Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP: At Last, Democracy Is Coming To Policing

Originally posted on ConservativeHome Today and tomorrow the House of Commons will put its finishing touches to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. It is a long title for one key reform, putting a directly elected individual “in charge” – as the Home Secretary put it on Monday – of each police force. That reform will have huge ramifications as power in policing shifts from the Chief Constable to the elected Commissioner. Unsurprisingly, the Chief Constables don’t much like that. However, unlike police authorities, which have spent public money fighting their own abolition, most Chief Constables, if not necessarily their Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), accept very professionally that it is for elected politicians to set policy under which they operate. Police authorities are generally considered to have been the weakest of the ‘tripartite’ pillars of police governance, the others being the Home Office and the Chief Constable. Our plan to deal with that, which I passed to Douglas Carswell to develop further when he replaced me at the Conservative Policy Unit in 2004, was to transfer the police authority powers to people who are elected, so as to reinforce those powers with a democratic mandate. David Cameron wrote that plan into our manifesto in 2005 and has evangelised it ever since, so much so that he appointed the hugely impressive Nick Herbert as Police Minister, having seen him make the case for democratic control of policing when leading the thknk-tank Reform. The Prime Minister then promised in July 2006 that “We will enshrine operational independence in legislation”. It is unfortunate that some concessions have since been made to ACPO, but any apparent increase in Chief Constables’ powers will surely prove illusory once they face Commissioners empowered with a democratic mandate. If this bill fails to give the elected Commissioners the power they need to deliver what the public wants, then they will come back and demand that power, and Parliament will give them the power, as we have for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. I will nonetheless make the case today and tomorrow for us to get it right first time, to give the elected commissioners the powers they need now, and to give a clear steer to the courts that, in the Home Secretary’s words, the elected commissioners must be “in charge”. Chief Constables must of course make operational decisions regarding investigations and arrests independently of politicians, but it is for the elected commissioners to determine policy and set priorities. Moreover, if panels of elected councillors are to scrutinise elected commissioners and potentially second-guess their budgets, then we shouldn’t need the Secretary of State to third-guess that process. It may make sense to give the Secretary of State a reserve power to require a referendum if a local council wants a really excessive council tax increase. For policing, that power would surely better be exercised in extremis by the Panel which will scrutinise the police budget and represent the local councils and electorate which would pay for a referendum. David Cameron, Theresa May and Nick Herbert are truly driving home the Direct Democracy agenda with the police. They deserve our support.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP Welcomes Improvement To Emotional Support Service

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the improvements to confidential emotional support for people in Medway and Kent. Medway and Kent will soon be among a handful of places in England to offer residents 24-hour confidential, emotional support, free of charge. From 1 April, support from the helpline Mental Health Matters will be available round the clock in Medway and Kent on 0800 107 0160. Previously the helpline was open in the evenings and at weekends but was closed in the daytime during the week. Speaking of the improved service, Mark Reckless said: “I hope the expansion of this service will provide residents in my constituency with the advice and support they need to cope in today’s current climate. Having spoken to many local people who have contacted me for help and assistance, I know this improved service will be of great benefit to many constituents who need a helping hand and confidential advice. This is an excellent addition to the wide range of support services offered to residents in Medway and I would like to congratulate everyone involved in making it happen.” The increase in hours is being funded by mental health commissioners in Kent and Medway (the three primary care trusts and two local authorities) and reflects the success of Mental Health Matters in helping people who are distressed. “Last year, the Mental Health Matters helpline in Kent and Medway received more than 10,000 calls,” said Lauretta Kavanagh, Director of Mental Health Commissioning for the Medway and Kent primary care trusts. “People called about relationship problems, loneliness, stress, bereavement – the whole range of emotional distress. “The team of highly trained and experienced support workers at the helpline use counselling skills to provide confidential emotional support and guidance. They also have details of local and national support services that people may find useful.” Rose Collinson, Medway Council’s Director of Children and Adults, said: “I am delighted that by working with our partners we are able to provide this improved and much needed service to people in Medway and Kent.” “Many people reach a moment in their lives when they badly need to speak about feelings they are struggling with and by making this helpline available round the clock, people will now be able to call when they need to.” People can also live chat with a counsellor by email if they prefer, at Alan Heyes, from the voluntary organisation Mental Health Matters which runs the helpline and live chat email system, said: “In these uncertain times, it is often quite natural to feel anxious, apprehensive or just down. Job insecurity, debt, relationship problems, or emotional distress can all take a toll and, when this continues, it can start to impact on your health and mental wellbeing. “Since it started in Kent and Medway more than two years ago, the helpline has provided successful interventions for people with problems such as low mood, emotional distress and stress. Clients say they feel ‘held’.”

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP: A Budget For Growth, Jobs And Families

Today Mark Reckless MP welcomed the Government’s Budget with its plan to reform the economy to support jobs and growth, and to take steps to help families with the cost of living – including an immediate cut in fuel duty.

Key measures in the Budget to boost growth include:

• Tax cuts for businesses and entrepreneurs
• Scrapping burdensome regulations
• Radical reform of the planning system
• New investment in science and innovation; and
• More support for young people with additional apprenticeships and work experience places.

To help families facing the rising cost of living, the Budget also will:

• Immediately cut fuel duty by 1 pence per litre and delay April’s inflation rise in duty to next January. This means fuel duty is 6 pence lower than it would be under Labour.
• Introduce a Fair Fuel Stabiliser to tax oil companies more to stop above inflation rises in fuel duty
• Increase the Personal Allowance from by a further £630 from April 2012. That’s another real increase of £48 extra per year, or £126 in cash terms. Together with this year’s rise, that means a total of £326 extra each year for those working hard to support their families. And it means, just ten months into office, this coalition Government has taken 1.1 million low paid people out of tax altogether.

Welcoming the Budget, Mark Reckless MP said:

“Last year the Chancellor in the Budget brought Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy and I am delighted that the Chancellor didn’t have to come back for more today.

Instead this year’s Budget sets out plans to back enterprise and get Britain making things again. By cutting fuel duty immediately and cutting income tax for millions the Chancellor has done what he can to help families now.

Constituents have written to me about 40p a mile approved mileage allowance not being sufficient to offset the cost of driving and I hope they will be pleased that the chancellor has listened and increased this to 45p per mile.

This Budget has put fuel into the tank of our economy.”

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Michael Gove Accepts Invitation To Open Strood Academy

Mark Reckless MP is delighted that, during education questions yesterday in the House of Commons, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, accepted his invitation to open Strood Academy when construction is completed in 2012.

Mark, who attended the Turning of the Sod ceremony at Strood Academy on Thursday 17th March alongside fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, asked the Education Secretary:

On Thursday, I saw the beginning of construction for Strood academy in my constituency. Does the Secretary of State appreciate the extent to which confirmation of that investment is appreciated in the local community, and would he visit my constituency to open the academy when construction is completed next year?

To which Michael Gove responded:

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I should be delighted to accept his generous invitation.

Monday, 21 March 2011

A Question To The Prime Minister

Today is the Parliamentary debate on Libya. MPs' response to Friday's statement by the Prime Minister suggests that there will be strong support for the military action. Our Armed Forces will know that they have the backing of the whole country.

It is also important that MPs exercise oversight of how our Armed Forces are kitted out. To do this we need appropriate information from the government, so we can seek to ensure that the right procurement choices are made.

On Friday I asked the Prime Minister about the decision to decommission our current aircraft carrier capability, and whether this should now be reconsidered:

Simon Hoggart wrote up the exchange as follows in his Parliamentary sketch:
Then the laudatory slathering. Labour's Mike Gapes offered congratulations. So did the Tory Richard Ottaway, "as one of the doubting Thomases", now praising a "remarkable diplomatic success".

It was left to Mark Reckless, another Tory, to point out that the Ark Royal filled with Harriers would be the perfect weapon, except that they are being decommissioned. Mr Cameron had little response to that, except to say that other countries weren't using aircraft carriers.

I was surprised to read in yesterday's Sunday Times both that:
France, which had 20 aircraft in the air last night, will send its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, into acton today.

...and that...
At RAF high command in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, senior officers concluded that the most flexible rapid response force would be aircraft stationed on a carrier off the Libyan coast. But there was no carrier nor any planes to fly off one since the Ark Royal's Harrier GR9 jump jets had been retired in December. So the planners considered another possibility.

They wondered whether they could bring some of the Harriers back into service and deploy them on a former container ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus, making vertical take off and landings.


Friday, 18 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP Supports Charter To Improve Mental Health Services For Children With Autism

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood and Hollie Ryan, a National Autistic Society (NAS) Young Campaigner from Chatham, both attended the parliamentary launch of the NAS’s You Need To Know charter, which aims to improve the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) system. Currently only a third of parents of children with autism believe CAMHS has improved the mental health of their child.

At the event, held in Parliament on 10th March, Hollie along with the rest of the Young Campaigners Group, who all have autism and have all used CAMHS services, held a special screening of their film ‘Open Your Mind’, which they created about their experiences. They also unveiled their 12 point charter to improve the system for other children with autism, that included the following:

- The environment should… not have ticking clocks – Many people with autism are extremely sensitive to sights, smells, noises or sensations. Ticking clocks, whirling fans and fluorescent light bulbs can be incredibly distracting and distressing for people with autism

- CAMHS professionals should… understand autism and that everyone is different - “You’re not ‘autistic’, you’re on the ‘autistic spectrum’ … think of it like a number line … not a hundred different numbers, like a thousand different numbers”

- CAMHS should work with education – “My secondary school at the moment is everything I might possibly need… I don’t have to leave school to go to all these appointments. I don’t have to get to know loads of difference professionals. I can just go to one place and it’s there whenever I need it.”

Mark Reckless MP says, “It was a privilege to meet these intelligent and talented teenagers from the Young Campaigners Group. They’ve worked extremely hard and overcome many difficulties to be able to produce their charter and film. Many of the points they have put forward are simple to put into practice, and some require little or no cost, and I will campaign locally to help our local CAMHS services to take these ideas on board”.

Hollie Ryan, 15, Young Campaigner, says, “Having had a bad experience with CAMHS, I felt very strongly about improving the service, as I wouldn’t want any other young people to go through what I did. For me, one of the most important things is that the CAMHS professionals should understand that everyone is different, and different things work for different people. On many occasions it has been assumed that I should act in a certain way because I have Asperger syndrome, when really I am totally different to every other young person, because I am me. A little understanding goes a very long way”.

Mark Lever, chief executive, NAS, says, “The work of the Young Campaigners Group is so vital in helping to turn things around for children and young people with autism and mental health problems. With the right support at the right time, children with autism can have good mental health just as anyone else can – and the Young Campaigners Group aim to make this a reality.”

To help the Young Campaigners with their cause, the NAS is calling on supporters to ask their local authority to pledge to use the charter to improve support from CAMHS for children with autism in their area. You can email those who are responsible for CAMHS in your local area by visiting the following page on our website

Discussing Immigration Controls For Foreign Students

Discussing the Home Affairs Select Committee report on immigration controls for foreign students on Radio 4's PM programme:


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP Backs Peter Jones’ Tenner Tycoon Campaign


Mark Reckless MP has announced his support for a scheme that sees school kids encouraged to start a business with just £10 each, in the biggest ever Tenner Tycoon challenge.

The Rochester and Strood MP is backing the landmark scheme, called Tenner Tycoon, which will see the campaigning charity Enterprise UK loan hundreds of thousands of pounds to young people across the UK to encourage them to start up their own businesses.

Participants in Tenner Tycoon will receive £10 and be challenged to make as much profit and social good as they can in a month.

Speaking of the scheme, Mark Reckless said:

"Tenner Tycoon is an innovative scheme which gives our young people in Rochester and Strood the chance to showcase their skills and ingenuity whilst gaining practical business experience. The programme’s relevance and importance has never been as great as it is this year – the year that aims to kick-start the ‘entrepreneurial decade’.

"Having visited a number of schools recently I know that there are many young people in this constituency with the potential to succeed. We need to support initiatives like Tenner Tycoon that aim to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and therefore ensure the future prosperity of Medway and the UK as a whole."

This year, the challenge is to also ‘give something back’ and participants are encouraged to donate some of their profits to charity. The scheme, supported by the Peter Jones Foundation, has been a huge success since it launched in 2007. Previous winners have made their money in diverse ways such as fashion shows, cookery books and concerts.


For more information please contact:

Jessica De Pree

0207 199 2205 or 07811 381445

Rosie Walkinton

0207 199 2206 or 07973 570967

Notes for editors:

About Tenner Tycoon

Enterprise UK’s ‘Tenner Tycoon’ campaign is the UK’s nationwide competition that generates excitement and enthusiasm about enterprise in school children.

Formerly known as ‘Make Your Mark with a Tenner’, the scheme will see Enterprise UK loan £400,000 to 40,000 young people across the UK to encourage them to start up their own businesses.

Each participant will receive £10 and is challenged to ‘make a profit, make a difference and give back’.

The campaign is generously supported by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones, Big Lottery Fund and Michael and Xochi Birch, founders of the social networking site Bebo.

For further information please visit:

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP has called for the immediate postponement of the closure of the phlebotomy clinics at the Delce Healthy Living Centre in Rochester and Keystone Centre, Strood and is urging residents to sign the independent online petition created by local campaigner Brenda Towler.

Writing to the acting Chief Executive of Medway PCT, Helen Buckingham, on 28th February, Mark expressed his concerns that the closure of the clinics in Rochester and Strood would leave many elderly and frail residents being forced to make longer and more expensive journeys to the nearest alternative proposed clinics:

Dear Ms Buckingham,

I have been contacted by a number of constituents who are concerned about the imminent closure of the phlebotomy clinic held at the Delce Healthy Living Centre with little notice and no apparent consultation. I understand this follows an email sent to doctors and staff from Mr XXXXX XXXXXXX, XXX XX XXXXXXX at NHS Medway.

I would be grateful if you could confirm that the information I have been given is correct, and also advise me of what other phlebotomy clinics, if any, the PCT are planning on closing over the coming months here in Rochester and Strood. I understand the services at Keystones Centre in Strood may also be under threat.

Based on the information I have been provided with, I am concerned that such a move will result in many of my constituents being forced to make longer and more expensive journeys to Medway Hospital for a service that, to date, has been run successfully in association with local GP surgeries. Given government plans to hand authority for local healthcare commissioning to GP Consortia, I am somewhat surprised that this action is being taken at this time.

I am also concerned at the apparent lack of consultation on the proposed changes. Can you advise me as to how and when the PCT arrived at the decision to close these clinics, and what consultation and impact studies, if any, were undertaken?

Given the anxiety this is causing to my constituents and the relatively short notice period that has been given, I ask that the closures of these surgeries are postponed to allow for a proper review of the proposals.

I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Reckless MP
Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood

In a response received today, Helen Buckingham has stated that:

Following recent discussions with local GPs in Rochester we are working with them to provide a GP led blood-testing service at Rochester Healthy Living Centre; we will be providing more information about this as soon as possible.

Despite this assurance from the acting Chief Executive of Medway PCT, Mark Reckless remains concerned that the reorganisation of phlebotomy services in Medway, particularly in Rochester and Strood, are being pushed through without full and proper consultation of current users of the service.

Medway PCT have stated that an additional £83,500 has been set aside by Medway NHS to improve the phlebotomy service in Medway which will result in additional 266 hours of availability across Medway each week.

However, based on currently published plans this does not translate into an improvement for users of the clinic at Delce Healthy Living Centre. Mark does not believe it is acceptable for residents to have to wait until June for the current plan to be reviewed whilst the plans, as they currently stand, leave a huge gap in the service here in Rochester and Strood.

Mark is urging residents to support the independent campaign set up by local campaigner Brenda Towler. Petitions are now available in many local stores and pharmacies. You can also sign the petition online by clicking here, or you can join the Facebook group here.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Hound Is Found Safe And Sound

Mark Reckless has welcomed the news that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy known as Rocco has been found safe and well and is now back with his rightful owners.

Following a huge team effort involving dog lovers from right the way across the country, Rocco was eventually found by walkers in woods near Tescos in Gillingham.

Mark, who was happy to help with the search, responded to the news by saying:

"This is great news! It was obvious how much Rocco meant to his owners so I really am pleased to hear that this story has had a happy ending.

My congratulations go out to everyone who helped in the search, particularly all the volunteers at I trust Rocco will enjoy being back with his family, and in his own bed.

Whilst I am glad the puppy is back home, I would still urge anyone with information on who may have stolen Rocco in the first place to contact Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555 111 or Kent Police on 01622 690690."


Friday, 4 March 2011

Mark Reckless: The Government’s bold Tourism Strategy will boost the economy in Rochester and Strood

The publication today of the Coalition Government’s Tourism Strategy will cut red tape, free up local businesses, and re-establish the tourism industry as a key priority for restoring the UK economy.

The bold proposals include a consultation on extending the tourist season by moving the first Bank Holiday in May to create a new St George’s Day holiday in England and St David’s Day in Wales.

The strategy will generate four million extra overseas visitors over the next four years, bringing an extra £2 billion worth of visitor spend in to the country and creating 50,000 new jobs.

Commenting on the publication of the strategy, Mark Reckless said,

"The Coalition’s Tourism Strategy will make a huge difference to the local economy here in Rochester and Strood.

"For too long, Labour ignored the vital importance of tourism whilst suffocating the industry with red-tape.

"After years in the Labour wilderness, tourism is finally being recognised as the crucial driver of our economy that it is."

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP has welcomed the announcement from Lord Hill of Oareford that the government has agreed to release funding for the feasibility phase of a new Academy to replace The Hundred of Hoo Comprehensive School.

The funding will allow the Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, which is also converting to an Academy from April, to develop plans to establish an Academy that will cater for pupils aged 11-18 which will specialise in Media and the Performing Arts.

The Academy should open in existing buildings at Hundred of Hoo in September 2011.

Commenting on the news, Mark Reckless said:

"I am absolutely delighted that a school which was in special measures as recently as April 2009 has been turned around in such a short space of time.

I would like to congratulate Dr Gary Holden (pictured) of Sir Joseph Williamson’s Maths School along with Medway Council for achieving such an outstanding turnaround.

I would also like to congratulate all of the students and parents who stuck by the school and worked really hard to make this happen.

The Hundred of Hoo school will now benefit from the increased funding, freedoms and flexibility that Academy status brings. The school will have the freedom to manage its own budget and set its own priorities away from the National Curriculum. Students will be given the best opportunity to reach high levels of personal and academic achievement.

I really am pleased for the students who currently attend the school or who are planning on attending in coming years. Thanks to local efforts and hard work, the Hoo Peninsula will now have a first rate school to be proud of and I welcome this news.

Well done to all concerned!"