look like. The unanswered question is what ongoing influence EU institutions might have during this potential period? My preference is little to none so that the real Brexit dividend of new international trade deals can be prepared and ready from day one. To that end I was pleased to support my Dover and Deal colleague, Charlie Elphicke MP at his Adjournment debate to encourage all necessary readiness by customs and border force in the event of a ‘no deal’. If that were to happen we must be ready for it, and be ready for it without fear, as WTO trade terms are the global norm for most international trade. I will be coming back to Brexit issues regularly in future reports.
The Boundary Commission published its latest proposals to more fairly equalise electorate sizes across UK constituencies and to prepare for a reduction in constituencies from 650 to 600. Some common sense has prevailed in that South Thanet (proposed to be renamed East Thanet and Sandwich) is not so savagely altered from their initial proposal. Their latest plan is still, in my view, unsound in that Wingham and the Stour villages face removal from the existing constituency, and the addition of some existing North Thanet constituency wards. It seems to me unnecessarily disruptive, when a slightly bigger constituency is needed to take out long-established areas (for South Thanet dating back to 1983) and adding additional ones over and above, causing further dislocation elsewhere. There is still huge uncertainty as to whether these proposals will actually go through at all.
I was delighted to support my Parliamentary colleague, Theresa Villiers MP in her 10 minute rule Bill for the prohibition of live animal exports. Her proposed Bill outlines exactly what campaigners have been arguing for both succinctly and bluntly. Private Members Bills, 10 Minute Rule Bills and Presentation Bills are all means by which backbench MPs can push a law change. The most powerful effect of such backbench activity is to push the government into accepting them and incorporating their spirit into a full government Bill. The mood music from DEFRA is good, so we can hope for real change in the forthcoming Agriculture Bill.
Performance at the East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust remains short of acceptable targets. The Chief Executive has recently departed and the ongoing discussion about the extent of future services at Kent and Canterbury Hospital continues. I was pleased to attend and speak at the CHEK (Concern for Health in East Kent) meeting last Saturday. The NHS is rated internationally as the world’s no.1 but survival rates for cancer remain poor, and customer service levels do not compare well with international comparators. Of course many would say ‘just throw more money at it’. That was tried before and simply did not result in significant improvements. I say again that a more nuanced solution is needed to a system that is unwieldy, bureaucratic and monolithic.
I held a further Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance meeting last week – again well supported, with senior police officers in attendance to answer real concerns about escalations in late night anti-social behaviour. We also received a presentation from the new, dedicated Heritage Action Zone officer allocated to Ramsgate.