As we enter summer recess from Parliament and school holidays we would have hoped for long days of great weather. Not to be it would seem as the Jetstream sets below our shores meaning a constant buffeting of unsettled weather. It was a shame that the fantastic Ramsgate Carnival did not escape given the huge amount of work that goes into it across the community.
On the last full day in Parliament, as part of my long-standing membership of European Scrutiny Committee (ESCOM), we held an evidence session with the Chief Executives of Dover Port and EuroTunnel together with an official from Eurostar whose ‘border’ is at St Pancras. The topic was how these major points of entry and exit to the UK will cope with the EU’s Entry and Exit requirements and also the EU’s new ETIAS system, akin to the USA ESTA. These systems are common around the world and indeed the UK will be implementing its own in time. These operate as a pre-screening system to allow for Visa-free travel. The date of implementation keeps getting put back, but the limitations of space at both Dover and Eurotunnel are causing some head-scratching. My interest on all Kent residents’ behalf is how this might impact on our local traffic flows. Pleasingly, despite the need for all UK passports to now be examined and physically stamped, flows through the channel crossings have been quite smooth across the summer getaway.
Since my last piece, we’ve had three by-elections across the country. We performed badly in two but Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, on paper the narrowest majority of the three, confounded many with a narrow Conservative win. The new ULEZ charges at £12.50 per day, due to be implemented by Mayor Sadiq Khan at the end of August, which the Conservatives opposed, was clearly the reason for our narrow victory. Much has happened on the Net Zero front since the 2019 election. This was the first time that the true costs of many of these policies had been put to the electorate: they were rejected. There is a lesson here.
Despite outer London Councils losing their court action to stop ULEZ there is opportunity for Home County Authorities to launch their own action. Kent County Council are considering options as this charge will apply to Kent residents who enter this very wide zone. This includes many residents from South Thanet. Putting the arguments about air quality aside for a moment, flawed as they are, for those who would like a newer car and are saving for one, hitting people with a £12.50 per day charge will hardly help their savings plan. Of course, these charges are little to do with laudable goals and are seen by many as a blatant tax charge.
I’m now leading a campaign to suspend the 2030 new diesel and petrol car and van ban until at least 2035. This would lead us into concurrency with what our competitors in the US and EU are doing and would bring certainty. Under any measure we have insufficient electricity generation or charging points for a 2030 ban to be realistic in just 7 years’ time.
New North Sea gas and oil licences announced is great news for energy security and lower energy costs. New activity in the North Sea, which merely replicates what Norway has been doing for years means new jobs, investment, tax revenues and a helping hand to the UK’s perpetual balance of payments problem. We purchased £40Bn of Norwegian gas last year, and tens of £Billions of other LNG shipped gas from countries as far-flung as Australia. On the CO2 ledger this similarly makes little sense. I hope to have done my bit to restore common sense into our national energy policy.