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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Charlie Elphicke

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