MP Craig Mackinlay: Red diesel anger, town vandals and Ramsgate Week

Ramsgate Week Photo Brian Whitehead

Great British variable weather is not disappointing us. As soon as schools and colleges broke up for the summer holiday, a more southerly setting jet stream has caused us to be buffeted by Atlantic lows. Quite a contrast to last year.

One group who benefited from the breezy, unsettled weather were the sailors taking part in Ramsgate Week. As ever, my commitments in the constituency kept me from taking part, but it was my pleasure, as ever, to be able to present prizes to the winning crews.

A chance discussion with the vice-commodore of the Royal Temple Yacht Club about the problems experienced by pleasure boaters visiting Belgium this year has led to my involvement in trying to solve a significant irritation. There is substantial bi-lateral North Sea traffic of visitors from Belgium, and Brits enjoying the many pleasant marinas of the Belgian coast.

For the first time in some years, Belgian authorities had taken to fining British boats up to 750 Euros for having ‘red diesel’ in their tanks. Despite the diesel being fully taxed and legal in the UK, indeed it is the only fuel commonly available, a long running argument has been in place about the UK continuing to use colour marked fuel.

The Netherlands, France and Southern Ireland have been sensibly relaxed about the issue, but Belgium have not. Indeed there is an international agreement ‘The Istanbul convention’ that allows for a disregard of fuel within boat tanks. This is in place for good reason, so that visiting ships (and pleasure boats) do not face the stupidity of accounting for taxation differences whilst passaging between countries.

I wrote to the Belgian Ambassador to the UK in strong terms to note my disapproval. Indeed the Royal Yachting Association had advised pleasure boaters to boycott Belgium this year. This must be having a significant effect on Belgium marinas and their local economies. Good sense has prevailed, with the Belgian authorities now stopping all fines until a meeting of EU finance ministers on September 18th. The letter I received has been passed on to all East and South coast marinas and clubs so that members can take a copy with them whilst visiting Belgium in August.

I have been alerted to significant anti-social behaviour in our towns. The beautiful period shelters in Ramsgate have been wantonly vandalised once more. I will be asking the police to do more but this will never get to the root of the problem –  why do people think it fun to destroy, damage, deface and litter?

We are enjoying a regeneration led renaissance of our East Kent towns; inward investment will only continue if people think it worthwhile. My work in fighting on your behalf across housing, benefits and education issues (these typically represent 90% of my mail bag) continues throughout the summer recess. Have a great time.