Last week in Parliament was both lengthy and stimulating. I took part in two debates on the floor of the House; the first as part of the debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill where I highlighted the opportunities for coastal communities of a new domestic fisheries policy which would return access and profitability to our fishing fleets outside of the scandalous Common Fisheries Policy foisted upon us by the EU.
I was pleased that the second reading of the Withdrawal Bill was carried by 36 votes, and I pay tribute to many Labour members who were unwilling to support their Party’s new position of opposition to the Bill. It is somewhat strange that the Labour party’s manifesto for this year’s General Election was one of support for the referendum result, but they are clearly now backtracking on their respect for the will of the electorate. Politics before country springs to mind. Voting started at midnight and I was finally in bed at after 2am.
The next day was the debate on the Finance Bill (no 2) 2017. Much of the Finance Bill brought forward in April remained unfinished because of the snap general election. I gave my analysis of various flaws in our tax code, not least its complexity and unforeseen outcomes of the proposed Bill. My contribution was, to be fair, somewhat dry and technical in nature, but that is the nature of tax. This Bill alone ran to 665 pages. We have the most labyrinthine tax code in the world, running to 22,000 pages and 10 million words. The complexity is clearly unsustainable and unnecessary.
I was also pleased to support and speak at a rally in Parliament Square organised by Compassion in World Farming. The live animal export trade in the UK is now wholly focused on Ramsgate and I committed once more to do all that I can to see this incoherent trade stopped. Pressure I and other colleagues are bringing to bear on the government will hopefully be reflected in a future Agriculture Bill that will set out the framework of post-Brexit farming.
My attempts to get common sense to apply by Belgian authorities in relation to ‘Red diesel’ and fines being levied against boat-owners continued with a meeting of the Royal Yachting Association and the Cruising Association with HMRC officials in advance of a crunch meeting in Brussels with other EU27 customs representatives.
I took part in a new initiative to reduce use of plastic bottles with independent Councillor Suzanne Brimm and Thanet Green Party. The campaign is to encourage a network of Thanet businesses, particularly around our beaches, to allow water bottle refills. Plastics are a scourge of modern life internationally, and growing, with half a trillion (that’s 500,000,000,000) bottles used annually around the world, with a huge amount discarded to landfill or ending up in the sea. There is a wider debate to be had about unnecessary packaging in general. I do hope, on a voluntary basis, that retailers take note.
I had my regular meeting with the local Chief Inspector of Kent Police. We had a constructive discussion on anti-social behaviour, particularly in the Ramsgate area. More to report at a later time.
In summary it has been a busy few weeks in Parliament and in the constituency. We are now in the conference season recess, so stand by for a further diet of politics over the next month!