Craig visits Ramsgate Jobcentre to learn more about the support available to people in South Thanet

South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, has met with Department for Work and Pensions’ Service Leader in Kent, Sarah Kennett OBE, and her colleagues at Ramsgate Jobcentre to be briefed on the progress of the roll out of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit - which was introduced in Thanet in July and September 2017 - is a major reform that is transforming the welfare state.

At the heart of the policy is a belief that work should always pay.

Under the new system, benefit is gradually tapered as claimants start work or increase their earnings, meaning their total income always goes up and a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than previously under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Official figures indicate that people claiming Universal Credit are 13 per cent more likely to be in work than people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance, earning more money and more willing to take a job. 
 
Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

CM Ramsgate Harbour background 8 Feb18.jpg

“I am very grateful to our DWP Kent Service Leader,Sarah Kennett OBE, and her colleagues at Ramsgate Jobcentre for agreeing to host my visit and for taking the time to brief me on the range of support on offer to my South Thanet constituents.

“Sarah and her colleagues do fantastic work in Thanet helping those who can work into sustainable jobs, while ensuring that those who cannot work remain fully supported as we make the full transition to Universal Credit.

“Latest figures show that there are now a record number of people in work, with over 3 million more people in jobs than in 2010. Over three quarters of the rise in employment have been full-time jobs.

“There still remains much work to be done, but the dramatic falls in unemployment nationally since 2010 shows that the current approach is working.”

DWP Kent Service Leader, Sarah Kennett OBE, said:

“I would like to thank Craig Mackinlay MP for taking the opportunity of visiting Ramsgate Jobcentre.

“I am pleased that he has taken a keen interest in the work we are doing day in day out, to support the vulnerable within our community and to provide help to those seeking to secure and retain employment in the labour market.”

Listed properties, Gibraltar and Galileo

With the high number of listed properties in the South Thanet constituency, not only in the ‘Thanet’ part of Ramsgate, Cliftonville and Broadstairs but in Sandwich and the villages as well, it has been a natural step to set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Listed Properties. This complements my role as Chairman of the APPG for Civic Societies, which brings together the wealth of such voluntary organisations across the country, the Ramsgate Society being just one. I held a couple of meetings in Parliament over the last couple of weeks to bring to the fore the problems faced by owners of such historic dwellings – notably delays in obtaining listed building consent nationally and the huge variations in advice and costs for the same project across local authorities. It is wrongly assumed that listed properties are generally grand and expensive – not true; 96% of them are privately owned and are more likely to be modest terraced properties and others in commercial use. Repairs and renovations are always costly. We also examined the role and difficulties faced in Conservation areas, and how new planning consents fit in with these areas that demand and deserve special protection.

I am presenting a Ten Minute Rule Bill this week to argue for a Westminster MP for Gibraltar. There are lots of reasons why there should be representation in Parliament for Gibraltarian interests. Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, and because of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 has to be either British or Spanish. Other overseas territories could, if they so wished and however unlikely that may be, break away from the UK to full independence; Gibraltar cannot. The people of Gibraltar have confirmed repeatedly their desire to stay under the British Crown, most recently in a referendum in 2002 when shared sovereignty with Spain was overwhelmingly rejected. Gibraltar already has an electoral link with the UK via shared MEPs. It is linked for representation in the European Parliament to the South West region which is broadly Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire. When we leave the EU next year, so does Gibraltar, hence an established linkage for electoral purposes will be lost. I am arguing that a new electoral link via Westminster should be made which will also signal the perpetuity of the bond. Gibraltar is also in the Sterling zone, which adds a further reason as to why it should have representation in the UK Parliament. Its importance in providing a Royal Navy base in a strategically vital location is a further factor.

There is much being written about the EU’s Galileo satellite based navigation system, as yet not working, which is attempting to copy the capability of the long-established GPS system of the United States. Russia has its own GLONASS system, and the Chinese have their own, called BeiDou. We all use the downgraded free versions in our telephones, cars and boats, accurate to a few yards. All sounds like an expensive toy that the big boys and girls want and I can see that replication and non-reliance on somebody else’s system sounds like a good idea, especially when the higher grade military version is required. Despite the UK providing a good proportion of the funding and an overwhelming amount of the technological knowhow, the EU, despite being in discussion with Norway and the US about future access to the military grade signal, mainly for NATO purposes, is threatening the UK with not having this access. Another round of arguments led by a bully, and discussions as to whether we’d be better served by simply building our own independent GPS system. The old adage comes to mind – “…..with friends like these…”. Time we woke up, no deal sounds more appealing by the week.

Craig demands right for Gibraltar to elect an MP to Westminster

Craig Mackinlay MP has called on the UK Government to give Gibraltar’s 23,000 voters the opportunity to elect their own representative to the House of Commons in Westminster and give them a say at the heart of Britain’s seat of democracy.

The call follows the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union. Gibraltar, as it similarly leaves the EU will lose its current entitlement of being represented as part of the South West region in the European Parliament; the argument was valid then that Gibraltar should have elected representation linked with the UK: post Brexit it becomes even more necessary.

Mr Mackinlay argues that the British Overseas Territory now sits in a unique constitutional position as it is a member of the single market but not a member of its Customs Union nor Schengen, despite having a land border with the EU. He proposes that the residents of Gibraltar should decide whether they would like to elect an MP to Westminster and has assured Gibraltarians that the UK has no wish to impose representation in the UK Parliament on them.

Nor would it change the devo-max settlement of the Rock’s 2006 constitution. Rather, the South Thanet MP claims, electing a Gibraltar MP to Westminster “would signal a perpetual and lasting bond of shared interests.”

Craig+Parliament+portrait+2.jpg

Craig Mackinlay MP, commented:

“For over 300 years Gibraltar and its people have played their part in support of Britain’s history as a global leader in commerce and as a political power of influence. Gibraltar has - and continues to be - an unwavering supporter of the UK and a loyal member of the British family.

“Few were surprised that Gibraltar voted remain at the 23rd June 2016 EU referendum, reflecting its residents’ concerns that the EU had played, at times, a role in balancing the often fractious demands of its giant neighbour. But now that the UK is set to leave the EU and Gibraltar will be losing their representation in the European Parliament, I believe it is right that voters in the British Territory are given the power to elect their own representative to the House of Commons.

“The mechanics of how this might work would need to be discussed with Gibraltar’s leaders. It would be for the people of Gibraltar to decide if they wish to have such representation, but as we leave the EU and forge a new Global Britain, and given the Rock’s unique constitutional position with its membership of the Sterling zone and its rich historical links to Britain, there has never been a more appropriate time to cement our relationship with a parliamentary bond.

“I very much hope that, with this Bill, we may be able to reward the Gibraltarian people for their steadfast and loyal support to Britain.”

Mr Mackinlay, a longstanding Brexiteer, will formally present his Representation of the People (Gibraltar) Bill in a ten minute speech to MPs on Tuesday 15 May.

The Financial Guidance & Claims Bill, Ramsgate regeneration, bus services and the Commonwealth

As I write my regular piece at the start of this week, the details of changes to the Cabinet are emerging, with Sajid Javid taking over as Home Secretary and James Brokenshire replacing him at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I consider both to be well versed and to be friends of South Thanet constituency, so I look forward to building on those relationships, particularly as we progress the Local Plan.

CM at Financial Guidance and Claims Bill 22 Jan18.jpg

In Parliament I took part in the final stages of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, having been involved at all stages of its passage through the House of Commons, through Second Reading and its Committee stages. Despite its somewhat dry title, the Bill will ensure that people considering their pensions options are fully advised and less likely to fall for scams, allows for greater regulation of claims management companies – i.e. the PPI/no win no fee accident claim type firms, allows for debt respite and free advice for those facing financial difficulties and gives the Secretary of State powers to prevent cold-calling and unsolicited marketing. I think we will all feel the benefit of the new legislation.

Locally, I held a further Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance meeting and was pleased to welcome Cllr Bob Bayford, the Council Leader and Cllr Rosanna Taylor-Smith, Cabinet Member for Operational Services, to the meeting. It was really pleasing to hear of a new focus on littering, cleaner streets, beaches and public toilets. I’ve always said that public loos are often the first thing visitors see and the last thing they remember. Great to have a positive dialogue with decision makers at Thanet District Council once more.

I had a tour of the public amenities run by Your Leisure on an outsourced basis for TDC. I requested a meeting following complaints that the cost of the annual swim pass at Ramsgate for the retired had been increased substantially. There has been significant investment in the facilities they run, and I was hugely impressed with the breadth of choice now on offer, but as we all know, what should be a flagship regional venue in the Margate Winter Gardens needs an ambitious plan to enhance its future.

I pay a tribute to Cllr Jenny Matterface of Beacon Ward for organising, at short notice, a public meeting to discuss Stagecoach bus services in Broadstairs and the environs, particularly a consultation that will open in May regarding Kent County Council’s ongoing subsidy for the popular no 56 bus route. The meeting attracted close to 300 local residents. There is nothing to be alarmed at, but the successful continuation of this service means that as many residents as possible need to take part in the consultation, details of which will be released shortly. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak to the meeting with my thoughts as to how to ensure the consultation’s conclusions return with the answer of ‘no change here’.

Finally – whilst there was limited and insufficient coverage of the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, I felt enormously proud that we play a key role in this unique international club covering a third of the world’s population, with shared values of democracy, systems of law, and the English language as the lingua franca of choice. Surely a unique association that can be of mutual benefit post-Brexit?

My thoughts on military action in Syria and events locally

The dominant national news, and for the right reasons, is the involvement of UK forces with its allies in the targeted strike on Syrian installations responsible for the manufacture and stock-piling of chemical weapons. The debate will continue as to who has or who should have the final say on sanctioning the mobilisation of British forces – the Prime Minister and the Cabinet through the long-established principle of the use of the Royal Prerogative, or Parliament?

The issue was always constitutionally clear and settled in the past – it was the decision of the Government with Parliament’s responsibility to hold the executive to account after the event. This was the basis upon which, for instance, the UK’s response to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands was initiated. The concept has been blurred over the last 15 years, across successive governments, with Parliament having an increasingly primary role. This all sounds very noble and democratic, but realistically when I look back at the debate in December 2015 in advance of a decision to bomb ISIS targets in Syria, beyond grandstanding speeches, some of which were good in themselves, no back-bencher would have been armed with the full strategic or intelligence picture, nor would we have expected to have been so. Decisions have to be taken, and in the case of action over the weekend, very quickly and it is right that the executive makes those decisions, and for Parliament, after the event, to debate, ask questions and to monitor the situation. For some to say now that such action should only be undertaken after agreement of the United Nations ignores the fact that Russia has a veto as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council: a recipe for perpetual inaction when the civilised world clearly needed to come together to avert further humanitarian outrages and to re-establish international rules.

The Easter break gave me an opportunity to be in the constituency rather than the usual weekly necessity of being mainly in London. It was a pleasure to present a cheque for £1,010 following fundraising to Oasis Domestic Abuse Service at their Northdown Road shop. By the way the shop is always looking for additional volunteers. I had the opportunity of another walkabout with Trevor Shonk, the Mayor of Ramsgate, largely around East Cliff and the town centre, which was, as ever, hugely worthwhile. I had a meeting with bosses at NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group with wide-ranging discussions about GP ‘super-centres’ and potential changes to stroke services. I came away satisfied that the direction of travel is being well considered and is sensible for the future health needs of East Kent residents.

It has been truly refreshing to finally have a more positive dialogue with the leadership at Thanet District Council. The same political colour obviously helps, but that should never have been the pre-requisite for positive working, it is Thanet that matters. Leader, Cllr Bob Bayford represents safe hands with vision for Thanet and I wish him and his team well across many local issues that are important to us all.