Are you South Thanet’s Best Small Shop?

Craig Mackinlay MP is calling on small shopkeepers in South Thanet to enter the Best Small Shops Competition, celebrating the creativity of small shops and the central role they play in their local community.

The Best Small Shops Competition is open to any small shop operating in the UK. The competition is free to enter and all shops who enter will also be promoted to consumers through an online Indie Retail Directory.

Shopkeepers can nominate their businesses until Sunday 9 September via A shortlist of 25 of the most impressive applications will be shortlisted by a panel made up of established representatives from the independent retail industry.

The judges will be looking for evidence of a small shops’ entrepreneurial spirit, ways that they have been innovative in their business and what they have done to have a lasting positive impact on their community. 

The shortlisted small shops will be invited to a Parliamentary Reception on the 13 November 2018 to meet their Member of Parliament and find out who will be crowned the Best Small Shop for 2018.


Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“The Best Small Shops Competition is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the array of lovely small shops we have in Cliftonville, Broadstairs and St Peter’s, Ramsgate, Sandwich and the villages.

“The South Thanet constituency has a real opportunity to make the shortlist and so I call on our local small shopkeepers to enter this competition.”

Brexit, Manston, QEQM and ferries

The Parliamentary session before recess continued to throw up some interesting tidbits, not least the opportunity for me to put Olly Robbins, the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser, under the spotlight at the Exiting the EU Select Committee. Mr Robbins is a senior Civil Servant and so it would be unseemly of me to criticise here unelected officials who are unable to defend themselves; but my pointed questions, particularly on how the government ended up with the dog’s dinner of the ‘Chequers Agreement’ on exiting the EU and subsequent White Papers, were widely reported on national media. Click here to watch my questioning.

I was pleased that Thanet District Council agreed by a good margin the revised Local Plan at its special meeting at the end of last month. We now have a firm basis to present to the Inspector, and it is one which gives Manston Airport enough breathing space to allow the Development Consent Order application to weave its way through its process. Housing numbers and where they are to be allocated always causes alarm but the reality is that developers don’t simply develop on a ‘hope they will sell’ basis, they use careful analyses of demand and saleability. I have no doubt that no more than 8,000 homes will be built during the term of this Local Plan to 2031, no matter that the Plan, in accordance with the formula dictated by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, allows for over 17,000 to be given land allocation.

As the local MP it is always a pleasure to be invited to meet with local businesses and organisations. It was a pleasure to meet with the volunteers at Broadstairs Information Kiosk. There are 45 volunteers involved in keeping the information centre open throughout the summer, are the friendly face of the town and much loved by visitors and local residents alike.

We often think that we have a shortage of hi-tech industries locally. This is simply not true. I had the opportunity of an extended tour of the full operations at FujiFilm on Pysons Road, Broadstairs. Hardly a ‘hidden gem’ given the size of the factory site, which includes a substantial solar panel array, but its operations, born out of the historic Sericol business are world leading. As more and more printing methods move away from analogue (setting up a plate to reproduce lots of the same) to digital, the ability to personalise each and every print is now very much the norm. The main product – some 5,000 tons of it each year, is specialised resin based ink, which cures instantly under ultra-violet light into a hardened, durable finish meaning no volatile chemicals to evaporate. On the site is a full research facility and testing laboratory which also tests and develops new printing equipment. The products are exported to 86 countries. An amazing visit to an outstanding local employer with over 300 staff and opportunities for apprenticeships. Outstanding.

As the consultation results are now in for the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for Kent and Medway, I have received an increasing number of concerns about the proposal for stroke services to be moved to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. We have heard for years from the government that the first hour is important and of the FAST acronym for stroke recognition. The more political of the activists are claiming that I’m not fighting hard enough for our local QEQM. Not true, but it obviously makes for a good story. I have had face-to-face meetings with Thanet CCG and am receiving information from both sides. Evidence is the most important factor. Of course I want QEQM to have the best of everything, and local residents deserve nothing less. The world of medicine is changing and I do believe that the Hyper-Acute Units will bring better outcomes and recoverability to stroke sufferers – the argument now is where they should be placed. I believe that Ashford is too far away, leaving Thanet residents with some of the furthest distances to be travelled in the country. This is not good enough, and I require the NHS planners to bring better evidence to the table to support their suggestions. They should not discount the need for a fourth unit to be developed locally or to substitute one of their proposals. But, hyperbole and abuse directed against me really doesn’t help anybody’s cause.

Finally, the good weather is keeping local tills ringing, and I anticipate great news as visitor numbers are estimated at the end of the season. I had the opportunity for a few days boating to Ostend, Belgium. This route is one suggested by potential ferry operators, although they would traverse the Southern North Sea from Ramsgate somewhat quicker than I managed under sail. Ostend is a great town, with excellent rail connections to the rest of Belgium. I’ll keep you abreast of any updates I receive.

Craig Mackinlay MP warns of the dangers of cannabis legalisation following new Home Office rules on cannabis-based medicine prescriptions

Craig Mackinlay MP, the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cannabis: Harmful Effects on Developing Brains, has welcomed the new rules on cannabis-based medicine prescriptions on a case-by-case basis but has warned of the threat that blanket legalisation poses to society.

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Craig recently hosted an event in Parliament to increase awareness of the scientific evidence surrounding the cannabis debate, and highlighting the often overlooked impact it has on the human brain. Two highly-respected scientists in the field, Professor Keith Humphreys and Dr John Kelly, who have both advised the White House on drug policy in the past, attended and spoke at the event.

One of the main issues discussed involved Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element found in cannabis. Studies have shown that taking cannabis at an early age can lead to a loss of up to 8 IQ points during development, on a THC level of roughly 5%. Washington State’s cannabis, despite being legalised, now has an average THC level of 20%.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“Given the recent furore in the media about cannabis legalisation, it is important that we remain level-headed when addressing such a significant and potentially dangerous issue.

“Those who are most vocal about legalisation often overlook the scientific facts in favour of political rhetoric. Far too few people are aware that, especially in young people with developing brains, cannabis can cause devastating and permanent mental damage, including schizophrenia. Science must prevail on this issue.

“I am supportive of the Home Office's new rules for medically tested and licensed cannabis-based medicine to be prescribed on a case-by-case basis, but this should not be conflated with cannabis legalisation. But I do remain wary that we may be introducing a new range of prescribed medicines which will invariably find their way into the illicit supply chain.  I will not stand by and let future generations pay for a mistake we may make today.”

Dr John Kelly praised the event and highlighted the dangers that cannabis poses:

“The event was highly informative facilitating a productive exchange of information between community participants and policy, public health, and clinical scientists studying cannabis.

“I’d like people to know that cannabis does cause addiction and we’ve seen a doubling of the national rate of cannabis use disorder in the past 15 years in the U.S. Cannabis is also neurotoxic, particularly in the developing teenage brain. With the increase in potency of retail cannabis in U.S. states where it has been legalised for recreational use, it is currently unclear what this may do to adult brains as well.”

Professor Keith Humphreys added:

“From our own experience in the US, commercial marijuana legalisation has led prices to fall over 20% per year, making the drug much more affordable to young people. In addition, with potency and availability of marijuana having increased sharply, this has led many occasional users to become heavy, regular users, with unknown effects on their health.”

Craig is given a full tour of the FUJIFILM factory in Broadstairs

Craig Mackinlay MP has toured the FUJIFILM Speciality Ink Systems’ site in Broadstairs in his South Thanet constituency.

The MP saw how the award-winning Company, which is part of the FUJIFILM group, goes about supplying digital and analogue printing ink to the global market.

The factory in Pysons Road employs over 300 people in Thanet and supplies over 1,300 different printing ink products to 86 countries worldwide, totalling over 5,500 tonnes of advanced products distributed each year.

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Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

“FUJIFILM are a globally-renowned company and a wonderful employer to hundreds of people in Thanet.

“My full tour of the factory included a look at the research facility which ensures that the company stays at the cutting edge of new digital printing methods, using polymer technology that cures instantly using ultra-violet light, meaning no drying time and no volatile chemicals.”

“We are very lucky to host one of FUJIFILM’s sites in Thanet and I look forward to continuing to work with this excellent company in the future.”

Adam Batting, Operations Director, said:

“This was a great opportunity to show our laboratories and manufacturing facilities to our MP and demonstrate FUJIFILM’s commitment to high tech manufacturing and scientific research within the UK.

“Our Broadstairs site brings vital employment prospects to the local Thanet area. We have over 300 people employed here, of these 160 are involved with manufacturing, quality assurance, distribution, procurement and engineering, and a further 70 work in research and development - designing the next generation of digital inks which will be at the forefront of cutting edge print technology.

“The quality of our products is only surpassed by the quality of our people and we are always looking to continue our growth and develop our employees, providing a broad range of career opportunities for those looking to develop their skills in an innovative industry. Currently we are recruiting Chemists with ink jet experience.”

Customs, Trade and Brexit

I’ve been an MP for a little over three years and can honestly say that last week in Westminster was its most peculiar if not stimulating. I will try to summarise the twists and turns of a week which would put a script of “House of Cards” to shame.

There were two Bills to consider as part of the Brexit process - the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill and the Trade Bill. Both are considered essential to allow the UK post-Brexit to implement Value Added Tax and tariffs upon imports from third countries and to enable the government to negotiate new Free Trade deals with third countries with the new found freedoms of Brexit. After the Chequers agreement and Future Partnership White Paper, of which I am hugely critical, myself and others wondered whether the extents of powers available to Ministers in the Bills were too far-reaching, allowing too many executive powers to the government (commonly called Henry VIII powers) to do all manner of things, however unlikely, including re-joining the EU’s Customs Union and copying the entire EU VAT tax code.

It is our adherence to the EU’s VAT directives that has meant that we have the despised ‘Tampon Tax’ requiring VAT on sanitary products, and have to levy VAT on energy saving products. No sane, independent country would raise taxes on these and other products, but due to our EU membership, no matter what Parliament or the public thinks, the EU has dictated and we have to comply. It is wholly unlikely that the government would wish to re-join either of these EU structures given its statements, but the opportunity was there for excessive flexibility. And so, I awoke last Monday morning as a potential ‘rebel’  having advanced, with colleagues, four amendments to the Cross Border Trade Bill to take out the potential for the worst elements. Labour MPs, in the morning, would have voted with us, the government and many Conservative colleagues, upon the Party’s three line whip, would have voted against us. By lunchtime, the government had accepted our amendments, and so Labour would now be voting against us, purely out of the politics of opposition, no matter what the point at stake. Conservative colleagues, apart from the die-hard remainers would now be voting with us. The only group who remained unchanged throughout were myself and Brexit colleagues! Labour MPs would now be voting for the despised Tampon Tax despite being in stated opposition to it. You couldn’t make it up.

They say that you should not examine the manufacture of sausages or laws too closely. Last week highlighted that all too clearly, and I haven’t even explained what happened on Tuesday!

The Prime Minister has a difficult tightrope to walk on the issue of Brexit, and I truly feel for the difficulty of the position. We have the voters of the country holding a variety of views, a Cabinet, MPs, Party and Parliament similarly of differing minds; business groups with differing opinions and that is without the input of the intransigence of the EU. What a heady mix to weave together. However, there is only one group that really matters and it is the politicians who are irrelevant to the process. I have read articles stating that on Brexit the powerful will win. The powerful in this are the electorate -  the choice was presented, and an answer given. Does the Future Relationships White Paper, which seeks to continue our adherence to EU single market rules for goods – the so called “Common Rulebook”, and the “Facilitated Customs Arrangement” which seeks to introduce a new system of double tariffs and tax collection for remittance to the EU pass the ‘sniff test’ of Brexit with voters? It does not with me and I cannot support it in its current form. There are two questions that the electorate might pose – 1. Can we now do things as promised, after Brexit that we couldn’t do before?; 2. What do you mean the EU tells us we can’t do that, we thought we’d left?

I apologise for being so heavy on the machinations of Westminster in this week’s column. As we now move to summer recess, you can be sure my summer articles will concentrate solely on the issues of Thanet – perhaps agreement there will be easier to find.

Craig welcomes latest construction figures

Recent figures have revealed that the value of all work in the construction industry has increased by 7 per cent since 2016-17, meaning more higher-paying jobs, better infrastructure and a growing economy.

The value of new housing work has increased by 13 per cent, as the Government is delivering more homes for people across the country.

The figures are a welcome boost in the South East, where the value of new housing output has increased by 88.3% since 2009-2010 and the value of overall construction output has increased by 28.2%.

Craig welcomed the figures, which show that the value of construction output in the South East was over £5.55b in the first quarter of 2018.

Craig Mackinlay MP commented:

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“This is welcome news, but there’s more to do to build a stronger economy with better, higher-paying jobs. 

“That’s why, through our new Construction Sector Deal and our modern Industrial Strategy, the Conservative Government is working to recruit and train the next generation of high-skilled construction workers in my constituency. 

“The construction industry makes a vital contribution to our economy, which is why we need to ensure that we have the skills we need to deliver homes, schools and other buildings across South Thanet and build a country fit for the future.”

This follows a recent Government announcement of a new £420 million joint government-industry Construction Sector Deal to transform the industry, supported by the biggest government investment in construction for at least a decade.