Tag Archives: blog

BLOG: Asbestos Stops Play

V__E69CThe Dean of Rochester Cathedral, The Very Revd Dr Mark Beach, has asked me to write a blog after I was shown round the multi-million improvement works being undertaken at the cathedral.

I am used to waiting in the cathedral crypt on Remembrance Sundays before we lay wreaths at Rochester War Memorial. I have never before explored them to the extent I did yesterday and, while the crypt works are the single largest part of the current cathedral building project, there are many other aspects to the work.

Having recently spent time in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, I am delighted that we will, thanks to this investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund and others, now be making much better use of our crypt. Education activities will benefit both locals and tourists, whilst I know anyone who takes their children to Sunday School at the cathedral will appreciate having just the one set of stairs to negotiate, and with a lift option.

V__B30CI was disappointed on my arrival at the cathedral yesterday to learn that the discovery of unexpected asbestos has led to key works being delayed for four weeks. Apparently it was the most dangerous blue type of asbestos that was discovered in the ducting for electrics installed forty to fifty years ago. But what is four weeks in the scheme of a cathedral that in its current incarnation is now not too far from a millennium old?

Other finds in the works have included a contractor’s note from 1975 and two newspapers dated a few days either side of the outbreak of World War One. Amazingly these were found in a space no-one previously knew existed, behind panelling which concealed a bricked up staircase. The two photos respectively show the stairs and the entrance to them ,where Head Contractor, Dave, points to where he supervised the removal of panelling.

I can’t wait to discover what will be found as several inches, if not feet, of early concrete and other added cathedral flooring is removed to reveal the more original crypt base underneath, and support more appropriate stone.

Perhaps most exciting of all for visitors, will be the refurbishment of the library “extension” (acutally fourteenth century) to allow the proper display of our Textus Roffensis from c.1123 which includes the oldest surviving English law code.

I will be back, and would encourage others to come to Rochester to see what is being unearthed within and beneath our cathedral.


BLOG: Our Front Line in Calais


V__D3E4I am grateful to BBC Radio Kent for taking me to Calais to see at first hand the struggle to secure our border.

I was taken to meet some of the immigrants, mainly it seems from Africa, who are camped out in their thousands around Calais, in extremely basic conditions, trying to make their way to the UK.

Many different factors push or pull illegal immigrants to attempt to cross from Calais to the UK, including for some the respective benefit regimes. However, the number one factor struck me as being the English language. Many of the migrants to one degree or another speak English, while few speak French, and without French they do not believe they will be able to get a job, or perhaps even basic benefits, in France.

V__EB6FPeter from Ethiopia told me about his passage through Sudan and Libya before a perilous crossing by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa. From there the Italian authorities took him to the city of Bologna and left him near the railway station, where he got a train to Paris and then Calais.

Rather than just focus their ire on the UK because immigrants want to come here, the French should put real pressure on the Italians, since it is the Italians with whom they have chosen to share a common border area within Schengen. How can that be sustainable if the Italians just wave migrants through?

Click here here for latest that ministers are doing

BLOG: Nick Clegg in Paternity Battle

nick_cleggIt will be enormously welcome if George Osborne ends overseas residents’ exemption from capital gains tax in the Autumn Statement. It is, however, preposterous to describe this as “Mr Clegg’s plan” as the Daily Telegraph does on its front page today.

I first publicly pressed the issue of this disgraceful tax loophole left by Labourtwo years ago, and had the Today programme pick it up and interview me on it. This interview was heard by the Prime Minister, who later that morning highlighted the case I had made at a meeting of the Conservative Parliamentary party.

I followed up again at PMQs last month and I know that in the intervening period Treasury officials have been working to iron out some of the technical difficulties involved in applying capital gains tax to non-residents.

Success has many parents, and of course Nick Clegg claims to have sown his oats widely, but his paternity claim here is simply false. Indeed, one reason I have continued to campaign on this issue is that I thought I might be pushing on an open door, because it is something I have discussed with George Osborne long before the last election and formation of the Coalition.

Clegg claiming credit for others’ work to close tax loopholes now rather reminds me of his performance this time last year on the EU Budget.

While I was garnering support from enough MPs to vote a motion through Parliament to cut the EU Budget, Nick Clegg opined that there was “absolutely no prospect” of a cut in the EU Budget. When the Prime Minister successfully followed through and cut the EU Budget Nick Clegg then claimed this reflected his personal diplomacy and EU network.

Can we believe anything this man says?