18 MAY 2017

A20 victory is great news

This week, works are finally starting on the A20. At long last the hated 40mph speed limit is officially going. This is another important piece of progress for our area. Indeed, all over Dover and Deal cranes tower in the skyline and diggers roll by as workmen are busy getting things built.

Since 2010, we've come a long way together. We've built a new state-of-the-art hospital, fixed our rail line in record time – and soon new shops and restaurants will spring up at the St James site. Sorting out the A20 speed limit is another step forward. It was only ever meant to apply when there were problems with traffic. It was not meant to be on all the time. Finally getting highways chiefs to deliver what they were meant to do in the first place is positive for our community.

Thousands of new homes have been built across the constituency. Yet still, young people are finding it too hard to get on the housing ladder.

It shouldn't just be an aspiration, it should be the norm. Homes are somewhere to settle in the community and raise a family. Yet for too long people haven't had the supply to meet demand. That's why I'm backing projects like the Connaught Barracks development and the Aylesham Garden Village. Many of these homes will be starter homes for first-time buyers.

We've made a good start on getting new homes built. The number of new builds started in Dover and Deal in 2015 was 394, almost double the UK average of 222. Another 167 new builds were started in the first two quarters of 2016.

We've also had a jobs revolution in Dover and Deal since 2010. Unemployment is down 46 per cent, while youth unemployment has fallen 60 per cent. These new workers need good homes to live in and decent places to shop.

We've come a long way together. We've had hundreds of millions of pounds invested in our area. Yet for me this this is just the start. Delivering even more investment in Dover and Deal we can have a renaissance of our corner of Kent. We can make Dover & Deal a jewel in the crown of the nation once again. What a few short years ago seemed so far away is now increasingly within our grasp. That's why I am working hard to see through the exciting plans for our community - and why I am doing all I can to make sure we don't risk losing everything we've worked so hard for.

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12 MAY 2017

Border treaty benefits France as much as Britain

France has a new president. And I believe there is good reason for optimism in Dover and Deal about the new French leader.

Because Emmanuelle Macron may be a more positive force for Britain than people expect. With him there is the potential to forge a deeper relationship with France and reach an accommodation with Europe that will benefit both us and the EU. To strike a New Entente Cordiale – a stronger deal between Dover and Calais.

Five years ago I sat opposite Emmanuelle Macron, the then economics adviser to President Hollande of France. I was leading a cross-party Parliamentary delegation to discuss the EU and what kind of settlement Britain might negotiate.

We all thought he was incredibly young to be doing this critical job. Which is what they said when he later created his own party and ran for the presidency. Just as in his campaign, Emmanuelle Macron impressed us all from the start. He clearly wanted to see France pass the structural reforms that we battled so hard for in the 1980s and now take for granted. He was pro-European, yet struck us as incredibly pragmatic as well. He was also a hard-headed negotiator from his days as a deal-maker in the City of London. If anyone can turn France around, he can. He may well to see it is pragmatically in France's interest for our two nations to enjoy closer ties as we leave the EU.

Yet we need to plan now to make sure trade continues to flow freely – whether there is a deal or no deal with the EU. Dover is the gateway and the guardian of the nation. The port handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year. More than 10,000 freight vehicles pass through the docks each day.

Gridlock at Dover and Deal will gridlock the UK economy too. We've seen in recent years how finely balanced the infrastructure is and how problems can swiftly spiral. Tailbacks in 2015 caused by Calais strikes were estimated to cost Britain's economy £1 billion. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks on the roads to the port.

That's why I've worked with the ports, shipping and haulage industries to develop a detailed plan to ensure order at our border and that we are ready on day one when we leave. I've been working closely with the French too – and the plan is also backed by Xavier Betrand, president of the Calais and Dunkirk region.

In less than two years we will be leaving the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. The truth is we can make a massive success of Brexit. By taking action now with a queue-busting plan we can ensure that we are ready.

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04 MAY 2017

Together we can keep building a better future for Dover & Deal

It's been an incredible two years. So much has happened. Not least getting more investment here in Dover & Deal. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested. It's also great news that unemployment has halved and wages have gone up 15% in the last two years.

After a fierce battle, we succeeded in tearing down Burlington House. Steelwork is now rising at the £50 million St James development. A cinema complex and a new shopping centre are taking shape in the heart of Dover – boosting the town rather than taking shoppers away.

Meanwhile Deal goes from strength to strength. The fast train we fought for and delivered now sweeps into Deal all day, every day. It's changed the town.  So much so that the Times newspaper now ranks Deal as number one in their list of the 20 best seaside towns in Britain. Yet I think we can do even better. That's why I want to see a new dual carriageway spur into Deal from the A256. It would transform the town even more – and save more lives being lost on the dangerous death-trap A258.

£50m was invested in our railways when the sea wall was repaired. Many feared they'd abandon the railway altogether yet we made sure it was repaired – way ahead of schedule. We stopped the port being sold off to the French or whoever and now it's getting the investment it needs. £120 million is being invested in the Western Docks Revival.

We've also had to fight to keep our borders secure. The Calais Jungle was dismantled last year after our hard-fought campaign. We  worked closely with French officials to make sure the Calais camp went for good. By the time the battle was won last autumn, nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in squalor. People traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants and attacking tourists and truckers nearly every night.

Here at the Dover and Deal frontline, we know we cannot risk a return of the Calais Jungle. That's why we're keeping up the pressure on the French to take action – before the first tent is pitched. With the French raising concerns about the border treaty, it's vital we have strong leadership to keep our borders secure.

Looking forward, we're leaving the EU. I'm working hard to make sure we are Ready on Day One on Brexit. We have less than two years to be ready. The most important preparations of all will be here at the Dover and Deal frontline.  So I've presented a detailed plan to the Government – to ensure the Channel Ports avoid gridlock and meet the Brexit borders challenge. Many hope for failure – but I'm determined to work hard to make a success of Brexit. To build a new Britain that is a great trading nation. It's what people voted for in the referendum and what I am committed to doing my best to deliver.

Dover and Deal have taken a giant leap forward. Yet there is still more to do. Together we can continue to build a better future for our area.

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28 APR 2017

Telling the Transport Secretary A20 40mph limit must go

I met with the Transport Secretary this week – and set out why the A20 40mph limit must be axed as soon as possible.

I have been keeping up the pressure on Highways England after they caved into my campaign last autumn and agreed to make the speed limit variable.

Yet local drivers feel Highways England is taking far too long to get the work done. I raised his concerns over the delays with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

I completely share local drivers' frustration with Highways England's failure to get on with the job.

First of all they said they would have this absurd speed limit gone by March. Then they said it won't be gone until June.

Yet again they show they are not fit for purpose and have failed to get on with the job. It's wrong they continue to subject local people to yet more delays.

I passed on our concerns to the Transport Secretary – and called for swift action to be taken.

In recent crunch talks, Highways England told me everything was in place to begin construction work in May and finish by the end of July.

A Notice of Determination, a statement that the new A20 scheme will not have a significant impact on the environment, has been published in the London Gazette.

If it goes unchallenged, highways bosses say a six-week programme to install new digital signs will begin immediately.

Details about road closures are expected to be published towards the end of the Notice of Determination process.

I also spoke to Chris Grayling about the need for the A2 to be upgraded and dualled all the way to the Dover and the planned M20 Lorry Park to be delivered on time.

2 comments

Thank you for all your efforts in this matter. It has had such an adverse effect on so many lives, whilst foreign vehicles wiz past. Let us hope that the changes will be in plea e sooner rather than later.
- Sheilah Ramsey

I had the 'red mist' descend on me this morning over this absurdity. Having exited the A20 and descended into Dover down the B2011 I suddenly realised that, in common with all the other traffic, we had increased our speed to the point where the whole chain of traffic was hurtling down the hill into Dover. As someone who deals in human behaviour for a living it showed me that no one is immune to the consequential influences that the enforced behaviour on the A20 is having on the surrounding roads. There is an assumption that all drivers are idiots. We are not. We drive sensibly and usually to the safe speed for the road. Study after study has shown this. By enforcing a crass system the bureaucrats have inadvertently made speeders of many more of us. An assessment such as this would have gathered all the data necessary in one year. The complete annual traffic flow is then known. The probabilities can all be assessed from that data set. They are learning nothing more about traffic behaviour by extending the study: they just get more numbers to crunch. They are, however, spending public money and they continue to inconvenience the locals from the safe distance of their ivory tower. Thank you Charlie, for campaigning on this issue so hard. I hope that as well as hearing your case, Mr Grayling was actually listening.
- Mark Ridley

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27 APR 2017

My five-point plan for Brexit will ensure order at our border

In less than two years we will be leaving the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline.

People opposed to Brexit talk up fears of chaos when we leave the EU. They speak of disaster at the border with queues of lorries all the way back to Essex. Let's prove the Remoaners wrong by being ready on day one to make a real success of Brexit. By taking action now to invest in upgrading the border and the roads to the Dover and Deal frontline we can be ready.

Dover is the gateway and the guardian of the nation. The port handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year. More than 10,000 freight vehicles pass through the docks each day.

Disruption at Dover is felt right across the country. Gridlock at Dover will gridlock the UK economy too. We've seen in recent years how finely balanced the infrastructure is and how problems can swiftly spiral. Tailbacks in 2015 caused by Calais strikes were estimated to cost Britain's economy £1 billion. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks on the roads to the port.

That's why I've worked with the ports, shipping and haulage industries to develop a detailed five-point plan to ensure order at our border.

Resilient roads to Dover and Deal. The dualling of the A2 all the way to Dover, recklessly axed by the last Labour government, must now be carried out. The planned M20 lorry park must be delivered on time.Britain open for business with systems ready on day one to ensure that customs controls are handled seamlessly and long queues avoided.A New Entente Cordiale to extend the Le Touquet Treaty to cover customs co-operation and ensure we work closer than ever with France.A Brexit Infrastructure Bill. It takes years to build the simplest road. Yet we have less than two years to get ready. A powerful new law to speed through administrative processes would enable vital projects to be delivered on time.One Government at the border to ensure order. There is a mind boggling array of ministries, quangos and agencies with border responsibilities. There should be a single ministry where the buck stops – not a pea soup of bureaucracy.

I'm incredibly grateful to the businesses and industry leaders who joined me to develop this detailed plan for meeting the Brexit borders challenge. By taking action now we can make a real success of Brexit for Britain.

Let's move forward and get on with this vital work now. So we won't just be ready on day one – Dover and Deal will be more successful and stronger than ever before.

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22 APR 2017

Launching my election campaign in Dover & Deal

I launched my election campaign on Saturday.

I held street stalls and heard about the local issues which matter most to residents.

We also chatted about my plan for stronger borders, more investment and better healthcare in Dover and Deal.

It was great to meet people. A lot of them told me what a great job they think Theresa May is doing – and that she is the strong leader we need to make a success of Brexit.

I was really pleased to hear people support my plan for stronger borders, more investment and better healthcare in Dover and Deal.

This is one of the most important elections in modern times. Be in no doubt – every single vote counts.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's coalition of chaos would crash our economy. We cannot risk losing everything we've worked so hard for.

If you are interested in getting involved in the election email charlie@elphicke.com or call 01304 379669.

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20 APR 2017

Why strong borders matter

The Dunkirk migrant camp was destroyed in a fire last week. The flames tore through the closely-packed huts, burning them to the ground as hundreds of vulnerable people fled for their lives. The devastation brought back memories of the huge fires we saw at the Jungle camp in Calais. And it reminded us all of why we fought so hard to get the Jungle dismantled last year.

Because the Dunkirk fire yet again showed just how dangerous these camps are – for the people who live there and for tourists and truckers who travel through the area. We at the Dover and Deal frontline can all vividly remember what it was like in Calais. By last autumn nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in conditions of appalling squalor – rickety shacks and tents. There was no running water and little sanitation. Just 22 miles across our English Channel, people traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants – adults and children alike.

Dismantling the Jungle and moving the people there into safe reception centres far from Calais was a major step forward in weakening the pull factor people traffickers rely on. In putting an end to the Calais migrant magnet.

With the Jungle gone, the focus turned to the Grande-Synthe camp, near the port of Dunkirk. Yet the numbers there were only 1,500 – far fewer than at Calais.

The French rightly had a plan in place to dismantle the Dunkirk camp later this year. But last week's fire means hundreds of migrants are suddenly left looking for somewhere to stay.

Yet setting up a new camp would be completely the wrong thing to do. It would only make matters worse. French officials say the Dunkirk fire was started during a fight between Afghan and Kurdish people traffickers. It just goes to show that migrant camps are a magnet for these ruthless criminal gangs – a place for them to search out victims to lure into their evil trade of modern slavery.

That's why the French must be on high alert to stop any migrants from trying to set up new camps in Calais or Dunkirk – before the first tent is pitched. These vulnerable people should be helped to reception centres far from Calais – safe places with proper sanitation – and then helped back to their home nations. It's time to put an end to these squalid camps and the people traffickers who roam free within them.

And it's time we had the investment we need at the Dover and Deal frontline. The stronger our border security – the weaker the pull for migrants to make their way to Northern France.

We must continue to work closely with the French. To keep tourists and truckers safe from harm. And to wage war on the people traffickers – and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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11 APR 2017

Hearing how Dover firms will cope post-Brexit

I heard how one of Dover's biggest employers plans to make a success of trading post-Brexit.

The Megger Group manufactures test equipment for electrical power applications, employing around 240 people from its base in Archcliffe Road.

I was shown around the plant after a meeting with managing director Graham Heritage. He told me the firm is already having to look to Europe and beyond as they are struggling to recruit enough skilled workers from the UK.

Megger is a massively valued local employer. Their skilled jobs make towns like Dover tick. The firm continues to compete brilliantly. But they need to recruit highly-skilled workers to keep up.

Dover's new homes and shops should help pull in some of those people, but we have to do more to train our own. Local people must get opportunities if we are going to build a better future for our area.

Mr Heritage says Megger positions itself above the low cost market, developing "products for specific markets to a high standard but retain value for money. The firm's worldwide distribution network means revenue continues to grow year on year. Megger is already showing what we can achieve by looking beyond Europe.

There are choppy waters ahead, but we have the enthusiasm and expertise in Britain to navigate them. I will keep pushing Government for a quick trade agreement, reciprocal standards, a fairer tax system, and much more investment in training.

I have been so impressed by how British businesses have accepted the challenge. They are determined to make Brexit work, and crucial to it happening.

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06 APR 2017

We must be ready on Day One at the Dover & Deal frontline

Article 50 has been triggered and we're off. In two years we will leave the European Union. And on Day One of Brexit the sun shone brightly on our White Cliffs – a sign of brighter days ahead.

The White Cliffs are a symbol of freedom across the world – of our island's resilience and independence. For centuries, Dover has been the gateway and guardian of the kingdom. The front line that repelled Julius Caesar and saw off Napoleon. The skies in which the Battle of Britain was fought. Dover has always stood firm.

Once again Dover and Deal are at the frontline. A great proportion of Britain's trade with Europe comes through the port. Dover handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year as well as huge numbers of people. Deal or no deal, we need to be ready on day one.

Europe is only part of the problem. In many ways our greatest problems are those we create for ourselves. It takes years to build even the simplest road. Because there are always so many vested interests seeking to stop any work being done. Ask any driver and they'll tell you our roads are simply not up to the job.

It's little surprise that Michel Barnier, Europe's chief Brexit negotiator, claims there will be queues on the roads to Dover and Deal if there is 'no deal'. The entire system is so finely balanced there are already tailbacks every summer. Port chief Tim Waggott has also warned of repeats if we are not prepared at the Dover and Deal frontline. This simple truth is that gridlock at Dover means gridlock for the UK economy too

Over the past few months I've been working with the port as well as business and industry experts on both sides of the Channel. We've been looking at how to keep trade moving through Dover and Calais.

Key roads need to be upgraded right now. The M20 lorry park which we need to prevent the entire road system breaking down in the event of port problems is under threat. Vested interests – greenies and grumblers who don't care what's best for Dover and Deal – are seeking to stop it. Meanwhile the essential Lower Thames Crossing linking Kent and Essex is entering its third decade of planning. And the dualling of the A2 – axed by the last Labour government – must be back on the table.

We are going through a major change – one which will be written about in the history books. Yet the next two years can't just be about Brussels. Vital work needs doing here too.

So we won't just be ready on day one – Dover and Deal will be more successful and stronger than ever before.

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30 MAR 2017

Backing calls for Trump to help Kelly Turner

I have called on US President Donald Trump to donate to the Kelly Turner fund.

Kelly, aged 16 and from Dover, was diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT) in October 2015 and given two years to live.

After the NHS refused to carry out surgery, the St Edmund's pupil's family found a willing facility in New York – but at a cost of more than £1 million.

Fundraising efforts have since raised enough for Kelly to have surgery after her GCSE exams in July. But $700,000 for vital treatment after remains outstanding.

After a request from Kelly's dad Martin, I wrote to President Trump asking for support.

It might be a longshot – but I will do everything I can to help Kelly and her family. She is an incredible person and her parents Martin and Linda have fought so hard for her.

Our community has come together in an amazing way to raise the money, but the situation is still desperate and there will be considerable costs after surgery.

Please everyone, for the sake of this wonderful girl and her family, keep going with your efforts.

Martin Turner, Kelly's dad, said: "Working night shifts in Dover Docks, brainstorming with my colleagues, we came up with this fairly mad idea.

"I don't think I'm being unkind to say that President Trump doesn't have particularly good press in the UK.

"And he is New Yorker who grew up only a few miles from where Kelly is having surgery. He is also wealthy with considerable influence.

"Even if it doesn't work, I want to thank everyone in the community who has helped so far.

"The response has been incredible, but we still need your support. In fact, we need it more than ever."

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Charlie Elphicke

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