17 NOV 2017

Why the values of our nation matter so much

The job of the Member of Parliament is not about the Member of Parliament. It is about what you do, the team you build and what you achieve for the people you serve.

We have come a long way together over the past 10 years. We have achieved much and we should be proud of the change we have made together in our community.

Let's remember how things were back in 2010. Our port was about to be sold off. Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade – services withdrawn and wards axed one by one. Deal's hospital was left teetering on the edge. Deal itself was called a "village" by the Government, unfit for the fast train. Unemployment had rocketed and things looked bleak.

Fast forward to today and there is a brand new hospital in Dover. Deal hospital has been safeguarded. We are now working tirelessly to get more services in both hospitals – to save people long and expensive journeys to hospitals far away. We stopped the port sell off and it is now not just forever England – it has been reformed to bring it closer to the community. The fast train now sweeps into Deal all day, every day and Deal is a town transformed. In Dover Burlington House is gone and a new shopping complex rises in the heart of the town. Unemployment has halved. Ours is a community on the up.

Just this week hundreds of letters have gone out to constituents. Whether it's fighting their corner on issues such as housing, health or getting a decent bus service – this work goes on, and will continue to do so. I am still holding surgeries, doing everything I can to help people. It's business as usual.

I write this because sometimes I need to remind myself as well as our team why we do it and why it's all worth it. And I want to thank the hundreds of well wishers from across Dover & Deal – indeed across the whole nation - who have got in touch in the past week.

So what then is my explanation for what has happened and what I am accused of? I cannot give one. Because, two weeks on, I still do not know.

But let me say some things about the way matters of this sort should be handled. First, there must be a fair due process for people who are the victims of crime – and fair due process for those facing allegations.

Moreover in the febrile atmosphere that grips our country from time to time, we must never rush to judgement. We must not confuse accusation with proof. We can never muddle courts of law with courts of social media and public opinion. Nor should we confuse prejudice with fact. The whole area of reporting misconduct and managing allegations of misconduct in public life is a mess. I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are. The more so as political parties are quick to panic and throw people under the bus for the expediency of looking tough and strong. That is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it's an injustice to those who stand accused – and in at least one case the humiliation has tragically proven too much to bear. But also wrong because it undermines our fundamental values as a country.

We believe in the rule of law – that everyone, be they so very high or so very low, should be equal before the law. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We believe in natural justice. These are cornerstones of our constitution.

It was not in keeping with these values that the media were told of allegations made against me last week before I was. It was not in keeping with these values that the presumption of innocence was undermined by the panicked action of my party. And it was not in keeping with these values to cause prejudice and harm the chances of my getting a fair hearing.

Whatever it turns out I stand accused of, I deny any criminal wrongdoing. I cannot deny that the pressure of these events has taken a heavy toll on me and my family. Yet I will stand fast to our values and do all I can to uphold them, whatever the price may be. I am not here for myself, but for the people of Dover & Deal – the people I serve.

I have always done my utmost to work hard for our community. And I am resolved to continue to do so. I have always put all my energy into fighting for the people of Dover and Deal – and I am resolved to continue to do so.

For me, the interests of the people of Dover & Deal will always come first.

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15 NOV 2017

Asking the PM for a billion at the border

I repeated calls for £1 billion to be set aside for Brexit border preparations during Prime Minister's Questions today. I told Theresa May that businesses in his constituency are getting ready for leaving the European Union.

Government should invest in the Dover frontline now – to ensure the UK is ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit, deal or no deal. The Prime Minister said she appreciates that the need to prepare for leaving the EU is "very tightly felt" in Dover and Deal. Mrs May said funds have been made available for Brexit preparations and that the Government will look at what further work is necessary to ensure the UK is ready for leaving the EU.

I asked: "Businesses at the Dover frontline are now preparing to leave the European Union. Will the Government consider earmarking at least £1 billion in the upcoming Budget to make sure that we are ready on day one, deal or no deal – and prepared for every single eventuality."

The Prime Minister said: "I thank my honourable friend for his question.

"Obviously in his constituency, this issue of preparations for the position when we leave the European Union is very tightly felt. There's great focus on it – and I appreciate why that is the case.

"We have already made funds available for the preparations and work that is necessary across Government in preparations for Brexit – and of course we'll be looking at what further work is necessary to ensure that we are ready.

"We hope we are going to get that good deal – and we're working to get that good deal. But either way there will need to be some changes from the Government point of view – and we're ensuring the resources are there to do that."

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09 NOV 2017

Statement to Dover and Deal Conservative Association

On Thursday, November 9th, I made the following statement to the Executive of the Dover and Deal Conservative Association:

I want to start by saying that I wish we were not meeting under these circumstances.

The job of the Member of Parliament is not about the Member of Parliament. It is about what you do, the team you build and what you achieve for the people you serve.

We have come a long way together over the past 10 years. We have achieved much and we should be proud of the change we have made in this community.

Let's remember how things were back in 2010. Our port was about to be sold off. Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade – services withdrawn and wards axed one by one. Deal's hospital was left teetering on the edge. Deal itself was called a "village" by the Government, unfit for the fast train. Unemployment had rocketed and things looked bleak.

Fast forward to today and there is a brand new hospital in Dover. Deal hospital has been safeguarded. We are now working tirelessly to get more services in both hospitals – to save people long and expensive journeys to hospitals far away. We stopped the port sell off and it is now not just forever England – it has been reformed to bring it closer to the community. The fast train now sweeps into Deal all day, every day and Deal is a town transformed. In Dover Burlington House is gone and a new shopping complex rises in the heart of the town. Unemployment has halved. Ours is a community on the up.

Just this week hundreds of letters have gone out to constituents. Whether it's fighting their corner on issues such as housing, health or getting a decent bus service – this work goes on, and will continue to do so. I am still holding surgeries, doing everything I can to help people. It's business as usual.

I say this because sometimes I need to remind myself as well as our team why we do it and why it's all worth it. And I want to thank you, the entire Conservative family and the many well wishers who are not Conservative supporters who have got in touch in the past week.

So what then is my explanation for what I am accused of? I cannot give one. Because I do not know what I am accused of. I received a call from a journalist just after 9pm on Friday evening saying he had heard I was having the whip withdrawn in time for the 10 O'Clock news and asked me what was going on. I said I had absolutely no idea. Minutes later I received a call from the Chief Whip telling me that serious allegations had been made against me earlier that week and that these had been passed to the Police. I asked what the allegations were and he would not tell me. He only said that he and the Prime Minister had decided the whip should be suspended from me. As we spoke, the news spread across the national media.

And that is all I can tell you. Since then I have had no further information. And here we are.

So extraordinary as it may seem I am no wiser now than I was on Friday evening when the Chief Whip called me.

But let me say some things about the way our Party has handled this. First, I want to echo what the Labour MP Chris Bryant has said. "If this fortnight teaches anything it is there must be a fair proper process for those who feel they have been harassed or abused AND fair due process for those facing allegations."

I think that's spot-on. The fact is that this whole area of reporting misconduct and managing allegations of misconduct is a mess. I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it's an injustice to those who stand accused. But also wrong because it undermines our values as a country.

We believe in the rule of law – that everyone, be they so very high or so very low, should be equal before the law. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We believe in natural justice.

So, I ask you: was it in line with our values as a country that the media were told of allegations made against me last week before I was? Was it in line with our values that the presumption of innocence was undermined by the whip being suspended? Was it in line with our values to cause prejudice and harm the chances of my getting a fair hearing?

Finally let me say that whatever it turns out I stand accused of, I deny any criminal wrongdoing. I have always done my best to work hard for our community – and will continue to do so. I have always put all my energy into fighting for the people of Dover and Deal – and will continue to do so. For me, the interests of the people of Dover & Deal will always come first.

13 comments

Agree 100% Charlie. I hope something is done to stop such travesties of justice in the future. Lastly, I hope this all works out well for you, and your family's sake.
- Sid Perkins

Well said.
- Mel Augustine


- Agree 100% , you have a right to know the allegatons against you, which I do not believe are true and those who deny you that right are cowards

I am not one of your constituents but I agree with you wholeheartedly and wish you well
- Maureen Pope

It sounds like you've had a dirty deal- I wish you true justice- all the est - Peregrine
- Peregrine

Hang in there Charlie. I thought(wrongly as it turns out), that every UK citizen had the right to be told of any allegations made against them. It appears that Tory MP`s are denied those rights. How Bizarre. Is there darker moves afoot politically. One begins to wonder, especially now that the government is so fragile
- John Woollen

I am not a constituent either but wanted to express my incredulity at the cavalier way you have been treated. Whatever you may or may not have done, this is no way to go about resolving the issue and the party should hang its head in shame at the way you are being treated. Chin up!
- Peter Colmer

Charlie, we do not know each other but every time I pass through Dover (which is often) I look in amazement at the changes that you have made. I think that you are being treated despicably through trial by social media and am staggered that our prime minister can behave as she has done.
- andrew suddards hartley

I agree - innocent until proved guilty.
- Del

I think you have been treated abysmally - I hope that you are exonerated of any wrong doing. Some idiots moan that you are one for a photo opportunity, the reason we keep seeing your picture in the local papers is because you are constantly campaigning for local causes. Not just at voting time like many others in politics. Superb MP that I still hope is destined for higher office within the party.
- Tony

Astonishing the way you have been treated. I feel for your wife and children. Seems as if we are in North Korea or Iran rather than the UK !
- Peter Davis

Discasful that you have been treated like this. One must question the Chief Whips compatance in this matter. Career polititions are know different to young corporate executives all to quick to through a colleague under a bus to further their careers. Just look at the pervious Chief Whip and Micael Falon. It's about time these people put the country first. Good luck Charlie.
- Mike Hawker

I do not think I have ever heard of such a farcical situation. Guilt by television, guilt by announcement guilt by suspension. Extraordinary is not strong enough a word. This is a sad indictment of the procedural value of our times. It seems that the smoke is more important than the fire even when there is no smoke and no fire. As far as I am concerned there is no stain on Charlie's character in the slightest and his considerable integrity is unscathed.
- Steve Oxenham

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09 NOV 2017

Kelly was an inspiration to everyone in Dover and Deal

We woke up to the most heart breaking news on Monday morning - that Kelly Turner, the girl who united our entire community, had passed away.

Our thoughts are with her parents Martin and Linda, who fought relentlessly to save their daughter. They needed to raise £1 million for treatment in the US. And in a year they raised more than half that target. They did so through tireless campaigning which inspired the people of Dover.

The response from the Dover community has been incredible. So many people got involved to do their bit for Kelly. It felt like the whole town was pulling together. Whether you knew Kelly personally or not, it didn't matter. Everyone wanted to help. To give Kelly the chance and the hope she deserved.

And this is part of what makes Kelly's death, aged 17, so devastating. It feels like the passing of this incredible brave girl is more than just a single life lost. It's the loss of someone who united the entire community. The town is in mourning and Kelly and her family will be in our thoughts when we pause for a minute’s silence on Sunday.

The devastation also hits hard at the thought of Martin and Linda having to say goodbye to their beautiful daughter. A girl with real artistic talent who had so much potential. Yet not only was she talented – Kelly’s determination and drive was clear for all to see. Her determination to battle a rare form of cancer which weakened her body day by day - yet her spirit was always strong. Her determination to keep fighting against the steepest odds - and always keep smiling. To get up, go to school and achieve great results in her GCSEs.

Kelly was a softly spoken, polite young girl. Yet deep inside there was a fire raging. She refused to let her spirit be beaten.

Kelly was a true inspiration. None of us doubt that she could have achieved great things. Yet all she wanted - more than anything - was to live.

This has been cruelly denied her. It leaves us asking painful questions. Why does this have to happen? Why Kelly? Why was she taken so young? These questions are all the more painful because we cannot begin to answer them.

We feel angry - that despite doing everything we could it still wasn't enough to save Kelly. We grieve because we feel one of Dover's brightest lights has gone out.

So what can we do? We must follow Kelly's example. We must keep a fire burning in all our hearts. We must remember Kelly for who she was - the girl who united our town and always stayed strong.

I will remember Kelly as the girl enjoying herself at Dover Music Festival this summer - smiling and dancing like a teenager should - in the moment, loving life. Defiant and brave as always.

Kelly and her family will always be in our hearts. We will never forget her fight and her spirit. In Dover, her light will never go out.

1 comment

Well said. Heartbreaking news but some warm and human memories. As you say, " In Dover, her light will never go out."
- Bernie Mayall

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04 NOV 2017

Simple solution to speeding in Capel

Residents in Capel are calling for a crackdown on cars and trucks speeding through their village. Members of Capel Parish Council met with me to discuss their concerns.

Villagers want the 40mph limit on the B2011 – which runs from Dover to Folkestone through the village – to start much closer to the junction with the A20. The parish councillors say it would be safer if the 40mph limit began before vehicles reached the turnings into caravan sites situated along the road.

Bosses at the Jarvis Homes development being built on the coastal side of the road have agreed as a condition of planning to pay Kent Highways £20,000 for the work to be done. Yet the parish councillors say Kent Highways are refusing to listen to their concerns or investigate the proposed changes.

I am taking up the case and has written to Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, asking for a site meeting. I have spoken to Ch Insp Mark Weller, Dover District area commander, about concerns over speeding in Capel.

Everyone can see that moving the 40mph down the road makes sense. This way cars will be travelling at a slower speed when they pass the caravan sites and enter the village. It's frustrating that Kent Highways have not put these sensible plans into action. I've asked for a site meeting so we can show them how simple the solution could be.

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03 NOV 2017

Twice as many clinics now operating at Buckland Hospital

Buckland Hospital is now operating almost twice as many clinics as when it first opened. A total of 32 outpatient specialities are based at the Coombe Valley Road site, delivering 9,895 clinics each year. It compares to 25 departments delivering 5,020 clinics at the end of 2015.

Seven new ophthalmic consultants have been recruited to work at the hospital, including in its brand new cataract surgery theatre. And health chiefs told me "good progress" was being made on getting GP services co-located at Buckland and creating a primary care hub.

The latest figures come as I held more crunch talks with local health bosses this week. Representatives from East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust and the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning group attended a meeting with Kent MPs I organised. We discussed improvements being made to A&E waiting times and plans for a medical school in Kent.

I'm delighted there are more services at Buckland. It's something I am constantly pushing for. The old hospital had been decimated over a decade, yet the opposite is happening in the new one.

But I still want to see even more services. Around 30 per cent of the new hospital remains unused. I also want to see beds commissioned at the brand new residential facility next door. Patients should be recovering as close to home as possible.

The recent news follows positive healthcare developments elsewhere in east Kent. A&E performance, recently rated as one of the worst in the country, has improved by 5% to 78.7% in the last fortnight in terms of patients treated within four hours of arrival.

With an extra £800,000 of central government investment, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust has recruited ten new specialist emergency doctors, installed three new treatment areas and a new ambulatory care unit at the William Harvey, and expanded ambulatory care and provided a new combined surgical assessment unit at Margate. Meanwhile at Deal Hospital, new figures show staff numbers have increased 17% since last year, from 126 to 147. And in Canterbury, an application for a brand new medical school run by the city's two universities will be submitted by the end of the year.

People often say the NHS is underfunded by the Conservatives. It's simply not true. An extra £10 billion in real terms is going into the system, bringing the budget to more than £120 billion – three times what we spend on schools.

I have been really encouraged by the new leadership team and the improvement plan they have implemented. The recent good work must continue because patients in Dover and Deal deserve better.

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02 NOV 2017

Three good reasons to invest one billion at the front line

We must be ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover frontline. Planning for no deal is not simply a negotiation point in our talks with the European Union. Increasingly it is the responsible thing to do.

This was the case I made in the House of Commons last week – that it is in the national interest to be ready on day one. There are three key reasons.

First, insurance. You buy house insurance before you are burgled. In the same way we should insure against the risks of error in the current Brussels brinkmanship by making sure we are ready on day one.

Second, to get the best deal. Any experienced negotiator will tell you that if you want a deal, prepare first for no deal. If you can walk away you get a better price and better terms.

Third, this is no regrets spending. Our customs computers are creaking, the border systems are ageing and roads in Kent are far from resilient. In other words, this is investment we need at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel anyway.

Lack of investment already costs the economy billions of pounds when there are problems at the Channel Ports. In 2015, tailbacks caused by strikes in Calais caused queues of 4,600 lorries over 30 miles. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks with miles of traffic and 250,000 people caught up in the delay. Gridlock at Dover will mean gridlock for the British economy.

It would be wrong to wait until the last moment to start investing. It is in the national interest that we invest now. At least £1 Billion should be set aside in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two.

Now, some will say that however ready we are they won't be ready across the English Channel. Yet ports like Calais and Dunkirk would be required to upgrade their systems in line with a new global trade agreement that came into force in February. So if we start preparing now, there is no need for queues of lorries on either side of the Channel.

Others will say we cannot possibly be ready in time. That our system of administration and government organisation simply cannot cope. These are not people who believe in Britain. Nor are they people who have studied our history. For when there is a need, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome – no challenge we cannot meet. We can do this – and we must do this to deliver the greatest opportunities offered to our future generations by seeking a global future.

Yet we must prepare now. As the closest point to Europe, the most important preparations of all will be at the Dover frontline.

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01 NOV 2017

BrightHouse interest rates should be capped

I used the story of a constituent to force the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider capping interest applied by rent-to-own companies like BrightHouse. Electricals retailer BrightHouse was last week fined £14.8 million by the FCA for irresponsible lending and treating customers unfairly.

In a Treasury Select Committee hearing yesterday, I grilled chief executive Andrew Bailey about what else FCA was doing to curb BrightHouse's "predatory" behaviour. I highlighted the case of a woman who paid more than £2,200 for a TV worth £600, and one of his own constituents who paid off 70% of the value of a product before having it taken away by a "very rude bloke" for one missed payment.

I asked Mr Bailey: "These people end up repaying three times, or more, what they should.

"And you yourself said in a speech that the cap on payday lending of two times maximum has been effective, and people haven't lost out.

"So why aren't you doing it with this sector?"

He responded: "That's what we are doing with high cost credit. We are looking at a number of sectors... Because I agree with you. The issue is real."

I continued: "Can I ask you to take away, as a message, there ought to be caps in this sector – just like payday lending. And will you take action?"

Mr Bailey responded: "Good point. That will be in the frame in terms of what we look at as a solution.

"Caps work better for some products than others but I want to be clear I'm not ruling it out."

I followed up by quoting the interest rates of a number of rent-to-own companies – BrightHouse (70%) PerfectHome (70%) and Buy As You View (69%), adding: "It's not a competition is it? It's a cartel."

We must do more to crack down on firms who prey on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. 

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31 OCT 2017

Visiting our mental health trust team

It seems like real strides have been made in mental health support in Dover and Deal. I visited Coleman House in Dover to meet with Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) chief executive Helen Greatorex, her deputy Victoria Stevens, and the area's new permanent consultant Dr Kirsten Lawson.

Earlier this year KMPT received an improved rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and stats show improved performance has followed.

It was great to get the latest from Helen and her team. Mental healthcare is incredibly important. For too long it was given less attention than physical health and people struggled to get proper support. But this Government acted to give it equal weight in law, along with an extra £2.25 billion by 2020. I'm pleased to see this is already helping things on the ground.

CQC rated eight out of ten services provided by the trust as Good or Outstanding. Inspectors said KMPT was closing in on being rated Outstanding overall, something boasted by only two trusts across the country.

Dr Kirsten Lawson began running services in the Dover, Deal and Folkestone area in June. For the previous 18 months it had been served by locum doctors on rotation.

Recently the area has consistently exceeded the national target of 95% of patients receiving follow-up contact within a week of being discharged. Assessments within four weeks have also improved significantly, increasing each month from 46% in March to 80% in August.

I have pushed hard for better mental healthcare since I became MP and things finally look like they are on the up. There is more work to be done, of course, but real strides have been made.

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30 OCT 2017

Launching a campaign to bring in Robert's Law

I am working with the mum of a teenager who died after taking killer drugs to bring in "Robert's Law".

Robert Fraser, from Deal, was 18 when he died in November 2016 after being given fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. According to friends, a dealer gave it to him for free saying it was similar to ecstasy. His family discovered his body in his bedroom that evening.

Fentanyl killed 20,000 people in the US last year — up from just 3,000 three years before. Deaths in the UK have also increased in recent months.

I am working with Robert's mum Michelle in a bid to toughen laws, so the American trend is not repeated here. Together we want to bring in "Robert's Law" – which would force police to prioritise cases involving fentanyl, and courts to impose tougher sentences on those caught supplying the drug.

Michelle is an incredibly brave woman. She doesn't want other parents to have to go through what she has. Robert had his whole life ahead of him. But he died from a powerful and increasingly abundant drug he did not know he was taking.

We need to send a strong message to dealers. You will be punished for the misery you inflict.

I am writing to several agencies to establish current positions on fentanyl, including the National Crime Agency, the National Police Chiefs Council, the Justice Secretary, the Home Secretary, Kent Police and NHS England. I then want to table a debate in the House of Commons, before going back to relevant ministers with proposals.

Robert's story will frighten every parent out there. And I want Robert's law to frighten every dealer.  All drugs are dangerous, but these some of these new synthetic ones are on a whole different level. We have to tackle this head on, right now, before it gets out of control.

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Charlie Elphicke

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