18 JUL 2018

Pushing for cannabis oil licence for Teagan

I have urged the Home Secretary to grant a license for cannabis oil treatment for an Aylesham girl who has one of the worst cases of epilepsy in the UK.

I requested a Schedule 1 drug license on behalf of Teagan Appleby, eight, who was born with the rare condition Isodicentric 15. She is wheelchair-bound, suffers up to 300 seizures a day and recently required life-saving treatment five times in an eight-day period.

Experts have pointed to recent clinical trials advocating cannabis oil as an effective treatment. A number of UK cases have since emerged, including 12-year-old Billy Caldwell who was granted a Schedule 1 license through special powers used by the Home Secretary.

My team met with Teagan's mum Emma Appleby and I now written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, urging him to intervene. It's every parent's worst nightmare to see their child in such pain. The Home Secretary has sensibly ordered a review of this whole issue, but in the meantime an eight-year-old girl is suffering terribly.

Emma, the family and the NHS are trying their best for poor Teagan. Yet with known medication failing, the next step would be risky procedures on the brain itself. Of course the family wants to explore all other options. That's why I have urged the Home Secretary to grant the license and I will keep working with the family to try and ensure that happens.

Isodicentric 15 is a chromosome abnormality that for Teagan has progressed to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy. According to Emma, she currently takes two types of drug daily, which for most cases are only used as "rescue medication" to prevent death. Emma says Teagan's "rescue medication" is itself unlicensed, but prescribed by the NHS anyway due to the severity of her condition.

Meanwhile Professor Deb Pal, a child epilepsy expert at King's College London, recently said: "There is now good evidence from clinical trials... that pharmaceutical preparations of cannabidiol are effective against two types of severe childhood epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome... more recently reviews of human and animal evidence conclude that THC also may have anticonvulsant properties."

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18 JUL 2018

Brilliant advert for our corner of Kent

Lamb racing and Morris dancing were two of the main attractions at Alkham village fete on Saturday. I went along to meet local residents and take a look around all the different stalls. I also met Dover town councillor Callum Warriner at the event.

The people of Alkham always put on a fantastic village fete. It was great to see so many residents out enjoying the sunshine all the exciting attractions on offer. This fete is a brilliant advert for our beautiful corner of Kent.

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17 JUL 2018

WATCH: Why MPs must show the same Brexit courage as voters

My speech in the House of Commons, during the debate on the 'Customs Bill', on why MPs must show the same courage as voters when it comes to Brexit,

In the referendum campaign, the Home Office told my constituents that the jungle would move from Calais to Dover. The former Prime Minister said that there would be queues of lorries and gridlock on the way to Dover—a mantra that the Labour party took up. The Treasury told my constituents that they would lose their jobs and their homes to boot in a calamitous disaster.

Despite that level of fear, my constituents believed in the opportunity that lay before them. Two thirds voted to leave the EU. Why? Because they believed in the kind of opportunities and the kind of Britain that we can build. They believed in better. They believed in the future, in our sense of nationhood and independence and in the country that we could build: independent and out in the wide world.

It is important to remember that, because change does not come easily; it takes political courage. Our voters have shown more courage than far too many Members of this House, who fear change and are afraid of grasping opportunities and what the world offers. Our voters better understand the need for that courage. They can look at the figures and see that the EU has been in relative decline in the past few decades, going from 30% to just 15% of GDP. [Interruption.] The spokesman for Brussels, the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), does not like those figures, but they are true.

Our voters also know that 90% of future economic growth in the world will come from outside the EU. That is why it is so important to believe in better, back our constituents and make a success of Britain out in the world—a global Britain.

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12 JUL 2018

Celebrating our local community champions

Recent weeks have been a powerful reminder of how many people in Dover and Deal go the extra mile to make a difference. These community champions are making a massive difference – changing the lives of people around them vastly for the better.

Take James Salmon from Dover Sea Safari. In his spare time he's been working tirelessly to transform the quality of life of disabled people with his team of fellow volunteers at Wetwheels. This is an amazing project which gives disabled people the chance to go out on the water in specially-designed power boats.

The inspirational founder of Wetwheels is Geoff Holt MBE, the first quadriplegic to sail around Great Britain and across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet even he was stunned by the efforts of James and the Dover team. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy being on the water. This is now a reality for so many more people.

In Deal, Tracy Carr runs the Talk It Out group to support people suffering mental health challenges. I cannot begin to guess how many lives she's saved and how her incredible work has taken pressure off local health services.

We recently learnt that nearly 150 youngsters in Kent are waiting more than a year for mental health treatment to start. That makes the work of volunteers like Tracy even more vital. When I visited the group last month, one of the members told me: "When it comes to mental health, pills aren't the answer. Groups like this get people better – it's as simple as that."

Earlier this year, Facebook was full of reports about the disgusting state of the King Street public toilets. So Darren Gregory-Foster of local cleaning company Channel FM swung into action to clean the loos for free – because he cares about the town he grew up in.

Local business people and firms like this who have great community spirit deserve our backing. And probably the cleaning contract for the toilets too!

Back in Dover, it's a similar story. Entrepreneur Victor Evans is determined to make his hometown the best it can be. With the help of council grants he has transformed a derelict area of Lorne Road.

He has built an amazing brewery and micropub, making and selling tasty ales. And he has also constructed five houses and seven flats by the river on the brownfield site opposite.

Victor tells me he wants to give something back to Dover. When people want to invest in our area and improve it, we must give them our full support.

Tracy, Victor, Darren and James are just a few examples of local people going above and beyond. I know there are so many others working tirelessly to make a difference in Dover and Deal.

So if you know someone who is making a difference, please let me know. I would love to visit them and tell everyone about the work they are doing to improve people's lives. I'm determined to do everything I can to back our incredible community champions.

You can get in touch via my Facebook page, by emailing charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 01304 379669. 

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12 JUL 2018

Horrible hoarding is coming down!

The 'Welcome to Dover' sign is being torn down and the Crypt is being cleared up!

This is fantastic news. Dover District Council deserve huge credit for listening to the community's concerns and taking action.

I met with met with local fish and chip shop owner Silvio Macari and White Cliffs Country Tourism Association chairman Graham Hutchison in the area last month.  

They agreed that the 'Welcome to Dover' sign, put up by the Labour mayor four years ago, has become an embarrassment to the town. This horrible hoarding simply has to go.

Meanwhile, the former Crypt site has been left to ruin for decades – so the council's promised comprehensive clean-up will be welcomed by the community and local businesses.

This is yet another significant step towards making Dover town centre the best it can be.

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11 JUL 2018

Dover school has no vacancies for first time

Dover Christ Church Academy will begin the new school year with a full roster of teachers – the first time there have been no vacancies since it converted from Archer's Court. Over the past year the academy has recruited and trained 13 teachers, ensuring they have talented teachers in every classroom.

They have also hired a number of experienced staff with years of expertise to help mentor the younger recruits. Four of the trainees are from the Government's Teach First scheme, while five are training through School Direct. The teacher training is supported by the academy's sponsor, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Principal Jamie Maclean invited me to visit the school last week and see students in action. I popped into maths, history and film studies lessons, as well as meeting pupils and staff in the Aspen unit. I also met head of science Kelly Corroyer, who was teaching pupils about electricity currents.

CIt was great to visit Dover Christ Church Academy and see how the school is progressing. I was particular impressed by Ms Corroyer's excellent science class. You could tell how keen the pupils were to learn and how much they were enjoying the lesson. It's clear that Mr Maclean has put in a huge amount of work in his first year and ensured the academy will have a full roster of teachers from September.

This school has come a long way since the days of Archer's Court. It's a true Dover success story.

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10 JUL 2018

Quizzing the PM over Kent lorry park

I questioned the Prime Minister over the delivery of a lorry park in Kent and preparations for a "no deal" Brexit. I asked Theresa May how preparations for leaving the European Union without a deal were being "stepped up".

I want these plans to include a lorry park on the roads to the Channel Ports. This was promised two years ago but has not yet been delivered by the Department for Transport.

The Prime Minister told me the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab would be in charge of stepping up "no deal" preparations. She added: "Can I say to my honourable friend, I know from previous discussions the concern that he has about the potential lorry park in Kent in relation to the Port of Dover. He champions the rights of his constituents and the needs of his constituents very eloquently in this House."

My question followed the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons on the Government's plans for leaving the European Union.

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06 JUL 2018

Calling for a grammar stream at Goodwin

Twice as many pupils will enter Year 7 at the Goodwin Academy in September. The year group has been increased to seven forms due to high demand, with 197 children starting at the Deal school, compared to 104 last year.

It comes as the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), which runs successful schools across Kent such as Rochester Grammar School and the Victory Academy, is set to take over as the academy's new sponsor. I held talks with Thinking Schools' chief executive Stuart Gardner and Goodwin Academy's Principal Simon Smith on Thursday (July 5th).

I called for a grammar stream to be introduced at Goodwin to give parents greater choice and to boost aspiration. More than 1,700 Deal children have to travel out of Deal every day to get to secondary school.

I'm delighted Thinking Schools Academy Trust, a sponsor with a proven track record of success, is taking over the Goodwin Academy. Stuart was clear – he always puts pupils' interests first and I'm really excited about what can be achieved. Everyone knows too many children in Deal have to travel out of town to get to school. So it's great that twice as many will be starting at Goodwin Academy this September.

It underlines why the new £25 million school building was worth fighting for. I think a grammar stream would be a brilliant addition to this school – and show just how ambitious the new trust is for students.

I also vowed to keep fighting for the school's debt, reported to be £3.5 million, to be written off. I recently raised the issue in the House of Commons, urging the Department for Education to take responsibility for the sum. He has also held meetings with the Education Secretary and Schools Ministers. The debt was built up by SchoolsCompany Trust, before a new interim chief executive and interim finance director were appointed earlier this year.

The Goodwin Academy has incredible potential to be one of the best schools in the area. So I will keep fighting for the debt to be written off. The £3.5 million was built up on the Department for Education's watch and they should take responsibility for it – not hard-working students and teachers. Meanwhile, of course, anyone at SchoolsCompany Trust found to be culpable must be brought to book.

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06 JUL 2018

Celebrating Deal cleaning firm's community spirit

A Deal firm which cleaned up the King Street public toilets for free has now won a top award for being environmentally-friendly.

I visited Channel FM, based at Almond House in Betteshanger Road, to hear about their community-spirited clean-up – and plans for boosting the business.

Managing director Darren Gregory-Foster told me that they had contacted Dover District Council earlier this year after reading on Facebook about the state of the King Street loos.

Darren, who is born and bred in Deal, said he offered to clean the toilets for free because he cares about the town he grew up in.

He spent 20 years in the cleaning industry before setting up Channel Facilities Management four years ago.

His firm, which only uses non-chemical cleaning products, were recently crowned the South East's "greenest" facilities management firm at the AI Global Media awards.

Darren is a Deal lad and clearly cares a lot about his hometown. It was great to meet him and his staff at Channel FM.

They run a brilliant business and use environmentally-friendly products – which is so important these days.

Local firms like this who have a great community spirit deserve our backing.

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06 JUL 2018

Victory in our campaign for Robert's Law

People often tell me that the war on drugs is lost. I disagree. Because we cannot stand by while drugs cause the deaths of young people whose lives lie ahead of them. Young people like Robert Fraser of Deal who was just 18 when he was tragically killed by the dangerous new drug fentanyl.

Of course it's often difficult to catch the dealers and the suppliers. Yet with a rising drugs problem, we should redouble our efforts and seek tougher punishments for serious drugs crimes.

That is exactly what Robert's mother Michelle Fraser set out to do. Distraught at the loss of her 18-year-old son, she decided to campaign for a change in the law - Robert's Law - to seek tougher punishments for people who supply fentanyl.

Robert was killed by fentanyl in 2016. Police believe a dealer gave it to Robert as a "freebie". Her son was no addict. He had no idea that what he was taking was effectively poison.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. It has been linked to the deaths of 120 people in the UK over the past 18 months. In the US, traces are found in a third of all overdoses. 60,000 people have died.

So since that terrible day Michelle has been fighting to raise awareness of this deadly drug. Last year she came to see me at one of my surgeries to ask for my help. We decided to campaign together for Robert's Law.

After just a few months, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed to change its drug offences guidance to include fentanyl. Then the Sentencing Council launched a review on their sentencing guidelines. I met with the Justice Minister Rory Stewart to press the case further – and we secured a debate in Parliament on fentanyl.

Then last week we received incredible news. The Sentencing Council announced new guidance putting synthetic opioids in the most serious category. During our debate last Tuesday, the Justice Minister said: "This now moves the expert witness to state that fentanyl will be in the top category of Class A drugs for prosecution. This is going to be absolutely vital in deterring people from supplying and importing these drugs."

He also said this change would not have happened so quickly were it not for our campaign. Michelle's passion and drive really has made people stand up and take notice. She has done her son proud.

I was so pleased that Michelle and Robert's sister Amy were able to come to the Westminster debate and see what an incredible difference they have made. This campaign is so important – not just for Michelle, but for every parent. By bringing in Robert's Law we will take the battle to the drug dealers and help save lives.

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Charlie Elphicke

Here you can read about local news matters and what I've been up to. You can make comments too. I'd welcome your feedback, so please do feel free to comment!

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