A literally warm welcome to 2022 as we experience unseasonably temperate conditions, but with it a good amount of rain. The extended holiday period and our increasingly sensible move not to impose the most extreme restrictive measures has proved itself with our coastal towns benefitting from fairly good trading with a large number of visitors coming to Thanet.
The limited measures introduced under Plan ‘B’ may not on paper have amounted to much but the fear of Covid unsettled most everybody, keeping people away from hospitality over the essential Christmas and New Year period. A new ‘Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant’ amounting to £1Bn was launched on 21st December to try to soften the effects. Across the country this amounts to a limited amount of money per qualifying business but welcome none the less.
The more draconian measures introduced by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are looking increasingly daft as the high number of Omicron infections are simply not translating into extreme pressure for the NHS.
My father, aged 87 has unfortunately caught Covid, having avoided it across the previous waves. He is, fortunately, triple vaccinated and is making good progress at home. Where and how is something of a mystery but given reports that a Belgian scientific research station in Antarctica has been hit by it, despite all being triple jabbed, double tested and in isolation before taking up their posts, one wonders realistically what can be done to slow the spread.
In other countries, despite extensive vaccine passports, curfews and lockdowns, infection rates are no different to England and in many instances worse. My view is that we simply have to ride through this, hope that infection continues not to translate into serious illness and perhaps look back that infection with Omicron amounts for many to a fourth natural ‘jab’ giving even better levels of protection into the future.
It will be refreshing to be able to talk about something else again in 2022. For me that will be energy policy. I have led a campaign over this week for VAT and the green levies, amounting to 25% of electricity bills, to be at least suspended until a more normal price returns to the wholesale energy markets. We cannot be buffeted by international price volatility in this way; we need a new energy policy that accelerates new nuclear and allows for the supply of domestic gas, of which we have decades of potential reserves, away from a reliance on foreign suppliers. Paying Putin’s Russia billions of £s and euros to enable him to re-arm and threaten Europe’s external borders and mass well-armed troops on the Ukraine border seems to me geopolitical madness.
A further hope is that we will stop the people trafficking via cross-channel dinghies once the new Borders & Immigration Bill becomes law. One can’t help but think that French Presidential elections have a similarly powerful role to play in stopping this foul trade as a significant amount of ‘playing to the gallery’ goes on in what looks to be a hotly contested election.
My plans for the Constituency in 2022 are for us to see tangible benefits from the Levelling Up fund grant that we’ve received. There was a further £75m national allocation just last week for the ‘UK Seafood Fund’ to modernise the UK fishing industry. I’ll be looking at this very closely with a view to making an application for our Ramsgate fleet, already part of the Levelling Up allocation. I want to see Ramsgate having a thriving fishing fleet, a wholesale and public fish market which will further expand our visitor appeal and bring new spending to Thanet.
Parliament reassembles this week for what will be, I’m sure, a lively session until Easter.
Happy New Year.