We've come a long way together since 2010. Much has been achieved – yet there is much more to do. As we leave the EU, we need to think about the kind of Britain we want to build.
Here in Dover and Deal much has been delivered. Over £500 million of investment in our area. 7,700 more people in work than back in 2010.
We have a strong economy and wages are rising. We've delivered a new Dover hospital and safeguarded the future of Deal's Hospital. Meanwhile education standards are also up with 27 local schools improving their Ofsted ratings. School budgets are on the increase too, while early years providers and primary schools are in the UK top 10.
Yet that is not all. The town of Deal is on the rise, with the fast train having made an incredible difference. While in Dover, Burlington House no longer scars the skyline – in its place is the bustling St James development. The Port of Dover is now Forever England and seeing investment with the £250m Western Docks Revival.
So far so good. Yet what about the future? Brexit is a great opportunity to reshape our country. We can build a Britain that delivers a better deal for working people. One that will lower taxes, starting with the lowest paid. Big business needs to pay a fairer share of taxes – and without having complex EU laws it will be easier to force them to do so. We also need a better deal for consumers with big energy suppliers, big banks and the like broken up to promote competition.
It's important to build a Britain everyone can be part of. A Britain that doesn't just work for the big cities – but for all parts of the country. That's why we need a renaissance of the regions, which would see more investment in the roads we need, skills, investment zones, free ports and economy boosting measures that will boost every corner of our land.
We also need a Britain that works for our community. More homes are needed in Dover and Deal to help for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. The A2 needs to be dualled and everyone knows there needs to be better access to Deal. Greater access to health care is needed locally to save people long journeys. Making Dover a free port would power investment forward there too.
And more investment is needed in further education colleges to give our young people the best possible start in life. With the rise in county lines drugs gangs, it's clearly time for more police investment too. Yet we can only deliver all of this with a strong economy.
This is an exciting time for our country. The next few weeks may not be easy – yet I believe that if we hold our nerve, we can move forward to leave the EU and focus on the things that matter to us all.
Attempts to break into Britain are becoming ever more brazen. We must remain vigilant here at the Dover frontline – because these dangerous incidents will only stop when traffickers know they will not succeed.
Just the other week, hundreds of migrants stormed a ferry docked at the Port of Calais. Dozens clambered aboard and a small group scaled the funnel. Others hid inside the ship. It must have been a terrifying experience for the crew. The French authorities need to explain how on earth such a shocking security lapse took place.
They also need to get a grip of their militant unions. Last week a strike in France caused chaos at the border. French officers decided to needlessly enforce regulations in pedantic detail. This was about pay and conditions and nothing to do with Brexit. It is surely time they found a less disruptive way of conducting workplace negotiations – one which doesn't undermine our border security. Lorries were left queuing 15 miles back as far as Dunkirk, as groups of migrants gathered nearby waiting to sneak aboard.
These incidents risk making Calais a migrant magnet once again. We will never forget the horrors of the Jungle – a desolate place where vulnerable people lived in squalor. For the truckers it was like running a gauntlet, with burning branches thrown across the highway and traffickers revving chainsaws by the side of the road.
That's why I fought so hard to get rid of it once and for all. The French authorities finally caved in and by the end of 2016 the camp was dismantled. We must never allow it to return. Not just for our security – but to protect people from the traffickers seeking to exploit them for the evil trade.
Because as we have seen with the recent spike in crossings in small boats, the traffickers don't care a jot for people's safety. Women and children – even toddlers – have been crammed into unseaworthy vessels, then kicked into the Channel in the most appalling weather conditions.
Our campaign to put a stop to it has been vital. Home Secretary Sajid Javid accepted my invitation to visit Dover, where he was able to see first-hand how our heroic lifeboat crews, Border Force and emergency services work tirelessly along the coast. He soon agreed to have Border Force cutters returned from the Mediterranean, re-assigning other patrol boats in the meantime. He then met his French counterpart and struck a joint agreement, which included sending unsuccessful asylum seekers back to France.
Yet there is much more to do. I want to see the English Channel made a joint UK/France security zone with round the clock aerial surveillance, so migrants can be picked up in French waters and returned safely to France. Because unless we send a powerful message that you cannot break into Britain, traffickers are encouraged and the migrant crisis will escalate. As will the risk of a tragedy in the Channel.
We must do more. Investing in our border security should be a national priority.
The sister of a murdered 14-year-old boy has been sent vile messages on social media by someone claiming to be her brother's killer. Chloe Bednar, 17, was targeted in January this year on Snapchat.
Her brother Breck was killed in 2014 after being groomed through online gaming by Lewis Daynes – who was jailed for life after pleading guilty to murder. The sickening messages sent to Chloe recount her brother's murder in graphic detail.
Chloe's mum Lorin LaFave contacted me to ask for his help in ensuring the police can identify the culprit behind the messages and bring him to justice. Ms LaFave and Breck's father Barry, who lives in Surrey, met with me in Westminster last month.
I have since teamed up with Barry's MP, Chris Philp, to help the family. We have raised our serious concerns about the case with Kent Police's Chief Constable Alan Pughsley and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott. We urged them to contact Snapchat in order to obtain information about the device, account and user identity from which the messages were sent. We are also calling on Snapchat to immediately release the information to the police.
The content of these messages is vile and deeply distressing for Breck's family. Chloe is just 17 years old and still grieving her brother's death. Social media giants like Snapchat must do more to help the police bring the culprits to justice. Otherwise sick trolls will continue to pour out this poison without fear of punishment. The social media companies provide the platform for these twisted individuals to spew their hatred. It's time they took responsibility – and put a stop to it now.
A ceremony was held in Dover to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster.
The families and friends of those who lost their lives and many Dovorians were in attendance at the remembrance service at St Mary's Church.
I was among those paying their respects.
A roll-call was read out of the names of the 193 people who lost their lives when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge on March 6th 1987.
The people of Dover will never forget this terrible tragedy. Yet again large numbers turned out for this deeply moving service – as they rightly do every year.
We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on.
We've long been fighting for more funding locally to boost Brexit preparations at the Dover frontline. Ever since the referendum we've worked hard to get the Government to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.
Not only is it a sensible precaution, it's the best way of securing a good deal for our country. European leaders need to know we mean business and are prepared to walk away.
It's also important for our area. Nowhere will preparations be more needed than at Dover and the Tunnel. They account for around a third of the UK's entire trade in goods. It's in everyone's interests that traffic continues to flow.
That's why back in 2016 I got together with industry experts and worked up a blueprint. It set out how we could be prepared for every eventuality – by investing to create a modern, world-leading border.
As a result, the Chancellor set aside £3 billion for no-deal preparations. We worked with Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner to secure £850,000 for Kent Police. Most recently I held talks with Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, demanding more cash for the Channel Ports. Last week he announced nearly £300,000 for Dover District Council.
The Dover Brexit Taskforce met again this week to review preparations. Much has been done. Yet there was one key area of concern – using Manston Airport as a lorry park. The idea that lorries will leave the M20, cross Detling Hill and go to Manston makes little sense. An even greater concern is that lorries would then be expected to travel down the often single track A256 and then enter the port by the A2's single track section. I fear this will not work and leave Dover and Deal cut off.
Moreover, the priority must be to stop port traffic causing gridlock in Dover town. A ticket system or number plate technology need to be considered. That way any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.
I've spent a lot of time making our case. I brought fellow Kent MPs to the Port of Dover at the end of last year, so they could see first-hand just how vital it is that we keep trucks moving. I've met numerous ministers there too. We had MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council around the table for a 'no deal' summit at the Department for Transport with the Roads Minister.
Because it's vital we get this right. I am determined to keep up the pressure so we can be prepared for every eventuality.
Brexit is an opportunity to be grasped – not a problem to be managed. That's why we must make the most of it, while being fully prepared.
Much has been done. Now we just need to have a sensible plan to enable us to be as prepared as we can be, deal or no deal.
The Port of Dover hosted Brexit-backing Conservative MPs to discuss their plans to keep freight traffic moving smoothly after the UK leaves the European Union. The visit last Friday (March 1st) was organised by myself.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson MP and Marcus Fysh MP joined me for talks with port chiefs at Harbour House. We then visited traffic control in the Eastern Docks – to see first-hand how the port keeps lorries, cars and coaches moving freely.
It was the second time in the space of two weeks that Mr Paterson and Mr Fysh had visited Dover. They also met with local customs agents in February – who insist they can be ready for Brexit, deal or no deal. We are urging the Government to engage more with the East Kent customs experts.
It's been great to welcome Owen and Marcus to Dover – so they can see first-hand how we can make Brexit work here at the Channel Ports. The Port of Dover has a clear plan to keep lorries moving through the docks. This is vital as we must ensure traffic is kept out of Dover town.
I have urged Ministers to engage more with the custom agents we have here in our historic corner of Kent. People seem to have forgotten that these guys made things work before we joined the EU's Single Market – and they have the expertise to make it work again!
We've been working tirelessly to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent.
Back in 2010, things looked bleak. Unemployment locally had rocketed 50% in the Great Recession. More investment was badly needed in Dover and Deal.
Over the past decade we have come a long way. There are now 7,700 more people in work in Dover and Deal than in 2010. Meanwhile, more than £500 million has been invested in our area.
Nearly a year ago the new £50 million St James development opened. Where once Burlington House scarred the skyline there now stands a brand new multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants. It's a symbol of how much has changed.
Meanwhile, the £250 million Western Docks Revival is well underway, with the new seafront pier set to open by this summer. Half of this project's huge workforce are from East Kent. And by sourcing material and workers from our area, the port says there has already been a £157 million boost to the local economy. From the new marina curve, people will be able to relax while watching ferries sailing in and out of the port.
In Deal, the town's pier has already been transformed through £500,000 of investment – with £600,000 more to follow. The new Deal Pier Kitchen now draws hundreds of visitors who can at last truly enjoy this iconic landmark.
Big companies have set up shop in our district too. Multipanel UK relocated its manufacturing operation from China to Eythorne in 2014. I recently visited to see first-hand their 24/7 operation, producing more than 500,000 square metres of aluminium composite panels a month. Bosses told me they have been so successful that they hope to open new production lines – and hire up to 100 more staff.
We've been able to deliver more jobs and money by getting the nation's finances back in order and strengthening our economy. As a result, unemployment is now at a record high, rising 3.55 million since 2010. We've also helped the least well off by taking more than five million people out of paying income tax altogether. And over the past year wages have increased by 3.4% too.
We need to keep building on this important work. This time next month – on March 29th – I will be holding my seventh annual jobs fair. Every year we welcome hundreds of people to Dover Town Hall to meet with firms such as P&O Ferries and Megger, as well as local colleges and councils. I'm really looking forward to welcoming more people this year and helping them find the right job for them.
So much has changed in Dover and Deal in recent years. Yet we all know there is more to do. I will do everything I can to keep bringing more investment, jobs and money to our corner of Kent.
Major refurbishment works have been agreed at Deal and Dover Priory train stations.
At Deal, damp and mould on the walls will be addressed with canopy drainage in the next three weeks, according to Southeastern. This will be followed by replacing signage with vinyl and painting the footbridge, which will get a new deck and steps as part of a complete refurbishment between 2022 and 2023.
At Dover Priory, Network Rail says it has included major improvements to the footbridge in its next control period. It has also commissioned a report on works to the canopy on platform 2.
To address reported antisocial behaviour including "train surfing", a senior officer from British Transport Police has been allocated specifically to the Deal area.
The improvements follow a campaign led by myself and local resident Helen Charlton's volunteer groups Deal Station Gardeners and the Clean-up Crew.
I'm delighted rail bosses have stepped up to get our train stations back on track. Residents should be able to enjoy using these areas – without fear of being subjected to antisocial behaviour. We fought hard to get the High Speed service sweeping into the towns all day, every day, but investment in the stations was long overdue.
With increased police presence promised as well, the stations in Dover and Deal will hopefully be much nicer places for years to come.
Helen Charlton said: "I would like to express gratitude for the continuing efforts that are being made to the improve Deal Station.
"The very welcome news that Network Rail are finally set to improve some of the structures, and the Transport Police are to increase their staffing is indeed excellent, not only for the station and its staff but for the residents of Deal and its ever increasing number of visitors and commuters.
"We are delighted that our efforts and successful communication with our MP are paying dividends, and appreciate him taking up our concerns and pushing for action. We very much look forward to continuing our voluntary work with added enthusiasm."
Anyone interested in helping Helen and the Clean-up Crew should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I will hold my seventh annual Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair on "Brexit Day". More than 30 firms are already signed up to have stalls at Dover Town Hall on Friday, March 29th.
Jobseekers can speak to P&O Ferries, Megger, Kent Police, Viking Maritime Group, East Kent Hospitals and many other employers on the day. Schools, colleges and universities will also be represented at the event.
I'm delighted that so many firms have already signed up to my seventh jobs fair – a real vote of confidence in Brexit Britain. I'm passionate about getting people into work and helping them find jobs which are right for them.
It's so important to get employers and jobseekers together in the same room, so they can talk through opportunities face-to-face. Dover and Deal are full of hard-working, talented people. Many want a foot on the ladder, a new challenge, or to discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. We must ensure we give them the chance to do so.
Since 2010, more than £500 million has been invested in Dover and Deal. Meanwhile, 7,700 more people are in work and 6,000 apprenticeships have been created.
These really are exciting times for Dover and Deal. Our beautiful corner of Kent has so much potential. I'm more determined than ever to work hard to deliver more jobs and money to our area.
Last week in the House of Commons, I called on the Prime Minister to do more to support areas like Dover and Deal after we leave the EU. We must ensure that a renaissance of the regions – including in coastal towns like ours – is at the very heart of building Brexit Britain.
Theresa May agreed that it is vital to support "left behind" communities. There is no doubt that the 2016 EU referendum was a vote to take back control and for change. A vote heard loudest in the historic towns and regions of our nation – but far less so in the big cities that account for so much of our national wealth.
People in Dover and Deal are proud of their towns and their community. Yet many feel deeply that Britain works for the big cities, but not for communities like ours. That's why since 2010 I've been fighting hard for us to get our fair share – and to ensure our voice is heard.
We've been battling for stronger borders – dismantling the Calais Jungle and tackling the people trafficking and illegal immigration we have seen for so long here at the Dover frontline.
We've been fighting county lines drugs gangs – getting stronger sentences for the dealers and more police officers on our streets. Just last week we secured £800,000 for the St Giles Trust charity, which has a proven track record of tackling these drugs gangs locally.
We've worked hard to deliver a fairer share of healthcare – getting the new £24 million Buckland Hospital built and safeguarding Deal Hospital. A new £30 million East Kent Medical School is on the way too, so more GPs and nurses can be trained locally.
School standards are on the rise too and the number people in our community with no qualifications has halved. Our early years education is ranked the second best in the entire country. And we delivered a £25 million new school building for Goodwin Academy – a school on the up.
We've also delivered more jobs and investment in our area. With the St James cinema and shops, the transformed Deal Pier, the new leisure centre and the Western Docks Revival, more than £500 million has been invested since 2010. And 7,700 more jobs have been created.
Yet this should be just the start. Brexit Britain must provide a fairer share for Dover and Deal. That means better road links for our area – with the A2 dualled and for a modern link road from the A256 to northern Deal. Dover should be made a free port to attract even more investment.
Brexit Britain must be a fairer country – one where big businesses are made to pay a fair share of taxes. It's time for a level tax playing field between town centre shops and online giants like Amazon. Our high streets are hubs of our communities. That's why I'm backing the bid by Dover Town Team to revitalise Market Square. And I'm working with the council to secure cash from the Government's Future High Streets Fund.
We must deliver a renaissance of the regions – and we need to get on with it. We need to leave the EU no later than March 29th and start building Brexit Britain.
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