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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com, call 01304 379669 or write to Dover and Deal Conservative Association, 54 The Strand, Walmer, Kent, CT14 7DU.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 greatly appreciated.
I found the opportunity to tour Tilmanstone Salads who create 750 of our local jobs to hear about all of the in house opportunities they provide for their staff really encouraging.
It is incredibly impressive that they provide all of the packed salads for Marks & Spencer up and down the country from their factory. In addition, there is an on-site food development team dedicated to new Marks & Spencer products. The 22 acre site, which the company has been based at since 2001, is operational 24 hours a day, 363 days a year. The site produces up to 70 different fresh products a day, totalling up to 1,650,000 packs of fresh produce a week.
As well as touring the production site, I heard about the support provided for workers at the factory including a staff training centre, weekly visits from an in-house physio and a range of company backed initiatives including family fun days and staff charity fundraising efforts.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the business and local job opportunities grow with the £3.1 million they have invested in their factory this year.
I found it really interesting to discuss future career plans with Canterbury Christ Church University students. I took part in two careers sessions; a group discussion with disabled students, and a session as part of the universities final year Politics and International Relations Employability Day.
I was particularly interested to hear about how adjustments can be made to help disabled students in the workplace. It is important that we support our future graduates with the advice, guidance and shared expertise they need to successfully find their footing in the world of work.
Over the last five years we have come a long way to securing a fairer share of healthcare in Dover & Deal. The next stage is to ensure we have five star healthcare. This is not just about hospitals and care beds. It's also about better public health, mental healthcare and ambulances we can trust.
Back in 2010 Dover's Buckland Hospital had been decimated for a decade. Wards had been axed axed one by one. Deal Hospital was left teetering on the edge. Fast forward to 2015 and a new state of the art Buckland Hospital has opened. Deal Hospital has been saved from closure. We now have a one stop shop for outpatient care.
Yet we also need great public health and reliable emergency services. So news this week that South East Coast Ambulance Trust had decided to put all 111 calls to the bottom of the pile as an automatic policy was deeply concerning. It is claimed that some 25 people may have died unnecessarily as a result of this policy.
The health regulator Monitor has condemned the Trust. It is clear to me it is shocking and unacceptable. When we call for an ambulance, we expect help to arrive straightaway when we need it. This is not good enough.
Public health is also a worry. Statistics released this week show that schoolchildren in Town and Pier ward have been found to be the most obese in the country. 56% are overweight or obese. There are concerns elsewhere in the district too. I have written to all primary schools in Dover to ask them why they think Dover children are more likely to be overweight and what might be done about it. I have also asked health chiefs for their observations as these figures are a real concern.
Good health for life begins in childhood. It's critical we educate children and parents on how to eat healthily. Healthy eating choices make for a balanced diet, better nutrition and less obesity. We also need to ensure a lifelong culture of exercise starts in childhood. That's why school sport matters. Studies show that the more exercise a child gets, the happier and more confident they are. This is how we boost our young people's chances in life and give them the best possible start.
It's also important we teach cooking skills too for the same reason. Less junk food and more good old fashioned cooking makes for a healthier and longer life.
Physical health is important but mental health matters too. Recently I invited members of Talk it Out, a support group for those that suffer from mental health or care for those with mental health illness, to Parliament. I hosted a discussion with representatives from the mental health charity Mind, and with the Mental Health Minister. Talk it Out were able to find out about more support locally and discuss what can be done to improve care locally.
Children and young people's physical and mental health is a key priority for this Government. £1.25bn will be invested in mental health over the next five years to improve services.
We need excellent healthcare at all levels. That's what five star healthcare is all about. Better public health, stronger mental health services, ambulances we can trust, the local care beds we need and first rate local hospitals. These are all essential to make sure our community is cared for in the best possible way.
Along with a delegation of Kent MP's, I've met with Chancellor George Osborne to press for action on Operation Stack. I made the case for building a lorry park on the M20 as a permanent solution to the problem.
The plan would include additional land purchase and road infrastructure would cost over £100 million. Central Government funding and the Chancellor's support is therefore required.
The lorry parks should work effectively with the Dover Anti-gridlock TAP system, and include an advanced check in system for lorries. Lorries would not be able to plough into Dover whether the Port is ready to receive them or not.
The Summer chaos cost Britain £1Bn and brought the whole of Kent to a standstill. We cannot have that happen again. Building a lorry park on the M20 is the obvious and most practical long term solution.
I am gravely concerned that figures released by Public Health England show that Town and Pier ward in Dover has the highest rate of overweight and obese children in the country. Other areas have concerning levels of obesity too.
I have written to all schools in the area, as well as local Doctors and public health chiefs to start a conversation about what can be done to reverse this worrying trend. We need schools and health chiefs to work together and see what action can be taken. I plan to take the ideas and feedback I get on what can be done to tackle this issue to the Education and Health Secretaries.
Tackling childhood obesity is a major priority. Improving our children's education on how to make healthy lifestyle choices is just one of the ways we can work to tackle this issue. However, I do not think that a sugar tax is the answer. I worry that a sugar tax will hit the poorest families hardest. That's why I sense we should focus on education and exercise.
Tax credit reform has been at the top of the political agenda for the past week. I have received many emails from residents about the reforms. So I am setting out more detail on the reforms and the plan for a higher wage, lower welfare economy.
We have to live within our means as a nation. At the election the Government set out plans to save £12 billion in welfare spending. It's not wise to spend more, tax more and borrow more. It would wreck our economic recovery here in Dover & Deal and across the nation as a whole. That is why we have to make savings and have been looking to reform the tax credit system. However we must look after the people who have helped drive recovery – people who work hard, are responsible citizens and do the best for their families.
I have listened carefully to all the concerns that have been raised. It is really important that there is a gentler transition to reducing welfare and increasing take home pay. A slower pace of change was planned ahead of the House of Lords taking an interest in the matter this week.
Reforming tax credits is part of a much wider package of reform so people are paid more money in wages and lose less in taxes. This is why we are introducing a new National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour in 2016. This rises to £9 an hour by 2020, at which point someone currently working full time on Minimum Wage will be £5,200 a year better off. It will directly benefit 2.7 million people who are currently paid less than £7.20 an hour and a further 3.25 million people will benefit as employers increase wages. This will be a massive boost to low paid workers here in Dover & Deal.
The Government is also increasing the personal allowance (the amount of money you can earn before you pay income tax). In 2010 it was less than £6,500. By 2020, it will be £12,500. This means a typical taxpayer will be paying £1,205 less a year and millions of low paid people will no longer pay any income tax.
It's also important that we help parents with the cost of childcare. From 2017 there will be 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three and four year-olds worth up to £2,000 a year.
After taking into account all of the welfare and tax changes most families will be better off by the end of this Parliament. For example a lone parent with one child, working 35 hours on the National Minimum Wage, will see income increased by £1,550. A couple working 35 hours a week on the Minimum Wage with two children will have income increased by £5,570.
We've come a long way together over the last five years. Unemployment has fallen dramatically. Wages are rising. We are helping the least well off to get paid better and taxed less. Less welfare, more work, and bigger pay rises are the way to ensure we continue see more jobs and money here in Dover & Deal.
The news that Dover Immigration Removal Centre is set to close has been a real shock to those that work there. I am deeply concerned for all the employees and their families.
The Home Office announced last week that the IRC will be transferred back to the Ministry of Justice, and immigrants housed in Dover are to be transferred to other removal centres. The Home Office felt that the Dover site was not modern enough, secure enough, or near enough to a departure airport. For these reasons they are closing the site.
As soon as I was made aware of the closure I went to see the Immigration Minister and the Prisons Minister. The Home Office and Ministry of Justice will need to work closely so that nothing – and no-one - falls between the cracks. I have urged them both to do all they can to ensure that the dedicated staff of the IRC have a smooth transition into a new job. Every member of staff should be be helped to gain a position elsewhere.
A number of staff have already contacted me and I am doing all I can. It is important to get on the front foot now and make our voices heard. As the MP for Dover I have always banged the drum for my constituents. Now more than ever that will be the case.
This week I have held further meetings with Ministers to discuss jobs and their response has been positive. They understand how difficult this will be for staff and are working to offer support to the workers. Local training companies have also offered their services. It's really welcome that district councillors and the town council are also helping the workers. Together we are doing all we can at every level.
It is also important to consider the future of the IRC site. If the Home Office are determined to stop it being an IRC, it would not make sense for it to stay as a prison or place of detention. We should make the most of the opportunity to redevelop the Western Heights with a high quality development and make the Western Heights an even greater place to live. And we should have a proper consultation with the people of Dover to find out what residents want to see happen. Too often it seems that decisions are made behind closed doors. This is a chance for engagement and we should not lose the chance to do something really great here.
But right now, the most important thing is the future of the workers. These are people who have dedicated their lives to helping protect our borders. It is right that they should be helped into new roles and continue to have the security of work and a regular pay packet. I will do all I can.
It is great to see that unemployment is continuing to fall in Dover and Deal in figures released by the Office of National Statistics. The growing number of jobs is fantastic news locally and, as wages rise across the country, it shows that our long term economic plan is creating a brighter future for hard working families.
The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is at its lowest since 2010. There were 1,002 people claiming JSA in Dover and Deal in September, a 55% drop since the Conservatives came to power five years ago. We've also seen a drop in youth unemployment in our area - there are now only 225 youth claimants.
I'm really proud that Milaad Tandoori has been Highly Commended in The Tiffin Cup, Parliament's annual award for the best South Asian restaurant in Britain. To be honoured in this way is a testament to all of the hard work the staff at Milaad put into creating such fantastic food with wonderful service.
Not only is The Tiffin Cup a brilliant way to celebrate all of the fantastic South Asian restaurants we have in Britain like Milaad, but it also helps raise money for World Vision, an international children's charity with Christian roots. It is great that such a fantastic local restaurant was able to take part.
Milaad Tandoori will receive a certificate and embroidered Tiffin Cup apron to mark their achievement in this years competition.
I was really pleased to be able to bring together Middle Deal residents affected by the recent flooding for a public meeting with representatives from Southern Water, Kent County Council, Dover District Council, the River Stour Internal Drainage Board, the Environment Agency, Persimmon Homes, Quinn Estates, and local councillors including Adrian Friend, the Mayor of Deal.
Residents were able to question the agencies about the problems they have been facing, and what can be done to prevent more flooding in the future.
I thought it was a positive meeting. There was a real sense that residents' concerns were being listened to and should be acted on. I am particularly pleased that Southern Water is taking action to upgrade the Golf Road Pumping Station. I hope they will properly compensate residents for loss and damage that was suffered in the latest flooding.
However, I remain concerned that there is still not adequate provision to deal with the flooding that is caused by surface water. I worry that we do not have enough water offtake and dyke capacity in the area. Surface water drainage must not be allowed to add to the problem. It is important that any developments include infrastructure to help with water offtake and water storage in the event of future downpours. It was encouraging to hear Quinn Estates make sensible suggestions as to how they could help improve the situation.
My thanks to everyone who attended the meeting.
It is wonderful to see new investment in improvements - such as new windows and fencing - being put into Dover's Council Housing, including in the Canadian Estate. The estate now also has a mobile caretaker collecting rubbish and contributing to the general upkeep of the buildings. The work done so far looks great, and I look forward to seeing the work completed.
I was also really pleased to hear how the improvements to the estate have been influenced by input from the estates residents.
The summer disruption of Operation Stack caused real damage to the Kent economy. Making sure that the traffic flows while our borders are secure matters to us all. This is why I welcome the increased border security at Calais and why I am pressing for lorry parks on the M20.
Our border at Calais used to leak like a sieve. Just five years ago we had a situation where pretty much anyone could just wander into Britain. Thanks to firm action it's now much harder to enter the country. Vigilant ships now patrol the English Channel. Strong fences ensure Calais port and Tunnel security. While sniffer dogs detect stowaways hiding in the fruit and veg. In addition there are plans for secure lorry parks in France and to encourage hauliers to have more powerful lorry security detection systems.
None of this pleases the Mayor of Calais of course. She wants to send her migrants to Dover on a one way ticket. She wants to move the border from Calais back to Dover. Thankfully our Home Secretary is working closely with the French Government. The French Government understands that the solution to the migrant problem is stronger border security across the whole of Europe and tougher action against traffickers. It is not simply shuffling the problem from one country to another as the Mayor of Calais would prefer. The answer lies in us all working together.
Stronger and safer borders will mean less disruption to our traffic too. After a summer of misery caused by Operation Stack we all know how important this is.
Yet difficulties can still occur. If not migrants then there can be other problems in the Tunnel. Ferries can be disrupted by weather or strikes at Calais. This is why I have been making the case for port alternatives like Dunkirk. And why I have argued for lorry parks on the M20.
Some say we should park lorries at Manston. While the Harbour Board and their Port Community Forum say we should turn the A2 or the A256 into lorry parks. I do not agree with these representations. These proposals would cause massive disruption in East Kent and harm our local economy. They need better to serve our community and think harder about the damage that would be done to jobs and money in Dover and Deal if such plans were implemented. I hope that we will soon see the Government bring forward plans for M20 lorry parks to ensure that if there is cross Channel disruption it does not disrupt the whole Kent economy.
We've come a long way from the days when pretty much anyone could wander into Britain. Our borders are becoming stronger and more secure. It's important to ensure that traffic flows freely on Kent roads and that we build the lorry parks we need. That way we can enjoy stronger border security and avoid suffering from Operation Stack.
It was great to have Talk it Out in Parliament to press the case for improvements in mental health care. Talk it Out is a wonderful group that fulfils a need in our area that isn't provided by anyone else.
Talk it Out is a support group for anyone suffering from mental health illness, or caring for someone with mental health illness.
Together with Tracy, Marie and Kelly we looked at crisis care, waiting times, and recovery support and urged Alistair Burt MP, the Minister for Mental Health to do what he can to boost mental health care in these areas. We also met with mental health group Mind.
Tackling mental health in our area is a key priority for me. I was pleased that the Minister showed such an interest in the issues raised by Talk it Out, and will be following up on a lot of their points. I hope that the local CCG and Health Trust will look carefully at what more can be done in Deal and Dover to ensure that those suffering from mental health illnesses get the care they need.
Small businesses are at the heart of our local economy. They create jobs and money and provide essential services that are central to our community. Yet many small businesses have complained to me about business rates. They feel it is an unfair tax that falls hardest on those who can least afford to pay. Added to this is a concern that business rates just go straight to central Government rather than to benefit our area.
This is why I welcome this week's announcement by the Chancellor that councils are now going to keep all of the business rates they collect from local businesses. This will hand the power back from Westminster to local councils.
We will also reform the business rates system so that local government will have the power to cut business rates, relieving pressure on small companies who struggle to afford this tax. The opportunity for councils to charge lower business rates will encourage more growth. Businesses will be able to expand and take on more staff. Local businesses need local solutions.
National Insurance has been cut for the first four people employed by small businesses. Along with the new business rate reforms, it is about giving local businesses and people in Dover and Deal the chance to get on and do well. These reforms help level the playing field between small business and big corporations.
Through the Government’s Enterprise Allowance scheme, people have been helped off of unemployment benefit and encouraged to start their own businesses. 120 people have been helped to start a new business in our area. Not only are there now less people claiming unemployment benefit, these new businesses have created more jobs and money for our local economy. We have seen a 55% drop in unemployment in Dover and Deal since May 2010.
More is also being done to provide wider work support. Recently I met with the Skillnet Group, who help people with learning disabilities into work through training and social enterprise. I heard from local jobseekers about their personal experiences finding and sustaining work, and how they are keen to find more hours of paid employment. I was really impressed with their determination to do well and to have the same opportunities in the workplace as everyone else.
Through the new National Living Wage that will begin in April at £7.20 an hour, workers will be receiving better pay. Tax has been cut for the lowest earners by raising the minimum level for income tax. This means that people get to keep more of their hard-earned money.
We have made real progress creating more jobs and employment opportunities for our local economy, but there is still more to do. I will continue to fight for more opportunities, jobs and money for Dover and Deal.
I have called a meeting with Kent County Council and Southern Water to discuss the unacceptable flooding that residents have been experiencing in Middle Deal. The meeting will be held on 16th October at 9am in Albert Road. All affected residents are welcome to join the gathering.
This is the fourth time residents have suffered flooding in recent times and is totally unacceptable. I have previously met with the Environment Agency, Kent County Council, Southern Water and Dover District Council to make the case for infrastructure improvements. Deal is a town on the rise and with more homes being built, it is important that we have the infrastructure in place to cope. We've had many promises.
Yet clearly action to date has not been adequate. I am very disappointed that flooding has happened again and I hope residents will come and join the meeting.
It was great to visit St. Margaret's-at-Cliff Primary School to catch up with the staff and pupils to hear about all of the great progress they have been making so far this year. I was delighted to learn that they had been marked as 'outstanding' in their most recent Ofsted inspection.
It was great to be able to congratulate Ruby, who won my Christmas card competition last year in person, and to thank her for designing such fantastic artwork for me to send out to everyone.
I am delighted that demolition has finally started on Burlington House. This is a defining moment in the history of Dover. We all campaigned so hard to see this day. To be shot of this eyesore so we can move forward the renewal the town is just fantastic.
From the top of the building, it was easy to see how stunning Dover really is. With the town centre renewal and the further development of the port area, Dover will be transformed.
I found it really useful to discuss with the Dover Partnership Against Crime, and with the manager of WHSmiths what measures can be taken to help protect local businesses from crimes such as shoplifting. I heard how the partnership - which covers both Dover and Deal - are hoping get digital radios for local shopkeepers to to help report crime thanks to new funding, and about how a perceived lack of policing in the area may lead to shopkeepers taking matters into their own hands.
We need to think about what can be done to help deter individuals from committing these crimes in the first place, and how we can further support our local shopkeepers.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to answer well informed and considered questions on current affairs, such as on events in Northern Ireland and welfare reforms put to me by Dover Boy's Grammar School students.
It is great to see that they have recently opened such brilliant new facilities for their 6th formers. I was treated to a tour from Kyle and Anita, the head boy and girl. It was really useful to catch up with the staff and students to hear about the schools progress so far this year.
In recent years we have seen the Dover District make real progress. For decades little happened. Yet in the past five years things have been changing at pace. There are many reasons to be cheerful in sharp contrast to official statistics claiming that everyone here is unhappy.
We've come a long way together. Five years ago, Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade. Plans for a new hospital were long talked about, yet going nowhere. Burlington House seemed light years from demolition. Our port was about to be sold off to the French or whoever. Meanwhile unemployment had rocketed by a shameful 50% in the Great Recession. Things looked bleak.
Roll forward five years and the new hospital is built and open for patients. Unemployment has more than halved, meaning more economic security for families in our community. The port sell off was stopped and a people's port is rising at the docks. Burlington House is now being demolished. If you had said this is where we would be five years ago, few would have believed it a likely prospect. Yet it has happened because we worked hard together, fought for our community and believed in a more positive future.
The same is true in Deal. The hospital had been left teetering on the edge of closure. It didn't look like the fast train would ever come to Deal. Yet the hospital has been safeguarded after we all fought to secure its future and the fast train now sweeps into Deal every hour of every day. Meanwhile the town has an award-winning high street and is being written up in the national press as a destination in its own right.
There are many reasons to be cheerful and optimistic about our future. Yet that does not mean we should rest on our laurels. Much has been done yet there is much more to do to make our area once again a jewel in the crown of the nation. We have to see through the revival of the port. To end the menace of Operation Stack with lorry parks on the M20. We must see through the revival of Dover town centre and join it up with the waterfront too. There is great potential to develop Connaught Barracks and the Western Heights - I am doing all I can to see those developments happen. The exciting development at Betteshanger must be taken forward and we need to see five star healthcare in our community. We must do all we can to ensure Dover and Deal remain towns on the rise.
There is great cause to be optimistic about the future. We have come a long way together over the past five years. We have done a lot, yet there is so much more to do. We must continue to work together to realise the full potential of Dover & Deal.
New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 120 people in Dover and Deal have been helped off benefits to start their own business under the Government's Enterprise Allowance scheme since April 2011.
The allowance, which helps people on out of work benefits to start their own businesses, has helped 73,000 people across the country set up their own business since it was introduced in April 2011.
The scheme supports people with ideas for a business by setting them up with a business mentor to help them develop their business idea. Once their business is up and running and they are no longer receiving out of work benefits, they are eligible for 26 weeks of financial support to help them build their business. 260 people in Dover and Deal have started consulting with a business mentor under the scheme since it was introduced.
It is great news that so many people in Dover and Deal have been helped off benefits to start their own business under the Enterprise Allowance scheme. These figures show that not only have 120 people in our area come off of out-of-work benefits, but they have started businesses that create more jobs that will help yet more people into work. Small businesses are vital to our local economy, creating more jobs and money for our area. However, there is still more to do. I will continue to fight for more opportunities and a brighter economic future for Dover and Deal.
I welcome the progress that has been made bringing down Burlington House. The work to bring down Burlington House, an eyesore on the Dover landscape has fired the starting gun for the renewal of Dover. I have worked tirelessly with the Council and the Government since I was first elected in 2010 to see this demolition happen. A people's port is now rising at the docks, the New Dover Hospital has opened and Burlington House is now coming down. Dover is on the way to being restored as a jewel in the crown of our nation once more.
Burlington House will be dismantled floor by floor, and the building is currently surrounded by scaffolding while the inside of the building is cleared out. Demolition is planned for later this Autumn.
It was wonderful to see so many young people keeping active and getting involved in Dover Athletic at the Under 13 team's goal scoring practice session.
We have such a great local team, and it is encouraging to see young talent being nurtured to become our stars of the future.
I had a great time at Ripple's coffee morning thrown in support of Macmillan Cancer Support on Saturday in Ripple Village Hall. It was arranged by villagers Rosemary and Lawrence - who arranged the event last year - and was fantastically well attended.
Congratulations to Rosemary and Lawrence for putting on such a wonderful coffee morning in support of such a brilliant cause. Macmillan do such important work supporting people who are diagnosed with cancer and their families. Thank you to everyone in Ripple who turned out to support the coffee morning, and especially to everyone who baked such delicious cakes for sale.
It was fantastic to see so many local people turn out to visit Dover Big Local's Urban Fete in Pencester Gardens. It was a great day of fun for all the family, and it was wonderful to see so many community groups in attendance. There were lots of sports and games for all of the family, as well as live music from the Eythorne Silver Band, a performance from Dover Tales and interviews and music from Dover Community Radio.
I enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with some of our great local businesses such as Solley's Ice Cream. Congratulations to everyone involved with Dover Big Local for putting on such a fantastic event for the whole community.
In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion about whether we should have The Queen, armed forces and why we bother with the National Anthem. Some have asked how strongly we should condemn terrorism and whether it is right to use drones to take the battle to terrorists.
My answer to all these things is clear. Security and stability matter. We don't just have The Queen and a Royal Family for the fun of it. They are key to providing an anchor of stability to our system of government, politics and way of life. We don't need to look far to see countries who don't have that struggling to find a stable political system.
Our armed forces matter. They guarantee our security in the World. We are able to go about our business and to exercise our freedoms because our armed forces protect us all. They have kept our nation safe and stopped us being conquered by our enemies. They still make brave sacrifices to keep us safe today. Our nuclear deterrent ensures we are taken seriously across the World.
Where a British citizen turns terrorist and takes up arms against us, what should we do? In my book we should treat them like any other enemy. Drone strikes against such people are necessary to prevent atrocities at home. Similarly, I condemn those who try to explain away - or even support - the IRA. This terrorist organisation murdered our Marines in Deal. We will never forget what they did.
While I believe in having powerful armed forces, I am less keen on sending them round the World. For this reason I was deeply sceptical of taking action in Syria a couple of years ago. Yet the rise of ISIS and the destruction of Syria as a country is no longer a matter we can ignore. The situation is not simply desperate for millions of people. It is a breeding ground for terrorists who wish to attack us here in Britain and the mass migration of people to Europe is turning into a humanitarian disaster. So I now believe we need to act to secure our continued stability and security. There needs to be a coalition to take action to stop the bloodshed in Syria and help rebuild that shattered nation. I will support Britain playing a role to make that happen.
We don't often have a discussion about why our way of life is the way it is. I'm glad we have recently. It is important we all remember how The Queen and our armed forces help provide stability and security. How terrorists must always be tackled and condemned at every turn. And why splendid isolation is not always the best foreign policy. Sometimes we need to act to ensure continued peace at home and abroad. On Syria, we now need to act.
It's great news that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Dover and Deal has fallen yet again. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the number of people in Dover and Deal claiming Job Seekers Allowance is continuing to fall.
Statistics show that the number of JSA claimants in Dover and Deal now stands at 1,022 - a 55% drop from the 2,237 claimants in May 2010. There has also been a 65% fall in youth claimants, with the figure falling from 660 in May 2010 to 230 claimants on the latest figures.
These figures are great news for our local economy, and provide a stark contrast to the shameful 50% rise in unemployment we had in Dover and Deal between 2005 and 2010. It is particularly welcome to see such a sharp drop in youth claimants. I will keep on fighting to bring more jobs and money to Dover and Deal and to realise our goal of full employment.
On 23rd October Breast Cancer Now are throwing their 'Wear It Pink' fundraiser. I want to encourage everyone to wear something pink on October 23rd and donate whatever they can to help raise money for breast cancer research. Now in its 14th year, 'Wear It Pink' raises over £2 million each year.
Breast Cancer Now do incredible work helping make a difference to women with breast cancer, and they could not do it without the hard work and dedication of their fundraisers.
I really enjoyed a great afternoon cycling at Betteshanger Country Park. It's well worth a visit. The park's cycle paths provide a super afternoon out for all the family It is brilliant that we have so many diverse spaces like this available for everyone to use in our community.
There is a two mile tarmac cycle track at the park, as well as woodland leisure paths for walkers and cyclists.
I was really happy to hold the countdown at the Nonington Fantasy Fireworks at Nonington cricket club. The impressive firework display drew a crowd of over 2,000 people, and also included live music, craft stalls, a fun fair, barbecue and outdoor bar area. I always enjoy the fireworks put on by the Nonington Village Entertainment group.
Congratulations to everyone involved in arranging this wonderful event and ensuring that a fantastic time was had by all.
I really enjoyed supporting the Whitfield branch of the Brownies at their Macmillan Coffee Morning in the Whitfield Pavilion. The event was packed out with visitors, and there was a fantastic selection of homemade cakes and coffee for sale.
The Brownies out so much work and effort into arranging the event for such an important cause. Congratulations to the Brownies on their success. The Brownies are such a great organisation for our young people to get involved with.
It was a privilege to present prizes to local gardeners for their impressive vegetables and flowers at the Temple Ewell Produce Association Autumn Show. I was particularly impressed with the huge leeks people had managed to grow. I don't think I've ever seen such big leeks.
Thank you to the Association for putting on such a great show, and congratulations to everyone who contributed to such a super display.
I found it incredibly helpful to meet with local jobseekers who have learning difficulties and with Malcolm Barnard - the chair of the Skillnet Group - who work to support people with learning disabilities with courses, employability programmes and to develop social enterprises across East Kent.
It was good to hear about their personal experiences finding and sustaining work first hand, and what they thought could be done to help more people with learning difficulties into paid work. I was deeply impressed with the determination to get on and do well in the workplace.
It is important that we work with and offer full support to everyone who has learning difficulties so they can enjoy the same independence and opportunities in the workplace as anyone else.
Last week the House of Commons debated the Assisted Dying Bill. This Bill sought to make it legal for terminally ill people to be helped to commit suicide.
I received many letters, emails and campaign cards from constituents on this matter. There was heated representation for and against changing the law. Many wrote of their heart-wrenching personal stories. I know from looking after my own father before he passed away that coping with terminal illness is very distressing. This draft law was a very sensitive issue. Such cases are very difficult and it was right for the matter to be approached with the highest degrees of compassion.
I considered carefully all the arguments. But I was concerned that changes to the law could lead to vulnerable people being coerced into killing themselves. I worried that terminally ill people could feel pressurised to die because they viewed themselves as a burden on their families and wider society. I did not believe the safeguards in the Bill did enough to protect people from the risk of pressure.
So I voted against the bill. I believe all human life is intrinsically valuable. No one should be subject to weaker protections under the law because they are frail, sick or needy.
As it currently stands, the law provides a clear moral boundary that assisting a person to kill themselves is illegal. I was concerned that changing the law would weaken this clear position. Once the principle of assisted suicide is permitted, it would be the thin end of the wedge towards allowing assisted suicide in more circumstances.
We only have to look at how the law has changed in countries like Belgium, where assisted suicide is now allowed for those with depression or non-terminal illnesses. I believe changing the law would set a dangerous precedent and struggle to contain sufficient safeguards to counter this threat.
As medical science develops, more people will live longer. People will remain alive longer with terminal illnesses. We should celebrate more people reaching older age. But it's important we devote more resources to end-of-life care and supporting those with long-term terminal illnesses.
We also need to ensure patients and families have better access to palliative care. There needs to be a better link between health and social care, providing whole-person care and providing more support at the end of life. It's not good enough when patients slip through the cracks and don't get the care they need upon leaving hospital. I want more to have the option of great quality home care.
These are not easy decisions and it's important we take action now for the future. But I don't believe weakening the law to allow more elderly or sick people the opportunity to kill themselves is the right way forward. Instead, we need to ensure better end of life care so everyone can pass their last days in peace.
It is excellent news that so many families in Dover and Deal have taken advantage of the Help to Buy scheme. Recent figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 147 families in Dover and Deal have been able to buy their own home under the scheme.
It is important that we support people who want to work hard and save the money to buy their own home in order to secure the economic security that home ownership brings to themselves and their families.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet so many members of the St. Margaret's WI as they celebrated 100 years of the Woman's Institute. 100 years is such an impressive milestone.
The Woman's Institute has played an important roll in our country through war and peace over the last 100 years encouraging creativity, resourcefulness and re-cycling. It is great to see the movement so well attended and supported in our area today.
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to visit the Grand Shaft and to watch some impressive living history displays at the Drop Redoubt Fort as part of the Western Heights Open Weekend. We have so much rich and fascinating local history in Dover. There is always something new to learn and discover.
Thank you to The Western Heights Preservation Society for arranging such a great open weekend, and for all of the super work they do throughout the year. It is thanks to the important work by the society and their volunteers who work every month to clear and maintain the Heights that such an important piece of local history is preserved for future generations.
I really enjoyed visiting the Hougham Quilt Festival. It is always such a highlight. It's held every three years and I wish they did it more often! It is wonderful to have the opportunity to celebrate the talent we have locally. I found the quilts displayed in the Church really impressive. There was such an incredible range of detailed and creative quilts on display. I also enjoyed the display by the Morris Men.
It was great to see the whole village join together to put on such a fantastic display, and I want to thank everyone involved - especially everyone who put so many hours into creating those beautiful quilts - for such a great day out.
The current refugee crisis is a grave concern to us here in Dover and Deal. It one of the biggest challenges facing countries across Europe. Not for the first time, our community is on the front line.
Over 220,000 people this year alone have attempted to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. Much of this migration has been prompted by civil war, particularly in Syria and Libya, as well as the rise of ISIS. Over 11 million Syrians have now fled their homes.
This is not a problem which is going to disappear soon. I was deeply moved by the photograph of Aylan Kurdi found drowned on a Turkish beach after attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Greece. This brought home to all the desperate situation of these refugees. It has led people to ask what we are doing to stop any more needless deaths and protect those fleeing conflict and war.
The UK has been leading the way. We have been the second biggest donor to Syria since the crisis began. We have provided £900 million to Syria and the surrounding region since 2012. This money is having a direct impact to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable Syrians. The aid has provided over 18 million food rations, as well as water, education and vital medical supplies to millions in the region. It has also helped provide shelter to 409,000 persons displaced from their homes due to the conflict. No European country has given more than Britain.
We have also taken steps to tackle criminal gangs and traffickers who profit from human misery and send thousands to their deaths on unsafe boats. HMS Bulwark and HMS Enterprise, along with other Royal Navy cutters, remain in the Mediterranean to disrupt trafficking efforts and rescue boats in difficulty.
Britain has a proud history of providing sanctuary to persecuted groups and those fearing for their lives. We will also help take more Syrian refugees in dire need. Britain has already accepted around 5,000 refugees and asylum seekers to give sanctuary to those particularly at risk. The Prime Minster has pledged the UK will take 20,000 more refugees. Crucially, these refugees will be drawn from humanitarian camps around Syria to stop more refugees trying to make the extremely dangerous crossing to Europe.
Money from the aid budget will be diverted to help Syrians. We must use this to fund more places of safety for Syrian refugees. These can be available at short notice to those fleeing their homes and will help them return home when the conflict ends. More resources and areas of sanctuary around Syria will help stem the tide of boats making the treacherous journey to Europe.
Of course, the long-term solution to this problem is the end of conflicts which drive so many to flee, including the escalating bloodbath in Syria. But in the short-term, it's vital Britain acts to play its part, and continues to help the most vulnerable. What we are doing is the right thing to do.
I really enjoyed a delicious cream tea at the new Curfew Tea Rooms in St. Margaret's. Sitting out to eat in their beautiful gardens really was a weekend treat. It was great to talk to Keith and Wendy about their plans for their business. It is impressive to see small businesses like Curfew Tea Rooms which are both great for local residents and a boost for local tourism starting out in our area.
Curfew Tea Rooms opened this Summer in Sea Street. They offer a good selection of lunch time dishes, as well as homemade cream teas and cakes each weekend.
Guide Dogs for the Blind held their annual Summer Fair at St Mary's Parish Hall on Cannon Street in Dover on Saturday to raise money and to raise awareness for their Pavement Parking campaign.
The fair included refreshments, books, puzzles, homemade cakes and Christmas cards on sale. All of the proceeds from the event will go to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
Guide Dogs' Pavement Parking campaign aims to raise awareness among motorists of the affect parking on pavements has on the blind and the partially sighted, who have to risk their lives by stepping out into the road when the pavement is obstructed. It is important that drivers are more aware of the impact that pavement parking has on pedestrians. Especially the blind, the partially sighted and the disabled. It is unfair that they have to put their lives at risk when going about everyday tasks.
Thank you to everyone who helped arrange such a super event to help raise money for a very important cause, and to everyone who turned out to support it.
One of the best things about our community is the pride people take in our area. So many people are passionate about the kind of positive future we can build in Dover and Deal.
We've seen it time and again. Our community rallying round to protect important community assets or get a fairer share of public services for our area.
When the previous Government tried to sell off our Port to the French or whoever, local campaigners helped stop the sell off and keep our Port forever England. A people's port is now rising at the docks with more investment, a community fund and community directors set to be appointed once the paperwork is finalised. This weekend's successful Dover regatta showed how far things have come from the dark days of threatened privatisation.
When the Dover Hospital project stalled, I was proud to march with campaigners and we all worked tirelessly to get the project back on track. We now have a brand new state of the art Buckland Hospital thanks to those efforts.
When services at Deal Hospital were threatened with closure, thousands of residents came together to answer surveys and came to packed public meetings to safeguard the hospital. They succeeded. Local doctors now have plans to base even more clinics and services at the hospital.
Recently, I have been working with the local Shepherdswell residents to help save their local pub, the Bricklayers Arms. The Bricklayers is a great local pub. Unfortunately, the owners are trying to sell the pub and villagers are worried it will be converted for other uses. Residents have succeeded in getting the pub listed as an 'Asset of Community Value'. They've now organised an action group to try and save the pub – possibly even bidding for it themselves.
It's a powerful example of people coming together to protect something they care about. I will do all I can to support the action group to help keep the Bricklayers for community use. When local people stand together to make positive change, councils and government should do all they can to help them.
There is a similar story in Deal at the Regent cinema. A local community group have come together to try and get the Regent Cinema on Deal seafront re-opened. They now have over 200 members and want to get the cinema listed as a community asset. It's got such potential to be a great asset for the community again. I was delighted to meet with the group and it is great that the local district councillors look set to help take the campaign forward.
I got into politics because I'm passionate about positive change and social action. To have the chance to make people's lives better through hard work and campaigning. When local people come together on an issue they care about, they can make such a positive difference.
I will continue to support local social action to make Dover and Deal all they can be. It's one of the best parts of my work as your Member of Parliament.
It's great news that 560 young people in Dover and Deal have taken advantage of the Government Youth Contract scheme to gain work experience to help find work.
Since April 2012, 370 local young people with little previous job experience have started a Work Experience placement, while 190 young people on benefits have started pre-work training, with a guaranteed interview at the end of their placement.
The numbers of young people claiming unemployment benefits in Dover and Deal has now hit a record low of 245 – down 63% since 2010 and 40% in the last year alone.
Our young people should be earning, learning, or in training – not stuck in a life on benefits. The more people taking advantage of the Youth Contract, the lower we can get youth unemployment and boost jobs and life chances for our young people.
Yet there is still more to do. I will continue to fight for more jobs and money and an end to youth unemployment in our community.
Latest figures show the Port of Dover was the fastest growing major port in Britain in the Department of Transport's latest report. Dover Port has increased the amount of cargo passing through by 9% from 2013-2014 to 27.6 million tonnes. These figures put Dover's growth ahead of other British ports like Southampton and Felixstowe.
However, this strong growth underlines the need for more investment at the Port and better road transport infrastructure to deal with higher traffic volumes. I will keep making the case for dualling the A2 and for new lorry parks on the M20 to deal with increased traffic through the Port.
When the Port succeeds, it brings jobs and money to our community and nation. But we need to ensure we have the set-up to cope as traffic through the port increases.
The Kent Miners Festival celebrates an important part of our community's history. It was impressive to see so many local groups such as the Snowdown Colliery Brass Band, Invicta Fencing Club and Aylesham and District Boxing Club taking part.
Betteshanger Sustainable Parks, on the site of the old colliery was a good location for the festival, and I look forward to seeing the festival there again next year. Betteshanger Sustainable Parks, along with Hadlow College plans to create a space for sustainable business, education, energy and tourism on the old colliery site.
Congratulations to everyone involved for organising such a fantastic family day out, especially the local organisations in the health and wellbeing tent who gave up their time to give out valuable advice to members of the local community.
I enjoyed visiting the Great Mongeham Summer Show to see the results of all of the hard work prople have been putting into their gardens this Summer. There was an excellent display of vegetables, flowers, floral art, handicraft, cooking and photography on display. The cake on offer were delicious.
Thank you to the Great Mongeham Horticultural Society for holding such an impressive event, and congratulations to everyone who took part.
The Dover Community Regatta this year down was a real success. It was incredibly well attended and I was delighted to see so many people come to enjoy a family day out.
I also found the opportunity to catch up with so many brilliant local businesses and charities including Dover Foodbank, Inner Wheel, Dover Soup Kitchen, the Ramada Hotel, Dover Big Local, the Rotary Club, Kent Go Sky Ride and the RNLI to hear about all of the work they have been doing throughout the year.
I particularly enjoyed the impressive display by the Dover and Walmer RNLI demonstrating how they put out boat fires and rescue ships in trouble on the high seas. It is very important that we support the RNLI who do such vital work all year round.
There is so much going on in Dover at the moment. Burlington House coming down will do even more to take the town forwards. The Community Regatta is a great example of how the people of Dover are helping to make our town the Jewel in the Crown of the nation once more.
I met with the residents of Granville Flats on Hotel Road in St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe on Friday to hear about serious flooding that has affected their building first hand. The flood water as caused serious damage to the carpets, lift and car park in the communal areas, as well as some of the flats themselves.
People living in the flats are concerned about how their home insurance will be affected by the flooding in future, as they already have to pay a high premium. There are also concerns that properties in Bay Hill are also affected by water washing down from Hotel Road to the Bay.
It is clear that the drainage on Hotel Road is not fit for purpose, and requires a major overhaul with investment from Kent County Council in a better road drainage system. The drainage in Bay Hill also needs to be addressed with many residents complaining about torrents of water running down the road.
Local small businesses are the engine of enterprise and job creation in Britain and East Kent. 99% of local businesses are classed as 'small'. Small and medium businesses account for 6 in 10 of all business jobs. They have been the job creators over the past decade. Large corporations are important, but it's strong independent local businesses that are boosting jobs and money in our community.
Here in Dover and Deal we have many great local businesses. Last week, I visited Solley's Ice Cream in Ripple near Deal. This is a third generation family business. They began ice cream production 30 years ago and have since gone from strength to strength.
It's now the most successful independent ice cream maker in Kent and was recently a Gold Star winner at the prestigious Great Taste Awards. What's more, 85% of Solley's ingredients are sourced from Kent itself. That means more jobs and investment for local farmers and producers, helping to build on local success.
I also recently visited Cook Fabrications in Hawkinge. The firm specialises in high level manufacturing and design. Founded in 1979 by Eric Cook, the business now distributes the highest quality steel for construction all over the South East.
The business employs over 50 local people in highly-skilled metal work. It's a great example of a local business with a proud heritage helping to boost skills and training in our area.
I'm passionate about seeing small businesses to grow and helping local people start their own firm. There's been great progress. Since 2011, 110 unemployed people in Dover and Deal have taken up the New Enterprise Allowance. This is a scheme which provides unemployed people with a weekly allowance and business mentoring to help them come off benefits and start their own small firm.
It's a brilliant programme and I'm so pleased to see more people taking a punt and aspiring to get their own business off the ground. It's a real boost for the local economy and brings more jobs and money for local people.
But we can't rest on our laurels. There's still more to do. I'm a believer in opportunity politics. For everyone to have the chance to aspire to set up their own businesses and do really well. I will continue to campaign for cuts to business red tape and regulation to help more small businesses start up. We also need a serious reform of business rates, which will aid our great local shops and high streets.
I also welcome the cuts to National Insurance for small employers. From next year, small businesses will be able to employ four people on the Living Wage without paying any National Insurance at all. Not only will this boost local jobs, it will level the playing field between small businesses and rich corporations.
Dover and Deal has great local businesses. I will continue to do all I can to support their success and encourage even more start-ups.
It was great to see such a range of local crafters and artisans selling their good at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe's craft and gift fair in the village hall. As well as stalls, there was a raffle and a tombla with the proceeds going to Meadowside.
It was great to meet such a variety of enthusiastic and talented crafters and to see the fabulously skilled cards, gifts and cakes they have created. I especially enjoyed the delicious cakes I took home from Naughty But Nice Cakes. It just shows what great cooks we have in East Kent!
Thank you to everyone involved for putting together such a great fair.
I was really pleased to support Dover Grammar School for Boy's in their bid for a new sports hall by opening the Pharos Beer Festival, organised by the Old Pharosians, the school's old boys network. Money raised at the festival will go towards building the new hall, which not only will be a great asset for the school, but it will be a great space for the local community to use too.
I really enjoyed sampling some of the Kentish ale that was on offer. It is always important to support our local breweries.
Thanks to everyone who was involved for organising such a super event.
I really enjoyed visiting Solley's ice cream in Ripple to tour their factory, taste their award winning Wild Strawberry and Cream ice cream and to have a look around their new farm shop.
Solley's have been producing ice cream for 30 years, and is the largest independent ice cream producer in Kent. They switched from dairy farming to producing ice cream as a response to falling milk prices. 85 per cent of the base products in their ice cream come from Kent, including milk from a neighbouring farm.
Solley's is a fantastic example of a family business that spans the generations and has built up a highly successful enterprise based off of one good quality, delicious product. I also want to congratulate Solley's on the Gold Star they recently received at the Great Taste Awards for their delicious Wild Strawberry and Cream ice cream, and wish them luck in October at the Kent Food and Drink Awards where they have been nominated for Best Producer.
Building a society where everyone has the chance to get on and do really well is a key priority for me. Our young people deserve the opportunity to study hard and achieve great success.
Central to this is having strong post-16 education and good local schools. Too many young people still don't realise their full potential or do as well as they could. Our schools in Dover and Deal should be places where students are encouraged to perform to the best of their ability and aspire to high level study.
This is particularly important because some of our local schools have been through tough times. Yet recent exam results show just how much progress our schools have made. There was strong improvement in many schools' A-Level results published last week. This means that more of our young people will have the chance to go to university, further education or find a better paid first job.
The strong local GCSE results that came out yesterday provide an essential foundation for further academic and vocational study. It was really encouraging to see students from our local schools achieving the good grades they need to get on in life.
Castle Community College in Deal has seen strong progress. The number of A* - B grades more than tripled on last year and every final year student got into their first choice university. At GCSE they saw their results rise for the second year running, with students going on to apprenticeships, traineeships and sixth form and college courses.
Dover Grammar School for Boys also performed strongly. Nearly all the students there passed their A-Levels with many going to top universities like Cambridge. They also achieved their best set of GCSE results for 9 years, with 94% of students achieving five A*- C grades.
There was also good news at Dover Christ Church Academy. The school beat its previous high performance in 2014 with 31% of grades rated at A*- B. To add to the good news, GCSE results at the school were their best ever, with over 43% of students securing five or more A*- C grades.
Congratulations are also in order to Dover College, Dover Grammar School for Girls, St Edmund's Catholic School and Astor College for the Arts for turning in many strong results.
Of course, A-Levels and university are not the only route to a good education and life chances. Many young people in our area do vocational courses or start an apprenticeship after GCSE's. But those who have strong academic talents must get the opportunity to push themselves and achieve the highest possible results.
When new sixth-form students begin next term, they will be studying the new AS and A-Levels. These have been designed to be as rigorous as possible. These will put our exam standards up with the top qualifications in the world. Students will be pushed further and those who do really well will have their achievements recognised.
Many congratulations to all of the students who worked so hard and did so well.
I am really pleased to hear about plans for more services at Deal Hospital. Local doctors are planning a 'Health and Social Care hub' to provide better and more co-ordinated health and social care at the hospital.
The plan for a new 'hub' will allow more services to be based at Deal Hospital. They plan to safeguard the minor injuries unit and diagnostics, and more rehabilitation, physiotherapy and social services are planned. It would help older people access more services closer to where they live in Deal and means fewer journeys to big far-away hospitals like Ashford and Margate.
Joining up health and social care in Deal means better step-up and step-down care after illness and injury through access to both inpatient beds at Deal Hospital and the local Health and Social Care Village beds. More people will be able to get better in our community. The 'hub' aims to improve care for older people in particular, by working with the Age UK centre on Park Street and coordinating access to services such as dementia care and meal delivery services.
The new hub plan shows how our local doctors are so committed to Deal Hospital. I will continue to work closely with the doctors and fight for a fairer share of healthcare in our community and more locally-based services in Deal.
It's brilliant to hear that Ripplevale School has achieved the top result in their recent OFSTED inspection. The report from their recent social care has rated the school as 'outstanding' in every category.
Schools like Ripplevale offer support to students who have unique educational needs. Having visited Ripplevale, I know how hard they work to give the students the best possible chances in life.
It is great to see the efforts of the whole school community justly recognised by OFSTED - this is a just commendation for outstanding care and an incredibly supportive environment.
I do not think that Manston is the right place for a lorry park. Lorry parks should be sited along the route to the port, not on a detour. They should be sited on the main motorways – that means along the M20 corridor, and even further up the country. This is why I have been working to bring forward a lorry park near Folkestone.
Moreover, the road infrastructure is not up to scratch for Manston to be used as a lorry park. The A256 and A2 are single track. I am concerned that the result could be gridlock in East Kent.
However assurances have been made that the use of Manston will only be if strictly necessary. I have also been assured that if it does not work and results in gridlock, the Manston lorry park will be abandoned. It's also only likely to be used to get traffic off the M20 so a form of contra flow can be created there. I have also been assured that when in use, it will be closely monitored to ensure that freight is phased in to prevent gridlock.
The plan to use Manston highlights again that the A2 should be dualled from the Lydden junction through to Whitfield. The A256 should be upgraded to a dual carriageway between just north of the Ash roundabout and the Eastry roundabout. I am working to get these much needed road upgrades back on the table.
It was an honour to join the Chairwomen of DDC, the Mayoress of Deal and many local residents in paying tribute to the Dover Patrol in memorial parade and service at Lethercote Point.
The Dover Patrol was one of Britain's most important naval defences in the First World War, guarding the Kent Coast and the southern North Sea against German ships. Famously, the patrol took an active role in the daring 'Zeebrugge Raid', to stop dangerous German U-boats attacking our shipping. Every year, a service takes places to commemorate the nearly 2,000 members of the patrol who lost their lives in the conflict.
It was a very moving ceremony and fantastic it was so well attended. We will never forget the Patrol's sacrifice and continue to honour their memory.
I really enjoyed getting down to Tilmanstone for their annual fete. Luckily, the sun shone all day and plenty of local residents turned out for a great event. There was stalls, tombolas, music and lots of events. Thanks to all the organisers for such a great afternoon.
It was great to see local volunteers taking part in a 'Zumbathon' at St Edmund's School to raise money for a charity expedition to Nepal. The dance fitness session was organised by local activist Beverley–Jayne Last to raise money for the ITAP charity to send emergency response teams and medical equipment to Nepal. Since the earthquake in Nepal in April, the country's emergency services have been devastated, requiring quick support to redevelop.
It was good to see so many people getting involved in the Zumbathon and exercising for such a great cause. So many lives in Nepal were devastated by the earthquake and it's fantastic to see our community do our bit to help those in need. Many congratulations to Beverley-Jayne for organising such as great event and inspiring so many local people!
I really enjoyed touring Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club to learn about their plans to make their club greener and more environmentally friendly. Maintenance improvements will allow the club to use less water and electricity, but still provide the same high facilities.
Walmer & Kingsdown Golf Club was established in 1909 in an attempt to encourage more women and families to fake up golfing. The club boasts an 18 hole course that overlooks the sea at Kingsdown. It's a fantastic local asset and it's great to see the club continue to improve.
It was a pleasure to pop down to the Zetland Arms in Kingsdown with Star, my five year old Norfolk Terrier. I visited the closest pub to France to meet landlords Tom and Karensa Miller, and their lovely Black Labrador. I heard to how they welcoming customers and their pups to the pub for lunch and a pint of local ale after a walk along the beach.
It's great more local businesses such as the Zetland Arms are becoming more and more dog-friendly. Britain is a nation of dog lovers – it's very welcome that more and more local businesses have been opening their doors to the whole family, including our canine companions.
It was fantastic to visit Multipanel's aluminium panel factory in Eythorne again to see the progress they have made. I met with Multipanel bosses at the factory to discuss on their plans to invest in Dover and grow their business. The Eythorne factory will is now in action 24/7 to cope with increased demand. They now plan to build a second assembly line to expand their business further
Two years ago, Multipanel moved its manufacturing operation back to the UK from China. The aluminium panel plant brings 70 more jobs and over £12 million investment to local economy – the facilities really are state of the art and it's great to see the plant doing so well. I'm so proud of the great businesses we have here in Dover & Deal and will keep making the case for more companies to relocate to our corner of Kent, bringing jobs and money for local people.
It was great to welcomed students from Aspen2 to Parliament on Tuesday.
Aspen2 is our local secondary school for students with special needs and learning disabilities. Aspen student, Tommy Selecky, wrote to me recently to ask if his class could come to visit me in Parliament. I was a glad to accept. I met Tommy and his classmates and was quizzed by them on my work as an MP. They then went for a full tour of the Palace of Westminster.
I really enjoyed welcoming the students up to Parliament. A big congratulations to Tommy for suggesting the trip and asking if his class mates could join him too. I really hope they learned a lot and enjoyed the day.
I really enjoyed visiting the Nonington family fete. There were plenty of exciting stall for all the family and a lot of great food and drink. There were lots of shows too, including the 'Red Barrows'. Nonington fete is always a summer highlight and I hope everyone who came along enjoyed it as much as I did.
It was a pleasure to celebrate the East Kent Railway's 30th anniversary gala. The railway has received new lottery funding to develop facilities and continue to employ and train more young people. I opened the new car park and spoke to local patrons and volunteers about the continuing success of the line.
The heritage line has been running trains on the old Kent Colliery Line for the past two decades. It's a brilliant local success story and has a fantastic local apprenticeship scheme. The railway has helped train over 100 young people in the past two years. Many of these young people had low job prospects or little chance of finding work. Every single one of those over 100 young apprentices have gone on to work in the rail industry.
I look forward to visiting the railway again soon and hope they continue to train young apprentices and go from strength to strength.
It was great met with local members of the National Farmers Union at St Radigunds Abbey Farm to discuss support for local farms.
I toured the farm with NFU Branch Chairman Peter Moynan and other local farmers. It's a really beautiful landscape and fantastic local asset. We discussed boosting Britain's food security, stopping the spread of bovine TB and cutting red tape on local farms.
Our local farmers have had a tough time over the past few years – TB, changing climate and overseas competition. They work long and hard providing us the food and crops we need. It's right we support them in the tough times.
It was a privilege to attend the 26th anniversary concert to commemorate the victims of the IRA bombing of Deal Barracks in 1989.
It was a fantastic concert and a fitting tribute to those marine bandsmen who were killed by this hideous attack. Tragically, many of its victims were only in their teens.
I really enjoyed the music from the Royal Marines Bands and the moving rededication ceremony. So many residents turned out to pay their respects. They always welcome back the bandsmen and remember their sacrifice.
The bomb deeply affected our community. We will never forget what happened and continue to honour the victims' memory.
It was great to join foodbank volunteers at Tesco in collecting for people in need.
The collection is part of the Neighbourhood Drive to boost food donations to help the neediest in our community. The top foods items needed were tinned fruits and meats, as well as dried milk and essentials such as men's razors.
I was so impressed by the hard work and selflessness of the volunteers. This country has a proud history of charity and help for the neediest. Dover Foodbank is another example of this assistance and of the Big Society in action.
It was a privilege to attend the celebration for Armed Forces Day in Deal. It was an excellent event and really well organised the Royal British Legion and by our own veterans' organisation here in Deal.
The Deal Flag was hoisted as a show of support at 10:30am. The next day, local veterans and cadets paraded past before organising a traditional drumhead service on Deal Pier. It's fantastic to see so many people pay tribute to our Armed Forces and the work fighting for our freedom and security.
Armed Forces personnel put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe. It was the 7th Annual Armed Force Day and I pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Let's keep up a great tradition.
It was a pleasure to go to the opening night of the Deal Festival of Music and the Arts. The event started at St Andrews Church with a fantastic production of 'Wellington at Walmer' – a play about the Duke of Wellington's life as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The event was packed with festival patrons.
Deal Festival has been a great success story in our area, running annually for the past 33 years. It has a very strong reputation for boosting arts and culture in East Kent and providing music and arts education to young people. This year's programme of events looks typically impressive, including Shakespeare plays at Walmer Castle and tours of Deal's smuggling heritage.
The Festival runs from 26th June to 12th July this year. I encourage everyone to come down and support the Festival. The full 2015 brochure can be found at this link.
It was great to head down to Deal to see runners complete the Clifftop Challenge. The challenge is a 55 mile run from Hastings to Deal along the cliff, with different starting points and legnths for different abilities.
The run is organised by our very own Chantele Rashbrook, a mother of two from Deal, to raise money for the charity Breast Cancer Now. There was a huge turnout at the finish line in Deal and it was great to see so many take part for such a good cause. Many congratulations to Chantele for all her hard work organising.
The new Buckland Hospital opened its doors to patients this month. It was fantastic to visit with the Head of East Kent Hospitals, Chris Bown, to see the range of services offered at the new hospital.
The hospital buildings really are state of the art and the new hospital will be able to provide so many more health services locally. It will deal with around 60,000 outpatient services every year and reduce journeys to big, faraway hospitals like Ashford and Margate. It's a great result for Dover.
It was great to meet with the Dover Town Team to discuss how the business rates review planned for 2017 will affect businesses in Dover. We also talked about how we can encourage more connectivity between the port and the town.
Dover has an exciting future ahead in the next few years, with Burlington House set to be torn down and a plan for town centre renewal. Strong local businesses should be at the heart of these projects.
It was a pleasure to visit Dover Christ Church Academy to see progress on the new buildings and refurbishment. The new extension – the Central Heart – will provide new state of the art facilities and will boost teaching in vocational subjects. The buildings will be open for the new school year in September. It's fantastic to see the new investment and the great strides the school has made over the past two years.
The school also has a specialist unit for children with Special Educational Needs called Aspen 2. The school recently had a mock General Election which was won by Aspen2 student Luke Chapman of the "Progress Party". It was great to congratulate Luke on his victory. It's great to see more young people getting involved in our political process and being interested in the positive change we can make in our community.
This weekend saw the first ever Walmer Food Festival held on Walmer Green.
It's great to see so many local businesses such as Burger Bros, Solley's Ice Cream and Best of Kent showcasing their produce at the event. Local people really appreciated the festival and community turnout was high.
If even more people buy from our great local food and drink businesses, it would pump even more money into our local economy and create more jobs too. My congratulations to every business and visitor that attended for making the event such a success. I hope it will become an annual festival!
Nearly half the UK population are estimated to use the Citizens Advice Bureau at some point in their lives. In Deal, we have a great CAB and it was a pleasure to visit to hear about the essential support and advice they are providing for local residents in need.
It is really great to meet with staff to hear about all the fantastic work that the Deal CAB has been doing for our community. Their advice can be invaluable during financial, legal or family problems. The CAB explain to local people all possible options to help them make important life decisions.
It's important we keep supporting the great work our local Deal CAB and the brilliant work they do
I visited East Kent College Dover campus to tour their fantastic new £5 million training and skills facilities.
The new facilities were officially opened earlier this month. They really are state of the art and will help give students a real taste of the working world in mechanical and technical subjects. I chatted to the Deputy Principal about the College's further expansion plans to increase the number of students and learners from 350 to 500.
I'm keen for East Kent College to continue to go from strength to strength and give more of our young people the best possible start in life.
I really enjoyed visiting Dover College to hear how much progress the school has been making. I talked to Head Mr Doodes about how student numbers are increasing and the school's efforts to give every child the best possible education.
Dover College's inspection in November 2014 praised the school for its good academic achievement and its excellent support for students with special educational needs. It does a great job in turning out mature and respectful students. I look forward to visiting again soon and seeing even more progress.
It was great to visit training firm Kennedy Scott's Dover offices on their work their success helping long-term unemployed people in Dover find work.
Kennedy Scott's staff are so committed and help local people every step of the way to support them into work. Their training and support makes such a difference to so many people's life chances.
Their Manager, Julie Eastwood, who has been shortlisted for the Employability Learner of the Year Award. It's no accident long-term unemployment is down a stunning 40% in Dover and Deal in the past two years alone and Kennedy Scott have one of the best job outcome rates in the country
I hope Julie wins the award and I look forward to Kennedy Scott helping even more local people into work.
I really enjoyed welcoming students for the Deal Learning Alliance up to Parliament.
Teachers, parents and students from the alliance had a guided tour the building and got to go inside the House of Commons and Lords. I then met them all for a chat and a photo outside Big Ben.
The students told me they loved going round the building and going inside the debating chambers. I recently visited Deal Parochial and told the pupils about my job as an MP – so now it was great to return the favour and show them where I work in Westminster!
A big thanks to the Deal Learning Alliance for coming to see our democracy in action.
It was great to visit the Dover branch of Brandon Tool Hire. I spoke to Brandon's staff about the store's business model providing equipment to local businesses in the East Kent and Sussex region.
The store now has expansion plans to supply more businesses and DIY enthusiasts. It's great to see businesses like Brandon's do really well and grow. When they do, it creates more jobs and money for local people.
It was a pleasure stop by for lunch at the Curry Garden on Dover High Street. I chatted with new owners Mr and Mrs Islam and talked about their new business plans. It's great their looking to grow and boost local business in our area.
The restaurant looks great and it was a fantastic lunch - a must visit for all curry lovers!
It was great to join so many local residents for the 10th Annual Crocus Walk to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. An amazing 224 walkers turned out and our community managed to raise a stunning £2173 on the day.
In east Kent, 575 women are diagnosed with breast cancer and 171 die from the condition every year. The walk is a fantastic opportunity to help raise to beat the disease and for our community to come together for a fantastic cause.
The Walk was organised by our very own Kerry Rubins, who has done so much to organise events and raise money for good causes. A big thank you to Kerry and to everyone who took part!
It was great to attend the re-launch of the new-look Stag pub on the Strand in Walmer. The pub has recently been refurbished and looks great. It's got fantastic food and drink and a really warm atmosphere. The pub trade employs over 1,000 people in Dover and Deal and contributes millions to our local economy. It's great to see The Stag doing so well and I'd recommend a visit!
It was a pleasure to attend HM The Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh opening the Battle of Britain visitor centre in Capel-le-Ferne. The new centre will provide education and an interactive experience for residents and tourists alike. It's a fantastic new centre and captures what the Battle of Britain must have been like for pilots and local Kent people. We must never forgot 'the few' who fought in the Battle of Britain to keep our country free.
The Queen met some surviving pilots from World War II. It was a privilege to attend and the new centre will be a real asset for our community.
It was fantastic to welcome the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to the new Dover Hospital site. The new Hospital will open in June and will provide great local healthcare.
Jeremy said, "I think it's really impressive. This is how the NHS is going to develop and it's great to see Dover at the forefront of this."
The new Hospital will include will include state-of-the-art equipment and care for up to 60,000 patients. It is based around a one-stop clinic model, which provides people with a consultation, diagnostic investigations and treatment all in the same day.
It's amazing, you push for these projects and you fight to make them move ahead and to now see at the end of the parliament, the fruition of my campaign at the beginning of my parliament is just incredible. I'm just so proud and I can't wait for this amazing facility to open.
It was great to visit the Caesar Court development in Deal to see progress at the site. Caesar Court is a new extra care scheme that will provide good, affordable accommodation for elderly people in Deal.
Caesar Court replaces the old Sampson Court on Mongeham Road. The development will have 81 shared ownership and affordable rented one and two bedroom apartments. It will also include a restaurant, hairdresser and café, and will be open to the wider Deal community. It is set to open later this year and will be a fantastic asset for our community.
It's another example of projects getting underway in Deal and no more 'coming soon'. I look forward to Caesar Court opening later this year.
It was great to go to the beer festival in Dover at the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club.
The festival was supported by the Dover, Deal and Sandwich Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to promote local Kent brewers and ale varieties. I tried a selection of local ales with local Conservative councillor Nigel Collor and spoke to beer enthusiasts at the club.
It was a fantastic festival. The brewing and pub industry contributes nearly 1,500 jobs to our local economy in Dover and Deal. It's a vital trade and we have so many great local brewers in Kent. It's great to see our local pub and brewing trade doing so well and I really enjoyed supporting the festival.
It was great to meet with the Canadian tour operators to promote tourism to Dover & Deal. The meeting was organised by VisitBritain to get more Canadians visiting the East Kent area.
I want more Canadians to come to Dover & Deal. Our corner of Kent has so much to offer, from the world-famous white cliffs, to the historic Dover Castle, the history of the Marines and the sweeping seafront. I hope more of them now plan and sell trips to Dover & Deal. Increased tourism will help boost our economy in East Kent and provide jobs and money for local people.
It was great to organise a my third Jobs Fair at Dover Town Hall. The fair ran for five hours and aimed to bring together talented jobseekers, and those wanting a change of career, with local employers.
Dover is full of talented, aspirational people trying to get on the jobs ladder. Since 2010, unemployment is down 35% - I will keep fighting to get that figure down further.
Getting more jobs and money to our corner of Kent is my passion. I am a big believer in opportunity politics and the chance for people to get on in life. There were many great employers at the fair and businesses received a lot of high quality CVs and invited jobseekers for interviews. A big thanks to all the employers who set up a stall at the event.
Knocking down Burlington House is one of my key priorities. It's demolition will fire the starting gun for the renewal of Dover town centre. Since I was elected in 2010, I have worked tirelessly with the Council and the Government to get the go ahead for the demolition.
The Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for Burlington House has now been confirmed by the government. This is fantastic news and truly is a day of days in the history of Dover. We have waited for 10 years for this. It's incredible to get this result and it's a defining moment in the work of delivering a great future for our town. It's an important milestone on the way to making Dover once again a jewel in the crown of our nation.
I look forward to the bulldozers moving in soon.
It was great to welcome Europe Minister David Lidington, to Dover on Thursday to drum up support for local businesses.
We attended a business lunch on Dover High Street to discuss action to support local businesses. Top of the agenda were businesses taxes, boosting exports and how the Government can support lending to growing firms. We then visited CMS employment agency on Dover's Market Square to discuss job opportunities in the local area. CMS recently received a 'Supportive Employer' award on their work in helping 100 local jobseekers to find work. David and I then called into the Dover branch of Pitman Training to hear how the firm has been boosting training and skills in the Dover area.
Dover has have so many growing businesses who are keen to expand. I am passionate about getting more jobs and money to our corner of Kent. Strong local businesses attract more investment to our area and provide more jobs for local people. Unemployment is down 35% in Dover and Deal since 2010 and youth unemployment is down 46%. Businesses provide training and skills for local people to boost their potential and help them aspire and get on.
I will continue to make the case to support our local businesses in Dover and Deal to help them expand and thrive.
It was great to visit the new Dover Hospital site on Coombe Valley Road. They've made great progress and the new hospital will be open to patients in just a few short months.
The new Dover Hospital will be a one stop shop for outpatient services. It will have a full range of diagnostics, day surgery and a revamped minor injuries unit. It will provide fantastic local health care and reduce difficulty journeys to big, faraway hospitals in Ashford and Margate.
After years of neglect under Labour, we are not getting a fairer share of healthcare. I look forward to the new Hospital opening very soon.
It was fantastic to congratulate local campaigner, Kerry Rubins, on the £100,000 she and her team have helped raised for the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity.
I went to Kerry's '£100k legacy party' at Deal's Astor Theatre to celebrate the group's achievements. Over the past year, local campaigners have organised the Crocus Walk and other fundraisers to raise money for breast cancer treatment and recovery.
It just shows what we can achieve as a community when we work together. Kerry is a brilliant campaigner and her tireless work has done so much for Breakthrough Breast cancer. I look forward to supporting Kerry's events in the year ahead to raise even more money for breast cancer charities.
I joined local resident, Beverley-Jayne Last, in Sainsburys Deal to drum up support to raise £1,500 for a new community defibrillator in Deal.
The campaign was part of the Heartstart's campaign for a new defibrillator. Beverley's appeal eventually raised in excess of £2,200 – more than enough for a defibrillator. It was an incredible effort and thanks to everyone who helped out.
When someone has a heart attack, every minute is critical. The new defibrillator will make a massive difference and help save the lives of those in need. I was proud to support Beverley's campaign and a big thank you to everyone who donated money to this great cause.
I met with Dover Police Chief, Chief Inspector Steve Barlow, on Friday about solution traffic tailbacks from the Port of Dover.
It was a really positive meeting. We agreed the Police need to use their powers to manage and control traffic whenever there are Port tailbacks. Our town is far more than a dumping ground for lorries and cross-Channel traffic. The Port Police and the Dover Police are working together to get a lasting solution to the problem.
It was great to attend the 25th anniversary of Kennedy Scott Ltd on Friday in Dover. The company runs welfare to work and job training programmes to help the long-term employed back to work. Kennedy Scott do a fantastic job in helping Dover and Deal's long term unemployed get work. Their great work has helped local long-term unemployment come down nearly 30% in the last year alone.
Under Labour, long-term unemployment rocketed and too many people were left on the scrapheap, on benefits and without hope. This is now being changed. Thanks to our welfare reforms and our growing economy, more people back people in Dover and Deal are coming off long-term benefits and into jobs.
It was great to visit Portal House School in St Margaret's to tour the school and study their new designs for their rebuild. I studied plans with headteacher Rosemary Bradley. The school does fantastic work for children with special educational needs. A whole new rebuild could make the school even better and support more children.
However, many residents are worried about the new designs and the effect they might have on the local community. Before any rebuild goes ahead, the Council needs to make sure the new designs are in keeping with the beautiful St Margaret's village and local residents are fully consulted on rebuild plans.
It was fantastic to welcome local business AET in my surgery to see their new 'Go Away Stowaway' system to catch illegal migrants and stowaways climbing aboard vehicles.
AET International Ltd are based in Walmer. Their state of the art system can be fitted to all types of lorries and uses infra-red cameras and GPS positioning to alert the driver of a security breach, whether inside or underneath the lorry. We need to keep our borders as safe and secure as possible. This detection system will help catch even more illegal migrants who try to break into Britain from Calais. It's a simple, but effective, idea and will be a great help for lorry drivers.
AET Chief Executive and I have written to the Immigration Minister and UK Border Force to promote expansion of the system. It's a great invention. I hope more haulage companies adopt the system to track and stop those who try to break into Britain.
I met with East Kent Against Fracking – a local group who have campaigned for protection for East Kent from fracking and drilling.
I have made it clear that fracking is not eight in our corner of Kent. The safety case has not been made and there are concerns drilling for gas through the aquifer could contaminate our drinking water. We also don't want drilling sites around Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone ruining our beautiful countryside.
Time and time again, I have made the case for tougher regulation on drilling to the Government. I am glad concessions have been wrung from them. The changes made will ensure that fracking companies can no longer come to our corner of the Garden of England and seek to exploit it. The Government have made the right decision to tighten up the regulations and I am sure all campaigners will be ecstatic at this news.
I enjoyed welcoming Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, to our corner of Kent to press him on improving mobile reception.
Sajid's department is responsible for telecommunications and mobile infrastructure. We discussed his plans to boost mobile phone signal and reception nationwide. Too often in Dover and Deal, people can't get a phone signal. It's incredibly frustrating for residents and hampers local businesses. I have long made the case for action to tackle black spots and improve our mobile reception. It's great to see an action plan now in place to improve reception in our area.
I really enjoyed visiting Relate East Kent to hear about their counselling service and work with young people in our area. I talked to counsellors about how Relate is supporting young people across East Kent who have difficulties, both at home and at school. They also do great work with couples and families to keep relationships together.
Helping young people to work through their problems early in life helps set them up for a brighter future as they grow into adults. Strong families are the bedrock of our society. We need to do everything we can to support charities like Relate help our young people and keep relationships together.
I joined 200 residents at Deal Pier on Sunday in tribute to the victims of the Paris atrocity.
We show our support for people in Paris and were proud to raise 'Je Suis Charlie' signs to show solidarity for staff at Charlie Hebdo magazine, where staff were murdered for publishing satirical cartoons.
It was fantastic to see over 200 people attend the tribute. People in Deal stand shoulder to shoulder with Parisians after these horrific attacks. The attack in Paris was an attack on freedom of speech and who we are as a society. The Deal gathering shows just how strongly people feel about the attacks in Paris and protecting our freedoms.
It was great to join organisers of the Deal Festival of Music and Arts at their New Year Launch Event on Sunday. We heard all about the organisers' exciting plans for the festival in 2015.
Deal Festival celebrates its 33rdanniversary this year and continues to go from strength to strength. This year's festival will run from 27th June to 12th July and will feature concerts and events from world class artists. Deal is a vibrant centre for culture and the arts in East Kent. The festival is much loved and well supported. I hope the events and concerts in 2015 are an even bigger success and bring more tourists to Deal and our area.
I was proud to be in Market Square to see the £250,000 cheque being handed over to the Port of Dover Community Fund.
The money will come from the Port's profits and will go towards to Dover community. It will ensure the town benefits more from the activities at the Port.
I have campaigned long and hard for this Community Fund. It's great the fund has now been established and the principle is in place. Now, I will now be working for the fund to be increased so Dover can get a greater share of investment for its development.
It was fantastic to visit St Edmund's Catholic school on Friday. I caught up with staff and attended a Sixth Form Assembly, where all the students were sporting Christmas jumpers!
The school has made fantastic progress in the past few years. It is now out of special measures and results are rapidly improving. I now want to see the school go from strength to strength – my congratulations go to all staff and students at the school.
It was great to visit Royal Mail's Deal Delivery Office on Friday to thank staff for their work over the festive period. I was shown around by Delivery Office Manager, Chris Cole. He introduced me to postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail over the busy Christmas period.
It was great to see first-hand how much effort staff put into delivering mail for people at this time of the year. Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year and help to deliver Christmas mail for people and families in our area. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.
It was great to visit a range of small businesses in Dover on Saturday to mark Small Business Saturday.
Small Business Saturday is an annual event to support small business and encourage local shopping. Dover District Council allowed free parking in the town centre to encourage more shoppers to Dover for the day.
I visited John Angell's jewellers on Biggen Street, a family business that has been trading for over 170 years. I also called into Allan Hughes Quality Menswear, which has been trading in Dover for 50 years, and tried on jackets.
On my last stop, I popped into the latest Dover micropub, the Mash Tun, which opened in August on Bench Street. I chatted to owners Peter and Kathryn Garstin and sampled one of the pub's ales.
Small businesses make the World go round. Dover has so many fantastic small businesses, providing jobs and money for our corner of Kent. They are a real source of local pride and make Dover High Street a great experience.
Small Business Saturday is a fantastic way of boosting our small businesses and encouraging more people to shop locally in Dover. I really enjoyed speaking to the business people and hearing about what would help their businesses grow more.
We need to support our small businesses all year round. Small Business rate relief has benefitted over 1,000 small businesses in Dover. Credit to the Council for allowing free town centreparking.
It was great to see the High Street so busy and I look forward to the next Small Business Saturday next December.
I joined volunteers at the Deal Landmark Centre on Saturday at their Christmas card stall to help raise money for charity.
Every year, there is a Christmas card stall in Deal, helping to raise money for good causes. It was great to support the Christmas card stall. I got some fantastic Christmas cards!
The stall usually takes place at Deal Library but this year it was at the Landmark Centre. There was a great selection of festive cards on offer. Thanks to the volunteers for all their hard work.
I paid a visit to Dover Grammar School for Boys on Friday to talk to students and take part in a Q&A with Sixth Formers.
It was good to catch up with staff at the school and answer questions from students on my job as an MP and work in the Dover area. I also took part in a lesson with Sociology students on the changing nature of politics in today's society.I really enjoyed talking to students and answering their questions.
They were incredibly switched on about political issues and our local area. The sociology lesson was fascinating. No wonder it's one of the best schools around and well exceeds national averages. In 2013, 92% of all students at the school got 5 good GCSEs, including Maths and English, well above the national average of 60%.
The staff do a fantastic job ensuring the students are stretched to the max and are challenged. A lot of improvement has been made at the school and it's on an upward trajectory. The new Headteacher, Mrs Chapman has made a big difference.
A good education is the best possible start in life. I hope Dover Grammar goes from strength to strength and it's great to see the school doing so well.
I visited Dover Jobcentre on Friday to see the work they do in helping young people to find work. It was very ecouraging to see the great work being done at Dover Jobcentre to help our young people into work.
Between 2005 and 2010 under Labour, youth unemployment rose a disgraceful 50% in Dover. It is now down 43% since the Election and 25% in the past year. This isn't happening by accident. It's down to our welfare reforms and the great work being done at our Jobcentre to support our young people into work or training.
All the staff at the Jobcentre were so conscientious and dedicated to helping people find work. Welfare reforms and the Jobcentre are bearing fruit and more people in Dover are finding jobs.
It was great to see the work of the Deal Speaking Up group in helping those with learning difficulties and disabilities in Deal.
The Speaking Up group meets twice a month at the Golf Road Centre as a forum for those with disabilities and learning difficulties. They work to bring about practical solutions in the Deal area for people with disabilities and learning difficulties. They are now planning an access survey on Deal High Street.
Speaking Up is a great local forum to support those with disabilities and learning difficulties. We need to make it as easy as possible for disabled people to play a full and active part of our community in Deal.
Speaking Up meet on the first and third Friday of every month at the Golf Road Centre. I strongly encourage more people to get involved - come along on 5 December at 10am and join the forum. Thanks to organiser, Chrissie, for inviting me along.
I organised the 'Big Mow' community action day on Sunday to cut the grass on Freemen's Way, Deal.
I met with Dover District Council representatives at the field in September to agree plans to cut the grass in the central square and improve the field for residents. Residents on Freemen's Way told me how angry they were that the grass was so overgrown. It was unacceptable that the residents of Freemen's Way could not use their green.
Sadly no progress was made, so I organised 'the Big Mow. The 'Big Mow' team took to the brambles with brush cutters and brought up a tractor mower to cut the grass. It was a fantastic day of community action and shows what we can do when we work together. Action, not words, is what matters.
This is just the first step. Now we need action on the children's play area and a long-term plan for improvement to the field. I hope the councillors will be more pro-active and help me to fix the play area. I want all residents to feel proud of where they live.
My thanks to all those who took part - particularly Cllr Wayne Elliott, Adrian Friend, Tracy Carr and especially to Julian Pitts of Veg UK Ltd for bringing a tractor mower to help.
It was great to visit Dover Christ Church Academy to see the prgress being made at the school. It allowed me to catch up with staff, visit the maths department and talk to 6th Formers about his work and the issues affecting our community.
Christ Church Academy's Ofsted inspection in October found there was an 'improving picture' at the school. The report also highlighted how behaviour at the school has improved and students now wear their uniform 'with pride'.
The school is making good progress. The maths results were particularly encouraging and I was delighted to visit the maths department to see their work first hand.
My congratulations to Mrs Williamson and her team for all the progress they have been making. I now want to see Christ Church go from strength to strength. A good education is the best ladder to success in life and the improvements at Christ Church are very encouraging. It was great to see they are on the right track.
It was fantastic to attend the opening of Linden Hall Studio, Deal, last Friday night. The new gallery has opened with an exhibition ofthe work of local Deal artist, John Corley.
Linden Hall Studio, in St George's Road, Deal, is currently exhibiting glass, paintings and drawings by the well-known local artist. The studio will now be open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm.
John is an incredibly talented artist. The paintings and drawings are amazing. His work making and restoring stained glass is exceptional. No wonder he's so popular with the many churches and organisations in our community.
This is another Deal business going from strength to strength, helping to make Deal a centre for art, music and culture. It was a pleasure to attend the studio's opening. Do go down and visit, and support the business by buying an artwork if you can.
It was great to attend the Aycliffe Residents' Forum to hear local residents' views on a whole range of topics. Top of the agenda was the location for the children's play area, lorries and parking problems. It was great to chat to residents on the issues that matter to them. I will raise these concerns and make the case for residents. I look forward to the next residents' forum.
It was fantastic to see so many Dover people attend the Remembrance Sunday Service at the war memorial. Over 400 gathered to pay their respects to those who fought and died to keep our country safe. Veterans and cadets marched to the memorial and I was proud to lay a wreath for those who died.
This year marks the 100th anniversary since the start of the First World War. Over 888,000 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth died over the four year conflict. Hardly a single town or village was unaffected. Dover was no different. We remember their memory and never forget their sacrifice to preserve our freedoms and way of life.
On Saturday, I was glad to sign a petition to stop Dover Medical Practice closing. The Practice is at risk of closing next month. Now 3,000 patients have been told they need to re-register at a different surgery.
Dover Medical Practice did a great job in caring for patients and those who did not speak good English. We need to make sure that the patients are now put first and looked after properly.
It was fantastic to break ground on Thursday for the launch event for the new Betteshanger Sustainable Parks project.
The £40 million project aims to regenerate the area around the former Betteshanger Colliery, which closed in 1989. Backed by Hadlow College, the scheme will turn a brownfield site into a sustainable energy park, with a focus on green technology and renewable energy.
The park is set to open its doors in early 2016 and will lead to around 1,000 new jobs in the area. I am now urging Chancellor, George Osborne, to make the new park part of the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone.
I'm immensely supportive of this project – it shows Dover, Deal and the White Cliffs are open for business. We cannot change what happened at Betteshanger in the past, but we can help make a brighter future. This project will bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent and I'm very optimistic about the kind of economic future we can make in our area.
I welcomed the new Ports Minister, John Hayes, to Dover on Thursday morning to see the changes transforming the Port.
John Hayes became the Ports Minister in July. Charlie showed the Minister round the Port to see the major ongoing changes at the Port. He was really impressed by the Port and the change we make.
We've come a long way together. We stopped Labour's port sell off. The port now has powers to get the investment it needs. We are appointing our first community directors and there is now a community fund for the development of the town.
All this is at risk at the next election. Why would we want to go back to where we were four short years ago? We can't risk Labour having another go at selling off our port.
It was great to be joined by Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, on Thursday in a visit to Dover Magistrates' Court.
Chris and I toured the court, which deals with low level crimes in the Dover area. It is also where all criminal proceedings start. Latest statistics show that, in the past year, an incredible 14,000 plus criminal proceedings were completed in magistrates' courts in East Kent.
The team do a great job in swiftly providing justice on so many matters, from motoring offences to criminal damage. They help keep us safe in our community and ensure criminals are dealt with as quickly as possible. The Justice Secretary and I paid tribute to all their hard work in keeping our court system running smoothly.
It was great to meet top guide dogs, Zebedee and Ulla, in Deal at an event to mark Guide Dogs Week 2014. I also met with representatives of Guide Dogs in Deal as part of their Stand Up for Guide Dogs campaign.
There are over 4,700 guide dog owners in the UK. The campaign and Guide Dogs Week encouraged communities all around the UK to raise funds and awareness of guide dogs and the people who use them.
Guide dogs do such great work. If you are blind or partially sighted, guide dogs can change your life. It's fantastic that Guide Dogs Week is helping to raise money for guide dogs and more awareness of the many people that need them.
I visited Dover Foodbank on Friday to see the great work the charity does in providing emergency food to local people.
It was great to meet with local volunteers at the foodbank to ask them about their work. Dover Foodbank is a crucial lifeline to those who are hungry and in need. It is an excellent example of our community coming together to help those who need it most. I was incredibly impressed with the selflessness of the volunteers and their determination to help to all those who need it.
Volunteers told me they are looking for more donations and people to help out. Any spare food or time you can give would be greatly appreciated.
I visited two Dover schools on Friday to talk to students about their studies. I dropped by at Dover Grammar School for Boys and St. Edmunds Catholic School to meet with staff and students to discuss progress at the schools.
Both schools have been through difficult times. Like Castle Community Academy in Deal, real improvement has been made. Congratulations to the teachers and staff on their efforts.
I really enjoyed visiting both schools and hearing about the progress pupils are making. I know there are some who seek to rubbish our schools at every turn - they are wrong and it's clear that we are seeing real improvements. A great education is the best way to to realise opportunity and the best possible start in life.
A painting of 'Dover Castle in the Snow' by local artist John Burrows now hangs in my Westminster office.
Mr Burrows sent me the snowscape as a gift for opening his exhibition in June at Dover Castle. The exhibition was held in partnership with English Heritage to showcase the best examples of local art.
It was so kind of John to send me the fantastic painting of Dover Castle in the snow. It now hangs pride of place in my office in Westminster. John's an excellent artist and it's a little piece of Dover and a great reminder of home when I'm up in London.
I was proud to join local residents in Ripple for a coffee morning to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
The event had great coffee, company and conversation. Most importantly, there was a great turn out to raise money to support people suffering from cancer. My thanks goes to Rosemary for organising such a successful morning.
One in three of us will get cancer. It's one of the toughest battles anyone has to face. The money from the Ripple coffee morning will help Macmillan make sure no one has to face cancer alone.
I was so proud to support my friend, Adrian, in his fantastic donation to the Heartstart campaign. The Heartstartcampaign provides emergency life support education and training to help save lives.
Adrian has donated two 'resus Annies' to the Heartstart campaign to help train more people for when someone goes into cardiac arrest. Supported by the British Heart Foundation, Heartstart on the south east coast aims to teach more members of the public these life-saving skills.
There are around 600,000 heart attacks out of hospitals every year. When someone has a heart attack, every minute is critical. For a heart attack sufferer, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces their survival chances by 10 per cent.
These 'resus Annies' will help more people in our area learn crucial resuscitation skills and respond quickly when someone has a heart attack.
It's great that the Heartstart campaign is teaching more people in our area how they can save lives. I encourage everyone to get involved in the campaign and learn these life-saving skills.
I held a site meeting at Freemens Way, Deal with representatives of Dover District Council.
Plans were agreed following the meeting for estate improvements. The grass needed to be cut in the central square and has called for the play area to be restored. I also want to hold a community meeting on the square with the council and residents to hear what more can be done.
Residents have told me they are concerned. So I have acted and worked with the Council to develop an action plan.
First the square must be cut. A simple thing yet an immediate improvement. Second we need to see the play area restored. Third a community meeting on the green to hear what people want to see and what more can be done.
I totally get how angry the residents are. I talked to many people when I held the site meeting. I am working hard to make the difference. My deepest thanks to Council Deputy Leader Sue Chandler and Alan Rooke James of the CSU for joining the visit.
I paid a visit to a 1940s themed festival in St Margaret's for the 1940s themed weekend.
Hundreds of local residents turned out at the free event to get into the Home Front spirit. Taking place at the Pines Tea Room and Museum the festival included make-and-do demonstrations, vintage 1940s hair and make-up stalls, as well as a hog roast and cream teas.
There was a fantastic community spirit. People really enjoyed getting stuck in and involved in the Home Front spirit, from the live wartime music to the talks about the Home Guard and D-Day.
Dover was England's frontline town in the Second World War. At Hellfire Corner, the people of Dover defied everything the enemy could do when shells and bombs were rained down on us.
We came through because of our community spirit. And it was great to see this community spirit at the weekender. I hope to there will be another event next year to carry on remembering our role in the war effort.
I was really proud to join BMX riders and skateboarders at a tournament at Deal skatepark to raise awareness of Batten Disease.
The tournament was organised by Jason Wilson to raise money and awareness of Batten disease. Jason's nephew Ryan has been diagnosed with the disease. Batten disease is a very rare nervous system disorder that usually begins in childhood. Around 200 children and young adults in the UK are affected. The disease leads to blindness, fits and progressively damages the ability to think. It is a terminal disease with very few sufferers living past the age of 30.
Batten Disease is truly horrible. It takes away life at a young age and takes away sight and the ability to think. As a genetic disease, parents are often wracked with guilt adding to the pressure on families trying to cope.
It was fantastic to see loads of young people get involved to support and help raise money. They were all keen to support Ryan and raise awareness of Batten disease. Jason did a fantastic job organising the whole event and raising awareness of this terrible disease. I wish him and Ryan well.
It was a pleasure to attend this year's Picnic on the Green in Walmer. The event was free to all and great fun for all the family. There was music at the Bandstand and a small funfair to keep the kids entertained after everyone had eaten their picnic.
Local community groups were also on hand to tell residents about local events and services. I took the opportunity to chat to the people at Deal Icebreakers stall. Every Boxing Day for the last three decades, the Deal Icebreakers have run into the icy sea on Deal Beach to raise money for charity and good causes. It was great to support them.
It was a real pleasure to be at the groundbreaking of the Western Docks Revival. I was joined by the Chairman of Dover Harbour Board, George Jenkins, and Chief Executive, Tim Waggott, to start the demolition of the old Seacat berth at the old hoverport. It was the start of the regeneration of Dover Port. When the project is finished, there will be a new cargo terminal and new development on the waterfront.
It's great to see the commitment of the port to new investment and the creation of hundreds of new local jobs. There's a real sense of change and partnership with the town. New investment, new community directors and a new fund for Dover too. A partnership that can strengthen Port of Dover's position as one of the UK's leading ports and enhance its position as the leading ferry port in Europe.
It was great fun giving St George's church hall in Deal a new lick of paint this afternoon. I was joined by friends Wayne Elliott and Adrian Friend in this social action community project to get St George's hall looking its best.
The hall at St George's is a great community asset for Deal and can cater for up to 120 people. It also has a large commercial kitchen and a stage and dance floor for community events. I really enjoyed helping out on the painting project to make sure the hall at St George's remains spick and span and ready for community use.
I was glad to bring Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Roads and Highways, Cllr David Brazier, to Beach Street in Deal to look at a dangerous section of the road. Cllr Brazier also met with local residents and business owners and to see the site. There was a serious accident earlier this year on this area of Beach Street and many concerned residents contacted me about this dangerous bend.
When I lived on Beach Street I saw first-hand the speeds that cars can reach and the many near misses on this corner. I pledged to take action over the unsafe bend so we could avoid any more accidents. It is good that Cllr Brazier agreed with me and will have the road speed tested. Hopefully, this will be the first step in addressing this dangerous corner.
It was great to welcome new High Streets Minister, Penny Mordaunt, to Deal to show her our award-winning High Street.
We have a great mixture of independent stores, from artisan cheese shops to art galleries. Now that we have won the battle for all-day high speed trains to Deal, it will be even easier for more people to come and experience all that makes our High Street great – and that made it High Street of the Year 2013.
I also talked to Penny about what more can be done to support our local area. With schemes such as the Coastal Communities Fund, the Government is providing more opportunities for towns such as Deal to achieve their full potential and get more jobs and money.
The Deal Hospital Fete is always a highlight of the summer. The fete, organised by the Friends of Deal Hospital, featured fun community activities with a tombola, a raffle, a children's fancy dress competition and donkey rides for all to enjoy. There were also stalls for plants, bric-a-brac and bottles, and a barbeque.
The Friends of Deal Hospital should feel proud of putting on another great event. There was a big community turnout, and with all money raised going straight back to Deal Hospital this is always a fantastic cause to support.
Many people spoke to me about the future of the hospital. It's amazing that it's just a year since we fought - and won - the battle to safeguard the hospital.
With the outpatient closure agreed back in 2006, I am working tirelessly with the local doctors to save local services. The doctors want to see more local clinics at the hospital and ensure proper services are retained for the elderly, poorly sighted and people who find it hard to travel. I am looking forward to the doctors setting out their final plans - but so far things look very promising.
Today, I joined the World War One commemorative event held at Eastry Primary School. The event featured re-enactments, a vintage dress award ceremony and had the Landmark Show Choir singing wartime tunes for the community.
The centenary of the First World War is a sobering moment which affects all of us - young and old. We will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for freedom and democracy. I am incredibly proud of Cllr Wickham and her team for putting on this wonderful event to commemorate the legacy of those who gave their lives for our nation.
It was great to see the local community out in force, not just to enjoy the displays and stalls, but also to learn about the history behind the war. I particularly enjoyed listening to the Landmark Show Choir performing some wartime tunes for the crowd.
Ealier today, I paid my respects to those brave serviceman of the Dover Patrol at the Patrol Memorial on Leathercote Point, St Margaret's Bay.
These heroes kept our nation safe during the darkest of hours. We forever remember those heroes of the patrol and the amazing St George's Day raid on Zeebrugge.
The Patrol Monument, along with its fellow monuments in Calais and in New York Harbour, symbolise the strength of our alliance across the Atlantic. Of the bonds which were forged during those dark times. They stand as a silent testament to the central role of our naval forces in fighting tyranny and delivering freedom to Europe.
Every year I look forward to the Tilmanstone Fete. I always enjoy seeing the community come together and support a fantastic event which raises money for the local church. With live music and classic fete activities such as bouncy castles and a tombola, I wasn't surprised to see so many people pop along.
However, the work of an MP doesn't stop for community events, and I had many local residents come up to me to raise their concerns about energy generation. These are concerns I share.
It is important that we keep the lights on and have secure energy supplies. Residents felt that solar energy would be great in the brownfield former coal mine areas. I believe that fracking is worth exploring in principle, yet must be safe - so not where there is a water aquifer below us on which our drinking water depends.
Today, I stopped by the Dover Regatta. Organised by the Dover Harbour Board and Dover District Council, and sponsored by the Dover Mercury, it was an excellent feel-good event. It had a fantastic vintage car show, live music and concluded with an air display.
I was really impressed by the number of local residents who came out and enjoyed the sunshine at the Regatta. After the Dover Music Festival, there is no doubt as to the strength of our community spirit. Things have come a long way in Dover, and there is a real sense of momentum in town that things will continue to thrive.
Dementia affects so many more people as we are living longer. The condition is distressing for both those who suffer from it as well as for their family and friends. My father suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the last decade of his life so I have had personal experience of this terrible disease.
This is why I and local Conservatives were proud to take part in training to be Dementia Friends so we can be there for people who suffer from dementia.
Dementia-Friendly Deal is a fantastic initiative which is doing important work not only to help both those affected and their families, but also to educate local organisations so that we can all help dementia-sufferers live life to the full.
Today, I met with local patients at Dover Medical Practice. As medical provider Concordia has served notice to quit providing the practice, patients are fearful for the future.
They were eager to tell me of the excellent service they had receive from Dover Medical Practice, and how the practice's specialisation in people who do not speak English as a first language and ailments that affect people from Eastern Europe and Nepal was too important to be lost.
I support their concerns. I updated the group on recent meetings I have had with the Secretary of State for Health and NHS England where I have made the case for Dover Medical Practice to be supported. I will continue to fight for a fair share of healthcare here in Dover.
It was great to take part in a live web chat with students of Castle Community College to answer their political questions.
I was quizzed on a range of topics from school pupils from Years 7 to 12 on local and national issues. Students asked about my greatest achievement as an MP and why I wanted to go into politics, as well as what I thought about issues affecting young people such as tuition fees and restrictions on sugary foods to cut obesity.
Also high on the students' agenda were local issues and how I could help make Dover and Deal a better place. I told them I was proud of the steps I had taken to get a community port in Dover and get high speed trains to Deal. I also told them I wanted to make Dover a Jewel in the Crown of England again and bring down Burlington House to help transform Dover town centre.
I really enjoyed taking part in the live web chat with all the Castle students. Many say that young people aren't interested in politics but the students I talked to at Castle certainly proved them wrong. They weren't afraid to challenge me or give their own opinion.
It was fantastic to take part and a great idea so pupils can get their questions answered directly. The teacher wanted to do another web chat next term and I really look forward to doing another one with students soon.
It was an honour to attend the 25th Anniversary concert in Deal on Sunday to commemorate the victims of the IRA bombing of Deal Barracks in 1989.
On the morning of the 22nd September 1989, the Provision IRA exploded a 15lb bomb at the Royal Marine Barracks in Deal, at the School of Music building, killing 11 Marine bandsmen and wounding a further 21 soldiers. The Royal Marines mark the tragic event every year with a march through Deal and a concert and rededication service at the Bandstand on Walmer Green.
It was an honour to lay a wreath and commemorate those bandsmen who died at Deal Barracks twenty five years ago.
It was a fantastic concert and a fitting tribute to those who were killed by this hideous attack. This bomb touched our community deeply and so many people were affected in its aftermath. Tragically, many of its victims were only in their teens.
I really enjoyed all the music from the Royal Marines Bands and the moving rededication ceremony at the bandstand. So many residents turned out to pay their respects. They always welcome back the bandsmen and remember their sacrifice.
We will never forget what happened and will always honour their memory.
I really enjoyed paying a visit to a dog micro chipping event at Jolleys Pet Superstore in Dover. The event, organised by the Dog's Trust, offered free micro chipping to dog owners. I brought along his own terrier, Star, to the event and met fellow owners.
From 6th April 2016, the Government is making it compulsory for all dogs to be fitted with microchips. Chipping helps keep dogs safer and helps them to be found quicker if they are lost or stolen. I enjoyed going down with Star and seeing more dog owners having their pets fitted with microchips. Knowing Star has a microchip helps keep my mind at ease and she enjoyed meeting other dogs at the event there too.
I joined volunteers and young cadets in Dover's Asda on Sunday to help raise money for the Help for Heroes charity. Volunteers were welcomed to the store to raise money through collections and selling merchandise.
It was great to support Yvonne and the cadets who work so hard raising money for this fantastic charity. They do really amazing work. I pay tribute to all those who have been injured fighting to protect us. The public in Asda were so generous and strongly showed their support to the troops. Help for Heroes do amazing work for all our injured service men and women.
I joined volunteers from Dover Foodbank on Friday to collect food donations.
The Foodbank organised a special collection at Tesco in Whitfield. On Thursday, the volunteers managed to collect 380kg of food for local people in need. The top foods items needed were tinned fruits, sugar and puddings, as well as hot drinks such as tea and coffee.
It is an excellent example of our community coming together to help those who need it most. I was incredibly impressed with the selflessness of the volunteers and their determination to help to all those who need it. This country has a proud history of charity and help for the neediest. Dover Foodbank is another example of the compassion people have for each other.
I met with Coal Authority representatives and former miners last week to discuss plans for new solar farm at the Snowdown Colliery site. The plan being explored is to develop the old Snowdown Colliery site with new PVC solar panels to provide clean, renewable energy for the National Grid. The Colliery site, finally closed as a coal mine in 1987, is now classed as a brownfield site. New solar panels at Snowdown would see the area becoming a producer of energy for the first time in over the quarter of a decade.
This new solar farm could signal the start of a brighter future for Snowdown. We cannot change what happened in the past, but we can change the future.
Solar panels can provide clean and renewable energy generation and would bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent. It is best they are placed on brownfield sites such as at Snowdown than on our countryside and greenfield sites. That's why these plans are so interesting.
It was great to be joined by the Skills Minister to officially open Multipanel's factory. Multipanel's facilities and assembly line are state of the art. They have to be seen to be believed.
It's great news that more and more businesses are 'reshoring' to the UK. With firms like Multipanel, the UK's manufacturing future looks so much brighter. Multipanel's plant means 70 new jobs for our area. We need to encourage more companies, like Multipanel, to relocate to our corner of Kent, bringing jobs and money for businesses and local people.
It was a pleasure to see East Kent College's Dover plans for expansion with Skills Minister, Matt Hancock. The College is going from strength to strength, shown by their recent Ofsted results. These developments will help provide even better facilities for students to get on with their studies and do really well. It was great to chat to students and apprentices at the Motorbike Repair Centre who are learning crucial skills for their careers and later life.
The Skills Minister and I were really impressed with the development plans. These new facilities will help students in their studies and training and provide a great platform for the College to succeed further.
It was fantastic to open John Burrow's art exhibition at Dover Castle on Saturday evening. The exhibition contained landscapes of local landmarks, including scenes from Dover, Deal and Walmer Castles. John, a local artist based in Deal, showed me examples of his work which were inspired in the local area.
The exhibition was held in partnership with English Heritage to showcase the best examples of local art. He fantastically depicts our local area and landmarks. So much of what it means to be British is tied up in our white cliffs and in our castles in Dover, Deal and Walmer. I thank John and English Heritage in putting this event on and letting local people see them in all their glory in these paintings.
I like John's work so much I have even used his paintings for my own Christmas cards. I urge anyone to come down to see the paintings for themselves.
It was great to join the Fairy Walk on Deal seafront to campaign to ensure that dog owners clear up their dog mess around the town. With campaigner Kerry Rubins and local children, I took part in the campaign for dog owners to take more responsibility to clear up their dog mess and leave Deal a tidier place. Children dressed up as fairies and superheroes and paraded on the seafront to protest against dog fouling in the town.
We were joined by Deal mascot Scooby Dude to highlight the problem. Deal seafront is a fantastic place but can be spoiled by dog mess and rubbish. As a dog owner myself, I know the importance of ensuring you tidy up after your pet and don't leave the mess for someone else to deal with.
This is not just a tidiness issue. Children's health and eyesight can be threatened by contact with dog mess. Hopefully, all the children in their costumes got this message across loud and clear – that dog owners should take responsibility and deal with dog mess to protect children and leave our town a better place.
It was an honour to attend the Deal Armed Forces Day service on Sunday. There was a deeply moving Drumhead service on the apron of Deal Pier to recreate the traditional military church service conducted by soldiers in the field. The service honoured the work of the British Armed Forces and current service personnel and veterans who have fought for their country.
The sixth Annual Armed Forces Day took place on Saturday to raise awareness of the work of the Armed Forces. It was an excellent service and really well organised by the Royal British Legion and our own veterans' organisation here in Deal. The Armed Forces fight for our freedom and security and we should never forget the work they do. Armed Forces personel put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe. We celebrate their work and pay tribute to those service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
I really enjoyed going to the Whitfield Fun Day and brought along my dog, Star, to enjoy the fun. There was so much fun to be had for all the family – I particularly enjoyed the dog show on the day. I also enjoyed chatting to Whitfield Parish Chairman at the Fun Day and luckily the sun was shining throughout.
It was great fun to attend Capel Community Fun Day at the QEII playing fields. It was an excellent village event for all local residents and I really enjoyed going along with Cllr Sue Chandler to enjoy the afternoon.
There was so much going on, from live bands to dog demonstrations. I enjoyed trying the Women's Institute Cakes and entering the Doctor Who scarf competition. The sun was shining and everyone was allowed in free of charge. It was fantastic to see the strong community spirit in Capel Village and I hope everyone enjoyed themselves.
I called in at Dover Port to see how well cruise ships at handled in harbour. It was great to visit the cruise ship and see the state of the art facilities on offer. Accompanied by James Ryeland of ship service company George Hammond PLC, I toured the ship to see the facilities on offer and take in the incredible view across the Port.
The cruise industry is a growing part of our local economy. Cruise calls bring tourists to our town and provide more jobs and money in servicing and visits. The best view to be had of Dover is from the Western arm of the harbour. It was great to appreciate Dover in all its glory and underlines how the whole area could be developed into a really special place.
It was great to meet with residents and businesses to hear their concerns about the dangerous stretch of road near the Royal Hotel in Beach Street, Deal. I listened to residents and local businesses who are concerned about the danger of the corner. I have now pledged to take up the matter on their behalf and raise the problem with Kent County Council.
The corner on Beach Street by the Royal Hotel is very dangerous. A pedestrian was recently struck down by a cyclist. The road is narrow and the pavement is low. People on foot are at risk from bike and car. I was glad to see the problem for myself and will be taking this matter up with the County Council. Our local roads should be as safe as possible. I hope the County Council will investigate and act to deal with this problem.
On Sunday, I paid a visit to Hammonds' Wharf to see how the company is unloading fresh produce at Dover Docks.
It was great to meet with workers down at Dover Docks to see how bananas were unloaded from abroad. They do their job with such skill and know exactly how to use the machinery they have to unload the cargo. The company deals with fresh produce from all over the world at Dover Port. In 2011, a staggering 825 million estimated loose bananas were discharged at Dover to distribute at British supermarkets.
It was fantastic to see how quickly bananas and other fresh produce are unloaded at Dover Docks. The work they do at Dover Docks is so important to getting the goods we need into the UK. The sheer amount of fresh produce which the Docks deals with is incredible, supplying businesses up and down the country.
I really enjoyed visiting the Dover Marina Open Day on Saturday. It was a fantastic showcase for the Port and a great day for anyone to find out more about sailing and marine activities in Dover. The sun was shining and I chatted to Neil Wiggins, Chairman of the People's Port Trust, about the future development at Dover Port.
It was also really encouraging to hear from industry experts how the Marina is helping to boost tourism in our area. The Marina Hotel on the seafront is attracting tourists to Dover. The Marina is one of the gems of our town and it was fantastic to see so many people come down to enjoy the day for free. The Open Day offered sailing and yacht tasters, as well as motor boat displays and Police boat demonstrations. It showed how much there is to get involved with and see at Dover Marina.
I was honoured to attend the annual awards presentation for the TS Lynx Sea Cadets in Dover. All the Cadets at TS Lynx put in so much hard work to win their awards. It was fantastic to speak to the Cadets and their leaders about all the different activities and responsibilities they have had to develop to win their awards and all the new skills they have had to learn.
The TS Lynx Sea Cadets are a real asset to our town. They are committed young men and women with ideas of service and duty. It was a pleasure to see them win their awards and be rewarded all the effort they have put it.
I really enjoyed visiting Medical Engineering Technologies. The company test medical devices and packaging and provides solutions for scientific companies. It was great to hear that they are expanding and looking to invest in the business. This means more jobs and money for our area.
It's great that MET are also looking to export. Getting our exports up is a crucial path to boosting our economy and driving our recovery. This means real money for our area and more jobs for local people. It is a key Government target to increase the UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020. We need to help more businesses like MET to expand and power our increase in exports.
It was inspiring to visit the Pilgrims Hospice. It provides dedicated hospice care for those in the East Kent and is a vital asset in our community. It was great to speak to health professionals and those in the hospice about the care they receive. Good quality palliative care should be a right for those who are coming to the end of their lives.
The work done at Pilgrims Hospice is going to become even more important in the coming years as our population ages. In the next 20 years, the percentage of people over 85 will double. Good quality end of life care from charities such as the Pilgrims Hospice is a crucial part of easing the suffering of those who are dying and treating them with respect.
It was great to go to a commissioning service in Dover for new Street Pastors. Dover Street Pastors are a charity of all types of Christians in Dover. They send out teams of volunteers every Saturday night from local churches to care for people in need on the streets. They operate in crucial areas in Dover, such as the High Street and Sea Front to help those who need care, or simply provide an ear to listen.
It was a fantastic evening with people who care about our local community and want to make a difference. Good neighbours who care strengthen our society and help those in need. The evening was a great example of Christian charity in action. I'm sure the new pastors will make a positive difference in our town.
It was a perfect Spring Day to visit to visit the opening day of the Walmer Brocante. Last year's event was such a success as local residents snapped up antiques, quality second hand goods and collectables from charities and local traders. This year's Bank Holiday Brocante launch on Walmer Green was no different. It was a packed success and a perfect community day. I really enjoyed chatting to local traders and browsing for quality bargains.
It was great to answer local people's questions at the 'Ask Charlie' event at Dover Town Hall. Top of the agenda was the future of our Port and a fair share of healthcare in Dover and Deal but we questions were answered on a whole range of topics. It was a brilliant question evening and people let me know their strength of feeling towards getting a community say and investment in our Port, as well as protecting our health services. I was joined by NHS and Port representatives on the platform. Over 250 attended and people told me they got a lot out of the event.
After the Q&A session, it was great to join friends at Dover's first ever micro pub, Rack of Ale. There were a great selection of ales and even better company. The pub is just off the Dover High Street on Park Place and we chatted with landlord, Steve Jenkins. Micro-pubs are a success story for our pub trade, keeping it small and simple. It's great to see the Rack of Ale doing so well and it's well worth a visit!
I was joined by Welfare Reform Minister, Lord Freud, to see the amazing work being done at Deal Foodbank. Schools, churches, businesses and families have all donated to the Food Bank to provide food to local people who do not have enough. The Bank is run by dedicated volunteers and care professionals. It is an excellent example of our community coming together and of Christian charity. Food Banks are a crucial lifeline to people who are in short-term need and you can donate and find out more at the link below.
It was fantastic to join the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Deal Society at Astor. It was a wonderful evening of celebration and it showed just how many people have pride in the town. Mayor of Deal, Marlene Burnham, was at the event helping too and a great time was had by all.
The Deal Society was founded 50 years ago in May to save the historic heart of Deal from new development. This would have destroyed the heart of the town and the new Deal Society stopped this from happening. Since then, the society has gone from strength to strength helping to maintain the appeal of Deal and Walmer. It was a pleasure to attend and here's to the next 50 years of the Deal Society!
It was great to open the Fire Training Centre at Viking Recruitment in Dover. Viking is an incredible expanding business and is creating more jobs and money in Dover. They are constructing a new, state of the art maritime training and conference facility. Included in the Maritime Skills Academy is a new specialist fire fighting centre. This will meet increased demand for training and development. It was really encouraging to see how their new development is boosting training and new careers in our area.
Viking recently secured a £1.3 million loan from the East Kent Expansion Fund. This is part of the Government's regional growth fund to help small businesses. This money is helping Viking to expand and create jobs and money in our corner of Kent. We need to do everything we can to help successful businesses like Viking to get the funding they need to grow and boost our economy.
It was a real experience to join new mums and tots at the Deal Breastfeeding Support Group this Monday. I joined a session at St George's Church in Deal to celebrate the group's second anniversary.
The group, led by Candice Roberts of local bus fame, seeks to provide a safe and friendly environment for new mothers from both Deal and Dover. It aims to help mums on breastfeeding and looking after young children. Their weekly sessions provide friendly support and advice to mothers from Deal and Dover.
It was incredible to see the work being done by the group for mums and tots from Dover and Deal. Candice and her volunteers have been giving their time over the past two years to provide support to mothers and their little ones. It was a real pleasure to join the group to celebrate its second birthday.
I attended a packed meeting of the Aycliffe Residents Forum on Friday. I was proud to receive a petition from Aycliffe residents with 150 signatures, calling for a new children's playground. I heard the views of over 100 people in the Aycliffe area who attended the meeting. Top of residents' concerns was the removal of the children's playground in Aycliffe.
I received the petition, organised by Millie Cole, 15, calling for a new children's play area in Aycliffe. It's important Aycliffe's councillors listen carefully to residents' concerns about planning matters. It is also important that they take up residents' concerns and keep them informed about planning applications.
There was a lot of anger and a widespread belief that the councillors hadn't been active on the concerns being expressed. People said they felt very let down. It is clear that there is very strong feeling on this matter and people in Aycliffe's concerns must be addressed.
I travelled to Calais to meet the Deputy Mayor of the region. We discussed how we can work together to tackle the problems of illegal immigration and refugees. And the need for Britain's borders to be kept safe and secure. British immigration controls at both Dover and Calais play a vital role in tackling the problem of illegal migration at source. I made a strong case to the Deputy Mayor that the build up of refugees at squalid camps in Calais is not acceptable.
We agreed that more needs to be done in Calais to ensure that refugees are not able to use the Port to gain illegal entry into the UK. People in Dover will remember how refugee camps at Sangatte between 1999 and 2002 acted a magnet for refugees wanting to come to Britain. I saw the same thing myself when I visited 'The Jungle' refugee camp at Calais in 2009. Refugees were living in desperate conditions in Calais and attempting to travel to the UK. The closure of the 'Jungle Camp' contributed to migration to Dover from Calais reducing by 80% in just one year.
That is why I met with the Deputy Mayor to discuss sustainable, long-term solutions to this problem. There have been worrying reports that more refugees are gathering around Calais and being exploited by people traffickers. Many of these traffickers offer a false dream of life in the UK. We need to work together to crack these international criminal gangs. We also need to work to ensure that no new refugee camps are able to spring up in Calais again, where refugees live in squalid conditions and try repeatedly to enter the UK.
We need to work to break the criminal gangs targeting refugees in Calais –they are the real villains.
It was a great day for the Deal Crocus Walk raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. It was an amazing community event and shows our determination to d beat this horrible disease. There's nothing better than walking along the White Cliffs on a nice day, especially when walking for a great cause like this.
It was a fantastic atmosphere and hopefully I can raise as much money as possible for this important cause. Breast cancer affects 12,000 new women every year and Breakthrough Breast Cancer are leading the charge in fighting the illness. You still have the opportunity to sponsor me at my Just Giving Page. All proceeds will go to help fund treatment for breast cancer sufferers – and help save lives. Particular congratulations are due to Kerry Rubens who has done an amazing job and inspired us all.
Today the Secretary for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith joined me to visit the East Kent Railway (EKR). The railway is a fantastic heritage line, running 2 miles through Shepherdswell and Eythorne. It is an idyllic line and it has plans to keep developing.
The EKR is helping to train local apprentices for the future and has an amazing scheme. Apprenticeships are a key tool for helping young people into work and fulfilling their aspirations. The number of apprentice starts in Dover and Deal has doubled since the General Election, providing more local young people with ladders to success in the world of work. Iain and I were delighted to see the progress made at the EKR in developing apprenticeships and life chances for our young people.
It was great to see Dover play Boreham Wood at Crabble on Saturday. There were some good chances but we couldn't quite finish Boreham Wood off and the match finished 0-0. DAFC stay at 5th and in the final play-off place.
Dover's next game is away at Bishop Stortford next Saturday and we need a win to definitely stay in the play-offs. I'll be following closely – Come On you Whites!
I had a great time visiting Choo Choos Nursery in River this morning. The Nursery has just received £40,000 funding from the Expansion East Kent Regional Growth Fund. This financial support will help Choo Choos Nursery expand their provision and allow them to offer full-day, flexible childcare. It is great that this expansion will support 20 jobs in the local area. I went along to congratulate them on this, and the work they do.
Choo Choos currently caters for 50 children from 0-5 years. Their childcare provision is superb and all the staff were so welcoming. They care deeply about all the children they look after, and it is great for mums and dads in the area. This new funding will help the Nursery offer even better teaching experiences with new staff and resources. It really was a pleasure to see how the Regional Growth Fund is helping businesses in our corner of Kent.
I was delighted to host my second jobs fair at Dover Town Hall in Biggin Street on Friday. The Town Hall was packed with over 1,300 job seekers and people looking for a change of career. The event allowed people to network and get in touch with over 30 firms who were looking to fill vacancies.
The Fair was a massive success. After the interest in last year's Fair. I was keen to organise another event to help get jobs for local people. It's great that unemployment has fallen in Dover since the last election, but there's still much to do to help more people find work. I glad to do anything I can to get people looking for new jobs in touch, face to face, with businesses.
Businesses told me they received many high quality CVs. I hope this translates into more jobs for local people in Dover and many high quality additions to businesses' staff. A big thank you to everyone who turned up and for all businesses who set up a stall at the event.
I really enjoyed visiting Multipanel UK's new plant in Eythorne. The company specialises in high level manufacturing, making aluminium panels for the construction industry. Multipanel established the plant in Eythorne last year, bringing skilled jobs and £12.5 million investment to the area.
It's very encouraging to see British manufacturing is on the rise again. Multipanel's new plant in Eythorne is a perfect example of how manufacturing is returning to the UK as their production was previously based overseas. We need to encourage more companies to start-up and relocate to our corner of Kent. We need their investment and expertise to bring more jobs and money to our area.
I am always inspired by the people who fundraise for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. These people are often cancer survivors themselves or have had their lives touched by cancer.
This year I didn't want to simply show my support. I wanted to make a difference, and so have chosen to take part in the Deal Crocus Walk to fundraise for Breakthrough Breast Cancer myself. Just under 12,000 women still succumb to breast cancer every year in Britain. Great progress has been made but there is still so much more that needs to be done.
The walk is on the 5th April and I'd be very grateful if you would sponsor me to take part in the Deal Crocus Walk and help raise funds for this vital cause. Please go to my just giving page and donate.
Today is the 27th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise tragedy. In 1987, minutes after MS Herald of Free Enterprise left the port of Zeebrugge, the ship capsized, killing 193 people. I attended the memorial service in St Mary's Church, Dover, in commemoration of those passengers and crew who died.
The disaster badly affected our area and many people in Dover lost loved ones. It was a moving service and scores of people attended to pay their respects. It was good to talk to local residents after the service about the tragedy and its legacy. We will never forget what happened.
It was a pleasure officially to open the new Post Office in Eythorne. Our Post Offices are centres of community life in villages like Eythorne. It is great to see it back serving the village. After years of decline under Labour, the Government is safeguarding our Post Office system and investing £640 million to maintain our network and modernise Post Office branches.
While most of the media attention has focussed on flooding in Somerset and the Thames Valley, we have also seen flooding locally. There has been particularly bad flooding in Eastry, Alkham, Mongeham and East Studdal. Lawns, drives and roads have all been affected. It is great that the community has rallied round to protect homes and businesses from damage. The Army, the Enrionment Agency and Councils have all helped flood water spreading.
It was great to see how neighbours have got together to help each other when in trouble. It was good to speak to Wayne, pictured with me in Eastry, about the flooding and the way the communityhas responded so quickly.
Following the dreadful weather in recent weeks, there has been flooding in Alkham. Constituents have written to me worried that community assets such as Alkham Village Hall could be at risk. We must do everything that we can to protect homes and property from the flood risk.
I went to Alkham this morning to see the issue for myself. It was great to see the Army doing such great work to protect communities from the floods. It is really positive to know that they have been so quick to respond to the floods and our towns and villages should not hesitate to call for their aid. I discussed the threat of further flooding to Dover and River from the Dour and I am pleased the Army is doing everything it can to stop this happening.
The Talk it Out Group in Deal and Walmer is a discussion group for people suffering from depression. It provides vital support for those in our community who have felt lonely or beyond help. I am glad to support the group in any way I can.
Brendan Carrick, owner of the Walmer Castle, provides fantastic support to the group. He has given £500 to help support Talk it Out and ensure they can continue to meet. I am pictured here with Brendan and members of Talk It Out with the £500 donation. It was great to go down to the see members of the group again and I hope they will continue to grow and expand. They provide crucial support to many people overcome their problems through friendship and discussion.
It was a pleasure to visit the 21st annual White Cliffs Festival of Real Ales, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale. The Festival has been hosted by the Dover, Deal and Sandwich branch of the organisation for the past 21 years at Dover Town Hall.
There were a magnificent range of local and national winter and strong ales on display. It was great to see so many small and micro-businesses displaying their wares. 900 people attended and the event was again a real success.
It is a good step that Labour's beer duty escalator has now been abolished and 1p was taken off the price of a pint at the last Budget. We must do everything we can to help our brewing industry to thrive. It was great to see so much of their success at the Festival. I look forward to returning next year!
This Saturday was National Libraries Day. Established two years ago, it is a day to celebrate our libraries and the work of librarians. I was delighted to be joined by the Libraries Minister, Ed Vaizey, at Deal Library to mark the day.
Our Libraries are valuable public resources, promoting both learning and leisure. They have played a vital role in our communities for over a century, celebrating our culture and our literature. In Kent, there are 99 libraries and the county has kept all its libraries since 2010. It is great that Deal Library was recently refurbished and I enjoyed visiting again.
It was great to go to a public meeting at Deal Town Hall on local health and hospital services. Over 100 people came and the hall was packed! This shows the strength of feeling in our area towards safeguarding Deal Hospital and getting the best health services we can.
I answered questions from those who attended the meeting and listened carefully to what people had to say. I have been proud to campaign for the future of Deal Hospital and want to see more local health services offered there. Our local community should have a strong say on what health services should be provided in Deal. I hear their voice loud and clear and will continue to fight for our community on this issue.
It was a real pleasure to visit the newly re-opened Royal Oak pub in Nonington. I met with the pub owners Martin and Alistair and discussed their future plans for the development of the Royal Oak and the challenges facing pubs today.
The Royal Oak is a great example of a successful, family-friendly pub. There was a total refurbishment to the bar and kitchen area. The pub has a new 50 seat restaurant and is now looking to take on new staff.
We need to do everything we can to ensure successful local pubs, such as the Royal Oak, are able to stay open and thrive. Last year's cut in beer duty and small business rate cuts are very welcome and a good start. We cannot afford to lose these community assets which are so valuable to local life.
It is fantastic that the Royal Oak has had such a fantastic refurbishment and will continue to remain at the heart of the community in Nonington.
It was amazing to hear that Deal High Street had won the Daily Telegraph's prestigious High Street of the Year Award. Deal fought off intesne competition from over 500 High Streets across the UK to take the award.
The judges said Deal is "a very good example to other struggling high streets of how an engaged local community, with support from local and national government, can match enthusiasm for their high street with good and innovative practice."
It was great to join Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis, and the Mayor of Deal. It truly was a terrific day. I am glad Deal is getting the recognition it deserves as an amazing example of how we can boost our High Streets and promote local business
This Boxing Day, I once again braved Deal beach to witness hundreds of hardy souls run into the freezing waters of the English Channel. Apart from the health-giving benefits of the event, these local residents were part of the 'Deal Icebreakers' group, running into the sea for this Boxing Day Dip to raise money for charity and good causes.
Deal Icebreakers have raised thousands of pounds in the last three decades for lesser known charities. I was glad I wasn't running into the water myself! It was also good to talk with Mayor Marlene Burnham who was, like me, watching safely from the sidelines.
Today, I went with my son Tom to a Christmas Carol concert, organised by Deal Town Council. I heard many talented young people sing many traditional Christmas favourites.
I was pleased to see the event so well attended and see Father Christmas give out presents, including to Tom And while on the subject of singing, it was brilliant news to hear that the P&O Choir were named workplace choir of the year on the BBC's The Choir programme – there seems to be a lot of vocal talent in our local area!
This afternoon, I popped into the Boobles Bazaar being held in Deal Town Hall by Deal Breast Feeding Group.
There were lots of stalls and things to do at the Bazaar. It was great to meet with members of the group to talk about thier concerns.
Thanks to Candice Roberts for organising!
Every Christmas, it's all too easy to forget the magnificent work that postal workers and the Royal Mail put in to help deliver our festive mail and parcels. On the 13th of December, I was delighted to go Dover Delivery Office to meet Elly Scott and her team who were hard at work with their increased Christmas workload. It was fantastic to see the speed and efficiency with which the team sorts and delivers our local mail.
The Border Force are our frontline against trafficking, smuggling and illegal entry. They do an incredible job keeping Britain secure and safe.
This evening I joined the Home Secretary, Theresa May, on a visit to the port to meet with border force wokers and to see the work being done to protect our country.
It was cold and dark but the camaraderie and sense of purpose they all share is telling. I was really pleased to be able to be there there and experience it.
I attended the switching on of the Christmas Lights at St Margaret's on the 7th December. There was a fantastic village atmosphere and plenty of family fun which adorned the frontage of shops and a large Christmas tree. It was a great evening and I enjoyed chatting to everyone there.
The UK celebrated its first 'Small Business Saturday' on the 7th December this year. It is a grassroots campaign to help small businesses promote themselves and generate trade in their local area.
Dover has many great small business and I popped into one of them, John Angell Jewellers, which has been trading in the area for over 150 years. It was great to chat with the owners about their business and the challenges facing shops like there's today.
I also talked to Cllr Chandler about the positive ways Dover District Council was helping to promote Small Business Saturday, by allowing free parking in Dover on the day.
I look forward to next year's Small Business Saturday!
Deal and Walmer had received warnings that the area was at severe risk of flooding due to the stormy weather expected on Thursday night. I kept in regular contact with the emergency services who worked through the night to keep people safe. Many congratulations to the emergency services for all their hard work.
When I was first elected I had a real battle to secure funding for the new Deal flood defences. This morning I went up to the seafront at Deal and Walmer to see that investment had paid off as the new defences held and protected Deal successfully.
Abbeyfield is a sheltered housing home in Walmer with a slight difference - it has a communal living area which gives a real sense of community and togetherness for the residents.
This evening I joined them for a sherry and a catch up which was a real pleasure.
There was a public exhibition of the plans for Lydden race track this afternoon in Wootton Village Hall. I met with local councillors and residents who expressed concern about the proposals.
People told me they were concerned about noise and traffic in a rural area with small roads. Local councillors Mog Ovenden and Cllr Peter Walker (pictured left) joined me to hear residents' views.
This afternoon I was at Temple Ewell Primary School to speak to years 4, 5 and 6 about my role as an MP.
The pupils were great fun and really engaged. They asked me lots of questions-including whether I had met the Queen and what car I drove!
Thank you to headteacher Mrs Hygate for meeting me and showing me around - and to Linda Hannent for inviting me to see this lovely school.
Earlier this year I held my Christmas card competition. I invited all schools in the area to take part, and had hundreds of brilliant entries.
One stood out in particular though, and today I was at Sandown School in Deal to congratulate Ellie Watson for her winning design.
I am pictured here with Ellie and her mum. The card will be sent out across the constituency and Westminster.
Well done Ellie - and thank you for taking part.
This morning I joined the group at Speak Up CIC in Deal for an open forum. The group meets regularly to provide support for each other - today over coffee and mince pies!
I was questioned about local health provision for those suffering with mental health. I agreed that there needs to be more help and more quick intervention-and also more awareness of the issues of mental health sufferers. We also agreed that too often those with mental health problems are written off by the jobs market-I think if you can work and want to work, this should be accommodated.
I will be holding a mental health meeting with health chiefs hopefully at Speak Up CIC, with Deal group Talk it Out too in the new year to push for improved service.
Today I held an AskCharlie public meeting in Shepherdswell.
It was good to hear about the things that concern people. In particular the local gas drilling proposals. I oppose this as I worry about the drinking water aquifer that lies below us. We need to ensure our water supply is safe and secure.
It was great to join Kerry Rubins and her fundraisers today to celebrate their fundraising total of £73,000!!
Kerry is an inspiration – well done to all involved, and thank you to everyone who has donated or given their time for this excellent cause.
I have always supported the wonderful Guide Dogs for the Blind, and have done lots with them locally. Today though was a very new experience for me – and one that really brought home to me just how special this charity is.
This morning I met representatives from the charity – along with two lovely Guide Dogs. The aim was for me to experience what life is like for a blind or partially sighted person. Firstly I was blindfolded, then given a white stick. I walked from Queen Street in Deal to the High Street, and it was incredibly difficult and disorienting. Luckily I had someone there to help guide me, but the visually impaired wouldn't necessarily have this. As a politician it made me appreciate how we can continue to help make things easier.
I was then given Aero the Guide Dog to walk with. The difference it made having Aero was quite extraordinary – he led me along and I felt quite safe with him there. Even the torrential rain didn't put him off!
It was a really worthwhile morning and I would like to thank Guide Dogs for the Blind for giving me the chance to do this.
Today I judged the Parliamentary Dog of the Year competition. Star won last year so it was my role to judge this year. Star and I are pictured left.
The winner this year was Alan Duncan MP's lovely "cockapoo", Noodle!
It was a great day and a chance to remind people of the excellent work of the Dog's Trust.
The possibility that much loved Deal Hospital might close has spurred the community into action. I held a packed public meeting with health chiefs earlier this year and distributed a survey amongst all residents - the responses made clear that closure is not an option.
Health chiefs have listened to this and I have been making the case to them in private meetings. Today whilst I was in Deal I gave my further support to safeguard our hospital.
Together we will protect it for the future.
I have supported local Deal group Talk It Out since it was founded in 2011. It is a fantastic support or those suffering from depression or mental illness-illnesses that don't always get the support they need.
I was delighted then to go along and join the group to celebrate their second birthday today-well done everyone involved!
There has been much concern through Shepherdswell and the surrounding areas at the application for test drilling to take place locally, with a view to Fracking.
Tonight there was a packed public meeting at Shepherdswell village hall, where residents could discuss their concerns and opposition.
I was there to listen to the arguments and have the case made to me that fracking here would not be safe. I am pictured left with Richard Knox-Johnstone of CPRE.
The safety of the water table is of prime concern to me, and it is clear that in East Kent any drilling for shale gas would risk spoiling the aquifer. This is too great a risk. I made clear that I opposed this application, and I'll fight against this with the villagers.
This evening I took my family along to the spectacular Nonington Fantasy fireworks event.
Hundreds of people gathered on the green to raise funds for the community whilst enjoying the fireworks and attractions.
I am pictured left with Michelle Halford and Pauline Catterall - pint in hand...
Well done to the organisers - I hope the village puts on another event soon.
Macmillan is a wonderful charity who have done so much to raise funds and awareness about cancer.
This morning I went along to one of their local coffee mornings held in St Mary's Church in Dover.
I am pictured on the right enjoying my coffee with Aileen Friend.
This weekend saw Hellfire Weekend at The Pines Gardens in St Margaret's.
It gave visitors a chance to experience what life was like on the Home Front, transporting the Pines back to the 1940s.
Well done to the organisers for putting on a fantastic weekend!
Merchant Navy Day is celebrated around the world. It remembers the Merchant Seafarers who died in the World Wars and in conflicts up to the current day.
I was proud to attend the service in Dover this morning to pay my respects to those who served in previous conflicts. I was also able to meet the veterans who were there, which was fascinating and moving as ever.
There has been much concern at the future of Deal Hospital. People are concerned that it might be closed. So I have launched a campaign to save Deal Hospital and ensure it's services are safeguarded.
I am determined to see this beloved community asset remain open and carry on serving the people of Deal. To press hospital chiefs for answers and to give our community the chance to have its say, I distributed a survey to every household in Deal and Walmer. In addition I organised a public meeting with health chiefs that was open for anyone to attend.
So far over 2,000 surveys have been answered. The meeting held this evening saw 408 people packed into George's Church. I went through the results of the survey so far, which highlighted the services that people believe to be most important to keep at the Hospital.
I think that such a level of public support showed the health chiefs that Deal Hospital should stay open – so thank you to all who filled in the survey, and came along to support the campaign. The voice of Deal is clear - we want to save our hospital and see more locally based services.
This afternoon I joined Ros McCarthy DL and DDC Chairman Sue Nicholas to celebrate Capel achieving "Fields in Trust" status for its recreational grounds.
The QE II Fields Challenge was set up in 2012 to create a permanent legacy to honour HM the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and this ensures that these open spaces will always remain freely available for communities to use for sport, play and recreation.
I am pictured right at the memorial which commemorates this special award.
This morning I enjoyed the sunshine at the Kent Miners Festival, held at Tilmanstone Welfare Ground.
It was a particularly special festival this year, as it marked the centenary of coaling at Tilmanstone Colliery.
I really enjoyed talking to people about East Kent's mining heritage.
I am always fascinated to learn more about the history of our area. There was an amazing exhibition today at St Margaret's Village Hall about the history of the village, which I dropped into this morning.
Thanks so much to the organisers for showing me round the exhibit and teaching me about our area's past!
Deal Walking Festival ran from 22-26 August, and was organised by the White Cliffs Ramblers.
I joined a group for a walk from Walmer to Kingsdown and back. It was a lovely sunny day and the views across the Channel were breathtaking.
Well done to the organisers who drew up an excellent programme of walks.
This afternoon's Walmer Community Picnic on the green was a fantastic day out. I went along with my family so we could all enjoy the fun.
It was organised by Walmer Parish Council who did an excellent job in putting together all the entertainment and facilities. There were hundreds of families there too, and I think it was the best picnic yet.
My kids went on the bouncy castle, danced away to the music, and tried to win a coconut... whilst I was able to wander about meeting people and chatting to those who had come along. I also learnt about the perils of prostate cancer, and got a first aid crash course from some of the volunteers that were there.
The Dover Transport Museum is a hidden gem in the heart of the town. This was my first visit and I was amazed that I hadn't discovered it earlier.
It has a great collection of vintage and historic vehicles, model cars, railway memorabilia and maritime artefacts. It is staffed by passionate volunteers who really brought my trip to life.
I hope lots more people will go and visit the museum.
Today's Deal Hospital Fete was packed - it was the most successful ever. I had a great time with my family. I also got to ride on the model train with the Mayor of Deal and fete co-ordinator Sarah Thompson, which was a great laugh and is pictured left.
Amongst the fun there was a more serious issue. The future of Deal Hospital. Many people spoke to about their concerns for the future of the hospital, which I share.
Deal Hospital is a treasured community asset and I will fight to save our hospital. So I have launched a survey and called a public meeting to enable us to make clear to the doctors how much we care about the hospital and the services we want to see provided there for the future.
This morning saw an earlier than usual start so that I could join the Federation of Small Businesses in Dover for a breakfast meeting.
I spoke about my campaign for business prompt payment, and for the help that is available for start-ups.
It was a really positive discussion, with a real sense that the local economy is healing, and that business confidence is picking up. This is great news for jobs and money in our area, with small businesses being the backbone of our economy.
The whole community was shocked by the news that vandals had attacked the much loved paddling pool in Walmer.
This is a much used community asset that has been used constantly by families and their kids have fun in a safe place. I was pleased to see the Police and Council / Your Leisure act quickly to make arrests and get the pool back in action. Those who did this should be sent to jail.
This morning I went to a coffee morning run by the local Alzheimer's Society in Oddfellow's Lodge, Dover.
I had a good discussion with people suffering from alzheimer's and dementia and those that care for them over coffee. Many thanks to Debbie from the Alzheimer's Society and everyone who does such great work in the local community for those who have been afflicted by these debilitating conditions.
This morning I attended the Dover Patrol Parade and Service at the memorial on the cliffs at St Margaret's.
As always it was a deeply moving service, which was well attended by those wishing to honour the brave men of World War One who protected our coasts.
I am pictured on the left with the Padre and Deal Mayor Marlene Burnham.
Today I watched from the beach at St Margaret's as the lifeboat crew rescued a woman from her inflatable dinghy which had got swept out to sea.
Thankfully the lady was not hurt, but it shows the dangers of the sea, and why we need to be really careful.
Rescues such as these remind us all how much the lifeboats are part of our community, and what important work they do.
After the Regatta I made my way to the annual PMC surveyors' party at their offices on castle street. It was good to catch up with everyone and hear their views.
We had a particularly good discussion about the housing market, the feeling was it is picking up locally which is really positive.
It was great to see the Dover Regatta back in full swing this year after it wasn't held in 2012.
There were water sports displays, races, and displays by the emergency services, as well as the usual regatta fun of stalls, rides and hot dog stands!
I am pictured enjoying the sunshine with Cllr Nigel Collor.
Today was the Samaritans' National Awareness Day. There were events up and down the country, all held to support the value of talking to someone when you feel lonely, or depressed, or have any problem that you just want someone to listen to.
I support their work and went along to meet with some of their team to help promote the crucial work they do. The Samaritans are there any time of the day or night, for anyone to use.
Talk It Out is a group based in Deal for those suffering from depression and other mental health problems. I attended the first meeting of Talk it Out back in 2011 and I have continued to give it my support.
Today they held a barbeque in the Deal sunshine and it was lovely to be able to go along to catch up with members, and see how much benefit the group has brought.
There is nothing like a village fete for family fun and catching up with old friends. So I had a wonderful time at Eastry fete with my family.
There is nothing like a good rummage on the stalls and winning lots of tom-bola prizes. We ended up with all manner of books, plants and hand washes!
It was great to chat to old friends, hearing their news and meet other residents too.
This morning I held an AskCharlie event in St Margaret's. Following the success of last month's event in Eastry, this morning saw even more people come along, and lots of interesting topics raised.
The top concerns were health & elderly care, planning and traffic. Welfare tourism and housing were also raised as issues. It's great to chat with people about the issues of the day and we had a great discussion.
Deal will never and can never forget the tragedy of 1989 when 11 innocent Marines were killed by the IRA.
Every year during the summer a fabulous programme of free open air concerts are held at the Walmer Bandstand, with the pinnacle undoubtedly being the annual Royal Marines concert where the musicians are remembered.
This year saw glorious sunshine for wonderful music provided by the Marines, and an as always moving re-dedication where the names of those who lost their lives are read out. Thousands crammed onto Walmer Green to show their support.
It was an honour to be there and lay my own floral tribute to those that were killed. Deal will always remember them.
The Deal Centre is a wonderful place in the heart of Deal, a charity which provides provide care, support, companionship, social activities and services to elderly people so that they can maintain their independence with dignity.
Today they held an Open Day at the Centre which I went along to. I toured the centre and enjoyed the craft and art displays and entertainment on show. The sing-song was a particular highlight! On the left I am with Deal Mayor Marlene, both enjoying the day.
Today was Armed Forces Day and I was proud to be invited to attend the celebrations in Deal this morning. We gathered at the Pier for the march and official ceremony, and there was a great reception afterwards at the Royal British Legion Club on The Strand.
It was as moving as ever, and I always relish being able to pay tribute to all those who have served their country in the Armed Forces. It was particularly nice to be able to chat more informally at the Legion over a drink. It was a wonderful event that did a perfect job of honouring our troops.
The most important thing for an MP to be is accessible, and available to their constituents. If we don't know the issues that matter to people how can we represent their views in Parliament? I have decided then to start holding regular "Ask Charlie" events across the constituency. They are open to anyone to come along to, and you can ask me, well, anything!
Today was my first Ask Charlie event held in Eastry Village Hall. I hope residents enjoyed it as much as I did. There were some interesting issues raised. Real concerns were raised about energy policy - most thought wind farms just increased bills while nuclear offers energy stability and security. Meanwhile onshore gas exploration was seen good for cutting bills so long as it could be done safely.
Today I welcomed the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to East Kent to open this year's Deal Festival. The large crowd at Dover Town Hall heard a speech from Ed celebrating the Festival, and were treated to an excellent performance by Harbour School.
The Festival runs from 28 June to 7 July and I hope Deal-ites and visitors alike will come along to one of the excellent events the team have planned. There is a whole programme ranging from classical concerts to art exhibitions.
It is always a fantastic celebration of our town's artistic and cultural heritage and all credit is due to the organisers who put so much work in to make this happen.
Deal's sea defence wall was finally finished earlier this year. Residents were aware though that there were some teething problems involving the shingle laid down, and I know we were all concerned by the costs of the project, and whether it would work.
To help members of the public get more of an idea of what the project aimed to do, and to help answer any questions about this, the Environment Agency set up a stand this morning on the seafront so that anyone could drop in and have a look at the plans. I went along to have a look and to help answer questions too, alongside the experts from the EA.
Cross-Links is a small Church group based in Buckland which offers help support and activities for the benefit of all people regardless of age, faith or personal circumstances.
It is run by Rev Nigel Collins who invited me to come along to visit Cross-Links to meet some of the staff and those who make use of its facilities.
I had a quick tour and cup of tea with the team and we discussed some of the issues affecting the Church, and those who attend Cross-Links.
I had a fantastic morning today, and a great start to my weekend, when I went along to the Alkham Valley Community Project Open Day.
The Project is a registered charity offering therapeutic horse riding and carriage driving for adults and children with disabilities and those disadvantaged in the local community. I was invited to join volunteers and those that use the service for their Open Day, which I was delighted to attend.
It is a lovely space with small animals, a garden and an art and craft barn all for use by those attending the project. During my visit children were enjoying the Saddle Club and all those I spoke to said how valuable the Project is.
This is the kind of unsung community group that means so much to people, and it should receive as much support as we can give.
Live animal exports are cruel and go against all standards of acceptable animal welfare. We are a nation of animal lovers. Seeing live cattle or sheep being transported in confined trucks and in great distress is shocking and should be a relic of the past.
I was utterly dismayed when the news came through that the Joline would be allowed to berth at Dover and this practice would start up again. This has been roundly condemned by the local community and tonight's public meeting, organised by the RSPCA was a chance for all those concerned to gather to voice this and to discuss how this can be brought to an end. I was joined by the RSPCA Chief Executive on the panel at the Town Hall alongside other representatives to hear the views of the more than 200 people that filled the hall.
This trade is bad for animal welfare and bad for Dover. There was a strong cross-party consensus at the meeting and we need to continue working together and be united against this. That way we will have the best chance of ridding Dover of this unwanted and appalling trade.
Today I attended the opening of the social housing part of the Buckland Mill development in Dover.
Four years ago I campaigned against the pictured "coming soon" sign at Buckland Mill as a sign of too much talk and too little action. The coming soon sign was there so long it rotted away and they had to put another one up. For me the stalled Buckland Mill development and failure to blow up Burlington House were twin symbols of so much that was wrong in Dover. Buckland Mill is now moving ahead. Burlington House now has hallowed status as my No 1 bête noire!
The day itself was excellent, with all those involved in making this development happen in attendance. It was also really great to meet with some of the special guests who were invited along – the ex-Mill workers, some of whom cut the cake to mark the occasion. Well done to Town & Country Housing Association for doing their bit - now it's over to Gallagher Homes to build the rest of it. I look forward to seeing that being built and open in due course.
With developments like this, and more of a "yes" attitude I think things are looking more positive for Dover. I totally understand how much there is to do to improve confidence in the town. I remain hard at work on making more things happen so that one day we will see Dover become a jewel in the crown of the nation once again.
This being England, if the weather isn't tipping it down, and you're able to wear a shirt without a jacket, it can only mean one thing – an opportunity for a barbeque!
I had friends over today to join me for a relaxed day in the sunshine, all with the greatest view that the UK has to offer – the White Cliffs and English Channel. It reminded me how lucky I am to have been elected to represent the most beautiful constituency on our isles.
It was a pleasure to visit and speak at the Dover Anglican Deanery chapter tonight. As a lifelong and committed Christian it is always special to be able to join with fellow believers to discuss matters of faith, and issues facing the world as a whole, such as international aid and food poverty.
I am pictured with some of those that were at the meeting, including the Rev Michael Hinton.
I know that Kentish produce showcases the very best foods that Britain can offer, and today I was really pleased to welcome local suppliers to Parliament to attend a Taste of Kent event.
There were plenty of stalls from different producers, including ice cream makers, cheese specialists, and fruit juice bottlers! It was an amazing opportunity to promote Kent in Parliament, and the opportunity to sample the delicious food ensured a packed event...
I am pictured having signed the Taste of Kent egg, and you can see how busy it was in the background. I hope it will have inspired even more people to try Kent!
Today we were witness to a minor miracle; it was sunny for a Bank Holiday! It was great news for Walmer Parish Council who saw thousands of people visit the annual Brocante on Walmer Green.
I browsed the stalls and made the most of the sunshine by having an ice cream with Cllr Adrian Friend (pictured).
The day was a great success as always, and well done to all those who helped organise.
Today I welcomed Help the Heroes campaigner Christian Nock to Parliament.
A former soldier, Christian has been walking the British coastline to raise money for Help the Heroes. He has been campaigning to draw attention to the plight of homeless ex soldiers. He started on 8th August 2012 from Blackpool, has so far walked 7 times the distance of Land's End to John O'Groats and raised over £50,000, sleeping rough along the way.
Christian walked through Dover and Deal last month and I was inspired to ask him to visit me in Parliament as I was so moved by what he is doing. Christian arrived with his supporters and representatives from forces charities, and we were joined over coffee by other MPs who wanted to congratulate Christian and pledge their support.
We heard about how hard life can be for former soldiers. Many find it hard to adjust to civilian life and homelessness is a problem for many. Christian's walk and his campaign has done so much to draw attention to the issue. It was such an inspiring meeting and I hope people will continue to welcome Christian as he continues his journey around the country.
I am pictured above with Christian and L to R fellow MPs Penny Mordaunt, David Rutley, and Tom Brake.
Today I joined Ken and Jean Buxey from the Deal and Walmer Lions as they were collecting for the NSPCC. The Lions are an international network of volunteers who give their time for charitable causes and to help their communities.
I heard from Ken and Jean how people give very generously in Deal for the many charities the Lions collect for. I was really pleased to be able to spend time with them and make a donation myself. Many congratulations to Ken and Jean for all their years of dedication to the cause.
Deal is a town of culture, with an incredible artistic heritage that has been built on by current residents to create a haven for those in the arts.
Today I visited the most recent addition to the town's arts scene - an exhibition by local artists Penny Bearman and Audrey Roethenbaugh at the Landmark Centre. The paintings were beautiful and I hope that residents and visitors alike will visit to see Deal at its finest. The exhibition continues through April and May.
The more we can make of our art and culture the more we will increase visitors and tourism. We should all be hugely optimistic about the future of our wonderful town.
Every year Breakthrough Breast Cancer encourages its supporters to organise local walks across the country to raise funds for the amazing work it does.
In Deal Kerry Rubins is the driving force behind our walk, and this year was her fifth time organising the event.
The walkers – including cancer survivors and those whose lives have been touched by cancer – set off from the castle to walk along to St Margaret's for their midpoint lunch, where I was able to join them and offer my support. There was a huge turnout, and it was a really powerful show of solidarity for all those who have suffered because of breast cancer.
I am pictured on the left with the organiser Kerry, and Gavin Oakley of the White Cliffs Hotel, who provided the lunch.
Thanks to the heavy winter we've experienced our coastal defences have been even more tested than usual. Worryingly this has resulted in the sea wall at Kingsdown being breached. The damage is extensive and DDC and the Environment Agency are working together to secure emergency funding to repair this asap.
I went down to Oldstairs Bay this morning to inspect the damage for myself. I have been speaking with the EA and Defra and will continue to press for not just remedial works, but action to ensure the wall is made good in the long term.
Today I was proud to open the Craft Fair at the Landmark Centre to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the K&C Breast Cancer Club.
The fundraising the group do is amazing and makes a real difference to medical care. Just as important - if not more so - is the care and support the group have provided to cancer sufferers over 25 years. It was wonderful to be able to show my support for the work that all their volunteers have done over the years.
There was drama at St Margaret's this week when a large section of the iconic cliff face collapsed. I took the picture on the right from the beach, and you can see how much fell away.
Luckily no-one was injured, though I was little worried when I heard that a bench and part of the cliff top path had been destroyed in the fall.
The RNLI are such an important charity that our seafaring community relies on day after day. I have always been a huge supporter of the work of the RNLI and all those who give their time up to train recruits, be constantly on call, and save lives.
I wanted to join the crew to see firsthand the work they do, and experience the conditions on the boat and out in the channel. It might have been snowing (and freezing!) but this doesn't stop the RNLI – they still have to do their job, and this morning I was their newest recruit.
From Dover lifeboat station we headed out to sea, visiting the Varne Bank (a 5mile long sand bank off the coast of Dover), and were out for about two and a half hours before we reached dry land again. And as a keen sailor in my spare time I even got to steer the boat - and managed to escape without any seasickness.
The pictures show me with the crew – I would like to thank them all for all they do, and for making me feel so welcome.
Today I met with the Dover branch of Christian Aid, led by the Rev Michael Hinton.
We discussed how to crackdown on international tax avoidance – a concern that we all share – and help for developing nations.
As always we had a very interesting discussion and it was useful to hear everyone's concerns.
The East Kent Railway is a real hidden gem nestled in the heart of our constituency. It's a great place to visit, and I've been able to go along on previous occasions with my kids, who loved their day out!
Today I joined for a very special day celebrating 100 years of the East Kent Railway. Guests were taken by the train and a vintage bus along to Elvington Community Centre, where the Elvington & Eythorne Heritage Centre was formally opened and we had a presentation of the East Kent Railway Steam Project.
Afterwards we enjoyed a miner's banquet, before heading back to the station to look at the St Dunstan and learn more about the EKR history.
The organisers did an amazing job, and I had a fantastic time. In the centenary year I hope that even more people will make the trip to learn about the railways and mining history of our area.
Teens often complain to me that there is nowhere for them to go and nothing for them to do in Deal. I was therefore really supportive of the great group of people who decided to change this for good, and give Deal's younger population somewhere not just for them to go to - but where they are welcomed.
After a LOT of hard work from a dedicated group of people – led by Amber Blackwell – tonight the Spires Youth Cafe was formally opened. I went along to see what's been done and to congratulate all those involved in person. There was an opening night disco and on other nights there will be a pool table, table football, karaoke, table tennis, plus there will be hot food, drinks and snacks for sale.
The Spires Cafe is in the Landmark and is open every Friday evening between 6.30 and 9.30 in the evening. I hope lots of kids will come along and take advantage of this space that is solely for them.
More jobs and money locally is a priority for us all. It is what I have been campaigning for since being elected. But politicians shouldn't just talk – they need to act too. that is why I organised a Jobs Fair at Dover Town hall. I asked local companies to have stands, and publicised this across the community hoping that jobseekers or those looking for a career change would come along.
I thought it could really help local people and local businesses, but I was taken aback at just how successful it was. 1200 people visited, and the businesses there were enthused by the amount of potential employees there are out there.
I had a fantastic day at the Jobs Fair, getting to talk to visitors and employers about the issues facing the jobs market and economy.
Today the Immigration Minister Mark Harper visited the Port of Dover to check out the great work that our Border Forces are doing on the frontline in the fight against illegal immigrants and smuggling illegal goods into the country.
We toured the docks and met with representatives from UKBA to discuss their job and any concerns that they had. We also saw examples of ways that criminals get around our security in the form of a lorry with a false roof. The Border Force men and women put in the hard graft, and Mark and I are pleased that this is recognised.
Today I went to the London launch of the East Kent Grow For It project. It was an early 7am start for me and my fellow MPs who represent the East Kent constituencies.
Grow For It aims to promoting East Kent as one of the best examples of a region where the Regional Growth Fund is working to good effect and also to attract London-based businesses who might look to relocate in our area, or to start a new business here.
This is so important for Dover and Deal, and ties in neatly with my campaign for more jobs and money. With Conservative leadership across the county we have made great strides with the RGF, Enterprise Zone status and the Big Local money all tangible examples of what can be done when we put our minds to it.
Dover and Deal is open for business and with Grow For it backing us things can only improve.
Last year Kent County Council announced that it was planning to merge Walmer Science College with Castle Community College to have one school across the two sites.
There has been much local concern about this and I have heard from lots of parents and pupils who have set out their passionate views about the plans.
Today I joined the local community in attending a public meeting about the plans at Deal Town hall organised by Save Walmer Science College. Some really important points were made, and it was a good opportunity to explain my position and hear from those involved.
Personally my priority is to ensure that local education is the best it can be. We need to focus on what's best for our children first and foremost. I have had discussions with KCC about this and will keep pressing for the right decision to be made.
It has been a long fight but at last it looks like things are really moving forward with the New Dover Hospital. Today I went along to the site to see the planning notice for the new hospital.... evidence that local healthcare will soon receive the boost we hoped for. Work should start later this year and the hospital should be open in late 2014.
The picture shows the application – proof that things really are moving forward on the New Dover Hospital after a decade in which Labour decimated our local hospital services. I will keep a close watch to make sure things stay on track and that we get a fairer share of healthcare.
I hold regular advice surgeries where constituents can make an appointment to come and discuss their concerns with me. With the weather getting warmer I took my surgery out onto the streets of Dover today. I was joined with local town district and county councillors to address any issues that people wanted to raise.
It was a great success and I hope that everyone who stopped for a chat found it useful. My team and I will be out on the High Street on future Saturday mornings so do look out for us!
Today I joined Sam Williamson, the principal of Dover Christ Church Academy to look around the school and meet the pupils.
It was my first visit here, and I was delighted to hear about the excellent plans that the staff have for the Academy, and see the - very switched on - pupils take part in their lessons.
After my tour I chatted with the A-level students and fielded their questions about my policies and life as an MP. Thank you to everyone for making my trip so enjoyable!
Sometimes MPs get to combine work and play...and the Dover Beer Festival is definitely one of those times!
Today I visited with local Councillors Nigel Collor and Pauline Beresford and it was great to catch up with old friends and meet new people over some great beer. Once again it was a brilliant festival, and as ever really well attended. Well done to the organisers, and thanks to all those who came along.
Today I met with representatives from the Local Trust at La Salle Verte in Dover.
Local Trust administers the Big Local scheme of which Dover is part of. Big Local provides money for communities to use in ways to improve the local area and unlock potential. Dover is a worthy recipient of their time and money. We discussed what sort of projects they could provide money for, and how we can maximise the benefits for our lovely town.
These are really positive times for Dover and I'm glad that after years of neglect under the previous Labour MP we are now receiving help and funding to restore Dover to a jewel in the crown of the nation.
Today I joined forces with my colleague and neighbouring MP for Folkestone Damian Collins, to have a look at the problems on the A260 through Denton and Densole.
This is a busy road which drivers speed along as a direct route between Folkestone and Canterbury. However it is also a rural road which is really not suitable for such high volume of traffic. Residents of Denton are really concerned by how drivers speed through their small village. There have been numerous accidents over recent years, and something needs to be done to help villagers.
Damian and I met with local residents to talk through concerns, and we will work together to help find a solution.
The Deal Air Cadets (formally known as 2235 Deal Squadron ATC) are the local branch of a UK wide cadet force that is sponsored by the RAF. It is open for anyone between 14 and 20 years of age and provides amazing experiences such as adventure training, trips abroad, and yes – flight experience.
I was honoured to be asked to attend today's presentation ceremony, which celebrated individual and group successes in 2012. The cadets were fantastic, and I hope even more young people will think about joining – it is great fun and there was a real sense of camaraderie within the group.
Also attending were the local Mayors and proud parents, who were all entertained by the Cadet band - pictured. What a brilliant evening!
Today the Shipping Minister Stephen Hammond visited the Port of Dover. I joined him as he looked around the Port on his first visit here since becoming Ports Minister.
He met DHB officials to see how the Port is operated. There was also discussion about the future of the Port – so important with the news that the Government have decided not to approve a sell off.
Key for me is regeneration. The port has barely changed in 50 years. It's now a decade since the District Council first talked about demolishing Burlington House. Too often there is a record of non delivery. This is not good enough. If quangos and local authorities do not deliver we should not be afraid to look elsewhere to who can deliver the change we need.
Chancepixies is an animal rehoming centre and charity based in West Hougham. They take in dogs and other pets that would otherwise have to be put down, caring for them until new owners can be found.
I visited today to look around the site and to discuss with the owners how the Government can help to reduce the number of abandoned dogs, along with other animal welfare issues.
Today I accompanied the Education Secretary Michael Gove to a visit of Castle Community Academy. We joined classes and saw poetry being studied as well as the use of statistics in a maths class.
We had a discussion about educational changes in Deal and Walmer and Michael praised the great strides that Castle has made in improving education standards and outcomes.
I write this following the decision by KCC that Castle and Walmer Science College are to merge. I know this has been a very sensitive issue for many parents in the area and so I have been keen to ensure KCC makes the right decisions for Deal and Walmer children. KCC tell me that they wish to see the merged school have a new name and new uniform, to see the Walmer site kept for education in the long term and for the best teachers from both schools to be kept.
My priority is to see the merged school have excellent educational provision and have the best educational outcome and opportunities for the students of Deal and Walmer.
Coldblow Woods is on the outskirts of Walmer and has been a much loved area for dogwalkers and nature lovers for decades since the last owners stopped using the area.
Recently a new owner bought the land and since then local residents have joined together to see if a compromise can be reached so that the area will continue to be protected.
I went along to a meeting of Save Coldblow Woods group today to talk through the issues and I will be holding further talks with the new owner and interested parties as this goes on.
Every year hundreds of daring people have a swim in the sea on Boxing day morning. I went along to watch and cheer on the participants as they were woken up from any Christmas excesses of the day before.
The weather was freezing but sunny, and the family and I had a great time messing around on the beach in such a fun atmosphere.
Today we had the great news that the previous Labour Government's plan to sell off the Port of Dover to the French or whoever have been axed by the Government.
For the past three years we have campaigned tirelessly to reverse Gordon Brown's madcap decision to put our port up for sale. This marks the fulfillment of a key election pledge to save our Port. Dame Vera Lynn provided a much needed boost to us all we she came and joined the campaign!
For our community the Port of Dover is the gateway to our nation and should be forever England. The very idea that the port should be sold off was a desperate and out of touch move by Labour. Think of the port and the white cliffs and you think of freedom and victory over tyranny.
This magnificent victory is the best Christmas present the people of Dover could have. It shows what united communities can achieve. This decision marks the first stage in the plan to make Dover a community run People's Port and a jewel in the crown of the nation once more.
It is always a pleasure to be able to take a moment out from meetings and actually sit down and have a chat with constituents. This afternoon I was able to pop into Abbeyfield Sheltered Accommodation in Walmer which provides flats for the elderly in an environment where one can be independent and self-reliant, whilst having the assurance that care is available on site.
I spent an hour or so having coffee and talking with the residents and staff, and it is clear that Abbeyfield is a very happy and sociable place to live.
Cleverly and Spencer is a stonemasons business based in Dover, which has been family run since the 1860s.
They recently completed extensive renovation work and expansion of the business and I was happy to go along to officially open the improved premises.
Many local dignitaries were also in attendance and the great turnout shows that this was something to celebrate. The feeling was that it indicates that Dover's economy and small businesses are on the right track.
Today I was invited by the local RSPCA to visit the new Canterbury and Dover Animal Centre.
I was glad to be able to show my support for the work that the RSPCA are doing locally, in particular the much needed animal rehoming centre. This already has a cat section, with planning approval awaited for a dog section, and a place for other animals to be cared for.
And of course it wouldn't have been right to go along on my own, so I took Star along, who was delighted to be fussed and given some doggy treats by the lovely staff and volunteers who do such great work.
Since 2008 Trinity Church in Deal has held a Festival of Christmas Trees to raise funds for the church and charity.
I popped in to the festival today with my son Thomas to marvel at the beautifully decorated trees that have been produced by various groups such as the church and local businesses. It was a lovely way to start the Christmas season.
Today I visited Astor College of the Arts to attend the presentation of a stained glass window commemorating the Unknown Warrior and all those who have fallen in the service of their country.
The Dover War Memorial Project organised the creation of this lasting memorial, and got local schoolchildren to produce the design for the stained-glass window. The objective was to teach our children about the sacrifices that were made and to give them ownership of their own history.
The stained-glass window toured the country and has been housed at many sites including Westminster Abbey and today was presented, on permanent loan, to Astor College of the Arts where it will be housed and where thousands of young people will be invited to visit. It was a very moving ceremony and shows the dedication of all those who give their time to work on the Dover War Memorial project.
Many Residents in Eastry are concerned that the landmark Bull Inn pub may be turned into a care home for former alcoholics. They worry that the road is too busy for people who have poor memories and are easily disorientated. I met with a group of concerned residents today in Parliament to discuss the best way forward.
For me village pubs are an important community resource. We should be slow to see another historic pub disappear. I also worry that it's not very safe for vulnerable people to be in a location next to that busy road running through the centre of Eastry.
11 November is one of the most important days in our calendar. Every year we remember those who gave their lives in the service our nation by wearing the poppy and honouring the two minute silence.
I attend the Deal and Dover services on alternate years. This year I was at the Dover War Memorial to lay a wreath and pay my respects. It was a deeply moving ceremony.
Earlier this year the Deal Town Team was formed to provide a focus for the direction of Deal High Street and to come up with ideas to ensure our town continues to thrive with independent businesses.
Deal has just been awarded £10,000 from the Government to help these aims, and I organised a meeting with traders, local politicians and the council to discuss how best to spend this money to maximise the effects.
It was a really successful meeting with some great ideas discussed. More details should be announced soon, but the most important outcome was to agree that this should be run and administered by the traders themselves, who know what will be most successful, and what the High Street needs.
The Dover District Volunteering Centre acts as a central point for volunteer co-ordination. They match people to charities and places that need extra help. It's a great community resource, and I was very pleased to go along to the centre today to meet the staff.
We discussed the funding options available for the Centre, and the issues that face the voluntary sector. I am a huge supporter of the work that they do and I would recommend anyone to have a look at their website to see how they can get involved. The centre's telephone number is 01304 367898.
Young people are very switched on and up to date with current affairs. So I always enjoy going to speak at our local schools. My trip to DGGS today was no exception. This is a wonderful school with an great academic record, excellent teaching and outstanding students. I spoke to the 6th form and years 10 and 11.
I gave a short talk and answered questions from the girls about working in Westminster and on national issues, then stayed for a lunch of fish and chips with the staff. Many thanks to Matthew Bartlett and the DGGS school community for having me along and making me so welcome. It was a real pleasure to visit the school.
Today I went along to Sainsbury’s to meet with the store manager Glenn and chat with the staff. We discussed how Sainsbury’s helps in the community. Sainsbury’s is a major local employer with some 200 local people working there.
It was particularly good to see “trolley man” Shaun serving the customers with a smile as always. Shaun suffered a horrific attack that shocked all of Deal earlier this year. I am pictured here with Glenn and Shaun.
We are a nation of animal lovers. I am the proud owner of Star, a 4 year old Norwich Terrier and my companion on walks along the beach in the constituency.
This year I entered Star in the Dog's Trust annual Westminster Dog of the Year competition. It is a chance to raise awareness of the work the Trust does, as well as wider issues of animal welfare. MPs from all parties are able to take part, and it is a really great day – and one that gives a serious message whilst having some lighthearted fun.
I was amazed and delighted when Star won "Dog of the Year". She triumphed after a public vote, a "doggy dash", plus final judging by the experts from the Dogs Trust. She really lived up to her name today!
Guide Dogs for the Blind is an amazing charity that makes a real difference to blind and partially sighted people's lives. They provide guide dogs to those affected by sight loss, along with the food the dogs need to eat. Today I had a great time at the local branch's fundraising coffee morning held at St George's Hall in Deal.
Whilst having a chat over a cup of coffee, I got to talk through some of the concerns that the charity has. They are calling for a tax cut to help support their work as it turns out the charity pays VAT on the food they provide, while other working dogs don't have to.
I think VAT on guide dogs' food is an anomaly as other working dogs don't have to pay it. It costs the charity £300,000 a year – this is money that would enable the charity to do even more to help the blind and partially sighted. I fully support the Guide Dogs call for a tax cut.
It was a pleasure to attend the opening of Walmer Science College's new Marine Studies Centre today. HRH The Princess Royal officially opened the centre, and was also able to meet students and take a tour of the school.
The centre will be a real asset for local education, and is particularly important because of our rich marine heritage and seafaring past. I am sure it will be a huge success, and I congratulate everyone at Walmer who worked so hard to make this happen.
Talk it Out is a support group for people who suffer from depression. The group provides therapy and friendship. Friendship is really important because it stops people feeling lonely – and loneliness leads to mental health problems as we all know.
If you are feeling down or depressed and want help – do get in touch with Talk It Out and go along!
The Macmillan Coffee morning at St Mary's Parish Centre was a great success. I am pictured with the Town Mayor of Dover Anne Smith enjoying a chat over a coffee. There were many stalls and I was able to get some Dr Who books and some nice cakes for the kids. It was great fun, very well organised and the volunteers did a great job raising funds.
It was a great day for Dover to see the Channel Dash Monument unveiled on the seafront. The Channel Dash was one of the great events of the Second World War. The Germans wanted to get a flotilla including the pocket battleship "Sharnhorst" back to Germany from a French port. The quickest way was up the English Channel. But it was also dangerous as Britain would try to sink the German ships. In the end the Germans managed to get their ships through - but the ships were never to threaten Britain's Atlantic supply lines again.
For Britain it felt like a defeat as the ships got through, but the German High Command saw it as a tactical victory but strategic defeat since the ships could not effectively harry the British again. So kind of a score draw! Still it's remembered as a major naval engagement and we celebrate the heroism and courage shown on both sides.
HMS Kent was in Dover Harbour for the event and provided an honour guard. The Monument was unveiled by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope - the picture on the left shows the Monument being unveiled. There were flypasts by a Spitfire and a Swordfish torpedo plane. The event was a great success and took a lot of organising. Many congratulations to the Channel Dash Association for their successful campaign for a Monument and for organising a day that went so well.
Today I visited Deal Centre for the Retired for the opening of the Norman Wisdom suite. The new suite will provide daycare and respite support for people with dementia.
Dementia is on the increase as people live longer. It can be kept at bay with stimulation, friendship and conversation. So the suite will really help by ensuring people are kept active and engaged. The longer people stay out of a care home the longer they live, the better quality of life they have and the more cost effective it is.
Prevention is so much better than cure and this suite will help to look after people and give them a much better quality of life.
WaterAid help provide clean water and safe loos in developing nations. Last year they helped millions of people at an average cost of £15 per person. This is a charity that gets the money to where it will make a difference.
It was great to join the Mayor of Dover to welcome a sponsored walk to raise funds for WaterAid. The walkers went from Folkestone to Dover. I had a good chat about how they supply water drawing equipment that can easily be repaired and how they ensure the supply is clean and safe - and stays that way. Charities that make a difference, that walk the walk rather than talk the talk are the charities we should be giving the strongest support to.
I went off to join the White Cliffs Partnership team that clean the River Dour today, to see what they do and join in.
I was amazed just how much rubbish gets into the river, how many people give up their time to volunteer to help the clean up and that Morrisons does not join in when most of the rubbish clearly comes from the supermarket.
It was a real pleasure to open the new Deal Sue Ryder shop. The shop has been very well done out and my daughter bought some books and a painting kit. The Sue Ryder charity does great work with end of life care and their hospices are well known throughout the land. I have asked them to consider opening a hospice in Kent.
There are about to be big works on Deal's flood defences. The flood defence works will change the seafront with a bigger wall and more shingle on the beach.
As it will make a big change, I met with the Environment Agency to check that they had made a full consultation and that they had taken on board all concerns that may have been raised. They told me they consulted the Chamber of Commerce, the Town Council and the Deal Society and that all those groups approved of the works.
In the picture I am holding a sample of the concrete that will be used in the wall and Cllr Sue Chandler, deputy leader of the district council, is holding a sample of the blue material that will go on the ground and highlight to partially sighted and blind people that they are approaching the wall.
A few months ago Eythorne's Post Office closed without warning. Post Offices are important to our villages and communities. So I was delighted that Eythorne resident Neil Wiggins swung into action to get a new Post Office into the village. I was delighted to support Neil in pressing the Post Office to deal with the problem quickly and delighted to be at the opening of the new Post Office in the church.
I met with residents of Downs Road in Walmer who are concerned about speeding traffic in their street. They want to have a 20 mph speed limit so I've asked the council to consider that. I am also asking the Police to check the speeding in the road in the hope that drivers will take more care and drive more carefully.
After weeks of rain Deal hospital fete was blessed with sunshine. It was a superb day with hundreds attending. The high point for my children was the Punch and Judy show. But for me it was going on the model train in the photo with the Mayor of Deal. It was fantastic fun and the organisers did a really amazing job in making it such a fun and successful day.
Of all the events I have gone to, doing an opening launch from a Police car walkie talkie must be one of the most unusal. Unusual but great fun. It is great to see the Esso station at Whitfield open once again.
The petrol station with its shop will create 12 new jobs. This is great news for our area that has seen the employment numbers move in the right direction for the last few months.
Two years ago I campaigned to get the Olympic Torch to come to Dover and Deal. Today the Olympic Torch came to Dover – tomorrow it goes to Deal.
Arriving on a tall ship, sea legs were needed for the three hour voyage due to the terrible weather. Yet we made it in the end. The crowds turned out in their thousands to join the celebrations. Bearers included Robbie Herbert from Castle Community College (pictured here with me) who was a fantastic representative.
The stage show in the evening was a huge success with over 15,000 attending followed by a spectacular Firework show ending the evening with a bang! It was a great success and will be a day to remember.
I walked out of my home in Deal this morning to discover guerilla gardening was going on at the seafront. It seems the Labour Town Council has put up the Council Tax by 16% yet is unable to ensure that flowers are put in the planters. So a group of concerned citizens decided to do it for them!
The flowers looked amazing in the planters after the gardening visit and makes Deal's seafront look a lot better.
Today I attended the Royal Marines Band Annual Concert on Walmer Green.
The concert is held in memory of those who lost their lives in the 1989 bombings. It was a fitting tribute and wonderful to see a crowd of nearly 10,000 come along. The music was amazing and local singer Margaret Threadgold wowed the crowds. The weather held up and it was a really great day.
The rain was not kind to the Kent Show this year. Yet I made it and caught up with C Cllr Mark Dance and Woolly the show mascot.
It was a great show despite the rain and I chatted to Mark about what KCC are doing to tackle empty homes, install broadband locally and how we can work together to move the Hadlow College project forward for Deal.
Today I planted a tree at Whitfield and Aspen School. The school has been working hard over the last three years after their new build to develop the school grounds as a resource for learning for the children with a wide variety of learning needs.
As well as a school garden, which is producing some excellent produce, they have been planting a wide variety of fruit and nut trees. The school has taken advantage of trees donated by the Woodland Trust and their Jubilee Woods project and has, with the aid of the school grounds consultant Ross Evans, planted a "Jubilee Hedge" which includes more than twelve varieties of indigenous trees.
Early in the year the children had the idea of a diamond jubilee orchard and so I came to the school and planted a Greengage Tree, ably assisted by Year 6 children from Aspen and the main school. The trees were sponsored by the school voluntary fund and PTA
Today I went to Eastry Primary School to see the children who have taken part in Skip2bfit. This is a fantastic project which aims to encourage fitness, improve balance, timing and footwork.
Set up by John McCormack – previously the No2 ABA ranked Heavyweight of Great Britain – the project helps children build up a structured exercise programme around skipping. It helps teach how to lead a healthy lifestyle and how people can take better care of themselves.
Skip2bfit also promotes the message "everybody can achieve". I took to the rope myself - and managed it. Afterwards I handed out certificates to all the children who took part.
As part of their training Gurkha recruits are taught about life in Britain and how to get by. It's obviously very different here from the foothills of Nepal.
The last part of the training involves coming to London and also coming to see Parliament and how things work. It was a real pleasure to join fellow MPs to explain how things work and what we do. The Gurkhas are a really important part of our armed forces and life in South East Kent.
Veolia has decided to sell its UK water companies. One of these is Dover and Folkestone water who supply water to many local taps. Southern Water handle the sewage bit.
Damian Collins and I met with Veolia to make sure that water bills will not go up, to safeguard the caller centre in Folkestone and to press for better water storage - i.e. reservoirs. We were reassured about bills and local jobs. There is more work to be done on reservoirs - that takes longer to do after so many years of too little reservoir planning.
Before going along to the Deal Armed Forces Day service, I enjoyed going to the Walmer Fete. I chatted with John Trickey about the carnival and congratulated the the carnival queen and princesses on how well turned out they were. The Deal AFC band were amazing, as ever and are pictured. It was a successful fete – congratulations to the organisers.
Afterwards it was the celebration of our Armed Forces in Deal (the previous weekend I had been in Dover)
There was a very moving service with a parade of standards. Across the nation as a whole this was an important weekend. It marks the recognition and gratitude to those who serve and have served our country in the armed forces.
Today I went along to the opening of Deal Festival which saw a wonderful performance by the children of Aspen 2.
Over the last few months the children had been working very hard to put on a diverse performance of dance, song, and poetry and it was a delight to see - my favourite part though had to be the piece performed on a myraid of household objects (such as Wheelie Bins, buckets and so on) which made a wonderful sound and really brought all the children to life which huge smiles on their faces.
Deal Festival is a great event and a real opportunity to showcase all the incredible talent we have across Deal and Dover.
National Trust launch bid to safeguard more White Cliffs for the Nation
The National Trust today launched a £1.2m appeal to buy a further stretch of the White Cliffs. This will ensure that more of the White Cliffs will be safeguarded for the nation. Do support their campaign if you can.
See: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/get-involved/donate/current-appeals/white-cliffs-of-dover-appeal for further details.
The church community at Beech Grove, Nonington (see www.churchcommunities.org.uk for more information on what they do), held a Sunday community open day. I went along with my family. Tom had a lot of fun doing spin painting, playing football and went for a ride in a horse and cart! It was great to chat with the teacher at the community's school about politics – I am looking forward to their visit to Parliament in the Autumn. The community make the most amazing nursery furniture and also make donations to good causes. I am pictured here with Lawrence Mendel.
I went along to the St Andrews Church Fete with my son Tom. It was a great chance to catch up with people and chat about the state of things. Tom had a wonderful time being chased by a boy with a water pistol. Meanwhile I drew the raffle. From time to time Tom took a break from getting soaked to help me with the raffle draw!
It really was a lovely fete and very well done.
This weekend I opened the events at Dover to mark our appreciation to all those serving in the Armed Forces. It was a great event, so many congratulations to the organisers. I am pictured with John Dixon.
Our Armed Forces do such a fantastic job to keep this country safe. The Armed Forces weekend gave everyone the opportunity to raise public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. It was also an opportunity to support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets.
Whitfield and Aspen School in my constituency is an amazing school, combining mainstream education with special needs.
Being so unique however does not come without its problems which is why today I went along with Andrew Lamb (Headmaster at Whitfield) Cole Andrew (Headmaster at Aspen) and Jason Cook (Deputy Head at Whitfield - soon to be Head) to the Department of Education to discuss the school's unique status and the extra consideration that is needed when looking at the school with regard to Ofstead and placement numbers.
It was a constructive meeting and hopefully positive outcomes will be on the way.
Today I paid a visit to A & S Self Storage - a great small business set up by George and Diana Pelly in 1994 at Old Park in Whitfield, Dover
George and Diana are a real testament to what hard work and vision can achieve and it was great to see their business doing well and expanding - with George having just opened up an area for wine storage and paintings.
Today marked a real progress for the Kent Health Commission with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launching the commissions first report into healthcare.
The Kent Health Commission is important as it will make it more likely that we get the proper hospital we all want to see back in our community. As everyone knows, services at Buckland Hospital were decimated over the past decade. Getting a new hospital that is modern and fit for purpose has been a key priority for us all. The hospital trust say they will do their bit and break ground in the new year. However the hospital trust will not provide the beds. The beds would be provided by the local doctors and Kent County Council's Social Services. That's because the beds won't be acute beds but recovery beds.
In the hospital bit you should be seen as an outpatient, have tests and some procedures. In the bed bit you should be able to recover from treatment or illness. It will be very much what you and I would think of as being a cottage hospital. The key thing is that a lot more hospital services should be provided locally and spare people long trips to Ashford.
So where are we along the path to seeing it all up and open? The hospital bit should be built next year. As ever, I won't presume on anything until we see bricks laid. The beds bit will take longer. That is why the health commission is so important. The commission has brought everyone together round a table. Having everyone round the same table really helps.
Fingers crossed we keep moving forward
In recent weeks I have been conducting a survery across the Dover and Deal Constituency. It is really important to know what people are thinking, what their priorities are and what they would like to see happen. So far I have been inundated with thousands of responses to my survey.
Today I was in Aylesham with my team - you can see us here having a little break in Market Square. We had a great response and I can highly recommend the coffee!
Today I visited Dover Castle for the Beating of the Retreat to mark the Diamond Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth.
It was great to catch up with so many leading members of the community. There was a presentation of Jubilee Gifts for the Queen. The acceptance of these gifts by the Lord Warden on behalf of the Queen made me wonder once again why he isn't a freeman of the town of Dover. The highlight of the evening was the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas - who played a whole host of music including Sunset and the National Anthem.
We should be proud of these traditions and support all our servicemen in every way we can
It was great to be at the opening of the new play area in Northbourne. I was struck by how strong the village community is. The play area is a real success and I had a great time pottering around the stalls on the village cricket pitch. After having a hot dog, I spent time chatting to Penny Bearman and admired the paintings she has been working on with her group of artists.
The Walmer Brocante was a great success. I went along with my family – Charlotte and Thomas are pictured with me – and we had a great time. There was so much to see on the stalls and we all had ice creams while looking at what was on offer.
A big well done to the organisers of this excellent event!
Avid readers of my blog will know that I had a hard fought campaign to get academy status for Castle Community College in Deal. Well we won that battle. Lately I have been pressing the Education Department to award academy status to Astor College for the Arts.
This has finally came to fruition and academy status has been awarded to the college and the federated primary schools. I was over the moon to see this battle won at long last as it will enable Astor college to do an even better job for our young people.
Today was a step forward in looking at the red tape and barriers that can sometimes surround Special Needs Education.
In my surgeries I all-too-often talk to parents struggling to get the best education for their child especially if that child has special educational needs. In many cases children are put in the wrong schoool and left there or getting a school in the first place is a nightmare. So today we held a small conference at Ripplevale school with parents and KCC to discuss the issues and try and work a way forward.
Together with Paul Carter - Leader of Kent County Council, Mike Whiting - Cabinet Member for Education hopefully we can make some positive progress.
Today I popped along to Deal train station to note the success that Deal is set to continue enjoying High Speed rail services.
Together with Deal county councillor Kit Smith, and KCC Highways Cabinet member Bryan Sweetland as well as Tom Rowland from Trains4Deal among others, it was a great opportunity to talk about how the high speed service has benefited Deal and is working towards boosting business confidence and support new employment opportunities in East Kent.
It is vital for more jobs and money that Deal has better links making it a more viable business option.
Today I joined the People's Port Trust to get more people to join. To date nearly 1,000 people have joined the People's Port which shows the depth of feeling in our community for the port to be safeguarded for the community and the nation in perpetuity.
I was amazed at the positive response and the level of enthusiasm. People feel strongly that Dover needs to be regenerated and the town, port and businesses need to work together as partners to end the years of neglect that have blighted the town. With more members, the voice of the community becomes ever stronger.
Today the Dover Express reports that the Harbour Board are seeking to delay putting in their sell off proposals for Ministers to make a decision on.
This latest delay is unacceptable. For three years we have had the uncertainty created by the Harbour Board's determination to sell itself off to the French or whoever. In the teeth of resistance by just about everybody.
This uncertainty is harming the future prospects of Dover. It has gone on long enough. We need to get on with regenerating the town - especially the seafront where the land owned by the Harbour Board is a pretty disgusting mess. In view of this I am asking Ministers to review the powers they have up to and including whether an interim board should be appointed.
We cannot carry on like this and we need to make progress to improve Dover and create more jobs and money.
Today the Portas pilot bid for Dover was published on Youtube. Click on the video to watch!
It's been incredible to see how much energy has been put into the pilot bids for Dover and for Deal. Whether the pilot bids win or lose, much thinking has gone on about what needs to be done to strengthen our town centres and the community has been brought together in ways that should enable improvements to be made over time. Congratulations to the bid teams from Dover and Deal!
This morning I met with Bryan Sweetland and Nigel Collor to see for ourselves the concerns that have been raised with regard to overnight lorry parking and the litter it produces.
We need to evoke a better sense of responsibility so people do not think it is right to leave litter in these areas and look better at constructive ways to tackle this.
Today I joined local businesses to drum up support to improve Dover's high street. There are funds available in the Mary Portas initative to improve our high streets.
A key part of the bid is getting the support of the local community. So I joined local businesswoman Louise Miller who is spearheading the bid team, Dover Mayor Cllr Ronnie Philpott and Cllr Sue Jones to get signatures of support.
We really need to breathe more life into our high streets. It's great to see local businesses taking the lead. And it was really great to support our local businesses in partnership with the Mayor of Dover and the town council.
It's working together across the board like this that gets things done.
Today I met with Jayne Dunford of Jayne's Flowers to discuss how business rates can be made more affordable for small businesses. Jayne is concerned that small independent traders are at a disadvantage to the charity shops that don't pay business rates at all and the big supermarkets. She is not alone. Everyone I speak to in Dover seems to be fed up with the number of charity shops locally.
New powers come in soon under the Localism Act which could enable the District Council to reduce business rates for small shops. Jayne has previously said if she shuts her shop and just trades in the street in front she will not have to pay business rates and her business will do just as well. That seems daft, so I hope the council will be able to look at what it can do – and afford – with the new powers.
Small independent traders are the live blood for a high street. It's really important that we do all we can to help them survive. I hope the council will work to see what can be done to reduce the shocking number of empty shops and encourage new businesses to move in.
We need more independent shops in the High Street
Today I pressed BT to move ahead locally with fast broadband. I met with BT's Clova Fyfe and Bill Murphy and discussed their plans to improve our internet connection speeds.
BT are currently working on plans for super fast broadband, so I made our case for the greatest possible investment locally. Separately I also plan to meet Kent County Council to get coverage for areas that BT may not cover, using money given by the Government to the county council.
Google recently named Dover as a winner in their league of 'fastest growing internet business towns' in the UK. So it's clear that fast broadband access really matters for more local jobs and money. Fast broadband is also good for watching telly, but it's jobs and money that are my priority. This was a really good opportunity to put across the needs of our community for as much broadband as possible and as fast as possible! The next step will be to meet with Kent County Council to get coverage in areas that might otherwise be left out.
Jodie Smith's brilliant science project
Today I met with Jodie Smith from Dover who is a materials scientist studying for a PhD at the University of Kent. Jodie did a great science project that was exhibited at the House of Commons.
Her project is about how to test glass to get the right strength. The testing is done by measuring neutron diffraction - a clever way to test the substance without altering it. It's very serious science that Jodie has been researching and I was deeply impressed with her project.
After visiting Megger last week, it underlines how we should be really proud of the scientific and engineering excellence we have in our community. A big congratulations to Jodie for her success!
When getting the morning train - it is always nice to be able to get a coffee, which is why I was more than happy to go along to the opening of Platform 1, a new café located within Deal station's main building on the London-bound platform.
It is great that Deal resident brothers Andy and Nick Stevens have had the drive to make this happen and I wish the business the very best of brewing luck!
Today I went to visit Stephen Drennan at Megger in Dover.
Megger Group Limited is a company that manufactures electric test equipment and measuring instruments for electrical power applications and is a great employer in Dover.
It was a great opportunity to have a look around and talk about how the business is working locally.
Today I went along to the launch of the Dover Tattoo 2012 at Dover Castle.
Surveying the packed room at Dover Castle as the plans were set out highlighted how much enthusiasm there is to make things happen. Sponsors have come forward from the MoD, Dover District and Town Councils, KCC and London Fancy Box. The organisation is led by the indefatigable Mike McFarnell and his team. Brigadier Simon Wolsey and the army have been great in their support.
What we will get will be a fabulous celebration of our armed forces, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Gurkha heroes and of course the great town of Dover. It will help boost our area and put us on the map.
We have some very talented and successful people in Dover and this willl be a great occasion to pull that altogether.
As an enthusiastic amateur baker, it was great to meet up with celebrity baker Paul Hollywood. As well as being the star of the Great British Bake Off, Paul runs an artisan bread making business at Aylesham. We discussed how small businesses should be given greater support from banks and how there should be a proper vocational qualification for artisan baking.
Baking qualifications are generally for the large scale manufacturing process. So they focus more on engineering and machine operation. Artisan baking is very different and much more what you and I would think of as traditional bread making. So Paul says it should have its own qualification. I agree and I will be seeing what I can do to help move things forward.
It's great to have such a leading business in our community!
Today I joined residents of Sholden and Middle Deal to discuss the proposed large scale developments that affect the area. The District Council passed the planning application before Christmas. So we are asking the Secretary of State to call in the application. It is a bit of a long shot but worth doing our best.
Together with Sholden Parish Council and Deal Town Council I am writing to the Secretary of State in support of the village and of Deal.
Today I joined Dover County Councillor Nigel Collor to support the RNLI. We both took to the rowing machines – pictured – to see what it is like having the heave through the waves. It was great fun and a bit of light relief. The RNLI do a fantastic job and I was delighted to support them in their excellent work.
I hope I will be able to join them on patrol one day soon . . .
Today I visited K College in Dover. It was great to hear about the many courses offered to our younger people.
Whether it's A levels or vocational qualifications, K College seems to offer a course. They have been investing in the building lately with a £1/4 million investment in refurbishment. K College is also expanding provision for the teaching of A Levels, Marine Engineering, Creative and Production Media and an Early Years Foundation Degree alongside its long established vocational provision in Construction, Motor Vehicle/Cycle, Hair & Beauty, Heath & Social Care and Catering.
I was impressed at the close working with local secondary schools and employers. They tell me they are working to offer programmes that persuade those who can't find jobs to keep learning and preparing for work. I hope it is all a real success.
Today I met up with the past and present Dover Mayors at the House of Commons. They discuss the future of Dover Docks and moving forward the regeneration of the town.
As a strong believer in cross party working I was delighted to meet up with the Dover Mayors. We had a really great catch up and discussion about improving the future of Dover for all.
The news that SeaFrance is to shed 127 jobs in Dover after it was liquidated by a French court and told to cease activity is not the best news for the New Year.
It is a real concern for the people in Dover who have worked for SeaFrance and also their families - and the heart of the whole community goes out to them.
"Everyone is working as hard as they can to ensure that their jobs will be safeguarded and working as hard as they can to ensure that those ships will be back on route with a new buyer and a new purchaser."
I have been working to presenting a Ten Minute Rule Bill seeking to bring into the spotlight that one million of the three million children who live apart from a parent have no contact with the non-resident parent three years after separation.
Too often, people say it is about mums' rights or dads' rights, but actually it is about the rights of a child to know and have a relationship with both their parents. That is the nub of what the Bill is about. It is not right that parents should sink their children's right to know them in a sea of acrimony when they split up.
Now is the time to change the law and give our kids the best chances in life. The Government is looking at whether to give children the right to know their fathers. Child welfare is best served by a relationship with both parents.
Anti-dad sociologists and weak-kneed judges have undermined the welfare of our children for too long.
Statement on the Sholden and Middle Deal planning applications
Granting permission for these developments was a catastrophic error. I have consistently opposed these developments. The ward councillors did a great job standing up for the community.
These developments are unwanted, the design is poor and the area is subject to flood risk. Part of the land is Grade 1 and it will lead to even more congestion on our local roads. Insufficient funds were gained for infrastructure. There is nothing good here for our community. The decision is appalling.
This morning I joined in with others to make a stand over just how important it is we get a good hospital for Dover. Along with Reg Hansell, the rally was a great success and even brought the town to a slight standstill!
It is vital we keep pushing for this.
It was a pleasure to welcome Abigail Coles of Whitfield and Aspen Primary School, and her mother Julie to the House of Commons today.
Abigail was the winner of my Christmas Card competition last year and her prize was to come up to the House for the morning, have a look around, ask any questions and then have a cup of tea and cake (or Crunchie bar as she preferred.) I hope she had a lovely morning.
As part of Remembrance Sunday this year I attended the service in Deal. Last year I was in Dover (in the pouring rain) luckily this year it was a bit brighter.
As ever the service was both moving and a humble experience.
Let us give thanks for those who, in the day of decision, ventured their all for the liberty that we now enjoy. May we strive to maintain freedom in our nation, in Europe and in the world, and to safeguard the peace which was won at such cost.
This afternoon I went along to meet representatives of the Dover Christian Aid committee (Richard Webster, Maurice Palmer and Michael Hinton) who lobbied me on a series of issues including; international aid, robin hood tax, climate change and the African country of Burundi (all on a Friday afternoon!)
It was a frank discussion and while everyone may not have agreed on every point, there was a good flow of ideas and suggestions and pause for thought.
This morning I went to the Tesco Extra in Whitfield to congratulate local schools on their great effort in collecting vouchers as part of the Tesco's Vouchers for Schools and Clubs promotion.
It was great talking to the children and finding out more about their schools and the activities they had been taking part in as part of the project.
They were each awarded a box of goodies.
At the Dover Street Pastors launch I had a good chat to a number of the attendees at the launch, including Jacob Werth.
Jacob told me he was interested in politics and so I invited him to come for a tour of the House of Commons and see Prime Minister's Questions.
It was really good to show Jacob and his brother around and to talk about key issues of concern for the future of our community.
Today the town clerks of Dover and Deal came to visit the House of Commons. It was a real pleasure to show them around and point out the bench I most like sitting on in the chamber. Afterwards we had a nice cup of coffee and talk about current issues of concern in Dover and in Deal.
It is really important to me to have a positive working relationship with both Dover and Deal town council as much as the district and county councils. It is also really helpful with regard to the work I do to talk it through with the town clerks.
With the future of the coastguard under review under I have been very concerned to ensure that Dover's coastguard remains full service and 24 hour.
This is in order to ensure we keep the English channel properly checked and safe as well as to protect local jobs.
It was a pleasure to visit the coastguard facility recently and to talk through the work they do with Frank O'Neil (pictured)
It looks like the future of the Dover coastguard will be secured, although I remain vigilant.
I had a very early start this morning attending a breakfast meeting with the Federation for Small Business (FSB) at Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce. It was a great opportunity to talk to those concerned about the effects on small businesses and meet some local people.
Later that afternoon I went along to Snowdown Colliery where plans to potentially convert the Buildings
to Community, Arts and Environmental uses continue to battle on.
I had an informative and interesting walk around the site with a number of people in the group who have been working very hard to try and move developments in Snowdown along.
A report this week by the Health Service Ombudsman, revealed that East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust is one of the top 10 most complained about in the country. The Ombudsman says it has dealt with 110 complaints about the trust - a staggering 25% rise in just one year.
This follows hard on the heels of a Care Quality Commission report earlier this year that patient experience is in the bottom 20% of hospital trusts on many levels - including those who leave wanting to make a complaint. This just isn't good enough.
In view of my earlier concerns, I met with the Care Quality Commission a while back. This new revelation increases my concerns. A key issue is to ensure that we have better access to services - this is why they should bring forward the New Dover Hospital rather than try to delay it.
Health services in East Kent need to be more accessible and the New Dover Hospital would make a massive difference to us all.
Today was the Deal civic service held in my own local church, St George's, Deal.
It was quite a difference to attend a highly formal service at St George's as normally the service at the church is evangelical with lots of children up on the stage waving flags, including my own. Afterwards I had the chance to have a chat with the town councillors, including the Mayor Jim Cronk (as the picture shows)
Today I spent the day with UKBA seeing the great work they do at the docks.
The state of the nation's finances has meant wage freezes and changes to the pension scheme - as such it has also meant head count reductions in many UKBA installations.
They protect the border and do great work. Yet I needed to know more to get the arguments together to put most effectively to Ministers. What I saw gave me much helpful information. Millions and millions are saved for the Exchequer each year as smugglers are caught and their contraband confiscated. They stop booze and fags of course. But they also keep heroin and cocaine off our streets. This is important for the health of our nation. They find guns and other weapons and help smash organised criminal gangs. It was amazing to go round and see what officers did. The rummaging of lorries. The new scanning technology. The expertise they have in taking apart vehicles and putting them back together. Most of all how they know to spot in a few seconds the sort of car or lorry to stop. We have an immense reservoir of talent at our border. So much experience. We need to keep that experience and protect it. That is my aim in what I am doing to make the financial case to Ministers.
We should be really proud of the work that is done by our UKBA officers and how their works keeps us all safe. On the Calais side they have great success in stopping bogus asylum seekers. In Dover they focus on contraband. In all cases they do great and important work. We all owe them a great debt for how they keep our Borders safe and secure.
This morning I popped over to Dover for the Macmillan Coffee morning.
Macmillan is such a great charity and one that always manages to get people together in the name of a good cause, raise money and serve a much needed coffee!
In the afternoon I then went and put all that coffee energy to good use and attended the opening of the new outside exercise equipment at Almonry Meadow, The Drove.
Another great initiative - funded by the Lottery - hopefully the equipment will be put to good use and bring much enjoyment.
This morning I took the inaugural fast train from Deal. It was one of the greatest experiences yet as the Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal.
For sure getting up at 5am to take the first train was not exactly fun. There is something deeply depressing about leaving your home while it's still dark isn't there? But to see the train leave Sandwich and Deal stations and ride to London fast style in less than an hour and a half shows that things can happen that make a difference.
These things don't just happen by themselves. There needed to be strong community backing. The great campaign by Trains4Deal made the support and demand for the fast train clear. There needed to be goodwill from the train company. South East Trains have been helpful and constructive at every stage in the talks there have been about this service.
A fast commuting service matters as it means that people can live in or near Deal, travel to work in London and have a good paying job. It will strengthen the local economy.
The future of Deal and Walmer is a big issue at the moment and it seems to me that the time has come for a proper discussion about the future direction of Deal. It's no good looking at each issue and concern on its own. The points about housebuilding, transport, tourism, jobs and money are all interconnected. There needs to be a stronger impression of how all these things should fit together. There should be a clear plan. Not piecemeal add ons. For the way things are going, no one seems very satisfied and few have any clear sense of how things should develop.
It might seem obvious that Deal should be more accessible, as that would bring more jobs and money. It would greatly benefit businesses. Particularly if a dualled spur were to be developed from Eastry roundabout to London Road. Prosperity, as they say, comes down a dual carriageway. With fast trains as well, Deal would be far more connected. It would be far more attractive for businesses to set up. It would mean more prosperity and more jobs and money. It would bring greater opportunity to the 20 something victim of high youth unemployment.
Yet things are not as simple as that. Many people love Deal just the way it is. They do not want change. Given the apparent tension between these two views, I plan to carry out a survey to get a proper sense of where opinion lies on the future of Deal. To prompt a proper debate and to see if it might be possible to develop a consensus of how Deal and Walmer should develop in the future.
The former Pfizer site has been declared an enterprise zone - it is hoped designating the area as an enterprise zone will help revive jobs and bring confidence back to the area after the announcement Pfzier was to close.
Today the government announced locations for new "enterprise zones" in England to try to boost economic growth - with one of them being the Pfizer site. It is hoped from these zones, 30,000 new jobs will be created by 2015 by giving cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control.
The Chancellor George Osborne who came to the Pfizer site to make the announcement said: "I know how bleak it seemed a few months ago. I hope we can begin to see the rays of a brighter future."
We need to build the growth economy, to make Britain richer and more successful once more – and this Enterprise Zone package for Discovery Park will do just that.
Just before Parliament broke up for summer recess I pushed for a meeting with East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Stuart Bain to try and get to the bottom of what was happening with a Hospital for Dover.
I have now found out that plans are not expected to be submitted until September next year – when originally I was told April this year.
They say it's because of the maternity services review in Kent which will affect what is needed in Dover. There's always this review or that review. We just need to get on with it.
They should be ashamed of their total lack of commitment. It's another inexcusable delay, the sort we have seen over the last 20 years. I am very, very concerned that Dover has not had and does not get its fair share of health care. I have taken this up with ministers and hammered home just how angry people are and how much this facility is needed.
A busy weekend popping from one thing to the other... starting with opening the Deal Age Concern Centre's annual open day and fete.
It was great to be able to pay another visit and see some friendly faces.
Highlights of course included two displays of Irish dancing by the Dean School of Performing arts, plenty of singing while the home-made cakes and jams are always a hit!
In the afternoon I popped in on Pat Sherratt's house for an afternoon tea...
As ever the conversation and discussion kept me on my toes!
Sunday afternoon was the Royal Marines Band Concert in Deal.
A very hot day and I really felt for those in uniforms - but as ever it was stunning and a most enjoyable event!
Taking part in the celebrations to say 'thank you' to all those that are serving in the Armed Forces, their families, veterans and cadets is one of the highlights of this job. We all owe a huge debt to our brave service personnel who work tirelessly keeping this country safe.
In the past year we have already doubled the operational allowance and introduced a pupil premium to help with the education of our forces children. It is with these practical policies that we show our commitment and gratitude to our brave forces.
Today the Dover Society came up to the House of Commons for a look around and a tour.
At the end of their tour I managed to find a moment to pop down (between debating the Welfare Reform Bill in the House) answer a few questions and say hello.
I hope a good day was had by all.
I joined John Penrose - Minister for Tourism and Heritage - for the official opening of Operation Dynamo at Dover Castle - the Secret Wartime Tunnels.
As a recreation of the Dunkirk evacuation it was an amazing experience and all very well done. English Heritage have done a great job.
This is just the kind of attraction we need to bring more people to Dover and Deal so they too can see how great our towns are.
Today the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced the reopening of the consultation in to the Port of Dover.
The proposed privatisation of Dover is now conditional on "community involvement", something the Peoples' Port proposal has long campaigned for. "This is a very big step forward and I welcome it" says Charlie. "It shows the impact that local people have had on the debate."
Those supporting or interested in the People's Port can now write to the Secretary of State, Philip Hammond asking him to seriously consider the People's Port proposal and keep the Gateway to the Nation, forever England.
To put your views in to the consultation, write to:
Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
Department of Transport
Great Minister House
76 Marsham Street
0207 944 6485
Despite a targeted campaign by Labour HQ, Dover District Council remains a Conservative lead council with 26 seats, a loss of just two seats.
A huge congratulations must go out to all conservative candidates for their incredible hard work, tenacity and time.
It is amazing to be a year into Government, making such tough economic decisions and seeing the vote go up!
Great state occasions like the Royal Wedding are few and far between which is why Charlie made the most of the wedding on Friday at a street party in Deal with the family.
There is no doubt that Prince William has his mother's touch and will one day make an excellent and popular king while Kate has already done so much to win the nation's hearts. Friday was a great opportunity to cheer the nation and remind us of our sense of history and tradition as we look to the future.
While there are some who are less keen on the monarchy, I think it has served us well. And that it will continue to serve us well when William and Kate become our King and Queen in due course.
Today's announcement that the fast train will stop at Deal is great news. The service will be a commuting service and start in October this year. There will be three trains to St Pancras in the morning and two back in the evening each day.
Having campaigned for this service over the last year, I am truly delighted by this announcement. It has been a team effort with our councillors in Deal, KCC and South East Trains.
We need more jobs and money in Deal and to boost the local economy. The fast train stopping at Deal is a key part of that.
Last week I met with campaigners concerned about our dependence on oil. Such dependence can be bad for energy security and the climate not to add it being increasingly bad for our pockets as the price of the oil keeps going up.
We talked about how we could have electric cars and a greater emphasis on renewable energy. I feel it's hard to avoid nuclear power if we want to have energy security and climate action. Yet there is the possibility of thorium power which is nuclear power without the dirty radiation and safety hazards. Sounds mad or too good to be true? Read for yourself by clicking here and let me know what you think.