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.