My regular update - 22 July 2019

As I write this at the start of the week, few things are certain. One thing that is certain is that we will have a new Prime Minister before the end of the week, beyond that I will not guess. A change of Prime Minister is significant, as so much of the policy direction, Ministerial and other appointments in and around government are at the behest and direction of No 10. The gravity of this change of administration is not quite as dramatic as a general election but hugely significant none the less. As I wrote in my last article, despite an inordinate amount of hours being spent in and around the Westminster estate, very little of any great note is currently happening in Parliament; time I’d rather be spending in the Constituency. Those opposed to Brexit continue to do their best to attach baubles to the Christmas tree of any legislation that comes along. The Labour Party has come out clearly as a party of ‘Remain’. The usually innocuous, but now annual Northern Ireland Bill, needed to maintain the normal functioning of government in Ulster whilst the arguing factions find it impossible to re-assemble the devolved assembly at Stormont, has been hijacked as a vehicle to try to derail Brexit. Additionally, with no debate, other clauses added to the Bill were abortion on demand (with seemingly no upper time limit), same sex marriage for Ulster, and the potential for pension payouts for terrorists. The proceedings were too odd for words and I did not support these amendments as they were bizarrely grouped together as one vote. Not because I don’t agree with the sentiments, it is obviously ridiculous that choice and equality is not the same throughout the UK, but adding these matters of conscience, without debate, and with no consultation of the Ulster electorate who should be at the heart of this, when these are clearly devolved matters, was just wrong.

Health matters have occupied me greatly over the past weeks. I was pleased to contribute to the Thanet Mental Health forum, held in Ramsgate last Friday. We have a growing demand for mental health support across East Kent. Difficult to summarise easily what is wrong with the system, but clearly communication within the various NHS bodies responsible is a major issue as patients move from one service to another. Local staff shortages through recruitment problems, not money, another issue. The individual harrowing stories of personal experiences, family suicides and of the system simply failing were poignant and saddening. We need to help those with problems today, but what we need to do longer term is get underneath the societal issues that are driving many into mental health difficulties. I would advance social media as a negative influence on the young with bullying and isolation at its core. I continue my fight against the normalisation of cannabis: legalisation by the back-door. The permanent psychotic effects of skunk use across all ages but particularly on developing brains is now clearly made through scientific research. Have we created a world of bureaucracy that gets people down, whether it is the struggle to access the benefits that we are entitled to, or dealing with government agencies and local authorities that are remote and unresponsive?

Lots there to think about, and I haven’t even started on my campaign to see the BCG – TB vaccination rolled out universally once more, or of the various sites across the area that I’ve visited that need business plans and vision to get them back into community use. Lots to do over the recess period so looking forward to a chat and a cool drink with many of you over the rest of the summer.

Sir Roger Manwood School’s Combined Cadet Force Inspection and Rebadging Ceremony

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Craig Mackinlay MP has attended Sir Roger Manwood School for the inspection of their Combined Cadet Force by the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, which is the School’s new Army link regiment.

The inspection consisted of a drill parade, incorporating a presentation of Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment berets to the Cadets, officers and instructors, and a presentation of Awards and Promotions to the Cadets.

After the proceedings, the South Thanet MP met and talked with the cadets and staff.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“It was a fantastic afternoon at Sir Roger Manwood School in Sandwich’s Combined Cadet Force’s parade and biennial inspection. I was greatly impressed by the pride, teamwork and discipline all the cadets displayed.

“My thanks goes to the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment for their tremendous support for the cadets, and many congratulations to Headteacher, Lee Hunter, Contingent Commander, Lieutenant Stuart Stokes, and all the cadets, officers and instructors on a magnificent day.”

Craig welcomes additional mental health support for pupils in Thanet

Craig Mackinlay MP has welcomed news that children and young people in Thanet are to benefit from additional mental health support. 

It has been announced that Thanet will be among the second wave of trailblazer areas to benefit from Mental Health support teams. These will work with schools and colleges to provide a link with young people’s mental health services, ensuring more pupils people get the help and support they need, when they need it. Local schools and colleges will also get priority access next year to mental health training.

The mental health training announced last Friday is backed by £9.3 million and will be provided through workshops which bring together school and college staff and NHS professionals. It will raise awareness of mental health concerns and improve referrals to specialist help when needed. All schools will have access to training over the next four years.

The announcement is part of the Government’s wider programme to support young people’s mental health, which includes an additional £1.4 billion investment and the introduction of compulsory health education lessons from 2020.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“Bringing school and college staff into the same room as NHS professionals, and encouraging them to work together, will ensure more pupils get the right support at the right time.

“With half of all lifetime cases of mental health disorders beginning by the age of 14, bridging the gap between education and NHS services is vital if we are to ensure all children get the best possible start in life.”

Later this week, Craig will be joining local NHS trusts and elected councillors at a public meeting, organised by Cllr Karen Constantine, on improving mental health in Thanet.

My regular update - 8 July 2019

Westminster remains in semi-stasis; not uncommon in the final weeks before the summer recess, but more so this year because of the imminent change of Prime Minister. Queensberry rules generally apply in these circumstances such that the old administration does not commit the new to massive constitutional or fiscal measures. It was odd, therefore, that on Monday 24th June, the government put forward a Statutory Instrument (this is lower order, usually brief amending legislation allowed for in a primary Act) to increase the percentage of required reduction of CO2 output by 2050 from the 1990 reference point from 80% to 100%. This is the foundation of the published headline “Zero Carbon by 2050”. This was achieved by an eight-line amendment to the Climate Change Act 2008 that was merely nodded through with little debate and no division.

All very well, all good news, climate action and all that you might say, but I have serious concerns about committing the country, via government spending (taxpayers’ money) and additional private business investment required, and additional costs to consumers, possibly amounting to hundreds of billions of pounds to chase a target that it would seem the rest of the world is merely paying lip service to. For instance, China has committed to building additional coal powered power stations (above what it already has) in excess of the entire output of USA coal produced energy over the next ten years. Germany, following its de-nuclearisation programme, is building new coal stations, and one can only guess at the increased fossil-fuel energy demands of India and Indonesia and others as, quite understandably, its populations want mobility, gadgets and air conditioning as they grow wealthier. We pat ourselves on the back at news that we have sustained many days without coal power in the UK. Really? How does the electricity coming through cross-channel interconnectors get produced? What powers the machines that produce the imported goods from China that we might once have made ourselves? I think you get the answer – more than likely to be coal and fossil fuel generated power.  Let’s have a grown-up debate please.

What followed on Tuesday 25th became simply mad. The UK lost a Court of Justice of the EU case regarding our decision to apply the lowest possible VAT rate of 5% to small domestic energy saving solar and wind installations. We were forced to raise the VAT rate to the usual 20% or face infraction proceedings and national fines. Let me summarise: on Monday we commit the country to zero carbon, and on Tuesday we make it more difficult to do what’s right in achieving the target by increasing the VAT on installations that would help achieve the target. Explain that to me please as I couldn’t begin to explain it to myself.

It was great to attend both the Armed Forces Day and new Mayor making in Ramsgate; great civic events. I held a full public meeting in Sandwich – “Brexit where are we now?” Am looking to roll out similar in other parts of the constituency.

It was a privilege to be part of the naming ceremony of the new 58,000 tonne SAGA ship “Spirit of Discovery” at Dover Port. The ship was christened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and will be primarily based at the refurbished cruise terminal at the Western Docks. Great news for East Kent and the UK maritime industry – and a very special day to have been part of.