My regular update - 18 February 2019

High drama in Westminster starts the week with the defection, just declared as I write, of seven Labour MPs to form a new Independent group, citing concerns about anti-Semitism, anti-business policies, the hard-left takeover of Labour and how Jeremy Corbyn is unfit for office. I know all of them to varying degrees, as they are the type of MPs, obviously not of my political flavour, who go about their business with a smile to others rather than a snarl. They represent what I would call more ‘traditional’ Labour values, and the more centrist wing of Labour ideals. As an aside, it should be noted that all are ‘perpetual remainers’ who have attempted at every turn since the 2016 referendum to frustrate Brexit.

Many of them support a second referendum as part of that process to stop Brexit; I wonder if they’ll each offer their electorates a ‘second vote’ by calling by-elections? I’m guessing but I bet I know the answer: no. I don’t think they’ll be the last to abandon the leaky ship of Labour.

I’ve enjoyed a high degree of media attention over the past couple of weeks. The failure of the Seaborne contract before it had even started made Ramsgate, once more, the centre of national attention. The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon. Chris Grayling MP has received an unfair amount of criticism and I have defended him, as the withdrawal of Arklow Shipping as backers of Seaborne was a commercial decision for them alone, and nothing to do with the Department for Transport. The Secretary of State is in a position of being damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t. It is right that contingency planning for all Brexit outcomes is planned for, much as I have never believed that the important Dover to Calais pinch-point will ever be impeded. On this I believe Jean-Marc Puissesseau, Calais Port President who said “..so where is the problem?”

I also had the opportunity to raise my concerns, in an extended Adjournment debate on the floor of the House, on election law following my trial and the fitness for purpose, or otherwise, of the Electoral Commission. This received coverage across local and national broadcast media. I also had to put the leader of the Opposition right on his statement at Prime Minister’s Question time, when he quoted the cost to local Thanet taxpayers of keeping Ramsgate Port at a state of readiness for commercial shipping at £2m over a seven week period which is wrong by some multiples, and was designed to mislead for a cheap soundbite.

I’ve had some fascinating local meetings. It was good to meet the increasing number of groups under the ABC (A Better Cliftonville) umbrella at their AGM. I’ve met the Council Leader Bob Bayford for a wide-ranging discussion, obviously with Port operations taking centre ground. I had a fascinating meeting with Rethink – a national charity working with those suffering from mental illness with a focus on getting those affected into work. I had a wide-ranging discussion with one of our major local language schools to discuss Brexit and how that may affect them. I recognise the huge value coming to Thanet from this valuable sector. I was much taken with the year 6 pupils at Chilton Primary School and their project looking at ‘courage’ with a focus on Malala Yousafzai the young girl who suffered appalling injuries on her way to school in Pakistan.

This was meant to be a Parliamentary recess week, but this has been cancelled, primarily to use limited Parliamentary time effectively for Brexit related secondary legislation. Good – it’s warming up to be another lively week.

Craig calls on Prime Minister to “indemnify Thanet District Council for costs” after axing of Seaborne contract

Craig Mackinlay MP has called on the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to ensure local taxpayers in Thanet are not disadvantaged by preparations to keep Ramsgate Port open for Brexit eventualities.

The South Thanet MP made the plea days after the contingent £13.8m contract with Seaborne Freight to provide a ferry service between Ramsgate Port in Kent and Ostend in Belgium was terminated.

Craig also reminded the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, that it is he who speaks for South Thanet after the Labour Leader also chose to raise Seaborne and Ramsgate Port at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Referring to Mr Corbyn’s questioning of Mrs May earlier in the session, Craig said that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” before receiving an assurance from the Prime Minister that the Department for Transport - who are currently in discussions with Thanet Council - are “looking into” his concerns about costs.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“I’ve always considered the likelihood of delay at the Dover-Calais crossing to be remote no matter what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

CM at PMQs 13 Feb19.jpg

“Regional representatives from the Pas de Calais share my view because international law governing cross-border trade protects the crossing.

“I know the Department for Transport is already in talks with a number of companies to secure additional freight capacity and Ramsgate will remain at a state of readiness under any outcome.

“Thanet will do what’s in the national interest to assist with Brexit preparedness; we’ll be proud to do so, but it’s wrong to expect Thanet taxpayers to pay for it.

“I’ll continue to stand up for South Thanet and have pointed out forcefully to the government that local taxpayers must not be financially disadvantaged by national Brexit preparations undertaken locally.”

Craig welcomes support for vulnerable rough sleepers in Thanet

Craig Mackinlay has welcomed new investment from the Conservative Government, spearheaded by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, to help Thanet support rough sleepers into safe and stable accommodation where they can rebuild their lives.

The Isle is set to receive £213,000 to help vulnerable people get the specialist support they need to keep them off the streets for good. The money for the Rapid Rehousing Pathway will fund innovative local schemes which will help those sleeping rough off the streets for good, as well as specialist support to help them back on their feet.

As part of this, new support workers will act as a single point of contact to help people with complex needs such as substance abuse and mental health problems to get the advice and support they need to turn their lives around. Dedicated letting agents will also be funded to provide advice and housing for those sleeping on the streets.

The funding provided for councils across the UK will total more than £7.2m over the next year, and forms part of the Conservative Government’s £100 million plan to end rough sleeping by 2027. Already we are making progress with the first fall in rough sleeping since 2010, but schemes like this will help us achieve our ambition of being a country in which no-one needs to sleep on the streets.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

CM speaking re Seaborne Freight (4) 8 Jan19.jpg

“No one should ever have to face a night on the streets, and it’s great to see the Government taking steps to ensure that in Thanet people are never faced with this as their only option.

“This new support will mean vulnerable people in my constituency get the specialist support they need to get back on their feet and turn their lives around.

“We are determined to end rough sleeping for good, and this investment takes us another step further to reaching this outcome.”

Today’s announcement follows the publication of the latest annual rough sleeping statistics, which show the number of people sleeping rough across the England has fallen for the first time since 2010.

My regular update - 4 February 2019

I write this whilst on a Brexit Select Committee trip to Brussels. Of all European capitals, Brussels never ranks highly with me; unfortunate because I have always had an affection for Belgium, its architecture elsewhere is stunning and would be within easy reach of us in Thanet should a ferry service to Ostend return.

We are here to meet Martin Selmayr, Secretary General of the European Commission. Who, you might ask? He has been around the corridors of EU power since 2004 and was, before his controversial new appointment, the Head of Cabinet of the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (you might have heard of him) and we are also to see Guy Verhofstadt MEP, European Parliament Brexit Coordinator. You might have come across him as well, he usually rants on about the need for an EU Army or shouting at British delegates “You gonna pay the price”. You get the idea.

The carried vote in Parliament on the ‘Brady Amendment’ last week was significant. The EU have rightly asked - if you don’t want this (the current Withdrawal Agreement as drafted), then what do you want?  The Brady Amendment suggests that a Withdrawal Agreement without the unacceptable backstop that could see us perpetually tied to the EU, in a half-in, half-out purgatory, or abandoning Northern Ireland, breaking up the Union, could be passed. The ball is now very much in the EU’s court. 

Even I’m getting Brexit weary, so on to local issues. I finally had a long requested meeting with the CEO of East Kent Housing, to discuss what I perceive to be a lack-lustre approach taken against tenants intent on long term anti-social behaviour which makes life a misery to those who have to live close by. We agreed to work together to find a solution.

We await the outcome of Seaborne’s negotiations for ferry services from Ramsgate. I have been kept up to speed with developments across the parties involved, and so hope to be able to report more fully soon.

It is important that younger people see democracy in action; it was my pleasure to welcome Chatham and Clarendon year 13 and 14 students to Parliament. All local students are welcome and I hope to see many more of you.