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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05 JUL 2018

Backing council scheme to spruce up empty homes

Hundreds more people in the Dover district now have a place to call home – thanks to a scheme to bring empty properties back into use.

Developers who want to spruce up run-down buildings have been helped by council loans.

Millions of pounds have been invested in the district and I got to see first-hand how areas of Dover have been transformed.

I met with Cllr Pauline Beresford, the district council's portfolio holder for housing, and entrepreneur Victor Evans.

Mr Evans built the Breakwater Brewery and Taproom, as well as five houses and seven flats on a brownfield site at St Martin's Yard in Lorne Road with the support of the council.

Cllr Beresford also showed me a number of properties in London Road which have been renovated.

Property developers like Mr Evans can access Kent County Council's No Use Empty scheme, which provides interest free loans. Dover District Council backs the scheme by offering top-up loans of £15,000.

In 2009, there were 952 homes in the district left empty for more than six months. This had plummeted to 523 by 2017. In the 2017/18 financial year, 30 properties were brought back into use.

A total of £4.8 million has been invested in the Dover district through the No Use Empty scheme since 2005.

Pauline and the district council have done incredible work in reducing the number of empty homes in our area.

This is such vital work – sprucing up derelict buildings and giving hundreds more people the chance to find a home locally.

It also gives entrepreneurs like Victor the chance to completely transform an area, as he has done with his micropub and new homes in Lorne Road.

We need to do everything we can to support people who want to make Dover and Deal a better place.

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05 JUL 2018

Small businesses must be able to compete on a level playing field

Hard-working small business owners in Dover and Deal high streets must be allowed to compete on a level playing field with online giants like Amazon.

I was quizzing Richard Allen, an expert witness from campaign group Retailers Against VAT Abuse Scheme (RAVAS) during a Treasury Select Committee hearing in Parliament on Tuesday (July 3rd).

I said "Do you think that small businesses get the book thrown at them while big companies like Amazon get off lightly because the Treasury have a secret policy, a secret direction to HMRC not to be too hard on the big boys?"

Mr Allen said: "I was told by a senior official that HMRC had been instructed not to go too hard on Amazon yet."

I then asked: "Do you think there is a concern that the tax conditions in which online retailers like eBay and Amazon operate – that they have an unfair competitive advantage over high street businesses that pay business rates, that pay their taxes, that employ people in Britain, where these enterprises don't?"

Mr Allen said: "Yes, and the reason for that is because the regulatory environment which those online businesses operate is not as tough as the regulatory environment for the high street retailer.

"You couldn't sell dangerous products in a shop. You couldn't openly be selling goods with no VAT charged on them in the shop."

I am now urging Treasury ministers and officials to take note of the troubling evidence heard by the committee of MPs. We must do everything we can to support the great British high street. Small business owners in Dover and Deal work tirelessly to make a success of their shops, cafes and restaurants. So we cannot have a situation where Amazon and eBay have an unfair competitive advantage over high street retailers. There must be a level playing field. Online giants must pay their fair share of taxes.

The British government lost up to £1.5 billion last year as the result of tax evasion by overseas companies selling goods to consumers in the UK without charging or accounting properly for VAT, according to the National Audit Office.

Amazon paid just £15 million in tax on European revenues of £19.5 billion in 2016. Ebay's UK business paid £1.6m in tax in 2016, despite reporting more than £983 billion in revenues.

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05 JUL 2018

Amazing Dover project transforming people's lives

Dovorians who have given disabled people the chance to go sailing in a specially-designed boat were hailed at a ceremony last week.

Wetwheels South East, based at Dover Sea Sports Sports Centre, has welcomed more than 600 people aboard since starting up in April.

The founder of Wetwheels, Geoff Holt MBE, praised the local team during a 're-dedication ceremony' for the nine-metre power catamaran, held at Hythe Bay Restaurant on Thursday (June 28th).

Mr Holt, the first quadriplegic to sail around Great Britain and across the Atlantic Ocean, said: "This is a very proud day for me.

"Wetwheels enriches people's lives and gives them confidence. It's fun, it's fast, it's exciting.

"We've made it fully accessible so anyone with any disability can get on board. Even better, they can drive the boat with our special steering systems."

I was invited along to meet Mr Holt and James Salmon, the founding director and skipper of Wetwheels South East.

Mr Salmon said: "It's all part of getting involved, getting out there and enjoying the water and what we have to offer here in Dover and the rest of the Kent coastline."

He told me that the catamaran has space for 12 passengers, including three wheelchairs. The boat travels along the White Cliffs and around the harbour.

Those on board all have a chance to drive the vessel and to become part of the crew.

Wetwheels is a truly inspirational project. Geoff, James and the team are working tirelessly to transform the lives of disabled people.

Everyone should have a chance to go sailing and enjoy being on the water.

Thanks to Wetwheels, this is now a reality for so many more people.

Wetwheels, a community interest company, has five boats in total operating across the UK. Each boat costs £180,000 and £50,000 a year to run.

More information about Wetwheels South East can be found here: https://www.wetwheelssoutheast.co.uk/

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28 JUN 2018

Delivering a fairer share of healthcare for our community

It's now three years since Dover's new Buckland Hospital was opened. So it's a good moment to look at how far we've come in delivering a fairer share of healthcare for our area. And the challenges we still face.

Things are a far cry from how they used to be back in 2010. We all remember how Buckland Hospital was decimated over a decade. Services were withdrawn and wards axed one by one. While Deal Hospital was left teetering on the edge.

Yet after hard-fought community campaigns, we got the new £24 million Dover hospital built – and the future of Deal hospital was secured.

Meanwhile, we've also won the battle for a new £30 million East Kent medical school, meaning more doctors and nurses can be trained locally. Around £200 million is going towards upgrading East Kent's A&E departments. A new £2.3 million GP hub has just opened. Doctors and nurses are working out of ten rooms at both Buckland and Deal hospitals, seven days a week – so more people can be treated locally. Deal Hospital staff numbers are up a fifth. Twice as many clinics are now operating at Buckland than in 2015.

We're getting more healthcare provided locally. Yet I believe we can do more – starting with bringing the vital wet AMD eye treatment to Buckland Hospital. It's not right that elderly people who struggle with their sight are having to make long journeys to Ashford and Canterbury. So I have been pressing health chiefs to put patients first and bring this key service closer to home.

Incredibly nearly 30% of Buckland Hospital remains unused. There is clearly an opportunity to bring more services to our area. So I recently discussed what new services East Kent Hospitals could provide at Buckland with chief executive Susan Acott. She is now looking at whether specialist elderly care services – including treatment for conditions such as Parkinson's – can be brought to Buckland. Meanwhile, at Deal hospital there is a great opportunity for more COPD, respiratory and rehab services.

It's vital to invest in mental health treatment too. New figures show that 150 young people in Kent suffering from mental health problems are waiting more than a year for treatment to start. This is simply unacceptable. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

Recently I learnt of plans to slash hours at Deal Mental Health Centre. I immediately contacted health chiefs, demanding a rethink. They have now agreed to keep this vital service open five days a week.

Last week a £20 billion funding boost was announced for the NHS. This is great news – yet this cash must be spent wisely on providing more healthcare, not more bureaucracy and waste.

We need to see more doctors and nurses, improvements to social care – and healthcare provided as close as possible to home. That's why it's so important to keep up the fight for a fairer share of healthcare in our area.

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28 JUN 2018

Dozens of jobs to get Snowdown Colliery buzzing again

Dozens of jobs will be created at Snowdown Colliery under multi-million-pound plans to transform the site into a retail and manufacturing site with the humble honeybee at its heart.

The importance of the honeybee to the environment is at last being recognised world-wide. The plans to rejuvenate the colliery site aim to celebrate, support and advance the health and well-being of the honeybee, through research, collaboration and education.

Local business owner Patrick Murfet told me that he hopes to turn the former coal mine, which shut in 1987, into a vibrant, economically viable, creative business hub – which will be known as the Bee Yard at Snowdown Park.

Mr Murfet currently employs 14 people at his Bee Equipment business based in Bridge near Canterbury. I was drawn to one of the unique and stand-out features of the former colliery, namely the two Grade II listed buildings – The Fan House and Winder House No2, which housed the Koepe Winder System, used to haul the coal to the surface.

It's great to see plans to get the Snowdown Colliery site buzzing again. Patrick is clearly passionate about building his business and creating more jobs locally. This is a really exciting project which would bring yet more investment to our area.

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26 JUN 2018

Victory in campaign for Robert's Law

Killer drug fentanyl is now in the most serious category determining jail sentences – a victory in the campaign for Robert's Law.

The news was announced in a Westminster Hall debate I secured today. I have campaigned for several months alongside Michelle Fraser, the mother of Deal teenager Robert who was killed by fentanyl in 2016.

The synthetic opioid is 50 times stronger than heroin and often added without the user's knowledge. Police believe a dealer gave it to Robert as a "freebie", while across the country dealers are secretly adding it to increase profits. A surge of overdoses has followed.

Today, Justice Minister Rory Stewart said new guidance from the Sentencing Council meant fentanyl would be in the top category for harm. The new guidance ensures that sentencers will take account of the potency of this terrible drug, and of the harm which can be caused by even a very small quantity of it.

Mr Stewart said: "It's no coincidence that it was yesterday that the Sentencing Council published this guideline, with the debate brought by the Member for Dover and Deal today.

"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. It's going to be vital in deterring people from supplying and importing these drugs.

"I really want to pay tribute to the Honourable Member for Dover and Deal. His leadership and his championing has led to two important changes which I can honestly say would not have happened as rapidly had it not been for his work."

Alongside the new Sentencing Council guidance, the Crown Prosecution Service also issued new guidance for its prosecutors in March, instructing them to urge judges to hand out tougher sentences.

Dealers do not need to add this poison to their product. They do so callously for profit. Now they will have to seriously consider if it is worth it. That is good news for the whole country. Sometimes government work can be slow, but with Robert's Law we fought hard and saw action quickly. I want to thank everyone involved. I am particularly delighted for Robert's mum Michelle who has been so brave. She knows it won't bring her boy back, but it will save many other young lives.

Michelle Fraser, who attended the debate this afternoon with daughter Amy, said: "It's brilliant that Robert's Law is being talked about in Westminster and that MPs are listening to us.

"The fact that we've got new guidance that dealing fentanyl should be in the most serious category means we have made a real difference.

"This campaign is so important – not just for me, but for every parent. By bringing in Robert's Law we will save lives. That will be my boy's legacy."

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21 JUN 2018

Fighting to deliver Brexit

Over the last couple of weeks there has been heated debate about Brexit in the House of Commons. MPs opposed to Brexit say there must be a "meaningful vote" to confirm we are leaving the EU.

Speaking up for Dover & Deal in these debates I pointed out we have already had a meaningful vote – the referendum of 2016. Indeed a lot of people ask me why we are still in the EU and why the House of Commons isn't getting on with it.

Quite. We voted to leave the EU. The politicians now need to deliver. Let's not forget that more than 17 million people voted for Brexit. We need to respect the referendum. My job is to honour the instructions given to me by the people of Dover and Deal.

Here, people voted by a huge majority to leave. This was a vote to end uncontrolled immigration and for Britain to seek stronger trading links across the globe. People living in the regions across the UK feel the same way.

We must take full advantage of the opportunities leaving the EU affords us. The EU's own forecasts say that 90% of global growth is set to come from outside the EU. Moreover, the EU has plunged from 30 per cent of global GDP to 15 per cent today. We don't have to be part of that decline. Our focus should be on forging closer trading ties with fast-growing economies like the USA, India, China and Brazil. To do so, we must leave the EU Internal Market and Customs Union.

What's more, the EU sell £100 billion more in goods to us than we sell to them. So it's just as much in their interests as ours to make sure trade continues to flow. Yet we must be ready for every eventuality. That's why I've been making the case during debate after debate in Parliament for investment now in Brexit border preparations – particularly at the Dover frontline.

Those who want to stay in the EU at any cost like to claim Kent will become a big lorry park. Yet we can ensure frictionless trade continues with investment and forward planning. Cross-Channel operators like Eurotunnel and the Port of Zeebrugge confirm they can "absolutely" be ready on day one for Brexit. But we need a clear plan now and to get on with the necessary investment. That's what I have been calling for.

A huge £240 billion of trade passes through the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel every year. Investment here must be treated as a national priority. So, let's modernise our border systems and bolster our road infrastructure – dualling the A2 and building lorry parks along the M20 and on the A2 at Faversham. This is 'no regrets' spending as it's investment we have needed for years.

I will keep fighting in Parliament to deliver on the instructions of the people of Dover and Deal. To take back control of immigration, fully leave the EU – and for investment in Brexit preparations here at the frontline.

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18 JUN 2018

Health bosses discuss bringing more services to Buckland

Top health trust bosses met with me to discuss bringing more services to Buckland Hospital, which is celebrating its third anniversary this month. The £24 million facility in Coombe Valley Road opened in June 2015 after a hard-fought community campaign.

Last week I held crunch talks on site with East Kent Hospitals NHS University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) chief executive Susan Acott and chairman Stephen Smith. I pointed out that when the hospital opened, health chiefs said there would be 60,000 appointments a year. Yet today 29% of the hospital remains unused.

I asked why the specialist elderly care services which were promised had not been delivered. I am also fighting to bring the wet AMD eye treatment back to Buckland and for more respiratory and rehab services at Deal.

Ms Acott, who took up her role in October 2017, said she would look into whether these services – including treatment for conditions such as Parkinson's – could be brought to Buckland. The meeting comes as a £20 billion funding boost for the NHS was announced by the Government.

It was great to meet with Susan Acott and Stephen Smith at Buckland Hospital – three years since this brand new facility opened. We've come such a long way. Twice as many clinics are now operating here than in 2015. Yet there is so much potential for Buckland and I'm determined to see it fully realised.

It's vital the £20 billion funding boost for the NHS is used wisely. We need to see more doctors and nurses, improvements to social care and easier access healthcare provided as close as possible to home. That means making the most of the brilliant facilities at Buckland and Deal.

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15 JUN 2018

144 young people waiting a year for mental health treatment

Nearly 150 young people in Kent suffering from mental health problems are waiting more than a year for treatment to start. The shocking figure was revealed by the trust in charge of Kent's child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) told a meeting of Kent MPs that 1,481 children in the county have been waiting 18 weeks for treatment to start. This includes 144 who have been waiting more than 52 weeks. I challenged the trust over the "unacceptable" figures during the meeting in Westminster.

I also raised the issues of the high turnover of counsellors and the side effects of some medication, highlighting the case of a teenage constituent suffering with low self-esteem he has been helping. The young girl was prescribed anti-depressants that made her put on several stone in weight, only making the situation worse. The medication was not reviewed for several months – and only looked into when I raised it with NELFT.

This case highlights why we cannot just rely on medication as a cure-all when it comes to mental health. Groups like Talk It Out in Deal offer the sort of therapy and community spirit which does so much to help people. Often young people only open up with people they are comfortable with. Yet in some areas, counsellors have changed every few months. This leaves us in a situation where 144 youngsters in Kent are left waiting more than a year for treatment to start. This is simply unacceptable. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

NELFT took over Kent CAMHS from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in September last year. They told us the waiting times resulted from a continued rise in demand from young people – and the number of cases inherited from the previous provider. NELFT said they expect to receive around 14,500 referrals this year, compared to around 10,500 in the 12 months to September 2017. They told us of a number of different measures they are implementing to bring the waiting times down.

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14 JUN 2018

Fighting back in the war on drugs

Drug deaths in Kent have doubled in the last three years – to the highest level in the UK. Every life is precious and these deaths cause such devastation – to families, friends and local communities. It's a trend we must reverse.

There is help out there. I recently visited the Dover hub of the Forward Trust who provide drug and alcohol support services for our area. Across the South Kent coast, they help more than 500 people. Their work includes going into places like local homeless shelters, where they show volunteers how to use naloxone kits – medication which reverses overdose effects.

Most of the people the Forward Trust help suffer long-term addictions to heroin or alcohol. They told me that it's rare that new people will come to them, with very few teenagers seeking help.

Yet we know that some young people in our area are being lured into the dark world of drugs. London gangs are said to send people down to Dover to recruit local teenagers. Our Chief Inspector Mark Weller told me tackling drugs is one of his top priorities. I'm doing everything I can to support him.

Some people say the war on drugs is unwinnable. I disagree. I think it's vital we fight back. Because drugs can draw young people into gangs and a life of crime. And because drugs can kill the people closest to us.

Robert Fraser, from Deal, died at the age of 18 after being given an extremely powerful opioid. Robert was no drug addict. Yet fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin – and just a small dose was enough to be fatal.

Robert's mum Michelle wants justice for her son and for him to leave a legacy. So together we started a campaign for Robert's Law – which means tougher sentences for suppliers of fentanyl. The Crown Prosecution Service listened to our case and changed its drug offences guidance to include fentanyl.

Crucially, the Sentencing Council has now also launched a review on tougher sentences for fentanyl. Last week I met with Justice Minister Rory Stewart, who said he would seriously consider their findings and the case for Robert's Law. So we are well along the road to achieving real change.

This is such an important campaign. Michelle wants to stop any more lives being lost. I'm pleased the authorities have listened and taken action so swiftly. Normally it takes years to get people to listen. Yet our campaign – driven by Michelle's love for her son and passion for the cause – has made people stand up and immediately take note.

I'm determined to do all I can to help those affected by drugs. That's why I want people to get in touch with me – either to see what I can do to get them help, or to flag up local hotspots. If we work together, we can all fight back in the war on drugs.

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12 JUN 2018

Tear down the 'Welcome to Dover' sign and clear up the Crypt

Town centre businesses and tourism chiefs are calling for the controversial 'Welcome to Dover' sign to be torn down. I agree that the horrible hoarding in Townwall Street needs scrapping.

I met with local fish and chip shop owner Silvio Macari and White Cliffs Country Tourism Association chairman Graham Hutchison. We also invited Dover District Council's regeneration supremo Tim Ingleton to see the former Crypt site in Bench Street – which has been left to ruin for decades.

The 'Welcome to Dover' sign and the Crypt are just a stone's throw away from the hugely successful St James development which opened earlier this year. When I visited last Thursday lunchtime (June 7th), nearly all of the 445 St James parking spaces were taken. I am proposing a three-point plan to tackle the problems – to tear down the 'Welcome to Dover' sign, clear up the Crypt and deliver more town centre car parking.

The 'Welcome to Dover' sign, put up by the Labour mayor and the 'town team', was well-intentioned – but it's become a laughing stock. It's time to tear down this horrible hoarding.

Just round the corner, the former Crypt site is still left to ruin – more than 40 years since the building was devastated by fire. This area urgently needs clearing up, while the Banksy must continue to be protected.

Barely a stone's throw away, business is booming at the St James site, with hardly a spare parking space to be found. Right next door is Dover Leisure Centre, which could be used as a site for lots more parking, as well as shops or cafes, once it closes. We've come a long way over the past few years – yet we must keep working to make Dover town centre the best it can be.

Mr Hutchison pointed out that visitors to Dover travelling along the A20 are dazzled by the iconic Banksy on the corner of York Street, only to then be faced with the worn-out 'Welcome to Dover' sign. The hoarding was commissioned by Dover Town Team – whose directors include Labour mayor Sue Jones – and created by K College in 2014. Yet it has since had graffiti sprayed over it, become discoloured and some of the signage is peeling off. It is placed directly in front of a rundown site, with weeds and trees hanging over the top.

The Godden family own the area and buildings covering the Crypt and the Banksy. The Crypt was erected in 1840. There were bars and restaurants on the lower floors and residential accommodation upstairs. Tragedy struck on March 27, 1977, when seven people died after a devastating fire ripped through the four-storey building. Since then the shell has been left to decay in the heart of Dover town centre.

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11 JUN 2018

Plans to cut Deal Mental Health Centre opening hours scrapped

Controversial plans to slash hours at Deal Mental Health Centre have been scrapped – and the vital service will now remain open five days a week.

Services at the facility in Bowling Green Lane, near Deal Hospital, were under threat with proposals to run clinics only on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, which manages the building, planned to shut it for the other two days.

But after I contacted them, senior managers at the trust agreed to review the proposals. They have now arranged for community mental health services for older people to run at the site on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so the centre will remain open all week.

As soon as I heard about these plans I was really concerned. We need as many health services as possible in Deal. It's vital that all of us get support close to home. That centre is an important lifeline for anyone in our town struggling with mental health problems.

The trust has assured me there are no plans to review their latest decision, so the centre will remain open all week for the foreseeable future. That's really good news. I want to thank the trust for listening to our concerns. The leadership team has engaged well in recent years and the trust do a good job with ever-increasing demand.

I was alerted to the situation by constituents, including Deal volunteer group Talk It Out. He visited them, along with Deal Town Councillor Keith Lee, at the Landmark Centre on Friday. The group offers a range of free support and now has more than 50 members, up from just a handful when it started seven years ago.

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08 JUN 2018

How traffic and trade can flow freely after Brexit

Up to 10,000 trucks pass through the Port of Dover every day. Line them all up and you get 180 kilometres of lorries. Enough to queue all the way up the M20 and round the M25. This grim picture is every motorist's idea of hell. And that's before you take the Channel Tunnel, which is the same again.

This is why we've got to keep trade flowing freely across the border post-Brexit. That means building resilient roads – dualling the A2 all the way to Dover and opening up more lorry parking facilities.

Whether we were leaving Europe or not, it's investment we desperately need anyway. This past Bank Holiday weekend, we had queues of lorries stretching back along the A20 to the Roundhill Tunnels. We're a victim of our own success. Dover is still the best and most popular way of getting to Europe for tourists and truckers. And it's going to get busier.

Over the next 10 years a huge £6 billion is being spent on the Lower Thames Crossing. To take pressure off Dartford, two three-lane tunnels are being dug under the Thames to link the M25 near North Ockendon, Essex, with the A2 near Shorne, Kent.

In order for this scheme to be a success it is vital the A2 is dualled. The previous Labour government axed plans for this essential infrastructure – but we've been working relentlessly to get the scheme back on the table. The new Thames Crossing opens in 2027. By 2030, freight traffic at Dover is set to have risen 40%. A single carriageway is simply inadequate.

The Port of Dover say that if the A2 was fully dualled, a second 'Dover TAP' scheme could be used on this route. Like the current A20 TAP, it would involve queueing lorries in the left-hand lane when there are delays at the port. They say this would cost less than the £250 million quoted for the axed Stanford lorry park plan.

Yet this alone is not enough. I'm deeply concerned that a new A2 Dover TAP – along with the proposed Operation Brock 'contraflow' on the M20 – would turn the roads to Dover into one long rolling lorry park. Our town would be cut off from the rest of Kent. And everyone knows what a battle it was to sort out the A20 TAP scheme.

That's why it's just common sense to build more lorry parking facilities, like at the Stop 24 services off junction 11 on the M20. Brenley Corner on the A2 is another option. And we need a wider network of lorry parks up and down the country.

Combined, Dover and Eurotunnel handle 30% of the UK's trade in goods – around £210 billion. So this isn't just a local issue. This is a national priority. It's high time we had real investment in East Kent's roads – and I will keep fighting for it.

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06 JUN 2018

Channel port operators say they can 'absolutely' deliver on Brexit

Cross-Channel port operators say they can "absolutely" deliver preparations for Brexit at the border. Representatives from Eurotunnel, the Port of Calais and the Port of Zeebrugge appeared at a Treasury Select Committee hearing in Parliament this morning (Tuesday, June 5th). They revealed that authorities in Belgium and France have told them to prepare for every eventuality – including Britain leaving the European Union with 'no deal'.

The operators expressed their frustration at not yet knowing how the UK-EU will work post-Brext, despite it being nearly two years since the referendum. But I asked: "With clear specification for Brexit and what's expected of you, would you say you can deliver?" John Keefe, director of public affair at Eurotunnel, said: "Absolutely."

Joachim Coens, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge, added: "The British and the EU and Belgian customs [authorities] should prepare practicalities – and they've waited too long to do that. Everybody knows what the decision is. Let's start on technical things – prepare on practical things – and that should be started immediately." Mr Coens said that the French and Belgian government advice to ports on Brexit is to "prepare for the worst".

Benoit Rochet, deputy CEO of the Port of Calais, was asked by another MP if Brexit preparations would be ready by January 2021, the end of the proposed 'transition period'. He said: "We will have no choice. We are not going to close the port. We will do what we will have to do."

Later in the hearing, I questioned Jon Thompson, chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs. I cast doubt on Mr Thompson's previous claims that businesses would face Brexit customs costs of £20 billion if the Government chose the so-called 'maximum facilitation' option. Charlie pointed out that many businesses and firms think the figure would be far lower. Mr Thompson said it was a question of 'methodology'.

In any case, it's really encouraging to hear cross-Channel port operators say they can absolutely deliver Brexit border preparations. They had a positive attitude towards Europe's trading relationship with the UK post-Brexit. Yet they want more clarity from Government. It's high-time they had it.

A huge £240 billion of trade passes through the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel every year. It's in everyone's interests to keep that trade flowing. That's why it must be a national priority to invest now at the Dover frontline. We need resilient roads and modern border systems ready for Brexit.

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04 JUN 2018

Invest in roads to Dover

We must invest in the roads to Dover to make the Lower Thames Crossing a success. That was a message I made loud and clear to Highways England's project director Tim Jones at a meeting at the Port of Dover.

I said it was vital to fully dual the A2 all the way to Dover in order to handle the increased level of traffic when the £6 billion crossing is complete. Two three-lane tunnels under the Thames will link the M25, near North Ockendon, Essex, with the A2 near Shorne, Kent. The planned opening date is 2027.

At the meeting at Harbour House, the port's head of policy and communications Richard Christian underlined just how much traffic travels through Dover's docks. There are 60 arrivals and 60 departures of 12 different ferries every day, carrying up to 10,000 trucks in total – which lined up in a queue would be 180km in length.

The port handles up to 500 trucks an hour and has space for less than 1,500. Combined, Dover and Eurotunnel handle 30% of the UK's trade in goods – around £210 billion. Mr Christian suggested that if the A2 was fully dualled, a second 'Dover TAP' scheme could be used on this route. Like the current TAP scheme on the A20, it would involve queueing lorries in the left-hand lane when there are delays at the port. Mr Christian said this would cost around £65-70 million compared to the £250 million quoted for the axed Stanford lorry park plan.

But I warned against turning the roads to Dover into "one long rolling lorry park". We've been saying for years that we need to dual the A2. The previous Labour government axed the plans but we've been working relentlessly to get the scheme back on the table. With the increased traffic expected when the Lower Thames Crossing opens, dualling the A2 is more vital than ever. Yet this alone is not enough. I'm concerned that a new 'A2 Dover TAP', along with the proposed 'contraflow' on the M20, would turn the roads to Dover into one long rolling lorry park. Our town would be cut off from the rest of Kent.

That's why it's just common sense to build more lorry parking facilities, like at the Stop 24 services off junction 11 on the M20. Brenley Corner on the A2 is another option. And we need a wider network of lorry parks up and down the country. This is a national priority. It's time we had real investment in Kent's roads.

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02 JUN 2018

Dovorians to get 'first pick' on Farthingloe homes

Dovorians will be given 'first pick' on scores of affordable homes for young people at Farthingloe, according to the man behind the project. More than 500 new houses and flats are proposed to be built on the brownfield site – where temporary housing for Channel Tunnel workers once stood.

I recently met CGI operations director Rob Prince at Farthingloe, off the B2011. I asked Mr Prince for assurances that young people and renters looking to get on the housing ladder would benefit from the plans.

Mr Prince said he wants to give priority to Dovorians who want to get on the housing ladder. He said he cares about Dover being a town on the up and giving young people a chance to buy their first home, and that there will be affordable housing. 

The ambitious project – which includes £5 million of investment in the historic Drop Redoubt – was previously given planning permission by Dover District Council in April 2015. But following a lengthy court battle over a planning technicality raised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the proposals are now being resubmitted – with a few enhancements.

There will be fewer residential units proposed at the Western Heights – from 94 to 40. Less land is being developed at Farthingloe, increasing green space. The height of buildings in the south west corner is also being reduced. Mr Prince's draft plans include: 66 one-bed flats, 43 two-bed flats, three three-bed flats, 14 one-bed houses, 180 two-bed houses, 170 three-bed houses and 45 four-bed houses.

I asked how much these homes would cost. Mr Prince said if they were to go on sale in today's market, a two-bed house would be on sale for around £200,000 and a three-bed house would be around £250,000. The prices for flats would probably start at £100,000.

The project also includes repairs and restoration work to historic structures at the Western Heights, including St Martin's Battery the Guard Room and Officer and Soldiers' Quarters. The Drop Redoubt will be converted into a museum / visitor centre to attract more tourists to Dover. There will be improvements to the landscaping around the Grand Shaft pedestrian connections with the Drop Redoubt – including a reinstated swing bridge to create a safe visitor entrance. A 130-bed hotel is also proposed.

Everyone knows we need to build more homes so young people and renters have a chance to get on the housing ladder. We all want Dover and Deal to be a place where you can get a job, have a home to call your own and raise a family. So I'm delighted with these ambitious plans to build affordable homes for Dovorians on the brownfield site at Farthingloe. Let's get on with building the homes we need.

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01 JUN 2018

Delivering investment in Dover and Deal

There's no doubt that Dover and Deal are on the up. The years of hard work have made a huge difference. After a long battle, Burlington House came down. While the arrival of the fast train has seen Deal go from strength to strength.

What's more, we've seen Deal win Britain's high street of the year and been ranked as the number one coastal town by The Times. It's vital to build on this success. So it's great to see the £500,000 refurbishment of Deal Pier coming along nicely. At the end of the pier, the council plans a café offering cups of tea and snacks during the day, and a restaurant in the evening. This is a fantastic asset with such great potential - and set to be another step forward for Deal. Also high on my list is to get a dual carriageway to Deal, although we all know that will take a long time.

Meanwhile, over in Dover, the good news keeps coming. Burlington House is long gone and the St James development has risen in its stead. Over the past few weeks the M&S Food store has opened, along with Superdrug. This comes after Cineworld, Nando's, Food Warehouse, Travelodge and others started welcoming customers back in March.

We've got Next, Costa, Anytime Fitness and many more still to come - as well as Follies pizzeria which plans a rooftop terrace bar.

Yet I am very aware that the St James development brings challenges too. First in parking - we're going to need more parking spaces. So I've been pressing the council to make sure a big car park is built when the Dover leisure centre is developed. I'm also working hard to ensure the arrival of St James boosts our current high street. Visitors need to see everything our town has to offer. So I'm fully backing district council leader Keith Morris' plan to invest £500,000 in the high street. Lots can be done to support our hardworking small business owners, like cash for sprucing up shop fronts. Our streets must be safe too - the local police force deserve great credit for listening to concerns and stepping up patrols.

We need to make the most of tourism too. Everyone knows about our world-famous castle – yet how many tourists also stop at the Roman Painted House? While the old town jail under the Maison Dieu needs to be on offer as well.

Speaking of tourism, the new marina curve at the port should soon be open. Construction is well underway. Once built, with commercial units, bars and cafes, the marina is sure to attract visitors from all over. Everyone has seen the huge success of the Folkestone Harbour Arm. We can enjoy equal success here at our iconic docks.

Much has been done with the delivery of some £500 million of investment since 2010.Yet I know we can do better still and deliver even more for Dover and Deal in the years to come. 

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24 MAY 2018

Campaigning to keep our streets safe and secure

"Dover is a beautiful place, with beautiful people – and I will fight for this town."

These were the words of Sandra Mahlo at her Cannon Street café La Salle Verte. I had organised a meeting with high street business owners, local councillors and the police. We talked about how we must all work together to look after our town. And it was clear how passionate everyone is about getting the best for Dover.

The meeting was held following a spate of break-ins and burglaries earlier this year. These crimes caused serious concern among local firms. So our police force deserve real praise for swiftly catching the culprits.

Yet there were still worries about the level of police presence in the high street. I contacted our Dover District Commander, Chief Inspector Mark Weller, and he said patrols had been stepped up in Market Square, Cannon Street and Biggin Street.

I was delighted to hear from Sandra and the others at the meeting that they had noticed the boosted police presence in town. People must feel safe when shopping in our high street.

The issue of people consuming alcohol and taking drugs in the town centre was also raised. Ch Insp Weller said the force was cracking down on this through 'Operation Urban'. He also revealed shoplifting in the high street is down 17 per cent. His team play a vital role. They know their patch inside-out and work closely with business owners and support services.

It's the nature of their job that sometimes officers will be called to deal with someone who suffers from mental health problems. Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott has shown real leadership in this area. He's given funding to Talk It Out in Deal and to Dover Outreach Centre. They work with the police to get the most vulnerable people the help they need.

Both in Dover and Deal, the police and shopkeepers are clearly passionate about protecting our high street – and I am determined to help in any way I can. In Parliament, we recently secured more funding for Kent Police – up from £279.3 million to £288 million – which is going towards 200 more officers. We need to see lots of these new recruits deployed in Dover and Deal. I have made that case to Kent's Chief Constable, who told me he was "confident the increase will be felt tangibly by the residents of Dover district".

In Deal in particular, people tell me they want more opportunities to speak face-to-face with the police. So I've asked the Commissioner to consider doubling the number of hours residents have access to the local force.

We may be living in the age of the internet and social media. Yet for so many people, the heart of our community is the high street. Our local business owners and police force are a huge part of that. We must do everything we can to support them.

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22 MAY 2018

Community spirit still strong in Dover and Deal

Whether looking for jobs or belting out karaoke classics, people feel part of a community at Dover Big Local's hub. I went along to the Charlton Centre to meet the team, hearing how Dover Big Local and the Shaw Trust, both based in Unit 18, are helping people back into work.

The hub hosts a number of community events, including a "coffee and karaoke" morning which was in full swing during my visit. I joined in with a rendition of Ticket to Ride by The Beatles, then chatted with Shaw Trust staff members Kemi Fatola, Gerda Vaiksnoraite and Mark Hoda. They told me that 57 people are taking part in their work and health programme, of which three have found employment.

Ross Miller, chairman of the Dover Big Local Partnership, told me about the range of services being offered at the hub. This includes a jobs club, run with Southern Housing every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm, which has helped 17 people find work over the past nine months. People are also given support setting up their own businesses. Dover Big Local was handed £1 million of lottery funding, which it has been investing in the town since 2015.

It was fantastic to see the brilliant work being done at the Charlton Centre hub. We fought hard to secure the £1 million lottery funding for our town – and it's great to see Dover Big Local spending the money on projects like this.

The Shaw Trust is doing great work too, helping people in tough circumstances back into employment. This hub just goes to show how strong our community spirt is in Dover.

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18 MAY 2018

Urging road chiefs to tackle traffic

I have urged council chiefs to tackle traffic levels between Dover and Deal. I invited Kent County Council's transport supremo Cllr Mike Whiting and his team to Deal – so they could see for themselves how busy the A258 is.

At least 10,000 vehicles travel along the road every day – causing congestion and pollution. In the past six years alone there have been 100 accidents on the A258.

I met with Cllr Whiting, cabinet member for planning, highways, transport and waste, and his officers on Friday, May 11, explaining how many residents think a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End should be built. Cllr Whiting took the arguments on board – and his council officers said any new road would have to be included Dover District Council transport model.

The A258 is creaking under the huge level of traffic using the road every day. This, along with several blind corners on the route, is making the road dangerous for drivers. What's more, studies show that air pollution near Deal Castle is now worse than in some parts of central London. It's no surprise so many residents tell me that a dualled spur from the A256 to connect Middle Deal and the North End makes sense. Deal is a great place – yet it would be greater still with less traffic and less pollution in the town centre.

Research carried out by local campaign group Deal With It found nitrogen dioxide levels on the A258 measured 52.9 micrograms per cubic metre. The EU's legal limit is 40. They were taking readings near Deal Castle as part of an air quality study by Friends of the Earth. The reading was the only one in east Kent to exceed the legal limit.

A total of 228 crashes have taken place on the A258 since 2003, including more than 100 between 2010 and 2016. Over the last 15 years, 18 accidents have resulted in serious injuries. Five have been fatal.

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17 MAY 2018

Fighting injustice is my most important job

Too often, the most vulnerable people – those who need the very best care we can offer – are treated as numbers on a spreadsheet. Targets to be met rather than individuals and patients to be put first. One misguided decision by a remote official can result in terrible pain for them and their family. Getting that put right is a key part of my job as your Member of Parliament.

I recently went to the Martha Trust in Deal to meet resident Clare Costelloe and her parents Brian and Sue. Clare suffers from a rare disease called neuro-Behcet's Syndrome that has left her blind, epileptic and wheelchair-bound.

Clare was receiving NHS Continuous Care Funding, until a review by Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in November found she "no longer meets the criteria". The family was informed that payments would stop in January.

When I was first told about Clare's case, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could anyone deny her the vital funding she so obviously needs? I contacted health chiefs demanding the decision be immediately reversed. The health chiefs soon admitted a new review was needed. Last month, they agreed to continue Clare's vital funding.

Yet that was not all. Clare was also being denied disability benefits because she was already cared for in a "hospital or similar institution". I contacted the Department for Work and Pensions – and Clare's Employment and Support Allowance was also re-instated.

Brian and Sue were understandably angry and upset about what they had all been forced to go through. In particular, they felt it was wrong that when Clare's NHS funding was suddenly axed, no arrangement was made for payments to continue, or for alternative funding by social services.

They were absolutely right. This should never happen again to anyone else anywhere in our country. So I took that matter up with Health Ministers, calling for a new policy so people like Clare would always be looked after. And last week Health Minister Caroline Dinenage told me she is making a string of new measures to ensure "there should be no gap between NHS and local authority social care responsibilities." Also, assessments will now always be conducted by more than one person, including both NHS and social services staff.

Clare should never have been put in this position in the first place. Yet I'm really pleased that we were able to put it right. Making a difference to people's daily lives is the best part of my job. I'm also really pleased the Government has listened and acted swiftly. People like Clare should never again have funding suddenly taken away.

Brian and Sue's determination to fight for their daughter has made a real difference. They are incredible parents. There will now be a brand new safeguard for thousands of vulnerable people across the country. I'm proud to have done my bit to help make a difference.

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15 MAY 2018

New public toilets block set for Dover town centre

A new public toilets block is set to be built in Dover town centre. Plans to build a single storey building on land adjacent to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Maison Dieu Gardens were given the green light last month. A formal decision notice was published on May 4.

Dover District Council's (DDC) has also now agreed to provide a "substantial contribution" to building costs after my request. I pointed out the authority was contributing to a single toilet block in Dover compared to three in Deal town. DDC has now confirmed an informal agreement for the "substantial contribution" – subject to cabinet approval over the coming months.

I want to thank the council for doing the right thing here. There is no legal obligation for them to provide public toilets and we all know finances are tight. But provision in Dover has not been good enough – not by a long way. Lots of residents have told me how awful it is if you are elderly or have medical problems or just need to go. One set of toilets in the town centre is absurd – especially with St James up and running. So I'm really pleased with this decision. Now we need to see things move forward as quickly as possible.

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14 MAY 2018

Meeting business owners and police chiefs

A boosted police presence in Dover town centre is making a big difference. I organised a meeting in Dover on Friday between police and owners of high street shops – after a spate of break-ins and burglaries earlier this year.

I praised the local force for swiftly catching the culprits and responding to concerns by increasing patrols in Market Square, Cannon Street and Biggin Street. Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, Dover District Commander Ch Insp Mark Weller and local PCSOs dropped in to La Salle Verte. We met with the café's owner Sandra Mahlo, Nifties boss Nathaniel Richards and Hassan Tizaghouin who runs Charmaine's hair salon. Town councillors Chris Precious and Callum Warriner joined the meeting, along with Tower Hamlets resident June Murphy.

The spate of high street break-ins and burglaries was extremely concerning. Yet our local force deserve great credit for swiftly catching the culprits. It's great to see how Matthew Scott and Ch Insp Weller have listened to our concerns and boosted patrols in the town centre too. I was also hugely impressed by our PCSOs – they know their patch inside-out and are keen to work closely with local business owners.

The business owners also raised the issue of people consuming alcohol and taking drugs in the town centre. Ch Insp Weller said the force's 'Operation Urban' was cracking down on anti-social behaviour linked to alcohol or drug use in Dover. This is a joint operation between Kent Police and Dover District Council's community safety unit, which seeks to address crime and antisocial behaviour in the town. He also revealed that shoplifting in the high street was down 17 per cent.

It's fantastic to see our local force and business owners working together with the community to tackle crime. Both the police and shopkeepers are clearly passionate about protecting our high street – and I am determined to help in any way I can. In Parliament, we recently secured more funding for Kent Police – which is going towards 200 more officers. We need to see lots of these new recruits deployed in Dover and Deal.

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Dear Mr Elphicke, I'm glad that Dover seems to have a higher police presence, but what about Deal? Where I live we are having a spate of petty vandalism, and rarely see a police officer. I do appreciate all you do for your constituents, and hope it won't be long until you reinstated as our Conservative MP.
- Jennifer Davies

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10 MAY 2018

Drug deaths double showing need for Robert's Law

Kent authorities have been told to stock thousands of anti-overdose kits after drug deaths doubled in three years – to the highest level in the UK. There were 213 drug-related deaths in the county between 2014 and 2016, compared to just 111 between 2011 and 2013.

A report published this week by Public Health England recommends the number of naloxone kits – which reverse overdose effects – needed by each local authority, based on numbers for drug users and drug-related deaths. It recommends any individual receiving treatment for opiate use – 2,210 across Kent – should be given a kit, plus extra depending on mortality rates. Public Health England has recommended Kent stock a total of 3,172 naloxone kits.

Their report, called "Fentanyl: preparing for a future threat", focused on powerful opioids following my campaign. I have been working to bring in Robert's Law – tougher sentences for those who supply fentanyl – with the mother of a Deal teenager killed after taking the deadly drug in 2016. Last year, Home Office ministers assured me they would be working with Public Health England to widen naloxone's use in the UK.

These new figures on deaths caused by drugs are really concerning. Working with Robert Fraser's mum Michelle I have seen just how devastating the trend is. Fentanyl is dozens of times stronger than heroin and it is killing tens of thousands of people each year in America. We are fighting to make sure that isn't repeated here. This is why I have been pushing for a carrot and stick approach. Firstly provide these anti-overdose drugs, because every life is precious. Secondly, punish the dealers who bring this poison to our streets. I want tougher sentences for those caught supplying it.

I also raised the issue with the National Crime Agency, the National Police Chiefs Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS recently updated its guidance for prosecutors, asking them to recommend longer jail terms to judges. The Sentencing Council has also told me they will review their guidelines.

The campaign for Robert's Law follows the death of Robert Fraser, who was 18 when he lost his life after taking fentanyl. He did not know he was taking it, having been told by a drug dealer it was similar to ecstasy. His body was discovered by his parents later that evening.

As Robert's mum Michelle said: "Robert was not an addict. He took recreational drugs like so many young people these days. But I will never get him back.

"I don't want any other parent to go through what I have. That's why I want anti-overdose kits to be more widely available, and for the people who peddle this poison to be properly punished.

"It is costing lives and sitting back and hiding – hoping it will all go away is not an option. My son's memory is worth so much more, and so is our children's future."

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10 MAY 2018

We need to get on with investment at the frontline

The people of Dover and Deal voted by a huge 62% to leave the European Union. So it's no surprise that so often when someone stops me in town they ask: "Why haven't we left yet?" And they're absolutely right. We need to get on with it.

It's vital that we deliver on the instruction of the British people and take back control of our borders, our laws, our money and our trade policy. There's no point doing this half-heartedly. We'll just end up being run by remote control by Brussels bureaucrats.

I have long argued that Brexit preparations – particularly here at the frontline in Dover and Deal – should be treated as a national priority. The truth is that after the EU referendum, we should have started major investment at the border the very next day.

Yet it seems too many Government officials just could not bring themselves to accept the Brexit vote. These defeatists who don't believe in an independent future for our island nation tell us we must keep some form of quasi-EU relationship. This is nonsense. There are many practical steps we should be taking now to solve the Brexit border challenge.

I've been making this case every chance I get in Parliament. And the Government has recently committed some cash. The £260 million allocated to HM Revenue and Customs and £395 million to the Home Office for Brexit preparations is a start – but only that. More is needed, and quickly.

This is the view of the firms who use our port. When I recently asked freight experts if we still had enough time, they said: "You would have to get a hell of a wiggle on."

So what practical steps can we take? At Dover, it makes sense to use the cameras and video technology we already have, so we can track vehicles through Automatic Number Plate Recognition. This could link up to the new customs IT system – which the Government must ensure is ready on time. We should get more firms signed up as trusted traders so trucks can just as easily cross the Channel without needless delays. Meanwhile, the new Lower Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed and the M2/A2 upgraded and dualled all the way to Dover. We also need more lorry parking facilities built along the M20 – like at the Stop 24 services off junction 11.

The Government must not underestimate just how vital Dover is. More than 10,000 trucks pass through our port every day. We handle £120 billion (17%) of the UK's trade in goods. And this is set to grow by 40% over the next 10 years.

So this isn't speculative spending. This funding was needed anyway. Yet it is more important now than ever. The EU think they have us over a barrel because hardly anything has been done to date. So whatever happens, we need get on with it.

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04 MAY 2018

Dover customs operators say Brexit can work

Customs clearance operators at the Port of Dover say Brexit can work – as long investment takes place "rather quickly". Motis Freight Services Agency general manager Tim Dixon told me an "IT-based solution" with "pre-notification", "trusted trader schemes" and checks away from the port can prevent traffic backlogs.

His views echo my own. I have written several papers detailing what's needed to prevent long queues around the Channel ports after Brexit. Mr Dixon recently showed me around the Motis facilities at the Western Docks. Major resurfacing work is taking place and will be completed in the next fortnight, increasing the site's lorry parking provision from 300 to 330 spaces.

Mr Dixon said: "I do think Brexit is workable. No-one wants to see lorries backed up for miles and that's me speaking as a Dovorian. It's going to come down to an IT-based solution, and what we do with documentation.

"But as long as the right people are speaking to each other, as they are starting to, we can continue the flow of traffic through the port, which is what everyone wants to see."

Motis has also recently upgraded its facilities for drivers. Its port building now has showers, a laundrette, a restaurant/café, a cinema room, an ATM and charging points. Mr Dixon said the firm is looking to add more sites and focussing on a number of areas across Kent, particularly along the M2/A2 corridor.

Lorry parking is one of the things the Government should be investing in now. No matter what deal is struck with the EU, it is needed and has been for years. The few places we do have like Motis are full every single day. Meanwhile lorries are often dangerously parked in lay-bys, causing a nuisance for drivers and residents.

But lorry parking won't meet all of Brexit's border challenges. At Dover we should use the camera technology we already have and link it up with the new customs IT system. We should start getting more firms signed up as trusted traders. The new Lower Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed, and the M2/A2 corridor should be upgraded and dualled all the way to Dover.

But the Government needs to get on with it. I've been making this case every chance I get in Parliament – and will keep fighting for investment here at the Dover frontline.

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03 MAY 2018

Securing millions more for schools in Dover and Deal

People often ask me why I got into politics. There are many reasons – such as fighting for lower taxes, stronger borders, better healthcare and a fairer share of investment in the regions. Yet above all, it's because I'm passionate about giving people ladders in life. It shouldn't matter where you come from or who you know – everyone should have the chance to get on and do well.

That's why it's vital we give our youngsters the best possible education. Because schools must give children the support they need to climb as far as their talents can take them. In turn, we must give our hard-working teachers and staff all the help we can.

This time last year, there were lots of scare stories going around – with unfounded rumours about school funding 'cuts'. Yet the truth is that our schools are getting a big funding boost.

From September, Dover district secondary schools will receive £1.23 million extra – an inflation-busting 3.9% increase on the previous year. Sir Roger Manwood's will get 5.5% more per pupil in 2018/19, Astor College 5.3% more, Sandwich Technology 4.7% more, Dover Grammar for Girls 4.4% more, and Dover Christ Church Academy and Dover Grammar for Boys 4.1% more. The total school funding in Kent is more than £1 billion for the first time – the highest amount in the UK.

Historically our pupils have been thousands of pounds worse off than their London peers – an issue I have repeatedly raised with ministers. That's why I was really pleased when the new school funding formula, giving a cash boost to our area, was announced last year. It wasn't supposed to come in until 2020 – so it's great Kent County Council have listened to our calls to take action now. It means that our secondary schools will get millions more for pupils' education – for years and years to come.

This funding will help build on the huge strides we have made in recent years. Teachers across Dover and Deal have been doing an incredible job. New figures reveal that there are 153 additional good or outstanding schools in Kent since 2010 – the biggest increase across the UK. In Dover and Deal alone, 9,643 children are now attending schools rated good or outstanding – an increase of 2,432. Meanwhile, 61.6% of pupils in our area meet the expected levels in reading and maths tests, compared to 53% nationally.

The figures tell one story. Yet we must also remember how each individual teacher and member of staff makes a real difference every day. Take the outreach programme at Whitfield and Aspen, where staff go and help at nurseries across the district. They see youngsters' learning rapidly improve. It is this drive to help every child which we must do everything to support.

There is still more work to do. Yet I'm determined to keep fighting for our schools – so every youngster in Dover and Deal has the best possible start in life.

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01 MAY 2018

Getting funding for a disabled constituent

A severely disabled woman has had vital funding reinstated. Sadly however, it was only after I intervened. 

Martha Trust resident Clare Costelloe, 43, from Deal, suffers from a rare disease called neuro-Behcet's syndrome. She is blind, epileptic and wheelchair bound. Clare was receiving NHS Continuous Care Funding, until a review by Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in November found she "no longer meets the criteria". The family was told payments would stop in January.

That month I contacted CCG bosses expressing my utter bemusement with the decision and demanding it be reconsidered without appeal. The CCG contacted me soon afterwards, agreeing to hold a new review and continue payments in the meantime. Last week, the new review was completed and funding was awarded.

Last year Clare was also told she was not entitled to disability benefits because she was already cared for in a "hospital or similar institution". I contacted the Department for Work and Pensions, explaining how the Martha Trust did not provide specialist treatment and highlighting a legal ruling differentiating between care homes and hospitals for VAT purposes. Last month, Clare's Employment and Support Allowance was also re-instated.

Brian and Sue Costelloe, Clare's parents, said: "We thank Charlie and his team most sincerely for their concern and support.

"The CCG were infinitely more conciliatory and understanding than at the last review meeting in November. No doubt thanks in no small measure to Charlie's timely intervention.

"He has also agreed to keep working with us to raise wider issues within the care system.

"There are real problems. It seems we were just lucky Clare had an MP willing to fight on her behalf."

When Clare's parents came to me I was really concerned. The situation was ridiculous – unacceptable – and I made my feelings clear to health chiefs. I'm pleased that in the end, at least, they listened and did the right thing.

Helping people in Dover and Deal is the most important part of my job. I urge anyone having issues to contact me. Anyone in need of help or advice should email charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk or call my office on 01304 379669.

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26 APR 2018

Fighting for cleaner, clearer roads across Dover and Deal

Dover is the gateway to England. The first thing ferry passengers see as they approach our shores is the iconic White Cliffs. I've made the Calais to Dover crossing on dozens of occasions. Yet the sight of the White Cliffs on the horizon takes my breath away every time.

This view is the best possible welcome we can give visitors to our great nation. That's why it's so important that when people reach Dover, we continue to show just how beautiful our corner of Kent really is.

Yet those first impressions have recently been spoiled – by piles of litter on the roadside. Kent is the Garden of England. Yet of late it's looked more like a rubbish tip along the A2 and A20. All week in Westminster I look forward to coming home to Dover and Deal. As I drive along the motorway I hate to see our area blighted by bottles and wrappers strewn across verges – passed by millions of other motorists.

I've been asking the council and Highways England to work together to clean up the mess. So I'm delighted that the council contacted me to assure me that litter clearance on roads across the district would be taking place.

Dover District Council confirmed seven clean-up operations in April. Lydden Hill, Green Lane and Whitfield Hill, the A20, the A257, and the A258 from rare breeds roundabout to Deal roundabout have all been targeted.

It follows litter-picking in March along the A2, from the Whitfield roundabout to the Duke of York's roundabout and along Jubilee Way. Council workers told me around 600kg of waste was cleared in total. They also said dates would be confirmed shortly for a litter pick of the whole length of the A2.

I'm really pleased the council have taken action on this. I understand road closures have to be agreed with Highways England which makes things more difficult. Everyone knows how hard we had to fight to get Highways England to axe the hated A20 40mph limit last year. Yet we got there in the end. Now the digital speed limit signs should be switched on soon.

Another big issue, following the freezing temperatures this winter, is the number of potholes. I've asked Kent County Council to fix our road surfaces fast. So again I'm really pleased that this month they launched a "pothole blitz" across the worst affected roads. It's good to see that Highways England are resurfacing parts of the M20 and M2-A2 too.

Having resilient roads in Dover and Deal is more important than ever. In just 11 months we will be leaving the European Union. Meanwhile, the amount of lorries travelling through our port is rising every year. We must continue to fight for the A2 to be fully dualled – and for more lorry parking facilities along the M20.

Yet we must get the basics right too. That means sorting the potholes – and keeping our roadsides clear of rubbish.

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I am a great supporter of DDC who have an enormously difficult job, but it does seem that every single year - Spring and Autumn, a campaign has to be launched to find out if and when a litter pick is scheduled on Port of Dover approach roads - why cannot the scheduling be published? It obviously isn't a simple thing to organise but there must be come sort of 'process' involved - can you find out what the process is and ensure that at the very least, the Autumn litter pick is already being planned?
- Diane French

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26 APR 2018

Unemployment in Dover and Deal drops to lowest level

Unemployment in Dover and Deal has dropped below the UK average to its lowest level since records began. Official labour market figures published last week show there were only around 2,000 unemployed people last year or 3.5% of the constituency. That compares to 4.4% across the UK last year, and 10.7% (4,800) in Dover and Deal in 2010. It represents the area's lowest level since the Office for National Statistics began recording the data in 2004.

Back in 2010 I pledged to bring more money and jobs to Dover and Deal. These figures show just how much progress has been made. For decades we were near the bottom of the tables for employment levels – much higher than the UK average. Now it's the opposite.

In the meantime we have seen ugly, derelict buildings knocked down and a shopping and cinema complex rise up in their place. On top of that, wage growth is now ahead of inflation. It's clear that the economic plan is working. We are on the road to a much brighter future for our area. Yet we must keep going.

The total number of economically inactive people has also dropped – from 15,900 (27.1%) in 2015 to 13,700 (23%) last year. Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in Dover district dropped 58.8% from 2,500 in February 2010 to 1,030 in November 2016, when they stopped counting ahead of Universal Credit. According to the International Labour Organisation's measure, the unemployment rate in Dover and Deal dropped from 8.3% in 2010 to 4.8% last year.

Job prospects in Dover and Deal have massively improved, in both quantity and quality. We have worked incredibly hard in recent years to bring more than £400 million of investment to our area. We are closing in on that bright future we all want.

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19 APR 2018

How we can be better off after Brexit

There are many good reasons why we are leaving the European Union. And why Dover and Deal – and the nation as a whole – will be better off for it.

We will be taking back control of our money, our laws and our borders. We can put an end to uncontrolled EU immigration – and strike free trade deals across the globe. Yet there are so many more benefits of Brexit.

Take the case of David Wilsher, from Kingsdown. Because of EU rules, he could be put out of business.

David runs a firm called Mission Cycles, based in Maidstone. They sell tricycles which are imported from China and Taiwan. Because these products are specially designed for disabled people, David should be exempt from paying any import duty. Yet Mission Cycles has been hit with an £85,000 tariff bill.

I urged HMRC to put this right. Finally they agreed to reduce the bill by £25,000 and arranged to visit Mission Cycles to discuss the remaining sum. Yet a week before the visit HMRC cancelled, saying Brussels bureaucrats "would not accept any variation of Customs assessments resulting from non-statutory process."

In other words, because we are bound by EU rules, HMRC cannot cut the £85,000 bill. This means David will have to seek a tribunal ruling to overturn the charge, which he says is "a gamble that could cost more than the debt they are asking for".

I'm taking this up with HMRC again to see what can be done. Yet this case shows once more the sort of red tape which is holding British businesses back. And it shows why leaving the EU customs union is the right thing to do. It means we will honour the referendum result, set our own rules and sign trade deals with the rest of the world.

Another great benefit of Brexit is that we will at last be able to ban live animal exports. We've had to put up with this wicked trade at ports like Dover because of EU law. Everyone remembers the protests on Townwall Street and the horrible sight of lorries packed full of sheep.

The live export trade continues to this day at Ramsgate. I've been making the case in Parliament to Environment Secretary Michael Gove that we must put a stop to it as soon as we leave the EU. And now he has confirmed he is considering a ban – to help the UK become a world leader in animal welfare.

Of course, leaving the EU will present challenges. That's why I've been setting out in detail how we can be ready on day one for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover frontline.

There is still much work to be done. Yet once we take back control it's clear we can be better off after Brexit.

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13 APR 2018

GP hub IT issues must be fixed

Health chiefs must get a grip and swiftly fix the problems delaying the opening of GP hubs in Dover and Deal. 

It was announced earlier this year that up to ten rooms at Buckland Hospital and Deal Hospital would be used to provide extra GP services as part of £2.4 million investment. But IT issues have resulted in the planned opening of the Buckland hub on April 9 being delayed. The hub at Victoria Hospital in Deal is not yet open either – with work underway to make services available by the end of this month.

I have contacted bosses at the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group to express his serious concerns. Health chiefs need to urgently get a grip of this situation and deliver the services patients were promised. These hubs will mean more people can be treated locally, taking pressure of the larger hospitals in East Kent. We need to see a fully-functioning, seven days a week service. It's vital we make the most of the facilities we have at Buckland and Deal.

The CCG announced earlier this year that the hubs would be open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, delivering 110,000 appointments per year. For the first three months the service will run 8am to 4pm while more staff are recruited.

I am also seeking assurances on out-of-hours services available to people in Dover and Deal. The Deal out-of-hours base was closed by former provider Primecare in October last year. Charlie is asking new provider IC24 and the CCG to reassure residents about coverage in East Kent. Everyone knows that an emergency can happen at any time – not just 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. People across Dover and Deal need reassurance that they and their loved ones can get the treatment they need, no matter the time or location.

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12 APR 2018

Dover's dementia village to open by July 2019

Empty houses behind Buckland Hospital will be converted into the UK’s first “dementia village” by July next year. The team behind the £3.5 million project told me about their plans on a recent visit to the site.

Residents will be helped to live as independently as possible – with an on-site shop, cinema, pub and hairdressers. The six derelict semi-detached blocks in Randolph Road will be renovated and house 30 beds for elderly residents. Each block will hold five beds in specially adapted flats – with trained healthcare assistants on site.

A community centre called “the hub” will also offer an extra six “flexible” beds which can be filled from referrals by GPs or Kent County Council, bringing the total number of beds to 36. Consultant geriatrician Philip Brighton and strategic intelligence director Henry Quinn – both from East Kent Hospitals NHS University Foundation Trust – told me the dementia village is scheduled to open in the first half of 2019. They said they had used local architects and a local contractor – and intend to employ local workers when the site is up and running.

It was great to learn more about the exciting plans for a dementia village in Dover. The team are clearly passionate about providing the best possible care for our elderly.  It’s fantastic that an innovative project like this is coming to Dover and that we are seeing yet more investment in local care services. 

What’s more, it’s great to see the empty houses in Randolph Road finally being brought back into use, creating a place elderly patients can call home. I’m excited to see this project become a reality next year.

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12 APR 2018

Hard won investment is making the change in Dover & Deal

Walking around Dover these days you can sense a real buzz. After many long years of hard work, people can see things are finally starting to happen.

Every week a new business is opening at the St James site. First it was Cineworld, then Nando's, then Poundland and Food Warehouse. Now Travelodge is open too – bringing more jobs and visitors to our corner of Kent.

When I first campaigned to be your Member of Parliament more than eight years ago – I promised to do everything I could to bring more jobs and money to Dover and Deal. Since then we've had more than £500 million of investment and unemployment has halved.

It's not been easy. We've faced many challenges and setbacks along the way. Yet at last things are changing.

When I parked up at St James, a man approached me shouting: "Oi, is that who I think it is?" I wondered what I might have done to upset him. But then he came running over, shook my hand and said: "It's great here, isn't it?"

The new cinema and shops were bustling with customers. Some people scoffed at the excitement surrounding the announcement that Nando's was coming to town. Yet it was very busy when I went for lunch there – so it's clearly popular.

It was great to see that lots of people were following the route from St James past the Lord Nelson pub and towards Market Square. We must do everything we can to support the hardworking small business owners in the high street. That's why I'm fully backing district council leader Keith Morris' plan to invest £500,000 in the area.

Meanwhile, at the Western Docks amazing progress in being made. I was shown up close the great steel pylons which will form the structure of the new marina curve. Concrete slabs are being laid on top before commercial units are constructed. Port chairman Richard Everitt and his team deserve great credit for the incredible work done so far.

Boosting the cargo business will help the port grow – and opens up the potential for more ferry crossings at the Eastern Docks. Yet the most exciting prospect of all is the new marina curve. Once built, bustling with bars and cafes right on the seafront, it is sure to attract visitors from all over. I can't wait to sit down and enjoy the view, watching the ferries come and go.

So, a new-look seafront is on the way and St James is up and running. Despite the doom-mongers saying that it could never be done. That Burlington House would forever tower over our town. That to have a six-screen cinema in the centre of Dover was in the realms of fantasy.

We've come a long way together since 2010 - and we're delivering investment that's making the change in Dover & Deal.

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10 APR 2018

Major litter clearances across Dover and Deal

Litter clearance on roads across Dover and Deal will start this week after I kept pressuring the council. 

Dover District Council has confirmed seven clean-up operations in April. Lydden Hill will be targeted on April 12, Green Lane and Whitfield Hill on April 13, the A20 on April 16, the A257 on April 19 and 23, and the A258 from rare breeds roundabout to Deal roundabout on April 27.

It follows litter-picking along the A2 – from the Whitfield roundabout to the Duke of York's roundabout and along Jubilee Way – between March 14 and 16. Council workers told me around 600kg of waste was cleared in total. They also said dates would be confirmed shortly for a litter pick of the whole length of the A2.

I'm really pleased the council have taken action on this. Roadside litter is bad for the environment and creates a terrible impression to visitors and residents. I understand road closures have to be agreed with Highways England which makes things more difficult. But it simply must take place more regularly than it has been.

We live in a beautiful part of the country, but that's not the impression you get when bottles and wrappers are strewn across verges passed by millions of motorists. That is why I have been pushing the council to clear them more regularly. There are now seven clean-ups planned this month and I'm told more will follow.

I have lobbied the council about roadside litter dozens of times in recent months. In March I also joined the Keep Britain Tidy campaign which featured a beach clean in Walmer and a litter pick in Dover.

Litter is a blight on our beautiful corner of Kent. Everyone should be able to enjoy our stunning surroundings without them being spoilt by piles of rubbish. I welcome the council's action on this but roads must not be allowed to return to the awful state they were in.

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09 APR 2018

Nominating local nurses for an award

I have nominated a team of hard-working community nurses who have trained care home staff to treat diabetic residents for a special award. I met with local NHS manager Hayley Mullan and her team at Dover Health Centre in Maison Dieu Road to talk about the work they have been doing.

They told me that people in care homes – where one in four have diabetes – much prefer to have a familiar face administer treatment such as insulin injections. So the Kent Community Heath Trust nurses have been visiting care homes across East Kent and giving staff vital training. The team also helped cooks with recipes for meals that could be served to all residents – to put a stop to any disputes over desserts. They trained staff on ways to keep residents active and stimulated too.

Last month I put forward Hayley and her team for the NHS70 Parliamentary Awards – held in July to mark the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service. The team were nominated in the Person Centred Care Champion Award category.

We all want our grandparents and parents to receive the best possible care and to know they are being properly looked after. So Hayley and her team deserve great credit for the work they have done to train staff in care homes across Dover and Deal. I was delighted to nominate them for an award.

Their efforts have improved care and helped reduce hospital admissions. It's great to see innovation like this in our NHS. We need more of it.

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07 APR 2018

Enjoying a cheeky Nando's in Dover

I devoured a cheeky Nando's during a vist to the St James development last week. I took a look around the new Cineworld, Poundland and Food Warehouse at the town centre site before sitting down for lunch in the popular chicken restaurant.

It's fantastic to see the St James development become a reality – and to finally have a cheeky Nando's in Dover! Some people scoffed at the excitement surrounding the announcement that Nando's was coming to town. Yet it was very busy when I went for lunch – so it's clearly living up to the hype.

St James is now up and running – despite the doom-mongers saying that it could never be done. That Burlington House would forever tower over our town. That to have a six-screen cinema in the centre of Dover was in the realms of fantasy. Yet look where we are today. Everyone who worked so hard to deliver for Dover should be proud of what we've achieved so far."

The St James scheme had been facing delays because of problems getting the site connected to electricity. So I held crunch talks with the power suppliers and the council – and the switch-on date was rapidly moved forwards. The development is now attracting more and more people since the opening last month. Visitors are also able to walk along a clearly marked path alongside the Lord Nelson pub and into Market Square – so they can enjoy all the "old town" has to offer. I met with some of the business owners in Dover's high street, who said they wanted to see people who come to St James encouraged to explore more of the town.

It was great to see St James so busy – and that lots of people were walking between the new site and the high street. We must do everything we can to support the hardworking small business owners in the 'old town'. That's why I'm fully backing district council leader Keith Morris' plan to invest £500,000 in the area.

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06 APR 2018

Dover's new marina is taking shape

Construction of Dover's new marina is well underway – as I saw on a boat tour of the Western Docks. Dover Harbour Board chairman Richard Everitt and his team showed me around the multi-million pound development.

I saw up close the great steel pylons which will form the structure of the new marina curve. Concrete slabs are being laid on top before commercial units are constructed. Mr Everitt confirmed the harbour board is planning for bars and food outlets on the marina, which will be accessible from the seafront.

It was great to see up close the incredible work that's been going on at the Western Docks. Amazing progress has been made so far – and Richard Everitt and his team deserve great credit. Boosting the cargo business will help the port grow – and opens up the potential for more ferry crossings at the Eastern Docks.

Yet the most exciting prospect of all is the new marina curve. Once built, with commercial units, bars and cafes, it is sure to attract visitors from all over. I can't wait to sit down with a beer at sunset, watching the ferries come and go.

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05 APR 2018

Delivering a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

There is nothing more important than knowing you and your loved ones will receive the best possible care. That is why I'm determined to fight for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal.

Real progress is being made. Last month it was confirmed that our campaign for a new £30 million East Kent medical school had been successful. The Government is funding 107 undergraduates annually across the sites from September 2020. Everyone knows we need to recruit more GPs. Now doctors and nurses will be training and living in our beautiful corner of Kent, meaning many more will stay and work locally.

Another issue of real concern for so many families is the care their parents and grandparents receive in older age. So it's fantastic that a new "dementia village" – the first of its type in the UK – is being built right next to our hospital in Dover. The team behind the project showed me how the empty houses in Randolph Road will finally be brought back into use. They will create a place patients can call home, keep active and carry on living as independently as possible. The team are also committed to using local architects, local construction firms and to employing local workers when the dementia village opens early next year.

This month a new £2.3 million GP hub, which will run out of both Buckland and Deal hospitals, is set to open. GPs will work out of ten rooms across both sites. They will be open 8am to 8pm seven days a week, delivering 110,000 appointments per year – meaning more people can be treated locally.

We must not forget far we have come since 2010. In Deal, we saved our much-loved hospital from the brink. Now staff numbers are up 17% on 2016. In Dover, Buckland Hospital was decimated over the previous decade. We got a £24 million facility built in its place. Twice as many clinics are now operating than when it first opened.

Yet there is still more to do. I recently held talks with bosses at the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group. I raised my serious concerns about the removal of the age-related macular degeneration treatment from Buckland. They said they are working to bring it back. They are in discussions with eye doctors and looking at training up more nurses. Dovorians were also promised a number of other services when Buckland Hospital opened two years ago which we need to see delivered now.

When I spoke to staff at Deal Hospital, they told me there is a great opportunity for more respiratory and rehab services. Although the East Kent coalfields closed some time ago, there are still people locally who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The CCG should make treatment for this available in Deal.

We've battled hard for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal. Investment is now growing. Yet we must keep fighting.

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I had been hospitalized for 3 years in a row all in the same month march, for shortness of breath. They thought it was asthma. The last time which was this year, they hospitalized me for a week. Which they ran lots of test and determined I have COPD. The symptoms I had were shortness of breath, tired, and coughing. Oxygen doesn't seem to help, medication wasn’t helping too (Spiriva and Advair plus nose sprays).although my doctor was wanted me to use it, to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on COPD Herbal formula from Green House Herbal Clinic, the COPD natural formula immensely helped my condition, i had a total recovery from COPD with this natural herbal formula treatment. Green House Herbal Clinic official web site ww w. greenhouseherbalclinic. com. I feel alive again! The coughing, tiredness, shortness of breath and other symptoms has subsided.  I am very pleased with this treatment. sometimes i totally forget i ever had COPD,Don't give up hope, My family are amazed at the change and rapid recovery from COPD. Needless to mention I haven't smoked since the procedure and I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise
- Michelle

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04 APR 2018

Business under threat due to EU rules

A Kent business which sells products for disabled people is under threat because of EU Customs Union rules.

Kingsdown resident David Wilsher's firm Mission Cycles, based in Maidstone, was handed an £85,000 tariff bill for importing tricycles from China and Taiwan. Products specially designed for disabled people should be exempt from import duty. Mission Cycles brands itself as "disabled specialists" and insists it only sells to that group. HM Revenue and Customs officers (HMRC) initially said the tricycles weren't "specifically designed for disabled people" and enforced a duty rate of 6%.

Following representations over 15 months – including from me – HMRC reduced the bill to around £60,000 and arranged a visit to Missions Cycles to discuss the remainder. But a week before the visit the officers cancelled, stating: "I am sorry this will be disappointing new and that it comes so late in the day. The main reason for this decision relates to the relationship between HMRC and EU auditors, who would not accept any variation of a Customs assessments resulting from non-statutory process."

It means Mission Cycles will have to seek a tribunal ruling if they want to overturn the charge. Mr Wilsher described it as "a gamble that could cost more than the debt they are asking for".

I contacted HMRC executive chair Edward Troup who told me that "goods receive a classification in accordance with the EU Common External Tariff and customs duty rates are also currently determined at EU level."

So I have now raised this directly with Treasury ministers. It cannot be right for a local business delivering a service for disabled people to be treated like this. Our officers were ready to be flexible, but then EU bureaucrats told them it all had to go through a costly legal process. But it does show what we will be taking back control of after Brexit.

This is the sort of red tape which is holding our businesses back. David told me he can't make future business decisions or even have a face-to-face meetings with anyone to get clarity.

It shows why leaving the customs union is the right thing to do. It means we will honour the referendum result, set our own rules and strike trade deals with the rest of the world.

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03 APR 2018

Fentanyl dealers face tougher sentences thanks to our campaign

Suppliers of a deadly drug which killed a Deal teenager face tougher sentences thanks to our campaign. 

Robert Fraser was 18 when he died after unknowingly taking fentanyl, a synthetic opioid dozens of times stronger than heroin. I have since been working with Robert's mum Michelle to bring in Robert's Law – a series of measures to toughen sentencing for supplying fentanyl. This week, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders wrote to me confirming the Crown Prosecution Service's official drug offences guidance has been revised to include fentanyl for the first time.

The new guidance contains almost 600 words dedicated to fentanyl, warning prosecutors that "lower quantities... may still constitute a very serious offence", that "the dangers of fentanyl... should be brought to the attention of the court" through "expert witnesses... and statements", and that prosecutors should draw fentanyl's "increased potency" to the court's attention as an aggravating factor during sentencing.

This is encouraging news. The first words of Robert's Law have been etched. Fentanyl is a deadly drug and it is right that dealers should face long sentences. That sends a clear message to anyone thinking of getting involved with this stuff. I want to thank Robert's mum Michelle for being so brave over recent months. She has fought incredibly hard so something positive can be drawn from utter tragedy.

Michelle said: "I'm just so overwhelmed. I've been crying, but for once for a good reason.

"It means Robert was important and that means the world to me. This poison is costing lives and sitting back and hiding hoping it will all go away is not an option.

"My son's memory is worth so much more, and so is our children's future. I can't thank Charlie enough for helping me achieve this."

Michelle and I also hope the Sentencing Council will revise their guidelines. My proposals would mean placing fentanyl in the most serious category for harm – increasing minimum jail terms from three years to six. Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy recently told me a review of the guideline would commence "shortly".

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29 MAR 2018

Fighting for more services at Deal Hospital

We need to make the most of Deal Hospital and bring in more services.

I was shown around the wards last week by Lesley Strong, chief operating officer of Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust. I spoke to staff and patients, including 93-year-old Anna Goodey from Wingham Well who was suffering from hip pain.

I also chatted with matron Suzanne Vogle, nurse practitioner Marion Lucey and paramedic training practitioner Sam Foskett about how they had battled through winter pressures. I heard how some community nurses had walked five miles through the recent ice and snow to reach patients – and other nurses had stayed in hospital overnight.

Staff told me there is real potential for more respiratory services at the community hospital in London Road – and for pulmonary and cardio rehab services. They also said a community geriatrician should be stationed at the new GP hub set to open at the hospital in April. This would help older people receive treatment before they become too frail and end up having to go to busy hospitals like the William Harvey in Ashford. I am now urging the South Kent Clinical Commissioning Group to bring these services to Deal Hospital.

It was fantastic to meet with patients in Deal Hospital and to see the work of dedicated staff across the wards. The work they do really is incredible. This community hospital is such an amazing asset to our area and I'm determined that we make the best possible use of it.

We need to use common sense and make the most of the facilities. Although the East Kent coalfields closed some time ago, there are still people locally who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. More treatment for these sort of conditions should be available in Deal. Ms Strong told me the number of people using the minor injuries unit is up 10% on last year. Meanwhile, staff numbers are up 17% on 2016.

I am also fighting for more services at Buckland Hospital in Dover – including the return of treatment for age-related macular degeneration. The CCG told me they are in discussions with eye doctors and looking at training up more nurses.

We must not forget far we have come since 2010. In Deal, we saved our much-loved hospital from the brink. In Dover, Buckland Hospital was decimated over the previous decade. We got a £24 million facility built in its place. Twice as many clinics are now operating than when it first opened. The more people we can treat at places like Deal and Buckland to take pressure off the major acute hospitals, the better for everyone.

That's why I will keep fighting for a fairer share of healthcare in our corner of Kent.

2 comments

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29 MAR 2018

Campaigning for stronger borders

On September 15th last year, Ahmed Hassan planted a bomb on a London Underground train. His homemade device exploded at Parsons Green station, injuring 30 people. The next day the 18-year-old was at the Port of Dover, waiting to board a ferry to France. Thanks to the excellent work of Kent Police, he was stopped before he could flee the country.

Last week he was jailed for life. Our brave officers played a key role in ensuring that Hassan has been brought to justice.

Yet serious questions must be asked about how he was able to get into the UK and allowed to stay on our shores. The court heard that Hassan followed the journey taken by so many migrants across Europe to the Calais Jungle. He admitted to being from a wealthy part of Iraq – but was advised by others at the camp to make up a story in order to gain entry to the UK. He told the court this sort of deception was widespread.

Hassan eventually broke into Britain in the back of a lorry. Then, astonishingly, he was granted asylum despite telling officials he had been trained by ISIS. Two years later he was planting his bomb on a tube train.

This underlines yet again the evils of the Calais Jungle. At its worst, 10,000 people were living in squalor. Ruthless traffickers lurked around every corner and caused chaos for tourists and truckers on a daily basis. This is why it was so vital we got the camp dismantled – and why it must never return.

It is also why I have long campaigned for stronger borders. We need to ensure we have investment – particularly at the Dover frontline – in technology, data sharing and skilled officers to stop dangerous individuals at the border.

Here in Dover and Deal, we know people will go to incredible lengths to get into our country. But probably the most abhorrent method of all is through immigration marriage fraud. I've been helping two local women whose husbands left them shortly after coming to the UK on spouse visas.

Kim Sow believes her husband was already married to two women – while Carol Sahni found out her husband returned to India to marry someone else within months of arriving. Across Britain thousands of people like Kim and Carol are being shamelessly exploited by people who want to sneak into our country. We need to throw the book at them and put a stop to it.

In all these cases there was a failure to do the proper checks before people were allowed into Britain. The truth is, for too long we were seen as a soft touch. We've been working hard to put that right. Dismantling the Calais Jungle has made a huge difference, with the number of attempts to break into Britain plummeting. Yet with reports of numbers in Calais rising in recent months, we must remain vigilant.

With Brexit just around the corner too, investing in our borders and taking back control has never been more vital.

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28 MAR 2018

Visiting Porchlight as homelessness funding increased

Government funding to tackle homelessness in Dover and Deal is going up 15.1%. Dover District Council's central government grant for homelessness prevention will increase from £150,219 last year to £172,842 in 2018/19. The amount has gone up eight-fold since 2016.

The announcement by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government comes after I visited supported accommodation at Fern Court in Dover, run by homelessness charity Porchlight. I met with head of Dover and Ashford services Laura Miles and spoke with residents about the issues they face. Following the meeting I contacted ministers about a range of issues.

We need to do more to tackle homelessness. People must get the right help so they can eventually support themselves. The residents I spoke to at Porchlight told me they were desperate to have a home of their own. Yet there are long waiting lists for hostels like this and not enough homes generally. That's why I am fully backing the district council leader's plans to build 51 properties for homeless people. It's great to see the Government investing in the services we need to help people here in Dover and Deal.

Porchlight runs two hostels in Dover and Deal along with six shared flats and three shared houses. Drug and alcohol agencies also deliver support and train on-site staff. Tenants can stay for up to two years.

The extra government funding comes in the form of a flexible homelessness support grant. This replaces the existing temporary accommodation management fees which could only be used for expensive intervention when a household was already homeless.

Dover District Council recently announced plans to build 51 modular properties to tackle homelessness. They will be used for families who would otherwise be placed for months in bed and breakfast accommodation, with each household costing local taxpayers around £10,000 per household a year.

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26 MAR 2018

Fighting for greater police presence in town

I am fighting for a greater police presence in the town centre after a spate of recent burglaries. I met with local business owners – including Sandra Malho of La Salle Verte and Nifties boss Nathaniel Richards – to discuss their concerns on Friday.

I am now urging police chiefs to boost the number of patrols in the high street, from Market Square up to London Road. Dozens of burglaries, thefts and break-ins have been reported in the town centre in recent weeks. I raised his concerns with Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and Dover District Commander Ch Insp Mark Weller – and was told arrests had been made.

Yet Ms Mahlo told me that she has witnessed anti-social behaviour and drug use – including people injecting themselves – in Market Square. She said more officers on the beat would act as a deterrence.

Our local force deserve great credit for the way they have swiftly taken action. I raised concerns about this worrying spate of burglaries and a number of arrests were made. Now we need to increase police presence in the town centre to help residents and our hard-working high street business owners feel more secure. With St James up and running, there's a real sense of excitement in Dover. Yet we cannot allow all our good work to be spoilt. People should not feel intimidated walking through town.

We recently secured more funding for our local force. Our Police and Crime Commissioner has rightly listened to people's concerns and is recruiting 200 more officers. This is a great opportunity for the force to now boost police numbers in Dover's high street.

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22 MAR 2018

Fighting for more money and jobs in Dover and Deal

It was great to see so many employers and jobseekers at my Dover Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair on Friday. This was the sixth jobs fair I've held at Dover Town Hall – and they are always one of my highlights of the year.

Hundreds of people came along to speak to staff from more than 40 organisations offering jobs, apprenticeships and training schemes. They included the likes of P&O Ferries, who were this year's main sponsors, and electricals firm Megger who also contributed to the event. These businesses are stalwarts of Dover and two of our biggest employers. It's no surprise so many people want to work at firms like these – and often stay throughout their whole career.

I really enjoyed speaking to workers from all the businesses who came along to meet prospective employees. There was a great variety of stalls this year. Canterbury College were promoting their construction course. They were getting people to see how quickly they could drill four screws in a straight line into a plank of wood. I managed it in 20 seconds – so all that IKEA furniture building must be paying off!

We also had hairdressing students from East Kent College showing off their skills – as well as stalls from the Army, the Royal Air Force, Kent Police, the Port of Dover, Kent County Council and Aldi, plus so many more.

I spoke to one jobseeker called Fred and asked him what he thought of the event. He said: "I think this jobs fair is a very good idea and I've already found a couple of opportunities."

This is what my Jobs and Apprenticeships Fairs are all about. 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.

There was a great atmosphere in the town hall and a real sense that our area is on the up. It's vital we keep up the good work and continue to fight for more jobs and money for Dover and Deal. We have come a long way since 2010. More than £400 million has been invested in our area, unemployment has near halved and more than 6,000 apprenticeships have been created.

The St James development is bringing hundreds more jobs to town. The doors to Cineworld and Nando's are now open and already proving hugely popular – and there is so much more to come in the months ahead. Meanwhile the ambitious Western Docks Revival is set to create hundreds more jobs.

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.

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22 MAR 2018

Theresa May welcomes new Kent medical school

Prime Minister Theresa May has welcomed the announcement of a new £30 million medical school in east Kent. Her comments came in response to my question during Prime Minister's Questions today.

Two buildings will go up alongside existing centres of excellence at the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University. The Government is funding 107 undergraduates annually across the sites from September 2020.

I asked: "May I welcome the Government's decision to create a medical school in Canterbury in east Kent fought for by all of the Kent MPs – particularly my honourable friend the member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) who has been indefatigable in the fight for this.

"Does it not underline the importance of training more doctors and nurses to ensure our health services in the regions are well staffed and well looked after?"

The Prime Minister said: "My honourable friend is absolutely right and I'm pleased to welcome the new medical school in Canterbury and also the four other new medical schools that are being set up around various parts of the country.

"And he is also absolutely right, it is about ensuring that we are training a workforce for our National Health Service and we have raised significantly the number of training places.

"I think it's the biggest increase in training places probably that the NHS has seen for some considerable time."

The new Kent medical school is part of nationwide funding of 1,500 additional medical school places, 90% of which will be based outside of London. The model for Kent's first ever medical school includes clinical placements with Community Education Provider Networks – covering GP surgeries, pharmacies and local care centres.

David Powell, policy advisor in the office of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent, said: "These clinical placements will be across the county. We would certainly expect Dover and Deal to be included.

"Experience elsewhere suggests that a high proportion of medical students remain in the area where they are trained. So we very much hope that, over time, the medical school will lead to a significant increase in the pool of trained doctors available in the county."

This is fantastic news for our area and a huge victory for our campaign as Kent MPs for the medical school. It should be a real game changer – meaning we can train doctors and nurses locally to address historic doctor shortages in our corner of the country. It's great to finally be getting the fairer share of healthcare we have been fighting for.

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16 MAR 2018

Home Office should throw book at immigration fraudsters

The Home Office should "throw the book" at people who commit immigration marriage fraud. I have been working with two women whose husbands left them shortly after coming to the UK on spouse visas. Kim Sow, from Dover, and Carol Sahni, from Aylesham, got married to men from Senegal and India respectively.

Kim believes her husband was already married to two women – while Carol found out her husband returned to India to marry someone else within months of arriving. They want the Home Office to carry out tougher checks before issuing spouse visas. I have asked ministers for Kim and Carol's group Immigration Marriage Fraud UK to be involved in an upcoming review of the Status Review Unit, which looks into such cases.

Across Britain thousands of people like Kim and Carol are being shamelessly exploited by people who want to sneak into our country. We need to throw the book at them and put a stop to it. Yet there appears to be confusion about how to investigate and prosecute these cases. That's why the Home Office needs to meet with Kim and Carol to get their expert advice.

Kim claims her husband told her he was a widower with three children, providing paper evidence. She became their step-mother and bought a five-bedroom property to live in. But she claims she was left devastated after being told he was already married to two women, and had fathered two more children since their wedding day.

Kim is now co-leader of Immigration Marriage Fraud UK, which helps other victims like Carol. In Carol's case, the Home Office failed to investigate allegations of bigamy and deception for at least nine months. Carol says the marriage in India was arranged prior to the spouse visa. She points out many countries force visa applicants to sign affidavits, which if found to be untrue can be prosecuted as immigration offences.

Kim said: "Victims get caught in a game of football between police and Home Office. The impact on my life was enormous.

"In one day I lost my husband and my three children. Even now I could lose my house as he tries to claim my assets in divorce proceedings.

"Without a prosecution of bigamy and fraud, I have been stuck in legal limbo land for four years and five months.

"Charlie has helped since the moment we came to him, but every minister and official has refused to meet with us. He is the only MP who has grasped how easy it is to defraud our system and the trail of devastation it causes."

Around here we know people will go to incredible lengths to get into our country. But this method is probably most abhorrent of all. We must strengthen our border. That means cracking down on this sort of activity urgently.

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15 MAR 2018

Campaigning for fair share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

The building of the new Buckland Hospital was all about bringing more services to Dover. The new £24 million state-of-the-art facility would stop people having to make long journeys out of town to Ashford, Canterbury or Margate.

Therefore, I am extremely disappointed and frustrated about the recent removal of a vital eye treatment service. It's simply not on – and I'm doing everything I can to bring it back to Buckland.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where older people start to lose their eyesight, was treated at Buckland by injecting medication into the eye through a very fine needle. No-one likes to think of their mum or dad or grandparents having to go through a procedure like this. Particularly when it has to be repeated on a monthly basis.

Yet, until recently, at least Dovorians were able to be treated down the road at Buckland. Now the service has been withdrawn, these older patients with waning eyesight are forced to make long and difficult journeys to Ashford or Canterbury. These patients, often in their 80s or 90s, are desperate to get home to rest after having the injections. Yet for those relying on public transport, it takes hours to get back to Dover. And some older people have to take these journeys alone.

The NHS is there for us all – but particularly for the most vulnerable in society. That's why the decision to remove this eye treatment from Buckland is an extremely bad one. Particularly as a new cataract theatre is now operating. Plus, there were 3,000 ophthalmology clinics at Buckland last year, so there is clearly high demand. I'm pressing the local Clinical Commissioning Group and our hospital trust to urgently bring the AMD treatment back to Dover.

I will also be asking them why Buckland is not yet offering the anti-coagulant, phlebotomy and specialist elderly care services we were promised. When the hospital opened in 2015, health chiefs said we'd have 60,000 appointments a year. Yet two years on, 29% of the hospital remains unused. There is so much potential for Buckland and I'm determined to see it fully realised.

Of course, we must not forget how far we have come thanks to years of campaigning and hard work. In Deal, our much-loved hospital was left on the brink. Now we are getting more services – and staff numbers are up 17% on last year. At Buckland, twice as many clinics are now operating than when it first opened. What's more, a new £2.4 million project to provide extra GP services starts next month, working out of ten rooms across Buckland and Deal Hospital. They will be open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week – meaning more people can be treated locally.

We are finally getting a fairer share of healthcare. Yet health chiefs need to see sense, deliver the services we were promised – and bring the eye treatment back to Buckland.

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13 MAR 2018

Pupils learn about life as an MP at Houses of Parliament

Youngsters from a Dover school learnt about life as an MP when they visited the Houses of Parliament on Monday (March 12). Pupils from Dover Christ Church Academy even held a mock election before I dropped by to meet them.

The Year 7 students fired a number of questions at me. They asked what it's like to be a Member of Parliament – and what youngsters should do if they do not want to go to university. I told them I was always busy as an MP and the job was never boring.

And I said university is not always the best route for everyone – and that they should consider doing an apprenticeship. Nearly 6,000 apprenticeships have been created in Dover and Deal since 2010.

It was fantastic to meet the pupils from Dover Christ Church Academy. They were excellently behaved, showed a great attitude and were very keen to learn about life as an MP. My message was this – that if you are determined and work hard, there is nothing you cannot achieve. Whether it's through university or an apprenticeship, it's vital that our youngsters have ladders in life to get on and do well.

Hard-working teachers, staff and students at our schools in Dover and Deal are doing a great job, with results improving every year. We must do everything we can to support them.

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08 MAR 2018

Government must act 'urgently' on Dover Brexit preparations

Trade experts say Dover can be ready on day one of Brexit – if the Government acts "urgently". A panel of senior staff at freight associations, trading bodies and logistics firms were questioned by myself and other MPs on the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday (March 7).

They agreed there are "practical solutions" to border operations when the UK leaves the EU's customs union and single market. But they suggested Government bureaucrats and officials were not acting quickly enough. I have detailed a number of border solutions in a report called Ready on Day One. I asked the panel if Government departments had showed "the requisite kind of energy" and used the 21 months since the EU referendum well.

Peter MacSwiney, chairman of freight forwarders trade body ASM UK, said: "No. From what I can see they have done very little.

"It seems to be an absolute given that we are just going to continue with the way we do stuff now. Well it's a completely different environment out there in the ro-ro sector. And the systems that pertain in the maritime and the air environment really aren't fit for purpose for the ro-ro ports."

Leigh Pomlett, chair of the Freight Transport Association, agreed that the "time could have been spent more wisely".

I also asked whether checks could be done away from the border: "If I'm in business and I sell something, the VAT system trusts me and they can come and audit my workplace.

"Why can't tariffs be on the same basis and the border in Dover and indeed Northern Ireland work on that basis?"

Mr MacSwiney said: "There's no practical reason why not. But there doesn't appear to have been any sort of connection between the political aspirations and the practical solutions.

"We have talked about trying to get a self-assessment working group set up. I think it's had one meeting and seems to have stalled.

"I think it's the solution but I don't think that they see the availability of these types of systems as being integral to the solution. And I'm really not sure why."

Mr Pomlett said: "I agree. I think we have wasted enough time talking about this. I think there are technical solutions."

I then asked the panel: "And in Singapore they clear in seconds don't they? Why can't we do that?"

Mr Pomlett replied: "Perhaps we could if we had the systems and the people to do it."

Shanker Singham, chair of Legatum Institute Special Trade Commission, added: "Other member states of the EU are actually doing quite a good job of getting tooled up and maybe a better job than we are doing. The Dutch particularly have 900 new customs officials.

"We really need to expedite this. One of the problems is that at the policy level people in HMRC are understanding the issue, but the people actually doing the customs haven't got the memo that this is about trade facilitation.

"So some of that training and teaching needs to happen urgently."

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08 MAR 2018

Fighting for our fair share in Dover and Deal

Everyone knows we have to fight that little bit harder in our corner of Kent for our fair share. Whether its healthcare, investment, education or transport – in Dover and Deal we always have a real battle on our hands.

It was a long and hard campaign to get a new hospital built in Dover. I joined marches, spoke at rallies and organised packed public meetings. In December 2010, health chiefs finally caved in and agreed to deliver for Dover. And in June 2015 the doors at last opened to the state-of-the-art Buckland Hospital we use today. We successfully fought to safeguard Deal Hospital too after a hard-fought community campaign.

It's been a battle every step of the way to get the St James development up and running in Dover. We saw Burlington House brought down. We got the power supply switched-on after frustrating delays. And now Nando's has announced it is opening this time next week. The six-screen cinema will soon follow. These are hugely exciting times.

Our schools are on the up following years of hard work by students and staff. Yet there is still more to do. I've recently written to Ministers asking them to write off Goodwin Academy's £3 million debt. And I'm making our case to the Government and Kent County Council to get new school buildings at Dover girls' grammar.

When it comes to our roads and rail it's a battle too. It took Highways England far too long to get rid of the hated 40mph limit on the A20 – yet last year they finally caved in to our campaign. On Christmas Eve 2015 the sea wall at Shakespeare Beach collapsed, causing havoc for rail users in Dover and Deal. Yet we got it fixed three months ahead of schedule.

Then last week we had trouble on the tracks again as Southeastern decided to close the Dover to Ramsgate line on Thursday. They said the trains could only run reliably by sacrificing our area.

I told Southeastern it was simply unacceptable to cut off our corner of Kent in this way. We pay the highest train fares here in Dover and Deal. I told them it is unfair and unjust to prioritise other parts of Kent at our expense.

So it was welcome we got Southeastern to re-open the line on Friday – before the extreme icy conditions caused routes across Kent to close. I am now writing to the bosses of Southeastern and Network Rail, requesting that the Dover to Ramsgate line is not thrown over like this again.

The powers-that-be should know by now that in Dover and Deal we are not the types to go away quietly. No matter the challenge, we'll keep fighting to get our fair share.

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07 MAR 2018

Dovorian toasts micropub's success

A born and bred Dovorian is toasting a successful first year running his micropub. Victor Evans opened the Breakwater Brewery and Breakwater Taproom in St Martin's Yard, Lorne Road, Dover, in December 2016. The Taproom was recently crowned Branch Winter Pub of the Season by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Over the weekend Mr Evans invited me to sample the delicious ales on offer, explaining about the variety of events at the Taproom, such as quiz nights and live music. I was hugely impressed by the work of Victor and his team – both in the brewery and the taproom.

The pint I tried was delicious and I highly recommend people giving the Taproom a go if they haven't already. It's great that Victor is so focussed on involving the community and I'm glad local residents have supported him.

From the Mash Tun in Bench Street to Breakwater Brewery in Lorne Road, Dover is overflowing with brilliant micropubs – they are a real success story in our town.

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06 MAR 2018

Herald of Free Enterprise memorial service

A deeply moving ceremony was held in Dover today to mark the 31st 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.

Myself, Dover mayor Neil Rix and Dover District Council chairman Sue Chandler were also 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 service, led by Rev Mark Warner of the Sailors' Society, included hymns 'Abide With Me' and 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'. An acapella version of 'Amazing Grace' was sung by Steve Erickson in front of the hushed congregation. Rev Bill McCrea, who was the Sailors' Society Port Chaplain in 1987, spoke of the "heartbreak and agony" felt by the families of the victims.

He remembered how he had given the first service to mark the tragedy three decades ago at Dover seafront, when those gathered had sung 'Abide With Me' in full voice. Rev McCrea praised the Dover community's response to the disaster and said that the victims will never be forgotten.

The ceremony was closed with a benediction from Rev John Walker, St Mary's Church team Rector. The service was followed by tea and biscuits, before the families of the victims set off to cast flowers into the sea from Admiralty Pier.

This was a deeply moving service. Yet again, as they do every year, the people of Dover came out in large numbers to support the families of the victims. We will never forget those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy. We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on.

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02 MAR 2018

Cancer survival rates up in Dover and Deal

Cancer survival rates in Dover and Deal are up 17.2% since 2000, according to new figures published this week. In 2015, 71.3% of people with cancer survived at least a year after diagnosis, compared to 54.1% in 2000. Since 2009, cancer survival rates for patients in the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group area (comprising Dover, Deal, Folkestone and Hythe) have gone up by 7.7%, compared to the 4.2% increase nationally.

We have all been close to people taken in by cancer's cruel and indiscriminate reach. The good news is that survival rates in Dover and Deal are improving at almost double the speed of the rest of the country. For years we were near the bottom of the table for so many measures of healthcare. Now things have significantly improved.

We have fought long and hard to get our fair share of healthcare in Dover and Deal. With the brand new hospital in Dover, Deal hospital saved, and more investment in technology, medicines and staff than ever, residents are finally getting the better healthcare they deserve.

Cancer survival rates across England are up 11.1%, from 61.2% in 2000 to 72.3% in 2015. The Government has spent more than £1.2 billion on the Cancer Drugs Fund – helping around 90,000 people to access life-extending drugs. It also announced a £130 million fund to modernise radiotherapy equipment and an extra £15 million improving early diagnosis and setting up Cancer Alliances for leadership across local areas.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) spending on cancer research has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £135 million in 2014/15. Last year there were seven million more diagnostic tests than in 2010, while 57,000 more patients started cancer treatment.

In December the NHS published its latest Cancer Workforce Plan, setting out aims by 2021 to recruit 1,281 more cancer consultants (a 21% increase since 2016), 2,845 more diagnostic radiographers by 2021 (an 18% increase since 2016) and a major expansion of cancer nurse specialists.

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01 MAR 2018

Dover is brilliant and has an even brighter future

Dover is on the up. Unfortunately a few dim-witted keyboard warriors are determined to talk our town down. An online list last week ranked Dover as the 10th worst town in the UK. Yet what do these internet trolls know?

Because the truth is that our town is on the up. The long shadow cast by Burlington House has gone. That hated building was torn down following a long campaign. A new cinema and shops are rising in its place. We have seen more than £400 million invested in recent years.

Everyone knows we've been battling for the St James development for a long time. It's not been easy. Just last week problems arose over getting the scheme connected to electricity. So I held crunch talks with the power suppliers and the council – and I'm pleased the switch-on date was rapidly moved forwards. The sooner the St James scheme opens, with hundreds of people starting new jobs and thousands more visitors attracted to our town, the better.

House prices are on the up too. The latest figures show that they are rising at 11.8% in Dover, nearly double the Kent average of 6.5%. We're working hard to match the demand by delivering more affordable, family homes at places like Connaught Barracks. Of course we have to battle the grumblers who try to stop all building and seek to hold our area back.

More and more people want to move here. And why wouldn't they? There's our world-famous history – our castle, iconic White Cliffs and Roman Painted House. Then there's our transport links. You can get to London in an hour on the fast train, or just as easily jump on a ferry to France.

In town we have some great independent shops and cafes. We are also overflowing with brilliant micropubs, from the Mash Tun in Bench Street to the Breakwater Brewery in Lorne Road – where I enjoyed a delicious pint of ale last week. With St James opening within weeks, we need to do all we can to support these businesses. That's why I'm fully backing Dover District Council's plans to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in the "old town".

Along our stunning seafront, the port have an ambitious vision for a brand new marina with shops and bars. This will be great for Dovorians and draw in yet more visitors.

There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. One of the challenges ahead is to find a way of linking the old town, St James and the seafront. Yet if we put our minds to it, I know it can be done.

No-one thought Burlington House would ever come down. The doubters were proved wrong then – we can prove them wrong again.

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28 FEB 2018

Government invests in border after my campaign

Almost £700 million has been invested in preparing for Brexit – including £60 million at the borders – following my campaign.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said her department was recruiting extra border officers and "continues to make preparations for a range of possible outcomes" from negotiations with the EU. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond insisted the Government is "continuing with detailed preparations for all possible March 2019 scenarios". He said the Treasury had allocated nearly £700 million for "preparation activity".

The statements came in response to my questions in the House of Commons over Monday (February 26) and Tuesday (February 27). It is incredibly important that the Government prepares for every eventuality. Despite the scaremongering from some quarters, we can be ready on day one at the Dover frontline, deal or no deal. I have explained exactly how in a detailed report which I sent to Ministers. But we need to invest now. It would send a message to the EU and be what I call 'no regrets spending' – because we need to strengthen our border anyway.

Asked what steps her department has taken to prepare for leaving the EU, Caroline Nokes said: "We are already recruiting additional staff in both Border Force and across the wider UKVI department to make sure we have the preparations underway for leaving the EU.

"We are making preparations for every eventuality. The Home Office has already invested £60 million in 2017/18. We will continue to review the funding position as negotiations continue and details of the final agreement become clearer.

"As he might expect, we are in continuing discussions with Her Majesty's Treasury."

Asked what preparations the Treasury has been making, Philip Hammond said: "The Government is continuing with detailed preparations for all possible March 2019 scenarios and this includes ensuring that departments have adequate resources to effectively prepare for the EU exit.

"To date the Treasury has allocated departments nearly £700 million for preparation activity and we are currently in the process of allocating the 2018/19 funding from the additional £3 billion over two years that I announced at the Autumn Budget 2017."

I have campaigned relentlessly for the Government to invest in Brexit border preparations following the EU referendum result – asking the Prime Minister in the Commons, meeting Ministers at the Port of Dover and organising roundtable discussions with industry experts.

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Excellent news!
- Alex Emery

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27 FEB 2018

St James development finally gets power

The St James development in Dover has been powered up with electricity within days of me holding crunch talks with power suppliers.

I was alerted that the opening of the new cinema and shops had been delayed – because the contractor had put a power cable in the wrong place, resulting in time-consuming legal paperwork. Last week I held talks with UK Power Networks' chief executive and the independent provider UK Power Solutions.I also urged Dover District Council and the developer to get the paperwork sorted fast.

Then on Friday (February 23rd) work began to switch the power on – and the electricity network was fully installed on Sunday (25th). I'm delighted all those involved listened to our concerns and the St James switch-on date was rapidly moved forwards.

The sooner the new cinema and shops open, with hundreds of people starting new jobs and thousands more visitors attracted to our town, the better. Everyone knows we've been battling for the St James development for a long time. It's great that we have taken another step closer to seeing it open.

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26 FEB 2018

Goodwin Academy debt should be written off

Goodwin Academy's £3 million debt should be written off. It is not the fault of the school. I am writing to ministers arguing that it would be unfair for hard-working teachers and students to suffer. I am urging the Department for Education to write off the debt, rather than asking Goodwin Academy to cut resources in future years.

The money owed was built up by the failings that were not those of the school. Hard-working teachers and students did nothing wrong. They should not be made to pay the cost. I held further positive talks on Friday with the school's headteacher Simon Smith, SchoolsCompany Trust interim chief executive Angela Barry and interim finance director Lee Miller.

Angela, the former chief executive of the successful Woodland Academy Trust, and Lee, who is deputy chief executive of the high-performing Thinking Schools Academy Trust, were appointed at the start of this year and, alongside Simon, have drawn up an action plan to ensure the school's long-term future. The new team said the school is set to balance its books by the 2018/19 financial year.

Yet while the deficit will be eliminated, the school will be stuck with £3 million of debt. But I am greatly encouraged following talks I held with the interim chief executive of the trust and her team on Friday. They are focussing on getting the school's finances sorted, while striving to back the students and boost aspiration. I have full confidence in them to deliver what is needed.

The Goodwin Academy has come so far in recent years, with £25 million of investment delivering a state-of-the-art new school building. Now there is a huge demand for places in Year 7. It really is a school transformed. We must ensure we build on its success so far, and I know that Angela, Lee and Simon are working very hard to achieve this. That's why the Department for Education should put students' interests first and write off this debt.

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22 FEB 2018

Robert's Law would boost the war on drugs with tougher sentences

A few months ago Michelle Fraser came to see me at one of my surgeries to talk about her son. Robert had been killed after unknowingly taking a deadly drug called fentanyl. He was just 18 years old.

Michelle's love for her son shone through at that meeting. Robert meant everything to her and had been taken at such a young age. Yet she refused to despair and give up hope. From the first moment it was clear Michelle was a fighter. That she wanted justice for her son – for him to leave a legacy. I was determined to do all I could to help.

Firstly, we've been spreading the word about the dangers of fentanyl – a synthetic opioid dozens of times stronger than heroin. Just three grains of this hidden poison can be enough to cause death. Robert was by no means an addict. This could have happened to anyone's son or daughter. Fentanyl killed 20,000 people in the US last year, up from 3,000 three years before. Deaths here have also increased in recent months.

We've been working with our local police force too. Kent Police's head of substance misuse, DCS Tom Richards, agrees we should find a better way of regulating fentanyl. Yet we also need more police on the streets to stop the dealers. So it's welcome that last week our campaign to boost local police funding was won – with an £8 million secured – and that our Police and Crime Commissioner plans to recruit 200 more officers.

And now we have taken a significant step on the road to creating "Robert's Law" – which would mean tougher sentencing for those who supply fentanyl. We want the Drug Offences guideline to be revised, including fentanyl for the first time and placing it in the most serious category for harm. That would increase minimum jail terms from three years to six. "Potency" should be included among aggravating factors, meaning longer jail terms in general.

In a letter last week, Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Treacy agreed that the guideline needed to address new drugs and drug offending behaviour, and promised a review would commence "shortly". He has also asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to "consider issuing any guidance to prosecutors that may be appropriate" in the meantime. He said the issue of fentanyl and the sentencing of cases involving it will be fully considered during discussions to revise the guideline. This is encouraging news.

If we keep up the fight and push through these changes to the law, they will send an instant and powerful message to drug dealers: Do not even think about getting involved with this stuff – you will be punished for the misery you inflict.

Throughout this fight, Michelle's bravery has been incredible. She is determined to save lives and make Robert's Law a reality. As Michelle says: "That means my son mattered. That can be my boy's legacy."

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15 FEB 2018

Kent Mining Museum to open this year

I was given a tour of Betteshanger Park's new Visitor Centre ahead of its opening later this year. Construction restarted in September at the Hadlow Group-owned Sandwich Road site, where the £9.5m building taking shape is as long as London's iconic Gherkin tower is tall.

Set among the 250-acre country park, it will eventually be home to Kent Mining Museum, a green energy centre, cycle hire and change facilities, learning and conference spaces, a shop, a café and outside seating and decking. There will also be new mining-themed play equipment to extend the existing play area, and Hadlow College's award-winning RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show garden 'Green Seam'.

I was shown around by project director Richard Morsley, development co-ordinator Tamasin Jarrett and head of heritage and visitor experience Darran Cowd. Things are really starting to take shape – and what a wonderful space it will be. There will be a variety of activities for people of all ages to enjoy. That's alongside fascinating local history, a proper tribute to the brave mineworkers of the Dover and Deal area. The team is moving things forward brilliantly. The project is yet another sign of the sort of investment we are now getting around here.

The £9.5 million scheme to transform the 121-hectare derelict colliery was brought to a halt last year due to problems building on a spoil heap. But work restarted in September and director Richard Morsley, who helped deliver the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, insists it is now progressing apace. He said the building will be opened to the public towards the end of 2018.

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15 FEB 2018

Fighting for the investment Dover and Deal deserves

We've been fighting hard to get more money for our police and local services. Everyone knows that savings have needed to be made in recent years. It was the only way of dealing with the mountain of crippling debt left by Labour. Yet here in Kent the local authorities have done an incredible job. Rather than go on wild borrowing sprees, they've worked hard to balance the books.

Of course, we need to speak up when we think they've got something wrong. That's why we fought hard against proposals to slash subsidized bus services in Kent. The council did the right thing, listened to public concern and reversed the decision.

Yet the money they need to run public services properly must come from somewhere. That's why I and fellow Kent MPs have been battling more funding for local services and met with Ministers this week. We felt the funding being offered to Kent this financial year wasn't enough – and demanded it be increased.

So I'm delighted that the Government listened to our case and boosted Kent County Council's "core spending power" by £26.9 million to £938.1 million for the coming financial year. KCC was also handed an extra £3.9 million for social care spending.

Kent Police's funding was boosted too, from £279.3 million to £288 million. I've written to Matthew Scott, Kent's impressive Police and Crime Commissioner, calling on him to use this opportunity to boost police presence in Dover and Deal. The more bobbies on the beat the better.

In Deal in particular, residents tell me they want more opportunities to speak face-to-face with the police – the Deal Police Station front counter is only open two hours a day, Monday to Friday. So I've asked the Commissioner to consider doubling the number of hours residents have access to the local force.

We've achieved some real victories on local funding. Yet there is still more to do. I also met this week with Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes. The Home Office owes KCC nearly £5 million for caring for unaccompanied asylum seekers this financial year.

I have also written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd on the matter. My letter, signed by nine fellow Kent MPs, calls for KCC to be given additional funding to cover the costs of caring for the refugees.

In recent years Kent has cared for nearly a quarter of all unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the UK – and the council has had to cover the soaring costs. Meanwhile, we have handed over more than £200 million to the French to spend in Calais, where most of these vulnerable people are coming to Britain from. It's not fair for taxpayers in Kent to shoulder so much of the burden.

We're making progress but we need to keep the pressure up to ensure the Government invests more in our area – particularly at the Dover frontline.

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14 FEB 2018

Save jobs at Goodwin Academy, I've told ministers

I am putting pressure on schools ministers to confirm there will be no forced redundancies at Goodwin Academy. I met with Education Minister Lord Agnew and the Regional Schools Commissioner Dominic Herrington last month to express his concerns about the school's financial situation.

Following recent reports regarding the Goodwin Academy, I have now written to Lord Agnew and Mr Herrington seeking assurances. My letter says: "As you know, I raised my concerns over the Trust's financial situation when we met last month. I was reassured that the Goodwin Academy's staff and pupils would not be affected by the issues with the Trust.

"As such, I urge you to provide the Goodwin Academy with extra funding, so that no forced redundancies have to be made. We must continue to provide a good education to the pupils at the school – they must not be made to suffer."

I also held crunch talks with the SchoolsCompany Trust's interim chief executive Angela Barry last Friday (February 9th). I told Ms Barry that I was extremely concerned at reports that some jobs are at risk at the school. It is clearly unfair for hardworking staff to suffer through no fault of their own. They have done so much to drive the school forward over the past few years.

We must not forget how far the school has come, with £25 million of investment delivering a state-of-the-art new school building. Now there is a huge demand for places in Year 7. Goodwin Academy really is a school transformed. We must ensure we build on its success so far.

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13 FEB 2018

Number of teens from Dover and Deal applying to university soars

The proportion of young people in Dover and Deal applying to universities has soared since 2009. Around one in three – 29% – of 18-year-olds in the area had applied by the UCAS deadline in January this year, compared with 23% in 2009. That is incredibly encouraging. 

But there are other paths too. Apprenticeships and technical qualifications have rocketed and they are getting more investment than ever. It means every youngster has the chance to get on in life. More than 4,000 apprenticeships have been created in Dover and Deal since 2010. It demonstrates the work done to ensure young people from all backgrounds can make the most of their talents.

Across the UK, university applications from disadvantaged students hit record highs at 22.6%. There were record numbers from state schools too – 90% of the total and 77% of those attending Russell Group universities.

Over the last year the Government has introduced further measures to reform student financing. It announced a major review to ensure courses offer value for money, froze the tuition fee cap, and raised the repayment threshold to £25,000 from this April, saving graduates £360 a year. Further reforms through the Higher Education and Research Act will require universities to publish demographic data on students, shining a light on institutions which need to do more to widen access.

Meanwhile there were more than 1.1 million apprenticeship starts between May 2016 and December 2017. Higher-level apprenticeships in 2016/17 shot up 35% compared to 2015/16.

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12 FEB 2018

Forget new tunnel to France, let's get Dover ready for Brexit

Forget a new tunnel to France – let's get the Port of Dover and Kent's roads ready for Brexit first. While it is welcome that the French want to keep boosting cross-Channel trade, it's vital we focus on the investment that is needed "right here, right now" at the Dover frontline.

This comes after Eurotunnel chief executive Jacques Gounon wrote to the UK Government welcoming Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's suggestion of a new fixed link between Britain and France. It's great that the French want to keep boosting cross-Channel trade. Yet with Brexit just 13 months away, it's vital we focus on the investment that is needed right here, right now on Kent's roads and at the Dover frontline. That means building more lorry parking facilities on the M20, the Lower Thames Crossing taken forward at pace – and most importantly the dualling of the A2.

Boris is right to think big, plan for the future and call for greater investment in cross-Channel trade. Yet even Eurotunnel admit that only half of the current tunnel's capacity is being used. That's why we must invest now to make sure our roads and infrastructure are ready on day one for Brexit. We cannot allow the people of East Kent to be subjected to tailbacks and misery on the roads to the Channel Ports.

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Hi Charlie, great piece.... but don't think for one moment the French intend to spend any of their own money on cross channel investment.... they don't even have the cash to keep their own borders secure and now the gangs in Calais have guns... and are using them. No, you are completely correct use British money for Kent based infrastructure, which in turn will boost local jobs and services in the local area. Keep up the pressure!!
- Les Morton

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08 FEB 2018

Battling for better broadband in Dover and Deal

We all rely so much on the internet these days. Whether it's for keeping in touch with our friends, ordering shopping, watching Netflix or building up a business, we all need decent broadband. It's become an essential part of modern life.

That's why I have been campaigning for better broadband in Dover and Deal – particularly in the villages where speeds in some areas were painfully slow.

For example, residents in places like Lydden and Temple Ewell had internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover itself. It caused real problems. Children needed it for school, parents needed it for work, and businesses needed it to function. Online gaming and other multimedia weren't even options for some residents. And they were endlessly fobbed off by those who were supposed to be fixing the problem.

I kept on at BT Openreach – saying they needed to get this sorted. Eventually they gave a commitment to install a street cabinet with new fibres in Canterbury Road, Lydden, on the southern edge of Chunnel Plant Hire's depot. Last month Kent County Council confirmed the cabinet is at last in place and residents can now ask to be connected to it.

The speed of KCC and Openreach's approach to this was more dial-up than superfast – so I'm delighted the cabinet is now up and running and residents can get connected to proper broadband. Now we need to see improvements in places like Eastry, Mill Hill and Capel.

I've long campaigned on this issue because I know how vital good internet is for all of us – and will only become more so in the future. Every chance I get I tell ministers how frustrating slow internet is for people in Dover and Deal and that it needs to be improved across the whole area. So I am glad they have acted. The Government has now made a commitment that by 2020, everyone will have a legal right to high speed broadband. A £1.7 billion project has also been rolled out to areas deemed "not commercially viable" by industry. This has reached more than 4.5 million premises, mostly in rural areas.

And we're seeing improvements already. New official figures show that Dover and Deal are above average for superfast speeds. According to the statistics, 92.6% homes in our area are able to access superfast broadband, compared to 91.4% across the UK. In Dover and Deal, just 2.1% of homes are unable to receive speeds of at least 10 megabytes per second, compared to 3% nationally.

Since those figures were compiled last May, the Government has confirmed that 95% of the UK now has access to superfast broadband.

Great progress has been made in recent years. Now we need to see a fully connected country. And that includes access to decent broadband right across our corner of Kent.

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05 FEB 2018

Dover's new leisure centre is "on schedule"

Steel roof beams are up at the new Dover leisure centre as work continues to progress "on schedule". I visited the Honeywood Parkway site on Friday (February 2). I was joined by Roger Walton (Director of Environment and Corporate Assets at Dover District Council) Rika Hemachandra (Designer Manager at BAM Construction) and Lee Tucker (Senior Site Manager at BAM Construction).

Mr Tucker told me there are around 45 workers on site, including three apprentices from the local area. Foundations and piling began over Christmas and ground beams will be down by the end of this week. Despite recent wet and windy weather, he said work was "on schedule" ahead of a planned opening date of February 2019. Construction should be finished by Christmas.

It was great to have a look round the new leisure centre site. So much progress has been made already. A new leisure centre in Dover was badly needed – and seeing exactly where all the new facilities will fit in has really brought it all to life. It's another sign that our corner of Kent is finally getting the investment it deserves – more than £400 million since 2010. With St James about to open and the seafront regeneration underway, the brighter future we all want is on the horizon.

The new £26 million Dover leisure centre will feature a competition-standard eight-lane swimming pool, with spectator seating for 250 people. There will be a learner pool with a movable floor, a four-court sports hall, squash courts, a multi-function room, a fitness gym with 120 stations, fitness studios, a clip 'n' climb wall and a café. The plans also include two outdoor 3G artificial pitches for five-a-side football and at least 250 parking spaces.

The project will replace the original Dover Leisure Centre in Townwall Street, which opened in 1976. It will be demolished when the new one opens and U have already met new site owners Citycourt about plans for using the land for more St James parking provision, alongside additional shops.

Things really are moving forward quickly for Dover. We must protect our existing high street and find better ways to link it to the seafront. Yet we should also remember how far we have come. Where once stood Burlington House and the ugly multi-storey car park, there is now a brand new shopping and cinema complex. The district council deserve great credit for all their hard work. Brick by brick, Dover's fortunes are changing.

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02 FEB 2018

Enjoying a pint at Dover Beer Festival

I enjoyed a delicious pint of locally-brewed beer while opening the 25th White Cliffs Festival of Winter Ales. I joined scores of fellow beer enthusiasts at Dover Town Hall on Friday.

This year's event – run over two days by the Campaign for Real Ale – features 70 real ales, of which more than half are from Kent breweries.

Nothing beats the taste of a pint of real ale at Dover beer festival. I particularly enjoyed the amazing ale on offer from Ripple Brewery. I was delighted to open this year's festival – which seemed busier than ever. It's great to see Dover buzzing with so many people having a great time.

The event in Biggin Street was held over Friday, February 2, and Saturday, February 3.

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01 FEB 2018

Spring clean litter picking events in Dover and Deal

People in Dover and Deal have the chance to take place in two conservation projects as part of the Great British Spring Clean. I am supporting environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy's annual campaign – which this year features a beach clean in Walmer and a litter pick in Dover.

Last year's events drew more volunteers than ever, with 300,000 people collecting 70,000 wheelie bins of rubbish across the UK over a single weekend. I grabbed a litter picker at a Great British Spring Clean event in Westminster last week – and am encouraging his constituents to sign up this year.

Litter is a blight on our beautiful corner of Kent. Everyone should be able to enjoy our stunning surrounding without them being spoilt by piles of rubbish. That's why we need as many people as possible to take part in the beach clean and litter pick this year. We have a great community spirit here in Dover and Deal – so let's get together and help protect our environment.

A community clean of Walmer Beach takes place at The Strand between 9.30am and 11am on Sunday March 4. In Dover, a litter pick at Old Park Hill Nature Reserve in Monks Way takes place between 10am and 3pm on March 4. People can register for both events at www.keepbritaintidy.org/gbspringclean.

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01 FEB 2018

I always do my best to help people in Dover & Deal

When people come to see me at my surgeries I do everything I can to help them. No matter what has happened, I am determined to do my best in every case. Frustratingly there are occasions where despite my best efforts there is little I can do. Yet I never forget and always look out for ways to help in the future.

A chance arose last week. The Treasury Select Committee had the opportunity to grill the Payment System Regulator. We asked why they are not doing more to ensure banks protect customers against bank transfer scams.

I raised the case of two constituents who had fallen victim to ruthless fraudsters. Mike Whitehead came to see me some years ago. He had thought he was buying a caravan from what he thought was a legitimate "eBay Motors" account. Yet the account turned out to be fake and he lost £3,500. Similarly, Colin Stromsoy lost a £1,000 deposit trying to buy a car by the same method. I was shocked that ruthless fraudsters were targeting people in this way, depriving them of their hard-earned cash. Yet just as infuriating was that the bank would not take any action to help them retrieve the money.

That's why I made the case to the regulator that banks must do more to help innocent victims of fraud. It has been going on for years and people are starting to wonder why stronger action hasn't been taken to prevent it. Nearly 40,000 people a year on average are being conned out of over £5,000 due to weak, fraud-prone bank payment systems.

The regulator's boss told me that they are currently consulting on a reimbursement model for money lost by fraud. They said people would only get their money back if banks failed to meet required standards. Yet these standards have been put forward by UK Finance, the trading association of the banking sector. This is not good enough. It is like putting foxes in charge of the chicken coop.

The regulator cannot be a paper tiger. It needs to be robust, take banks by the scruff of the neck and be the guardian of consumers against ruthless bank transfer scammers. If it can't step up to the challenge, protection and greater powers should be provided by Parliament through new laws.

This has gone on too long and too many people are being conned – while the fraudsters get away with it. That's why I have written to the Chancellor expressing my serious concerns. I have asked him to consider making banks liable for every scam against their customers and be forced to pay up. The banks would soon get their house in order if they had to reimburse every victim, as is the case for credit card transactions.

We must do all we can to protect people like Mike and Colin from these shameless criminals – and help them get their cash back.

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30 JAN 2018

Dover and Deal now above average for superfast speeds

Broadband stats have been released revealing Dover and Deal are above average for superfast speeds. According to official figures published last week, 92.6% homes in the constituency are able to access superfast broadband, compared to 91.4% across the UK.

In Dover and Deal just 2.1% of homes are unable to receive speeds of at least 10 megabytes per second, compared to 3% nationally. These figures are a victory for our campaign to deliver better broadband. We all rely on it so much these days – so everyone should have a right to decent internet. The statistics also reveal just how bad things were for some areas. Almost 40% of people in Lydden and Temple Ewell had slow broadband. That is why I fought a campaign for better broadband for residents last year and I'm pleased they can now connect to the newly installed street cabinet.

This week the Government announced it has delivered on a commitment for 95% of UK to have superfast access by the end of 2017. The £1.7 billion rollout to areas deemed "not commercially viable" by industry has reached more than 4.5 million premises, mostly in rural areas.

Another Government commitment is that by 2020, everyone will have a legal right to broadband. The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the idea of a broadband universal service obligation (USO). It will provide a legal right to get a broadband connection of at least 10 Mbps download speed, up to a reasonable cost threshold, currently proposed at £3,400. The USO is expected to be delivered by BT, funded by a cost-sharing industry fund and in place by 2020. Secondary legislation is expected to be laid before Parliament in early 2018.

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26 JAN 2018

We can't let Calais become a migrant magnet again

I have criticised President Macron after the number of migrants in Calais "doubled" in a week.

The number has soared from 350 to 800 according to reports in France. It comes after President Macron visited Calais in mid-January and called for the application process for migrants coming to Britain to be sped up – and for a "more humane approach".

Reports at the time suggested Britain would agree to take in more unaccompanied children from the French port town. And at the time I said this risked turning Calais into a migrant magnet all over again. 

Violence scenes erupted in Calais yesterday between migrants and police. Meanwhile, French fishermen blockaded the port of Calais, causing traffic tailbacks on both sides of the Channel. President Macron urgently needs to get a grip of the situation in Calais. The ink is barely dry on the Sandhurst Treaty – yet we can already see the negative consequences of Britain agreeing to accept more migrants.

Allowing more migrants to come to Britain just encourages more vulnerable people to come to Calais and fall into the hands of ruthless traffickers. More people who make dangerous journeys across Europe that so often end up in tragedy.

It's vital that the UK continues to do the right thing by taking in vulnerable children directly from warzones. Taking in more migrants from Calais only serves to turn the town into a migrant magnet and undermine our own border security. We cannot risk the return of the squalid Jungle camp we fought so hard to dismantle.

Despite the disruption caused by the strikes in France on Thursday, the Dover TAP system on the A20 stopped lorries from clogging up traffic in Dover town. This is yet more proof TAP is doing its job, so we were right to fight for it. Despite ferries not sailing for hours and freight queues building, traffic in Dover itself kept flowing.

I know there are still issues. Aycliffe residents have to put up with awful noise and I have asked for the start point to be moved back. But we got rid of the hated 40mph speed limit – and Dover is no longer brought to a standstill the second there's a minor problem at the port.

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26 JAN 2018

Connaught Barracks 500-home development latest

Work to start building homes at the Connaught Barracks development in Dover could begin this year. I was shown around the site by bosses from Homes England last Friday (January 19th). All the old buildings have now been demolished – with 500 new homes planned to be built at the site off Dover Road.

There is so much potential for Connaught Barracks and I'm really excited about what can be achieved. I have urged Homes England to use the site to offer quality homes for first time buyers and families.

I was pleased to see things are progressing. It's vital the construction of the much needed homes now moves forward swiftly – and that we see work begin this year. The people of Dover have waited a long time for this project – now it's time to deliver.

Connaught Barracks is a former MoD site of 55 hectares acquired by the Homes and Community Agency – now known as Homes England – in 2008, with a Napoleonic fort now owned by the Land Trust at its core. In July 2016 outline planning permission was obtained for the first 64 homes to be built.

Homes England has been approaching housing developers ahead of construction. Bids were received for the first phase of the scheme – the Officers' Mess – in December. The preferred bidder is expected to be announced soon. 

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25 JAN 2018

Funding the frontline is not a bridge too far

It was great to hear Boris Johnson call for major investment in the Dover to Calais route last week. Unfortunately there might be a couple of problems with his idea for a 26 mile road bridge across the English Channel. Firstly, it's the world's busiest shipping strait – so a bridge might get in the way of ferries. And secondly, Boris has a problem with wind – gusts of 70mph or more mean the bridge could be shut for 100 days a year.

A far more achievable idea would be to invest in the infrastructure we need at the Dover frontline to ensure we are ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit. That means investing in the technology and staff we need to handle the customs challenge ahead. And investing in dualling the A2, getting the Lower Thames Crossing built – while securing more lorry parking facilities.

Everyone knows what will happen here if we are not ready. Every summer we see the chaos caused on our roads when there are problems in Calais and the ferries can't run. It's time the Government got serious about Brexit preparations here in Dover.

So it's no surprise that people were angry last week at news that we are handing over another £45 million to the French for security costs in Calais. That's on top of the £125 million we have already paid over the last few years for walls and fencing. People are asking why we pay them a penny.

Yet working together with the French we have made a big difference. For example, things are so much better in Calais for everyone now that the Jungle is gone. Tourists and truckers no longer have to travel on the road to Calais in fear of attack from people traffickers.

Despite the good work we have done so far, a number of migrants are still determined to break into Britain and are returning to Calais. So it's right that we work closely with the French on border security. We must do everything we can to protect our nation against the terror threat of returning ISIS fighters – and to stop people traffickers smuggling migrants into Britain.

Border security is a national priority. Yet so is trade. When it comes to trade with the European Union – nowhere is more important than the route between Dover and Calais. It is the quickest and most efficient crossing between the UK and Europe. Yet to keep it that way we need to start investing now in getting the right customs systems in place when we leave the EU. In Calais they agree that this must be a priority.

So while we must keep our borders secure, we must also ensure we are ready on day one to keep trade flowing – both at Calais and the Dover frontline. There are practical steps we can take right now.

Surely it's not a bridge too far for the Government to invest in Kent.

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24 JAN 2018

Buckland Hospital car park should not be a cash cow

Parking charges at Buckland Hospital are causing hell for patients, staff and nearby residents. I am calling for them to be slashed.

Patients fork out £2 for an hour in the hospital car park – nearly double the rate of £1.10 an hour at Dover District Council car parks. Staff paying £12.98 a week face yearly costs of £675. Meanwhile, the surrounding streets have become gridlocked as visitors to the hospital look for spaces to park for free.

I met with MacDonald Road residents Mark Hamilton and Wendy Taylor last Friday. I heard how Mr Hamilton, an RNLI volunteer, has been unable on a number of occasions to respond to lifeboat callouts because he was parked-in. Ms Taylor said she worries every time she drives out of the close – because she fears there will be nowhere to park when she returns.

During my visit, we watched as a member of the public parked up in MacDonald Road and walked straight to the hospital – where there were plenty of spaces in the car park. I am writing to the chief executive of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, asking the trust to slash the price of parking at Buckland.

It's clearly not right that people are unable to park outside their own homes. And it's simply unacceptable that an RNLI volunteer like Mark is blocked in when called out. The root of the problem is the rip-off parking charges enforced at Buckland Hospital. These parking charges are a stealth tax on those who need treatment – and on the staff who have to fork out hundreds of pounds a year just to park at work.

Twice as many clinics are now operating at Buckland Hospital since it opened. We want to offer even more services locally. Yet the hospital car park cannot be used as a cash cow. No one goes to hospital out of choice – yet all are forced to pay. I urge the hospital trust to slash these deeply unfair parking charges.

Staff parking costs at East Kent hospitals were doubled in 2013. The hospital trust took £3,997,745 in car park charges in 2016/17 – the third largest income for charges in England in that year.

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21 JAN 2018

Discussing Deal Pier's half a million refurb and future

The exciting potential for Deal Pier was discussed at a site meeting between myself and the district council leader on Friday. Council leader Cllr Keith Morris told me the £500,000 refurbishment of the pier could be complete by late summer.

Dover District Council's cabinet gave the go ahead for works at the end of last year, with resurfacing, seating replacement and concrete repairs to begin soon. The restaurant unit at the end of the pier will become a temporary café – possibly run by students from East Kent College – while a long term operator is sought.

The council wants the operator to be able to run a café offering cups of tea and snacks like bacon sandwiches for visitors and fishermen during the day, and a restaurant in the evening. North Deal Councillor Bob Frost, who has pushed for the refurbishments, joined Charlie us for discussions about the potential for the pier.

It is such an asset. It's great the council are making much-needed repairs – and I think everyone in Deal agrees it has real potential. We discussed having stalls offering food and drink during the summer. The views along the pier are simply stunning. We need to give people a greater incentive to use this fantastic asset.

Our energetic and determined new council leader has done a great job getting things moving and is clearly ambitious about what we can achieve.

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Deal Pier is a great asset. Let's follow the example our near neighbours in Folkestone have made with their Harbour Arm. An exciting opportunity awaits.
- Les Morton

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18 JAN 2018

First class healthcare is my top priority

Nothing is more important than knowing you and your loved ones will receive the best possible care. That is why healthcare in Dover and Deal is right at the top of my agenda.

I've been fighting to get more services for our area. So I am delighted that this week we received confirmation of a new £2.4 million project to provide extra GP services at Buckland and Deal Hospital. "Primary care hubs" will work out of ten rooms across both sites. They will be open 8am to 8pm seven days a week, delivering 110,000 appointments per year – meaning more people can be treated locally.

The new GP services will also help ease the pressure on A&E. Health bosses told me that in November, more than a third of east Kent A&E attendances only needed minor injury or GP services. They estimate the new hubs will save 13,000 inappropriate A&E attendances.

We know that across the country the NHS is busy, as it always is at this time of year. Cold weather and flu puts pressure on hardworking hospital staff. Yet independent health bosses agree preparation has been "more extensive and meticulous than ever before". In east Kent, we have secured £3.42 million more to cope with winter pressures – equivalent to an extra 150 nurses.

So far, things seem to be improving. Last summer our trust was rated one of the worst in the country for A&E performance. I raised my concerns with the new leadership team and they came up with an improvement plan. Ten specialist emergency doctors were recruited. Several new treatment units were opened at the William Harvey in Ashford and the QEQM in Margate. This was all thanks to £800,000 of capital investment we secured from central government.

Back in August, 70% of A&E patients in east Kent were seen within the target time. By November, despite almost 2,500 more attendances, the figure had risen to 80%. Things still need to get better – but it shows the investment and improvement plan are working. The extra GP services at Buckland and Deal will be a huge boost too.

It shows how far we have come since 2010. In Deal, our much-loved hospital was in grave danger. Now we are getting more and more services. Staff numbers are up 17% on last year. In Dover, Buckland Hospital was decimated over the previous decade. We got a £24 million facility built in its place. Twice as many clinics are now operating than when it first opened. A cataract surgery theatre is opening in the next few weeks, saving people long trips out of town for treatment.

Long term, we are fighting for a new medical school in Kent. It will be a huge help in recruiting more GPs locally, giving us a sustainable local health model for years to come.

My priority is for everyone in Dover and Deal to get the first class healthcare they deserve.

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17 JAN 2018

Banking regulators let down the people of Dover and Deal

I have blasted banking regulators for never saying sorry to Dover and Deal people affected by the financial crash. Hundreds of Dovorians lost their jobs, scores of businesses closed and local taxpayers lost £51 million invested in Icelandic banks.

In a Treasury Select Committee hearing I grilled Sam Woods, Deputy Governor of the Prudential Regulation Authority.

I told him: "The person on the street feels very strongly that the banks behaved irresponsibly in the run up to the 2008 crisis.

"They feel that they have paid to bail out the banks, no-one has said sorry and they are concerned that they want to reopen the casino and set up roulette wheels once again.

"I put it to you, you're meant to be the bouncer of the casino not the croupier."

Mr Woods responded: "Absolutely people have the right to feel outraged about what went wrong before the crisis.

"Frankly a significant motivation for me being in this line of work is to try and avoid us being in that position again.

"The amount of taxpayer funding involved was pretty extraordinary."

I told banking regulators we haven't forgiven them. Ten years on we are still suffering from that massive bailout. Families across Dover and Deal were affected. Unemployment spiked and investment dried up.

There has been progress since – a 7% pay rise since 2015 for the least well-off, income inequality at its lowest for 30 years, Labour's debt two thirds down. Locally £400 million has been invested since 2010 and unemployment has halved.

But we must keep going. We must work harder to put more money in people's pockets. And not – as Labour recklessly suggest – by borrowing billions more.

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Well done Charlie, A recurrence of this financial disaster would be devastating for us all. Keeping the pressure on these sorts of influential people means they know they are being watched and therefore might think twice in their policy making decisions. Keep up the good work!
- Les Morton

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12 JAN 2018

Villages finally get fast broadband after hard-fought campaign

Fast broadband has arrived in Dover villages after my campaign.

Residents in places like Lydden and Temple Ewell had internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover itself.

Last year I got a commitment from Openreach to install a street cabinet with new fibres in Canterbury Road, Lydden, on the southern edge of Chunnel Plant Hire's depot. This week Kent County Council confirmed the cabinet is in place and residents can now ask to be connected to it.

The internet plays a vital role in people's lives these days. Yet the service in some of our rural areas was shameful. Children needed it for school, parents needed it for work, and businesses needed it to function. Online gaming and other multimedia weren't even options for some residents. And they were endlessly fobbed off. The speed of KCC and Openreach's approach to this was more dial-up than superfast – so I'm delighted the cabinet is now in place and residents can get connected to proper broadband.

I also welcome this Government's commitment to delivering a legal right to broadband. It means every single part of Dover and Deal should have access to high speed broadband by 2020. I keep telling ministers how frustrating it is for my constituents, so I am glad they have acted.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the idea of a broadband universal service obligation (USO). It will provide a legal right to get a broadband connection of at least 10 Mbps download speed, up to a reasonable cost threshold, currently proposed at £3,400. The USO is expected to be delivered by BT, funded by a cost-sharing industry fund and in place by 2020. Secondary legislation is expected to be laid before Parliament in early 2018.

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10 JAN 2018

Kent Police backs my campaign for "Robert's Law"

Kent Police's drugs chief has backed my campaign for "Robert's Law" – which would toughen legislation concerning super-strength synthetic opioids.

I am working with the mum of a Deal teenager who died in November 2016 after being given fentanyl, a substance 50 times stronger than heroin. Robert Fraser, 18, was discovered unresponsive in his bedroom two days after a dealer gave him the drug, saying it was similar to ecstasy. I wrote to Kent Police asking for tougher sentencing for those who deal the deadly drug.

This week Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Richards, Kent Police's head of substance misuse, told me: "I am sure that when the Misuse of Drugs Act was written, they did not envisage having drugs that were 100/1000s times more potent than heroin.

"In essence, unless massively diluted, fentanyl acts like a poison and so consideration should be given to find a better way of regulating it."

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. Robert's mum Michelle and I want to toughen laws so the American trend is not repeated here. "Robert's Law" would force police to prioritise cases involving fentanyl, and courts to impose harsher sentences on those caught supplying the drug.

Michelle is an incredibly brave woman. Robert had his whole life ahead of him, but he died from a powerful drug he did not know he was taking. Reports of Fentanyl on our streets are increasing. We need to send a strong message to dealers. You will be punished for the misery you inflict. Robert's story will frighten every parent out there. We have to tackle this head on, right now, before it gets out of control.

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

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04 JAN 2018

Ambitious for our area in 2018

As the New Year begins it's time to ask: what's next for Dover and Deal?

Everyone knows the story of how far we have come since 2010. A new hospital built in Dover. Deal hospital saved. The port sell-off stopped. £400 million invested in our area. Unemployment near halved. The Calais Jungle dismantled. The fast train sweeping into our stations, all day every day.

Everyone should be proud of what we have achieved together in the past seven years. Yet we must keep moving forward.

So what are the next steps?

A new cinema, shops and restaurants are being built in the heart of Dover. The St James development will bring in yet more jobs and money to our area. When we watch a movie at Cineworld or go shopping in Next, we must never forget that barely two years ago this area was blighted by the awful multi-storey car park and Burlington House. It has taken so much hard work to get this far.

St James is going to massively improve things in Dover – yet we need our high street to flourish too. Everyone wants the entire Dover town centre to succeed. Making sure the St James development draws more visitors to our high street is our top priority.

We need plans in place to link St James and our stunning seafront. We must find a way of getting visitors to see and enjoy all our town has to offer. That means guiding them from St James to our brilliant independent cafes, shops and micropubs in town – and the amazing Roman Painted House. I would love to see a footbridge over the A20, linking Bench Street and our Banksy to the seafront. I'm really interested to hear people's views on how we can make this work.

Deal has gone from strength to strength in recent years, following the arrival of the fast train. Yet there is still more to do. Firstly, we must seize the opportunity to rejuvenate Deal Pier and ensure this iconic landmark is brought into better use.

Dover is getting a new cinema. Deal's Regent Cinema was supposed to be re-opened years ago. The owners need to shape up and get film reels rolling at the Regent once more – or sell to someone who will.

And we need better road access for Deal. The A258 from Dover is too often gridlocked – leaving no other way to get to town. And traffic heading to Thanet ends up blocking Middle Deal Road. That's why we need to look at building a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.

There is so much potential in our beautiful corner of Kent. The Citadel is a site ripe for development. We could use the leisure centre site for more parking and shops. I will be pushing for more services at our hospitals, more funding for our outstanding schools and better broadband across the villages. And we must continue to do everything we can to support our brilliant small businesses.

On top of all of this we have Brexit. I have been working hard to ensure we have the right plan in place so that traffic continues to flow freely between Dover and Calais. I've been working with the French to make sure they are ready too. We are leaving the European Union in little over a year – and we must be ready on day one for every eventuality.

It's clear there will be many challenges in the 12 months ahead. Yet after we've achieved so much over the past seven years – it's now time to push on and truly build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

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02 JAN 2018

Millions more for east Kent hospitals

I welcome news that millions of extra pounds – the equivalent of 150 nurses – is being invested in east Kent hospitals this winter.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been granted an additional £3.42 million to cope with winter pressures. Health bosses tell me Buckland Hospital has prepared earlier and more extensively than ever this year, with a focus on extra staff and community support to help discharge patients quickly.

We've been fighting hard for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal – so this extra funding is great news. We all want to know the NHS is there for us and our families whenever we need it. So I'm pleased for the extra support at this critical time, when cold weather and flu increases pressures on hardworking hospital staff.

We've just had a new cataract surgery centre open at Buckland. There are almost twice as many clinics operating at the hospital than when it first opened. Yet I still want it better utilised. Dover and Deal residents deserve first class healthcare on their doorstep, and I will keep up the fight for it this year.

A total of 32 outpatient specialities are based at Buckland Hospital in Coombe Valley Road, delivering 9,895 clinics each year. It compares to 25 departments delivering 5,020 clinics at the end of 2015. Seven new consultants have been recruited to work at the hospital in recent weeks, including in its brand new cataract surgery theatre which opened in December. And at a recent meeting, health chiefs told me "good progress" was being made on getting GP services co-located at Buckland and Deal Hospital in 2018, creating primary care hubs with extra doctors.

The extra Government funding for hospitals in east Kent is the equivalent of 150 annual nurse salaries, part of a £337m funding boost across the UK laid out in the recent Budget. It comes on top of an extra £2.8bn investment over the next two years.

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21 DEC 2017

Backing our businesses in Dover and Deal

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our nation. They are the job creators. We must do everything we can to support them – especially in places like Dover and Deal.

The truth is that too often Britain has worked for the big cities and big corporations – while firms in the regions get overlooked. People here in Dover and Deal know how hard we have to fight for every single penny of investment. As we leave the European Union, we need to build a nation that works better for our historic regions and districts. We need a Britain that works for places like Dover and Deal.

It's been a real battle – yet since 2010 we have been doing everything we can to bring more investment to our corner of Kent, to boost jobs and to help local business. And we really have come a long way. We've secured £400 million of investment in our area. The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has halved – and more than 4,000 apprenticeships have been created.

What's more, the number of new businesses opening in Dover and Deal has nearly doubled since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show 465 new businesses opened in Dover district last year, compared to 260 in 2010. And the numbers continue to grow, with a 17.7% rise in 2016 on the previous year. That's twice the UK average.

Meanwhile, 91% of these new businesses are still operating after at least a year, compared to 89.7% nationally. And the total number of active enterprises in Dover district is up 5.2% in the last year and 15% since 2010.

These numbers show the courage and hard work of the people of Dover and Deal in recent years. It takes real guts to set up a new business – with long hours and non-stop hard work essential to make it a success. People who take a risk and set up shop in our area need our full support.

I've been doing what I can to help. Earlier in the year I met with local business owners concerned by a rates revaluation in February. I took their views to Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Over the summer, the Department set up three new relief schemes for hundreds of businesses in Dover and Deal. And last month Dover District Council confirmed 374 businesses have benefitted so far, saving more than £200,000.

We've come a long way since 2010 – yet there is still much more to do. We need to ensure that the St James development helps bring money not just to the new shops and restaurants – but also to all the brilliant businesses already set up in town. We must ensure Deal continues to thrive and that firms across our corner of Kent get the support they need.

We must keep fighting to deliver the bright future we all want for Dover and Deal.

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18 DEC 2017

Dover and Deal primary schools are forging ahead

Primary schools in Dover and Deal are performing well above the national average as reading standards in England reached record levels. This month it was announced a study of nine and 10 year-olds in 50 countries put England in joint eighth place for reading, the country's highest ranking since the test was introduced in 2001.

It comes after the Government changed the national curriculum to require schools to use and test phonics in 2010. Primary schools in Dover and Deal are performing well above average. 61.6% of pupils in the area meet the expected standard of a scaled score of 100 or more in reading and maths tests, compared to 53% nationally.

It's excellent news that standards in our schools are rising – and that pupils in Dover and Deal are outperforming their peers across the country. It's crucial that our children get the skills they need to excel later in life. The hardworking teachers in Dover and Deal deserve huge credit for the improvements made so far. We must do everything we can to ensure youngsters in Dover and Deal get the best start in life.

More official statistics released last week show 9,643 children in Dover and Deal are now attending schools rated good or outstanding – an increase of 2,432 since 2010. Across the country, 89 per cent of schools were judged to be good or outstanding at their most recent inspection. That compares with 68 per cent in 2010. The proportion of pupils meeting the expected standard in phonics has risen from 58 per cent in 2012 to 81 per cent in 2017.

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14 DEC 2017

Amazing progress at St James development

I am so impressed by the progress at the St James development – which is being fitted out ahead of opening in a matter of months.

I was shown around the Cineworld complex, which is having seats and carpets fitted and has been given an opening date of February 2, 2018. The anchor shops – Marks & Spencer and Next – will be furnished after Christmas and open in a few months' time, with the latter to include a mezzanine Costa Coffee café. 

These really are exciting times. We are so close to getting a first class retail experience in the heart of Dover. Some of the units are ready to go now. I was amazed with the progress. We must never forget that barely two years ago this area was blighted by the awful multi-storey car park and Burlington House.

St James is going to massively improve things in Dover – yet we need our high street to flourish too. Everyone wants the entire Dover town centre to succeed. Making sure the St James development draws more visitors to our high street is our top priority. We also need to make more of our tourist attractions like the Roman Painted House. I met with Dr Brian Philp, who runs the Roman Painted House, last month to discuss what can be done to help boost tourism.

On Friday, I also met with Dover District Council's head of investment Tim Ingleton, chief executive Nadeem Aziz and Townwall Street leisure centre owners Citycourt for a site meeting. Citycourt are working on plans to use the leisure centre site for more parking and retail provision. It would be great to see more parking with a retailer alongside, to deliver more shopping options to the people of Dover and visitors to our town.

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14 DEC 2017

We must build the homes our young people need

Everyone knows we need to build more homes. It is the only way we can truly ensure the dream of owning your own home is kept alive for young people. Yes, the Help to Buy scheme and cutting stamp duty help more people get on the housing ladder. Yet it is the building of more quality and affordable homes which is most vital of all.

In Dover and Deal our hard work has been paying off. A total of 150 homes were registered in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the UK average of 60. Meanwhile, the number of new builds started last year was 434 – almost twice the national average.

Increasing supply means homes become more affordable. That is crucial, because people in Dover and Deal work hard and deserve to be able to lay down roots and secure a future for their family.

That's why I was so deeply disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court last week to uphold an appeal which stops hundreds of new homes being built on brownfield land at Farthingloe.

Of course, we all want to protect our beautiful countryside. Yet the truth is that this case focussed on a technicality over planning process – not any genuine threat to wildlife or the environment. It's taken four years and hundreds of thousands of pounds to reach this point. Time and money which could have been invested in Dover, not wasted on legal wrangles. Moreover, it wasn't just the councillors who supported this development. The people of Dover supported it too in a consultation process.

Sadly, campaign groups like the CPRE are determined to do all they can to stop the homes we need getting built. From their comfortable homes in leafy West Kent, they think they know what's best for Dover and Deal. They think their views matter more than the people of Dover and their elected councillors. They don't care how hard we have to fight in East Kent for every single penny of investment. The Farthingloe project would have brought investment for what could be an outstanding tourist attraction at the Drop Redoubt and Western Heights. It would have given visitors even more reason to come to our corner of Kent – and it would have created more jobs.

We must put the future of Dover and our young people ahead of unelected, anti-democratic campaign groups.

We are leaving the European Union and have the opportunity to take back control of our laws and make Britain work for our young people. We cannot allow greenies and grumblers to hold us back. We need to face down the voices of the past who have let our country down time and time again.

It's time to focus on building the future. A Britain that works for our young people.

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11 DEC 2017

Urging the PM to make Dover a Brexit trade talks priority

The smooth flow of traffic through the Port of Dover must be a key priority of Brexit trade talks, I told the Prime Minister. Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday (December 11th), I asked Theresa May whether she agreed that the Channel Ports are a "critical issue".

The Prime Minister said the Government recognises the importance of Dover. She said a key part of a trade deal with the European Union will be working towards "tariff free and frictionless" movement of goods through the port.

I asked: "Would the Prime Minister agree that the finding of agreed solutions is not just a critical issue to the Northern Ireland border but also the Channel Ports including the Port of Dover and will she make it a key priority of the trade talks to ensure that we have the smooth flow of trade and also the option of diversity?"

The Prime Minister replied: "My honourable friend is absolutely right, we recognise the importance of Dover as a border port and indeed other ports around the United Kingdom and as we move forward in negotiating the trade deal of course a key part of that will be the future customs relationship that we have. We've said we want to be as tariff free and frictionless as possible and that's what we'll be working to."

My question followed a statement in the Commons by Theresa May on the progress of negotiations with the EU. I have repeatedly called on the Government to invest at the border since the EU referendum result. He has raised the issue with the Prime Minister in the Commons several times and met Ministers from the Treasury and Home Office at the port.

In last month's Budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced he is setting aside £3 billion for Brexit preparations.

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08 DEC 2017

Live exports from Dover and Ramsgate must end post-Brexit

The cruel trade of live animal exports at ports like Dover and Ramsgate should be ended as soon as the UK leaves the European Union. I asked Ministers to ensure that the slaughter of UK animals takes places in UK abattoirs, overseen by qualified vets.

I spoke out in the House of Commons on Thursday, December 7th. Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed the Government's approach to live exports could change after Brexit. He also praised my campaigning on live exports.

I asked: "Would my right honourable friend agree with me that the slaughter of UK animals should place in UK abattoirs overseen by appropriately qualified vets – and will he take steps to ensure that the evil and cruel trade of live animal exports is ended when we leave the European Union?"

Mr Gove said: "Can I commend my honourable friend on his campaigning on this issue and yes, as we leave the European Union there are opportunities, as he points out, to review and change the approach we take towards live exports and to ensure higher standards of animal welfare."

In the 1990s, up to 30 lorries of live animals travelled to Europe through the Port of Dover every day, according to Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE). Since 2013, live exports have moved to the Port of Ramsgate and there have been 33 lorries so far this year.

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07 DEC 2017

Bus cuts are unacceptable

In Dover and Deal we have seen the chaos, confusion and overcrowding caused by Stagecoach's poorly thought-through changes to bus services earlier this year. They rushed the changes through a two-week consultation and we have been working hard ever since to get them to reverse some of their decisions. I'm pleased that in a number of cases they have listened – and U-turned on changes to services in places like St Radigunds and Kingsdown.

Yet we cannot have a repeat of that disruption. That's why last week I organised a letter, signed by 10 other Kent MPs, to Kent County Council (KCC) leader Paul Carter. The letter set out our serious concerns over the council's plans to cut subsidies to 78 bus services across the county. These services are vital for elderly people, allowing them to get into towns to go shopping, visit relatives or attend doctor appointments. Schoolchildren, disabled people and low earners also face being cut off.

Everyone knows KCC and councils across the land have had to make considerable savings in recent years. This is because back in 2010 our nation was faced with the highest budget deficit in decades. Yet KCC need to explore other practical options that avoid cutting these vital bus services.

Bus users already feel hard done by. Many are understandably concerned that – within months of a 15% pay increase for councillors – more services are set to be axed. Indeed, by Friday more than 9,000 people had already signed a petition calling for KCC to reverse these planned cuts. Understandably, people are worried about how they will get to work – or how their children will get to school. It is vital the council listens to these concerns.

No-one wants to see their council tax go up. That's why KCC has been working so hard to make savings. With the proposed bus service subsidy cuts, the council is seeking to make a 70% reduction in its current budget. Elsewhere, Norfolk County Council has started consulting on proposals to reduce bus subsidies by £500,000 and Cheshire East Council has plans to save £1 million. People I've spoken to in Dover and Deal feel KCC's cuts of £4 million seem extreme and I strongly sympathise with their concerns.

In some areas the cuts to subsidized buses will cause significant disruption and place extra pressure on other services that are already crowded at peak times. We have already seen the problems caused by Stagecoach. People are worried that further reductions by KCC create a real risk of people having to give up work, that elderly people will be isolated and children will be unable to travel to school.

That's why KCC must listen now to the serious concerns being raised – particularly regarding school routes. People in Dover and Deal rely on these services. KCC need to rethink their plans.

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06 DEC 2017

Fighting for more school funding

New buildings are needed at Dover Grammar School for Girls – and I am campaigning to secure funding. The main school building, which dates back to 1910, suffered major flooding after a water leak earlier this year.

The school, whose students achieve some of the best results in the country, deserves better facilities. I am writing to Education Secretary Justine Greening calling for the school to be considered under the Priority School Building Programme.

Headteacher Robert Benson last week showed me some of the damage caused by the leak. I also saw the "temporary" History block – which dates back to the 1960s and has clearly seen better days.

Year after year, the hard-working students at Dover Grammar School for Girls achieve some of the best results in the country. In recent years they have even got better results than Eton. The current building certainly has charm – yet it's clear they need to modernise some facilities. That's why I'm writing to Justine Greening, asking for the school to receive the boost in funding it deserves.

I have also been fighting for schools in Dover and Deal to receive an immediate cash boost from the new National Funding Formula. The new formula was demanded by headteachers and education experts who said the old one was outdated and unfair, leaving schools in places like Dover and Deal "historically underfunded". It will be phased in within two years, with Local Authorities deciding allocations until then. Charlie has asked Kent County Council for it to be adopted immediately, giving Dover Grammar School for Girls an extra £300,000 next year.

The old funding system was letting our area down. We were receiving thousands less per pupil than other parts of the country. I have raised this with ministers many times, and they were right to take action. Schools across Dover and Deal will now benefit with millions more each September for years to come.

Kent County Council is currently consulting on local funding formulas for the next two years.

If the new National Funding Formula came into effect this September, Dover Grammar School for Girls would get a cash boost of 10.4%. Astor College would get 11.1% more, Dover Grammar School for Boys 9.4% more, St Edmund's Catholic School 9.1% and Goodwin Academy 8.4% more. Across the constituency the increase would be 7.2%, or £1.54 million.

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05 DEC 2017

Housebuilding in Dover and Deal still well above UK average

Housebuilding in Dover and Deal has continued its upward trend – with the number of new homes still well above the UK average.

A total of 150 homes were registered in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the national average of 60. So far in 2017, 216 new homes were started in Dover and Deal, compared to an average of 186 nationally.

I welcome the latest figures from the National House Building Council. We need more homes across the country, so I'm proud our area is ahead of the curve.

Increasing supply means homes becoming more affordable. That is crucial, because people in Dover and Deal work hard and deserve to be able to lay down roots and secure a future for their family.

"Developers need a reason to build houses and we have given them plenty. With more than £400 million of investment in our area in the last seven years and unemployment slashed, they know Dover and Deal are on the up.

The number of new builds started in Dover and Deal in 2016 was 434, almost double the UK average of 233. It continued a growing trend, with 312 new housing starts in 2014 and 321 in 2015.

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04 DEC 2017

MPs back my calls for more investment at the border

MPs have backed my calls for major investment at the Dover border – "whether or not a deal is reached".

In a report published on Tuesday (28 November), the House of Commons' Exiting the European Union Committee unanimously agreed about the need for investment in technology and infrastructure at the Port of Dover.

The cross-party group of MPs recommended introducing electronic customs checks and building a lorry park near the port, with no committee members objecting. Having written a detailed report on the subject, I of course welcome the news.

Committee members have done a lot of research and spoken to several industry experts. They all agree how important investing in the Dover frontline is for the UK economy. Their findings echo what I have been saying for some time now – this is 'no regrets' spending. We need to upgrade our border systems anyway.

Dover, the M20 and the whole UK economy is already at risk of gridlock by disruption in Calais. Investment is needed now. This way the EU will know we mean business. And it ensures we are ready on day one, so we can forge ahead on day two.

I have called on the Government to invest at the border several times since the referendum result, asking the Prime Minister in the Commons and meeting Treasury ministers at the port. In last month's Budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced he is setting aside £3 billion for Brexit preparations.

The recent Brexit committee report states: "Whether or not a deal is reached, we believe that the Government should be investing now in improvements in technology and infrastructure to ease the passage of goods through gateways like the Port of Dover; for example, by introducing electronic customs checks and building the proposed lorry park outside the Port of Dover.

"However, such measures would not deal with all the risks of serious delays in Dover and would have to be reciprocated across the Channel in order to be effective.

"We visited the Port of Dover where we met individuals from the Port Authority, officials from executive agencies based at the Port as well as ferry operators, to learn more about how the border will be affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU and why it is so important for the UK's trade.

"A large amount of trade passes through Dover every day and the efficiency of the processes in place at the Port, and at Calais, have helped to minimise the time it takes for goods to move from supplier to customer on both sides of the channel.

"Furthermore, it has introduced a predictability to the delivery timetable that is important for sectors with time sensitive supply chains, such as the automotive sector and the agri-food sector.

"A no deal scenario, especially if it was before any of the necessary adjustments had been made in areas such as IT systems, infrastructure, recruitment and training of staff, would cause major disruption."

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30 NOV 2017

A fitting tribute to an incredible person

It was fantastic to see so many Dovorians turn out on Friday for the funeral of Kelly Turner. This may have been a moment of mourning – yet St Mary's Church was so full of life. As Kelly's parents Martin and Linda requested, people wore bright colours to the ceremony. As well as multi-coloured outfits, there were several luminous hairstyles lighting up the aisles.

We waited in our seats while the organ played, some of us in deep thought, others taking the chance to catch up with old friends. Then we heard the revving of engines and the beeping of horns. "She's here," people whispered. Twenty or so bikes and mopeds were stationed outside to welcome Kelly and her family. Kelly's brilliantly colourful coffin was carried down the aisle by the pall bearers. Among them were Richard Esdale and John Ashman, tireless campaigners for Kelly's cause. On the back of the coffin was a photo of Kelly doing a "peace" hand gesture. I think it really hit home for many of us when we saw this picture and her beautiful smile as the coffin moved towards the altar.

The ceremony itself was a fitting tribute to an incredible girl. Kelly changed the lives of so many. She was an inspiration to us all – showing us that no matter what the odds, the most important thing of all is to take up the fight.

She inspired thousands of people to raise money to fight her rare form of cancer. More than half a million pounds was raised in two years – a stunning effort which we should all be so proud of. And we should all support Martin and Linda carry on of this funding through her legacy, the Kelly Turner Foundation.

But it's not just the money raised which inspires. It's the way Kelly brought people together. The way she made us ask questions of ourselves. "What have you done today to make you feel proud?" So asks Kelly's fundraising song, which was played at the start of the service.

We felt like we could never do enough to match Kelly's own superhuman efforts. Yet Dover did rise to the challenge – the way our town always does when struck by tragedy. Dover and its people have a unique spirit which draws them together at times like this. No matter what changes in the town, this spirit never dies. It is what keeps the town together through the toughest times.

No one epitomises this spirit greater than the Turner family. The strength Martin and Linda showed to stand in front of hundreds of people in church and talk about their beautiful daughter – their "little star" – who they lost less than two weeks ago was incredible. It was heart-breaking to hear Linda tell of how Kelly said she wasn't scared of going to heaven, but would much rather stay here with her mum and dad.

Many tears were shed during the ceremony. Yet everyone who stood up to speak showed great courage. They all talked about what Kelly meant to them. And whether in poem, song or psalm, the same words kept coming up. Angel. Light. Love. Star.

When we so cruelly lose someone like Kelly – a beautiful, kind and bright 17-year-old girl – the world in that moment feels like a dark place. Yet what the words spoken of Kelly on Friday tell us is that she leads the way in times like these. Her bright star guides us through the darkness. And when we open our eyes and look about us, we see a church full of people and full of love. We hear a spontaneous eruption of applause as Kelly is carried out of the church. We see people lining the high street and clapping as Kelly leaves Dover for the last time.

We see that we were all part of Kelly's battle. That while she may now be gone, her spirit still inspires us all. That Kelly's bright star will always shine on Dover – and always lead the way.

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27 NOV 2017

This stunning design won my Christmas card comp

The winner of my Christmas card competition has been revealed. A stunning Christmas tree drawn by Maya Maginn, 9, from Kingsdown & Ringwould CEP School claimed top spot. Maya's detailed design features candy canes and baubles – and gifts bearing messages such as "love", "hope" and "peace".

The standard of entries in this year's competition might just be the best we've ever had. I would have been proud to have any of the designs feature on my card. Yet Maya's really was truly outstanding. She clearly put a lot of thought and care into the design, which portrays the true message of Christmas.

This year's runners-up were: Nirbiga Karunakaran, 9, from Aycliffe Community Primary school; Maria Shnitnikova, 10, from St Margaret's-at-Cliffe School; and Abigail Rook, 8, from Lydden Primary School.

Maya's winning design features on the front of my Christmas card which I am sending to friends and family. The designs by the runners-up feature on the back of the card. I invited Dover District Council leader Keith Morris, as well as representatives from both Deal and Dover town councils to help judge the winner and runners-up. The judging took place at the Dover and Deal Conservatives office in Walmer on Friday, November 10th.

Deputy Mayor of Dover Roger Walker and Cllr Ann Jenner represented Dover Town Council in the judging. Cllr Keith Lee represented Deal Town Council.

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27 NOV 2017

374 firms in Dover and Deal have had rates reduced

A total of 374 businesses in Dover and Deal have had their rates reduced after I pressured ministers.

Earlier in the year I met with local business owners concerned by a rates revaluation in February. I then took their views to ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Over the summer Marcus Jones MP told me he had set up three new relief schemes for hundreds of businesses in his constituency. This week Dover District Council confirmed 374 businesses have benefitted so far, saving more than £200,000.

The rate changes needed to happen – yet in some cases they put pressure on small businesses. These firms are the lifeblood of our economy. I told ministers we must support them during the transition. So I'm delighted the Government has acted.

This week Marcus Jones told me to keep encouraging businesses in Dover and Deal to apply for reduced costs, so I urge them to contact the council. The £207,003 awarded in Dover and Deal came in the form of three relief schemes – one that caps annual bill increases at £600, one that gives a £1,000 discount to pubs, and one that can be applied with discretion to any business facing higher rates.

Almost twice as many new businesses opened in Dover and Deal last year compared to 2010. Unemployment is way down and more than £400 million has been invested in the local area.

We must stay on course to build the better future we all want for our corner of Kent.

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23 NOV 2017

Fighting for better healthcare in Dover and Deal

We've been fighting hard to secure a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal. And we're seeing some real improvements.

Buckland Hospital is now operating almost twice as many clinics as when it first opened. There are now 32 outpatient specialities, delivering 9,895 clinics each year. That's nearly double the amount in 2015.

What's more, seven new ophthalmic consultants have been recruited to work at the hospital, including in its brand new cataract surgery theatre. This makes a big difference to people who had to travel out of town for treatment.

And health chiefs have said good progress is being made on getting GP services co-located at Buckland and creating a primary care hub.

It's great that there are more services at Buckland. The old hospital had been decimated over a decade – yet the opposite is happening in the new one. Now we need 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.

Meanwhile, in Deal our much-loved hospital – left teetering on the brink in 2010 – has seen staff numbers increase 17% since last year, from 126 to 147. Real strides are also being made in local mental healthcare. The trust in charge is closing in on being rated Outstanding overall.

Across East Kent, A&E performance has risen 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, our hospital trust has recruited ten new specialist emergency doctors, installed three new treatment areas and a new ambulatory care unit.

Meanwhile, an application for a brand new medical school run by Canterbury's two universities will be submitted by the end of the year. Getting a medical school will be a huge boost for Kent. It will mean we can train doctors locally and get more GPs in Dover and Deal. This is why I organised a meeting in Westminster last week with local health chiefs and Kent MPs. We are all working hard to make the medical school a reality.

I have been really encouraged by the hospital trust's new leadership team and the improvement plan they have implemented. The recent good work must continue because patients in Dover and Deal deserve the best treatment possible.

We've come a long way but there is still much more to do. An extra £10 billion in real terms is going into the NHS, bringing the budget to more than £120 billion – three times what we spend on schools. Yet locally we want more services, beds and more mental health support. That's why we must keep fighting for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal.

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22 NOV 2017

Three billion set aside for Brexit in Budget after my calls

Chancellor Philip Hammond has set aside an extra £3 billion in the Budget for Brexit preparations – following repeated calls I have made for the cash. I wanted at least £1 billion to be earmarked in Budget, making the case during Prime Minister's Questions last week and during an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons last month.

So this is fantastic news. It's vital we are ready on day one for every eventuality of leaving the European Union, deal or no deal. Being prepared strengthens our hand in the negotiations with the EU. And our borders systems need upgrading anyway.

That's why I've been calling for the Government to invest now – particularly at the Dover frontline. We must be ready on day one of Brexit to keep traffic moving through the Channel Ports.

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22 NOV 2017

Lorry parks for customs checks should be built off M20

Lorry parking facilities which could be used for customs checks should be built off the M20, I told the House of Commons on Monday. I called for investment to ensure the right infrastructure is in place at the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel on day one of Brexit.

It comes after the Government last week axed its original proposals for an M20 lorry park at Stanford. A new planning application for a lorry park is not expected until 2019. I spoke up during a debate on customs where Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride faced questions from MPs.

I asked: "Does [the Minister] agree that it is really important for the Channel Ports that parking facilities and resilience are built in off the M20 so that whatever eventuality arrives with respect to needing to do checks—whether for animal health or customs purposes—we have the right kind of infrastructure and facilities in place on day one?"

Mr Stride replied: "I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention and, before I address his specific question, I also thank him for his insights and the fairly powerful lobbying he has quite rightly done on behalf of the Port of Dover and his constituents.

"On his specific question about infrastructure being ready, we certainly recognise that we need to have infrastructure there and that the port itself would generally not be able to handle a large number of stoppages at any one time.

"As I say, I have been down to the port to inspect the facilities there, so I certainly appreciate that. That is an issue that is receiving ongoing consideration."

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17 NOV 2017

Chancellor must not raise fuel duty

Drivers in Dover and Deal must not be hit with a hike in fuel duty. Fuel duty has been frozen for the past seven years. The Chancellor Philip Hammond must decide whether to continue with this policy in his Budget on November 22nd.

I have long campaigned to stop any rise in the tax on petrol and diesel, which would hit families and small businesses hardest. I met with FairFuelUK campaigners Quentin Wilson and Howard Cox at their Parliamentary reception last week. They are concerned that drivers of diesel cars could be hit with additional higher taxes due to concerns over air quality.

Whether they have petrol or diesel cars, we need a fair deal on fuel for drivers across the nation. Many families and small businesses in Dover and Deal are dependent on their vehicles. It's important that people who live in big cities understand how important cars and vans are to people in the regions. That's why fuel duty must stay frozen for an eighth year running – and diesel drivers should not be hit with unfair taxes.

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17 NOV 2017

Fabulous festive designs in my Christmas card competition

From penguins in woolly hats to snowflakes falling on the Palace of Westminster, all sorts of fabulous festive designs were entered into my Christmas card competition.

Local schoolchildren's brilliant imagination and artistic talent was on show yet again in this year's contest. I invited Dover District Council leader Keith Morris, as well as representatives from both Deal and Dover town councils, to help judge the winner and runners-up. The judging took place at the Dover and Deal Conservatives office in Walmer on Friday, November 10th.

The winning design will feature on the front of my Christmas card this festive season. The runners-up will be printed on the back.

Every time I run my Christmas card competition I am amazed at how gifted and imaginative our local schoolchildren are. I would be proud to have any of the designs feature on my card. It was such a tough choice to pick a winner.

Deputy Mayor of Dover Roger Walker and Cllr Ann Jenner represented Dover Town Council in the judging. Cllr Keith Lee represented Deal Town Council.

I am now writing to all the locals schools who entered to let them know the results. Everyone who took part receives a certificate.

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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.

15 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

Charlie, we met in 2010 in the run up to the general election. I was at that time a lifelong Tory and a supporter of you. My family did some bits to assist your campaign. I liked you as a person and a politician. Due to the policies of the party I ceased my over 30 year support of the party some years ago yet I still admired you as a good constituency MP. I was truly shocked at your treatment by your party and am so enraged at what you have been subjected to. I’m afraid it vindicates my assertion that the Tory party is broken so badly. I suspect you will come out the other side of this exonerated and I wish you all the very best. John M
- John Murphy

Best of luck Charlie
- Steve Greaves

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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.

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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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26 OCT 2017

Fighting for better mental healthcare in Dover and Deal

Mental healthcare is incredibly important. For too long it was given less attention than physical health and people struggled to get proper support.

That's why I'm glad this Government acted to give it equal weight in law. Investment in treatment is rising sharply, with an extra £2.25 billion being pumped into mental health services by 2020. Forty per cent more people are accessing them since 2010.

And in Dover and Deal, real strides are being made. Last week I visited Coleman House to discuss progress with Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust chief executive Helen Greatorex, her deputy Victoria Stevens, and the area's new permanent consultant Dr Kirsten Lawson.

People used to come to me all the time complaining about local mental health services. Vulnerable people were cared for in beds in Manchester or Hull. Many were discharged early, some didn't get follow-up contact for weeks. Some didn't get any help at all. I have pushed hard for improvements since I became MP and things finally look like they are on the up.

This year Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust received fantastic praise from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission. Eight out of ten services were rated Good or Outstanding. Inspectors said they are closing in on being rated Outstanding overall, something boasted by only two trusts across the whole country.

The Coleman House team told me how progress was achieved. At one point people were looked after in private beds all over the country. It wasn't right for patients or families, and it was costing the trust millions. By rebalancing units and staff, they have reduced private bed usage to virtually nil.

But I also work closely with local mental health support group Talk It Out, so I know there is more work to be done. I told trust bosses follow-up contact should take place in the first couple of days after discharge. I also said I want to see more care co-ordinators so there is always someone for people to speak to.

More local services, more beds and more mental health support are all part of my vision for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal.

We've come a long way together since 2010. In Deal our much-loved hospital was left teetering on the edge, until our strong community campaign secured its future. In Dover Buckland Hospital had been decimated over a decade. Two years ago we got a £24 million state-of-the-art facility in its place.

But I want to see more services at both. There's a great opportunity to commission care beds at another brand new facility, right next door to Buckland.

And we must keep up the focus on mental health. We all know someone who has suffered with mental health problems, yet for years they weren't able to access treatment that could help them meaningfully, long and short term.

Let's keep fighting so everyone in Dover and Deal gets the first class healthcare they deserve.

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25 OCT 2017

We should set aside one billion for "no deal" Brexit

I want £1 billion to be set aside in the Budget for preparations for a "no deal" Brexit scenario.

I told the House of Commons, in an Adjournment Debate on Tuesday night, that the money should be spent on upgrading border systems and infrastructure. Brexit Secretary David Davis was in attendance to listen to my speech.

Planning for no deal is not simply a negotiation point. Increasingly it is the responsible thing to do. 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.

I argued that Britain must invest now to be ready on day one for leaving the European Union, deal or no deal. I set out three key reasons: that investing now is insurance against a last-minute "no deal"; that being able to walk away will ensure Britain gets the best deal; and that this is "no regrets" spending on border upgrades that are needed anyway.

In 2015, tailbacks caused by strikes in Calais caused queues of 4,600 lorries over 30 miles, at the cost of £1 Billion to the British economy.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.

I pointed out that European nations are also required to make upgrades at ports like Calais and Dunkirk. A global trade facilitation agreement that came into force in February makes detailed provision for fast customs clearances, electronic payment systems and trusted trader regimes.

We've spent long enough waiting for the EU to get its act together. Three quarters of the country agrees that if progress can't be made, we should be prepared to walk away. It's vital that we have the option to do so. That we are fully prepared. That's why we must be ready on day one, to forge ahead on day two, deal or no deal.

In response, Brexit Minister Steve Baker referenced a report published by me in July which "rightly focused on the importance of having a functioning border on day one."

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23 OCT 2017

Calling for crackdown on speeding through Capel

Residents in Capel are calling for a crackdown on cars and trucks speeding through their village. Members of Capel Parish Council also 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 have written to Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, asking for a site meeting. I have also 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.

I'm pleased Kent Police are looking at ways of cracking down on cars and trucks speeding through Capel.

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19 OCT 2017

Deal or no deal - we need investment at the front line

It's vital we are ready on day one for Brexit, deal or no deal. We can't wait until the last moment to make sure we have resilient roads and strong borders.

That's why we must be prepared for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover frontline. Clearly we all hope for a deal, yet we must also be fully prepared. The Prime Minister rightly said this week, the Government is committed to spending what is needed to make sure we are ready.

What's more, investment at the border is needed anyway, so it will be a "no regrets" investment decision that is in the national interest. For why wouldn't we want to have world class customs systems and cutting edge digital border controls at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel? Why wouldn't we want to upgrade the A2 and M20? It wouldn't just mean we are in a great position, deal or no deal – it would also mean faster, more efficient borders and roads to help boost our economy.

Everyone knows that leaving the EU is the biggest challenge our nation has faced since the Second World War. This is why I got hauliers, ports and transport experts together to set out a blueprint for the way forward. We have set out the case to plan for efficient ports. Infrastructure for customs checks and technological improvements. We need a trusted trader system for truckers and close working will be required from our partner ports like Calais, Dunkirk and Zeebrugge.

The Government has drawn heavily on this work in setting out its own plans. This includes goods being presented to customs authorities inland – away from Dover's docks where this would cause delays. This yet again underlines why the roads to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel must be resilient, with lorry parks where checks could take place. The Department for Transport needs to act now – to make sure that the long-suffering residents of Kent don't have to put up with Operation Stack happening in the future.

It's also important we are ready for the end of uncontrolled EU immigration. That means we need to be able extend our full border control systems from the current 12.5 million to a further 25.5 million visitors to the United Kingdom.

Investment in tried and tested modern digital border systems would enable much faster checks to be made and allow most of the processing to be automated. Using systems to make all necessary checks long before people arrive at the Port of Dover would help minimise travel delays for legitimate travellers.

If we are ambitious we can be a world leader in terms of border technology and security.

Yet we can't keep waiting for the EU to get its act together. It's time to get ready on day one, so we can forge ahead on day two.

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This country has shown itself highly resilient in just about all the crises faced in past generations, and I agree that leaving the EU is the most difficult and important one to be faced by about 99% of us living today; for that reason I in my naivety assumed, 16 months after the referendum produced a leave outcome, the Government would by now have prepared and begun the implementation of a plan to ensure that movement of goods, services and people between this Country and Europe through all the ports so engaged, would be well advanced. What I've learned reading this article tells a different story. It tells me that by the end of March 2019 the major road network in Kent, but particularly surrounding Dover, will probably be constant gridlock; not a happy situation for those of us living in the area. Whatever the politics of it, this Government has to be convinced soonest, to commit money, appropriate technology and expertise; the skills we have in abundance when circumstances demand it, to ensure our borders are ready when Brexit takes place. The efforts of all involved in Mr Elphicke's endeavour are to be applauded.
- Keith Wells

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18 OCT 2017

Industry leaders need "certainty" over Brexit

Industry leaders have called for "certainty" from Government in order to be ready on day one to make a success of Brexit at the Channel Ports.

Representatives from Eurotunnel, the Road Haulage Association and a major logistics firm last night took part in the panel discussion I organised. 

It called for the Government to engage more with businesses and operators – and to invest in upgrading the UK's border technology.

The message is clear. We need better systems at the border – and greater certainty on preparations for Brexit. We need to make this work for the people of Britain and Europe. We must put them first in all that we do.

The decisions we make as we leave the European Union must ensure trade continues to flow through Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover. We need to prepare now to ensure we are ready on day one, deal or no deal."

A number of MPs and representatives from haulage firms attended the packed panel discussion in the House of Commons on Tuesday, October 17. Former Border Force director general Tony Smith CBE, Eurotunnel director of public affairs John Keefe, Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett and Kuehne + Nagel international forwarding director Mark Johnson were on the panel, chaired by me. 

We all agreed that the Government should prioritise setting up an improved trusted trader system for haulage firms post-Brexit to reduce delays.

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13 OCT 2017

Crunch talks with bus bosses

I met Stagecoach's area chief for crunch talks on recent changes to local bus services. I told him how I had received scores of complaints regarding routes across the district.

Kent County Council's head of public transport Phil Lightowler also attended the meeting at my Westminster office. We discussed changes to bus routes implemented by Stagecoach in July. I also asked people to comment on my Facebook page so I could pass on their concerns to the bus firm – and more than 100 took the chance to have their say.

Mr Norwell, Stagecoach's South East managing director, told me he had read the comments on the Facebook page. He said many of the problems raised had been addressed.

The bus boss said Stagecoach had taken action on services to local schools. After I raised concerns last month, the firm made changes to ensure students from Kingsdown could get home from school.

Mr Norwell also said Stagecoach had worked with KCC to ensure parts of Great Mongeham and Northbourne are covered after complaints were raised. Stagecoach has also added an additional journey between Eastry and Canterbury. Mr Norwell agreed to look closer at issues resulting from changes to services in St Radigunds and River.

Thank you to everyone who has got in touch with me about changes Stagecoach has made to services in our area. Judging by the sheer amount of emails, comments and letters, it's clear the firm has many questions to answer.

It's welcome that Stagecoach say they have made changes after people raised concerns – and that they are working with KCC to help cover some areas. Yet if anyone is still experiencing problems, I urge them to get in touch with me so I can take up their case."

Residents can get in touch with me by emailing charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk or messaging on Facebook.

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12 OCT 2017

Schools are getting the investment we fought for

We're working hard to build a bright future for Dover and Deal. And everyone knows a vital part of that is supporting our schools. We have some incredibly bright and talented young people in our area. Every single one of them must be given the chance to thrive.

Across Dover and Deal, incredible work is being done by some truly amazing teachers and support staff. Take the inspirational Whitfield and Aspen School, where children with special educational needs mix with youngsters in the mainstream.

I visited Whitfield and Aspen last week to hear about their fantastic outreach programme. Staff go out to nurseries across Dover and Deal and help children who have special educational needs.

One youngster they helped was Darwin Burnett at Kid Ease nursery at the Triangles Centre. His family were really pleased with his progress and wanted him to go on to Whitfield and Aspen School. Yet they were having difficulty securing school transport for him. I was delighted to help out and to persuade Kent County Council to fund his transport. It was brilliant to meet Darwin last week. He really is a charming young lad and it's great to see his confidence growing.

Yet none of this would have happened without Whitfield and Aspen's amazing outreach programme. The school is looking to expand when the new Whitfield development goes ahead – so they can help even more youngsters.

I also visited Goodwin Academy on Friday for the official opening of the school's hugely impressive new £25 million building and facilities. It was great to be shown around by two polite and well-informed pupils, who looked very smart in their new school uniform. We fought a long and hard battle to deliver the new building for the Goodwin Academy. Thanks to everyone's determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Dover and Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

Another school which has undergone a complete transformation in recent years is Dover Christ Church Academy, with brand-new facilities and ever-improving results. While our excellent grammar schools continue to deliver outstanding results.

Lots of people spoke to me about school funding during the General Election campaign. I pressed the Government for action and now our schools are set to get a huge cash boost from the Conservatives' new national funding formula. Kent County Council should introduce the new system next year – boosting secondary school funding by an average of 7.2%, or £1.54 million.

I'm passionate about giving people ladders in life. Schools must give children the support they need to climb as far as their talents can take them. That's why we're fighting for our schools in Dover and Deal. Because no matter where you come from – every child must have the chance to get on in life.

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11 OCT 2017

Calling on the Chancellor to invest in Brexit border systems

I have called on the Chancellor to invest in upgrading border and customs systems now – so Britain is ready on day one for leaving the European Union, deal or no deal.

I highlighted the need to press ahead swiftly with the M20 lorry park project as Philip Hammond faced questions from myself and fellow MPs at a Treasury Select Committee hearing. The Chancellor had earlier written in The Times that funding should not be spent yet for preparations for no deal with the EU.

At the hearing, I told him: "Uncertainty is our enemy – but resilience is our friend. Why wouldn't we want world class border systems and road infrastructure? Why don't we make this investment that we need anyway? That means we are also in a really great position – deal or no deal."

The Chancellor said any spending on Brexit preparations would be "specific", depending on whether Britain strikes a deal with the EU – and what that deal will look like. I pressed the Chancellor on the need to get the proposed M20 lorry park at Stanford built in time to ensure "resilience" for Brexit.

The Treasury's recent Customs Bill white paper says that in the event of "no deal" over Brexit – the presentation of goods to customs "would take place inland as much as possible." Mr Hammond said the M20 lorry park "is one of the factors that needs to be considered".

I asked: "How resilient do you believe our borders system and customs system are to handle leaving the single market and customs union on March 29th, 2019?"

The Chancellor said: "We need to prepare for a wide range of scenarios. The commitment we have made is that we will be ready with the necessary minimum structures to operate to system on day one. Will everything we will ever need be in place by day one? Definitely it won't. We will build over time more refined infrastructure to deal with the situation we are facing – once we know what that situation is."

The Chancellor wrote in The Times that funding for preparations for no deal with the EU should only be spent "when it is responsible to do so".

At the hearing I also asked Mr Hammond under what circumstances he envisaged it would be "responsible" to spend funds on preparing for no deal. The Chancellor said where spending is "uniquely required in a no deal scenario... we need to work backwards from March 29th 2019 and identify where we need to make the commitment decision in order to deliver on time."

It's vital that investment in infrastructure like the M20 lorry park and world class border systems begins now. Rather than wait for the EU to get its act together, we must take action now. If we are ready on day one, we can forge ahead on day two.

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10 OCT 2017

Helping a young lad get transport to school

A four-year-old boy is loving life with his new classmates after receiving help to get transport to school.

Darwin Burnett started at Whitfield and Aspen School in September. The school had been helping Darwin, who has special educational needs, as part of their outreach programme while he was still at Kid Ease nursery at the Triangles Centre in Dover.

His family were really pleased with his progress and wanted him to go on to Whitfield and Aspen School. Yet they were having difficulty securing school transport for him. I wrote to Kent County Council and persuaded them to fund Darwin's transport.

It was brilliant to meet him last week. He really is a charming young lad and it's great to see his confidence growing. When his family were struggling with school transport I was delighted to help out.

I was shown around the school, where children with special educational needs mix with youngsters in the mainstream, by headteacher Joseph Cook and outreach coordinator Annmarie Formoy. They told me how staff visit 16 nurseries across Dover and Deal as part of their outreach programme. Six children recently went on to mainstream schools straight from nursery after receiving their help.

I was also shown plans for the school's expansion when the new Whitfield development goes ahead. Incredible work is being done by some truly inspirational teachers and support staff and Whitfield and Aspen School. It's clear their outreach programme makes a huge difference to so many youngsters.

It's great that the school is expanding – so they can help even more children.

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09 OCT 2017

Opening the new Goodwin Academy building

The official opening of the new £25 million building at the Goodwin Academy in Deal was held on Friday.

The ribbon was cut by The Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce after guests were given a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities.

I was delighted to see the new building up and running after fighting a long and hard battle to secure funding for the school. It was great to be shown around by two polite and well-informed pupils, who looked very smart in their new school uniform.

The new Hamilton Road site, built next door to the current 1930s buildings in Mill Road, has capacity for 1,300 pupils. Equipment from the maritime studies centre based at the former Walmer Science College site was moved to the new building. Guests also had a look at the modern gym equipment inside the new sports hall.

We fought a long and hard battle to deliver the new building for the Goodwin Academy. Now some £25 million has been invested. Thanks to everyone's determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

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06 OCT 2017

Discussing crime concerns with the local police chief

Residents' concerns over local crime issues were discussed at a meeting between myself and the area's police chief.

I told Chief Inspector Mark Weller that people had raised a number of issues – including anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and speeding in some areas. Residents also sought reassurances over police presence in Deal.

Ch Insp Weller told me the local force would be looking into all the issues raised.

He said a Kent Police operation during the summer had resulted in a number of street drinkers being moved out of Dover town centre.

Ch Insp Weller, who started out as a police constable covering Dover and Deal in 1996, said tackling drug dealing was a top priority. He will also look at measures to tackle speeding – particularly around Dover's one-way system and in Capel. He insisted that police officers are in Deal covering the town every day.

It's great to have an area commander who knows the Dover and Deal patch so well. Ch Insp Weller clearly cares deeply about fighting crime in our area and is happy to take on board residents' concerns.

I'm pleased the local force will look at tackling the dangerous practice of drivers speeding around Dover's one-way system – and that Ch Insp Weller confirmed there are police officers in Deal every day.

Our local force do an incredible job. And it's great our area commander is engaged with the community and listening to people's concerns.

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05 OCT 2017

Dover and Deal are on the up

We're working hard to build a brighter future in Dover and Deal. And it's clear things are on the up in our beautiful corner of Kent.

The new cinema and shops at St James are set to open in the coming months. The £120 million Western Docks development is underway. Deal continues to go from strength to strength and was recently ranked as one of Britain's top coastal towns.

There are exciting times ahead and people I speak to when I'm out and about are really positive about the future. Indeed, last week research was published which said happiness in Dover and Deal has reached its highest levels since records began.

Our level of happiness in 2016/17 was 7.69, researchers found. This is above the national average of 7.51 and a big rise locally from 7.17 last year. When the Office of National Statistics started measuring personal well-being in 2011/12, the level of happiness in Dover and Deal was 7.38.

Life satisfaction in the constituency is also up year on year, while anxiety is down. More people feel what they do in life is "worthwhile" than in 2011/12.

Too often some people talk us down. Yet the truth is that Dover and Deal are on the up. We've come a long way in the past seven years. We stopped the port sell-off, got a new hospital built in Dover and safeguarded Deal's. We secured £500 million of investment for our area and unemployment has near halved.

People said we'd never get the fast train to Deal – yet now it sweeps into the station every day. People said Burlington House would be there forever – yet we kept fighting until it was torn down. Now the former St James site is transforming before our eyes. Meanwhile the rubble from Burlington House is being used to lay the foundations of the Western Docks Revival.

Of course, there is still much more to do as we build a brighter future for Dover and Deal. The most vital issue of our times is ensuring we are ready on day one for Brexit. We cannot have a situation where there are long queues of trucks clogging up our roads. That's why I've been working with industry experts to put together a plan setting out the action we need to take now at the Dover and Deal frontline.

If we get it right, we can enjoy a real boost from Brexit. I got 40 MPs together to write to the Chancellor, calling for duty free sales on travel to Europe to return after Brexit. This could help boost visitor number and our ferries.

Things are changing. We are working relentlessly – taking action to secure investment, plan ahead and build a brighter future for Dover.

And if there's one reason above all else to be happy – it's that we finally got rid of the 40mph limit on the A20!

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05 OCT 2017

Public support has safeguarded our greatest landmark for future generations

Our iconic White Cliffs are a symbol of freedom and our nation's wartime defiance.

I'm delighted that so many people have rallied together to raise £1 million in less than three weeks.

It just goes to show how deeply people care about protecting our greatest landmark for future generations to enjoy.

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05 OCT 2017

Border controls are a Brexit priority

Border control upgrades must be a Brexit priority, councils across the South East have told Brexit Secretary David Davis.

The leaders of South East England Councils (SEEC) and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM) have written a joint letter to Mr Davis.

I welcome the letter, which reflects many aspects of my Ready on Day One report presented to the Government earlier this year: http://www.elphicke.com/downloads/ready-on-day-one--meeting-the-brexit-borders-challenge.pdf

The letter says: "As UK negotiators work towards achieving the UK's exit from the EU, local authorities across the South East want to urge you to prioritise upgrading of border controls for passengers and freight in advance of Brexit."

It adds: "Dover and Shepway councils have particular concerns about the future of borders as they are the UK gateways for the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover, which is the closest port to the European mainland."

The letter also calls for juxtaposed border controls at Dover and Calais to remain in place. And the Government is asked to pursue agreement on the future inspections required for food imported from the EU "as a matter of urgency".

It is great to see councils across the South East working together in this way.

It is in the national interest to ensure we are ready on day for every eventuality of leaving the European Union. Nowhere will preparations be more vital than at the Dover frontline.

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28 SEP 2017

Council leader leaves a legacy to be proud of

Last week Councillor Paul Watkins announced he would be standing down after 15 years as Leader of Dover District Council. And what an incredible 15 years it's been. So much has happened in our corner of Kent - so much has been transformed. And so much of that could not have been achieved without Paul Watkins playing a key role at every stage. Paul can look back with enormous pride at what he has achieved as leader of Dover District Council.

He has worked tirelessly, year after year, doing his level best to boost Dover, Deal and the villages. He battled every step of the way to defy the doubters. Doubters who never believed investment would be delivered in our community.

He leaves a legacy he can rightly be proud of. Deal is a town transformed. The fast train now sweeps into the station every hour. Cllr Watkins helped fight to deliver the service which has helped the town go from strength to strength. Projects he masterminded transformed the sea front and improved the High Street. Not only has Deal won high street of the year, it is ranked number one in a Times newspaper list of the top UK coastal towns.

Paul has worked tirelessly to make Dover and Deal open for business and to encourage investment in the area. When the financial crash hit and Asda pulled out of the Dover Town Investment Zone scheme (or 'DTIZ' as it was then known) it was a big setback. People walked along Townwall Street, looked up at Burlington House, shook their heads and thought about what might have been.

Yet Paul never gave in. He had a vision for the future and kept going regardless. When I was elected as MP in 2010, one of the first things Cllr Watkins and I talked about was reviving the town centre – and bringing down Burlington House. When I spoke to people around town, they told me it would never happen. This twelve-storey eyesore would blight our landscape forever.

Still Paul kept on going. And finally, in 2015 demolition crews started tearing down Burlington House brick by brick. In 2016 it was gone forever. A huge victory – a symbol of how things really are changing. Legal and General agreed to put more than £50 million into the St James scheme. Cineworld, Next, M&S, Nando's and many others signed up. And the exciting new development is set to open next year.

So much has changed since Cllr Watkins first joined the Council in 1983. Yet whether as ward councillor, chairman or leader – he has given his all to driving the district forward. Everyone can see how deeply this former Dover schoolboy cares about his community.

I wish him a happy retirement with his wife Christine, their two daughters and three grandchildren.

Cllr Watkins has done what he set out to do 15 years ago – and more. Incredible progress has been made. We will miss him as Leader of the Council. Paul can look back on all he has achieved with real pride.

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26 SEP 2017

Meeting a minister at the port to discuss Brexit

I met a Treasury minister at the Port of Dover to discuss why action must be taken now to ensure the border is ready on day one for Brexit.

Alongside Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride MP at the Eastern Docks, and Port of Dover chief executive Tim Waggott, we visited Border Force operations and spoke about plans to handle customs after Brexit.

It is clear we need to take action now to ensure our border is ready on day one for Brexit – particularly at the Dover frontline. I have been working with industry experts on detailed plans setting out what we must to do be prepared.

I'm pleased the Treasury is listening to our concerns. Yet now we need to see action – with more investment at the Channel Ports and making sure our customs systems are ready.

I have set out a range of measures that will help prepare the border for Brexit and keep traffic flowing freely, which I discussed with Mr Stride. My plan includes a 'trusted trader' scheme for lorry firms, so fewer customs checks have to be done at the border. I also want dualling of the A2 and the M20 lorry park to be prioritised.

It is in the national interest to ensure we are ready on day for every eventuality of leaving the European Union. Nowhere will preparations be more vital than at the Dover frontline.

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22 SEP 2017

We must make better use of Buckland

I have held crunch talks with local health chiefs – calling for urgent action to tackle A&E delays and better use of Buckland Hospital.

Last week I spoke with East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust interim chief executive Liz Shutler and chairman Nikki Cole after Matthew Kershaw's resignation. 

Ms Shutler detailed several measures to improve emergency departments – including hiring 10 new doctors, opening three new treatment areas and an ambulatory care unit in Ashford, and expanding the facility in Margate.

She also agreed to look at bringing more services to Buckland Hospital in Dover.

It was great to speak with the trust's new chief, but I told her I have serious concerns. Emergency care in our hospitals is not good enough. People are waiting far too long to be seen.

The Government is pumping an extra £10 billion of cash into the NHS in real terms. Our trust needs to be run better – and I've been encouraged by the discussions I've had this week.

But I want to see real improvements. I want to see our brand new hospital in Dover being fully utilised, with more services. Ms Shutler promised to have a serious look at this and I welcome that commitment."

I have also been told a healthcare provider recently placed into special measures could have its contract terminated. Nestor Primecare Services – which delivers NHS 111 and out-of-hours doctor services across east Kent – was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission last month. A damning report said it put patients at risk with low staffing, untrained staff and delays in treatment.

I demanded South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group take urgent measures to ensure patients in Dover and Deal were safeguarded. I have now been assured that a service improvement plan has been agreed, and that a 90-day notice to terminate the contract will be triggered if performance does not improve.

Inspectors say people in Dover and Deal have been put at risk by the new provider. That is unacceptable. We are getting more services at our local hospitals, but healthcare outside of them is just as important.

We must see Primecare deliver swift and significant improvements. If we do not, the CCG should stick to their word and sack them.

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21 SEP 2017

Caring for those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 14th, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, West London. Many of us woke up that morning to horrific images on our TVs of flames engulfing the 24-storey building. At least eighty people were killed in the tragedy.

At such times we feel like we must do something to help those in need. Yet we ourselves feel helpless. What can we really do to make a difference? Local charities were bombarded with clothes and donations. Yet before long they started turning things away because they already had far more than they could handle. People here in Dover and Deal got in touch with me asking what could be done to help.

My first thought was what do we here have to offer in our corner of Kent? We have beautiful beaches, incredible history and lots of things to do. The victims of the fire should be offered the opportunity to enjoy all Dover and Deal has to offer.

I met with local hotelier Ian Dunkerley. He wanted to do something to help the victims too. His daughter works in a school just 400 metres from the tower. Hoteliers at The Clarendon, The King's Head and The Royal in Deal also offered to help.

We got our heads together and started planning an all-inclusive trip with local businesses. Dover Sea Safari offered a boat ride around the harbour. The Dover Marina Hotel said they could put on lunch. English Heritage provided tickets for Dover Castle and Walmer Castle. Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant would do dinner. And the Clarendon Hotel offered an overnight room. All free of charge.

And last month I was delighted to welcome Judith and Rafthina Peterson down to Dover and Deal. We met in the square outside The King's Head in Deal where live music had been playing all afternoon in glorious sunshine. We had a long chat about the fire at Grenfell. How they had been made homeless. How their lives had been turned upside down. It was heart breaking to hear.

Yet when we asked how they had enjoyed their trip to Dover and Deal, big smiles appeared on their faces. They said they'd had a fantastic time and it was one the best breaks they'd ever had. Their local council said Judith and Rafthina returned to London with a spring in their step.

Of course nothing will ever put right that tragic day in June. Yet we wanted to show that every corner of the country cares deeply about what happened at Grenfell and the people affected by it.

Community spirit is one of our many strengths around here in Dover and Deal. We always rally around to help those in need. It's what makes me proud to live in this area and call it home.

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19 SEP 2017

A wonderful weekend in Dover and Deal

A fete raising money to save a village hall and a popular firework display were some of the local events I attended over the weekend.

On Saturday I went to Hougham Village Fete, held on West Hougham Village Green. Its aim was to raise money to repair the Village Hall, which I visited earlier this year and have since helped with efforts to find funding. The event itself had stalls and games including crafts, a dog show, a bouncy assault course, homemade treats and live music.

In the evening I attended the annual Nonington Firework Fantasy, held at Nonington Cricket Ground. Entertainment included a BBQ, fun fair rides, candy floss, live music, dancers and the spectacular firework display.

What a great way to see out the British summer in our glorious corner of the country. I've been very busy in Westminster recently working on detailed Brexit plans, but I really wish I could spend every day in Dover and Deal.

I want to give a huge congratulations to the organisers of both events. I had a lovely time and met some amazing people.

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18 SEP 2017

Our schools are set for a huge cash boost

Schools in Dover and Deal will get a huge cash boost from the new national funding formula. Funding for secondary schools would increase by an average of 7.2%, or £1.54 million, if the new system was adopted next year.

A new formula was demanded by headteachers across the country who said the old one was outdated and unfair. It is due to be introduced in two years. In the transition period (2018-19 and 2019-20) local authorities will draw up their own local formulas to allocate money.

But if the national formula was adopted next year, Astor College would get 11.1% more cash, Dover Grammar School for Girls 10.4% more, Dover Grammar School for Boys 9.4% more, St Edmund's Catholic School 9.1% more and Goodwin Academy 8.4% more. Overall, primary and secondary schools in Dover and Deal would get a 4.7% increase.

I am calling on Kent County Council to consider introducing it next year. The new method is much fairer. Experts say for the first time resources will be distributed according to the individual needs of every school.

It's clear Dover and Deal was let down by the old system. There were thousands less spent per pupil compared to parts of London. Lots of important factors weren't taken into account. I raised this with Government ministers plenty of times and they were right to take action.

The new system means schools in Dover and Deal are going to get a lot more money in the future. That is great news. But I want Kent County Council to consider how unfairly our area has been treated when they decide allocations next year.

Despite the transition period, funding for schools across the country will still increase well above inflation next year – by 3.4%. The £41 billion for 2017-18 will rise to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and £43.5 billion in 2019-20. Additional investment will secure an increase for every pupil in every school, a minimum per pupil funding level, a minimum increase level for every school, and a big increase in high needs funding.

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16 SEP 2017

Dover and Deal are surging ahead in Kent

Official figures show Dover and Deal's economy is surging ahead of the rest of Kent.

The unemployment claimant count has reduced by more in the last year (by 228) than in any of the county's 12 districts.

Meanwhile the district now has the second lowest number of workless households (3,000) and the fourth highest number of full working households (23,000). It also had the second biggest rise in average annual earnings in Kent in a year, behind only Ashford.

This is all good news for the area. Back in 2010 Dover was near the bottom of the table when it came to jobs and money. Unemployment had risen for years under Labour, job prospects were limited and investment had dried up.

Since then £500 million has been secured for the area. Burlington House is down and the new hospital is up. Houses are being built at double the rate of the national average. A shopping centre and major seafront regeneration are on the way.

Deal continues to go from strength or strength and was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain. We really are on the road to a brighter future for our area. Yet we must keep fighting for more jobs and money in Dover and Deal.

Official figures show there are now less than a thousand (869) Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claimants in Dover district, or 1.3% of the population.

The number is 228 less than a year ago and 65% down since 2010, when there were 2,527 claimants. Youth unemployment in the constituency is down 53% since 2010, from 660 claimants to 310.

And the latest annual pay survey found average annual earnings in Dover and Deal jumped by 10.1% in a year. 

Let's keep going. 

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15 SEP 2017

Seaside trip for Grenfell fire victims

I was proud to help organise a trip to Dover and Deal for two sisters caught up in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Judith Peterson, 53, and her sister Rafthina, 57, enjoyed a boat ride around Dover harbour, lunch, a special exhibition at Dover Castle, live music on Deal seafront, dinner at a seafood restaurant and an overnight stay in a hotel. They visited Walmer Castle the next day.

The pair were made homeless following the Grenfell Tower fire in West London on June 14th which killed at least 80 people.

I met with Ian Dunkerley, who runs Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant Hotel, soon after the Grenfell tragedy. We decided we wanted to do something to help the victims of the fire. Hoteliers at The Clarendon, The King's Head and The Royal in Deal all offered to help too.

Of course nothing will ever put right that tragic day in June. But we wanted to show that every corner of the country cares deeply about what happened at Grenfell and the people affected by it.

Community spirit is one of our many strengths around here in Dover and Deal. We always rally around to help those in need. I am so proud to live in this area and call it home.

The boat ride around the harbour was organised by Dover Sea Safari, lunch was put on by the Best Western Plus Dover Marina Hotel & Spa, English Heritage provided tickets for Dover Castle and Walmer Castle, Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant put on dinner, and the Clarendon Hotel offered an overnight room. All was provided free of charge.

Judith said: "I had a fantastic time. Everyone was really lovely. They looked after me.

"I'd never been to Dover and Deal before and it was one of the best breaks I've ever had."

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14 SEP 2017

Pollution yet another reason for new Deal to Dover road

The roads to Dover and Deal are put under huge strain every day. Thousands of lorries travel along the A20 and A2 to the port. And thousands of cars go between Dover and Deal on the only main road available – the A258. Traffic levels have been rising for decades. Yet the capacity to handle it is the same. It's no surprise the roads so easily get congested.

This is why I've been fighting for more investment in our roads. To get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. We need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to be ready on day one for Brexit and avoid gridlock.

I'm also passionate about tackling pollution. That's why we fought to get queues of trucks out of Dover town. They are now queued at lights before they reach the first roundabout.

Yet pollution is also a problem in Deal. Last week I met with organisers from local campaign group Deal With It. They told me about their research showing air quality near Deal Castle is worse than in parts of central London. Nitrogen dioxide levels measured 52.9 micrograms per cubic metre. They tell me this was the only reading in East Kent to exceed the EU's legal limit of 40.

It is of serious concern that we have illegal pollution levels in the centre of Deal. Everyone knows congestion is a major cause of poor air quality. There is simply too much traffic in the centre of Deal. This is another reason why we need to think about a new road to the North of Deal – to stop traffic going through the town centre unnecessarily.

All this town centre traffic is not just polluting. The high levels of traffic on the A258 into Deal is also dangerous. In the past six years there have been 100 accidents. Over the last 15 years, 18 accidents have resulted in serious injuries. Five have been fatal. Each accident is down to driver error. Yet there is no doubt that the A258 itself is a major factor. This road simply cannot handle all the traffic that travels on it. And every time there is a crash, the road is closed. Even when there is not an accident, tailbacks are common, creating yet more engine fumes.

Deal is a great place – yet it would be greater still with less traffic and pollution in the town centre.

This is why so many people are saying we need better road access to Middle Deal and the North End that doesn't go through the town centre and Walmer. Residents tell me we should think about building a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.

It's clear we must take action soon – to build clearer, cleaner and safer roads for Dover and Deal.

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11 SEP 2017

Congestion means air in Deal is worse than parts of London

Parts of Deal suffer worse air pollution than areas of central London. That is shocking and I want to see action to address it. 

Research carried out by local campaign group Deal With It found nitrogen dioxide levels measured 52.9 micrograms per cubic metre. The EU's legal limit is 40.

They were taking readings near Deal Castle as part of an air quality study by Friends of the Earth. The reading was the only one in east Kent to exceed the legal limit.

After meeting with Deal With It organisers last week, I believe it is further proof of the need for a new road into North Deal.

It's shocking that parts of Deal have worse air pollution than central London. Everyone knows congestion is a major cause of poor air quality. There needs to be less unnecessary traffic in the town centre. A new road direct to North Deal would help get cars out of the town centre and reduce pollution.

I have long called for safety improvements on the A258. I would like to see a new road built direct to North Deal, providing a faster route between the towns and relieving pressure on the existing route.

In recent weeks Tracy and Symon Squire – the parents of tragically killed cyclist Daniel – backed my campaign. Daniel Squire was 18 years old when his bike was struck from behind by a van on the A258 in 2013.

A total of 228 crashes have taken place on that stretch since 2003, including more than 100 between 2010 and 2016.

I want the authorities to look at building a new road to connect the towns, such as a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.

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07 SEP 2017

Duty free return would boost Dover and Deal

The return of duty free sales on travel to and from the European Union would deliver a real boost for Dover and Deal. It would benefit the ferry industry, as duty free goods will attract more people to travel. And it will boost visits to our cruise port at the Western Docks. By having one non-EU stopover on a cruise, the entire journey becomes duty and tax free for passengers. The return of duty free would mean towns and regions home to ports or small airports across the whole nation would be better off.

We need to plan ahead for Brexit now – that includes reviving duty free which helps ports like our and regional airports too. This is why I organised a letter to the Chancellor, signed by 40 MPs, calling for duty free to be reinstated for trips to Europe.

Duty free sales between Britain and the EU were axed in 1999. Since then duty free has only applied on trips outside Europe. We need to bring these duty free sales back – to boost regional economies like Dover and Deal. It's also important that when duty free returns, people should also be able to continue to bring in personal imports from the EU like they can now.

We only need to make minor tweaks to current laws. Yet these changes need to be made in good time in order to give operators time to be ready on day one of Brexit. Preparations could take up to nine months for our ferry firms.

It is vital that we prepare now for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. That's why I've been working with industry experts and business leaders on the action we can take. And the Government has recently published papers on how we can tackle the Brexit customs challenge. Forward-thinking politicians like Xavier Bertrand, who heads up the Calais region, have welcomed our work so far.

Yet it's clear from the behaviour of Brussels that no deal is a real possibility. The clock is ticking and the EU need to start negotiating seriously. That may not happen in time – which is why we need to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.

Ironically, the EU will be the big loser from no deal. For tariffs would hit Europe's exports to us twice as hard as they would hit our exports to them. No free-trade deal would mean Europe's exports to us would be hit for £13.2billion of tariffs. Meanwhile, tariffs on our exports to Europe would be just £6.5billion. Hopefully the economic realities will begin to focus minds in the EU and more progress can be made.

Yet we must be prepared for no deal. That means taking action now to be ready on day one. Getting ready for the return of duty free is part of that. And ensuring we are prepared for the customs challenges ahead at the Dover frontline.

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04 SEP 2017

Unemployment in Dover and Deal keeps falling

The unemployment claimant count in Dover district has fallen – while average earnings are up.

Official figures published last week show there are now less than a thousand (869) Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in the district, or 1.3 per cent of the population. The number is down 65 per cent since 2010, when there were 2,527 claimants.

Meanwhile, youth unemployment in the Dover and Deal constituency is down 53 per cent since 2010, from 660 claimants to 310.

And the latest annual pay survey has found that average annual earnings in Dover and Deal jumped by 10.1 per cent in a year.

We have some incredibly hardworking people here in Dover and Deal and these figures show the hard work is paying off.

There has been more than £400 million of investment in the area since 2010. In Dover the cinema and shopping complex is taking shape and a major port regeneration scheme is on the way. Deal continues to go from strength or strength. It was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain.

This all shows that our plan to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent is working. Now we must keep pressing ahead – and build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

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01 SEP 2017

Fighting for more jobs in Dover & Deal

More jobs and money for our area has long been a key priority. We've made real progress – unemployment has halved since 2010, with apprenticeships and young people being particularly successful. The latest official figures say average earnings in Dover and Deal rose 10% in a year. It's been great to see so many new businesses starting up or expanding.

In the heart of Dover steel frames are giving shape to the new cinema, shops and hotel that are being built. The £50 million St James development gets closer to completion every day. It will give such a boost to Dover and provide real momentum to the renewal of the town. Not long ago this site was home to the hated Burlington House. So much has changed.

In Deal, we fought hard to get the fast train. We succeeded and it's been a success. The prosperity it has brought the town has made a real difference – and Deal was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain. I want to bring more jobs and money to the area. Like the fast train – a new, better road connecting Dover and Deal has the potential to do just that.

At the Port of Dover, they're handling record levels of traffic. This underlines the importance of our campaign to get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. The Western Docks revival, set to deliver a new marina and new jobs on the seafront, should make a real difference.

We need to make sure that we keep bringing in more jobs and money after we leave the European Union. Recently I took a group of MPs who represent port constituencies to meet the Brexit Minister. We stressed the importance of the port-related jobs in our areas. And we all agreed it is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land. I will work tirelessly to ensure we are ready on day one for Brexit at the Dover frontline.

I'm passionate about helping people get into work. At my Jobs Fair earlier this year it was clear lots of businesses are recruiting locally. This is good news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further – full employment is my aim so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

We have some incredibly hardworking people here in Dover and Deal and the hard work is paying off. There has been more than £500 million of investment secured for the area since 2010. We can deliver even more – and boost business and jobs.

This all shows that our plan to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent is working. Now we must keep pressing ahead – and build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

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30 AUG 2017

Dover District Council can Save Our Banksy!

I launched a campaign in June to safeguard the Brexit-themed mural on the corner of Townwall Street and York Street in Dover. Officials have now confirmed Dover District Council CAN save the Dover Banksy.

I applied to Historic England to have the iconic artwork listed, and called on Dover District Council (DDC) to do everything possible to preserve it.

Historic England's planning director Dr Andrew Brown has said the building does not meet their test of "special architectural or historic interest". But Dr Brown confirmed DDC "have powers to safeguard the mural through normal development control measures".

This is great news. We now know the council can save the Banksy after all – whether that's through retrospective permission, stop notices, new planning applications, or other control measures.

I have passed this information to the council and urged them to do the right thing.

The huge mural appeared on the wall of the former Shakespeare Hotel in May. The building's owners, the Godden family, later released a statement saying they were exploring options for the removal or sale of the piece.

I called on Dover residents to back my campaign to save the Banksy. I approached Historic England and DDC, before asking Arts Minister John Glen for his support at a meeting at the House of Commons.

It had been said the former Shakespeare Hotel was due for demolition, but the council have confirmed there is no demolition order against it.

The building forms part of DDC's waterfront development plans. The council's masterplan is yet to be finalised.

There is still time to do the right thing and preserve this asset.

I had hoped the Banksy would be listed and given the greatest possible protection. But I'm delighted Historic England have confirmed Dover District Council can save this much-loved artwork.

People have travelled across the country to come and see it. It's a massive draw for visitors to Dover and we need to make it the centrepiece of any new development.

Dover is the Banksy's rightful home. To demolish it would be a crime against culture.

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30 AUG 2017

Duty free must be brought back after Brexit

Duty free sales on travel to and from the European Union must return after Brexit.

I have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond with the support of 39 Conservative MPs calling for duty free to be reinstated for trips to Europe from March 29th, 2019.

Duty free sales between Britain and the EU were axed by the EU in 1999. Since then duty free has only applied on trips outside Europe.

Bringing back duty free will boost regional economies like Dover and Deal. Towns and districts home to ports and smaller airports, as well as the ferry industry and airlines, are set to benefit most.

The return of duty free would deliver a real boost to Britain. The benefits would be felt across the nation – particularly in coastal communities and regional airports. Bringing back duty free would be a real boost to the ferry industry at ports from Dover to Holyhead - as well as regional airports from Aberdeen to the East Midlands.

The return of duty free could also boost UK cruise ship ports. By having one non-EU stopover on a cruise, the entire journey becomes duty and tax free for passengers.

The reintroduction of duty free on travel between the UK and EU states should occur two years from the triggering of Article 50 (March 29th, 2019). Duty free should be brought back - and people should also be able to continue to bring in personal imports from the EU like they do now.

The letter says: "These changes need to be made in good time in order to give operators time to be ready on day one of Brexit. We understand that preparations could take up to nine months for ferry firms and airport operators."

Only minor amendments to legislation on VAT, excise duty and excise goods are required to reintroduce duty free, according to industry experts.

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24 AUG 2017

Why we need a new, safer Deal to Dover road

Last week I met with Tracy and Symon Squire. Their son Daniel was killed when his bike was hit by a driver who had been texting earlier in the journey. Daniel was a keen tri-athlete with a bright future ahead of him. He secured a place in the Bolton Iron Man shortly before he was killed. Daniel was loved by everyone who knew him. This is every parent's worst nightmare. Tracy and Symon will never get over what happened.

The driver was irresponsible, yet the danger was made worse by too many vehicles driving too fast on a road that is too small – the A258. In the past six years there have been 100 accidents on the A258. Over the last 15 years 18 accidents have resulted in serious injuries. Five have been fatal.

Tracy and Symon have placed a memorial by the side of the road marking the spot where Daniel lost his life. The white bicycle stands as a silent reminder to drivers of the need for extra care and attention when travelling on this dangerous road. Each accident is down to driver error. Yet there is no doubt that the A258 itself is a major factor. This road simply cannot handle all the traffic that travels on it.

Moreover, every time there is a crash, the road is closed. Motorists then divert through narrow country lanes, often leading to scrapes and stand offs. Even when there is not an accident, tailbacks are common.

The problem with the A258 is not simply the weight of traffic on it. It is the main road out of Deal and Walmer. So traffic heading from Middle Deal and the North End go through the centre of Deal and Walmer, creating more pollution and congestion. The town is a great place – yet it would be greater still with less traffic and pollution in the town centre.

We need to think as a community what we can do about the A258 and reducing traffic and pollution in the centre of Deal. To my mind it's time to think about better road access to Middle Deal and the North End that doesn't go through the town centre and Walmer.

Three miles away from North Deal there is a near empty dual carriageway – the A256. A du

alled spur from the A256 could be built to connect to Middle Deal and the North End. It would do much to solve traffic problems suffered by the residents of Middle Deal. It would enable a new route out of the North End that would avoid Middle Deal and the town centre. Traffic travelling on the A258 would fall dramatically. Residents of Walmer would benefit too.

This is a serious matter that has been a cause of grave concern to our community for years. It's time to address it. I would like to hear what people think about creating a new entry to Deal and the difference that it could make.

1 comment

A258 what can we say,We moved to st margarets from deal,we love it here,but the near misses i see every day,going in to deal on this very busy heavily congested A258 road is a ACCIDENT waiting to happen,A proposal for us st margarets people at the junction turning right in to Deal, why if we sign the road with no turn Right in to Deal, turn left towards Dover have a roundabout at the next st margarets turn off junction to safely come back into deal,
- joanne strouts

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22 AUG 2017

Meeting the Talk It Out team at their new cafe

A café set up to help people with mental health issues is going from strength to strength after receiving a £10,000 grant.

The Wellbeing Café, based in the Landmark Centre in Deal, is run by the Talk It Out mental health support group.

The café recently received the grant from the mental health and policing fund set up by Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.

Talk It Out founder Tracy Carr, who I have worked with for some time, invited me to visit.

It was great to sit down for a chat with everyone at the Wellbeing Café, which is clearly so well loved by all those who attend.

The mental health and policing fund set up by the energetic Matthew Scott is a superb initiative. The £10,000 grant could not have gone to a more deserving cause.

Talk It Out makes such a huge difference to so many people and Tracy really is an inspiration to us all.

We must do all we can to support groups like this. That's why I'm fighting for a fairer share of healthcare and better mental healthcare in Dover in Deal.

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21 AUG 2017

Daniel Squire's parents back my calls to make A258 safer

The parents of tragically killed cyclist Daniel Squire are backing my calls to make the A258 safer.

Daniel Squire was 18 years old when his bike was struck from behind by a van near Ringwould on the Dover to Deal road in 2013.

A total of 228 crashes have taken place on that stretch since 2003, including more than 100 between 2010 and 2016.

Locals know the single carriageway for being busy throughout the day and heavily congested at peak times.

I wants the authorities to look at building a new road to connect Dover and Deal – to ease pressure, reduce journey times and improve safety.

Daniel Squire's parents, Tracy and Symon, agree. Tracy said: "Daniel was killed because of careless driving. But also because there are too many vehicles driving too fast on a road that is not wide enough.

"Daniel was loved by everyone who knew him, and we will never get over what happened.

"But if motorists become more aware of cyclists, if we manage to be part of making a major road in the area safer, his death will not be for nothing."

Symon added: "We were extremely close, working together at London Fancy Box in Dover and training together as members of Deal Tri.

"The road is a nightmare for cyclists, but there aren't a lot of alternative routes. We really need to try to make it safer in some way."

I have long called for safety improvements on the A258. I would like to see a new road built elsewhere, providing a faster route between Dover and Deal and relieving pressure on the existing road.

Everyone knows the A258 is too busy and too dangerous. It has been that way for years. The road is not fit to handle such high levels of traffic. The route must be made safer.

That's why we need to seriously consider building a new road to connect Dover and Deal. We need to see action on this, before any more serious incidents.

1 comment

This is a great idea and long overdue. Let's hope that this doesn't become political and that all sides of the political divide support this campaign
- Alasdair

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18 AUG 2017

Let's get on with Brexit

Ask someone in Dover what they want the Government to do following last year's vote to leave the EU and they will tell you straight. Get on with it.

People want to know why it's all taking so long. They also ask why there's all this talk of transitional arrangements. These are fair questions – why can't be ready on day one in March 2019?

Seeking to answer this I have written a series of articles on how we can be ready on day one for Brexit. Deal or no deal. We need to be ready for no deal. Talks could break down over the EU's excessive demands and we need to be fully prepared if that happens. Here at the Dover & Deal frontline we are the tip of the spear – if we're not ready, ours is the community that will bear the brunt of it.

So what do we need to do to be ready on day one? We need to be ready to manage customs – using electronic filings like VAT there is no reason why there needs to be searches or queues at Dover. We need to keep a positive relationship with France and make sure the border stays in Calais. This matters to the French as much as to us. For if the border gets weaker at Calais, then Calais will become an even bigger magnet for migrants.

We need to be ready on day one to take back control of our borders and end uncontrolled EU immigration. This means we need to invest in our borders and in systems that ensure we know who is coming here and keep out criminals. Moreover we need to use intelligence to help our border officers focus on persons of interest and reduce passport queues for the law abiding majority.

I have also set out a plan to solve the tricky Irish question and how we can make the most of our new freedom to trade around the world on terms that work for Britain.

Finally, out of the EU we can do so much more to stop the disgraceful tax dodging by big international businesses – and we can build a renaissance of the regions. A renaissance built on Coastal Enterprise Zones which are treated as outside the UK for customs purposes. And a renaissance built on the return of duty free. Everyone loved the booze cruise – and it was great for Dover. Out of the EU we can bring it back and bring a new boost to our area.

Brexit means Brexit and we need to get on with it. We could and should be ready on day one. That way we can end uncontrolled immigration sooner, increase trade around the world, bring back duty free and take forward a renaissance of the regions that will benefit places like Dover and Deal.

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15 AUG 2017

High speed broadband in every corner of Dover and Deal

I welcome a commitment to deliver high speed broadband to every corner of Dover and Deal.

My campaign for faster broadband in rural areas has gone on for some time. Villages like Lydden and Temple Ewell currently get internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover town.

I met with residents in March and laid out the case for improved speeds, contacting ministers and BT executives. A street cabinet with new fibres is now being installed in Lydden.

And Government has since committed to delivering universal broadband – meaning every part of Dover and Deal should have access to high speed broadband by 2020.

These days internet is such an integral part of people's lives. Yet the service in some of our rural areas is shameful.

For small businesses in our regions to thrive, we must have better broadband. These excruciatingly slow speeds make a mockery of modern Britain.

That is why I welcome the Government's commitment. I keep telling ministers how frustrating it is for my constituents and I am glad they have acted.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the idea of a broadband universal service obligation – requiring providers to deliver minimum speeds of 10 megabytes per second.

BT has volunteered a proposal to deliver the obligation, which the Government will consider over the coming months.

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14 AUG 2017

Hundreds of local businesses will have rates reduced

Hundreds of businesses in Dover and Deal will have their business rate bills reduced after I put pressure on ministers.

A business rates revaluation took place in February, but several firms criticised suddenly increased hikes.

I held meetings with business owners in the Dover and Deal area and took their views to ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This week Marcus Jones MP, the Minister for Local Government, announced several relief schemes which 628 firms in Dover district qualify for.

The New Burdens funding comes through three schemes – the Supporting Small Business Relief Scheme, the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Scheme and the Pub Relief Scheme.

Dover District Council has been identifying eligible firms since March. Leaders have been told to provide the relief and rebill them "as soon as possible".

I was very concerned to hear of hefty hikes for some businesses in our area. The revaluation was cost neutral, but certain types were hit hard and it is absolutely right for them to be supported while they adjust.

I raised this point in strong terms with ministers several times. I'm really pleased to see they listened.

With corporation tax reduced dramatically in recent years, new firms have been opening in our district and across the country at an amazing rate.

It's clear the Conservatives are still the only party that will deliver for businesses, jobs and the wider economy.

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07 AUG 2017

Joining the fight to save Hougham village hall

The West Hougham community is fighting to raise up to £15,000 to save their village hall.

Villagers feared the building, which dates back to the 1930s, would be sold off due to a lack of use.

But after losing their village pub, post office, and bus service in recent years, residents rallied together to fight to save the hall.

In June the community formed an action group called Heart of Hougham – and the hall now has regular parties and functions. It also hosts tennis and gardening clubs and regular yoga and Zumba classes.

Heart of Hougham organisers invited me to visit the hall and offer advice on how to get funding to restore it.

I said I would back a bid for funding from the National Lottery. I have also written to Dover District Council asking if there is any cash available to help.

I was delighted to visit West Hougham village hall. It's a fantastic building and it's great to see it back in use again. We must do all we can to keep it running.

What impressed me most was the incredible community spirit in the village. They have rallied together and shown that people power really can make a difference.

It's exactly the sort of project the National Lottery should be backing. And Dover District Council should also see what they can do to help.

Residents also raised the issue of infuriatingly slow broadband speeds in the village. Mr Elphicke has taken up their case and written to BT and Kent County Council urging them to swiftly boost broadband in the area.

West Hougham village fete, organised by Heart of Hougham, will be held on the village green from 1pm on Saturday, September 16th.

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07 AUG 2017

Dover cheerleaders under threat

A hugely successful group of Dover cheerleaders may have to leave the district unless they find a new hall.

Some 200 youngsters from the Vista Twisters could be left without a place to practice when Dover Leisure Centre closes.

I met with head coach Ruth McDade at one of the group's practice sessions. She said that the club had so far been unable to secure space at the new leisure centre in Whitfield for their growing programme.

The group have been looking for alternative accommodation in the district. But they have not found anywhere suitable – and fear they may have to move to Folkestone.

I have written to Dover District Council, urging them to help the Vista Twisters find a new place to practice.

The Vista Twisters are a massive Dover success story. The council must do everything they can to keep this club in the district.

These youngsters always do the town proud when they perform in competitions across the country – and in tough European contests too.

We should be looking after them – and helping them build on their incredible success here in Dover.

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03 AUG 2017

Gridlocked again - why we must be Ready on Day One

Twelve months on from last year's disaster, the roads to Dover were once again in gridlock this weekend. The A20 had queues stretching back to the Roundhill Tunnels. While on the A2 traffic jams stretched back to Lydden. Cars and lorries started to pile through Capel and Folkestone Road on the B2011.

Year after year it is the same. Last summer the traffic chaos was caused by French border officers failing to turn up for duty. This weekend adverse weather conditions and a P&O ferry breaking down led to the tailbacks. It happens all too easily and all too often – and shows that our infrastructure is too finely balanced to cope properly. The people of Dover suffer every time – and so does the nation as delays at the port costs our national economy dear.

Action is needed now. We need more investment in the roads to the Channel Ports. The A2 needs to be dualled, the M20/A20 to be expanded and the lorry park to be delivered on time. The Government needs to be better prepared for French strikes, bad weather or ageing ferries conking out.

Very soon we will also face the challenge of Brexit here at the Dover frontline. That's why I have put together a detailed report with industry experts and business leaders on the action we must take now to ensure we are ready on day one for every eventuality.

Stories in the national press this week warned that we will be hit by huge border delays and suffer more than £1bn a year in economic damage when we leave the European Union. The truth is that Brexit can be a huge success for Britain and for Dover – but only if we are prepared. At the moment the Government is not doing enough to be prepared. So I am pressing them to get a grip and do better.

That includes accelerating investment in the technology and infrastructure we need to keep trade flowing freely through our ports. With fellow MPs I have been urging the Treasury to move faster in preparing our border for Brexit. Especially to take on board that for customs, the border is a tax point - not a search point - and that with digital borders customs clearance can be managed incredibly quickly. In Singapore, for instance, clearance takes less than a minute.

We have also been urging the Department for Transport to invest in roads and infrastructure to ensure Britain is Brexit ready on day one at Dover and the Channel Ports. It is concerning the Department for Transport appears more interested in Crossrail than cross-border trade. For too long Britain has worked for big cities like London rather than the towns and regions. This has to change. We need a renaissance of the regions.

With Brexit less than two years away, we must have real investment at Dover. There are huge opportunities to increase our trade across the globe when we leave the EU. We must invest in our borders now to ensure we can boost business from day one.

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02 AUG 2017

Migrant centres will not help Calais

I am not happy about plans to set up migrant centres in Calais. I worked very hard to get rid of the vast makeshift camp that had sprung up before. 

But now French courts have ruled that there must be facilities in place for 300 to 400 migrants in the area. There were many more of them last year - several thousand in fact - which proves we were right to have it dismantled. 

There is a real risk that setting up these two new centres will make Calais even more of a migrant magnet.

It means thousands more vulnerable people will be encouraged to make the perilous journey across Europe - with many falling into the hands of ruthless traffickers.

We cannot allow a new Jungle or Sangatte to spring up in Calais yet again.

Our border needs to be more secure than ever - particularly at the Dover frontline.

And the French must be on high alert to protect tourists and truckers from attacks by trafficking gangs.

1 comment

Why must there be facilities for migrants in the area? Why are they not sent back to the first country that they entered? What about lorry drivers who have to run the gauntlet of migrants trying to get tnto their lorries? What will it take? Maybe when a lorry driver is killed they might take notice instead of shirking their responsibilities.
- B.Harrison

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31 JUL 2017

Demanding faster and more frequent trains

The fast train should travel from Dover to London in sixty minutes and Deal needs two high-speed services every hour, I have told the Transport Minister. 

My "essential requirements" were included in a letter to Paul Maynard. Co-signed by 10 other Kent MPs as well as Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill, it comes in response to the Department for Transport's consultation on the South Eastern franchise. Operators are bidding to run the train franchise from 2018 to 2027.

The letter calls for extra carriages on overcrowded services during peak hours and expresses concerns over the quality of service offered to customers of Govia's Southeastern.

It says: "Passengers are dissatisfied. With insufficient room to stand at times and with some season tickets at more than £6,000 they feel they are not getting value for money."

We list several essential requirements that the new operator must put in place. They include:

Faster services to East Kent – in particular to Dover in an hour (Dover in 60), two trains to Deal and Sandwich every hour and a one hour service from London to Thanet; The modernisation of the points and signalling on the Kent Fast line to facilitate overtaking and faster services; Better connections with Gatwick Airport, in particular the restoration of direct services from Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge.

The letter also sets out a number of essential requirements for Network Rail. They include:

Significant improvement in its contribution to train performance; A plan to further reduce journey times;Improvements to the Tonbridge to Hastings infrastructure for Kent and East Sussex; Capacity improvements at Ashford including connecting the high-speed line to the line at Rye and Hastings;Sufficient capacity at major stations to cope with the forecast growth in demand;Improvements in signalling on the route from Ashford to Folkestone, Dover, Deal, Sandwich and Ramsgate, and completion of the East Kent re-signalling scheme between Canterbury West and Ramsgate.

People said we would never get the fast train in Deal. Yet thanks to our community campaign it now sweeps into the station every hour of every day. Now we need to see the service improve – with two high speed services for Deal and Sandwich an hour.

And we need to see the fast train get to Dover in sixty minutes or less. Faster services will attract even more people to visit our stunning corner of Kent.

It's great that the Kent MPs have yet again united to fight for better services in our county. Together we make a powerful case and I hope the Transport Minister considers it carefully.

1 comment

Drop Ebbsfleet from the Kent Coast services. It serves no purpose on peak services as they are already full by Ebbsfleet, there are no people boarding/leaving on off peak services and it cuts at least 6-7 minutes from the journey by not having to slow down, stop and accelerate again. Ebbsfleet is served by more than enough HS trains without overloading the 6 car Kent coast trains. The two stops in Folkestone also needs looking at.. 2 stations 400 yards apart is pretty silly, and no new stops at Otterpool if it ever gets built.
- Steve Coleman

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27 JUL 2017

Our ports must be ready to thrive after Brexit

At a meeting with Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP on Wednesday (July 19th) Conservative MPs and I raised our concerns over preparations for Brexit at Britain's ports and discuss solutions to ensure that the UK's ports are ready to thrive after Brexit.

With both MPs and members of the European Research Group (ERG) present, we stressed the importance of protecting port-related jobs and preventing long queues of lorries.

The meeting came after Amyas Morse, Comptroller General of the National Audit Office, raised concerns over the Government's post-Brexit IT system to record declarations on imports and exports.

As we prepare to leave the European Union we need to make sure that we are in the best position possible to succeed and prosper in the world. A vital part of these preparations must be ensuring that our ports are Ready on Day One.

We all agree that is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land – particularly at the Dover frontline.

Of course, we hope that a trade deal will be done with the EU that will enable tariff-free trade to continue. Yet if on day one no trade deal has been agreed, we must be fully prepared.

Gridlock at out ports will mean gridlock for the UK economy. Yet with proper planning we can not only be ready on day one – we can make Brexit a real success.

Together we can build a new Britain that is a great, global trading nation.

After the meeting Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP said: "The preparedness of our borders for success on day 1 of exit under all scenarios is a clear priority for the Government. Colleagues representing ports are doing a fine job of representing their constituents concerns together with potential solutions. We will consider these alongside our current, well-developed plans."

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27 JUL 2017

Remembering the brave members of the Dover Patrol

On Sunday I laid a wreath in remembrance at the Dover Patrol Memorial.

The service was held in memory of the members of the Royal Navy who risked and gave their lives defending our nation.

Around 2,000 members of the Dover Patrol died during the First World War.

We must never forget the great sacrifice members of the Dover Patrol made to keep Britain safe during the First World War.

I was proud to lay a wreath at the memorial on Sunday. It was an incredibly moving service.

It is so important that we remember everyone who lost their lives. We will never forget the sacrifices they made for our country.

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27 JUL 2017

My vision for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

Last week I was delighted to meet with East Kent's Fair Deal for the NHS group. Like me they are passionate about our NHS. We all felt strongly that healthcare has to remain free to all. They had many questions about what's happening locally and inspired

me to write about my vision for a fairer share of healthcare here in Dover and Deal.

We've come a long way together since 2010. In Deal, our much-loved hospital had been left teetering on the edge. Only with a strong community campaign were we able to secure its future. Now I'm working to see more services are provided from Deal Hospital.

In Dover, for over a decade Buckland Hospital had been decimated. Services were withdrawn and wards axed one by one. We fought valiantly for a new hospital. Then two years ago the new Buckland Hospital opened to the public – a state-of-the-art facility with the potential to provide many more services. I am passionate to see more outpatients and diagnostics services are provided at the new Buckland Hospital.

And we need beds at Buckland too. Right now there is a great opportunity to commission care beds at a new facility right next door to Buckland Hospital. This care facility is brand new and run by a crack team of expert staff. We should be grabbing the chance for local health chiefs to commission care beds in Dover, right next door to our hospital.

Millions of pounds are wasted every year by health services and social services doing the same job. We need to bring health and social care together and be better at looking after people who have complicated long-term conditions. More money is going into the NHS than ever before – more than half a trillion pounds in the next five years. Since 2010 there are 11,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses and midwives. Yet the system is still struggling, largely because people are living longer – which is why it is so urgent to reform social care.

So my vision is for a bigger role for our hospitals in Dover and Deal. We need to make full use of the £24 million Buckland Hospital. Deal Hospital needs more services, like the ground-breaking Rheumatology clinic which opened last year.

We need more of a focus on mental health too. Last week I visited the Talk It Out mental health support group at their inspiring Wellbeing Café at The Landmark Centre in Deal. The group recently received a £10,000 grant from Matthew Scott, the energetic Kent Police and Crime Commissioner's mental health and policing fund. Talk It Out makes such a huge difference to so many people and we must do all we can to support groups like this.

More local services, more care beds and more mental health support. This is my vision for a fairer share of healthcare here in Dover and Deal.

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20 JUL 2017

Our front line must be Ready on Day One

This week I met with the Brexit Minister to discuss the importance of investing in our ports – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. As we prepare to leave the European Union we need to make sure that we are in the best position possible to succeed and prosper in the world. A vital part of these preparations must be ensuring that our ports are Ready on Day One.

I took a group of MPs who represent port constituencies to meet the Minister. We stressed the importance of the port-related jobs in our areas. And we all agreed that is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land.

Nowhere will our preparations for Brexit be more important than at the Dover and Deal frontline. When we voted to leave the EU last June, I got to work straight away. The first thing to do was get the Calais Jungle dismantled. We worked closely with the French and within months the migrant camp was gone

I also met industry experts and business leaders in Parliament. With their help, I put together a detailed plan to keep trade flowing and ensure that we can thrive as a global trading nation post-Brexit.

Of course, we hope that a trade deal will be done with the EU that will enable tariff-free trade to continue. Yet if on day one no trade deal has been agreed, we must be fully prepared.

This means putting in place simple things like a Trusted Trader Scheme for haulage firms – and mutual recognition of meat products. And we need investment in state of the art technology to deal with customs checks rapidly. Singapore's average customs clearance time is 10 seconds. If we invest now, goods can move just as swiftly through Dover.

We also urgently need investment in our roads. The new Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed. The M2/A2 needs to be upgraded and dualled all the way to the Channel Ports. And the planned M20 Lorry Park must be delivered on time.

Too often vested interests get in the way and it takes years to build the simplest road. Yet we have less than two years to get ready. That's why I'm campaigning for a Brexit Infrastructure Bill. We need a powerful new law to speed through administrative processes to enable vital projects to be delivered on time.

So far there's been a lot of posturing from Brussels, which comes as no surprise. But the reality is that it is in both Britain and Europe's interests for trade to grow. The French are just as keen as we are to keep tourists and truckers moving freely across the Dover and Calais border.

That's why my plan matters – so we are prepared for every eventuality to keep trade flowing across the English Channel.

2 comments

Well done Charlie Elphicke for putting in so much time and effort into this plan. The future for the UK Border can be very bright if we get the green light to implement it.
- Tony Smith CBE

Great news Mr Elphicke that you are still doing all you can to make the passage of goods as easy as it can be considering the situation.I have been a private importer for 40 years and remember the days of C10'sC12's T2L,s certificate of origin forms.Waiting at customs for many hours.The sad night in March 1987 when The Hereld filled with water leaving Zeebrugge. We can not and must not go back to that.This result was never expected so nothing was planned I can see that.Please keep up you great work and perhaps you should consider standing as the next party leader.I believe you would have great support. Deal
- Peter Murphy

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19 JUL 2017

More proof evil traffickers will stop at nothing

People traffickers are in the news again after three people were arrested trying to smuggle migrants into the UK - on a plane.

The British pilot of a four-seat Cessna plane was arrested, along with two other UK nationals, at an airport in Calais before it took off.

Four Albanian migrants were found on-board and it is understood they had been due to fly to these shores. An investigation into the incident by French authorities is underway.

Yet again we see that ruthless people traffickers will stop at nothing to break migrants into Britain.

We've cracked down on smuggling through lorries, dinghies and small boats. Now they are using light aircraft.

We cannot allow this latest extreme tactic to take off. We must smash the trafficking gangs and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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18 JUL 2017

Finally, the A20 limit is gone!

It was a huge victory for residents when the hated A20 40mph speed limit was finally axed on Monday night. 

I have battled relentlessly to return the Folkestone to Dover dual carriageway to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is in place.

Last year Highways England finally caved into my campaign and agreed to make the speed limit variable.

The permanent 40mph limit was removed before the morning rush hour on Tuesday.

Highways England should have got this work finished much sooner. But at long last the speed limit is being lifted.

This will be a huge relief to drivers across Dover and Deal. I would like to say thank you to every single resident who has written to me and Highways England to help our campaign.

I have also been informed the London bound A20 lane closure will be removed on Thursday (July 20), with no more road full closures to be carried out during the summer period.

The scrapping of the limit comes after I held a public meeting in Aycliffe on tackling traffic problems. Dozens of residents turned out at Aycliffe Church Centre to grill highways chiefs.

Residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. They said they want the traffic lights moved back down the A20, away from their estate.

I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

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18 JUL 2017

New care home can tackle bed-blocking in our hospitals

I visited a new state-of-the-art care home built next door to Buckland Hospital.

Willow Park Lodge in Coombe Valley Road, run by Athena Healthcare Group, offers a range of community care and includes a cinema, hair salon and library. But I would also like to see respite care beds commissioned at the site.

I have put South Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in contact with the care home managers and urged them to make use of it. The CCG has agreed to visit the care home.

It was a pleasure to be shown around Willow Park Lodge by their expert staff. It is a first class facility. The company has considerable experience in delivering a range of social care types.

I think we should be grabbing the chance to have step down care beds commissioned in Dover, right next to our Buckland Hospital. Too many beds are blocked by people ready to be discharged but with nowhere to go. Too many Dover residents are sent to all corners of east Kent to recover. Health bosses at South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group must make sure it is utilised.

Each floor of the four-storey care home has been designed to cater for specific needs. The ground-floor provides a hotel-style service for people with low levels of dependency. The upper two floors look after those with higher dependency conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Options for the top floor are still being considered, and I think health chiefs to explore options of commissioning respite care.

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16 JUL 2017

A busy weekend in the constituency

During a busy weekend in the constituency I presented an award and attended two village fayres.

I went to Whitfield recreation ground for Whitfield Village Fayre on Saturday, presenting a Kent Association of Local Councils Community Award to Pat Goldfinch, who has been Brownie Leader in Whitfield since 1974.

I want to give a huge congratulations to Pat Goldfinch for her incredible efforts across four decades.

On Sunday I attended Nonington Village Fayre, enjoying the stalls, entertainments and craft shows.

Our area really is the place to be over the Great British summer. If it was up to me I would spend every day in Dover and Deal.

I want to thank everyone who has helped organise our superb village fayres this year. They really are fantastic events and I urge as many people as possible to go along if they can.

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13 JUL 2017

Great news! The A20 speed limit is going

It was fantastic to see so many people turn out in Aycliffe on Friday to make their voice heard on traffic issues. It was a beautiful evening – perfect weather for a cold pint in a pub garden. Yet such is the strength of feeling in this community that every seat was filled in Aycliffe Church Centre. At least 20 more people stood at the back.

I organised the public meeting to give everyone a chance to put their views to those in charge – so we can work together to fix our roads. And it was great to see so many residents come along and ask important questions.

Aycliffe residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. Worst of all is when HGVs take a wrong turn and start driving round residential roads at night. So it's good to see Highways England have taken action and installed a gate at the entrance to the estate. Residents agreed this had made a big difference.

The people of Aycliffe also want the traffic lights at the roundabout moved back down the A20, away from their estate. I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

Others highlighted the number of foreign lorry drivers flouting the A20 40mph speed limit. Kent Police's Inspector Ian Swallow said the force lacked the powers to give these drivers on-the-spot fines, like they do in France. I will keep up the pressure in Parliament to change the law and give police the powers they need.

Some lorry drivers use the B2011 through Capel and Elms Vale, as well as the Alkham Valley Road, as rat-runs to the port. Mr Jones said he would look at how we can stop HGVs diverting through these routes. He said Highways England and the port are working together to redirect trucks onto the M2/A2 rather than the M20/A20. Mr Jones confirmed they are looking at whether the A2 can be dualled.

The A20 40mph limit is the root cause of many of these problems. It's welcome to see that after a long and hard-fought campaign, Highways England have finally started scrapping it. Soon the work will be complete to return the road to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is enforced. This should tackle the problem of lorries using the villages as rat-runs. Yet we must remain vigilant.

The representatives from Highways England, Kent Police and the Port of Dover were faced with tough questions on Friday. Yet they gave a very good account of themselves and received a deserved round of applause – as did Aycliffe's Ray Williams who did a great job helping me chair the meeting.

Much has been done to tackle gridlock and fix our roads. It is vital we work together to keep up the pressure.

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09 JUL 2017

Royal Marines Concert reinforced what we stand for

I laid a wreath at another poignant Royal Marines Concert.

Thousands gathered in front of Deal Memorial Bandstand on Walmer Green. The annual event pays tribute to 11 people killed in the Deal barracks bombing in 1989.

This year local Sea Cadets and The Victory Wartime Band warmed up the famous Royal Marines Band.

Opening songs were followed by an act of remembrance and rededication service, before rousing renditions of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory ended the day.

It was fantastic to be part of a massive crowd enjoying wonderful music in the sunshine. But we must never forget what is being honoured when the Royal Marines Band returns every July.

Our town was attacked by evil terrorists. The lives of 11 totally innocent musicians were taken. Their families will never recover.

As a country we have come a long way since then, and recent events should only reinforce what we stand for. The Royal Marines' beautiful music captured it perfectly – the British solidarity we have always had, and will always need.

I want to thank the Deal Memorial Bandstand trustees for organising another superb, poignant event.

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07 JUL 2017

Praising progress at the new Goodwin Academy site

I looked around Goodwin Academy's new school site recently and was amazed at the progress made. 

I was given a tour by Principal Simon Smith and construction firm Kier of the state-of-the-art facilities being built at Hamilton Road, Deal.

We fought a long and hard battle to secure funding for the school. Now some £25 million has been invested – with the new school building set to open in September.

I was incredibly impressed with the new building. 

This school has made brilliant progress over the last few years. Huge credit goes to Mr Smith, his hardworking staff and the pupils.

The smart new uniform they will soon be wearing is also top class.

Thanks to all our determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

The new site, being constructed next door to the current 1930s buildings in Mill Road, will have capacity for 1,300 pupils.

Equipment from the maritime studies centre based at the former Walmer Science College site has now been moved to the new building in Hamilton Road.

I also had a look at the modern gym equipment inside the new sports hall.

Now we just need the school to keep going from strength to strength to become an "outstanding" educational institution.

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06 JUL 2017

Pressing for action on pavement parking

I am calling on the Government to tackle dangerous pavement parking – which puts blind and partially-sighted people's lives at risk.

I attended a guide dogs event at the House of Commons on Monday and heard from guide dog owners how parked cars blocking paths force them to walk into oncoming traffic they cannot see.

Some face these dangerous situations on a daily basis, risking their safety every time they go shopping or make the school run.

No one should be forced to walk out into oncoming traffic by cars parked on the pavement.

The Government must take action to end problem pavement parking across the country. Blind and partially-sighted people should be able to walk the streets without fear.

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06 JUL 2017

Calling for a rethink of bus service cuts

At a meeting last week I demanded that Stagecoach bosses rethink plans to scrap bus services.

The firm recently launched a two-week consultation over changes to their commercially-operated routes. It would mean some villages losing their only regular service.

I asked for the consultation period to be extended and Stagecoach agreed, pushing its deadline back to July 3.

I then met with the area's managing director Philip Norwell on Friday (June 30).

I am still furious that some people in this area face losing their only regular service. It's clear the original plans were badly thought through.

Yet Stagecoach have now promised to rethink scrapping route 15B, which would leave River residents sitting on a bus for an hour-and-a-half just to get to Canterbury.

They also said they would reconsider changes at Eastry, which would be left with only an hourly service.

And they pledged to hold talks with Kent County Council about ensuring villages left without any buses continue to get a bus service.

These promises are all very welcome, but they must result in action. So many people rely on buses to get around and they deserve a decent service.

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06 JUL 2017

Crunch talks with Highways England

I am calling on residents who are fed up with noisy lorries to attend a public meeting I have organised so we can demand answers from highways chiefs.

I have organised the crunch talks with Highways England to take place on Friday, July 7, at Aycliffe Church Centre, Old Folkestone Road, Dover, CT17 9HN at 7pm.

This is a chance to grill highways bosses on noise and air pollution in Aycliffe from lorries when the A20 Dover TAP scheme is in place. I also want action on enforcing speed limits in Capel and keeping cumbersome HGVs out of Elms Vale.

Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones will be in attendance, along with Kent Police Inspector Ian Swallow, Dover District Council chief executive Nadeem Aziz and the Port of Dover Police.

After a hard-fought campaign Highways England have finally started scrapping the hated A20 40mph limit. Soon the work will be complete.

Yet there is still more to do. Aycliffe folk are fed up with lorry drivers blaring horns, polluting the air and blocking their estate.

Capel residents have had enough of dodgy diversions and speeding. And people in Elms Vale want to keep cumbersome HGVs off their roads.

This meeting is a chance for everyone to put their views to the people in charge. Please join me so we can work together to fix our roads.

The meeting comes as work to scrap the 40mph speed limit on the A20 nears completion. Highways England say it will be gone by the end of July.

The national speed limit will return, with digital signs enforcing a 40mph restriction when there are serious traffic problems in Dover.

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06 JUL 2017

Why Dover is great

A publicity-seeking website seeks to mock Dover and rubbish our town. They probably think they're hilarious. But I don't find it amusing. I doubt these website people have ever even been to Dover. It's unacceptable for the sneering classes to talk our town down.

Let's look at the facts. Dover is a town with outstanding heritage. We have the greatest castle in the land, along with our iconic White Cliffs and the fantastic Roman Painted House. Let's not forget the Bronze Age Boat in the Dover Museum. Dover has a vibrant history. There are too many stories to tell here – but this is the town that repelled Julius Caesar and saw off Napoleon. It was here that the triumph of Dunkirk was planned and under these skies that the Battle of Britain was fought and won.

Yet it's not just our history which makes our town great. It's also the future we're building here and now. We are home to Europe's busiest ferry port and trade is booming. A new cinema and shops are rising at the St James site. Meanwhile the Western Docks Revival is set to bring 600 jobs and a new marina to the seafront.

Of course, there is work to be done. I'm deeply concerned by reports of street drinkers blighting park benches. We had this problem a few years ago before we worked with Kent Police to boot them out. I'm writing to Dover's Chief Inspector to seek urgent action once again to clear the town centre of this problem.

With the rise of internet shopping we need to rethink how high streets work across the land. While some shops have been closing, other exciting business ventures have been springing up. Dover is now home to several brilliant micropubs. Their huge popularity is a sign of how our high street may change going forward – with more independent bars, pubs, shops and cafes. We need to encourage more entrepreneurs to set up shop.

We must make sure we link our stunning promenade to the town centre. One flood-prone underpass is not good enough. I'm battling to Save Our Banksy because I believe it must be at the heart of any new waterfront development. It will draw so many people to visit the town and help make the development a success.

There is still much more to do as we build a brighter future for Dover. We have secured £500 million of investment since 2010. Things are changing. Dovorians will remember well the battle to bring down Burlington House. Yet we did it – and the formerly desolate St James site is transforming before our eyes. Meanwhile the rubble from Burlington House is being used to lay the foundations of the Western Docks Revival.

It's easy for cowardly keyboard warriors to hurl insults. Yet what do they ever achieve? Nothing. Meanwhile we are working relentlessly – taking action to secure investment and build a brighter future for Dover.

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29 JUN 2017

Our frontline has a bigger role than ever

Leaving the EU is a monumental change as well as an incredible opportunity for our nation. In order to achieve the best possible Brexit it is essential we are ready on day one.

Nowhere will our preparations be more vital than here at the Dover & Deal frontline. We face two great challenges. First making sure our customs checks are ready so tourists and trade continue to flow freely. That's why working with industry groups I have put together a detailed report for Government on how Britain can be prepared for every eventuality of leaving the EU. It is likely we will be leaving the single market and the custom union. If so we must make sure we are fully prepared so we can prove predictions of queues to the Channel Ports totally wrong.

Second we must ensure security at the border is stronger than ever. We must counter people trafficking, illegal immigration and terror threats. Last Summer we achieved so much when the Jungle was dismantled. It was a great success. It reduced pressure on the Dover border. Yet even so 50,000 illegal migrants tried to break into Britain last year. That's some 150 a day stopped by frontline border officers. 10 lorries were fined every day for having illegal migrants on board. Yet we also know from the stories of migrants landing on our shores in small craft that many more may be arriving undetected.

So we cannot afford to be complacent. With signs of attacks on tourists and truckers at Calais we must act now to ensure the problems of ast Summer are not repeated.

This underlines once again why we need more investment at our border. With so many migrants trying to break into Britain, our officers on the frontline are being put under intense pressure.

At Dover, they see thousands of trucks and cars pass every day. They use their experience to pick out suspect vehicles. They do an amazing job. Yet the smugglers and terrorists are getting ever more sophisticated.

So we need to boost our border force with the technology, data and people they need to protect our country and our trade.

I have set out the many ways of funding this investment. We can clamp down on tax dodging at the border. We can introduce a £10 visa waiver scheme like they do in the US. We can seize the traffickers' ill-gotten assets.

However we do it, it's clear we have no choice but to boost the borders budget. With Brexit fewer than two years away, we need to show we are serious about being fully prepared at our border. That's why I have been working with industry groups to plan ahead so we are ready on day one. We can make Brexit a massive success - but only if we're fully ready for it.

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28 JUN 2017

Asking the PM for more border investment

I called for more investment in border officers and technology during Prime Minister's Questions.

Addressing the House of Commons today, I highlighted the 50,000 attempts to break into Britain at Calais last year. It works out at 150 a day – or one every ten minutes.

So I asked Prime Minister Theresa May: "With 150 people a day caught trying to break into Britain, our hardworking border officers are under incredible pressure at the Dover frontline.

"Will the Prime Minister consider the case for more investment in state of the art technology and the recruitment of more border officers to defend our borders and help win the war against people traffickers?"

She responded with a commitment to invest £71 million this year in new technology at the border.

She said: "Our border force officers are doing an excellent job at our juxtaposed controls and in his constituency, particularly the work they are doing to stop illegal immigrants and human traffickers.

"And we have indeed been investing in the system capabilities. £108 million has been invested in the last two years in new technology and a further £71 million is earmarked for that in this current financial year.

"But of course there are particular pressures in Dover. That's why we have also invested more money to maintain security there, and to ensure the Calais camp remains closed.

"And we are making efforts upstream as well, to ensure we reduce the number of people trying to get to the UK illegally.

"The Department for International Development are now putting extra focus on the central Mediterranean route. An extra £75 million is going to humanitarian support there."

The PMQs exchange followed publication of Home Office figures for attempts to cross the Channel illegally.

Since 2010 British taxpayers have paid out £315.9 million on security in northern France. It's time we invested properly this side of the Channel too, and I welcome the Prime Minister's commitments today.

Here in Dover we know that illegal immigration has been a problem for years and remains shockingly high. We need to do more to protect tourists and truckers from attacks by ruthless people traffickers.

If migrants had no hope of breaking into Britain, they wouldn't go to Calais. That is what we need to aim for.

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22 JUN 2017

Save Our Banksy

We've been battling to renew Dover for years. And then a multimillion pound piece of artwork turns up in the middle of our town overnight. It would be daft to get rid of it. That's why I'm campaigning to Save Our Banksy.

On Friday, I met with residents at the giant Brexit-themed Banksy in York Street. Everyone was in agreement about what an amazing work of art it is – and that we must do all we can to save it.

The Dover Banksy is iconic. Our town is the gateway and guardian of the nation – and on the frontline of Brexit. Wherever you stand on Brexit, this artwork is a statement on our times. Brexit and the European question will loom large over everything for a long time.

The people of Dover want it to stay – and so do I. That is why I am asking for all your support to help save our Banksy. Because in Dover we have not done well enough in protecting our heritage and culture – in looking after the things Dovorians through the ages have loved dearly.

It's clear work needs to be done to improve Bench Street too. Everyone knows I have been calling for the site of The Crypt to be restored. It's been a wasteland ever since the terrible fire 40 years ago. The Crypt site is owned by the very same people who own the Banksy building. I urge them to work with us – to help us build a better Dover where we celebrate our culture and our history.

I hope the building's owners will listen to what the people of Dover want. Yet following the fiasco with the Folkestone Banksy, it's clear we cannot take anything on trust. That's why I have sent an application to Historic England explaining why it is essential this work of art is protected. The Abbey Road crossing immortalised by The Beatles has been listed. Even a 1960s Bournemouth bus depot described as "hideous" was listed. If they are going to list things like that, they should list an iconic piece of art like our Banksy.

It's also important for on Dover District Council to use all powers they have at their disposal to halt any demolition or removal of this Banksy. For it is clear the building's nature has fundamentally changed. The new waterfront development should be reworked to have this Banksy at its heart – as a central attraction. It will draw so many people to visit the town and help make the development a success. Renewal is about more than just new buildings. This is about protecting a piece of our culture and history for the people it was intended for, their children and grandchildren.

This artwork may be worth millions. Yet to the people of Dover it is priceless. Let's work together. Let's Save Our Banksy.

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20 JUN 2017

Plans to cut bus services are appalling

I have called on Stagecoach bosses to scrap appalling and inexcusable plans to cut dozens of local bus services.

Stagecoach last week launched a consultation over the changes which will affect Dover, Deal and villages across the area. Some would lose their only regular service.

The firm has given residents just two weeks to lodge their views, with the consultation period ending on June 26.

These changes are appalling and totally unjustified. There are reductions for almost every village, just when we are getting more investment and housing all over the district.

People are quite rightly fuming. The two-week window for consultation – and the vague wording in it – is unwarranted, inexcusable and unacceptable.

I have written to Stagecoach's area director making my views known in no uncertain terms and asked for a meeting as a matter of urgency.

To have your say on the proposals by Monday, 26 June 2017, e-mail southeast.enquiries@stagecoachbus.com quoting "Dover Area Proposals" in the subject line. Or you can write to Stagecoach at Stagecoach South East Dover Area Proposals, FREEPOST RTLL-RCTZ-AKAK, Canterbury, CT1 2SY.

For more details on the proposed changes, click here

3 comments

I cannot find out the changes stagecoach is proposing to carry out
- jean bryant

The link to the proposed changes is at the bottom, if you click on "here" in blue. Otherwise copy and paste this link into the address bar on your browser: https://tiscon-maps-stagecoachbus.s3.amazonaws.com/Timetables/South East/consultation document - proposed Dover area changes.pdf
- Charlie Elphicke

I am very unhappy, regarding the up coming changes, i live in West Whitfield, i use the 87 bus to Ramsgate through whitfield, i change at Sandwich to get to Ash, for regular special medical treatment. They are not running this service. I rely on all the busses to and from hospitals locally. The 60A that goes to Homebase etc, whitfield goes to Buckland hospital not running sept, we are getting a sports centre and supermarket, but no bus, amazing, we are expanding but having fewer busses. I am very unhappy with this indeed, i have no one to rely on with a car. Makes no sense at all. Very much appreciated that you are involved Mr Elphicke thank you .
- Miss Hickson-Brown

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17 JUN 2017

Delighted with approval of vital cancer drug

I welcome the approval of a life-extending cancer drug after lobbying the NHS over the issue.

Kadcyla adds an average of six months of life to women with terminal breast cancer – but at an undiscounted cost of £90,000 per patient.

The drug was available in Scotland from April, but deemed too expensive by the rest of the UK.

Earlier this year I met with local support group the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal, both in the constituency and in Westminster. They told me how important Kadcyla was for their members.

I lobbied Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which on Thursday (June 15) announced a U-turn in favour of funding the drug.

I am delighted by the outcome and there is no doubt all the pressure we piled on made a great difference. So many people were involved in this campaign.

I heard first hand from these courageous women how it was literally handing them a lifeline.

Time is the most important thing we have. If treatments work and give us more of it, money should not be an obstacle.

Chantele Rashbrook, who runs the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal group, has secondary breast cancer and is being treated with Kadcyla.

She said: "I'm not going into my third year on it and it's reduced the tumour on my lung to pretty much nothing.

"A lot of women in our group could end up with secondary breast cancer. They would never have been given this chance without this decision.

"I'm so happy. It's just brilliant.

"Charlie was on the ball and got other MPs to raise the issue too, and we got to talk to senior people in pharmaceuticals personally.

"It's made a big difference."

1 comment

I read about this in the Guardian. With all due respect I got the impression that the drug was made available through Roche, the manufacturer, agreeing to reduce their prices, rather than any lobbying undertaken by yourself. It stated quite clearly that the agreement was reached between Roche and NHS England. Whilst I would not wish to detract from any influence you may believe you made, you need to acknowledge the help given by Roche. cc. Roche
- jonathan stiles

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15 JUN 2017

Thank you for the support - now let's work together to make our community even greater

I am incredibly proud to have been re-elected as Member of Parliament for Dover and Deal. It was humbling that over half the voters supported me in the ballot box. The Conservative vote share here rose to 52.4% while the majority increased to 6,437.

Thank you for your support. When I was first elected seven years ago, I said my ambition was to make Dover and Deal once again a jewel in the crown of the nation. I meant what I said back then. And it's been an incredible journey. Together we have achieved so many things they said were impossible. We saved the Port of Dover from being sold off to the French or whoever. We built a New Dover Hospital after Buckland Hospital had been decimated for a decade. We tore down Burlington House – new cinemas and shops are now rising at the St James site.

Meanwhile Deal goes from strength to strength. We safeguarded Deal's Hospital which had been left teetering on the edge. They said Deal was a "village" unworthy of the fast train – today that fast train sweeps into Deal all day, every day.

Some £500 million of investment has been secured for our community since 2010. We have been working tirelessly to reverse the neglect of the previous decade. Yet I know how much more there is to do. I set out a clear plan for our future in this election.

We must ensure our borders are as secure as they can be and be ready on day one for Brexit here at the Dover frontline. We've delivered a lot of investment since 2010. I want to see even more – starting at our port. We've achieved a lot on jobs. Yet I am passionate to do all I can to boost business and employment. And we must keep working to get a fairer share of healthcare. We fought to safeguard our hospitals, now we must fight to stop health chiefs sneaking key services back to the faraway big hospitals. We need to get beds at Buckland and improve mental healthcare – and help the most vulnerable.

I'm determined to drive forward the changes we need. Everyone knows Brexit will present challenges – but there will also be real opportunities to build the sort of Britain we want. Where we support small businesses, help people buy their own homes and where hard work brings rewards.

A Britain where we build a renaissance of our towns and regions, with places like Dover and Deal leading the way.

Last Thursday was another momentous night in British politics. It's clear we must be united and work together to deliver certainty for the country. To respect the will of the people and deliver Brexit. Yet we must also plan ahead to build a Brexit Britain that takes our nation forward to an even greater future.

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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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Keep up the good work Charlie. I can't wait to see the outcome of all the work that is happening in Dover at the moment. For too many years Dover has been passed by but now it is getting what it deserves as this is the first thing that tourists see when they vist. Well Done
- Bazzer

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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.

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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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30 MAR 2017

We are at our strongest when we are facing the greatest adversity

Last Wednesday showed that we are at our strongest when we are facing the greatest adversity. I was expecting the day to be about wringing promises from the Government to make sure the M20 lorry park is ready on schedule. That and marking the 100th Birthday week of Dame Vera Lynn. At 12.20pm I duly rose from my place in a packed House of Commons and got the Prime Ministerial pledge I was seeking for our community.

Just a few hours later it all seemed so insignificant and so long ago. At 2.40pm, as Khalid Masood mowed down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, I was just leaving the Commons Chamber. I went upstairs to the committee room where we on the Public Accounts Committee were about to interview a senior civil servant. Suddenly the sitting was suspended and it became clear that there had been a terrible incident at the gates of Parliament. I looked out of the window at Westminster Bridge and noticed ambulances spread across the bridge. The incident at the gates was not the only one.

In the fog of events it was hard to know what had happened. There was a fear that these might be co-ordinated, diversionary attacks. Armed police swept through Parliament checking every room just in case there were attackers in the building. Only later did we come to know it was the work of a lone wolf – the hardest of attacks to detect. Masood was not some foreign fighter come to our shores to kill. He was one of our own countrymen, born and bred here. He was a long standing violent criminal who had been radicalised.

The hearts of all of us go out to those who were murdered, their families and loved ones. Police officer Keith Palmer fell in the line of duty. He gave his life to save those of others. He protected our democracy. He acted with the greatest heroism and the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. I shall be writing to the Honours Committee making the case he should be awarded the George Cross – and I hope I will do so with your support.

What happened last week was shocking to us all. As a nation we are united in grief for these terrible events. Yet it is also important to recognise that, thanks to the police and security services, this attack failed. It underlines that in our efforts to prevent radicalisation we are doing the right thing. We must work harder to prevent people getting radicalised – and we must make sure that our Parliament continues to be open for all in our democracy to visit and see. Because freedom is the cornerstone of our way of life and our democracy must be an open democracy. These are key values to us all and we must never compromise them.

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25 MAR 2017

Another successful Crocus Walk

It was great to join Kerry Rubins and the gang on another hugely successful Crocus Walk.

Kerry really is an incredible ambassador for Breast Cancer Now. She works so hard to lead the fight for people in Deal and across the country.

It was brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year. Thanks to The White Cliffs Hotel for providing and excellent mid-walk lunch!

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23 MAR 2017

The future looks bright in Dover and Deal

The hard work of so many years is beginning to pay off in Dover & Deal. Burlington House has been demolished and we're steaming ahead in building the homes we need. Last week, Deal was named a top seaside town by The Times newspaper. Last Friday I held my annual Jobs Fair – more businesses than ever turned up looking for people to fill their burgeoning vacancies. Tilmanstone Salads alone told me they wanted to hire 200 people. It's amazing how far things have come since 2010.

The fall of Burlington House was the firing of the starting gun on the regeneration we have so long needed. Seeing the steelwork go up at the St James development gives us all a glimpse of the future that is now arriving. A cinema complex, Nando's, Marks & Spencer and much, much more. It will be in the heart of Dover – boosting the town rather than taking shoppers away. My vision is that this development should be able to cross over Townwall Street and join up with a great waterfront development. That may take time but would make Dover a truly great destination.

Meanwhile The Times newspaper hailed Deal as one of the 20 best seaside towns in Britain – placing the town at Number One. This is a fantastic accolade for what we all know to be true. Deal has the nation's best high street, bags of charm, wonderful old houses and a superb seafront. The fast train we all campaigned for now sweeps into Deal all day every day – it is the icing on the cake that makes Deal a top place to live. I hope we will see even more visitors coming to boost our local economy and fill the brilliant restaurants and shops.

Destination Dover & Deal has taken a giant leap forward in recent years. Yet there is still more to do. Renewal is not simply about town centres. It's also about building the homes we need. Bringing opportunity and starter homes to our young people really matters. This is why I have been strongly supporting the new building developments at Aylesham and pressing for them to build more homes there faster. It's also vital we see quality homes for families and first time buyers built at Connaught Barracks.

We also need more jobs. My Jobs Fair certainly showed how many businesses are recruiting locally. This is good news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further – full employment is my aim so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

These are exciting times for our community. So much is happening. Yet we need to see more. There is increasing momentum in Dover & Deal. The future is looking brighter – but we need to keep going and see it through.

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22 MAR 2017

Fighting for better Dover roads at Prime Minister's Questions


I made the case to Theresa May for transport upgrades in Dover and Kent during Prime Minister's Questions.

I highlighted the need for the M20 lorry park to be built, the A2 dualled and for the Lower Thames Crossing to move forward – so the county is ready for Brexit on day one.

Dover is the gateway and guardian of the kingdom. We need to make sure the port is ready for Brexit on day one.

The Prime Minister May said the Government is "fully committed" to delivering the M20 lorry park. She added that the Department for Transport is considering closely the findings of the Lower Thames Crossing consultation. And Highways England are doing detailed work on the A2.

I also asked the House to pay tribute to Dame Vera Lynn, who turned 100 on Monday.

The Prime Minister was happy to join me in wishing Dame Vera Lynn a very happy 100th birthday week, adding that we should recognise the service she gave to this country, as many others did.

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The White Cliffs are iconic symbols of our country, but receive insufficient care and protection from, for example, refuse dumpers. I would like to see a special committee established to maintain a watching brief on this problem.
- John Groves

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17 MAR 2017

Meeting a dedicated Deal support group

I recently met with a Deal group fighting to maintain access to secondary breast cancer drugs.

Chantele Rashbrook, who runs the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal group, has secondary breast cancer and is being treated with Kadcyla. This treatment is at risk of being axed from the NHS.

This support group does such good work and I really enjoyed meeting them. They made a powerful case about the huge difference Kadcyla and other drugs can make.

I am writing to NICE, urging them to approve Kadcyla's continued use in treatment.

I am also writing to the Health Secretary asking for it to be an approved treatment of the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The Deal community has raised a huge amount of money for research into battling breast cancer over the years.

Health bosses need to listen to the concerns being raised.

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17 MAR 2017

More firms than ever at my latest Jobs Fair

I welcomed more than 600 people to my fifth Jobs Fair on Friday. More businesses than ever set up stalls at the event in Dover Town Hall. 

Jobseekers met with firms including P&O Ferries, DFDS, the Port of Dover, Coombe Valley Transport Ltd, Gomez and Kennedy Scott. Hundreds of jobs were on offer – with Tilmanstone Salads alone seeking 200 new employees.

My Jobs Fair shows how many businesses are recruiting locally. This is great news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further. I want to see full employment so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

Youth unemployment in Dover and Deal has halved since 2010. More than 4,000 apprenticeships have been created. East Kent College and Hadlow College gave out advice and information on more local opportunities at the jobs fair.

I've been working hard to make sure we help young people in Dover and Deal get a foot on the ladder. It's great to see so many apprenticeships being created and I want to see this continue. 

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16 MAR 2017

We must be ready for Brexit at the Dover and Deal frontline

In two years we will leave the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for whatever happens. I made the case in the House of Commons last week that the most important preparations of all will be at the Dover and Deal frontline.

Last summer we had a taster of what will come if we are not ready. We saw queues of traffic all the way along the A20, A2 and M20. Some say this was nothing compared with what will happen if we are not ready. That is why I am pressing for more and faster investment in our roads. For lorry parks off the M20. For dualling the A2. And for the Lower Thames Crossing.

There are some people who seem to revel in doomsday scenarios for Brexit. I take a different view. We need to be ready and prepared so that the worst does not happen. That means we must invest in the Port of Dover. Over the past few years we have handed over millions to strengthen Calais. It's time we put Britain, and Britain's border, first. We must invest in the Dover and Deal frontline.

Of course, the best case scenario is that in two years' time we get a good deal from the EU. I hope that we do – and I believe that Theresa May is the only leader who can deliver it. Yet as we are leaving the single market, leaving the customs union and ending payments to Brussels – we have to be ready if the EU won't do a deal. We must make sure we can maintain a seamless flow of trade. That is why I am working with industry experts on both sides of the Channel at how to keep traffic moving through Dover and Calais.

This is vital not just to Dover and Deal, not just to Kent, but for the whole nation. It will not be much good for Scotland if we have queues at Dover, because they will not be able to get their whisky out by road. It will not be good for the Northern Powerhouse if it runs out of power. The Midlands Engine will conk out if it cannot get the components it needs on time.

That is why it is of national importance that trade continues to flow freely through the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. It matters to the whole of the United Kingdom – and indeed to Europe. Brexit must work for the good of us all.

If on day one no free trade deal has been agreed, Britain must be prepared. I believe that we can, should and must be – for the good of Dover, Deal, Kent and of the entire nation.

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15 MAR 2017

Visiting the Job Centre ahead of my fifth Jobs Fair

I saw how technology is helping people back to work during a visit to Dover's Jobcentre Plus.

Staff explained how they are teaching people to use the internet, social media and other digital skills in their efforts to find work.

I visited the Maison Dieu Road hub ahead of the fifth Dover and Deal Jobs Fair later this week. Dozens of firms will have stalls at Dover Town Hall on Friday, March 17, from 10am to 3pm.

More jobs and money in our part of Kent is a priority for us all. My Jobs Fair is about putting this into action by bringing local jobseekers and employers together.

I'm passionate about getting people into work. Dover is full of talented, aspirational people. Many want to get a foot on the jobs ladder, find a new challenge or discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. But taking that initial step isn't always easy.

The Jobs Fair gives employers and job seekers the opportunity to showcase themselves to one another in person, without all the paperwork and online form-filling.

Firms including P&O, DFDS, the Port of Dover, Discovery Park, Coombe Valley Transport Ltd, Gomez, East Kent College, Hadlow College and Kennedy Scott will have stalls. People will be able to get information on training, apprenticeships and full-time work in a wide range of industries.

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10 MAR 2017

Praising another 'outstanding' local school

I visited a local school recently ranked "outstanding" by Ofsted.

Touring the Kingsdown and Ringwould Church of England Primary School site, I spoke to headteacher Jo Hygate about their recent success of in achieving an "outstanding" grade.

I was deeply impressed by the children's enthusiasm and the outstanding teaching at the school. Staff told me how the Deal Learning Alliance has allowed local schools to share ideas and work together to improve. It's so encouraging to see schools in our area going from strength to strength.

I am also supporting Kingsdown and Ringwould Primary with their efforts to become part of a multi-academy trust.

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09 MAR 2017

We must never forget the Herald victims - or its lessons

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. On 6 March 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise sailed out of the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for what was fatefully to be the last time. The bow doors of the ferry were not closed. Water came pouring in. The ship capsized. 193 people tragically lost their lives.

This is the 30th year we have gathered together in Dover to remember the worst peacetime maritime disaster of recent times. We gather together partly so that those who live on and have lost their loved ones know that we stand with them. They will never walk alone – our community will always walk with them.

We gather because as Bishop James Jones movingly said in his address at St Mary's Church on Monday, we do not seek closure. We seek remembrance of those our community knew and we seek acceptance – to be able to live with the terrible events. We cannot change what happened but it is still so hard to accept.

We gather together because we know we must also remember. The lessons of this tragedy must never be forgotten. Since that fateful day, alarm systems warn if anything is amiss, crew regulations have been tightened, any water coming in is swiftly monitored, a more careful lookout is required and much more. Our ferries must not just be seen to be the safest in the world. They must be the safest in the world. There must not be any backsliding from the regulations that came in to see that this is so.

So many in our community were affected by this dreadful event. I was so moved to hear the heartrending stories of the survivors. How a little girl managed to get picked up in a boat when the people she was close to in the sea did not. How some, by chance of place, managed to make it to safety while others did not. And how still others should have been aboard but were not by a late change of plan.

It is the seemingly random hand of chance that caused some to live and others to be lost that so many find so hard to deal with. How can you ever hope to fathom meaning in that which has none? For so many that is what makes this terrible event all the harder to cope with.

For me, this is why Bishop James was right in saying we should not seek closure, but acceptance. We cannot change what happened. Yet with acceptance we can respect the loved ones who were lost and perhaps lessen the pain.

We will never forget the victims. We will never forget what happened. We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on. This is why I am so proud of the timeless values of our community here in Dover and Deal.

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06 MAR 2017

Getting a taste of the Deal Hop Farm project

I visited the Landmark Community Garden to get a taste of the Deal Hop Farm project.

The garden is one of hundreds signed up to the scheme, organised by local group Deal With It.

Volunteers distribute hop plants to members and give advice on how to look after them.

Later in the year the plants will be harvested and returned to the Ripple Steam Brewery – where the final product is made.

This is a fantastic project. People get out in the fresh air, make use of their gardens, learn new skills, and work together as a community. At the end of it all, we get to enjoy lovely local beer in some of our amazing pubs.

Deal continues to go from strength to strength and I applaud this latest brilliant idea from the Deal With It team.

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03 MAR 2017

Finally a commitment to faster broadband for our villages

I welcome a commitment finally being made to improve shameful broadband in parts of Dover and Deal.

Some residents in villages like Lydden and Temple Ewell get internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover town.

I joined Lydden ward district councillor Mark Rose to speak with furious business owners and villagers. We have repeatedly called on Kent County Council (KCC) and BT to improve broadband speeds.

These days the internet plays such an important role in people's lives. Yet the service in some of our rural areas is shameful.

In order for small businesses in the regions to thrive, we must have better broadband. These excruciatingly slow speeds make a mockery of modern Britain.

KCC says a street cabinet with new fibres will be installed in Canterbury Road, Lydden, on the southern edge of Chunnel Plant Hire's depot. According to the authority, work will begin soon and finish by September this year.

We must not see any more delays. I will be pressing KCC and BT to stick to their timeframe.

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02 MAR 2017

Working hard to move things forward in Dover & Deal

More jobs and money for our area has long been a key priority. We've made real progress – unemployment has halved since 2010, with apprenticeships and young people being particularly successful. It's been great to see so many new businesses starting up or expanding.

In Dover Burlington House has come down. It took so long many doubted it would ever happen. Now new steel frames are rising up, giving shape to the cinema, shops and hotel that are being built. The £50m plus St James development will make such a change to Dover and provide real momentum to the renewal of the town.

In Deal, we fought hard to get the fast train. We succeeded and it's been a success. The prosperity it has brought the town has made a real difference - and Deal's high street is now one of the best in the land. Small surprise it won High Street of the Year and I hope it will soon do so again.

Down at the Port of Dover, they're handling record levels of traffic. This underlines the importance of our campaign to get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. The Western Docks revival is now moving ahead. A new marina and new jobs on the seafront should make a real difference.

We've done a lot, yet there is much more to do. So it was quite a surprise recently to see the new business rates revaluation. Every local authority area in Kent is seeing a fall in business rates of about 5%. Even swanky Sevenoaks sees falling business rates. So it was a shock to see the Dover district's rates pegged for a rise of 11%. How could this be when we have so much deprivation in East Kent?

Pressing the Communities Secretary on the issue, it's become clear this rise is due to a revaluation of the Channel Tunnel whose business rates are allocated to the Dover district. The Tunnel will see its rates go up a lot. This means that the rest of the Dover District will see a fall of 8% - a real boost to businesses in our community. It's also welcome that the Government plans to support smaller businesses which are affected by the ending of business rates relief.

The next key steps for our community will be to bring forward the homes we need. There are not enough homes to go round and our young people really struggle to get on the housing ladder. That's why I am working hard to support the building of the new homes our community needs – so long as they have the infrastructure to go with it.

There is a real sense that things are moving forward in our community. No doubt there will be bumps in the road, yet real progress is being made. I will do everything I can to make sure Dover & Deal continue to move forward in the years to come.

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28 FEB 2017

The Citadel fortress could become quality housing

I visited the Western Heights and heard how the Citadel fortress could be transformed into quality housing.

The site was previously used as Dover Immigration Removal Centre until its closure at the end of 2015.

We need more housing in Dover and Deal if we are going build a better future for our community. In this project we have a real chance to preserve the historic character of one of Dover's great historic assets – and make use of it for the good of the town.

The development would follow a similar project at Connaught Barracks, where demolition work continues ahead of some 500 homes being built at the former army headquarters.

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good plan
- peter heys

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26 FEB 2017

Backing the campaign against animal abusers

I am backing a campaign for tougher punishments for people who abuse animals.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has highlighted the "unacceptably low" penalties for cruelty and neglect offences, and I am joining calls for the maximum sentence to be raised to five years in prison.

People may be aware that I am a proud animal lover with an eight-year-old Norwich Terrier called Star.

It is unacceptable that people can abuse animals and get away with such a small penalty. It sickens me to hear of cases of abuse. We must have tougher sentences for the despicable people who harm these helpless creatures. 

Claire Horton, Battersea's chief executive, told me: "It isn't acceptable that our courts are unable to hand out tougher sentences in such extreme animal cruelty cases, yet the likes of fly-tipping can result in prison sentences of up to five years.

"Let's get this into proportion and let the punishment for abusing animals truly fit the crime."

2 comments

Thank you. I am an avid lover of animals and applaud you for this. The penalty does not fit the crime. Animals need stronger deterrents to aid their protection.
- Helen Williamson

Thank You Charlie. I am a supporter of Battersea and know how much they care, but the backing is not there when needed. Good luck with your call for harsher sentences, they should fit the crime. Doreen
- doreen collins. email gaggsville@gmail.com

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24 FEB 2017

Meeting a Dovorian recognised for extreme bravery

I had the honour of meeting a Dovorian awarded France's highest military recognition for his bravery at Dunkirk and on D-Day.

David Norris, 97, was presented with the French Legion D'Honneur at Capel Le Ferne's Battle of Britain Memorial. 

Mr Norris was on board the King George V, helping rescue thousands of British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940. He was awarded the Dunkirk Medal.

Mr Norris was also involved in the D-Day landings of 1944. He served as a Greaser in the engine room of supply vessel Jesse G Cotting, making four trips to Utah and Omaha beaches carrying vital supplies.

It was a huge privilege to see him awarded the French Legion D'Honneur. Not only did he help rescue our army from Dunkirk. He also carried vital supplies across the Channel on D-Day to troops on the Normany beaches – from where they battled through France and to the eventual victory that ended the war.

Mr Norris was one of seven heroes and heroines being recognised at the ceremony for their part in helping to win the Second World War. Their valour then means we are free today. They were the survivors.

We must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and always remember the corners of foreign fields that will be forever England.

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24 FEB 2017

Helping a local lad with a school project

Last week I welcomed a sixth form student to Westminster to help him with his school project.

Dover Grammar School for Boys pupil Arun Jarman-Chantler made sketches inside Portcullis House. Arun, aged 17 and from Kingsdown, is designing a new look for the building - which houses more than 200 MPs' offices - for his Extended Project Qualification.

It was great to welcome him and his dad Nigel to Westminster. I was really impressed with Arun's sketches and cannot wait to see his final designs.

His enthusiasm and talent is testament to the great work being done at Dover Grammar School for Boys these days.

Arun told me the trip was invaluable in helping the project. He got a real sense of how the building looks and is an integral part of the Westminster community.

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23 FEB 2017

There is so much potential for a prosperous future

It's been great meeting people out and about in Dover and Deal over the past few weeks. These really are exciting times for our community with so much going on. We have the potential of developments that will renew our area – and volunteers who do so much to make things happen.

At the St James development, work continues on the building site where Burlington House once stood. Last year, after decades of dithering, the empty tower block was at last demolished. This was a huge victory – a symbol of how things are changing. It is hugely welcome to see progress being made. This project is vital in building a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

The former Dover Immigration Removal Centre at the Western Heights is another great opportunity. Seeing round this site recently, it is clear there is so much potential – it could be turned into a hotel or a quality housing development. The citadel fortress played an important part in keeping Dover and our nation safe and secure. Now it could be the engine to drive the renewal of the Western Heights.

Volunteers make a huge contribution to our community. Take Deal Centre for the Retired – a volunteer-run hub which has become a home from home for older residents in the town. Meeting residents there recently, I could see this is not only a place to relax and chat. It also offers vital services like bathing, hairdressing and meals served in-house or delivered to your door.

The centre is a testament to the spirit of people in this area. Residents are always ready to stand together, make sacrifices and work hard for those who need our support most. That is one of the great things about Dover and Deal.

Our hard-working volunteers really do make such a huge difference. In Parliament this week I hailed the invaluable work of Deal's Talk It Out group – who do so much to help people suffering from mental health problems. Government Minister Penny Mordaunt rightly commended their work.

In Parliament I make our case for the things that matter most to people in Dover and Deal. This week I held talks with industry experts about how we can make Brexit borders a success for Dover and Deal. Leaving the European Union poses challenges but plenty of opportunities too.

It's so important we embrace the clear decision of the British people and work hard to deliver a clean and effective Brexit. There is so much potential, particular in Dover and Deal, to build a prosperous future for our nation. Our famous White Cliffs are a symbol of the fortitude and courage that we must show once more in these exciting times.

Our area led the way at the front line in former times. Now we must lead the way again in making Brexit work for Britain – as well as leading the renewal of the local towns and historic regions of England.

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21 FEB 2017

Praising volunteer-run local group in Parliament

I praised the invaluable work of Deal-based mental health support group Talk It Out in Parliament this week.

I highlighted Talk It Out's role in supporting people to be ready for employment during Work and Pensions Questions in the House of Commons.

Asking the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP, I pushed for assurances that such groups will be given more support to carry out their work.

Ms Mordaunt in turn praised the "huge expertise and wisdom" of Talk It Out.

I said: "Does she agree that local voluntary groups such as Talk It Out in my constituency do invaluable work helping people to be work-ready and we must do more to support them?"

Ms Mordaunt replied: "I do agree with my honourable friend that voluntary organisations have huge insight and expertise that we can tap into and I commend the work of Talk it Out in his constituency.

"This is one reason why we are recruiting 200 community partners across the Job Centre Plus network so we can ensure we are reaching all these organisations and benefiting from the huge expertise and wisdom they have."

Talk It Out was founded by Tracy Carr in 2011. It offers confidential sessions online and in person for mental health sufferers when they are feeling particularly low.

The group will soon open a wellbeing café at the Landmark Centre in Deal on a three-month trial basis.

They work tirelessly to make a difference to local people suffering with mental health problems. They deserved to be recognised for it, so they know how grateful people are and so others can follow their lead.

But they do need more help. I want to see better mental health care in Dover and Deal.

Support saves lives and I will keep fighting to make sure things improve.

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20 FEB 2017

Work progressing apace at St James

I have seen how work is progressing apace at the St James development.

Last week I was given a tour of the building site – where Burlington House once stood – by workers from Dover District Council and developer Bond City.

Plans for St James include a six-screen Cineworld cinema, hotel, restaurants and shops with M&S, Next, Travelodge, Nandos, Bella Italia and Frankie & Benny's among confirmed tenants.

Real progress is being made with construction firm Gallagher clearing land, laying foundations and putting up steel frames.

I'm told the main contractor is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The chosen firm will be tasked with finishing most of the work by the end of the year.

After years of waiting, last year Burlington House was at last demolished. This was a huge victory – a symbol of how things are changing.

It was incredible to see how much progress has been made. The starting gun has well and truly been fired on the renewal of Dover.

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16 FEB 2017

We need to guard against a return of the Calais Jungle

At the Dover and Deal frontline, we have seen the true horrors of the Calais migrant magnet. This is why we fought to get the Jungle camp dismantled.

By the time the battle was won 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.

This week the Government sought to tackle trafficking further – by limiting the number of child refugees Britain takes in under a scheme known as the Dubs amendment. People in Dover in Deal know the risk is that the good intentions of this scheme could cause the evil of the Jungle to return.

It sounds compassionate to bring in child refugees from Calais to Britain. Yet what would happen is that Calais would once again become a migrant magnet. The people traffickers would encourage families to make the dangerous journey to Calais. There they would once again be subject to horrendous conditions and terrible exploitation.

That's why the Government is right to be seeking to resettle people from war-torn countries like Syria. We have a strong record of making a difference. We took in hundreds of children from the Calais Jungle last year. We reunited them with their families already living in the UK – giving them a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their head at Christmas.

At the Dover and Deal frontline we have been working hard to care for refugee children. In Kent we look after nearly 800 – almost a quarter of all child refugees in Britain. That's five times more than the whole of Scotland – and 12 times more than Wales. This has put real pressure on public services. It's incredibly disappointing that other councils and other nations fail to do their bit.

In Kent we are in a very real way at the frontline of this migrant crisis. It is we who see families shivering in the back of refrigerated lorries at Dover docks. It is we who see desperate migrants landing on Deal beaches in dinghies and claiming asylum. And it is we who see our resources stretched to the brink as we care for ever more vulnerable youngsters dumped on our doorstep by ruthless people traffickers.

This is why taking in more refugee children from Calais and the Dubs amendment system is the wrong answer. The right answer is to discourage people from coming to Calais at all. And to take the battle to the people traffickers and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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13 FEB 2017

Calling for clean-up of site destroyed by fatal fire

I am calling for a Dover town centre site to be cleaned up 40 years after it was destroyed in a fatal fire.

The Bench Street building, formerly known as The Crypt, was erected in 1840. There were bars and restaurants on the lower floors and residential accommodation upstairs.

That was until tragedy struck on March 27, 1977, when seven people died after a devastating fire ripped through the four-storey building. Since then the shell has been left to decay in the heart of Dover town centre.

For decades the former Crypt site has been left to ruin. It's high time this area was cleaned up.

Work on the exciting St James scheme continues. Yet we must make sure Dovorians can be proud of every corner of the town centre. We need to build a better future for Dover and I have been urging the council to take action.

I wrote to Dover District Council, calling for work to begin soon. They said the owner will take down the scaffolding before a general tidying-up.

According to DDC, Historic England will then likely launch a consultation over The Crypt's future use.

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10 FEB 2017

Visiting a community asset run by volunteers

I found out about the hard work of volunteers during a visit to the Deal Centre for the Retired last week.

The Park Street building has become a community hub where older residents can relax, converse, play games and have meals. The volunteers also do a meal delivery service and organise other things like bathing and hairdressing.

I can see why for so many people the centre has become a sort of home from home. The volunteers are warm, friendly and incredibly hard-working. It was lovely to meet Andy and Mandy who run the kitchen, serving more than 40 meals a day in the dining room and sending out more than 50 meals a day via delivery.

I first visited the day centre to meet the retirees and chat to volunteers over a cup of coffee. I then saw the Norman Wisdom Dementia Suite, where music, films and activities are used to help those with memory issues.

The centre is a real asset to the community and I hope they continue their vital work.

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10 FEB 2017

Dover factory is already leading way in global trade

I was given a tour of a Dover factory already leading the way in global trade.

Gatic is a manufacturing firm supplying access and drainage products to infrastructure projects in 93 countries. I met staff and saw their products and machinery first hand at the Poulton Close site.

Gatic has forged a reputation by making products to an extremely high spec and as part of a sophisticated supply chain. It is more proof our area is ready to capitalise on the global opportunities that will arise post-Brexit.

But Gatic's competitiveness is under threat because of EU rules aimed at offsetting cheaper Chinese imports, another example of European red tape. They should not be punished for the failure of Europe to reform and modernise.

I am talking to HM Revenue and Customs to try to get them exempted.

Gatic's products are at the high end of the market but have to meet minimum performance characteristics set by the EU. The Commission says Chinese products were sold in Europe at heavily dumped prices, so they have imposed duties ranging from 43.5 to 81.1 per cent. It says this will prevent damage to European companies.

Peter Burnap, Gatic's managing director, told me it could have serious repercussions for their competitiveness in the market and employment implications for their workforce.

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09 FEB 2017

Fighting to fix our roads

People in Dover and Deal have felt let down by local roads for too long. It's time for Highways England to step up and deliver for our community.

This feeling was clear when I went to talk to residents of Shepherdswell and Lydden. They've been calling for the A2 to be dualled for decades. They see vehicles travelling too fast down a road not fit for purpose. Residents were even more concerned when faulty traffic lights caused more chaos on the carriageway in recent weeks.

Temporary lights were in place because of roadworks, but they went out of sync. There have been several cases of long tailbacks since – and a very nasty crash. I urged Highways England to send workers to fix the problems, but it was sadly too late for some.

In the long-term, everyone knows the two main roads which lead to Dover need serious attention. After plans to dual the A2 were axed in the late 1990s, I've been making the case to the Government to get the scheme back on the table.

Meanwhile, I was disappointed by Highways England's latest delay in making the 40mph limit on the A20 variable. They now claim they will have it sorted by June. It was meant to be this March, so we shall see.

Just look at how quickly the railway sea wall was completely rebuilt along Shakespeare Beach. It was a remarkable feat of British engineering. Trains were running from Deal and Dover to London again in just nine months.

Surely it's much harder to rebuild a sea wall than make a speed limit variable? I raised my serious concerns about Highways England with the Transport Secretary this week.

Highways England also need to look at litter which builds up on verges and creates the wrong impression of our wonderful area. We are steeped in history and surrounded by beautiful countryside. Yet the first thing visitors see is rubbish on the roadside. Dover District Council want to clear it up – but they need Highways England to give access to the road. Both sides need to work together to sort it out.

It's vital we fix our roads – not just for Dover and Deal but for the entire nation. Gridlock in Kent costs the country millions of pounds. The A20 and A2 are vital routes and I'm pressing our case for more investment.

We've come so far since 2010 in building a brighter future for Dover and Deal – with a new hospital, Burlington House down and high speed trains sweeping through our stations. It's time we had roads fit for a renaissance of our region.

The hard working people of Dover and Deal have run out of patience with the excuses. Highways England have let us down for too long. It's time they shared the urgency the rest of us feel – and made 2017 the year of action.

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03 FEB 2017

Joining drinkers at another fantastic festival

I opened the 24th White Cliffs Festival of Winter Ales on Friday - and once again what an event it was. 

Outside Dover Town Hall scores of beer enthusiasts queued in the street before the doors were flung open at 1pm.

This year's event – run over two days by the Campaign for Real Ale – featured 30 Kentish ales, 11 Kentish ciders and 31 beers from elsewhere in the country. Dover's own Breakwater Brewery sponsored the pint glasses, while money was raised for the Poppy Appeal. 

It was great to be back in Dover for a tasty pint of ale at another fantastic festival. The historic building, with its huge paintings and old weaponry on the walls, was the perfect setting for this hugely popular event.

Everyone was in great spirits and it was great to see Dover buzzing. We need to see more events like this. It was also a great chance to celebrate Dover's magnificent micropubs and breweries.

1 comment

Great comments on the beautiful Maison Dieu; just do NOT let it be turned into luxury flats! Excellent to know that the cider and ale production in our area continues to be feted! CHeers to all you drinkers!
- S.Purton-Smith

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03 FEB 2017

Meeting residents fed up with faulty traffic lights

On Friday I met with residents of Shepherdswell and Lydden plagued by traffic problems on the A2 in recent weeks.

Temporary traffic lights were placed at the top of Lydden Hill during repairs, but motorists said sequencing problems caused chaos.

One woman told me how she suffered broken bones in a nasty crash which knocked her child unconscious. Others said they were left queuing for hours when all the lights went red.

Highways England sent workers to the site and finally fixed the lights after I contacted them last week.

It's no surprise the community feels let down. The road hasn't been fit for purpose for a long time and the latest problems only add to the frustration.

If we are going to realise a better future for Dover and Deal, we need to see growth without gridlock.

Just like with the A20 speed limit, highways chiefs have got to get on top of these things sooner – and make sure the road is safe.

The traffic lights needed replacing because a lorry struck the poles in early December. Repairs were not completed at the busy junction until January 31 – six weeks after the accident.

Residents also spoke of problems caused by speeding along the road, which turns into a single carriageway at Lydden.

The upgrading of the A2 is long overdue. I've been working tirelessly to make this happen. Plans were scrapped by Labour in the 1990s but I've been making the case to get the scheme back in the programme

I raised the issue in a meeting with the Chancellor this week and I will keep fighting to fix our roads. 

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27 JAN 2017

In Calais four months after the Jungle was cleared

On Friday I went to Calais. I wanted to see for myself whether the French had kept their pledge to stop the Jungle migrant camp from returning.

For years they had allowed the camp to grow. By the summer of 2016 it was home to 10,000 people, including hundreds of children. And lurking in the shadows were criminal gangs preying on the vulnerable.

As the Jungle grew, so did the number of attacks on tourists and truckers on the approach road to the Port of Calais. Ruthless people traffickers, armed with anything from chainsaws to machetes, would launch burning trees across the road. They were putting people's lives at risk in reckless attempts to stop traffic so desperate migrants could clamber on board Dover-bound lorries.

No matter how many walls and fences were built, the problem never went away. It became clear the only way to tackle this problem would be to dismantle the camp for good.

So during the summer I fought harder than ever to get this done, working closely with the Calais authorities throughout. It was a long and hard battle yet we never gave in. And in October last year the French Government caved in and work to clear the Jungle finally began.

Britain took in hundreds of cold and starving children, meaning they had a roof over their head and a warm bed at Christmas. Vulnerable people living in the camp were moved to centres across France, where they have sanitation and running water in place of the squalor of the Jungle.

We also took action to tackle the number of people reaching our shores on small craft. Too often we saw migrants land on the beaches of Dover and Deal. Who knows how many were arriving undetected.

So security has been stepped up along our shore and the Jungle has been cleared. Yet the migrant crisis has not gone away. That's why I've been putting pressure on the French to make sure they stop any new camps from forming – before the first tent is pitched.

I was pleased to see on Friday that what was once a squalid camp of ramshackle tents and makeshift shops is now completely empty. It was hard to believe that just a few months ago, thousands of people were living here in awful conditions.

So far the French have succeeded in keeping Calais clear. Yet we must all remain vigilant. The Jungle must never be allowed to return.

And in Dover we must invest in building a modern border – fit for Brexit Britain. That means using state-of-the-art technology, data sharing and surveillance to tighten security while keeping trade free flowing.

My top priority is making Brexit work for Dover and Deal. We must start by strengthening our borders and working to make sure the Calais Jungle is gone for good.

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You should set that to Elgar
- Simon Finlay

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26 JAN 2017

From riots to a renaissance of our region

January 30th will mark a year since far-right thugs and violent anti-fascists turned Dover into a warzone.

Families were forced to hide inside their homes as chaos broke out along Folkestone Road. Bottles and bricks were hurled across the street. Market Square descended into mayhem.

Seeing these ugly scenes developing, I knew immediately this must never be allowed to happen again.

The officers on the ground had bravely tried to contain these thugs. Yet they did not have enough support and lost control.

Fast forward to April last year – and many of the mindless louts who had come to Dover simply to cause trouble in January were back, hoping for another fight. Yet following my demand for Dover to be protected, this time there were more than 600 officers waiting for them. Unsurprisingly, the thugs stopped coming back.

And Kent Police have kept up the good work since then. More than 60 people have been charged and several jailed. This is exactly the sort of no-nonsense response the people of Dover and Deal demand. Kent Police should be applauded for their swift and effective crackdown.

Booting these thugs out of town was one of several problems we worked hard to fix in 2016. Let's not forget that last year also saw Burlington House come down, the Calais Jungle dismantled and the Dover to Folkestone rail line fixed.

This was all vital work which we must now build on. And it's clear there are businesses in Dover, Deal and Kent that are desperate to expand.

On Friday, I chaired a Kent summit where we discussed the roads, rail and skills investment needed for our area to thrive. I was joined on the panel by fellow Kent MPs in front of more than 75 business leaders. This Kent and Medway Economic Partnership Summit set a clear strategy on the things our county needs to grow.

We need investment in Kent's roads and railways. The A2 must be dualled – and we need to get on with building the Lower Thames Crossing. We must act now to prevent gridlock and delays – which would affect the whole country, not just Kent.

Meanwhile, we must increase capacity on our train services to meet demand. And it's vital to support East Kent College in providing the lifelong learning needed for a modern economy.

Everyone knows Brexit will present challenges – but there will also be real opportunities to build the sort of Britain we want. A Britain where we take back control of our borders. Where we become the new business centre of the world.

If we make the right investment decisions now, I'm confident the entrepreneurs of Dover, Deal and Kent will lead the way. We must work hard to ensure that this time next year, we are moving forward with the renaissance of our region.

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20 JAN 2017

Meeting the new head of high-achieving school

I met the new headteacher at high-achieving Dover Grammar School for Girls.

Pupils achieved outstanding A-Level results in 2016, with 71.6 per cent of grades coming in at B or above.

New headteacher Robert Benson, previously deputy head of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Faversham, took over from Matthew Bartlett in October.

He told me he wants to carry on his predecessor's good work, as well as see the standard of facilities match that of exam results.

It was a real pleasure to be shown around the school – a shining example of the brains and brilliance of young people in this area.But they need investment in their old buildings, so they are in an environment that reflects their ability.

The school is having difficulty getting planning permission because of the confined nature of the site and its listed structures. They want to replace old mobile classrooms with a new science block and sixth form centre.

Mr Benson is clearly focused on securing this and it was refreshing to hear his vision for the school. I will do all I can to help make their case for investment.

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20 JAN 2017

How technology is speeding up mortgages in Dover and Deal

I visited Nationwide's Dover branch and saw how technology is being used to speed up the mortgage process.

Ispent time meeting the building society's staff, touring the branch and learning about new services on offer.

One of these is Nationwide Now, which allows customers to complete mortgage applications via video as soon as they get to the branch, rather than wait for appointments.

It was great to see Nationwide being innovative with digital services. Mortgage access is going to be key to building a better future for Dover and Deal.

I want to see more people owning their own homes and putting down roots in this wonderful area. That's why I was also pleased they have committed to keeping the Dover and Deal branches open, meaning people who want a more traditional service can get it.

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20 JAN 2017

Remembering victims and survivors of the Holocaust

I have signed a Book of Commitment to honour the millions murdered in the Holocaust and the thousands who survived.

The Holocaust Educational Trust's special tribute comes as Friday (January 27th) marks the anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

Thousands of commemorative events will be arranged across the country as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is an important opportunity for people from Dover and Deal and across the country to reflect on this tragic event. To think such evil slaughter took place within the last century is a truly solemn reality.

As it moves from living history to the deeper past, it becomes more important than ever we take the time to remember the victims, and also pay tribute to the survivors.

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20 JAN 2017

Brexit talks at a micropub in Dover

I am calling on people to help me make sure Brexit means Brexit – and that we get on with it.

Many residents concerned about the Supreme Court case have contacted me over the past few months. They told me they don't want the metropolitan elite to be allowed to thwart the will of the people.

They also asked if I would respect the European Union referendum result.

I will vote to trigger Article 50.

I organised a meeting at the Mash Tun micropub in Bench Street, Dover, on Friday to ask people to help deliver a clean Brexit as quickly as possible.

The sooner we get out of Europe the better. We must work together to deliver the mandate of the masses, take back control and build a Brexit Britain that puts places like Dover & Deal first.

Residents interested in working to make sure Brexit happens should email charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk, call 01304 379669 or write to Dover and Deal Conservative Association, 54 The Strand, Walmer, Kent, CT14 7DU.

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19 JAN 2017

In Brexit Britain places like Dover & Deal must come first

For Brexit Britain to work we need the investment concentrated for so many years in the capital – London – to benefit the districts like Dover and Deal.

The capital has for too long acted as a selfish city, furthering its own aims at the expense of districts like ours. It's not right for things to carry on like this. After all, the Hunger Games is just a film – not a reality.

So I was glad last week when the Transport Secretary refused to let Sadiq Khan get his hands on our trains. We need railways where our local needs are put before those of wealthy Londoners.

Southeastern doesn't run a perfect service – but look across to neighbouring areas served by Southern Rail and you'll see things could be a lot worse.

When I was elected in 2010, I was passionate High Speed rail should be extended. Soon fast trains were running to and from Deal as a peak commuting service, cutting journey times to London by half an hour.

The next step was an all-day service. After my long campaign Transport Ministers announced we would get it from January 2015. This boosted our local economy and made commuting much easier.

This is so important. Brexit Britain must be a nation that works for the local towns and historic regions rather than just the big cities. A Britain that works for the coastal communities as well as the post-industrial heartlands.

That's why it was such good news last week that Dover Priory train station will have a brand new car park.

Things also look promising on the Western Heights. At a meeting with Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah and Dover District Council, we looked at future options for the former Immigration Removal Centre. It could be turned into a luxury hotel or a quality housing development.

The citadel fortress played an important part in keeping Dover and our nation safe and secure. Now it could be the engine to drive the renewal of the Western Heights.

For too long London has grown and grown – not just in size but in wealth and opportunities. The Leave vote was so much higher outside the capital because people seek to change a system they feel doesn't work for them.

That's why we must build a Brexit Britain where you can succeed in the districts without being forced to move to the capital.

As we leave the European Union, Dover and Deal must become Britain's leading trading hub. I'm doing everything I can to ensure we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

And that means fighting to make Brexit Britain work for Dover, Deal and East Kent.

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16 JAN 2017

The return of police officers dedicated to Deal

I am absolutely delighted to announce the return of police officers dedicated to the Deal area. 

I held meetings with the district's new commander Chief Inspector Mitchell Fox, who took over from predecessor Steve Barlow in the autumn.

Chief Inspector Fox assured me the redeployment, which began at the end of last year, will raise police visibility in Deal and the surrounding areas.

A Deal Town Centre Constable now works a shift pattern incorporating up to six days a week. Officers from the Local Policing Team are also based in Deal, ready to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day.

The local force is fearless in its efforts to keep us all safe, and I was delighted to meet the new man at the helm.

Bringing back officers dedicated to Deal is something I have wanted for a long time, so I am delighted Chief Inspector Fox has made it happen. I know how much residents will welcome the greater police presence.

Chief Inspector Fox told me: "My dedicated team works tirelessly to deliver a quality service, place victims and witnesses at the heart of what we do, and in doing so ensure we do the right thing.

"I recognise the district is large and in order to best serve the people, my recent redeployment of officers has led to an improved service to the victims who require our support, and to greater visibility across Deal and the surrounding areas.

"Dover and its villages are typically Kentish – tranquil and safe – and it is my overriding aim to ensure they remain so."

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14 JAN 2017

Backing the campaign for more mental health support in Deal

I'm backing a campaign for improved mental health services in East Kent.

Tracy Carr's self-funded support group Talk It Out is calling for ring-fenced funding for mental health. She made the case in several TV and radio appearances this week. 

On Saturday I visited volunteers in Deal High Street to add my name to their petition, which has already gained more than a thousand signatures.

Tracy and Talk It Out work tirelessly to make a difference to local people suffering from mental health problems.

But they can't do it alone and I have real concerns about current provision, particularly from the Sussex Partnership. They simply aren't doing enough to help vulnerable people in a timely, meaningful way.

I want to see better mental health care in Dover and Deal and the surrounding areas – because support saves lives.

I organised roundtable discussions between Talk It Out, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group at Buckland Hospital at the end of last year.

I am also trying to help Talk It Out get a grant for a well-being café at the Landmark Centre in Deal.

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12 JAN 2017

Visa waiver system will fund stronger border

Leaving the European Union will mean a lot of change – nowhere more so than at the Dover and Deal frontline.

The end of unchecked EU immigration will require a beefing up of our border controls. The rising threats of organised crime, trafficking and terror all mean we must invest more in intelligence to keep us safe. Yet at the same time we want to maintain the free flow of trade at Dover – and have smooth journeys for legitimate travellers too.

How could we do it and be ready in two years' time? I have written to the Home Secretary, proposing we plan now to adopt a visa waiver system for EU visitors. If we charged every visitor £10, this should raise some £250m a year – enough to increase the UK's Borders Budget by 50%. With this extra money we can boost our efforts at Dover to combat traffickers, terrorists and criminal gangs.

There is a real challenge ahead for Dover. Post Brexit we will need to extend our full border control systems to travellers from the EU to Britain.

The number of visitors and the amount of trade coming through Dover continues to rise. It needs to stay that way. So it is in the interest of both the UK and European Nations that our borders remain open for business.

We must continue to work with our European neighbours to share intelligence and see that proper security checks are made at the borders as needed. This is because we all need to work together to combat organised crime, people trafficking, smuggling and terrorists. Meanwhile, passports must be properly checked on departure. Therefore, systems like the Le Touquet Treaty's juxtaposed controls at Dover and Calais should be maintained as they work in the interests of Britain and France.

Britain faces a number of serious threats at the border. As the Calais Jungle camp grew, the number of migrants being smuggled in the backs of lorries trebled. Add to this people traffickers and rising numbers of people turning up in small boats on the beaches and small ports of Southern England. They amount to a changing border security challenge that must be answered to prevent people breaking into Britain through the Port of Dover or the beaches of Deal – and to stop those who would seek to do us harm.

For faster checks at Dover, investment is needed in modern systems. We must make sure we have enough officers. By adopting a US style visa waiver system we can fund the investment we will need to make in our border controls.

By taking action now we can be ready to have strong borders immediately on Brexit. Borders where we still enable legitimate tourists and trade to flow freely. Yet borders that are strongly policed so we can crackdown on threats to our security.

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09 JAN 2017

It's all-go for train station car park

I was delighted to learn that a new car park at Dover Priory train station looks set to be built in 2017.

The 100-space surface-level car park was given planning permission by Dover District Council at the end of last year.

It follows a long campaign I led to get more parking provision at the site off Folkestone Road. Essex-based developers Churchgate Ltd will deliver it.

This looks set to be a real victory for commuters. It proves we were right to keep fighting for more parking at Dover Priory.

Network Rail dithered for months before letting us down, but we weren't there for long.

This car park will ensure local people can commute and travel conveniently – another crucial step in building a better future for Dover and Deal.

I will continue to make the case for more spaces, but there is room to expand and add decks when demand dictates it.

Churchgate has been working with Network Rail about using adjacent land which would increase the capacity to around 140 spaces.

The Network Rail-owned land was valued this week and Churchgate has confirmed an intention to buy it. Their managing director told me it will definitely be completed by the end of the year.

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Where is the new car parking? Planning permission has been granted - Dover needs additional parking at Dover Priory?
- Diane French

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05 JAN 2017

Let's make Brexit Britain work for Dover and Deal

Happy New Year! After a year of huge change, what lies ahead for Dover and Deal? The past 12 months brought us Brexit, a new Prime Minister and big questions about the future of Britain.

Brexit brings us great opportunities. 2017 will be about making Brexit Britain work for places like Dover and Deal – not just London. That's why I'll keep campaigning in Parliament on the things that matter to families and businesses in Dover and Deal.

Let's start by making sure Brexit works for the Port of Dover – with stronger border security and trade that continues to flow freely. Everyone knows that the best way to get growth without gridlock on our roads is to boost the Border Force budget. We need a new, state-of-the-art system in place to show the world that post-Brexit, Britain means business. Investment must start here at the Dover frontline.

We need a better deal for motorists too. I head the Fair Fuel campaign in Parliament and last year we managed to stop a rise in the tax you pay on petrol. Now we will be making the case for the Government to invest in more regional road projects like the long overdue dualling of the A2.

We need to build a Brexit Britain that works for everyone – and where everyone makes a fair contribution to pay for the public services we all rely on. That's why I am campaigning to make the super-rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax. Too often it seems like it's one rule for them and another rule for everyone else. I am working to change that and get a better deal on taxes for the hard working classes of modern Britain too.

Meanwhile, the long-running battle to get beds at Buckland Hospital goes on. This has been a really tough struggle. But there is real hope now of success.

We are also working hard to get a new secondary school on the former Walmer Science College site. Too many children in Deal are forced to travel out of town. That's why we need a new school for Deal

I continue to press Highways England to hurry up and get rid of the hated 40mph limit on the A20. They have caved in to our campaign and said they would do it by March. They need to get on with it and deliver.

Brexit was about giving the boot to Brussels. Yet everyone wants to keep Britain open for business. That's why I am working with Calais' political chiefs to deepen our trading links with France. All this means exciting times for Dover and Deal – the gateway and guardian of our land.

There's lots to be getting on with. The hard work starts now. Here's to a fantastic 2017 where we make the most of all the opportunities that now surround us.

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21 DEC 2016

Meeting Xavier to discuss Brexit Britain

Just before Christmas I met with leading French politician Xavier Bertrand at Dover's Best Western Plus Marina Hotel.

Having worked together over the summer to get the Calais Jungle dismantled, we discussed boosting business, tourism and border security in a meeting with the President of the Hauts-des-France region.

Now the migrant camp is gone, we want boost business and tourism in Dover and Calais.

We also discussed the importance of making border security on both sides of the Channel water-tight – and increasing trade without gridlock on the roads.

The hotel's managing director Trevor Bond also raised potential business opportunities between the two regions.

It was fantastic to welcome Xavier Bertrand to Dover with an excellent lunch at the Dover Marina Hotel. We had a really good chat about the amazing opportunities there are to make Brexit work for Dover and Calais.

Mr Bertrand is very keen to work with us in making both Dover and Calais top tourist destinations. He also wants to boost business between the regions.

It just goes to show that Brexit was about giving the boot to Brussels, yet keeping Britain open for business.

This means exciting times for Dover and Deal.

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18 DEC 2016

Working hard to drive forward Dover & Deal's jobs revolution

Back in 2010, I pledged to do everything I could to bring more jobs to our area. And over the past six years we’ve had a jobs revolution. Unemployment in Dover and Deal has fallen 41% and youth unemployment has almost halved.

I'm passionate about getting people into work. For young people, apprenticeships are a fantastic way of getting on the jobs ladder. Not everyone has to go to university to do well in life.

But what about adults – either in or out of work – who are desperate to do something different? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Dover and Deal who would love to learn new skills and get a trade for life.

That’s why I’m pressing the Government to give more funding to further education colleges throughout the land. Post-Brexit, we need to build a Britain which leads the world in science and technology. Where we train people to drive the digital economy forward.

And at East Kent College’s Dover campus, as well as in Sandwich, forward-thinking Principal Graham Razey is doing just that. He showed me round the amazing facilities they have at Discovery Park. Good teaching of subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths is vital for the future of the UK economy.

In Dover and Deal everyone knows that over the next decade we must upgrade our border technology. This means youngsters should have the choice at school to learn the skills needed to man state-of-the-art border controls. Yet adults excited by the idea of a new career must have these opportunities too. That’s why we must have lifelong learning.

My view is this. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you come from – if you want to learn new skills then you must be given the chance. There must be ladders throughout life for everyone.

The most important thing is choice. I back the Government's bid to build new grammar schools. But I believe Ministers should also look at having more faith schools and more skills education at every stage of life. Parents in Dover, Deal and Kent as a whole see grammar schools and faith-based schools like St Edmund’s as engines of opportunity and aspiration. Yet we need skills for late developers and people re-training too.

Dover has two brilliant grammar schools. In recent years pupils at Dover Grammar School for Girls have even got better results than students at Eton.

But exams are not the be all and end all. It is also vital students are given the best possible life chances by having the choice to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry and electronics at every stage of life.

So, to keep driving forward Dover and Deal’s jobs revolution through the digital age, we must keep finding new ways of training people to work in a fast-moving market. That means more choice at school – and more opportunities for adults to learn new skills throughout their lives.

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08 DEC 2016

Burlington House rubble helps build Destination Dover

Huge pyramids of rubble are looming over Dover docks. They grow every day as work forges ahead on the Western Docks Revival. But there is more here than meets the eye.

These heaps of brick and rock, which will be used to build the new cargo terminal, are the remains of Dover's most-hated building – Burlington House. At last the Townwall Street eyesore is being put to good use, for the first time ever.

For decades the ugly empty building towered over Dover. After years of failed bids to knock it down, most people thought they would never see it demolished. Yet last year the demolition diggers arrived – and we had a fantastic summer watching it being torn down, brick by brick.

Getting Burlington House down was a huge victory for Dover. It was a symbol of how things are changing. And now Burlington House will become the foundations of a new cargo terminal at the Western Docks.

But there is far more to the Western Docks Revival than just cargo. Port chief executive Tim Waggott has often stated his ambition for Dover to be the best port in the world. And it looks like strong plans are now in place for a world class new marina to transform the seafront. When finished, people will be able to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat while looking out at, for me, the best view in the world – Dover Castle and the White Cliffs.

I was treated to a tour of the project on Friday – and you can really feel the excitement fizzing down at the docks right now. New chairman Richard Everitt is a breath of fresh air. This is the first time in a long time the port will have a chairman who will work well with the community and be trusted by the community. With strong leadership the port is now driving Dover forward towards a brighter future.

And our docks are also vital to the national economy – accounting for a quarter of Britain's trade with the European Union. So in the Commons on Thursday, I pressed Brexit Minister David Jones to prioritise Dover for funding to keep trade booming post-Brexit. And on Monday I asked Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill to spend more on upgrading our border technology to keep traffic flowing and security tight.

I have also written to Brexit Secretary David Davis, arguing Dover needs investment to grow without gridlock. Our freight traffic has gone up 30% in just three years – with a further 40% rise expected by 2030.

It's clear that Dover is leading the way, handling more trade than any other port and pushing ahead with exciting projects like the Western Docks Revival.

That's why I keep making the case for more investment at the docks – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover.

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08 DEC 2016

Ending the A20 40mph speed limit

The hated A20 40mph speed limit needs to be scrapped as soon as possible. Drivers are well and truly fed up of crawling along at 40mph – especially with foreign lorries dangerously tailgating and hurtling past.

That's why I got everyone around the table last week to make sure they work quickly to make the speed limit variable.

It was a really positive meeting. Natural England and the AONB said they would work closely with Highways England to get things moving. It's great that Highways England listened to our demands and agreed to scrap the 40mph limit. Now it's time to deliver. They must not let the timetable slip beyond March and need to keep a strong grip on this project.

I have also written to Kent Police, asking the force to step up their patrols and presence on the A20 to deter foreign lorry drivers from flouting the speed limit.

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08 DEC 2016

Dogs Trust

I am very pleased to support the Dogs Trust's campaign to protect our pooches from pet passport abuse and puppy farming.

The Dogs Trust has championed canine welfare for more than a century, most recently achieving success with the law requiring compulsory microchipping which came into force earlier this year.

Dog welfare is something I feel very strongly about, and I commend the incredible efforts Dogs Trust has gone to in a bid to improve the lives of dogs across the country over the past 125 years. I pledge to help do my bit to drive change for dogs over the next 12 months and beyond.

Over the years the Dogs Trust has opened shelters for dogs and campaigned against the widespread use of dogs for vivisection and the persecution of stray dogs following rabies scares.

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08 DEC 2016

Fairer Prices At The Pumps

As the cost of oil rises, too often we see prices rocketing at the pumps. Yet when oil goes down, forecourt prices fall like a feather.

This is why, along with fellow Conservative MPs Maria Caulfield and Peter Aldous, in my role as the chair of the FairFuelUK parliamentary group I have made the case to the Chancellor Philip Hammond that the Government look into the concerns people have about forecourt pricing. It is welcome that the Chancellor listened to the concerns of MP's and continued the fuel duty freeze in his Autumn Statement. We must ensure we get the best deal on fuel for hard working families and small businesses in Dover and Deal.

That's why a new independent watchdog like PumpWatch is needed - to crack down on predatory pricing at the pump.

We also argued for more money to be spent on fixing and improving roads in places like Dover and Deal – rather than all the cash being spent in London.

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02 DEC 2016

Sandwich Discovery Park

It was great to see the amazing facilities at Discovery Park in Sandwich, and to discuss the courses East Kent College offer there with their head Graham Razey.

Good teaching of subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths is vital for the future of the local and national economy.

It doesn't matter how old you are, or where you come from – if you want to learn new skills then you must be given the chance. That's why I've been pressing for more funding for further education. We must give people ladders throughout life.

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01 DEC 2016

Working hard to make our borders stronger and more secure

Last week more migrants arrived at Dover in a small craft. The seven men – all believed to be Iranian – were rescued after being spotted shivering in a dinghy off the coast.

This was yet another sign of the extreme lengths people will go to break into Britain. Crossing the English Channel in a small boat as winter sets in is about as dangerous as it gets. Earlier this month a man tried to do the same in a kayak. Amazingly he is thought to have made it all the way from Calais without any help. He survived, as did the seven men in the dinghy last week. But how many are not so lucky? It just goes to show the sheer desperation of so many people to reach our shores.

That's why I met with Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill last week, demanding a strong police presence is kept up in Calais. Of course, dismantling the Jungle camp was a huge step in restoring order at the border. The number of attacks on Dover-bound tourists and truckers at Calais has plummeted – as has the number of migrants smuggled across the Channel through our port. For the people of Calais, their town is at long last returning to normal.

Dismantling the Jungle was a hammer blow in our war against the people traffickers and their evil trade of modern slavery. Closing the camp means the hundreds of children and vulnerable people will now spend Christmas in a safer home, far from the traffickers, rather than freezing in the Jungle mud.

But seeing more migrants turn up at Dover in small craft reminds us that the war to secure our borders is far from over. It's clear that although the Jungle camp has gone – we now need to be more vigilant than ever. Last week's incident underlines the need to ensure we scan our seas for people traffickers, protect our borders and strengthen our intelligence effort with France.

Dover is both gateway and guardian of the kingdom. Making sure our border is strong and that trade flows through smoothly is vital. I wanted to see first-hand how this is working, so I recently visited the border controls at Dover. I was really impressed to see how Border Force officers were able to smoke out a smuggler who had stashed thousands of illegal cigarettes in a car. Our border officers do vital work stopping dodgy goods, drugs and guns from being brought into Britain.

This was a great spot by the officers. But it was also clear to me that, going forward, sharing information on crooks and working together with the intelligence services will become ever more important in keeping our border secure. The only way to truly win the war against the people traffickers is to make it impossible to break in to Britain. Keeping watch over our seas this Christmas will also save lives.

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01 DEC 2016

New Powers For Traffic Wardens

I have written to the Home Office and the Department for Transport, calling for traffic wardens to be given the powers to start fining lorry drivers for brazenly blocking roads.

Under current law, only the police can deal with vehicles parked dangerously or right in front of homes and businesses. However, officers busy dealing with serious crime treat reports of obstructive parking as low priority and fail to deal with them.

Shocking statistics show the number of fines has dropped by 97 per cent in the last 15 years, from more than a million across the UK in 2001 to just 42,800 last year.

It means in places like Poulton Close in Dover, lorry drivers block residential roads for several days at a time. They often leave litter lying around – and some residents come home to find they can not even get to their driveway.

Yet only a fraction of offences are ever dealt with, official crime figures show.

Rather than targeting people who have just nipped into the shops – surely traffic wardens would be much better off ridding our roads of poorly parked lorries, many of which are from overseas. It's common sense that traffic wardens should be doing this, while the police get on with making our streets safer by hunting down violent criminals.

It's time for traffic wardens to step up and rid our roads of these lorries.

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25 NOV 2016

Western Docks Revival

It is important that the Government invests in the Port of Dover – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover. In the Commons on Thursday, I told Brexit Minister David Jones that Dover accounts for a huge chunk of Britain's trade with the EU and must be prioritised for funding.

During a recent visit to the port, I hopped on board a patrol boat to see the impressive work being done on the Western Docks Revival. It was an historic day for our town when the fight to demolish Burlington House was finally won, and now the rubble from the hated building is being used to form the foundations of the new cargo terminal at the port.

Investment in the port is not only important to help build Destination Dover, but also so it can grow without causing gridlock in the town. I have written to the Brexit Secretary David Davis to make the case, highlighting that since 2005, Dover has had the highest increase in traffic of all UK major ports.

Since 2010 Dover has seen a higher growth in units passing through the port than any other major UK port. Freight traffic volumes have risen 30% in just three years. This is expected to rise by a further 40% by 2030.

It's clear that Dover is leading the way, handling more trade than any other port and pushing ahead with exciting projects like the Western Docks Revival. That's why I keep making the case for investment at the docks – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover.

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19 NOV 2016

White Cliffs Christmas

It was great to go along to the fabulous White Cliffs Christmas at the Old Marine Station. It was so good to see families having fun at the ice rink, and the Cockles & Co. bar was also a delight.

Well done to the Port of Dover and everyone else involved in putting on such an excellent event. The event also included a Christmas market, sweet shop, food and drink concessions, and a display of vintage vehicles from the Dover Transport Museum.

White Cliffs Christmas is open at Cruise Terminal One until 2 January, so be sure to go along for a great time to be had by all with friends and family.

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18 NOV 2016

Visiting UK Border Force at the Eastern Docks

It was great to visit UK Border Force at the Eastern Docks to see the fantastic work Border Force officers do catching smugglers.

I was really impressed to see how Border Force officers smoked out one smuggler who stashed dozens of dodgy packets of illegal cigarettes from the Ukraine inside the wheel of a car.

These guys do vital work stopping dodgy goods, drugs and guns from being brought into Britain. They are also on the frontline in the war against the evil trade of people trafficking.

I have since met with Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill, demanding a strong police presence is kept up in Calais now the Jungle is dismantled. It's great that the migrant camp has been cleared and the number of people breaking into Britain through Dover has dropped, but we must remain vigilant at our borders. The French need to stop any new camps from forming – before the first tent is pitched.

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18 NOV 2016

Miners Pensions

Gary Cox, an ex-miner from Deal, has met with me to raise concerns over the miner's pension scheme after former coal workers in Dover and Deal told me they are getting a rotten deal.

I really think this needs to be looked at. A lot has changed since the pensions deal was struck more than two decades ago. Miners worked incredibly hard in tough conditions and they deserve dignity in retirement.

Hundreds of ex-miners live in the Dover and Deal area which is home to Kent's coalfields in villages like Tilmanstone and Betteshanger. I am proud of our coal-producing heritage, as well as the work we have done to bring that to life with regeneration projects like in Betteshanger.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I will be writing to the committee chairman to ask for an inquiry into this matter – and asking to lead it. I have also written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green MP, and invited Mr Cox and several other ex-miners to the House of Commons for further talks.

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18 NOV 2016

Tax Credits Problems

There have been some big issues with HMRC and the payment of tax credits in recent weeks which has been affecting people across Dover and Deal who have been left out of pocket by the blunders of private firm Concentrix.

Gavin Smith and Amy Jones, from Deal, were left with barely enough money to put food on the table for their five children when their payments were wrongly stopped.

They had wanted to add another child to their existing tax credits claim. But instead HMRC closed their claim down and told them it would take "three to four weeks" to process a new one.

Gavin and Amy came to me for help, and we managed to get their claim sorted over the phone, backdating it to include money missing from previous weeks.

I'm delighted for Gavin and Amy, who really were in a desperate situation. I want people in Dover and Deal to know that if they need my help, I will do everything in my power to fight their corner.

I'm very concerned by what's been going on with tax credits, particularly with Concentrix. I will be raising my concerns on the Public Accounts Committee.

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18 NOV 2016

Fundraising for Kelly Turner

Our community has come together in an incredible way to raise money for Kelly Turner. She is now getting close to an amount that would pay for potentially life-saving surgery – but her family say the deadline is "now".

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 a costly procedure, the St Edmund's pupil's family found a facility in New York willing to do it but at a cost of £1 million. So far around £289,000 has been raised.

I am contacting NHS chiefs asking them to match fund what has been raised.

But we might get to half a million just through local action. That is a testament to the hard work, compassion and loyalty of the people of Dover and Deal.

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

To donate to Kelly Turner, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kelly-turner or text 70070 with the code 'KPTF99 £' and the amount after the pound sign.

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17 NOV 2016

Fighting to get families and firms a fairer deal on fuel

A month ago the price of oil rose, sterling went down and forecourt pump prices rocketed. Drivers in Dover and Deal watched with increasing alarm as the dials whizzed round ever faster. Since then the price of oil has fallen and sterling has gone up. Yet pump prices stuck fast at 117p a litre. They have been even higher in some places – I receive many complaints about this from residents of Deal.

This is yet another example of how pump prices jump like a rocket yet fall like a feather. Only when tackled in the media over the weekend have prices started to fall with the supermarkets leading the way.

This is why I got more than 50 Conservative MPs together to make a joint call for action. There needs to be a fairer deal for drivers at the pumps. For too long, greedy big oil companies have been making the fuel market work for them. It needs to work for the hard working people of East Kent. We need a fair deal at the pumps, a transparent market and a crackdown on predatory pricing.

The Government has done a lot. Fuel duty has been frozen since 2011. The notorious fuel escalator of the previous times has been junked. It's now time for big oil companies do their bit too. They must act fairly to drivers, businesses and the hard working classes of modern Britain.

Since the EU referendum it's clear to see how drivers have been taken for a ride. Research by the FairFuel campaign shows that in August, following the referendum, wholesale fuel prices fell by 5% but pump prices didn't move. Then in late September and early October when wholesale prices rose by 5%, pump prices immediately jumped. Most recently, the wholesale price of fuel fell by 4p between October 10th and November 10th. Even with the 3p cut started by the supermarkets this week, pump prices still have further to fall for drivers to get a fair deal at current oil prices.

So it's clear to see why pricing transparency is such a grave concern to drivers. People feel deeply that prices rise like a rocket and fall like a feather as oil prices fluctuate – because that is exactly what happens. That's why we need the Government to set up PumpWatch – a powerful and independent watchdog.

The fuel duty freeze since 2011 has been of huge benefit to drivers in Dover and Deal, saving £126 a year. This makes such a difference as transport is the second largest cost for most families. The freeze has boosted the economy without losing revenue – as the total collected through income tax has risen.

Hard working people in Dover and Deal have a right to live in a country that works for everyone. Let's start driving that forward by giving every driver a fairer deal on the forecourt.

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17 NOV 2016

Latest Jobs Figures

I am really pleased that the latest jobs figures show a 41% fall in unemployment in Dover and Deal since 2010. There are now only 1,316 people claiming out of work benefits. Youth unemployment is also down 47% since 2010, with only 310 youth claimants.

These figures show that our plan is working to get more people back into work. We need to build a Britain that works for everyone with more investment in jobs in towns like Dover and Deal, and more apprenticeships and training for our young people to help them get on in the world of work.

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13 NOV 2016

Remembrance Sunday

I was honoured to attend the moving Remembrance service in Deal on Sunday, and to lay a wreath of poppies at the war memorial at Deal Hospital.

I'm proud so many people in this area are as grateful as I am for the sacrifices our servicemen and women have made. It is difficult to describe, or even comprehend, what these people have done for us. Homes, friends and loved ones were left behind for the sake of perilous missions in appalling circumstances. Millions paid with their blood for the freedom we enjoy today. The respects we pay in return are a mere fraction of what is due.

Cllr Lesley-Ann Burke laid a wreath on my behalf at the Remembrance Sunday service in Dover at the war memorial in Biggin Street.

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10 NOV 2016

Let's deliver Brexit - and make it work for Dover and Deal

Leaving the European Union will bring some challenges yet greater opportunities. We have the chance to create stronger borders, more jobs and money and better prospects for people in places like Dover and Deal.

It's quite wrong for the establishment and big business elite to try and stop us leaving the EU as they have been trying to do. They must listen to what the British people have decided. The people voted for Brexit. Theresa May has the mandate of the masses to get on with it.

In Dover and Deal and across Britain, the decision on June 23 was clear. I was concerned about the impact on our border at Calais. Yet the people decided by a clear majority. That's why I rolled up my sleeves and got straight to work to make a success of Brexit.

The French had threatened to scrap the Le Touquet Treaty if we left the EU. Some Presidential candidates across the Channel are still saying this. Yet they know just as well as we do that axing the treaty would be a disaster for both nations. So I've been holding talks with the French to build a new and stronger cross-Channel pact for the border security of both our nations. Doing my bit to get the upside without the downside.

The first step was to work together to dismantle the Calais Jungle. The camp has now been cleared. Now the police presence in Calais must stay strong to put an end to the migrant magnet once and for all.

The next step is to work closely with the French on building stronger cross-Channel intelligence. We need to know what the evil people traffickers are plotting long before they get to Calais. Then we can catch them, jail them and seize all their assets. Only with the right intelligence and the best technology can we make our border stronger than ever.

It's clear the British people will not accept any form of Brexit deal which fails to take back control of our borders. Yet the vote on June 23 was also about something bigger. It was a revolt against the status quo – against a Britain that for too long has worked for the big cities, big business and the moneyed metropolitan elite.

Brexit Britain must now be about places like Dover and Deal. We must grab this opportunity to revive the local towns and regions of modern Britain.

I am determined to make Brexit work for Dover and Deal. To get more jobs and money for the hard working classes. To support the small businesses who create the jobs. To fix our roads so the port can grow without gridlock.

The decision on June 23 was clear and final. We must get to work on delivering it.

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04 NOV 2016

Porchlight

I was really impressed by Porchlight's hard work supporting people who face the challenges of mental illness and homelessness. They showed me around supported accommodation in Douglas Road in Dover.

Porchlight are so forward-looking in working to get people back on their feet and helping them move on into permanent accommodation. The Porchlight team explained how almost half of the people they helped on the streets last year had a mental health need.

I'm asking the district council how they can do more to support Porchlight's efforts to move people on into permanent housing and independent living.

The charity provides a range of hostel options – from low support schemes to medium and high support versions, staffed up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hostels they provide are made up of single rooms, self-contained bedsits and shared or self-contained flats.

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04 NOV 2016

Meeting Local Business Leaders

It was great to hold talks with local business leaders, at a lunch hosted by NatWest in Dover, about the massive projects coming to the area – and the potential impact of Brexit.

Local businesses know we are trying to build a better future for Dover and Deal. It was encouraging to hear how hard they work and how much they want us to succeed.

I was joined by Sue Robinson from CMS Employment Agency Ltd, Paula Elliott from Pitmans Training, Martin Husk from Coombe Valley Transport Ltd, Simon Crowley from Tersons Estate Agents, Ian Pascall from McCabe Ford Williams, Roland Parry from the Battle of Britain Memorial, and Steve Oxenham from Majestic Freight Forwarding.

We all hope the St James and Western Docks projects will put more money in people's pockets, and more footfall on our high streets. But these small business are the ones who have stuck at it through tough times. They kept the local economy ticking over, often with little or no outside help.

Small and medium-sized businesses have created 3.4 million new jobs in the private sector in the past 15 years. That's ten times more than big businesses. They are the lifeblood of our economy.

I promised to do keep doing everything I can to ensure small businesses get support and investment so our area has the best chance of a brighter future.

It was great Dover's NatWest Bank hosted this gathering. The local NatWest tell me they are deeply committed to backing local business and more local jobs. I want to thank them for getting everyone together.

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03 NOV 2016

Building the homes we need in Dover and Deal

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 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.

Meanwhile, thousands of new homes have been built across the constituency. But 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, raise a family, create personal and lasting memories, and lay the foundations for an even better future for our loved ones.

But for too long people haven't had the supply to meet demand. That's why it's vital we back brilliant projects like the Connaught Barracks development I visited on Friday.

Some 500 homes will go up at the former army barracks. Most of the old buildings have been torn down, with construction of new houses due to start next year. They will be affordable, good quality, have stunning views, and make sensible use of government land that is no longer needed. Many 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 since 2010, while youth unemployment has fallen 60 per cent. These new workers need good homes to live in and decent places to shop.

That's why I was so disappointed when the Campaign to Protect Rural England again blocked plans for hundreds more homes in Farthingloe. This project would bring investment for what could be an outstanding tourist attraction at the Drop Redoubt and Western Heights. We must put the future of our young people ahead of such unelected, anti-democratic campaign groups.

This sort of nimby thinking has already caused problems at Connaught Barracks. Weeks of work and tens of thousands of pounds were lost, I was told, because of an EU Habitats Directive which meant workers had to accommodate a community of bats on site, including their very own "bat hotel".

Everyone knows I have always been an animal lover – but spending that sort of time and money is just absolutely batty. It's also another good reason to leave the EU, which for so long has put red tape in the way of getting things done.

But despite the best efforts of the EU, the CPRE and other out-of-touch cliques – with hard work we'll keep getting things done for Dover and Deal.

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28 OCT 2016

Connaught Barracks Development

It's great to see things really moving forward with the much-needed development at the Connaught Barracks. Huge progress has been made since I last visited, with now more than half of the old buildings demolished. Demolition of all buildings was due to completed by early spring 2017, but owners the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) say it could now be several weeks earlier.

Some 500 homes will be built at the former army barracks when DDS Demolition have finished clearing the site. It will provide hundreds of homes for local families for years to come, and bring in investment from elsewhere. It's another example of how we are working hard to build a better future for Dover.

I was also shown around the development's very own "bat hotel". The HCA has spent thousands of pounds making changes to an old squash court to look after the community of bats found on-site – because of an EU Habitats Directive.

It is just absolutely batty that months of work and tens of thousands of pounds have been lost thanks to this EU directive.

2 comments

Couldn't agree more, Charlie.
- Kenneth Read

Glad to see that finally the land is being used, before the old buildings became more and more of an eyesore. Quite agree with your comment that whilst we need to protect nature and our environment we cannot be continually impeded by crazy and unaffordable policies implemented on us by unelected groups including the Brussels. Let's just hope our government can proceed to adopt the decision of the people to break with the EU rapidly without the interference of our judiciary and the wasted time in interparty discussion in Westminster that will be more about reversing the Brexit decision than objective discussion.
- Elaine Barker

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24 OCT 2016

Dualling the A2

Along with a delegation of Kent MPs, I met with the Chancellor Philip Hammond to make the case for dualling the A2 all the way to the Port of Dover.

For decades the people of Dover and Deal have wanted the road widened – but plans were axed by Labour in the late 1990s. I am determined to get the dualling of the A2 back on the table.

The Chancellor listened carefully to the case which was powerfully put on Monday by 10 Kent MPs in support of my campaign.

I've been working tirelessly to make this happen for the good of Dover, Deal and the nation. The upgrading of the A2 at Dover is long overdue. The Chancellor said he would take our case into account. I was delighted to have the support of all my county colleagues.

But we should be under no illusion of how tough this is. We were sold down the river by John Prescott and the Labour Party. To have real growth in the local economy without gridlock on our roads it's vital we look at dualling the A2.

The A2 needs to be dualled in order to bust the bottlenecks caused by the road narrowing to a single carriageway at Lydden and Whitfield. The Government predicts the amount of roll on - roll off traffic will increase by 101% by 2030. The number of vehicles travelling through the Port of Dover has already rocketed – from 1.6million cars and 730,000 lorries in 1985 to 2.3 million cars and 2.5 million HGVs in 2015.

At the meeting with the Chancellor, we also called for J7 Brenley Corner to be upgraded to deal with capacity issues, and we made the case for the Lower Thames Crossing joining to the M11 as a corridor to the North rather than to the M25 as presently proposed.

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20 OCT 2016

Building a brighter future for Betteshanger, Dover and Deal

Anyone who has turned on the news recently might think all that MP's care about is Brexit. Every day there are more headlines about the ups and downs of leaving the European Union. In my view everyone should accept the referendum result and we should just get on with it.

Yet what matters most to me is rolling up my sleeves and getting things done for Dover and Deal. That's why it was so great to take part in the "topping out" ceremony at Betteshanger Sustainable Parks on Friday. The frame of the £8 million visitor centre is now complete – and we are one step closer to its official opening next spring.

One of my election pledges when I ran to be your MP in 2010 was to get more jobs and money – seeing the £40 million Betteshanger project built is part of that. I was determined we got the 121-hectare site around the former colliery back to its best. That's why I have done all I can to support Hadlow College in its bid to turn the brownfield site into a sustainable energy park, with a focus on green technology and renewable energy. The plan is now to build a campus and small business hub on the old colliery site itself.

Once open, the park will create about 1,000 new jobs in the area. I am urging the Government to make the new park part of the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone.

Getting more jobs and money was not the only thing I campaigned for in 2010. I vowed to stop our Port of Dover from being sold off to the French or whoever. And we stopped privatisation. We fought for a new hospital in Dover. We got it built. We campaigned for more jobs for Dover and Deal. Since 2010, unemployment is down 46 per cent and youth unemployment has dropped by 60 per cent.

But we must not stop there. Dover and Deal are on the up – but it is a work in progress. That's why we're now battling to fix our roads by making sure Highways England stick to their promise to end the 40mph limit on the A20. We're doing all we can to get the A2 dualled all the way to Dover. Burlington House is down but Dover now needs to get Cineworld, Nando's and the other St James' shops built. The Port of Dover must finish its roadworks on time and start building a new marina. The rail line is fixed – but we must make sure Dover and Deal commuters get a good service.

We've done a lot and come a long way together in Dover and Deal. Yet there's no place for complacency when there's so much more to get done.

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20 OCT 2016

De Bradelei Wharf

It's great to hear De Bradelei will be opening its doors again, but we still need guarantees from the former owners that hard-working staff will be paid every penny they are owed.

They lost their jobs without warning or wages. They will have mortgages and rent to pay – and need to put food on the table. In the meantime, the new owners should give these people their jobs back.

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14 OCT 2016

Betteshanger Sustainable Parks

It's great to see Betteshanger Sustainable Parks, and their impressive visitor centre really taking shape. The building is going to be superb – a blend of heritage and innovation in an all-encompassing scheme. It is a real victory for the hard work of so many who have fought so hard to make this project happen.

As part of the "topping out' ceremony, held to mark the building of the centre's frame being completed, I hopped on a bike and used pedal power to help raise an "evergreen" wreath to the top of the building, recognising the centre's focus on green technology.

The official opening of the centre, part of a 121-hectare site which was once a coal colliery, is scheduled for spring 2017. It will house the Kent Mining Museum, the Green Energy Centre, a restaurant, cycle centre, shops, a conference suite and event facilities. The centre is part of a wider £40 million regeneration project.

Hadlow College deserve high praise for the future they are seeking to build. Now schools, residents, tourists and everyone else will be able to enjoy the state-of-the-art facility for years to come.

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14 OCT 2016

Goodwin Academy

It was fantastic to speak to students at the Goodwin Academy about Brexit, my job as an MP and what the Government is doing for people their age. I was really impressed by how much they already knew about politics – and the passion they have for the subject.

The students have been working on a project that looks at the impact the Government's policies have on public services. It's so important young people are engaged with politics. They must play a key part in building Brexit Britain.

They are clearly being taught well at the Goodwin Academy. Great strides have been made at the school in the past year.

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13 OCT 2016

Calais Jungle must be fully dismantled, never to return

At long last, it appears the Calais Jungle's days may be numbered. When I visited the camp last month, I was shocked. It's worse than I have ever seen it. It should have been dismantled years ago. Instead the numbers there have swollen to 10,000 people. Traffickers roam free, feasting on people's hopes of a better life – yet all they sell are broken dreams and a life of modern slavery should the migrants make it to Britain. This situation puts real pressure on our border at the Dover frontline.

We've heard empty promises from the French before. This time they must ensure the Jungle is fully dismantled – and never allowed to return.

What is needed is a clear plan where the British and French Governments work together to put an end to this shameful situation once and for all:

 

 

 

  1. The people traffickers must be caught and jailed. Make no mistake – these evil slave-masters are at the heart of the migrant crisis. Britain and France must work together to smash the trafficking gangs and disrupt their networks.
  2. Protect tourists, truckers and trade at Calais. The attacks we have seen by these chainsaw wielding, tree throwing, petrol bombing criminals on the road to Calais are totally unacceptable. The tragic case of an Eritrean migrant killed in Calais on Sunday by a British driver, who was swerving to avoid an attack by traffickers, shows how dangerous the situation has become. Urgent action is needed to catch these gangs and end their evil trade of modern slavery.
  3. Patrol our English Channel. We should increase the Border Force budget and have more than three boats to guard 7,000 miles of coastline. Last month, three Iranians arrived at Walmer beach in a dinghy and claimed asylum. Migrants are detected landing on the beaches of Kent in small craft on a monthly, if not weekly basis – who knows how many more arrive undetected? We need a bigger fleet of border boats patrolling the Channel and a squadron of Dover drones tracking traffickers from the sky. 
  4. The Jungle should be fully dismantled – now. That means properly dismantled and the people there should be moved to places of safety far from Calais. The French need to be sure people cannot simply sneak back to Calais. The Jungle must never return.
  5. The migrants should be helped back to their home nations. Any asylum claims should be processed and failed asylum seekers should be repatriated.

 

The situation at Calais is appalling. The conditions there are an affront to humanity. That's why it is vital Britain and France work together to help the vulnerable, bolster border security and wage war on the people traffickers. Only then can we properly protect tourists, truckers and trade – and end the evil of modern slavery.

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06 OCT 2016

Victory in our campaign to end A20 40mph speed limit

Dover and Deal are iconic, historic towns. I truly believe the Dover and Deal constituency is the best seat in the country – and one which I love to serve. The life of an MP is a very busy one, much of which must be spent up at the House of Commons in London. But what I really love about my job is getting to meet the people who matter most – the people of Dover and Deal.

That's why it was great to hold street stalls in Dover and Deal on Saturday. The rain may have started to pour, but people were still keen to come up, say hello and let me know about the local issues affecting them.

Everyone was delighted we had fixed the Dover to Folkestone rail line way ahead of schedule. This is such a vital route for people from Dover and Deal. That's why I worked relentlessly to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

People were pleased the French have heeded my call to dismantle the Calais migrant camp. We must keep up the pressure and make sure they actually do it this time. People were also supportive of my plan for a new Dover Patrol to shield our shores from people traffickers and tackle illegal immigration.

There was also much positive feedback on the huge fall in joblessness in Dover and Deal since 2010 – especially in youth unemployment. Getting people into work is one of my greatest passions. That's why it's so important the Government spends more money on places like Dover and Deal, creating good jobs for youngsters when they leave school.

But there was one issue for Dover and Deal which everyone I spoke to on Saturday agreed needs sorting urgently – the A20. People were delighted to hear Highways England have caved in to my campaign and are finally ending the 40mph limit on the dual carriageway to Dover.

But they also urged me to press the Port of Dover to hurry up with finishing their roadworks on the A20 along the seafront. Drivers said they were fed-up of being stuck in gridlock on the way to and from work – and were being forced to drive through Dover town instead.

My greatest fear is that these roadworks will drag on way past the scheduled completion date. This is why Highways England should step in and make sure the Port of Dover has a plan to see the works are completed as soon as possible.

Much has been done over the past few months. Highways England's vow to end the 40mph limit on the A20 is a great victory for people power. Yet we need to see it through, make sure it happens and get the Harbour Board's A20 roadworks finished too.

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06 OCT 2016

Support for New Dover Patrol

My plan for a new Dover Patrol has been backed by a top military general and a former Border Force boss.

Major General Julian Thompson, a former Royal Marine and a Falklands veteran, and Tony Smith, director general of Border Force until 2013, believe that a new patrol led by the Royal Marines would help tackle people traffickers and prevent migrants landing on our shores in small craft.

Just last month three Iranian migrants landed on Walmer beach in a dinghy – the latest of several such incidents on the Kent and Sussex coast.

Like the people of Dover and Deal, General Thompson and Mr Smith can clearly see how more must be done urgently to shield our shores from people traffickers and tackle illegal immigration. We must guard our English Channel and catch these criminal gangs of slave-masters on the high seas.

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01 OCT 2016

Dover & Deal Street Stalls

It was great to meet people in Dover and Deal at my street stalls on Saturday. I listened carefully to what they had to say about how they were being affected by local issues.

People were delighted we had fixed the Dover to Folkestone rail line way ahead of schedule – and that Highways England have caved in to my campaign and are finally ending the 40mph limit on the A20. But residents in both Dover and Deal also urged me to press the Port of Dover to hurry up with finishing their roadworks on the A20 along the seafront. Drivers said they are fed-up with being stuck in gridlock on the way to and from work – and are being forced to drive through Dover town instead.

My greatest fear is that if these roadworks are not finished by Good Friday, we could see a repeat of the traffic nightmare on July 23 where families were stuck in 14-hour queues without food, water or toilet facilities. This is why Highways England and the Port of Dover must work together and make sure the A20 is sorted by Easter at the latest.

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29 SEP 2016

We need new Dover Patrol to catch traffickers on high seas

Last weekend three migrants in a dinghy landed on the beach at Walmer. They were spotted by a man out walking his dog. Visiting the scene I was left deeply concerned that there will be a tragedy on the English Channel with rougher seas as winter approaches. The three men in a boat turned out to be Iranian and have claimed asylum.

So it is welcome that President Hollande this week said he will dismantle the Calais migrant camp. Yet we've heard it all before. Last time, the French Government made a half-hearted attempt and dismantled a small section. The numbers simply grew ever more quickly to the current 10,000. It is vital to the future of Dover and Calais that the Jungle is dismantled.

It is no good President Hollande seeking to play the blame game on this dreadful situation. He says Britain must "play its part" in managing the migrant crisis. Yet we have already made a strong financial contribution. British taxpayers have paid tens of millions of pounds for walls and fences in Calais.

It's now a greater priority to invest in border security at Dover – to find people who are being trafficked and contraband at our docks. The arrival of yet another dinghy from France highlights the need to invest in security on the English Channel too. Migrants are found landing on the beaches of Dover and Deal in small craft on a monthly, if not weekly basis – who knows how many more arrive undetected?

What is needed is a clear plan on which both the British and French Governments work together to put an end to this shameful situation for once and for all.

The Jungle should be properly dismantled and the people there moved to places of safety far from Calais. President Hollande says this will happen and it is welcome. Yet they need to be sure the people there won't simply sneak back to Calais.

The migrants should be helped back to their home nations. Any asylum claims should be processed and failed asylum seekers should be repatriated.

The people traffickers must be targeted. Make no mistake – these evil modern slavers are at the heart of this crisis. Britain and France must work together to target the trafficking gangs and smash their networks.

We should protect tourists, truckers and trade at Calais. The attacks we have seen with chainsaw wielding, tree throwing, petrol bombing traffickers are totally unacceptable. There is a real danger of a tragedy.

And we must set up a new Dover Patrol on our English Channel. We should increase the budget for the Border Force and ensure we have more than three ships to guard 7,000 miles of coastline.

With strong cooperation and a clear plan, Britain and France together can restore order at the border for good and beat the people traffickers. Ending the evil trade of modern slavery is the most important battle of our times.

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24 SEP 2016

New Defibrillator for Deal

It was great to meet with campaigners from HeartStart to celebrate the installation of a new defibrillator at Deal Town Hall.

More than £2,000 was raised by HeartStart for the vital piece of lifesaving equipment.

It's taken months of hard work fundraising and campaigning to get this defibrillator. So it's great to see all the effort has paid off and Deal now has this vital piece of lifesaving equipment.

I was glad to help Beverley-Jane Last, a Deal Community First Responder and HeartStart trainer, and her fellow campaigners get the defibrillator for Deal. Thanks to her hard work, and of all the local Community First Responders, more lives will be saved.

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23 SEP 2016

Dover Harbour Board need to give dates for the new marina build

I was pleased to meet with Richard Mahony, who runs White Cliffs Boat Tours at the North East Quay in the harbour, to hear about how he takes thousands of tourists on trips around the Dover coast every year.

But Richard told me he only has until January 1 to leave before his current dock is filled and replaced with a new cargo terminal. Dover Harbour Board has not offered Richard's business a location at the new marina.

The Western Docks Revival project must deliver for the people of Dover. That means boosting tourism in the town as well as trade through the docks.

Motorists have put up with months of roadworks as part of this project. It is only right that Dover Harbour Board gives a guarantee that the result will be worth the wait. That means setting out a clear timetable on when work on the new marina will start.

They must also guarantee the location of a new station for the Dover Lifeboat before the North East Quay is filled in, and confirm their commitment to connecting the seafront to the town by working with the district council to build a footbridge over the A20.

In order to build Destination Dover, people must be able to easily walk between the new marina, the cinema and restaurants at the St James development and shops in town.

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23 SEP 2016

Building a future for our young people

When I speak to young people in Dover and Deal, they tell me one of their biggest worries is being able to afford to buy their own home. It was much easier for their parents to get on the property ladder than it is for them. And now many younger people are finding it hard to save while paying rent – or are having to move back home with their mum and dad.

That's why it's so important we build more homes. And why I condemn outfits like the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England who work to stop homes being built in Dover town. Despite the best efforts of this organisation, the number of new builds started in Dover and Deal last year was still double the UK average. The trend continued this year, with 167 new homes started in the first two quarters of 2016.

But buying a home is not the only thing young people in Dover and Deal worry about. We have some of the brightest students in the country. Pupils at Dover Grammar School for Girls recently got better results than Eton. But too many look at their job prospects in Dover and Deal after university and decide they will have to move away – too often to London – in order to get on in life.

Young people in Dover and Deal who work hard should be able to get on and buy their own home in the place they grew up. I want Dover and Deal to be a place where our bright young people want to live, work and raise a family of their own.

But for too long Britain has worked for the jet-set elite of the capital, not the hard-working kids of districts like Dover and Deal. Piling more cash into London at the expense of the towns and regions will just make matters worse. It harms our community when our bright young people are swallowed up by the London vortex.

This cannot go on. We need to fix the way our economy works. And it can be done. I recently visited Euromotive, a brilliant small business in Dover which is looking to expand locally. I was hugely impressed by the highly-skilled metalwork being carried out by apprentices at their site in Poulton Close.

The way we help build more success stories like Euromotive across the country is by helping small businesses in the regions, not big business in London. By investing in places like Dover and Deal, creating good jobs so bright young people can get on. By having more skills education – like plumbing, carpentry and electronics – in schools. By building more homes for young people.

We need to build a Britain where towns like Dover and Deal are leading the way in building our nation's future.

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22 SEP 2016

New Housing Starts

Young people in Dover and Deal who work hard and get on should be able to buy their own home.

It is great news that the number of new builds started in Dover and Deal in 2015 was 394, almost double the UK average of 222.

The trend continued this year, with 167 new homes started in the first two quarters of 2016.

The growth in housebuilding in Dover and Deal gives young people a greater chance of buying their first home.

This is despite the best efforts of the out-of-touch CPRE to thwart the building of new homes at Farthingloe. The CPRE have worked hard to stop the homes our young people need getting built. Yet we will continue to do all we can to build a Britain that works for our young people.

I want Dover and Deal to be a place where our bright young people want to live, work and raise a family. In order to build a Britain that works for everyone, it is vital the Government invests in places like Dover and Deal. That means creating good jobs and building enough new houses for people to live in.

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22 SEP 2016

Latest Jobs Figures

There has been a jobs revolution in Dover since 2010. I'm delighted with the latest figures which show big drops in overall unemployment and youth unemployment.

The number of people out of work in Dover and Deal has fallen 43% since 2010 to 1,267. Meanwhile youth unemployment has plunged by a whopping 58% to 270.

I'm passionate about getting people back into work. That's why it's vital we keep creating apprenticeships for our young people and give them the best opportunities in life.

We need to build a Britain that works for the people of Dover and Deal. That means more investment in the towns and regions – not for the benefit of London's jet-set elite.

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20 SEP 2016

Southeastern Timetable

Several extremely worried parents contacted me over Southeastern's timetable, which showed that from October 1 the 7.42am Dover to Ramsgate service would be cancelled.

Schoolchildren from Dover, Martin Mill, Walmer and Deal rely on this service every day to get to Sir Roger Manwood's or Sandwich Technology School on time.

Parents said the effect of cancelling the service would be disastrous. They were rightly worried about how it could seriously disrupt their child's education. Axing the service would also increase congestion during the busy morning period.

I wrote to Southeastern chief executive David Statham, expressing my serious concern about why the service must be kept.

I later received assurances from Southeastern that the service would indeed be kept.

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15 SEP 2016

Post-Brexit Britain must work for Dover and Deal

Ask someone in Dover what they want the Government to do now we've voted to leave the EU and they will tell you straight. End uncontrolled EU immigration and stop paying billions to Brussels.

I have long felt that the EU is a toxic, out of touch clique. My only concern about leaving was the risk of the French returning British border controls from Calais to Dover. That's why I have been battling to ensure that we keep a positive relationship with France and make sure the border stays in Calais.

Brexit means Brexit and we need to get on with it. We must deliver on the decision of the British people to leave the European Union and start building a post-Brexit Britain. A Britain that works for towns and regions of our great nation – not just the jet-set elite.

It's clear that the people of Britain voted to leave the EU because people have had enough of uncontrolled EU immigration. They've been promised net migration will be reduced to the tens of thousands. Yet it remains at a sky-high 330,000. As a result of uncontrolled EU immigration, British workers are £450 worse off a year. That's why we must take back control of our borders and end uncontrolled EU immigration.

The British people are also fed up with being dictated to by Europe and seeing their hard-earned cash blown by Brussels bureaucrats. We will be able to invest that money in Britain – but we must not just waste it on big projects that will only benefit the privileged few. It should go on making broadband work properly in places like Lydden and Denton. On vital regional road projects like dualling the A2 to Dover. We should look at securing the future of Manston as well.

For too long Britain has worked for the Philip Greens of this world, not the working-class kids of Dover and Deal. It is the resurgence of the towns and districts which must be the foundation on which post-Brexit Britain is built. A nation where infrastructure investment works for the towns and regions rather than the big cities. A Britain of opportunity and aspiration – where you can succeed in the districts without being forced to move to the capital.

This Government was given the mandate of the masses on June 23 to leave the EU, take back control of our borders and build a Britain that works for everyone. This must start now to give us the security, stability and certainty we need.

Brexit means Brexit and we need to get on with it. The people of Britain voted for us to take back control of our borders and end uncontrolled EU immigration. They voted to end the billions for Brussels. The towns and the districts like Dover & Deal shouted the loudest – that is where the building of the new post-Brexit Britain must begin.

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15 SEP 2016

Grammar Schools

I am backing the Government's bid to build new grammar schools. Ministers should also look at having more faith schools and more skills education in schools. Parents in Dover, Deal and Kent as a whole see grammar schools and faith-based schools as engines of opportunity and aspiration.

Dover has two brilliant grammar schools. In recent years pupils at Dover Grammar School for Girls have even got better results than students at Eton!

Meanwhile St Edmund's is an excellent faith school. I believe the Government should make it possible for there to be more faith schools in Britain.

It is also vital students are given the best possible life chances by having the choice to learn valuable skills like plumbing, carpentry and electronics in school.

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15 SEP 2016

Latest Jobs Figures

The latest jobs figures show unemployment has dropped dramatically in the past six years. There has been a jobs revolution in Dover since 2010. I'm delighted with the latest figures which show big drops in overall unemployment and youth unemployment.

The number of people out of work in Dover and Deal has fallen 43% since 2010 to 1,267. Meanwhile youth unemployment has plunged by a whopping 58% to 270.

I'm passionate about getting people back into work. That's why it's vital we keep creating apprenticeships for our young people and give them the best opportunities in life.

We need to build a Britain that works for the people of Dover and Deal. That means more investment in the towns and regions – not for the benefit of London's jet-set elite.

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15 SEP 2016

Visiting the Calais Jungle

Last week I visited the Calais Jungle. The migrant camp is worse than I've ever seen it. I believe now more strongly than ever that it must be dismantled. I saw a journalist accosted by a migrant, and heard from a Danish woman how she was told to leave the camp because her skirt was too short.

More than 9,000 migrants are believed to be living in the camp, based next to the approach road to the Port of Calais.

One man, from Sudan, told me how he tried to break into Britain every night, only for the French police to return him to the Jungle to try again.

I later attended crunch talks at the Port of Calais alongside Xavier Bertrand, President of the Nor Pas De Calais region, and representatives from Dover Harbour Board, ferry companies and haulage firms. I was shocked to hear first-hand from representatives of haulage companies and the port authorities just how bad things are.

It's important we work with the French to deal with causes of this crisis – not just the symptoms. That means we should spend less time building walls and fences. We need to focus on dismantling the Jungle and helping the people there back to their home nations.

It is vital we protect tourists, truckers and trade from petrol bombing, chainsaw revving, machete wielding traffickers. We've got to target these people traffickers and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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12 SEP 2016

Eastry WI Visits Parliament

I was delighted to welcome 28 members of the Eastry WI to Westminster. It was great to chat to them over tea and coffee after a tour of the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Some members were joined by their husbands – who did not want to miss out on seeing inside the historic building.

They told me we need to get on with Brexit and take back control of our borders. They certainly know their stuff!

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08 SEP 2016

Our trains are back on track. Now it’s time to fix our roads.

The rapid re-opening of the Dover to Folkestone rail line – completed in just nine months – is a remarkable feat of British engineering. It was a joy to once again step on board a London-bound train at Dover Priory on Monday. Commuters have had a tough time since the sea wall collapsed last Christmas. I'm delighted they no longer have the hassle of using rail replacement buses to get to work. Our fight to fix the sea wall just goes to show what can be achieved if people work together and get on with the job.

Dedicated workers from Network Rail and Costain grafted round the clock to get our rail line back on track as soon as possible. As chair of the Sea Wall Repair Task Force, my priority was to make sure there were no bureaucratic hold-ups. And the district council gave permission for 24/7 working. As a result of this teamwork, the repairs to the sea wall were completed three months ahead of schedule.

Highways England should take a close look at how we've restored the rail line – and get on with scrapping the hated 40mph limit on the A20. I have repeatedly called for the speed limit to be made variable, only being enforced when Dover TAP is in place. And last Friday I met with Highways England staff at the Western Heights roundabout to reiterate how frustrating the 40mph limit is for drivers.

Surely it's much harder to rebuild a sea wall than make a speed limit variable? But unlike the swift work of Network Rail, Highways England have spent months dawdling over the A20. Why haven't they got on with the job already and ended this misery for motorists? Drivers are sick and tired of crawling along the A20 while being tailgated by foreign lorries. Unsurprisingly, people are using alternative routes. This means more traffic on the Alkham Valley Road and driving through Capel, creating further gridlock.

I have also urged Highways England to find a way of moving the traffic lights at the Western Heights roundabout back along the A20 and away from Aycliffe. Residents should be able to enjoy a decent night's sleep free from noisy lorries blaring their horns.

The meeting with Highways England was positive, as they finally appear ready to start work. But this is way overdue. Sorting the A20 and the infuriating 40mph limit should be their number one priority.

But we can't stop there. The roads of East Kent have been starved of investment for too long. We must get on with building the M20 lorry park and we need to dual the A2. Meanwhile, Dover Harbour Board need to hurry up and complete their roadworks on Townwall Street and Snargate Street.

Thanks to great teamwork our trains are back on track. Now it's time to fix our roads.

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05 SEP 2016

Euromotive


It was great to meet with bosses of Dover business Euromotive last week to hear about their plans for expansion.

Euromotive, based in Poulton Close, are looking to bring an extra 40 jobs to Dover once they have secured a new location.

The firm, which builds tipper trucks and converts vans into accessible minibuses and front-line ambulances, takes on local welding and manufacturing apprentices every year.

Euromotive is a brilliant local small business. I was hugely impressed by the high standard of work being carried out. It's so good to hear that Euromotive have taken on local apprentices every year, giving these young people jobs for life.

There has been a jobs revolution in Dover since 2010, with unemployment down 46 per cent and youth unemployment plunging by an incredible 60 per cent.

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02 SEP 2016

Dover TAP & A20 40mph Speed Limit

We have waited far too long for Highways England to make the 40mph limit on the A20 variable.

I have again urged Highways England hurry up with scrapping the hated limit. It should only be enforced when Dover TAP is in place.

Drivers are sick and tired of crawling along the A20 while being tailgated by foreign lorries.

Unsurprisingly, people are using alternative routes. This means more traffic on the Alkham Valley Road and driving through Capel, creating further gridlock

When Dover TAP is enforced, lorries are stopped at traffic lights at the Western Heights roundabout. This prevents Snargate Street and Townwall Street from becoming gridlocked. These traffic lights should be moved further back along the A20 to stop parked-up lorries disrupting Aycliffe residents' sleep. Highways England must find a way of moving these traffic lights away from the Aycliffe estate.

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I heard on BBC Radio Kent a couple of weeks ago that the stupid 40mph limit was being replaced by a variable limit for times when congestion was bad. Yet the fixed signs still remain -what's going on??
- Neil Bailey

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02 SEP 2016

Goodwin Sands SOS

It was good to meet with representatives from Goodwin Sands SOS to hear their concerns about the proposed dredging by Dover Harbour Board.

Joanna Thompson and Esme Chilton from campaign group Goodwin Sands SOS told me how they fear the dredging may have a negative effect on tidal patterns, endanger the local grey seal population and risk disturbing the final resting place of more than 2,000 known plane and ship wrecks.

It is of the utmost importance that the issues raised by local residents are properly listened to and that Dover Harbour Board engages with the local community.

I will be meeting with the Marine Management Organisation to press the case that local residents must be involved in the decision making process, and I will be presenting Goodwin Sands SOS' petition to Parliament.

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01 SEP 2016

Time to tackle causes of Calais crisis

For years the Calais migrant camp has grown. The number of people crammed into the so-called "Jungle" has now swelled to a shocking 9,000.

For years hard-working truckers have had their journeys to the Port of Calais disrupted by evil people traffickers. The lengths they will take to stop lorries so migrants can get on board become ever more extreme – from setting fire to trucks, to lobbing petrol bombs, to cutting down trees to block the route and threatening drivers with chainsaws and machetes. The current situation is shameful. Last week I met with truckers in Calais faced with these daily attacks. They agreed that Britain and France must work together to dismantle the Jungle camp.

For years the French and British Governments have tried in vain to tackle the ever-growing problem. They have built fences to keep migrants away from the docks – but the attacks on trucks now just occur further down the road. They have built containers for migrants to stay in – and thousands more have arrived. These attempts at ending the chaos have only targeted the symptoms. It is now time to tackle the cause of this crisis and build a better future for Calais and Dover.

Dismantling the camp will remove this magnet for migrants, conned into heading for Calais by evil people traffickers. These ruthless gangs take thousands of pounds from vulnerable people to get them to Calais. Some are smuggled into Britain to a future in brothels or fruit fields where they will work to pay off huge debts to the people traffickers. It is a form of modern day slavery. We need far greater and tougher action to tackle these traffickers. They must be caught and jailed – put behind bars for at least 20 years and have all of their assets seized. We urgently require a new Dover Patrol to guard the Channel and catch the people traffickers. Let's protect our truckers and the vital trade they carry between Britain and France.

Some French politicians have talked about scrapping the Le Touquet treaty, which establishes British border checks at Calais. But the French know just as well as we do that maintaining these juxtaposed border controls are as much in their interest as ours. Axing the treaty altogether would be a disaster for France and Britain. It would simply force the ferries and tunnel to become border guards - meaning higher ticket prices and longer queues.

And enabling people to apply for UK asylum from France would be a big mistake. It would just make Calais a greater magnet for migrants.


It's time to negotiate a new, stronger deal with France. Let's restore order at the border by dismantling the Calais Jungle camp, smashing the modern day slavery peddled by evil people smugglers and protecting our truckers.

Britain and France must work together to deal with the causes of this crisis once and for all.

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01 SEP 2016

Farm Smells

The Government needs to finally puts a stop to the foul stench plaguing the district every summer.

Some people were forced to stay inside during the sweltering heat last week because of the disgusting smell coming from some farmers' fields.

It's unacceptable that people are unable to open their windows during the sweltering summer heat because of this awful smell.

This problem could be solved by simply making sure farmers are required to plough their field within 24 hours.

I will be writing to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs demanding they put this into law.

5 comments

This is something farmers have always done and it is rather unnecessary for you to take up this cause when there are so many other more important things to work on. I cannot support you on this at all and using inflammatory language as in 'demanding' is childish. The smell is awful when we have warm weather, but it lasts a very short amount of time. A law about this is ridiculous and you are wasting the Departments time and your own..
- Peter

People in Deal and Walmer also have suffer the stench for the past month, we would welcome anything to help get rid of the smell quickly and efficiently
- Michael

I live in Walmer and have been forced to stay indoors by the terrible smell. Windows and doors have had to stay closed. The smell was also bad in Deal Town centre. Not a good impression on visitors.
- Doreen

The smell is manure, a time honoured way of replacing nutrients in the soil depleted by growing crops. People have become so far removed from the source of their food sometimes they forget this. Yes it smells but personally I like my food so am prepared to put up with it.
- Pauline

the pong is back and contrary to the impression given in the above account i do not believe the offending smell is the result of farmyard manure but is caused by paper mill waste which if spread at the time it is delivered is not a problem but if left piled up in the field for months to fester will stink when then spread but also at the time of spreading should be masked by a covering material and worked into the soil within a specified time.
- trevor

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26 AUG 2016

Great to have our railway line back on track

Christmas Eve was a dark day for our community. On that day the railway sea wall at Dover failed. The line has been closed ever since. We all hoped a running repair could be made. Sadly it turned out that a full rebuild would be necessary. Usually these projects take two years from start to finish. Network Rail and their civil engineers Costain worked out how they could do it in a year. Incredibly the line is planned to reopen on 5thSeptember. The rebuild will have taken just nine months.

The failure of the sea wall caused real problems for everyone. Our area has been seeing a sharp increase in commuting to work in recent years. This has been a real boost to our local economy. The break in the line caused made in hard for people to get to work and set back the great change we have been seeing. The beach by the Shakespeare Cliff was washed away in the big December storms. This meant that the foundations of the sea wall were exposed. They were undermined and that caused the failure of the sea wall.

It had been hoped that a running repair could be made. Unfortunately the Victorian timber viaduct the rails originally ran on had rotted away. An entirely new viaduct had to be built on massive piles driven deep into the chalk bedrock. The new viaduct will be protected by rock armour rather than a traditional sea wall. It has been a very big job and cost over £40 million.

Everyone thought the rebuild would take to the end of the year. Yet I quietly hoped it could be quicker than that. My first priority was to make sure there were no bureaucratic hold ups. The Sea Wall Repair Task Force I chaired worked hard to clear all obstacles. The District Council gave permission for 24/7 working. This teamwork made sure repairs were taken forward as quickly as possible and that any obstacles were overcome right away. I went through the project timetable in detail with Network Rail and Costain, looking to see what glitches might arise. Finally we were incredibly lucky with the weather and the last concrete for piling came to the site the week before the traffic chaos we suffered a month ago. All this meant that the rebuild has taken the shortest possible time.

I am incredibly proud of this achievement. I know how Commuters have suffered and the line reopening so quickly will make an incredible difference to their daily lives. We will always have challenges to overcome. Yet it's how we deal with the challenges and overcome them that matters most. More is happening in Dover & Deal now than for many decades. I am so optimistic about the change we can make together. There is a real sense of momentum – let's keep it up!

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18 AUG 2016

Stronger, safer borders will boost our economy and international trade

The problems we have suffered with gridlock in East Kent and Dover is damaging to the national economies of both Britain and France. Last year's Summer of disruption in Kent cost the UK economy £1 Billion. Yet the activities of people-traffickers and continued existence of the Jungle at Calais also takes a heavy toll on the economies of both nations. The regular problems at the border underline the need to see new action to promote international trade through borders that are safe and secure.

Recent events make it increasingly clear more needs to be done to counter people-trafficking, protect lorries travelling across the English Channel and the Calais Jungle needs to be cleared. The Government should seek a new agreement with France to tackle the problems, while boosting international trade across the English Channel.

Following a spate of attacks at Calais, it's urgent to ensure that lorries have greater protection at Calais. We need to stop people breaking into Britain, and fitting lorries with anti people-trafficking devices would help do that. The Driver Buddy detection device invented by local entrepreneurs is a great example of the sort of system that will detect people hiding in the backs of lorries. The Government should be doing more to incentivise the adoption of on board smuggling detection devices like the Driver Buddy.

There needs to be a greater focus on countering the people traffickers. Our border is in Calais. So our border officers can catch people being smuggled in lorries at the UK's Calais controls. This they do with much success. The people they catch are handed over to the French Police. Unfortunately the French Police simply release them to have another go. This has got to change. It's important we work with France to ensure people-traffickers and people being trafficked are detained in France rather than released to have another go.

The Calais Jungle is a magnet for people-traffickers who exploit the most vulnerable. The French Police are also concerned that it is a magnet for terrorists too. The time has come for the Jungle to be cleared. This needs to be a priority for Britain and France. This way we can counter the people-traffickers and better protect the most vulnerable people who are in the Jungle and similar camps in Northern France

It's a big worry that lorries bound for Britain have been subjected to attacks at Calais. There needs to be more protection for lorry drivers. Lorries and our international trade need to be able to pass safely through the border without let or hindrance.

We are leaving the EU. Yet our closest trading partner will always be France. It's in the interest of Calais and Dover, France and Britain that the Jungle is cleared and the people-traffickers are defeated. That's why there needs to be a strong agreement with France that will have stronger borders and the promotion of international trade at its heart.

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18 AUG 2016

Latest Employment Figures

I am delighted by the drop in unemployment and youth unemployment in our area.

The latest jobs figures that show there has been a 46% fall in unemployment in the Dover and Deal since 2010. There are now only 1,226 people claiming out of work benefits in our area. Youth unemployment is now down nearly 60% to 225.

These figures show a steady decline in unemployment in Dover and Deal, which is great news as we strive to build a Britain that works for everyone.

I will continue to fight for hard working people and do all I can to see unemployment continue to fall as we leave the EU and write the next chapter of our island story.

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11 AUG 2016

A New Dover Patrol will beef up our border security

Security in the English Channel is not strong enough and needs to improve. There is a rising threat from people-trafficking by yachts and small boats. Meanwhile there are concerns that cross Channel transport should have increased protection to counter the rising terrorist threat.

There is no doubt that the cross Channel people-trafficking situation is becoming increasingly serious. Just last week, five Iranians were trafficked to Winchelsea in Sussex. Last year a man was running a people trafficking operation from France to Kingsdown near Deal. It's increasingly clear that the case of the traffickers caught red handed transporting Albanians to Dymchurch is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

The National Crime Agency is warning of a growing small craft people-trafficking problem and has discovered an extensive people-trafficking trade being run via 200 social media sites. Last week the Home Affairs Select Committee reported that the increased security at the main Channel Ports has caused trafficking gangs to seek out alternative trafficking routes. Border Force's ability to counter this problem has been condemned in a damning report by their independent inspector. But then it's hard to protect the UK coastline when you have just three ships. We need urgently to beef up our defences.

A century ago the Dover Patrol kept the White Cliffs of Dover and the English Channel safe in time of war. Now we need to declare war on the cross Channel people traffickers with a New Dover Patrol. We need more ships on patrol in the English Channel. The Government should recall Royal Naval units patrolling the borders of Mediterranean nations - who have more border control vessels than we do - to keep the English Channel safe and secure.

France takes the threat of attacks on ferries and cross Channel shipping very seriously. So should we. It is now urgent for the Government to review its threat assessment and consider joining France in having armed guards accompany ferries – as well as review security arrangements in the Channel Tunnel.

Dover & Deal has a long and proud history of association with the Royal Marines. The New Dover Patrol should be led by the Marines as they have great expertise in countering people-trafficking and attacks on shipping around the World. The Marines have the unique set of skills required to do this job and we now need to see their skills deployed at home.

The strengthening of security between Dover and Calais has led to a rise in people-trafficking by small craft. We must now take control and stop the people-traffickers. We cannot be complacent about the threat from ISIL/Daesh and terrorism. We should join France in having armed guards accompany ferries as well as ensure the Channel Tunnel is as secure as we can make it. Finally we need to increase the Budget for Border Force and celebrate the incredible work our border officers do in working so hard to keep us all safe and secure.

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04 AUG 2016

Brexit Britain succeeds from Dover

Last week's traffic chaos highlighted the decades of under investment in the roads and transport infrastructure of East Kent. Yet it also highlighted that improvements are needed in how border controls are managed too.

It's clear we need more investment on our roads and port infrastructure. It would cost less than £500 million to have motorways to Dover, upgrade port infrastructure and dig a tunnel. Put this alongside the £1 Billion cost of last year's disruption and the case is clear. Add to that the gridlock Dover suffers all the time and the fiasco of families going on holiday suffering 14 hour plus tailbacks last week and it's obvious this is a priority. Take into account the likelihood that this will all keep happening as port traffic continues to have double digit annual growth and it's clear this is a necessity.

So what is the response on the Department for Transport? Their proposal is Operation Perch. This would institutionalise last week's fiasco with added toilet facilities. Dover would be cut off and local ambulances and emergency services would be hampered. It is a bad plan and risks lives. What the Department for Transport should be doing is to use Operation Stack on the M20 for lorries as that is tried and tested. The Dover TAP system is not suitable for a form of Operation Stack. The TAP system is intended to keep gridlock out of Dover and should continue to be used for that. The A20 is simply not fit for purpose for a permanent queuing system. Operation Perch is not the answer.

France's response to the terror atrocities she has suffered has been to declare a state of emergency. French Border checks have been stepped up. However there are simply not enough French border officers to go round. This left France's border officials overstretched. So booths went unmanned, long queues built up.

We already have close co-operation and information sharing with France. There is a strong case for Britain and France to deepen our joint border controls and security co-operation. So when French border officers are thin on the ground at Dover, British border officers should be able to help. Next week, when there is a rush back from Calais, French border officers should be able to help British border officers when queues build up. It is in the interest of everyone that tourists and truckers are sped through the ports to their destinations – particularly Calais and Dover.

Those lorries travelling through the port are the lifeblood of our international trade. Traffic fiascos at Dover don't just hurt the town – they hurt the national economy. This is why our roads, infrastructure and border security need greater investment to cope with the annual increases in port traffic.

1 comment

I would also like to see Dover/Folkestone/Deal/Sandwich also get a fair crack of the whip with regard to HS rail, but its all focused on Canterbury isnt it! And where is the station car park so long promised - I dont commute from Dover as I cannot guarantee that I can get to the station and park up, and even when I do get a train, I am on the 6 coach HS overcrowded stopper! (Ebbsfleet). Utter joke the transport infrastructure in SE Kent, the service we are given, and the lack of influence it seems our local representatives have compared to other parts of Kent - always has been; cant see it changing either, and that is why Dover is dying.
- Steve Coleman

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28 JUL 2016

Latest Employment Figures

I am delighted to see unemployment and youth unemployment continue to fall. The latest jobs statistics that show the number claiming the main unemployment benefit has fallen 44% in Dover and Deal since 2010 to 1,177. Youth unemployment is now down 60% to 235.

Today's employment figures show that because of the economic decisions we have taken over the past six years, the fundamentals of our economy are strong and will continue to be strong as we negotiate our departure from the European Union.

There has been a steady decline in unemployment in Dover and Deal and I am doing all that I can to make sure this trend continues in our corner of Kent.

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28 JUL 2016

My plan for investment to restore order at the border

Once again Dover was plunged into traffic chaos over the weekend as 14-hour queues built up at the port. The delays were caused by French border officials. Our Government was warned this situation was developing. It should have been prepared. But the Government was caught sleeping at the wheel. This must change.

It's always the same story. Every year we have a nightmare on roads, whether it's caused by French workers striking, bad weather or even migrants storming the Port of Calais. Every year the people of Dover suffer and feel trapped. We can't carry on like this. It's wrong for people to be stuck for 14 hours in the sweltering heat. Nor can be stand by while the lifeblood is sucked out of Dover. We need a plan to restore order at the border.

We must start by ridding Dover of gridlock. We can no longer tolerate tailbacks in the town. Port traffic needs to be moved into a tunnel. This would mean the people of Dover would be able to move around. While the Dover town centre could once again be connected with its stunning seafront. Dover town would be transformed - the pride of the White Cliffs and a Jewel in the crown of the nation.

Road capacity has to increase. Dover is the busiest ferry port in the World. Incredibly the A2 into Dover from the North is just a single track road. Meanwhile the M20 peters out at Folkestone and turns into an A road. We need full motorways, able to handle port traffic at all times.

After last year's annual Kent traffic crisis, the Government finally agreed to build a car and lorry park. It's still on the drawing board. They need to stop dithering and get on with it. We need the park to get traffic off the roads when disaster strikes. That way the people of Kent will be able to go about their business while weary travellers can get food, water and go to the toilet.

Finally it's time we had major investment in the port and town of Dover. The British Government has handed over tens of millions of pounds to Calais to help bolster their borders. Now we need investment at home. The port must be able to hold more traffic and do security checks more efficiently. The Government must help connect our town to our harbour. Yet investment cannot stop at the seafront. It must be used to transform our town centre and give us the foundations upon which to build something great. To create Destination Dover. Our town has a proud history. Now it it's time to build its future.

To restore order at the border: Dig a tunnel. Fix our roads. Bust the gridlock. And make Dover the destination it deserves to be.

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24 JUL 2016

Dover Patrol Memorial

I was proud to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Dover to acknowledge the great sacrifice members of the Dover Patrol made to keep Britain safe during the First World War at the Dover Patrol Memorial on Sunday.

Around 2,000 members of the Dover Patrol lost their lives during the First World War.

It is important that we remember everyone who died. We will never forget the sacrifices they made for our country.

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22 JUL 2016

Niftie's Social Supermarket

I am pleased to see such a great social enterprise like Nifties set up in Dover. Niftie's is a new social supermarket in Dover giving local people access to essential food items, with prices ranging from 10p to 75p.

The social supermarket, founded by local resident Nathaniel Richards is looking to tackle food poverty in the area by purchasing reduced products, such as short-dated or damaged food which is still perfectly edible and selling it on at a reduced price. Nathaniel is providing a great service to local people in need.

Almost 12 million tonnes of food is wasted in Britain each year, and a lot of this is perfectly good food supermarkets have thrown away. It is a fantastic idea to repurpose this food to help tackle food poverty.

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22 JUL 2016

Kent Miners Festival

It was really good to catch up with the new chairs of the Kent Miners Festival to take a look around their great heritage centre, and to hear about their plans for upcoming events.

They do really important work making sure that our rich local mining history is kept alive for future generations. The centre was opened in March 2013, and it is open on Tuesday's 10am to 2pm, so that everyone can go and learn about an important part of local history.

Do pop along the the centre this summer to check out the exhibition and show your support.

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22 JUL 2016

Having our border in Calais works for Britain AND France

Our community of Dover and Deal is on the front line. Our history is steeped in the safety and security of the nation. Once again the need for that security has been in the spotlight this week. In the House of Commons I voted to ensure we renew our nuclear deterrent. The Trident system will mean we maintain continuous deterrence at sea. This is a potent reminder to our enemies that there is still a Great in Britain and that we take our security very seriously. The vote for Trident was carried by a huge majority – it was only opposed by the Scots and a few hard left Labour MPs.

The terrorist attack in Nice shocked us all. Once again we stand with France in the face of a horrific atrocity. And stand with France we must. Whether we are inside or outside the European Union. We have a long history of working closely together. The Entente Cordial and deep bonds of amity have tied our two nations together for over a century. We work closely together to tackle terrorism and combat the evil of human trafficking. We have long worked together to keep our borders safe and secure too. The Le Touquet treaty is an important part of those bonds and our shared security. These are points I made to the Home Secretary in the House of Commons this week. The new Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, was swift to make the point that National Security is not the province of the EU and that we will continue to work bilaterally with France for our shared security.

During the EU Referendum campaign there was much concern that France might axe the Le Touquet Treaty. That our border might move back from Calais to Dover. Yet events have shown that this treaty and our close co-operation works for both our countries. This is the case I am making to our French counterparts. In addition I plan to visit the authorities of the Nord Pas de Calais Region to discuss the future and how our partnership with Northern France may be deepened.

The case I will make is that we should not simply keep our border in Calais. We should do more to deepen our trading links too. The economies of Kent and Northern France are closely linked. It's not just about borders and transport. We have much linked industry and commerce. As we leave the EU we should not give up on that. If anything we should have more of it

The future of our relationship with France should not simply be one where we search for security and to keep our border in Calais. We should also be on the front foot seeking out opportunities for more jobs and money where we can share more trade and greater prosperity.

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14 JUL 2016

Learning about cancer prevention from Cancer Research UK

It was incredible to hear how many cases of cancer could be prevented by better lifestyle choices from Cancer Research UK. We have a worrying level of obesity in the Dover area, and that, combined with people smoking and not taking regular exercise is contributing to more people developing the disease.

More than four in ten cancer cases in the UK could be prevented each year, with smoking and obesity being the biggest avoidable causes of the disease.

In the local area covered by the South Kent Coast CCG, around 1,320 people a year are diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, around 620 people a year die from the disease.

Local obesity is a big concern, with 60% of people in the South East currently overweight or obese. In the Dover area, 64% of adults and 32% of children in year 6 are overweight or obese. Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer.

Over a quarter of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, with smoking costing the Dover area an estimated £31.4 million a year.

While there are no guarantees with cancer, it is clear from the numbers that by encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles, we can help prevent cancer. Thinking about what we can all do to improve our lifestyles really matters.

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14 JUL 2016

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has a bold vision of a Britain that works for everyone

The amazing thing about our democracy is how robust it is. It is just three weeks since the EU Referendum. Since then we have seen markets going into free fall threatening an economic crisis. That swiftly followed by a political crisis as the Prime Minister resigned. Next the Labour leader was effectively rejected by his party's MPs. Then at the height of the storm, a ray of sunlight shines through the clouds with a new Prime Minister to restore order.

Not just to restore order. Our new Prime Minister Theresa May has clear plan to implement the referendum and take us out of the EU. She has a powerful vision for a Britain that works for everyone. Most refreshing of all is that we will be able properly to control immigration and our borders. In the past decade or more there has been too much change, too fast. Too many people came to this country too quickly. There has been anger at how this has pushed wages down. People feel strongly that the balance was all wrong. We need to see more done to help people get off benefits and into work. To ensure there is greater access to skills so everyone can have the chance to aspire, work hard and get on in a level playing field. Not a playing field where big business can do what they like. A playing field where business is expected to invest in their staff and develop people's careers. I hope that we will now see more action to stop welfare tourism, health tourism and fairer housing lists in the years to come. I know how deeply it is felt that people who have contributed and paid into the system should be prioritised by our public services.

Theresa May has set out a bold vision of a country that works for everyone. For too long there has been too much emphasis on big business. Too much emphasis on the values of the metropolitan elite. And too much emphasis on the vortex that is London. The city that sucks everything in and from which little seems to emerge to benefit the rest of us. We now have an opportunity to build a Britain where towns like Dover and Deal can be more in focus. Our towns and villages reinvigorated and an emphasis on small business is a huge opportunity. Let's not forget that small businesses have been the job creation engines of Britain as big businesses have moved jobs abroad over the past decade.

We can have real change and a rebalancing of our nation. As we start to write the next chapter in our island story, building a country that works for everyone must be our key priority. It is an incredible opportunity for our area to be stronger and dynamic in the years to come.

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10 JUL 2016

HM Royal Marines Memorial Concert

I was proud to be on Walmer Green again to honour the lives of the Royal Marines who lost their lives in the IRA bomb at the Royal Marines School of Music in 1989 at their memorial concert.

We will never forget the 11 marine musicians who died, and the 11 who were injured on that terrible day in 1989. It is right that so many people gather on Walmer Green each summer in their memory.

The Corps of Drums of the Band of HM Royal Marines never disappoint. I really enjoyed their impressive performance.

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09 JUL 2016

Betteshanger Sustainable Parks at the Kent County Show

It was good to see Betteshanger Sustainable Parks at the Kent County Show. They were generating bike-electricity, promoting sustainable energy and the importance of riding and walking.

Betteshanger Sustainable Parks is a great place to ride and walk. The development there is well under way. They put on a great demonstration of how clean, sustainable electricity could be generated from bicycles. It was fantastic to see everyone getting stuck in and having a go.

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07 JUL 2016

Rajmahal Tandoori in the Tiffin Cup

I am delighted that the Rajmahal Tandoori was awarded a highly commended in the Tiffin Cup.

The Tiffin Cup is Parliament's award for the best South Asian restaurant in Britain. The competition raises money for charity every year; this year money is being raised for World Vision and WaterAid.

Raj and his team have been justly recognised for all of their hard work running a fantastic restaurant at the heart of our community

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07 JUL 2016

Rolling up my sleeves to stability, security and strong borders

The last week has seen upheaval in the future of Britain. The nation has voted to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister has resigned and the Conservative Party has started choosing a new leader. The Labour Party has entered into a leadership crisis so severe that it could split.

So these are interesting times. We need to make the most of the opportunities of leaving the European Union. This means we need to look at the European Laws that we want to throw overboard. We need to think how we can make our country leaner, more competitive, less highly regulated and more successful. Most of all we can now put a stop to free movement and control our borders. We alone will decide who may and may not enter Britain.

Yet there are also great risks. It's going to be important that we continue to attract investment into the UK. We must make sure there is no period of uncertainty. A clear direction is needed as quickly as possible so that businesses can plan ahead and we can all have confidence in our new journey and our economic future.

There are two ways we could leave the EU. One is with a deal on the single market. The other is we simply go it alone with a friendly wave. Already the nature of the discussion is taking shape. We cannot have free movement. The Europeans could agree to that if we join the single market for trade in goods only. Yet our national advantage is in services. So we would want a single market deal for goods and services without free movement. If no deal can be struck that we can leave and tariffs can be put in place which are set under a World Customs Treaty. Either way we need to be swift about it and settle the position so that businesses and investors can have certainty.

What does this mean for our community? The French may try to return the border to Dover. There are noises on this. However I will always fight to ensure we have a strong Channel Shield in place to keep our border strong. In my discussions with French counterparts, I always underline that the border in Calais is in their interests as much as our own.

The bigger change would be if we left the single market altogether. We would be back to having customs controls in Dover. It would be a challenge space wise to do this as so much trade comes through the port. Customs clearance and freight forwarding would reappear as enterprises although traffic through the port could reduce.

Great changes are taking place. In the next year or so it will come clear on what terms we will leave the European Union. A new chapter will be written in our nation's story.

1 comment

Food for thought here Charlie. An excellent discussion of our future outside the EU. Like you I favour us continuing to work with the EU, but also our commonwealth partners such as New Zealand and Australia. We need to maintain close trade links with the EU and there needs to be a discussion about borders; we need to support those migrants from war torn zones who genuinely want to be a part of our Nation, whilst weeding out those who are not genuine migrants/ refugees/ asylum seekers and are out to cause terror. We also need to look at how we support lone children coming into Britain as they have seen terrible sights in Syria and need to be housed with supportive foster parents and continue their Education so that they can rebuild their lives The work of the UK Borders Agency and Customs needs support and recognition.
- Tracy Jane Wilton

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01 JUL 2016

Buckland Hospital's First Birthday

It was a very proud moment for me to be asked to cut the cake to celebrate Buckland Hospital's first birthday. It seems like just yesterday I was being shown around the new hospital when it opened to patients last June.

Everyone said that we'd never get a new Hospital in Dover, but we all pulled together and now we have a brand new, state of the art hospital in the heart of our community. The hospital now provides specialised, local services that save people thousands of journeys to Ashford and Margate.

There are now plans to build a new health and social care hub on the site of the old hospital, which will help provide even more much needed care in our community. I will continue to campaign for a fairer share of healthcare for Dover and Deal.

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01 JUL 2016

Gomez Ltd

I received a positive message on the future of Britain's food imports from Gomez Ltd, a local fruit and vegetable packing firm. By investing in innovative new technology and equipment to boost production, they are well prepared for the years ahead.

Touring the plant, I saw where local workers were packing fruits and vegetables such as mixed peppers and summer peaches for distribution. The investment

in new and innovative produce sorting and packaging equipment is now boosting production. Not only does careful investment help provide local jobs, it also helps feed our nation.

As well as food packaging, Gomez also recycle produce that is not suitable for packaging, for example if it is misshapen, into oven ready products to cut down on food waste. They also handle several products exclusively grown by their growers for Tesco stores up and down the country, including Samphire which is sourced from local growers when it is in season.

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01 JUL 2016

Dover Food Bank Tesco Community Food Drive

Many congratulations to the volunteers at Dover Food Bank for collecting food supplies for people in need at their most recent Tesco community food drive.

The generosity of people has been incredible. I was deeply impressed they managed to collect 672 kilos of food just in one day. Some shoppers even donated entire trollies full of dried and canned goods to be redistributed among the community.

Tesco have pledged to top up 20% of the total collected at each food drive with a cash donation.

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30 JUN 2016

Britain will prosper in the years to come

What a week it's been. On Thursday we voted to leave the European Union. On Friday the Prime Minister resigned. On Monday nearly 50 Labour Shadow Ministers resigned. We now need to regroup and move forward.

The referendum turnout was huge. The result was close, but clear. We are leaving the European Union. So I will roll up my sleeves and do my bit to make it work. There are three key priorities for our community: to protect jobs, secure trade and ensure our borders remain safe and secure.

Make no mistake, since 2010 we have come a long way together. Our community is the closest to mainland Europe. Dover is the gateway and the guardian of the Kingdom. We successfully fought to stop our port being sold off to the French or whoever. We have worked hard to secure over £100m of investment to our area. Unemployment has near halved. I will do all I can to see we continue to keep up the momentum.

Our area is currently undergoing great renewal and I am passionate that it should continue. The repair of the railway later this year will give us all a real boost. Especially is if it comes sooner than Christmas. As you can imagine I am doing everything possible to urge the quickening of these works so that Dover & Deal are able to get back on track as fast as possible.

Over £100 Billion of trade rumbles through Dover each year. Trade travelling through the port has been growing in double digit figures every year. This trade is the economic lifeblood of our nation. Dover is the largest passenger ferry port in in the World. This is not going to change. Europe will continue to be our major trading partner. It's important that we continue to have cordial relations with European nations and with France, just across the water. I will work tirelessly to promote trade and investment.

Border security is also important. The Mayor of Calais will continue to make noises, as she always has. Yet we have increased the number of border officers since 2010. We have stepped up our patrols at sea. A crack team of sniffer dogs finds people hiding in lorries. Drones are even now taking to the air to aid the strength of our borders. I will do all I can to ensure that our border remains safe and secure.

So it's been an incredible week. There has been nothing like it for over 70 years. Yet our path is clear. We must stick to our long term economic plan which has delivered jobs and money for our nation. We will continue to trade with Europe yet seek new markets across the rest of the World. We will maintain the protection of our borders. We will not only endure. We will prosper in the years to come.

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26 JUN 2016

Nonington Dolphins

The Nonington Dolphins have made such a great contribution to life in the village, so it was great to come together to celebrate their 20th birthday with a garden party at their hall in Nonington. It is such an impressive milestone.

The event was attended by both current and past members of the youth group and their families.

Thank you to Pauline Catterall and her team for putting together such a great afternoon for all the family.

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25 JUN 2016

Temple Ewell School Fete

At Temple Ewell School fete, students put on an Olympic-style opening ceremony flying the flag for different nations. There were plenty of stalls, a raffle, tombola, homemade cakes and a coconut shy.

Thank you to everyone who put so much time and effort into putting on a wonderful afternoon for all.

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23 JUN 2016

Employment Figures

The latest employment figures that show the number of jobseekers in Dover and Deal has fallen 45% since May 2010.

There are now 1,219 people claiming out of work benefits in the constituency, 37 less than in April 2016. Youth unemployment is also down 57% from May 2010 to 255 jobseekers.

This latest set of jobs figures make it clear that our long term economic plan is working.

It is important that we help more people into work. It is great to see that youth unemployment has more than halved since 2010. A steady job and a decent wage packet is important in making sure our young people get the best start in life.

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18 JUN 2016

Armed Forces Day

On Saturday I joined veterans in Pencester Gardens to celebrate Armed Forces Day. The day included exhibitions highlighting the work of the armed forces, displays of military vehicles, living history re-enactments, and music from the bandstand.

We should always celebrate the important work our armed forces do. It was a lovely afternoon out for all of the family. Thank you to the Hellfire Corner Association for putting on such a great event.

The new Dover branch of the Royal British Legion is such a success. They are already incredibly active, and growing quickly.

It is important that we give our armed forces and veterans past and present the support and acknowledgment that they are all heroes and deserve our thanks and respect for all of the sacrifices they have made to secure the future of our nation.

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17 JUN 2016

Visiting the Clarendon Hotel

There are some great businesses who have found a home at The Clarendon Hotel. The hotel offers a place to stay the night after a day by the sea, together with a choice of fine dining and an incredible bar chock full of craft beers. I am so proud of the business innovation we have in Deal and the Clarendon brings together so many great offerings that I left wondering if I'd walked onto the set of Master Chef!

I was shown around the hotel's newly refurbished rooms and suites, as well as their impressive sea view by Carolyn Barrow, the general manager, as well as the bars, cafes and restaurants that have taken up residence on the ground floor.

The Burger Brothers franchise, which also runs pop-ups in Dover and Canterbury are based at The Clarendon. Owner Karl Wozny and his team serve up all American classics in the restaurant and fine craft beers, including and local Time & Tide brews in The Tap Room bar.

Dine India is also located at the hotel. Proprietor Syed Hayder has brought tandoori fusion to the town, combining takeaway and restaurant favourites with ancient Moghul dishes.

I had a great pint of Time & Tide brewed just up the road in North Deal at The Tap Room. If you have not been yet, be sure to go along and enjoy a great evening out.

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17 JUN 2016

Dover Counseling Centre

The Dover Counselling Centre does amazing work supporting people in distress up and down the land. I was deeply concerned to hear that developers working on the St James' Development are causing problems.

Cracks are appearing in the walls and above the doors of the listed building they operate from. Counsellors report that pictures are falling from the walls and dust falls from ceilings as deep piling works rock the building.

The centre, which was set up in the wake of the Zeebruge ferry disaster now receives an average of 370 calls a week from all over the country and receives around 7,000 referrals a year.

It is important that people have a calm place to come and seek solace and refuge. Clearly that is not going to happen when the building is rocking and pictures are falling off the walls.

I have written to Legal and General, Kier Group and Dover District Council to press for a solution that will restore a tranquility where counselling can be carried out in a calm atmosphere.

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16 JUN 2016

Make sure you vote and have your say in next week's EU Referendum

The European Referendum will take place next week on June 23rd. It will be an historic event and currently looks set to be a very close result. The last time we had a vote was some four decades ago. Since then the EU has changed a lot. Back then we joined the Common Market - now we are members of the European Union. So it is right that we should all decide whether we want to Remain in the EU or Leave.

Ahead of the referendum I organised public meetings in Dover and Deal. There were speakers for the Remain and Leave sides. Hundreds of local people came and asked searching questions. In Deal people asked about the risks to jobs and investment. They raised their concerns about how the political instability would be managed if we voted to Leave. Immigration and border control worried many, as did human rights rulings. People were angry about tax dodging by large international businesses and whether people from Turkey might be allowed to come to Britain.

In Dover people were concerned about border security and small boats coming across. They wanted to see our border stay in Calais. There was a feeling that every party leader was for Remain which seemed at odds with the closeness of the likely result. Some asked what does Dover get from the EU while others highlighted the feeling that the EU is an elite grouping lacking democratic control. If we did Remain in the EU people thought that the EU had to reform - to become more democratic than it currently is.

Now, I have always been highly sceptical of the European Project. Yet I worry about the impact on jobs and money from the inevitable disruption of we vote to leave. It's also very important we see our border remain in Calais. The French on both the left and right sides have been pretty clear that if we vote to Leave they will return our border to Dover. Were that to happen it would be very bad for our area. We all remember how things were before the 2003 Treaty that brought in juxtaposed controls.

In this referendum I have the same vote as everyone else. Each of us must make our own decision. To decide what is best for us, our family and for Britain. We must think of the future we wish to make and the kind of country we want to hand over to our children and grandchildren.

I hope these debates have been be useful for everyone to get a better understanding of the issues and hear what both sides have to say. Above all do make sure you vote on June 23rd and have your say on our nation's future.

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12 JUN 2016

Dover & Walmer Lifeboats

I really enjoyed the opportunity to be able to see first had some of the truly great work the Dover & Walmer lifeboats do helping keep people safe along our coast.

I want to thank all of the volunteers who give their time to provide this vital service. Recently their crew rescued 30 children from the foot of the White Cliffs of Dover.

It is important that we are all diligent in the water and on our beaches. The RLNI do wonderful work, but in many of the rescues they carry out each year could be easily prevented.

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10 JUN 2016

Roads to success in Dover & Deal

Last Summer, Kent was in complete gridlock due to the chaos in France. Operation Stack stretched through the county. Goods on board lorries were lost. The UK economy lost £1 Billion. Kent MPs have been campaigning for a lasting solution to the Operation Stack problem. We collectively demanded action from Ministers. As a result, the Government agreed to invest £250 million in lorry parks to deal with this long standing problem.

These events do not seem to have been noticed by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee. Last week the Labour Chaired Committee published a report saying the whole thing has been rushed. After all, we've only been campaigning on this for a decade. Thankfully Ministers have not been deflected by this poor piece of work.

Kent's MPs have been working hard to deal with the long standing transport problems we suffer from. The Government looks set to take the M20 lorry parks forward and the park will hopefully move forward to the next stage soon. The next hurdle is to make sure the TAP system stays in place. The M20 lorry parks are intended to deal with the problem of traffic on the M20. The TAP system deals with the separate problem of gridlock in Dover. I am working hard with Dover District Council to ensure that the Department for Transport grasps this.

We also need to make the TAP system a variable speed limit system. At the moment it operates as a speed trap that is there more for revenue raising than traffic safety. Kent Police make lots of money, yet it does nothing to stop accidents as all the foreign lorries simply ignore the cameras. I am meeting the Roads Minster this week to press the case for the TAP system to be given a variable speed limit. The 40mph speed limit should only apply when the TAP system is operational.

The M20 with lorry parks and an A20 with an effective TAP system will make an incredible difference. Yet that is not the whole story. We still need to get the A2 dualled. This depends on the Lower Thames Crossing. More precisely what the Lower Thames Crossing is for. Some in the DfT see it as a form of M25 relief road. That would not be the most effective use of the proposed crossing. A better use would be for the crossing to be a major route from the Channel Ports to the East and North East of England. For that the A2 will need to be dualled and that is the case I am making.

In the next five years our long standing transport woes could be brought to an end. M20 lorry parks, a sensible TAP system, the Lower Thames Crossing and a dualled A2 would make an incredible difference to the quality of life and transport in Dover & Deal.

3 comments

The 40mph speed limit on the A20 frightens me so much that I have stopped using it. Lorries don't stick to the speed limit and I fear for the safety of my children in the back of my car. Please get rid of it.
- Gemma Forbes

The speed limit on the A20 is crazy. Foreign lorries ignore it which puts local people who stick to the limit at risk. Having a lorry zooming along at 70mph in the fog and hitting someone driving at 40mph is an accident waiting to happen.
- Sarah Mapps

I travel the A20 twice weekly doing 40mph and have had lorries flashing me as I am not going as fast as the driver wanted. They then go into the outside lane and proceed to break the speed limit. There should be a holding bay in Dover Port to cover the Ferries and Channel Tunnel, this is to catch all the foreign vehicles that have committed an offence by not paying tolls and fines through out the country. Once they reach the boarders then they should pay their dues like the rest of us. The British seem to be the ones paying the foreign fines as well as our own.
- Maggie Carter

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06 JUN 2016

EU Referendum Debates

It was great to see such a big turn out for the EU referendum debates I held in Dover and Deal to help local people decide which way they are going to vote in the upcoming referendum.

Over 100 people attended the debates and took the opportunity to ask questions of both the campaign to leave and the campaign to remain.

I felt that it was important to make sure my constituents had the opportunity to ask questions of both campaigns and to hear both sides of the argument.

Everyone has one vote in referendum, and every vote counts.

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27 MAY 2016

Amy Temple Almshouses

I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear stories about how St Margaret's used to be from Mrs Wilcox, who will be 100 in November and is one of its oldest residents. She showed me around her lovely home on my visit to Amy Temple Almshouses.

Amy Temple Almshouses do a fantastic job providing save and secure homes, friendship and support to older women in the heart of our community. Some of the older houses need work, which will hopefully be carried out soon with the help of local people. Improvements to existing homes could really boost residents quality of life.

Thank you to the team at Amy Temple Almshouses for all the work they do in the village, and for the ladies for welcoming me into their homes.

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27 MAY 2016

Caesar Court

It was an honour to be invited to open Caesar Court, which is a great addition to our community. It is important that there are the facilities in place to support people so that they can continue to live a full and active life as they get older.

Caesar Court will offer 81 modern one and two bedroom apartments available through a mix of shared ownership and affordable rent, with 24/7 on site care facilities, as well as private gardens, a cafe, hair salon and restaurant.

It was also great to see how Caesar Court has integrated into the local community. I was really impressed with the artwork students from East Kent College have created for the building, including a special commemorative mosaic in the lobby.

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20 MAY 2016

Chalk It Up Inspiration=Dover

I was delighted to be invited to open Chalk it Up's Inspiration=Dover event. The evening really showcased the best of local talent, and put Dover on the map for the arts in Kent.

Over the past 10 years Dover Arts Development have engaged 126 artists in thirty projects in Dover, and have brought over £600,000 in finance to the district.

The event showcased 14 artists who have been working closely with Dover's museums and heritage sites in a programme of music and visual art. The event also included exhibits that are due to be installed around Dover for both visitors and local people to enjoy.

It is important that we work to promote the arts locally in any way we can. Not only does local talent deserve to be promoted, but the arts encourage tourism that is important to our local economy.

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17 MAY 2016

Deal EU Town Hall Debate

I will be chairing an EU Town Hall debate at the Astor Theatre in Deal on Thursday night. (May 19th).

The public meeting will start at 7pm. The speaker for Leave will be Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. The Remain speaker will be Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove.

This public meeting is a chance for everyone to come along, listen to the case for Leave and the case for Remain. It is a chance to ask questions and for everyone to have their say.

This is a great opportunity if you still have not decided which way to vote. I am also chairing another EU debate on 2nd June in Dover, and it will be great to see people come along to either event.

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17 MAY 2016

The Great British Food Campaign

We are incredibly lucky in Dover and Deal to be home of some fantastic local food producers, such as Solley's Farm who provide delicious ice cream across the county, and Tilmanstone Salads, who pack all of the fresh salads for Marks and Spencer food halls up and down the country. Both companies also provide essential local jobs for local people.

These are just two of the producers we get to enjoy locally, not to mention all of the great farms, restaurants and pubs serving our area.

The Great British Food Campaign is a five year campaign, lead by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss. It is designed to give a boost to british chefs, entrepreneurs and producers working with local, British ingredients both at home and abroad.

Total British food and drink exports reached £19 billion in 2014. This helps support over 65,000 jobs in food and drink manufacturing.

It is important for our economic future that we do all we can to support our local farms, producers and food businesses and really embrace our rich local food heritage.

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12 MAY 2016

Why I condemn new planned protests in Dover

On the next bank holiday weekend fascists and anti fascists plan to assemble in Dover. They plan to have demonstrations and counter demonstrations on the Saturday and the Sunday of the Bank holiday weekend. This is unacceptable.

So far this year Dover has had to put up with demonstrations on a monthly basis. Fascists and anti fascists come to Dover to use the town as a battleground. They claim to be people of principle. Yet the truth is they are simply opposite sides of the same coin of hatred and extremism. They come form London and beyond and they seek a weekend of violence by the seaside.

Last week I met with the newly elected Police Commissioner Matthew Scott. I asked him to use all the powers at his disposal to limit these matches. The fascists want to march to the port. They seek to block up the entrance to the Port. This is not in our national interest. It would damage our local and national economy. For this reason I have made the case to the Police that they should use their powers to route any marches away from the A20. In addition it is clearly necessary once again to ensure there is effective, proportionate and appropriate policing. That may mean over 500 officers. The cost of that is astronomical. It is we the Kent taxpayer who have to foot the bill to ensure these extremists are kept at bay. That too is unnacceptable. The cost of these demonstrations should be paid for by the fascists and anti fascist groups that plan to descend on Dover.

These latest demonstrations highlight the need for a change in law. People want to see us keep our "right of protest". Yet there must be balance. The people of Dover and the businesses of Dover have a right to go about their daily lives. Without disruption and without being hampered by the selfish and uncaring actions of an extremist and violent minority. A peaceful demonstration every so often is one thing. A potentially violent demonstration every month harms our town, our local economy, damages our civic renewal and is wholly disproportionate. I am making the case for reform to the Home Secretary.

This right to demonstrate is, of course, all down to European human rights laws. You won't hear much sympathy for the people of Dover from human rights lawyers. European human rights seem too often to be a charter for criminals and the undeserving.

Yet human rights laws should be there to protect us. They should not continually be used as a weapon against the people. We need to see the reform of human rights laws with a British Bill of Rights. We need a human rights code we can have confidence in. A code that will protect the innocent law abiding people of Dover and enable all of us to go about our daily lives without let or hindrance.

2 comments

I would like to see a parliamentary petition Everyone entitled 1 demonstration a year 2 demonstration - sum required to monitor and evaluate cost of police, to the local economy etc 3 or more demonstrations - organisers meet all costs identified in the evaluation - taken on average cost of each demonstration.
- Mike McFarnell

Thank you for making the case for these events to be banned. But you're incorrect to say that these demonstrations are down to human rights law. English common law was for centuries based on principles including that rights exist unless they are specifically prohibited by law. Incidentally, the English Bill of Rights dates back to 1689. The Chief Constable does seem to be interpreting the law in a way which limits the right of Dovorians to go about their business this weekend. It's crazy to address that by making more legislation. Instead, we all need to mount a more effective argument for these marches to be banned next time.
- Stella Quentin

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06 MAY 2016

Tiffin Cup 2016

I am delighted that The Rajmahal in Whitfield has been nominated to represent Dover and Deal in The Tiffin Cup. It is a testament to all of the hard work and dedication Raj and his team put into running this great restaurant in the heart of our community.

The Tiffin Cup is an annual competition to find the best South Asian restaurant in Britain. It is not only a great opportunity to highlight some of the great South Asian restaurants we have here in Britain, but the competition will also be raising money for World vision and WaterAid, which are two great charities.

Good luck to Raj and his team.

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06 MAY 2016

Capel-le-Ferne Primary School

It was great to have the chance to visit Capel-le-Ferne Primary to see all the great work they are doing to give their pupils a rounded education in such a wonderful setting.

I sat down with David Metcalf, the head teacher, and his deputy to discuss the work the school is doing to teach pupils about our nation's values and culture. I also went on a tour of the school, meeting children from every age group in their classes.

I was deeply impressed by the school's plans for an outdoor theatre area as part of their wider plans to expand their outdoor education facilities. The school has done great work raising money for this project so far.

It is important for our children to learn about their local environment and gain essential skills outside of the classroom.

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06 MAY 2016

Come to the public debates I'm hosting on the EU Referendum in Dover & Deal

The European Referendum on June 23rd will be an historic event. For much of the last Parliament I campaigned for an in/out referendum. The last time we had a vote was some four decades ago. Since then the EU has changed greatly. What was a Common Market has become a much expanded affair. So I believed it was right that we should have a national debate and a national vote on whether we want to Remain as part of the EU or to Leave.

Ahead of the referendum I have organised public meetings in Dover and Deal. There will be speakers for Remain and for Leave. I will chair each meeting. The public meeting in Deal will be held on 19th May at the Astor Theatre, starting at 7pm. The speaker for Leave will be Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. The Remain speaker will be Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove. The public meeting in Dover will be held on 1st June at Dover Town Hall, starting at 7pm. The speaker for Leave will be Chris Heaton Harris, Conservative MP for Daventry. The Remain speaker will again be Peter Kyle MP. This is a chance for everyone to come along, listen to the case for Leave and the case for Remain. It is a chance to ask questions and for everyone to have their say.

Now, I have always been highly sceptical of the European Project. Yet it is my belief that the deal David Cameron did won significant protections for jobs and our finance expertise. We got rid of ever closer union and we will never have to join the Euro. It's also very important we see our border remain in Calais. The French on both the left and right sides have been pretty clear that if we vote to Leave they will return our border to Dover. We're that to happen it would be a disaster. We all remember how things were before the 2003 Treaty that brought in juxtaposed controls. It would be an ill wind that returned us to those dark days.

That is my thinking. In this referendum my vote counts the same as yours. Each of us will need to make our decision. To decide what is best for us, our family and our great nation. We must think of the future we wish to build and the kind of country we want to hand over to our children and grandchildren.

I hope these debates will be useful for everyone to get a better understanding of the issues and hear what both sides have to say. These should be interesting evenings in Deal and Dover. Do come to these debates, ask questions and have your say. Above all make sure you vote on June 23rd and have your say on the future of Great Britain.

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Unfortunately I will not be able to attend but would be interested to know if the out campaign are aware of the price increase it would put on UK imports to the EU, (our biggest market) because of all the extra documentation required ie additional transit forms, cert of origin etc and all the other items required prior to Eu membership. I spent all my working life in shipping and forwarding and believe you me it was not easy to transport in those days. If exports cost more jobs are lost and the economy suffers. Also has anyone thought of the possiblity of 3 Million retired ex pats returning because no health care will be available to them in Spain etc. I think our health service just could not cope with more of us pensioners or a lighter side we would probable have to change 20 million cars with rear EU number plates.
- Mike Whitehead

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02 MAY 2016

River Parish Community Day

I really enjoyed the opportunity to stop by River Village Hall to find out more about some of the local groups and organisations in the village at the River Parish Community Day.

Arranged by the parish council, the event was an opportunity for residents to see how they can get involved in their community. Over 20 local groups and organisations such as the local tennis, bowls and gardening clubs were in attendance. The day also included a series of performances and demonstrations through the day, such as showcases from the local karate club and a troup of belly dancers.

The event was also a chance for the Parish council to promote their plans for a new local play area and new equipment for the River Recreation Ground.

It is always great to see so many people looking to get involved in the area where they live, or to join in with local sports groups. Thank you to the Parish council for arranging the community day.

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01 MAY 2016

Friends of Kingsdown Play Park May Day Fete

I was really pleased to see so many local people to turn out to support the Friends of Kingsdown Play Park in their efforts to raise money for new community play facilities at their May Day Fete. It was an honour to open the event.

The fete was organised to help raise money for a new play area in the village. The group are working with the Parish council to help raise money for the new facilities.

Plans for the new childrens play area were on display. Over a quarter of the money needed has already been raised, and all of the proceeds from the fete went towards the fund. Previous fundraising events have included a sponsored walk, quiz night and scarecrow trail.

The fete featured a range of traditional stalls including pony rides, cream teas and a coconut shy.

It was a fantastic afternoon of fun for all the family. Congratulations to the organisers. And thank you to everyone - from individuals to community groups and local businesses - who put some much time and effort into arranging the event.

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01 MAY 2016

Dover Rotary Beer Festival

It was great to see so many people turn out to support the Dover Rotary Beer Festival at The Fox in Temple Ewell to help raise money to fight polio.

The festival ran over the Bank Holiday weekend, and featured a range of local and guest beers and ales, fantastic pub food and live music, all for a good cause.

Thank you to everyone involved in such a great event, and for The Fox for allowing their great pub to play host to the festival.

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29 APR 2016

Campaigning to secure a fairer share of healthcare for Dover & Deal

Getting the highest quality healthcare matters to us all. This is why I am proud that the Government has been increasing spending on the NHS in real terms since 2010. Powers have also been shifted from NHS officials to GPs on the front line. This has had a real impact on making sure we have got a fairer share of healthcare for our community.

For before 2010, Dover's much loved Buckland Hospital had been decimated for a decade. Wards had been axed one by one. Services had been removed. Meanwhile there was a secret plan to withdraw services from Deal Hospital, leaving Deal Hospital teetering on the edge. Our community campaigned to get a new Dover Hospital built. I was proud to march with the late, great, Reg Hansell who fought so hard for the new hospital. In Deal thousands of people took part in a survey to demand more services for Deal Hospital and packed out St George's Church to the rafters. The result? We got the new Buckland Hospital project back on track. We saved Deal Hospital and we're getting more services.

Yet an important part of this is that we had the support of our local GPs who now hold the NHS Cheque book and insisted that we received a fairer share of healthcare.

Now it's our turn to support the GPs. GPs here who want to expand and modernise their practices do not get the support they should. I am working to change that. GPs here do not get a fair share of funding. Bizarrely GPs in well heeled and healthy West Kent get more funding that ours do. This is despite a far higher healthcare need here in Dover and Deal. The funding gap will be £1.5m by 2020. That's not right and I am taking this up with the Health Secretary so we have the resources we need.

We also need more GPs. There are lots of GP vacancies locally. This is bizarre as £100,000 a year goes so much further here than it does in London or Surrey. Plus we have the sea, the White Cliffs, amazing countryside and far less congestion. Yet the GP trainers at the Kent, Surrey and Sussex deanery keep sending new doctors to places like Surrey which already has too many GPs. I am pressing for things to change to help our local doctor practices get the GPs they need.

The NHS has had real increases in funding every year since 2010. This has only been possible because we have a strong economy. We have benefitted with the New Buckland Hospital and more services in Deal. Now I am doing all I can to ensure we get a fairer share of funding for our local doctors and that our local doctors' practises are able to recruit the GPs they need to care for us all.

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23 APR 2016

Why our asylum policy must be driven by compassion

Recent attempts by migrants to break into Britain by lorry and dinghy have caused renewed concern. Thousands of attempts are made every year. Thanks to our border controls being in Calais, the overwhelming majority do not succeed. They are caught by vigilant ships that patrol the English Channel. By eagle eyed border officers. And by highly trained dogs who sniff out people hiding in the fruit and veg.

Yet the problem of the Calais Jungle remains. There are some who say that we should simply take everyone from the Jungle into Britain. This is the view of Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party. Others say we should take in unaccompanied children who are in Europe. This is the argument made by Save the Children.

This would not be the right approach. First because it would let European countries off the hook for their responsibilities. Especially France. If you are in Europe, you should surely be seen as being safe. Yet mainly because if we take in more people from Europe we will encourage more to come. That's more people who will make dangerous journeys that too often end in disaster. We all remember little Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body lay limp, face down on the beach. Yet loss of life like this is frequent. Too frequent. Just the other day another overloaded boat sank with more lives lost. It's heartrending. We have to do all we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys. Especially vulnerable children who are at risk.

This is why I am pressing Ministers to focus on helping children at risk who are in North Africa and the Middle East. Not in Europe. That would mean we can care for vulnerable children who are at risk and in need while discouraging the making of these dangerous journeys. We should press European nations to adopt a similar approach. So we collectively seek to put an end to these treacherous journeys and defeat the people traffickers, while focussing our care on those most in need.

It's important we do all we can to keep our border in Calais. Yet it is also vital to make sure we co-operate with our European partners to catch people traffickers, stamp out cross border crime and protect the vulnerable - especially women and children - from being exploited. This is why the close co-operation by the UK and French Governments matters so much. Moreover this is why I am so passionate that it must continue.

The migration crisis is not something that will just sort itself out. We know deep down that we cannot sort it out alone. We need to take action in co-operation with our fellow European nations. To help the people who are most in need in conflict zones while ensuring our border is maintained in Calais and is as safe and secure as it can be.

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22 APR 2016

The Alkham Valley Community Project

It was great to visit the Alkham Valley Community Project to see the wonderful new stable yard they have built with support from the Wooden Spoon Charity.

The Alkham Valley Community Project provide equestrian facilities for the disabled and disadvantaged. The project recently opened a new stable yard funded by the Wooden Spoon Charity. It will be used for educational and therapeutic activities for children and young people.

The charity is now working to raise money to install a roof on the sand school to allow the facility's most vulnerable visitors to access it all year round.

It was lovely to see examples of how many people will be about to benefit from the new yard, who otherwise may not have been able to have access to equestrian facilities at all.

The project is always looking for more volunteers to help out around the stables and in some of their activities, so if you would like to get involved do get in touch with them.

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22 APR 2016

GP Recruitment

East Kent is a great place to live and work for GPs starting out. £100,000 a year here goes so much further than it does in Surrey and London. The GP training Chiefs push new GPs to London rather than here which is not right.

Recently, I sat down with the NHS South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss GP recruitment, how our CCG are leading the fight to secure a fair share of funding for our local GP's from NHS England, and how they are working to improve provision for local mental health services.

It is important that we fight for a fair share of health care funding for Dover and Deal primary care. So I'm taking this up with the Health Secretary.

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22 APR 2016

Tara Surgery

It is always great to catch up with our local GP's. I found it really useful to hear from Dr Bahadur when I visited Tara Surgery in St Margaret's Bay about how the service they offer could be improved by moving into larger premises.

Tara Surgery hopes to move to a larger site in the heart of the village, making them more accessible for patients, and providing them with more space to offer a wider range of services.

Local GP's provide essential, frontline healthcare for our local communities so it is important that we give them the help and support they need to deliver the best possible care and services.

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13 APR 2016

Repairing Potholes

It is great news that Kent has received such a generous allocation from the Pothole Action Fund to fix our local roads. £1,473,000 of dedicated funding will be given to fix some 27,000 in Kent before the end of 2017.

Nearly £50 million of funding will be made available to local councils across the country over the next 12 months to fix nearly 1 million potholes across the nation's roads.

This funding comes from the Government's £250 million fund which was included in last months budget. The fund will see over 4 million potholes fixed by 2021.

As the gateway to Europe, Kent's roads bear the brunt of the nation's freight traffic placing extra strain on our local roads and motorways.

I have constantly been lobbying the local council and the Department for Transport for action on the state of our roads, so I am very pleased money has been made available to make the repairs that we desperately need.

What we need now is for Kent County Council to stop blocking the TAP 40mph speed limit being made variable.

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13 APR 2016

New State Pension

The new state pension that was introduced on 6 April helps ensure that hardworking people can look forward to dignity and security in retirement.

Everyone eligible who reaches retirement age in Dover and Deal will now benefit from the new pension. The full rate for the new pension is set at £155.65 a week, which amounts to over £8,000 a year.

The new state pension will particularly benefit women, with over 75% of women and over 70% of men gaining in the first 15 years of the new pension. By 2030 over 3 million women stand to gain an average of over £550 extra every year.

It will also provide clarity and confidence for people across our area about what money they will receive in retirement. The new state pension also goes a long way towards helping those who have historically lost out under the old system.

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13 APR 2016

Tax Changes To Help Businesses

It is great news for businesses in Dover and Deal that the tax system has been reformed to encourage growth, and make it easier for them to create local jobs for local people. Government reforms will help businesses to invest more of their money into growth, and make it easier for them to take on more staff.

Businesses will now find it easier to take on new apprentices, as employer National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 have been abolished. This will save businesses employment an apprentice on the National Minimum Wage over £500 a year.

Businesses will also benefit from a rise in the employment allowance, which has risen from £2,000 to £3,000. This means that a business can employ up to four people full time on the National Living Wage without paying any employer National Insurance contributions.

The Conservative Government is committed to supporting local businesses. Local businesses are at the heart of our local economy, creating more jobs, and providing apprenticeships to train people with the skills they need to feel the benefit and security of a regular pay packet.

Labour say they want to increase business taxation and I am concerned they will once again seek to increase the Jobs Tax.

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08 APR 2016

These protests are too high a price to pay

At the weekend fascists and anti fascists again assembled in Dover. Last time ended in clashes and violence. This time the Police planned for every eventuality. Over 600 Police Officers were present. They were fully equipped with helmets, body armour and batons. They brought dogs and horses to ensure they had all necessary back up and support. They kept the peace. Last time I was very critical of the Police planning. This time I think they did a great job. The policing was appropriate, proportionate and effective.

Yet at what cost? Policing on this scale is massively expensive. The bill is picked up by the Kent taxpayer for policing people who are from London and beyond who have come seeking a day of violence by the seaside. This is before you get to the disruption to the town and the local economy. The national economy is also harmed as so much freight is delayed when the roads are closed off for these demonstrations. By the end of April there will have been three demonstrations this year. That's almost one every month. The last one was violent. The one late last year was violent. Last weekend was only not violent because the roads were flooded with Police. There will be another on April 23rd - which may again be violent. And so it goes on. The far right and far left come here to use our town as a battleground. Each claims a moral superiority over the other. Yet the truth is they are both as bad as each other. They are simply opposite sides of the same coin of hatred and extremism. These demonstrators' lust for violence knows no bounds and was only checked at the weekend by the powerful Police presence.

The balance is all wrong. People are rightly concerned about our "democratic right to protest". Yet we don't hear about our "democratic right to go about our daily lives." We should. For when we look at the right to protest it ought to be balanced against the disruption people suffer. I do not think people in Dover would mind a demonstration every so often. Yet to go at the clip of a demonstration nearly every month is too much. Particularly given the violence that so often comes with it. To have the town disrupted so often is disproportionate and too high a price to pay.

It's time for reform to enable Dovorians to go about their daily lives without being harassed by extremists. Without the high street having to lose another busy shopping day. Without ferries standing idle at the port and lorries at a standstill chuffing up pollution and dumping yet more rubbish on our already littered roads. This is why the law needs to be reformed and the right to protest must be balanced against the right of people to go about their daily lives.

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05 APR 2016

Help To Buy

It is great news that over 200 people in Dover and Deal have been helped onto the housing ladder with the support of the Government's Help to Buy scheme.

Help to Buy is a Government scheme to help people access an affordable mortgage with a small deposit.

Across the country, Help to Buy has helped nearly 150,000 families to own their own home. Around 80% of the people who have benefited are first time buyers.

Enabling people to own their own home is a key priority. It's great news that the Conservative's Help to Buy Scheme has supported 200 local people to own their own home. It's making a real difference to people in their daily lives.

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05 APR 2016

National Living Wage

The new National Living Wage which was introduced on 1 April. Workers over 25 across the country will now receive a minimum of £7.20 an hour. The National Living Wage is forecast to reach £9 an hour by 2020.

Research by the Resolution Foundation shows that nearly one in five workers in Dover and Deal will benefit from the new, higher living wage. Thanks to the new wage, 1.3 million lower-paid workers across the country will receive a direct pay rise.

The new National Living Wage means that more families in our area will have the security of a decent pay packet. This shows the commitment of the One Nation Conservatives to social justice and caring for the least well off.

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04 APR 2016

Why we must take the battle to the terrorists

Following the Brussels bombings, Europe is on a heightened state of alert. This has had a direct impact on our community. The gridlock on our roads over Easter was not simply down to weight of traffic, weather or the restricted traffic lanes foolishly left in place at Dover. It was mainly down to the French border officers making detailed checks before people and traffic departed for France.

Inevitably people ask if we could see such atrocities here in Britain. My answer is yes. We know that because it did happen. The IRA atrocities at Deal, the Harrods nail bomb and so many others we remember all too well. Likewise the same ISIS style terror as has struck Paris and Brussels attacked London on 7/7.

For us 7/7 marked a turning point. We rightly treated it as a wake up call and acted accordingly. Muslim communities in Britain are better integrated than elsewhere in Europe. The effort put into countering radicalisation by the Home Secretary working closely with our Muslim communities provides less shelter for those who would seek to murder and kill. Countering radicalisation in our schools is also essential to keeping us all safer.

Our intelligence services also upped their game after 7/7. They have become more adept at tracking people and finding information on the Internet. Civil liberties campaigners are against this. Yet their work has prevented many successful terrorist attacks on our streets.

Despite the effort being put into attacking us by ISIS, we have so far been successful. Yet we have to be successful every time. The terrorists only need to succeed once. This is why we can never be complacent or over confident. We all need to be vigilant. Our Police, border officers and security services must have the powers and weapons they need to find terrorists and put a stop to their plans. The Investigatory Powers Bill should be passed into law as soon as possible and Police ought to have the back up arms they may need. We must continue to take the battle to ISIS. I do not often agree with Tony Blair but he's right when he says ISIS is a threat to us all and must be destroyed.

The ultimate lesson of what we are seeing across Europe is that you cannot protect people with political correctness, civil liberties and hand wringing. You protect people by finding and destroying terrorist cells here in Britain. You protect people by finding, degrading and destroying ISIS in their fastnesses and their own territory. Freedom is never free. Our White Cliffs and Dover Hellfire Corner are a constant reminder that there is always a heavy price to pay to maintain our way of life. Yet to keep our people safe and our World at peace this is a price we always have to pay

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01 APR 2016

Roadside Rubbish

I have met with representatives from Highways England and Dover District Council to demand action to clear rubbish from our local roads. Representatives of Kent County Council and the Harbour Board were invited but did not turn up.

Our roads are filthy and disgusting. Everyone has an important role to play. It's clear that the District Council and Highways England are committed to making the difference.

The amount of rubbish, litter and human waste lining our local roads is disgusting. 1.6 tonnes of rubbish has recently been removed from the A20, and that is not considering other major routes like the A2 and around our rural villages.

It was disappointing but unsurprising that the Dover Harbour Board and Kent County Council were as remote and shirking of responsibility as ever. We needed the Harbour Board to help advise lorry drivers not to dump rubbish on our roads. And we needed Kent County Council to explain why they are blocking making the TAP's 40mph speed speed limit variable. Yet again we see why we need port reform and an East Kent Unitary Authority that is in touch with our area.

We need to clear our roads, but we also need to encourage motorists and foreign HGV drivers to keep our roads clear by properly disposing of their rubbish. Let's Keep Britain Tidy.

3 comments

I completely agree with Charlie, Our Parish Council brought this matter to the Kent County Councillor last month, We are so fed up with the rubbish I feel that the good people of Dover should protest and block the roads, by having a mass litter clearance day with lorries flashing signs which say Sorry for the delay we are picking up YOUR rubbish. Perhaps this would be a really sound reason for protest.
- Brenda Paul

I agree with every word you have written. Thank you for the action you have taken. Very disappointing that Dover Harbour Board and KCC did not attend. How about involving some of the stores/supermarkets/eating places becoming involved to remove some of the litter which has been sourced from their premises and around their premises?
- Valerie Measey

The A2 and the surrounding villages are swamped by litter which is unattractive, unhealthy and smelly. DDC have been very responsive in providing local residents with equipment to clear our local lanes. However, I think there is more to this issue. Our neighbours in France provides suitable stopping places with facilities, and this offers dignity to the drivers who must find it frustrating not to find this same consideration in our country.. Lay-bys and bins have disappeared. We need a strategy that covers all aspects of the problem.
- Vi Cobb

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01 APR 2016

Kennedy Scott

It was great to visit Kennedy Scott, not only to hear from jobseekers how they can best be helped into work, but to hear about some of their success stories, too. It is good to see more and more people in our area feeling the benefits of being in work.

I met Paul Whitnall who has successfully been supported back into the world of work. Paul has launched his own business helping people make healthier life choices.

Unemployment in Dover and Deal has near halved since 2010. Agencies like Kennedy Scott are an essential part in helping jobseekers find work and taking us one step forward to our goal of 100% employment.

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01 APR 2016

Martha Trust

It was a fantastic to visit the Martha Trust's home in Deal. They care for people with profound and multiple disabilities. The dedication of the 100 strong team of local carers towards supporting the residents to get the best out of life was clear to see.

Martha Trust runs three homes in Deal and Hastings, caring for 33 young people and adults. They also offer day services and respite care.

I was taken on a tour of the home and facilities - including a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool and multi sensory rooms - and chatted to staff and residents. I was particularly impressed with the way all of the residents' rooms were personalised to suit their individual tastes and needs.

The Martha Trust does great work. They are always looking for local people to help with and support their work and fundraising efforts - so do get in touch with them to see if there is a way you may be able to help out.

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28 MAR 2016

My campaign for better transport and to clean up our filthy roads

Transport has always been important to our community, with much of Britain's international trade shifted through our port. The ferry companies are major employers for people living in our community. We have major roads in the A20 and A2 and rail connections to London that get us about and to work.

Transport is our strength as well as a major source of employment. Yet it also presents real challenges, particularly at the moment. We are seeing through port reform with the appointment of community directors. Increasing port traffic is placing greater pressure than ever on our roads. We had problems with the A20/M20 being at a standstill last summer during the Sea France strike. We frequently suffer gridlock in Dover. Our roads are filthy and disgusting. On top of this, the Dover sea wall failed, taking our major rail line out of service.

This week I met with the Transport Secretary to press the importance of making improvements. The port and ferry companies, along with the Highways Agency, need to take more responsibility for the rubbish on our roads. They need to understand that routing port traffic via the A2 causes tailbacks on the Jubilee Way and cuts Dover off. This makes it hard for people to go about their business and get to work. Port traffic should go only via the A20/M20.

The Operation Stack lorry parks on the M20 will make a real difference. Yet they will take two years to build. So we need to make sure the TAP system works properly to stop Dover suffering gridlock and ensure the TAP speed limit is made variable.

The situation is made worse by the port undertaking major works to change the roundabouts in Dover to traffic light junctions. The Department for Transport and Highways officers have asked the port to have a plan to avoid gridlock in Dover at peak times like over Easter. This matters as the Easter period will be a real problem if not properly managed. This will be a major test for the port management.

Finally the sea wall railway line repair is a big project. It will cost a very serious amount of money. It seems likely that the railway line will take until the end of this year to repair and bring back into service. Network Rail should be in a position to say clearly exactly how long very soon. This has been very hard for rail passengers.

At the moment we have big transport challenges. Yet the railway line will be repaired and the lorry parks will be built. This will be a collective investment of up to £350 million to improve transport in our community. Once these works are complete we should have a secure rail line and see the back of Operation Stack. With port reform and better collaborative working to clean up our roads, this should mean we will have stronger and more reliable transport networks for Dover and Deal over the longer term.

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26 MAR 2016

Big Lottery Fund

It is fantastic news that Chequers Community Kitchen has been granted funding from the Big Lottery Fund. They do incredibly work teaching cooking skills to those who benefit from them the most. I was really impressed when I joined one of their cookery classes recently.

£172,160 of funding from the Big Lottery Fund that has been awarded to the Chequers Community Kitchen through their reaching communities programme. Money is granted through the Big Lottery Fund's reaching communities programme to organisations that help enrich communities and seek improve the lives of local people.

It is really important that we encourage everyone to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. It is great to see organisations like this that contribute to the wellbeing of local people supported with additional funding.

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18 MAR 2016

Age UK Riverside Centre

It was great to visit Age UK's Riverside Centre to chat with visitors about the issues that matter to them.

Age UK's Dover Riverside Centre is open 6 days a week for elderly people to visit for lunch, activities and company. Age UK also offers staffed care services such as bathing, hairdressing, toenail care and foot massages.

I particularly enjoyed the chance to talk about the importance of ensuring we care properly for older people with Arthur Plummer, who is 103 and has lived in Dover most of his life.

Thank you to Age UK for all the great work they do providing a great community environment for their guests at the Riverside Centre. Many of their services are run by volunteers - so if you would like to help out, please do get in touch with them.

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18 MAR 2016

Astor School

It was encouraging to visit Astor School and hear about all the improvements they have been making. I was pleased that Ofsted have recognised the efforts of the staff and pupils to raise standards. Ofsted noted that there had been 'significant improvement' at Astor School seen during their most recent inspection.

Thank you to the 6th form students who took time out from their day to show me around the school. The quality of the artwork on display was fantastic. It is really great we have a school in Dover that is focused on nurturing artistic and creative talent.

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18 MAR 2016

Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair

It was fantastic to be able to hold my fourth annual Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair in Dover Town Hall. This year I wanted to expand the fair to cover further opportunities for apprenticeships and training to reflect the ever increasing skill of our local workforce.

I had the opportunity to catch up with a lot of local businesses such as Tilmanstone Salads who are creating 70 new jobs in the area, and to talk to local jobseekers about what can be done to help them into work.

Over 30 local employers, charities and training providers were in attendance. The day also included presentations by DFDS on careers and apprenticeships in the maritime industry. A series of work groups were run by CXK (part of the National Careers Service) on how to use social media for a jobs search, and on how to write a good CV. Mock interviews also ran throughout the day.

The Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair was really well attended by local people, who were pleased to have the chance to explore all of their employment and training options in one place. A large group from Dover College also attended so the students could get to know their options.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair such a success, including DFDS for agreeing to be our key sponsor. A big thank you also needs to go to Discovery Park for also sponsoring the event.

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17 MAR 2016

Apprenticeships are the focus of my Jobs Fair at Dover Town Hall tomorrow

This week is National Apprenticeship Week. On Friday I am holding my annual jobs and apprentices fair in Dover Town Hall. Apprentices matter and make a huge difference to people's lives. Good quality training and apprenticeships help our young people to do better in the world of work. They are able to build essential skills and gain the vital experience that leads to promotion and a bigger pay packet.

Over 2.6 million apprenticeships have been started across Britain since May 2010. In Dover and Deal alone, 4,300 of our young people have started new apprenticeships. These apprenticeships are providing people with experience and training them in the skills they need to enter an increasingly specialised workforce.

A good job brings the security and stability of a regular pay packet. It also allows people to plan ahead, save for the future and to buy their own home.

It is not just jobseekers who benefit from apprenticeships. Local businesses have the chance to train young people in the valuable skills they need to fill highly skilled jobs. This creates more opportunities for work and boosts our local economy. Apprentices also help to raise the productivity of the businesses they join.

The Government is committed to creating 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020. It is important that employers and job seekers alike are able to benefit from skills based apprenticeships and specialist training schemes. It will soon become even easier for businesses to hire apprentices, as employers' National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 will be abolished from this April.

We need to focus on driving up the quality of apprenticeships. To make sure that funding for apprenticeships only goes towards schemes that are valued by employers.

I am looking forward to holding my Jobs & Apprenticeships Fair in Dover Town Hall this Friday 10am-3pm. Over 20 different employers will be gathered together to help local jobseekers find apprenticeships and jobs. It's also great for people looking for a change of job or a job in a new area. I am incredibly grateful to all employers for coming - particularly DFDS and Discovery Park for their sponsorship of the event.

This year my jobs fair is focusing on training and apprenticeships. The companies involved will be showing people who come along how enrolling in specialised training and quality apprenticeships can greatly improve their prospects of finding work. Do come along if you are looking for work, or if you might be interested in entering into training or starting an apprenticeship.

Good quality apprenticeships increase our young people's prospects of finding a good job and enjoying a more secure future. This is a key part of our long term economic plan. The rising number of people starting apprenticeships in our area is good news. These apprenticeships bring us a step closer to our goal of full employment in Dover and Deal. So do come to the Dover Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair and see if their is an opportunity for you.

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17 MAR 2016

New Homes For Local People

It is fantastic news that more and more new homes are being built in our area. New developments such as the garden village in Aylesham are helping to provide homes for local people. We are getting on with building the homes we need and bringing the opportunity of a new starter home to our young people.

Figures released by the National House-Building Council that show 395 new homes were started to be built in the Dover area in 2015, up from only 208 new home starts in 2014. These figures come as part of a 7% year-on-year-increase with new home registrations across the country, and 75% more new homes being registered in 2015 than in 2009, nationwide.

Government schemes such as Help To Buy are helping buyers to be able to afford their own home. Home ownership offers families security and stability, so the more people we help to buy their own home the better.

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14 MAR 2016

Building the new homes our community needs

Civic renewal never comes easily. Yet the hard work of so many years is beginning to pay off in Dover & Deal. Burlington House has come down and urgently needed homes are springing up across the area.

The renewal of Dover has been a long standing campaign. The fall of Burlington House is not simply the firing of the starting gun on the regeneration we have so long needed. It is incredible how long hidden views have opened up across Dover. The sight lines from the castle to the Drop Redoubt are now breathtaking. Think how Dover will be even better once the development is built. No more visits to Ashford or Westwood Cross to see the latest film. People will be able to do that as well as shopping and so much more in Dover town centre. It will have a dramatic impact on Dover's local economy.

So too should the Western Docks revival. The port area will look even better when the potential of the area around the marine station is realised. There is so much happening in our area and there is an increasing sense of momentum.

Yet renewal is not simply about town centres. It's also about building the homes we need. Bringing opportunity and starter homes to our young people really matters. This is why we fought to see Connaught Barracks brought forward for development. The current progress is really promising and why so many have worked hard to see the potential of the Western Heights realised. Homes we need and the restoration of the Drop Redoubt matters to us.

Yet it's not all about Dover. The development I visited in Aylesham last week is transforming that village. It's incredible to see. A good development that is working well. We need to see sensible development in Deal and the other villages too. Critical to this is ensuring that the road infrastructure is up to it. In this regard Kent Highways is an abject failure. They allow any old dangerous overloaded road to be used for large developments. Small wonder everyone is saying we need an East Kent Unitary authority that is more in touch with the things we need.

The water companies are also dreadful. They are slow on connections and fail to put in the required infrastructure, as we have seen from the problems at Albert Road in Deal. Developments are going ahead, but the utilities and transport links must improve.

These are exciting times for our community, with a lot happening. But we need to see a lot more happen. There is increasing momentum with the town centre development in Dover, the garden village at Aylesham and the proposals to build more of the homes we need. The future is looking brighter for our corner of Kent, but we need to keep going and get the best for our area.

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Nutter!
- WTF

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14 MAR 2016

New Aylesham Development

It was great to have the opportunity to have a look around some of the beautiful new family homes that are being built in Aylesham. The houses are selling like hot cakes, and it was wonderful to hear how much interest there has been in the development from local people.

Barratt Homes and Persimmon Homes are building 1,210 new homes, together with community facilities and improved transport links for the area. This is part of overall plans for an Aylesham Garden Village.

I met with the developers before being taken on a tour of the developments. It was good to get the chance to look around show homes, and to meet potential buyers.

Most of the homes in the first phase of the development have been sold off plan, highlighting how high demand is in the area. Around half of the homes are being sold as part of the Government's Help To Buy scheme. It was good to hear from potential buyers how Help To Buy has been instrumental in helping them get on the housing ladder.

More and more people in our area are feeling the benefit of owning their own home. The 1,210 new homes that are being built on these two sites alone are just one example of how Dover and Deal is again a community on the rise.

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04 MAR 2016

Whole School Meals

Recently I visited Sandown School in Deal to try one of their school lunches, provided by healthy school meal company, Whole School Meals.

Whole School Meals provide £2.30 a head, 2 course school meals in 25 schools in the Dover, Deal and Folkestone area. They also run cookery clubs at some of the schools. They are able to give back profits to schools to help fund new equipment and facilities. Sandown School have invested in a climbing frame and an artificial grass area from the profits they have had returned.

The Whole School Meals network is made up of over 100 in school staff, including mobile staff to cover staff sickness, and facilities for bigger schools to cook for the schools that don't have kitchens.

This is seriously good food. The children ate it all up. It provides a balanced diet. No excessive sugar, mountains of salt or turkey twizzlers here. The children at our schools are getting the very best.

I am so proud of the great work Whole School Meals do and the way they return their profits to the schools meaning even better facilities for our children as well as top food.

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04 MAR 2016

Chequers Cookery School

I had a wonderful morning at Chequers Cookery School learning how cooking easy meals from scratch can help maintain a healthy heart.

The Chequers Cookery School runs free cookery courses for parents, the unemployed and people suffering from medical conditions who benefit from being taught basic cookery skills. This course was aimed at diabetics as well. I learnt a lot, the food was amazing and these classes are clearly really helpful for local people with diabetes or heart conditions.

The cookery course is being funded by Heart Research UK in partnership with Subway. Everyone attending the 8 week course will be asked to pass on what they learn each week by teaching someone else the skills they have gained, such as a friend, neighbour of family member.

It is really important that we encourage people of all ages to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, not just the groups that are usually targeted like school children.

If you think you might be able to benefit from a course at Chequers, do get in touch with them to find out how you can get involved.

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04 MAR 2016

A community led port is rising at the docks

It's great news that we have received confirmation that the first community directors will now be appointed to the Dover Harbour Board. The decision by the Marine Management Organisation shows how far we have come in five short years. Five years ago the port was set to be sold off to the French or whoever by the previous Government. All that was required was a flick of the Minister's pen and centuries of history would all have been over.

After our powerful community campaign, we didn't just stop the port sell off plan. We won important reforms. The port would have the powers it needed to raise money for investment in the future. Looking at the waterside we can see how badly that investment is needed. We can also see the progress being made on the Western Docks Revival as decades of neglect start to be rolled back. The port also agreed to set up a community fund for the benefit of the community. Already it has been active and I hope it will gain greater funds in due course. This is important as a complaint of many was that the port did too little to benefit the town. Now it does more.

Yet the most important plank of port reform was that the community should be represented in the boardroom. It is essential we should have community directors we can have trust and confidence in. Because we need to ensure there is an ever closer partnership between the port, port businesses and the community. The two community directors that are being appointed, Neil Wiggins and Samantha Parker, are well qualified and the best people for the job.

For decades there has been tension in the port-community relationship. This needs to change and the only way to change it will be by bringing together the port, ferry companies and the people. This is what the People's Port was all about. If the port was to be sold then we wanted to buy it to drive that partnership. The end of the privatisation threat did not make the need for a true partnership go away.

Only if we all work together will we see the kind of Dover we want to build. Only then will we get the investment, have the sense of common purpose and the community led port that is required to change Dover.

We have before us a great opportunity. A chance for the unity and common purpose that is required to change Dover forever. To make our town again a jewel in the crown of the nation. A place people want to visit. The first sight of England that makes us proud and impresses visitors from the lands overseas. The challenge lies with us all to grasp this opportunity and forge the partnership that will change Dover forever.

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29 FEB 2016

Further Reform at the Port of Dover

It is fantastic news that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has confirmed that Neil Wiggins and Samantha Parker can now join the Dover Harbour Board as Community Directors. The long awaited Order will allow for key reforms at the Port of Dover to take place.

With the powers to invest in the future and the port community fund, Dover is fast moving to become a community led port. The Community directors were appointed in 2014 but have not been able to take up their posts due to delays. Today witnesses a powerful step forward for our community.

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27 FEB 2016

P&O Maloja

It was an honour to attend a memorial to honour the crew who were lost on board the P&O ship Maloja when it was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Dover. The service marked 100 years since the ship was lost. 122 people died on board the vessel, including many Lascars, who were sailors from India.

Local resident Leah Baker noticed the memorial in St Mary's Cemetery and lead a successful campaign for the restoration of the monument, as well as for a remembrance to be held for the centenary. Work to restore the memorial is still ongoing, with the Urdu section of script still to be restored.

I think the work Leah and P&O have done to restore the memorial to the Maloja and to raise awareness for the many lives lost is wonderful.

Dover has such a rich, sometimes tragic navel history, and it is important that not a single life is forgotten. It is especially important that we remember those from around the world who may not have anyone to remember them in the local area.

I look forward to visiting the memorial again once it has been fully restored, and to learn more about the history of the Maloja.

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I too would like to know more. the town of deal was also once a major port, and we should not forget the tragic events that took place around our local coast.
- robert

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23 FEB 2016

Our borders will be safer and more secure in the European Union

Whether we should remain in Europe or leave has cast a shadow over our politics for more than three decades. It has long been the case that the European question needed to be settled one way or the other. This is why I have always supported having an in or out referendum. I am glad this referendum is now going to take place on June 23rd.

I have always felt there are practical concerns with the European project. Yet I have always taken a pragmatic and hard headed view about what is best for Dover & Deal - and for Britain. I have read through every word of the agreement struck at the European Council by the Prime Minister. I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons. And I met with Home Secretary this week to discuss what this means for Dover & Deal. I have considered deeply the implications for our community as regards jobs and prosperity, border security and national security.

Jobs and Prosperity

There is no doubt that economic management of the Eurozone has been poor. There, unemployment has risen in many nations. Young people have paid the highest price for this economic failure.

Yet we are not in the Eurozone. So we have been able to grow. We've had the strongest growth of all major advanced economies - and a jobs revolution. Here in Dover & Deal youth unemployment has fallen over 50% since 2010. This is because we have an economic plan that is delivering security and opportunity for Britain.

Therefore it is essential that the Eurozone cannot subject us to their economic policies. It had been feared they might try - in particular to make us pay for Eurozone bail outs or seek to attack the City of London and our banking system. The Prime Minister's agreement has secured a binding commitment that the Eurozone will not do those things.

The European Union is a huge customs union. If we left we would be subject to tariffs. As we import more goods than we export we would arguably be net beneficiaries. Yet any trade barriers will have the effect of reducing trade. The nature of the single market is that it would be easy to make it harder for us to export to Europe.

If we were to leave there are two important questions to consider. First would the Eurozone renew their attempts to discriminate against the City of London and our banking system. Second would Europe make it harder for us to trade in the single market and would we be able to increase trade with the rest of the World to offset any problems we might have with the single market.

Border security

A key concern for our community is border security. Just over a decade ago, Dover suffered hugely as migrants were able to get to Britain before they encountered effective border controls. This situation caused much concern in our community as there were so many migrants in Dover. Things changed when an agreement was made with France that the UK border should move to Calais. This was the Le Touquet Treaty of 2003. Juxtaposed controls were set up so that UK and French border posts were maintained at both Dover and Calais. This means that UK border officers are able to stop migrants at Calais and hand them over to the French authorities.

As a result the overwhelming majority of migrants seeking to get to the UK are stuck in France. There they scheme with people traffickers to break into Britain. In almost every case their designs are thwarted by eagle eyed border officers, vigilant ships that patrol the English Channel and a crack squad of highly trained dogs that sniff out people hiding in the fruit and veg.

Moving the border back to Dover would be a disaster. That is why I have always been a passionate defender of the juxtaposed controls. Having our border at Calais ensures that we do not have the problems in Dover we had over a decade ago.

Meanwhile the people of the Calais region are appalled by The Jungle at Calais. Daily they demand of the French government that the treaty should be torn up. If we were to leave Europe, what incentive would there be for the French to maintain our border in Calais. And could they cancel the treaty even were we to remain.

National security

Our community served as the front line in the First and Second World Wars. It was from here that our beleaguered army was rescued from Dunkirk. Under these very skies was the Battle of Britain fought. Those conflicts taught us that only if we stood with our allies could we maintain peace.

This matters as Russia has invaded Ukraine and now threatens Turkey. Syria is in civil war and the wider instability in the Middle East has bred Islamic Terror. If we were to vote to leave Europe, a key question is whether global peace and stability would be affected and how Russia would react and whether they would see our leaving as a lack of commitment to security in Europe.

Conclusion

The European Union is far from perfect. Yet within it we are still able to grow strongly and benefit from the customs union, as our economic record shows. We benefit from greater certainty as regards border security. For sure the French could cancel the treaty at any time. Yet the risk they would do so is far greater were we to leave Europe. Finally within Europe, no-one doubts our commitment to the security of the European continent.

Were we to to leave, we may very well continue to enjoy economic success. We might persuade the French that they would prefer to keep our border at Calais. We could even persuade President Putin of our continued commitment to the security of Europe. Yet there is great risk and uncertainty in all these matters. It is for these reasons that I currently intend to vote to stay in the European Union.

A copy of my letter to electors regarding my decision can be found here.

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Dear Charlie, Thank you for your balanced view I fully endorse to stay in the EU it is not perfect but what is in this world. I keep asking the people that I know politely that wish to leave if your best friend said he or she did not want to be your friend any more but still wanted your help support and all the benefits they had being your friend what would you do? Everyone has answered if they do not want to be my friend I would not help them or give them my support! Then they start about immigration and I say you just answered your own question and I have just spent over £10,000 just trying to get permission to get my partner to visit our country. I then say do not believe it is simple to get into this country even with right on my side and a good job here. Yes we have a problem with illegal immigration by economic migrants and criminals that stop our trains and lorries but they should claim asylum in France or the first country they have landed in. As per your statement once we have no friendship or partnership via the EU with France they will push the boarder back to the UK and we will have 10's thousands of these economic migrants to look after here in the UK we just do not have room for and we do not want. I pray we stay in the EU and can start the fight for real reforms such as an elected President, Commissionaires and Judges? Then we can fight at the heart of the EU for better farming, fishers, energy and security issues. PS I am still a Royalist and I love my Queen and country with its great Parliament and History! I leave everyone with one final thought why Europe should be one so we never have a new European war like WW! and WW2 so no country can ever rise again! Kind regards, Adrian
- Adrian Briggs

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20 FEB 2016

Demolition of Burlington House - a key milestone for Dover's renewal

Seeing Burlington House finally come down shows how far we've come together in recent years. Before 2010 the idea that Burlington House would come down seemed a distant dream. Back then unemployment had rocketed, our port was about to be sold off to the French or whoever and plans for a new Dover hospital had stalled.

Fast forward to the present and unemployment has halved, the new Buckland Hospital has opened its doors and we stopped the port sell off. The fall of Burlington House takes us on to the next stage. It is the firing of the starting gun for the renewal of Dover. There are exciting plans for a new cinema, great shops and improvements to the sea front.

It's all change at the port too. There are new plans for investment. Community engagement has improved. Reform will take another step forward once the community directors are appointed. The community director appointments are being held up by the Town Council. Hopefully they will end their political games soon so we can get on with the serious business of next stage port reform.

Renewal for our community is not without bumps in the road - or the rail. The failure of the railway sea wall at Dover has caused real problems. Our area has been seeing a sharp increase in commuting to work in recent years. This has been a real boost to our local economy. So the break in the line has been a serious concern. The beach by the Shakespeare Cliff was washed away following storms. This meant that the foundations of the sea wall were exposed. They were undermined and that caused the failure of the sea wall.

It had been hoped that a running repair could be made. Unfortunately the old Victorian timber viaduct the rails originally ran on has rotted away. This means a new modern viaduct will have to be built. It will stand on piles driven deep into the chalk. It will be protected by rock armour rather than a traditional sea wall. This is a very big job. It will take a long time to build.

I have asked Network Rail to give everyone a time estimate as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Task Force I am chairing is working hard to make sure repairs are taken forward as quickly as possible and that any obstacles are overcome as fast as may be.

Much has been achieved in our community in recent years. Yet there is much more to do. We will always have new challenges to overcome - like the sea wall failure. Yet it's how we deal with the challenges and overcome them that matters. More is happening in Dover now than for many decades. I am increasingly optimistic about the change we can make. There is a real sense we can make the town once again as jewel in the crown of the nation.

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Thanks for the update. Please do keep us updated re the trains as someone who works in London and Europe. I find it quicker and easier to arrive at work in Paris than I do to travel to my office in London from my home in Deal - crazy!
- Suzanne

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12 FEB 2016

Could our border move back from Calais to Dover?

Could France ditch the Le Touquet treaty? In other words could they move our border back to Dover from Calais?This question has been raised this week by the Prime Minister and matters greatly to the future of our community.

A decade ago our border was at Dover. This was a very difficult time for the town because migrants were able to get into Britain before they encountered effective border controls. Many migrants were housed in temporary accommodation in Dover.

This situation caused an incredible level of anger and frustration in the town. Across Britain concern rose - especially as there was a belief many migrants were making false asylum claims. The level of concern rose to such a pitch that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced to take action.

First, migrants were provided with accommodation elsewhere in Britain. Secondly, an agreement was stuck with France that the UK border should move to Calais. Juxtaposed controls were set up so that UK and French border posts were maintained at both Dover and Calais. This means that UK border officers are able to stop migrants at Calais and hand them over to the French authorities.

As a result most of the migrants seeking to get to the UK are struck in France. There they consort with people traffickers and scheme ways to break into Britain. In almost every case their designs are thwarted by eagle eyed border officers, vigilant ships that patrol the English Channel and a crack squad of highly trained dogs that sniff out people hiding in the fruit and veg.

France does not have the same approach as us for accommodating migrants. So the migrants live outside in whatever shelter they can obtain. Generally this means tents and bivouacs. The area they live in Calais is wooded and for this reason is known as "The Jungle".

I have always been a passionate defender of the juxtaposed controls. Having our border at Calais ensures that we do not have the problems in Dover we had over a decade ago. So I have been highly critical of those who seek to axe this treaty - particularly the Mayor of Calais and UKIP, who have been campaigning to bring our border back to Dover.

The Prime Minister this week said that if we left the EU the French may end the juxtaposed controls and move our border back to Dover. Now I have always been highly sceptical of the European project, but I have to say he has a point. If we left the EU what incentive would there then be for France to help us with border security? And wouldn't it be an easy way to rid Calais of The Jungle if the migrants were able to get into the UK?

Whatever happens I will always do my best to ensure that our border remains in Calais. The Le Touquet treaty has been really very positive for Dover. We need to keep the juxtaposed controls to maintain our border security and avoid going back to the bad old days of a decade ago.

1 comment

To prevent the border moving back from Calais to Dover will you support the Prime Minister and campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union?
- Beata Brooks

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05 FEB 2016

Brandon Hire

It is fantastic to see Brandon Hire step in to help out a Dover charity in need. Vandals stole tools, and equipment from the Western Heights Preservation Society and caused considerable damage estimated at around £3,000 in a recent break in.

Brandon Hire donated replacements of essential equipment such as drills, electrical equipment and Health and Safety gear to the society.

I was disgusted that vandals had done so much damage to where the Western Heights Preservation Society had been working at the Drop Redoubt. They do fantastic work preserving and sharing Dover's rich history.

Thank you to the Branch Manager at Brandon Hire Graham Taylor, Key Account Manager Milford Lingard, and all the team at Brandon Hire for stepping up to offer assistance to such a great cause.

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05 FEB 2016

Burlington House Demolished

On Friday I visited the site of Burlington House to see the final piece of the building demolished to make way for exciting new development. The demolition is a defining moment in the renewal of Dover.

For too long Burlington House overshadowed our town, and it will be fantastic to see the space where it once stood transformed into shops and restaurants that our community can enjoy.

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Couldn"t agree more Charlie. Burlington house was an eyesore.Looking forward to Cineworld. Can't wait for the new cinema in Deal too.
- Tracy Jane Wilton

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05 FEB 2016

Never again should violent mobs be allowed to roam the streets of Dover

Last September fascists and anti fascists were allowed to march in Dover with disastrous results. Last weekend, these militant groups were again allowed to march at the same time. It was inevitable that the Police line would break, that control of the situation would be lost and that people would get hurt. For this reason allowing these demonstrations to go ahead was irresponsible, reckless and wrong. The demonstrations should have been held on different days following last Autumn's experience.

What happened was a total shambles and the Chief Constable and Police Commissioner have serious questions to answer. Many people have complained to me about what happened and I will be taking those complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

The Police deny they lost control. They also say they had a "duty to facilitate" the rival demonstrations.

I do not agree. We all saw the bloody scenes on TV. We saw the moment the Police line broke and the rival demonstrations were allowed to meet with terrible consequences. Control was clearly lost. Kent Police should apologise to the people of Dover.

What about this "duty to facilitate" demonstrations? It's true. There is a duty to facilitate a peaceful protest under Article 11(1) of the Human Rights code. What the Police don't say is that the protest must be peaceful. After last September it was clear it would not be peaceful. Moreover Article 11(2) says the right to protest can be restricted in the interests of public safety, the prevention of disorder and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

My view is that a decision was made to put the right to protest ahead of the rights and freedoms of the people of Dover. The Police did not use their extensive powers to uphold public safety and prevent disorder. That was wrong. It was wrong for elderly people out doing their shopping to be left in fear. It was wrong for families to have to hide in shops while a baying mob roamed the streets outside. It was wrong that businesses, the port and our local economy were disrupted. The first call of the Police should have been to keep the people of Dover safe and secure. They had the powers to do so. They did not use them. That was wrong. This is why I have met with the Police Minister about what happened and why I am asking him to investigate.

We strive in Dover for civic renewal. What we saw was civil disorder. We encourage visitors to come and enjoy the town. We do not want outsiders to use Dover as a battleground. Never again should we see scenes like those we saw last weekend. Never again should the Police allow such scenes to happen. Never again should rival groups of militant extremists be allowed to demonstrate and clash in Dover.

2 comments

I agree with you wholeheartrdly that we don't want fascists roaming the streets of Diver and Deal with their warped ideology. I remember at the 2010 General Elecfion T Dover Town Hall the BNP fascists clicking their heels like Nazi stormtroopers. This unedifying display made me feel phycally nauseous. There was a repeat performance in Hawkinge. Myself and a Conservative Councillor distanced ourselves from two BNP supporting Elderly gentlemen , who should have known better after witnessing Hitler's rise to power and the atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps! I DO NOT blame the Police on the ground for the lack of control over the thuggish fiasco and blood shed on the streets of Dover. I blame the Police Commisioner Anne Barnes for this fiasco and the terror wrought on the children and elders of thr Black Fish drama academy who enabled these brainless idiots to break in on their performance. I believe in the right to free speech and protest ; but not to the detriment of others who have the right to safety. Anne Barnes and whoever else enabled this violent fiasco to go a go ahead should resign forthwith and be replaced by someone with real Police exexperience on the ground.
- Tracy Jane Wilton

Absolutely agree. Thank you for taking this up with the appropriate authorities. It's great to know we have an MP who actually represents the best interest of the community. Keep up the great work.
- Ken Green

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29 JAN 2016

Keeping our borders safe and secure

The situation at Calais is of grave concern to us all. Migrants have tried to rush the port and some got onto a ferry before the boarders were repelled by the ship's crew. Migrants daily seek to stow away onto lorries and the haulage industry is calling for the army to be sent in. The conditions at the camps in Calais and Dunkirk are dreadful. Hard left militant anarchists from Britain are agitating in the camps and seeking to inflame an already bad situation.

This is an even bigger problem because the Dover to Calais route is critical for our international trade. Every time a stowaway gets on a lorry the load has to be thrown away. Lorry drivers who pick up a stowaway get heavily fined, so the haulage industry is forced to invest in expensive detection equipment and park up in secure lorry parks.

What then is to be done? Some will say the easy answer is simply to leave the EU. There are many good reasons to make that case. Yet our border security is not one of them. If we left, the border would surely move from Calais to Dover. The migrants at Calais would no longer be in Calais and this would take Dover back to the dreadful situation of some years ago.

Others say we should simply open our borders and allow everyone in. The same people also argue that we should take the nuclear defence out of our nuclear submarines and hand the Falkland Islands over to Argentina. These are all very bad ideas - they would undermine our national security, our border security and the safety of us all. The return to the bad old days of the open door to Britain that used to exist before 2010 would be a danger for migrants too, for once you allow anyone to wander in, more will seek to follow.

Attracted by the magnet of an open border people will make ever greater and more dangerous efforts to enter Britain. As we have seen before, this all too often ends in tragedy. This is why the Prime Minister is right in saying that we should take vulnerable people in need from close to the nations they have been forced to flee in order to discourage the making of long, treacherous and dangerous journeys.

The situation at Calais is serious. We need better security for hauliers in Northern France. We need to ensure our border remains in Calais and is not brought back to Dover. We need to keep working closely with the French Government to increase security. It would be a wrong turn to go back to the days of open borders where anyone could just wander into Britain. We need to be particularly wary not to encourage people to make dangerous journeys across Europe.

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28 JAN 2016

Local Apprentiships

It is fantastic news that even more young people in Dover and Deal have started apprenticeships. It is important that we create the opportunities that will mean more young people gain the skills they need to get on in life.

Latest figures show that 4,300 young people have started new apprenticeships in our area since May 2010. 270 young people have started apprenticeships locally over the past two months.

In the South East, 348,350 young people have started a apprenticeships, with 2.6 million new apprenticeship starts across the country.

High quality apprenticeships increase our young people's prospects of finding a good job and enjoying a more secure future. These figures bring us one step closer to full employment in Dover and Deal.

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28 JAN 2016

Poor Broadband in Dover & Deal

Figures from the House of Commons Library show that Dover and Deal is ranked at 509 out of 650 parliamentary constituencies for Superfast Broadband availability. Dover and Deal also only ranks at 436 for average download speed, with an average download speed of 24.1. Only 6% of connections in the constituency run at more than 2 Mbps.

Our broadband service in Dover and Deal is pitiful. BT's service is terrible. It's shocking that BT spent more on sports rights last year than investment in the exchange network. Businesses and individuals are increasingly reliant on a good internet connection to go about their day to day lives, so things need to change.

These figures underline the case that the exchanges should be separated from BT. The problem of course is that OFCOM is not very strong and the Competition authorities are too often a paper tiger. We need strong regulators who will do the right thing to promote competition, faster broadband roll out and swifter economic growth.

1 comment

It would be useful to know the geographically indicated areas of 'poor' 'average', 'good' broadband speed ? The same applies to certain mobile main providers too ? There was a time (still is ?) where television coverage was limited from the Dover mast while Belgian/French signals became the norm ! Have the days of unknowing mobile phone users connecting from near St Margaret's cliffs and being billed for a 'continental' call, been solved ? Is only the new build housing being upgraded to fibre broadband. Could the man made higher ground of Fowlmead contain at least one digital signal tower ? How can I quickly mobilize a digitally summoned police and ambulance as I watch an immigrant laden small boat approaching Deal prom under darkness as I sit on the bench, watch the clear stars and a passing Space Station ? Should I share my coffee flask and cooling chips ? !
- Laurence Burns

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27 JAN 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and make sure they are not forgotten. This is why I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment in Parliament to mark the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

It is essential that we do not forget those who suffered and died, and that we also join together to fight against prejudice and intolerance in our community today in their memory.

1 comment

Well done! As always you are a compsssionate Member of Parliament with your finger on the pulse of Public Opinion and being a supporter of excellent causes both in the constituency and Parliament. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY is essential to educating us and future generations on the evils of Nazism and ethnic cleansing. On Holocaust memorial day we mourn the loss of people and their potential We mourn the loss of Jewish people, Romany Gypsies, people with Special needs, gay people and anyone who opposed Hitler and his evil tyranny. I once had the honour of Nursing a lovely gentleman who was incarcerated in Auschwitz. His crine? He was a Polish Law student opposing Hitler's Nazi regime. Makes you think. Also the Nazi Doctors experimented on pregnant Jewish and Gypsy women and those with Special needs or mental health issues.
- Tracy Wilton

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21 JAN 2016

Unemployment continues to fall in Dover and Deal

It is great to see unemployment and youth unemployment continuing to fall in Dover and Deal.

Figures released by the ONS show that the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance now stands at 1,157. This demonstrates a fall of 45% since May 2010 and 19% since this time last year.

Youth unemployment paints a similar picture, with the number of young claimants down to 275 – a 54% drop since Labour were in office.

More people in Dover and Deal are reaping the benefits of a regular pay packet and it is great to see hardworking families enjoy this security.

As the Labour Party hurtles from chaos to calamity, becoming ever more extreme, the Conservatives remain resolutely focused on sound management of our economy and achieving full employment and opportunity for all.

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15 JAN 2016

Services at Deal Hospital

It was fantastic to meet with Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust's Head of Clinical Services Nicola Osborne and Ward Manager Lesley Sloan, as well as local GP, Dr Sally Russell at Deal Hospital.

So many new services are being offered and there is now a fantastic range of specialised clinics operating out of the hospital. Deal Hospital now offers a Pain Clinic, Ear Nose Throat service, mental healthcare along with cardiac and diabetes care, along with a wide range of other clinics and services. The hospital also has a 26-bed ward and three palliative care beds.

As the hospital expands, new clinics are opening. These include a ground breaking consultant nurse lead Rheumatology Clinic which opened on 8 January. They also hope to open a Wound Clinic, while glaucoma services are provided by Biggs Opticians.

We discussed how the expanding services mean more staff are needed. So I hope nurses who live locally in Deal will think of working at Deal Hospital.

Congratulations are also due to Deal Hospital and its staff on its "good" Care Quality Commission rating. It is great to see so many clinics and services available in the heart of our community, right where they are needed.

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15 JAN 2016

Consultation Response to Highways England Managing Freight Vehicles through Kent: Future of TAP System

Further to my consultation response to Highways England: Managing Freight Vehicles through Kent, I set out in this separate response, my views on the future of the TAP system ("TAP") on the A20 at Dover.

TAP has been a real success in Dover. Since it was introduced in April 2015, TAP has gone a long way to reducing gridlock and congestion in the town centre. The system should become a permanent part of the management of freight vehicles through Kent.

 

TAP background

TAP was introduced as a temporary measure in April 2015 to ease gridlock in Dover.

TAP filters traffic into 2 lanes of the A20 outside Dover. When the Port is busy, freight traffic is held until Port entry can be made, while non-Port traffic is free to pass. There is a 40mph speed limit for some 6 miles on the Port-bound approach to Dover along the A20.

The Government's aim is to use this temporary period to collect and analyse traffic data to "achieve better traffic flows" for the area. Since its installation, TAP has been implemented some 137 times.

 

TAP future

TAP has proved successful in reducing freight congestion in Dover and has improved traffic flows. For this reason TAP should become a permanent feature of Dover's traffic management. That said, the system isn't perfect. There are improvements that need to be made. These are as follows:

 

  1. The 40mph speed restriction zone is too long. It should not be six miles, it should be no more than three miles at most and should start no further West than the Courtwood Junction.
  2. The 40mph speed restriction zone should be variable. It should only apply when TAP is implemented.
  3. The location of the TAP traffic control lights impacts adversely on the residents of the Aycliffe area of Dover. The lights should be moved some 200 yards to the West to a flat stretch of the A20 that will have less of an impact on residents.
  4. TAP is not implemented during Operation Stack. This should change as Dover suffers as a consequence when Operation Stack is implemented.
  5. TAP should have an ANPR system that should be used to make travel to the Port of Dover by the M20 mandatory. The use of the A2 for Port traffic has recently caused gridlock on the A2 Jubilee Way and caused Dover to be effectively cut off. This must change as it is very damaging to the local economy of Dover. A "No M20, No Port Entry" policy would free up the A2 and also stop lorries trying to sneak into the Port via the town.

 

Conclusion

TAP system has improved traffic flows through Dover. TAP should be made permanent and remain permanent even after the M20 Lorry Parks are built. Changes are needed to make improvements as detailed in this letter.

4 comments

FWIW sent this letter to local papers last week:- Readers fed up with the present speed limit on the A20 might be interested to hear that I spoke about this very matter to representatives of the Highways Agency only last week. I suggested that the imposition of the 40MPH limit on the A20 into Dover - supposedly as a safety measure to stop speeding drivers running into the back of the lorry queue the few times that we have Operation TAP - was causing much resentment locally. Motorists were being fined for exceeding the limit on days when the carriageways were completely clear, whilst others, keeping to this rather arbitrary speed limit, were being tail-gated by foreign registered lorries who knew they could flout the limits with impunity. Meanwhile many local drivers, myself included, were using the old A20 into Dover where we could keep up a much higher speed before clogging up the Folkestone Road with extra traffic. I suggested that the obvious solution was a variable speed limit which would only come into play when necessary i.e. when lorries were backed up onto the M20. He attempted to explain that the Highways Agency had not had the necessary technology (sic) and they also had to be mindful of what signage was put in so as not to ruin an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (I kid you not). I told him that it was absolutely pathetic to think that in 2015 such 'advanced' technology was not available even if it involved a man in a van just going down the A20 and switching the signs 'on' when needed and that his organisation was an absolute joke. He assured me that Highways Agency are now on top of the matter and a variable speed limit should be in force by Easter. I can only presume that highly skilled technicians are installing on/off switches on the signs as I write. I am not holding my breath! Bob Frost (Cllr)
- Bob Frost

In principal, I'm in agreement with the TAP Future points raised - particularly item #2. The point I'd like to add, and what anyone's me most - also, is the impact and management of road side litter these lorry//freight drives... there is no, or insufficient - well planned clear up policy?
- StefanL - Deal

It also needs to have some method of enforcement of both the speed limit (with fines collected from foreign drivers at the port) and the lanes. Currently, there has to be a police officer on duty at the traffic lights to stop lorries from using the right-hand lane and divert them back to the end of the queue. I watched several vehicles being turned round yesterday and also saw several more merging into the front of the line when the lights changed to green, thus jumping a queue of a couple of miles. It would also make more sense for the port traffic to use the right-hand lane, freeing up the left-hand lane for local traffic joining and leaving the A20 at the Courtwood Interchange and the Aycliffe roundabout. Currently, the system requires local traffic to cross between trucks at Courtwood, where they often leave only a small gap. It would also mean that the coast-bound on-ramp would not need to be closed to cars. A more reliable method of stopping trucks from using the Folkestone Road to access the port through the town centre would be helpful - many of them do not heed the notices.
- Bill Beer

It will only work properly if all the traffic uses the M20. Even when TAP was active the A2 and Jubilee way were gridlocked. Also major problems in the town with freight wagons trying to avoid the M20 coming down Whitfield hill and Castle Hill. Some people and vehicles were stuck on Jubilee way fo mor than an hour
- Richard

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15 JAN 2016

Working to repair rail line and cut delays

The failure of the sea wall at Dover has caused real challenges for our community. Rail journeys are longer. Travellers either have to go by bus to Folkestone or take a shuttle to Ramsgate.

Last week I met again with Network Rail and Southeastern Trains to hear about their plans to repair the railway and make sure people can get to work on time. It's clear that repairing the sea wall will be a big job and will take months to restore.

Network Rail are working on repairs and should be able to provide an estimate on how long the repairs will take in the next couple of weeks. Significantly they have successfully put in place "rock armour" to protect the existing sea wall. This will hopefully avoid the delay that would have been seen with a complete failure.

While the sea wall is being repaired, it is important to ensure that rail users can get to their destinations. It is particularly important that commuters can get to to their work places on time. So, from the outset, I have pressed Network Rail and Southeastern Trains to ensure that services are re-routed. Rail replacement buses now go direct from Dover, Deal and Walmer to Folkestone. At Folkestone the service joins with the fast train. There is also a shuttle service between Dover and Ramsgate via Deal. At Ramsgate the service joins with the fast train. Car parking at Folkestone West has also been made free.

There have however been challenges in the first week. First, communications with passengers have been poor. Secondly, the timing of replacement bus services, and indeed the actual arrival of some buses, was problematic. Thirdly, there were problems with the connection of the shuttle service to the fast train at Ramsgate.

I raised these problems with Southeastern when I met with them. They have been working to improve communications - especially on board communications where trains are late running. The problems with the bus service have also seen improvements. Buses now show up and they are making great effort to ensure that connections are maintained. Finally, delays on the shuttle service are being addressed and they are working to ensure the connection at Ramsgate is held.

Many rail users have asked if the Minster Loop can be used so services can go direct from Deal to Canterbury West. I have pressed Southeastern on this option and I know they are looking at what is possible.

I am seeking to hold a public meeting with Southeastern, Network Rail and commuters so travellers will be able to quiz rail chiefs directly. It is important everyone can share ideas on how services can be improved to make travelling easier while the sea wall is being repaired. I am doing all I can to ensure the sea wall at Dover is repaired as soon as possible and that the rerouted services are as fast as possible.

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12 JAN 2016

Consultation Response to Highways England: Managing Freight Vehicles through Kent

This is a response to Highways England's Managing Freight Vehicles through Kent consultation paper. I have studied the consultation document and set out my response and recommendations.

The problem

For too long congestion problems surrounding the Channel crossing at Dover have adversely affected residents and businesses.

The high volume of freight traffic crossing to and from Dover and the Channel Tunnel results in a high volume of rubbish and human waste being dumped into roadside verges and causes visual pollution.

This is exacerbated by the lack of cleaning and waste facilities. Congestion - whether due to weather, operational problems, security problems or industrial action – frequently leaves Dover in gridlock and stretches of the M20 out of action for days on end due to Operation Stack.

This has a negative impact on residents and the local economy. During the migrant crisis last summer, it was estimated that the Kent economy lost £1.5m for each day Operation Stack was in action. The UK economy as a whole was said to have lost £1 billion.

This problem is set to worsen. 2015 saw Operation Stack invoked for a record breaking 35 days. The volume of freight vehicles crossing the English Channel is increasing and the migrant crisis continues to put pressure on The UK's borders. Forecasts predict that the number of lorries will continue to climb.

Traffic volumes

Currently, 10,800 freight vehicles cross the Dover Straights every day. This figure is rising rapidly, with a 6% increase in volume recorded from Q3 2014-Q3 2015. Forecasts predict that freight volume in the area could double over the next decade. That would mean over 20,000 freight vehicles a day and the local infrastructure will struggle as it is not adequate for this volume of traffic.

Increased traffic already overwhelms lay-bys and other local resting areas for vehicles. This will inevitably see a rise in waste, inconvenience and damaged infrastructure where lorries are parked inappropriately. Such activity further demonstrates the need for a permanent area to house these freight vehicles.

Spending

In the 2015 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced £250 million funding to address the problems caused by Operation Stack.

The funding is intended for a lorry park to provide a permanent alternative to Operation Stack, seeing an end to the sporadic closure of the M20.

The Solution

Basic Needs

From the problems seen this summer to the forecasts set out, it is clear that a wide ranging solution is needed to address the problem of freight vehicles crossing the English Channel.

The Highways England consultation sets out four possible solutions to this problem at two possible locations.

These solutions seek to tackle the problem of Operation Stack on the M20, providing a permanent holding station and basic facilities for lorry drivers whilst they are stationed there. The proposed area could host lorries affected by Operation Stack, TAP congestion or general disruption whilst providing chargeable overnight parking and Truckstop services.

Suggested Proposals

Option 1: Emergency only

As its name suggests, Option 1 would see the new development in use solely during times when Operation Stack would be deployed. Lorries would not incur any upfront charges to use the area, but may be fined if they did not move on at the agreed time.

Basic welfare facilities (toilets, handwashing, water and waste disposal) would be complimentary and on site.

This should see infrequent (if rising) use of the area, but it should free up the entirety of the M20, unless under exceptional circumstances.

Option 2: General Disruption

Option 2 would accommodate vehicles in a variety of circumstances that would remove or reduce the need for the area's main disruptive traffic management systems: Operation Stack, TAP and/or any Eurotunnel queue management system.

This proposal includes all measures laid out in Option 1 and should see the freeing up of the M20 and other key local roads. Again, the lorries would incur no upfront costs.

Option 3: General Disruption and overnight Parking

The proposal of overnight parking is the first of two revenue generating ideas. Option 3 includes all measures laid out in Option 2, but also provides overnight space (outside times of emergency/disruption) for c.500 lorries.

Overnight parking seeks to address the growing problem of lorries parking inappropriately or 'fly-parking' in the surrounding area. However making it chargeable will mean that few will use it due to the cut-throat cost nature of the lorry freight drivers.

Option 4: General disruption and Truckstop

Option 4 encompasses all measures laid out in Options 1-3, but also includes a motorway service station, aimed at lorry drivers.

The service station, or "Truckstop", would function 24/7, 365 days a year and include basic welfare facilities alongside:

shower and washing facilities for lorry drivers;

hot drinks and food available for purchase and on-site consumption

Fuel would be provided on the (proposed) Stanford West site and possibly on the Junction 11 North site

Parking would be free for the first two hours and chargeable thereafter. This option should relieve pressure on the M20, cut the growing problem of ill-parked lorries and provide a useful service branch for lorry drivers.

Option 4 Plus: Mandatory parking

Option 4 is my preferred option. However, I believe it would be better if all lorries were required to stop at the park for advance check-in and sorting for travel by the Tunnel or the Port. The Tunnel/Port would then pay for the facility maintenance costs of the lorry park. This would ensure that vehicles could be sorted to avoid congestion at the M20/A20.

Proposed locations

In their consultation, Highways England have suggested two locations on either side of Junction 11 on the M20: Stanford West and Junction 11 North.

My preference is for the Stanford West site. Its location minimises the use and therefore disruption of local roads. It would have less of an environmental and visual impact on the local surroundings and it is equipped to deliver any/all of the functions proposed in Options 1–4.

Conclusion

It is my belief that Option 4 provides the highest value to lorry drivers and local residents, whilst combatting the issues caused by Operation Stack. I would add that Option 4 Plus should be considered.

Whilst consideration must be given to the impact this construction could have on neighbouring parks or service stations, I believe that getting the most for money is a good use of public funds. It is clear that Option 4 (and ideally 4 Plus) is the proposal that best offers this.

For the reasons stated above, should conclusions on economic and environmental sustainability come back positive, I support construction of Option 4's development on the Stanford West site, but believe Option 4 Plus should be considered as the most efficient method of cross-channel traffic management.

2 comments

very interested in your views, I to think option 4, and 4 plus are the only way forward, as some return has to to sought, I also believe that with the expected increase in freight crossing the channel, TAP has to become a perminent fixture, otherwise we would be back to square one. totally support your recommendations.
- ray williams

Its not only the operation stack that causes lorry problems we get them parking in Coombe valley Rd Dover every night and weekends causing us problems with rubbish and human waste , parking on pavements and being a nuisance with the speed they travel and the noise and times they pass our houses . I thought it was illegal to park overnight in residential streets ?????
- smurphy

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10 JAN 2016

Deal Festival New Year Party

It was great to catch up with the team who organise the Deal Festival for their New Year party. The events they have planned so far for this year sound really exciting.

The Deal Festival is one of the highlights of Deal's social calendar. It showcases the best of our town and local talent. I urge anyone who might be interested to find out more about getting involved in this years festival.

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08 JAN 2016

Dover Christ Church Academy

It was great to be able to visit Dover Christ Church Academy again now all of their new buildings have opened. I enjoyed hearing from students what impact the new facilities have had on their learning. They described the new rooms as a much better environment to work in, full of natural light. Thank you to Head Boy Daniel Holness and Head Girl Dianna Banks for giving me a tour.

The school's new art department was particularly impressive. The quality of the students work on display is a credit to the school.

It was also great to talk to 6th form students about their future career plans. We also discussed recent changes in Dover such as the new Buckland Hospital and the demolition of Burlington House.

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08 JAN 2016

Making the case for commuters

I have met again with Southeastern to see the replacement bus service from Folkestone West to Dover Priory. I listened to travellers tell me about their travel experiences using the service. Replacement buses are running from Deal, Walmer and Dover so passengers can join the High Speed line at Folkestone. Around 1,000 journeys are being made by local people from Folkestone West every day.

The High Speed service is vital to our community. It was important to meet again with Southeastern and Network Rail, not only for an update on repairing the line, but to press the importance of making passengers disrupted journeys as smooth as possible. The services need to connect effectively and they need to see if the Minster Loop can be used.

I have been receiving lots of feedback every day from constituents whose journeys have been affected on what could be done better to help them reach their destinations. I communicated to Southeastern the importance of keeping passengers informed of up to the minute changes.

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08 JAN 2016

Deal Hospital League of Friends

I enjoyed the chance to catch up with Maureen and Doris at Deal Hospital to discuss the work they do with the League of Friends. They do incredible fundraising work to support the Hospital.

The League of Friends run the hospital tea shop, as well as holding fund raising events such as the annual Deal Hospital Summer Fete to fund extra items and facilities the hospital needs. The League of Friends has also raised the money to fund 3 hospice beds at the hospital.

The League of Friends need more volunteers to get involved. They play a key part in providing five star healthcare for our community. Getting involved is a great opportunity to support our hospital. So do get in touch with them and get involved as a volunteer.

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02 JAN 2016

Working hard to get our railway back on track

The failure of the sea wall by the Dover to Folkestone railway line on Christmas Eve will cause months of disruption for rail users. I am doing all I can to ensure the repairs are carried out as quickly as possible.

Ensuring the stability of the sea wall is essential. So it's hard to understand how this could have happened. There should be regular inspection and maintenance on an exposed section like this. Nearby residents have told me that the level of shingle has been falling all year and the footings have been exposed for some time. So I am pressing Network Rail on the inspection and maintenance record - especially after what happened at Dawlish.

The bigger question is how long the repairs will take. This is not a small sea wall failure. It looks like some 200m of sea wall has failed and will need repair. This is a very big project. So already I am making the case to Network Rail and the Rail Minister that the repairs need to be carried up as quickly as possible.

The sea wall failure does not just affect Dover. It also has a serious impact on Deal and the Dover villages. Deal has benefitted from the fast train we fought so hard to get. It is a town with many commuters and fast train visitors who have boosted the local economy and helped Deal to enjoy more success. The sea wall failure will mean that services from Deal will be slower.

I am very conscious how difficult this will make life for rail users. I am doing all I can to hurry the repairs. Yet I am also discussing with Southeastern Trains and Network Rail whether fast services can go from Deal using the Manston Loop. This would reduce lost time but will be a real timetable challenge to make work.

A number of people have been in contact with their ideas on what can be done. Do please email me with your ideas too. I would particularly like to hear from season ticket holders to explore what particular measures can be done to help them from train rerouting to ride sharing.

I know how important it is to ensure these problems are worked on swiftly as most rail users will go back to work next week and I want to ensure a clear plan is in place by then. Not withstanding that we are trying to put a plan together over the Christmas period when many people in the rail industry are also away.

The failure of the sea wall on the Dover to Folkestone stretch of railway is a real worry. Yet I am doing all I can to get to fixed as soon as possible. I am doing all I can to see rail services rerouted and working hard to minimise the impact on rail travellers. The next few months will be very testing. Yet with good planning ahead I hope that it will be as quick as possible and that travellers will suffer the least possible disruption.

3 comments

Keep on top of it Charlie. You & the diligent Nigel Collor are pushing hard. Pity South Eastern can't get their Dover-Ramsgate shuttle to marry up with Ramsgate -St Pancras timetable.
- Maggie Kennedy

Whilst it goes without saying that the Manston Loop should be used where possible (and they really ought to marry up their timetables) please bear in mind that that route is pretty much zero use to people in Dover and highly sub-optimal, to say the least, for people in Deal. The overriding priority must be to get the line fixed as early as possible. As far as I can tell the Dawlish line took less than 2 months to fix. Can we expect to see a similar degree of urgency with our line?
- James Gee

I'm not sure whether you can bring any influence but 3 days into our return to work 3 of my 5 train journeys (Dover to/from Stratford Int) have been disrupted over and above the need to catch buses. This morning and yesterday the early morning trains were held up due to another train occupying the platform at Folkestone Central which left 20 minutes late yesterday and nearly 15 minutes late today. We were told this train was being delayed, but with no reason given. There is very little shelter at Folkestone Central and the platform was packed with people (getting soaked yesterday). Also the timing of bus services to Folkestone to connect with a service has resulted in several trains full of people using a single service, with passengers standing at Folkestone, The delays in the morning were compounded with a horrendous journey home last night, which entailed catching a train from Stratford which then sat at Ashford for sometime, having been told they were waiting for a driver from another service to arrive. We were then told as there was no available driver the train was being cancelled. As they had already cancelled the following high speed train we had a 40 minute delay at Ashford to get to Folkestone, at which point onward travelers still needed to get buses. A train was due to arrive with a driver, and I suspect that had the train then left it would have been late going back out the other way affecting performance percentages, but given the current situation surely the impact on customers should be taken into account? The delay was compounded by the fact that buses are running to some sort of timetable, but aren't necessarily meeting trains, which I do not understand at all (if it is a rail replacement service shouldn't a bus be there ready to meet trains?) If you are able to raise these issues with Southeastern it would be greatly appreciated, as, apart from the bus issue the information being given to customers and service continuity is very poor - there should be buses to take you to the station, and you should then be able to board a train immediately. All these issues are within their control. Thanks in advance for any influence you might be able to bring to bear.
- Jackie Childs

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21 DEC 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

As we approach Christmas I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The Christmas break is a great time to take stock of the year that has passed. So much has happened in our community: Burlington House is coming down, the new Dover Buckland Hospital has opened its doors and the A20 TAP system has done much to spare Dover gridlock. Most recently, the Chancellor has announced £250m of funding for the M20 lorry parks we have needed and wanted for so long.

This time last year all these improvements looked very distant prospects. It did not look like Burlington House would be demolished any time soon. We had waited for a decade and we looked set to wait longer still. Yet now the building is coming down and it is noticeable how the Dover skyline has changed.

The Buckland Hospital was still being built this time last year. Now it is open and providing a modern, purpose built healthcare environment. It has made a great difference already and is saving unnecessary journeys to Ashford and Margate. I am making the case for a health village around the hospital so that we can provide care in our community for those in need close to home.

Last Winter and into the Spring, Dover suffered from gridlock as port traffic increased while the road infrastructure could not cope. I held debates in the House of Commons to press Ministers to find a solution to this problem, which resulted in the TAP system being installed. This has made a great improvement to the town. However, there is a strong case for the traffic lights to be moved West away from Aycliffe so residents there can get a good night's sleep. And the 40 mph limit should be made variable.

Another great development is the funding of the much needed M20 lorry parks by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement. The consultation on this has already started. It is really important that everyone in Dover & Deal takes part in the consultation and makes the case for the TAP system to continue and a lorry park with all year round parking and a truckstop. We need to put an end to lay-bys being full of lorries, our verges being churned up and the quite disgusting roadside mess many lorry drivers leave behind. This is a real opportunity to make our roads cleaner, nicer and tidier places. It will also protect our economy and provide a permanent alternative to Operation Stack.

It has been a year when much has been achieved, but we cannot rest on our laurels. 2016 will bring further challenges, but great satisfaction when we face these together as a community and succeed.

Have a really great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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18 DEC 2015

Deal Royal Mail Delivery Office

I really enjoyed the chance to meet some of our local postal workers at Royal Mail's Deal Delivery Office to hear about the work they do. They work so incredibly hard at this time of year to make sure we can all enjoy the festive period.

I was taken around the delivery office by Delivery Office Manager Patricia Moore. We discussed the different challenges of delivering to rural and built up areas.

We all rely on our local Royal Mail teams not just at Christmas, but all year around to get us our letters and parcels on time. I would like to thank all of our local postmen and women for everything they do all year.

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18 DEC 2015

Dover Lifeboat

It was fantastic to catch up with the team of staff and volunteers at the Dover Lifeboat. They do such incredible work saving lives at sea. It is inspiring to hear how most of the crew is staffed by volunteers.

I was taken on a tour of the boathouse and the Dover Lifeboat by Lifeboat Captain Simon Moore and Coxwain and mechanic James Clapham. They told me about the types of rescue challenges faced covering the English Channel, and about how the RLNI are increasing their focus on educating the public to help prevent marine incidents.

Thank you to everyone at Dover Lifeboat and the RLNI for being there to rescue lives at sea. I hope everyone will do all they can to support the RNLI and the Dover Lifeboat in their critical work. They rely on donations from the public to operate. Public support is essential to cover the cost of their operations each year.

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11 DEC 2015

Small businesses drive our economy

Last weekend's Small Business Saturday was a great opportunity to celebrate our local businesses. Small local businesses matter as they provide 6 out of 10 jobs.

Last year I visited businesses in Dover to hear how they were finding the trading environment. Back then things were still just picking up. This year I visited businesses in Deal High Street. It's clear our recovery is now being really felt by businesses. They told me that the inflation busting wage rises and higher numbers of people in work are now making a real difference.

Last years Small Business Saturday saw over 16 million people go out to support small businesses and over £500 million was spent with small businesses. Hundreds of businesses up and down the land took part. It was great news that Dover District Council also supported the day with free parking across the district.

This campaign has also taken hold among Parliamentarians. Over 200 MPs support the campaign, including the Prime Minister, the Business Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This is welcome as big business has more lobbying resources and Small Business Saturday is a powerful reminder that small businesses are the job creators. Over 1 million new jobs were created by small business over the past decade. While big businesses did not create many at all. What's more today's small businesses are tomorrow's big businesses. Backing the small business entrepreneurs means more jobs, more innovation and more world class businesses in the future.

In Deal I visited the Black Douglas which provides great food and super coffee. Dalziel Douglas runs the most delightful establishment which is packed with regulars and tourists alike. Blind Illusions run up curtains, blinds and brilliant plantation shutters. They may be based on Deal yet they do work all over the country. While the furniture, candles and Christmas gifts at Beach Furniture in the High Street is well worth a visit. The array of candles there is quite breathtaking while they provide everything from Christmas baubles to very comfortable sofas you can sink right into.

Deal High Street is just such a gem. It is rightly celebrated as the best in the land. The fast train now sweeps into Deal every hour of every day and this has clearly made a huge difference to the vitality and energy seen in the High Street. Yet so too have the small businesses. It is the energy and sense of purpose of our local businesses that has led to the transformation of Deal. Deal is a town on the rise. It is no wonder the town is increasingly hailed as the new Whitstable.

It's impressive to see how well small businesses are doing in Dover and Deal. They are the innovators and the job creators. They are the major local employers and I will continue to do all I can to support them in Parliament.

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05 DEC 2015

Damage To Public Byways

Along with members of the White Cliffs Ramblers, I went to see the damage that has been done to public byways near Guston by off-road drivers.

The deep ruts in the mud created by 4x4's and other vehicles have filled with water. In some places, this has caused the path to become unpassable for dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists.

I will be raising this issue with the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss. It seems to me that rules of access for public byways open to all traffic need to change.

1 comment

These are footpaths and bridleways and motorised vehicles should not have access to them.
- Edmond Rube

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05 DEC 2015

St. Margaret's Christmas Lights

It was incredible to see so many people turn out to switch on the Christmas lights in St. Margaret's this year. There was a real feeling of community spirit. It was a festive afternoon out for the whole family. Curry tasting was on offer along with mince pies and mulled wine. The face painting, Minion and Frozen characters delighted the children.

Thank you to Mr and Mrs Surean at the village corner shop for all of their hard work putting together such a wonderful event.

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04 DEC 2015

Gomez Fruit Facility

It was fascinating to visit Gomez's facility just off the A2. With the highest technology, they store, naturally ripen, pack, process and distribute an impressive range of fruit and vegetables, ready for sale across the country.

Operating since 1955, Gomez is independently owned, 86% by its fruit and vegetable growers in Southern Spain. Gomez currently employs over 500 permanent staff, and has plans to expand operations onto additional land it has recently purchased for development.

I was impressed to hear how the business has steadily been growing year on year, and I look forward to visiting again soon to hear more about their expansion plans.

Gomez do so much to support the local community, from sponsoring Dover Athletic FC to visiting local schools to talk to the children about field to fork food production and to help promote a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables.

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04 DEC 2015

Dover Royal Mail Delivery Office

It's impressive to see the effort and dedication the team at Royal Mail's Dover delivery office put in to make sure everyone receives their Christmas post each year.

I was given a tour of the office by Delivery Office Manager Elly Scott. It was great to chat with the postmen and women who look after our local delivery routes.

Postal workers do such an important job. Not just during this busy period, but all year around ensuring we get our post in good time. I would like to thank the Dover team for their hard work throughout the year.

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04 DEC 2015

Dover Food Bank

It was great to have the opportunity to meet with the Dover Food Bank volunteers to hear about all the wonderful work they and their volunteers have been doing this year.

The Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection, in conjunction with The Trussell Trust and FareShare is a great initiative. It helps to support families in need so that they can get back on their feet.

Across the country, customers in Tesco stores helped provide 3.6 million meals to people in need over the Summer. The supermarket has pledged a 30% top up donation to the items donated by customers.

I urge everyone to just pick a few items from the list of things the food bank really need when you're doing your shopping. Supporting the work of the Dover Food Bank makes a real difference to people in need.

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04 DEC 2015

St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe Primary School Christmas Fair

Discussing life in Parliament at St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe Primary School was a highlight of my week. They asked me about Parliamentary debates and why I became an MP. They also asked how I felt about the vote for Britain to take part in Syria last Wednesday.

After talking with the children about life in Parliament, I was delighted to open the school Christmas fair. The fair well attended by staff, pupils and parents, giving everyone at the school the opportunity to celebrate the school's recent achievements, including an 'outstanding' rating in their most recent Ofsted inspection.

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04 DEC 2015

Constituency Christmas Card

I asked children from local primary schools to enter a competition to design my local Christmas card. Eight local schools entered the competition, and the entries were judged by Dover's Mayor Chris Precious, Deal's Mayor Adrian Friend along with the Chairman of Dover District Council Sue Chandler. All local state primary schools were asked if they wanted to participate.

Sophia Moses, 6, from Eastry Church of England Primary School had her card chosen as the winning design. The three runners up; Kiki Dempsey, 9, from Priory Fields School, Eleanor Williams, 10, from Vale View Primary School and Alfie Holloway, 5, from The Downs Church of England Primary School have their designs printed on the back of my card.

There were so many brilliant designs entered into the competition this year, the judges really had their work cut out. However, Sophia, Kiki, Eleanor and Alfie's cards really stood out. I'm looking forward to sending out Sophia's design locally with my Christmas message this year.

I want to thank everyone who put such hard work in entering such wonderful designs into the competition, and to our Deal and Dover Mayors, along with the Chairman of Dover District Council for taking the time to act as judges.

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04 DEC 2015

£250m investment to end Operation Stack

It is fantastic news that the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement £250m to be invested in building lorry parks on the M20 so that Operation Stack will no longer be needed, and gridlock in our town can be eased.

These lorry parks need to work in tandem with the Dover TAP system, and have an advance check-in system to manage lorry traffic so that instead of ploughing into Dover whether the Port is ready to receive them or not, lorries would have to check-in and only travel on towards our town when there is space for them.

A lot of constituents have been contacting me not only about the traffic problems on Dover roads, but about illegally parked HGV's obstructing our main roads and rural villages. Designated lorry parks will also help tackle the problem of lorries parking where they shouldn't.

2 comments

The use of lorry parks must be mandatory otherwise foreign HGVs will still use inappropriate and dangerous verges and slip roads. Once again I suggest the price for a redeemable voucher for lorry parking be added to ferry ticket . There must also be more than one so that HGVs approaching the Port have access to a lorry park whichever rout they choose to use.
- Cllr Mog Ovenden

Foreign lorry drivers park where they want because they know the Police will not fine them or move them on. Why not use the same system as France. You park up you pay the fine there and then, Police take you to a cash point or you use a credit card. It stopped it there. We have ANPR cameras at the ports. Use them. If a ticket is issued the registration is logged immediately if it is not paid prior to departure the fine is double, Dover Port Police act taking half the fine. Self funding.
- Tony

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27 NOV 2015

Take extra care on Winter's roads

As we enter winter and temperatures drop we need to take more care on the roads. The days are shorter and freezing weather will make the roads increasingly treacherous.

We need to ensure our local roads are safer. Figures released recently by the Department for Transport are deeply concerning. They show there was a 12% rise in traffic accidents in Dover and Deal between 2009 and 2014. There was a steady rise in serious and fatal accidents over the five year period. Progress towards casualty reduction is 20% lower than the national average.

This is not good enough. It is very disappointing there is such a poor safety record on our roads. Particularly as the Government has provided Kent with £6.3 million in special grants to resurface roads and repair potholes. People feel that East Kent is the poor relation - they believe money goes to West Kent, while we don't seem to get the same investment in our area. These road safety figures make it clear that things have to change. Kent highways' record on road safety is not good enough and urgent action is needed to improve the situation.

Christmas means bad weather. Trees will fall over - as happened on the A258 last weekend. This closed the road and led to massive delays with every small country lane nearby being choked up with traffic. Kent Highways need to be on top of that. We will also see more ice on the roads. I am also deeply concerned by how many complaints I get about roads with poor drainage. This is dangerous and contributes to the lack of safety on our roads. Many constituents tell me they are worried about how poor the drainage is local roads.

Urgent action is now needed from Kent Highways not only to improve our roads and cut down vegetation, but to improve road drainage too. Effective action will help save lives.

Finally we need to encourage safer driving. Prosecutors don't always throw the book at drivers who kill people on our roads. They agree plea bargains for the lower careless driving offence. I am in discussion with MPs about those who kill on the roads who are pleading guilty to careless driving. It matters because the maximum sentence is 5 years - which is then reduced by 30% for a guilty plea. Thereafter only half the sentence is served so guilty drivers can serve just two years. This leaves the families of those tragically killed often feeling cheated of justice. The Sentencing Council is looking at this and I will be monitoring developments closely.

We need to ensure drivers who kill face tough sentences and that our roads get the investment they need. Yet the greatest change to our accident figures will come from all of us taking extra care to drive as safely as we can over Christmas and the winter months.

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26 NOV 2015

Local Apprenticeships

It's encouraging to see more and more young people taking advantage of apprenticeships to get the skills and experience they need. Figures released by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills that show 900 local young people have started apprenticeships in the last year. A total of 4,030 young people have started apprenticeships in Dover and Deal since 2010.

Across the South East there has been an 8% rise in new apprenticeship starts, with 65,000 young people starting apprenticeships in 2014/15. Over 2.4 million apprenticeships were started across the country in the last Parliament.

Apprenticeships help people succeed in the workplace in jobs that will provide financial stability and security for their futures.

Youth unemployment in Dover and Deal has fallen dramatically, and it's clear that the new apprenticeships that have been created over the past few years have helped train young people to fill more of the skilled jobs in our area.

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20 NOV 2015

Dover Soup Kitchen

I joined volunteers from the Dover Soup Kitchen and St. Paul's Catholic Church to help serve hot meals and drinks to people in need from Pencester Road car park so that I could see the fantastic work they do first hand. Dover Soup Kitchen matters to our community. It is important that we offer the help the most vulnerable in our society and support people to make positive changes in their lives.

Dover Soup Kitchen was founded in 1991 to provide free meals, hot drinks, clothes and bedding in Dover Town Centre at 6pm every evening to the homeless, vulnerable and those otherwise in need. Over 150 volunteers work on rotation to staff each session, as well as to buy and prepare all of the food they serve up.

It is wonderful to see such a committed group of volunteers come together to give to the community. Thank you to everyone who gives their time to support such a worthy cause.

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20 NOV 2015

Time to take on the terrorists

We all sat in shock as we watched the terrible news from Paris unfold on our TV screens last Friday. It became increasingly clear that this not just a monstrous attack on our civilisation. It was carefully planned with at least three separate teams of terrorists striking at the same time.

These indiscriminate murderous attacks took place when people were enjoying a normal Friday night out. Watching football, attending a concert and going for a meal out. These are the targets of ISIL - innocent civilians out enjoying leisure time.

Dover is our closest town to France. We see Calais across the waves from the white cliffs. The French are our neighbours, friends and trading partners. Today, as never before, we stand shoulder to shoulder with France and everyone who lost loved ones in this horrific atrocity.

Talk has quickly turned to how we should respond and the threat here in Britain. We need to work ever more closely with France to ensure that our borders are kept safe and secure.

French anti terrorist police raided a hotel at Calais after the attacks in Paris. This is not some far away event. It is close by. Security has been tightened at all of our borders, including at the Port of Dover. We too must do our bit - to be vigilant and to support our border officers in all they do to protect us and to keep us safe.

These attacks have also turned the spotlight on EU open borders. Events have shown how important it is that Britain's border controls stay in Calais so terrorists and criminals can't just wander into Britain.

There are calls for the UK to join France in air strikes against ISIL. We have to defeat ISIL and the terrorists. I believe it would be right for us to take whatever action is necessary to achieve this. Our safety and security depends on degrading and destroying ISIL.

New funding will be provided for an additional 1,900 officers at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. We are making air travel more secure too.

We must remember that it is not all Muslims who seek to attack us. It is a small group who use Islam to justify their evil aims. We must stand united against them and seek to unite all the communities of our nation against those who preach hate and seek to murder.

Our intelligence services are working day and night to make sure that we are kept safe and secure. Protecting the British people is our top priority. We must be resolute and determined in the face of those who seek to kill us and destroy the values we hold dear. Yet most of all we now need to act to confront ISIL - and to defeat them and their evil terrorist state.

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20 NOV 2015

Long-term unemployment falls in Dover & Deal

It is fantastic to hear that long-term unemployment has fallen in Dover and Deal.

The latest jobs figures released last week show that over the last 12 month period, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Dover and Deal has fallen by 28%, with almost 400 fewer people requiring out of work support. There is also good news for 16-24 year olds, where youth unemployment is down by over a third.

Unemployment in Dover & Deal is now down 55% since 2010 to 1,021. Youth unemployment is now down 66% since 2010 to 2014.

National employment is at a record-breaking 73.7% and with wages increasing by 3 per cent, we are helping more people than ever rise out of Labour's unemployment trap.

With every month the country gets closer to reaching our goal of full employment. More jobs and people with the security of a regular pay packet and less welfare is my priority. I'm committed to seeing more people in Dover & Deal able to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

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14 NOV 2015

Local Christmas Markets

I had such a great morning visiting some of the great Christmas markets that have been popping up in the run up to the Festive Season. I visited Deal and Capel-Le-Ferne to chat to sellers and buy some Christmas cards.

Cards for Good Causes and other festive items were being sold at the Landmark Centre in aid of Cancer Care, and villagers in Capel-Le-Ferne opened up their village hall for a Kent Craft Christmas Market, selling handmade gifts from local crafters, as well as providing refreshments and a tombola to raise funds for the village hall.

We have so many talented producers and crafters in our area. It is important that we support small, local businesses - especially when they are supporting great causes - when we're out doing our Christmas shopping. Thank you to everyone who put their hard work and energy into putting together such fantastic events events this weekend.

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13 NOV 2015

Temple Ewell Primary School

Temple Ewell Primary School is a great example of an outstanding local school. It is deeply impressive that they have achieved 100% literacy. This is a goal that all schools in our area should strive for.

It was also welcome to hear that their hard work and dedication have been recognised by The Schools Guide, who have ranked them as the top school in the district. I was incredibly impressed by the work I saw pupils doing when I visited their classes on a tour of the school.

During my tour, I also discussed with Executive Headteacher Jo Hygate and Head of School Angela Matthews the future of the school's temporary buildings and mobile classrooms, and how newer, better classrooms would really help the children in their learning and development in what already is a great school environment.

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13 NOV 2015

Cherished Gowns

I found it incredibly moving to hear about the wonderful work Cherished Gowns have been doing to support parents who have suffered such a terrible loss.

Cherished Gowns for Angel Babies UK, is a Dover based group of volunteers up and down the country who make gowns out of donated wedding dresses for stillborn babies. It is really amazing how quickly their group has grown with volunteers giving up their time, and how much thought and care that is put into every single pack that is sent out to grieving parents. Cherished Gowns have around 500 volunteers sewing gowns and knitting booties, hats and blankets.

Cherished Gowns was started in October 2014 to help support bereaved parents by offering them clothing to dress their stillborn babies in for burial, as most stillborns are too small for regular baby clothing. Packs of their gowns are now available to parents in 70 hospitals across Britain.

Around 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth in Britain every day, and around 1,000 unfortunately did not make it in Kent alone last year.

I am going to do everything I can to support Cherished Gowns in their effort to get hospital space and to support and improve provisions for bereaved and grieving parents during such a difficult time. They are running their first community volunteer day on November 22, so if you have a moment to head over to help them iron gowns, match booties and pack boxes, your help would be greatl