Thursday, 27 January 2011

Mark Reckless Quizzes Police Minister

During last week's meeting of the Home Affairs Select Committee Mark Reckless MP took the opportunity to question the Minister for Policing and Justice, the Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP, on the role directly elected commissioners could play in making better use of taxpayers' money.

Q168 Mark Reckless: In Kent we have already identified £11.5 million of savings through collaboration with Essex, and there are one or two other examples—Herts and Beds comes to mind—where there has been good progress. But generally the savings from collaboration have been rather disappointing, and I wondered whether you thought Ministers might be able to accelerate this, or whether you would look to the directly elected police and crime commissioners to be able to drive out much more substantive savings through collaboration?

Nick Herbert: I think I agree with you that progress up until now has been too slow, but I think that is partly because there hasn’t been the kind of fiscal driver to do it. Now that police forces know that they are receiving less grant for the next four years, that is, I think, changing the incentives, both for chief constables and for police authorities. It is driving much more interest on the part of police forces in collaboration, outsourcing, better procurement, and so on. Because they all share the same desire as we do in the Government, which is to maintain the front-line policing service and the service that the public receives and find savings in other ways, in better use of taxpayers’ money.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Mark Reckless Meets Young Scientist Of The Year

Mark Reckless MP recently met up with Tom Hearing, UK Young Scientist of the Year 2010, during filming at the House of Commons for a BBC TV science show to be broadcast later in March.


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Green Light For Damhead Creek 2

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that consent has been granted for the construction of a 1000MW gas-fired power station at Damhead Creek on the Hoo Peninsula.

Speaking shortly after the announcement by the DECC, Mark Reckless said:

"There has been a growing need to improve the the South East's energy security for some time.

This new station will be one of the most efficient power plants in the world, and will produce relatively low CO2 emissions. It will also be built carbon capture ready meaning it can be retrofitted at a later stage once this experimental technology has become commercially viable.

Given the rural nature of the Hoo Peninsula, particularly the Marshes Special Protection Area, it is reassuring to hear that Natural England have confirmed that the proposed development will not adversely affect the local environment.

I especially welcome the commitment from Scottish Power to provide employment for local residents, particularly in light of the pending closure of Kingsnorth due to EU regulations.

After years of dithering under the last government, we are now taking the steps needed to secure our country's future energy supply whilst providing new jobs locally."

Monday, 24 January 2011

Mark Reckless MP 'Delighted' To Present Medal To Local Hero

Mark Reckless MP was delighted to present local hero James Hargreaves with his GSM Medal with clasp Near East after taking up his case with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Picture: Mark Reckless MP with local hero James Hargreaves. Photo courtesy of Medway Messenger.

James, of Cliffe Woods, had previously been unable to get the MoD to accept his claim for the medal following his service with the 40th Field Regiment Royal Artillery during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Mr Hargreaves sailed out from Cardiff on the US ship S.S. Kingsbury to the conflict zone with a small complement from his Regiment.

Although the ship was on the list of those eligible for the GSM with Near East clasp, the MoD had previously turned down James's request for the medal as the deployment was not shown on his service record.

In a bid to resolve the situation James turned to Mark Reckless to help break the deadlock with the MoD, and Mark was more than happy to take up the case on behalf of his constituent.

After contacting the Medal Office asking them to review Mr Hargreaves' case, the MoD wrote back to advise they would look into the matter. Shortly thereafter the MoD confirmed that, following Mark's intervention, they had agreed to issue the medal to James for his service during the Suez Crisis.

Speaking after meeting Mr Hargreaves, Mark said:

"I was absolutely delighted when I heard that the Medal Office had agreed to issue Mr Hargreaves with his GSM with clasp Near East.

Mr Hargreaves had tried for a long time to get the Ministry of Defence to review his claim for the medal, but had had no joy in doing so and subsequently asked for my assistance.

I was able to write to the MoD as Mr Hargreaves' Member of Parliament to insist they look into the case, and I am glad to report that the matter has now been resolved to my constituent's satisfaction.

Being able to help people like Mr Hargreaves was the primary reason why I entered politics. Casework is a large part of the role of being an MP, and I am honoured to be in the position to help a local hero like James gain the recognition he so richly deserves.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet James in person and thank him for his service to our country. I hope the medal will be a source of pride and pleasure for him for many years to come."

In response to the meeting, James Hargreaves said:

"I'd like to thank Mark most sincerely for his help and assistance in procuring my GSM and clasp Near East. I am sure that without Mark's help I would still be trying to obtain it.

Thank you again."


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Visiting Strood Community Project

Mark Reckless MP visited the Strood Community Project on Friday (14th January) to see for himself how the project is working to help the people of Strood and beyond.

Visiting the project’s office and shop in Strood High Street, Mark was keen to learn more about the wide range of assistance the Strood Community Project provides to local residents.

Strood Community Project was set up as an initiative of the Parishes of St Francis of Assisi and St Nicholas with St Mary, together with Strood Gospel Mission Church (Baptist affiliated). It aims to help the local community tackle fundamental issues such as education, safety, increased employment, life skills and crime.

The Project is run by a group of dedicated staff working alongside volunteers who provide advice and counselling to the public on a wide range of issues such as housing, debt, and employment.

Photo: Mark Reckless MP visits Strood Community Project. From left: Kate Broom (project manager), Paul Robinson (general manager), Mark and Paul Rai (volunteer)

During the visit Mark got the opportunity to discuss how Strood Community Project has developed since it’s establishment in 2006, and it’s plans for the future which include registering as a charitable company.

As well as offering ‘walk in’ advice to the public, Strood Community Project has developed the range of services it provides to include basic skills tuition in English and Maths, computer skills training, CV preparation and interview skills training, and bespoke projects which improve the physical environment within the local area.

Volunteer Paul Rai is calling for local residents to help as volunteers:

“I got involved with the Strood Community Project because I want to help the people in my community. The project can’t afford full-time advisors and relies on volunteers to help people who come in off the street with their problems. We make sure we listen to everyone and provide the support and guidance they need, no matter what the problem is.

Through volunteering I’ve learnt how to help people who have problems with debt or housing, and you often find that the issues people discuss with us are often caused by more serious problems that aren’t being addressed. We can help with that!

I would strongly urge anyone who cares about our community to get involved with the Strood Community Project. It brings our community together, and for some it could be a lifesaver.”

Paul Robinson, general manager, was encourage by the visit:

"It was a privilege to welcome Mark Reckless to our Advice Centre. This acknowledgement of the importance of community organisations in addressing local needs was a great encouragement and we look forward to keeping him informed with developments in our work.

Being an independent, local organisation we are able to respond to community issues as they become apparent and we see this as a vital characteristic of an organisation that intends to thrive over the coming few years."

Speaking after the visit, Mark Reckless said:

“I’m really impressed with how the Strood Community Project has progressed since I first visited when it opened. To me the SCP is a good model for how local charities and community projects can work to improve our local area by empowering residents and helping them to address their problems.

I was particularly impressed with the work they are doing with volunteers such as Paul Rai. By providing them with the skills to tackle issues such as poor social housing or debt problems, they are investing in more than just the volunteer. They are investing in our community.”

For more information on the Strood Community Project, please visit or call 01634 298747.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Campaign For Equal Tuition Fees

Local MP Mark Reckless met with student campaigner Jennifer Watts earlier this week to discuss the inequality of tuition fees between English and Scottish students.

Jennifer, a local gap year student, is starting a campaign to end this discrimination. Mark welcomed Jennifer to Westminster to discuss some questions she had, such as whether or not introducing tuition fees in Scotland would mean that the increase in fees in the rest of the UK could be less drastic.

At the core of the discussion was the fact that the English taxpayer effectively props up the Scottish Government’s devolved budget, enabling Holyrood to provide Scottish students with free education, whereas English students have to carry debts of tens of thousands of pounds into their working life. Fair?

Speaking on the issue, Mark Reckless said:

“I agree with the issues Jennifer has raised. I support the campaign she has started to address the imbalance and to raise people’s awareness in an effort to make the system fairer.”

For more information on this issue, Jennifer has created a website:

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Local Residents Work 22 Days Just To Pay Labour's Debt Interest

New research has shown that someone on average earnings in Rochester and Strood will spend 22 days just paying the interest on Labour’s debts.

Labour left the country with an annual overspend of £156 billion, greater than at any point in our peacetime history. Money spent just paying the interest on their £790 billion debt bill is money that could otherwise be spent on front line services.

Commenting, Mark Reckless said:

“Labour’s addiction to debt means each and every taxpayer now has to spend weeks of the year working just to pay the interest bill.

“If we listened to Labour the debt would be £100 billion higher. They must never be put in charge of our public finances again.”


New research has shown that someone on average earnings in Rochester and Strood will spend 22 days just paying for Labour’s debt interest bill. Labour left office with the country owing £790 billion, more than at any time in our peacetime history (HM Treasury, Public Finances Databank, Table Key M, link).

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts debt interest spending of £42.7 billion in 2010-11 (OBR, Economic and Fiscal Outlook, Table 4.14, link). There are 30.5 million taxpayers, so on average each taxpayer will pay £1,400 in debt interest (HMRC, Number of individual income taxpayers, link).

Figures from the ONS show median earnings in Rochester and Strood are £22,959 (ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Table 10.7a, 8 December 2010, link).

This means that 6.1 per cent of an average person’s income goes on debt interest.

This works out at 22 days spent just paying for debt interest.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Local MP Welcomes MidKent College Students To Westminster

Local MP Mark Reckless met with students from Mid Kent College today at Parliament and answered their questions on topical issues such as student fees and the forthcoming referendum on a possible change to the Westminster electoral system.

Arriving back in Westminster following recess and before many other MPs, Mark was happy to welcome the students to the House of Commons and respond directly to their questions.

Mark said:

“It was a pleasure to meet such mature and interested young adults, who will be part of the future of our country. It’s really positive that young people are showing an interest in the political system and the issues that affect us all. I particularly welcomed the opportunity to listen to the concerns of young people studying in my constituency.

I am always happy to welcome students and members of the public from my constituency to Westminster in small or large groups. Anyone wishing to visit should call my Westminster office on 020 7219 7135 and we will do our best to accommodate any requests.”

Friday, 7 January 2011

Welcoming Regina Suleymanova

Mark would like to welcome Regina Suleymanova who will be working as an intern in both the Westminster and constituency offices for the next couple of weeks.

Regina, a constituent of Mark's, graduated from Hull University last summer with a degree in psychology and previously attended Rochester Independent College and Chatham Grammar School for Boys (Mixed Sixth Form). A member of the British Psychological Society, Regina enjoys playing the classical piano and is a green belt in karate!

Mark is always very happy to consider requests for internships from young people in his constituency who may be considering a career in politics, or are looking for more general work experience. If you would like to register your interest, please email

Mark hopes that Regina enjoys her time working as an intern, and the experience proves to be of value as she begins her working career. Welcome!

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year With A Potential President

I am delighted that my first engagement of the New Year was to meet a potential Party Flag Bearer of Sierra Leone.

Dr Alpha Wurie is competing in a primary to be the candidate for President of the centre-right Sierra Leone People's Party which was founded in 1951 and led Sierra Leone to independence on 27th April 1961.

I was told on New Year's Eve that Dr Wurie was spending New Year with family on St Mary's Island in my constituency and I was honoured to be invited round the next day to meet him, family members and supporters.

Dr Wurie's sister has worked at Medway hospital and he himself has connections in the UK, having graduated from Brunel University and been a visiting fellow at the School of Science, Greenwich University with its campus in Medway.

After the short New Year break Dr Wurie is heading back to Sierra Leone next week to campaign through to a vote of around 700 delegates of his party, who will choose their candidate for President on 5th March. The general election will then take place in 2012.

Britain has of course been closely and positively involved in Sierra Leone in recent years and we all wish Sierra Leone well for free and fair elections. Mr Wurie is campaigning for "Opportunity for Life" and is building on his decade-long record as Minister for Education under President Kabbah. I was fascinated to hear how he intended to extend some of the Health, Education and Infrastructural facilities available in towns into the rural areas of Sierra Leone and instil a stronger culture of respect.

My local Conservative Association has been delighted to welcome so many Africans who have recently moved into the Rochester and Strood area. It is also a real benefit for me as the MP to make links with leading politicians in other countries and hear about their campaigning. I certainly hope to stay in touch with Alpha Wurie and will be following his campaign with great interest.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Southeastern ‘Not Fit For Purpose’

Mark Reckless MP calls for 'not fit for purpose' Southeastern Trains to be stripped of its franchise 'as soon as possible’.

Following Southeastern's Nightmare before Christmas where the managing director of the rail firm, Charles Horton, was hauled into Westminster to explain to Kent MPs the company's abysmal failure to cope with the snow at the start of December, Mark has slammed Southeastern's decision to increase season ticket prices by 9% or £276 for hard-pressed commuters in Rochester and Strood.

Speaking on the subject, Mark said:

"I have become increasingly frustrated with Southeastern Trains. I have tried very hard to work with Southeastern to help it deal with the concerns of rail users in the Rochester and Strood area, but I have now come to the conclusion that the company is not fit for purpose.

Southeastern's attitude to its customers is, in my opinion, nothing short of disgraceful. I have received numerous complaints from constituents regarding the level of service, or lack thereof, provided by Southeastern. As a regular commuter myself, I sympathise very strongly with hard-working taxpayers who are basically being held to ransom by a company which appears to have little interest in delivering a decent service to commuters, let alone one that provides value for money.

As a former City economist, I simply cannot make sense of Southeastern's justification for the distribution of the latest fare increases.

The average income in Medway is less than many other areas of Kent, e.g. Maidstone and Faversham (which enjoy comparable fares), and there is very strong competition from local commuter coach companies. One would have thought therefore that Southeastern might use the flexibility it now has to hold fare increases in Medway below the average, yet they are imposing a 9% increase in fares, higher than the 7.8% average they are allowed. Southeastern's actions are looking increasingly commercially self-defeating.

This is not the action of a sensible competitor and is simply unjustifiable. Why should commuters to London from Strood and Rochester pay the same as those from Rainham and nearly as much as those who commute twice the distance from elsewhere in Kent?

Having worked closely with Chris Irvine’s Medway Fares Fair campaign (pictured right), I have long considered, but not previously accepted, their argument that Southeastern should be stripped of its franchise.

However, the distribution of these latest fare increases, combined with the news that Southeastern commuters will not enjoy an automatic season ticket discount despite the pitiful performance in December, suggests that Southeastern Trains is beyond redemption.

The company is simply treating the Kent franchise as a cash cow and does not even appear to be making decisions which are commercially sensible. Southeastern should be stripped of the franchise as soon as possible."