15 NOV 2018

Remembering the Fallen

A century ago this week, the guns of the First World War fell silent. The Armistice of 1918 brought to an end a terrible conflict. Nine million soldiers and seven million civilians lost their lives. In Dover and Deal, thousands were left devastated by the loss of their loved ones.

Sunday's remembrance service in Deal was packed – more turned out than ever to remember those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. I was honoured to lay a wreath of poppies at the war memorial outside the hospital. Over in Dover huge crowds turned out the pay remember the fallen.

I'm proud that so many people in our community honoured the sacrifices of our servicemen and women. Our role at the frontline, as the gateway to England, means we understand the importance of safety and security – and how military tradition is so vital to us all.

Throughout the First World War, Dover was a major embarkation port for all three military services. The Dover Patrol, a naval fleet that included balloons and seaplanes, was an important defence against the might of the German Navy. The first bomb to fall on British soil fell close to Dover Castle on Christmas Eve 1914. It was the first of many to rain down on the town. Many of the wounded came back through Dover, with the Marine Station being used for ambulance trains from 1915 onwards.

It is difficult for us to comprehend the heroism and the horror endured by our ancestors in that terrible war. Homes, friends and family were distant memories for our brave warriors in the trenches.

That is why we must never forget what they did for us – nor should we fail in our duty to stand by those who have served and kept our nation safe. That's why we need to be there to support veterans as they battle the physical and mental scars left by conflict. The NHS recently expanded provision in this area, setting up a Veterans' Complex Treatment Service providing a wider range of support than ever. Yet we must do even more.

We must also honour the covenant to the soldiers who served in Northern Ireland. Veterans who bravely fought against terrorism – the same terrorists that committed the most shocking atrocity in Deal – deserve to be honoured. Yet they are instead harassed in retirement, while the terrorists enjoy an amnesty. It is time to put an end to that and ensure those who have served our nation are able to enjoy their old age with the dignity and respect of a grateful national that they deserve.

Let us always remember those who have served our nation and those who even today keep us safe and secure. Not just on Remembrance Sunday. Let us respect and honour them every day of the year.

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12 NOV 2018

Don't add fuel to fire of trafficking trade

No fines were issued to people found with suspected illegal immigrants inside their vehicles at south coast ports last year. Border inspectors looked at immigration controls at south coast seaports in a new report.

It found 197 civil penalty notices were issued for carrying clandestine entrants in 2016/17, leading to 27 fines. In 2017/18, 146 penalty notices were issued, including 110 in Dover alone, but none resulted in fines. Border Force blamed the "temporary reduction" on a "substantial restructure" of the unit which imposed the fines, meaning they had to "allow for the recruitment and training of new staff and the move to a single unit".

This is very concerning because it encourages evil people traffickers. No-one wants to see our hard-working truckers targeted needlessly. They work in difficult conditions and the vast majority do the proper checks. Yet there must be a proper deterrent for those who don't. Otherwise there is no incentive to do the checks and smugglers will exploit the situation. It will only add fuel to the fire of the evil trafficking trade. We've come a long way in cracking down on illegal immigration in recent years – yet we must ensure the whole border is secure.

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 allows the Home Office to fine anyone responsible for carrying a clandestine entrant up to £2,000. But inspectors were told the decline in notices issued was "because of limited resources to complete such 'administrative functions'".

Border inspectors did however reveal the number of clandestine detections at Dover dropped by more than a third, from 792 in 2016/17 to 503 in 2017/18. Chief Inspector David Bolt linked it to the dismantling of the Calais Jungle in October 2016.

These figures underline why we fought so hard to clear the Calais Jungle. Tourists and truckers no longer have to run the gauntlet on the road to port – and the people of Calais have their town back. It's vital the camp does not build up again. Labour's misguided calls for us to take in more Calais migrants would lead to just that.

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09 NOV 2018

Police crackdown on dangerous road

Police stopped 11 drivers in one hour along a stretch of road considered to be the most dangerous in Kent.

Residents have set up a campaign group in the wake of five fatal accidents in 20 months in Holt Street, Easole Street and Sandwich Road in the Nonington area. In September Casey Hood, 18, and Lucy Leadbeater, 27 died in a crash in Womenswold. Arry Petch, 18, died in the same area in July.

Following calls from Nonington Traffic Action and myself, Kent Police's Roads Unit patrolled the area on October 31. Officers stopped 11 vehicles in one hour, issuing several fines and stopping one motorist driving at 48mph in the area's 30mph limit.

By the number of deaths recorded and now many drivers were stopped in such a short time, it's clear urgent action is required. I am asking the Police & Crime Commissioner to ensure tough measures are taken to tackle these offences, and to ensure the authorities to work with residents to improve safety. The villagers' proposals for far reaching traffic safety measures must be taken seriously.

Residents have collected their own data tracking speeding cars on the eight mile stretch of road between Woodnesborough and Adisham Road in Barham, which runs through Nonington. They say 3,000 vehicles travel through the area every day, and nearly two-thirds flout the 30mph speed limit. Speeds above 65mph are regularly recorded, including one at 80mph at 11.30pm. Some of the highest speeds are recorded at rush hour.

The Nonington Traffic Action Group proposes a number of traffic calming measures to solve the issue, including pinch points, warning signs designed by children and a lower speed limit. The most popular suggestion is to set up an average speed check camera located just after the Mill Lane entrance to Nonington, leaving the village at the end of Holt Street. I have contacted Kent Highways and Kent Police, urging them to explore options.

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08 NOV 2018

Time to turbocharge our economy

Last week's Budget was welcome for its tax cuts and plans for new money for public services. The investment in the NHS will be a real boost for our community. I have long campaigned for better mental health services here in Dover & Deal - the extra cash will do much to help.

Yet budgets should not be about short term decisions. They should take us towards where we want to be in ten years' time.

That's why more needs to be done to boost home ownership. Young people locally struggle to get on the housing ladder. Home ownership has halved for younger people over the last fifteen years. Meanwhile renting has doubled. More is needed to help younger home buyers.

Most people in our area work in small businesses or are self-employed. Indeed small businesses have been the job creators over the past 15 years. They have created over 4 million business jobs - while big business has created less than one million. Yet small businesses keep being hit with more taxes. They have to spend too much time on paperwork. We need to see more done to back small businesses - starting with cutting taxes and paperwork.

We need to put consumers in the driving seat. That's why we must be tough on BT Openreach for not investing enough in local internet connections. Action is needed to break up the banks, big energy companies and other cartels that mean less choice and a worse deal for people shopping about.

Yet we should not stop there. We need to get big businesses to invest more in the economy. They have over £750 billion of cash that could be used to drive the economy forward and make the country more productive.

And we need to Government to invest in our borders. Not just in case there is no deal with the EU. Making our borders more modern and efficient with boost the economy. Making our roads more resilient will also cut tailbacks on our Kent roads.

We also need to see more investment to support electric cars. Starting with more charging points. Why would you buy an electric car if you fear running out of juice and being stranded in the middle of nowhere? Add to this the Chancellor taking away financial incentives to buy an electric car and you can see why many are concerned we will struggle to break our toxic addiction to fossil fuels.

Our nation is leaving the EU and about to regain its independence. We need budgets that will turbocharge our economy and make our land an economic powerhouse. Much has been done - yet there is so much more to do. We must back home ownership, small business people, get a better deal for consumers, increase investment and green the environment. These should be the cornerstones as we plot our course in the years to come.

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07 NOV 2018

Teagan finally gets cannabis treatment

An eight-year-old Kent girl in intensive care has finally received cannabis treatment. Teagan Appleby, from Aylesham, has one of the worst cases of child epilepsy in the UK.

Clinical trials recently conducted at Great Ormond Street Hospital found cannabis significantly reduces seizure incidents. Last month Government announced cannabis could be legally prescribed from November 1. Yet Teagan has been unable to receive it, first due to restrictive guidelines drawn up by the NHS and then due to supply issues.

Following efforts by myself, Teagan's mum Emma, the End Our Pain campaign and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Prescription chaired by Mike Penning, Kent-based company GW Pharmaceuticals delivered the cannabis-based Epidiolex product to Teagan's doctors yesterday. Emma Appleby told my office Teagan has been given two doses so far and the family is waiting to see if it takes effect.

In the end they have done the right thing, but it shouldn't have taken this long. Changes to the law were made specifically for cases like Teagan's. Yet bureaucracy got in the way as she suffered terribly in intensive care. It is every parent's worst nightmare – especially when you know there are treatment options out there. The early evidence suggests cannabis can treat a range of conditions, so the NHS needs to do the sensible thing and step up research and education in this area urgently.

Teagan was born with the rare condition of Isodicentric 15 – a chromosome abnormality that has progressed to Lennox=Gastaut syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy. She is wheelchair-bound, suffers up to 300 seizures a day and is currently in intensive care for the second time in a matter of weeks.

I raised her case with the Home Secretary in July and Sajid Javid set up a medical panel to decide on specific cases ahead of a review. In October Mr Javid announced cannabis could be medically-prescribed by specialist consultants from November. Yet Teagan's treatment was still delayed. On Monday I contacted the chief executive of Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Evelina Childen's Hospital where Teagan is being looked after, urging action.

GW Pharmaceuticals, a firm whose cannabis farm is in Sittingbourne, finally supplied its Epidiolex to Teagan's doctors yesterday afternoon.

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05 NOV 2018

Gangs exploiting 150 children in Dover

Drug gangs from London and Liverpool are exploiting up to 150 children in Dover, according to caseworkers in the town. The gangs prey on schoolchildren, pressuring them to sell Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine and threatening them if they try to leave, says the St Giles Trust.

It has been training people with previous experience in gangs to become specialist caseworkers, who are then assigned to troubled youngsters involved in county lines, where gangs from urban areas targeting people from regional towns to run their operations. St Giles Trust believes up to 15 lines go into Dover and that each one will exploit around 10 young people on average.

I have been fighting for more funding for their project. I have been speaking with parents for months now and am hugely concerned by the trend. Our young people are being pressured into a dark world of drugs and crime with promises of cash that quickly turn into threats of violence. We have got to take tough action on this. Kent Police are cracking down, but we also need people to support the kids and show them a different path. That's why I have fought to secure funding for St Giles. I have been clear the project shouldn't be axed or even continued – it should be expanded.

The pilot project run by St Giles Trust was due to end in September – but I asked Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to extend it and he has agreed to provide funding until April. According to a new report commissioned by the Home Office, the number of children reported missing due to suspected gang activity dropped by 40% in Dover and 65% in Margate in the months after the project launched in September 2017. Kent Police calculated more than a quarter of a million pounds had been saved in resources, compared to £80,000 spent on the caseworkers.

Chief Executive of St Giles Trust Rob Owen OBE said: "We are very proud of the impact we had during the pilot project and are pleased we are able to continue it until March 2019 thanks to the continued funding from Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.

"It clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when radically different approaches are adopted towards tackling complex, difficult issues such as county line exploitation of vulnerable children and adolescents.

"Our approach, of using professionally trained individuals who have first-hand experience of the issues the young people we help are experiencing, means that they have been able to really get inside the heads of very scared youngsters and guide them back on track."

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01 NOV 2018

Dover's new marina to open in early 2019

Dovorians will be able to walk along the new pier within the first few months of 2019. The 550-metre structure will be the first part of the project open to the public since the start of the Dover Western Docks Revival in 2015. Port bosses also said the new marina curve, adjacent to the pier, remains on schedule to be opened in the last quarter of 2019.

I have demanded that port bosses deliver on promises of bars, shops and restaurants at the new marina. It's great to see things moving forward apace at the port. Dover is finally getting the investment it deserves. The new marina is really important. I can't wait to sit down with a beer at sunset, watching the yachts and ferries come and go. We all saw the fancy pictures showing how it would look. That is why port bosses must do everything to attract businesses to the area. That vision we were promised must become reality.

Port chairman Richard Everitt has said it is looking at "short-term pop ventures which will enable us to gauge footfall and assess the best options for the commercial make-up". He said the Clock Tower Square was to be a "real focal point" of the new development, also confirming work is underway to transform Cambridge Terrace into modern apartments.

The new marina will include 250 finger berths for vessels up to 18 metres, pontoons, an access bridge, fuel tanks and pumps for the fuel berth and pontoons and a bridge for the new boatyard. It will be served by a lock, while the existing 160-berth Wellington Dock will become a 24-hour facility accessible through a new navigable channel from the new marina into the dock. The £250 million Western Docks Revival Scheme involves redeveloping the former hovercraft terminal and slip into a cargo terminal, including two deep water berths, the new marina and pier, cold storage warehousing and public realm works.

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01 NOV 2018

Why Dover will continue to be a success

The Port of Dover is a huge success story. More than £120 billion of trade moves through our docks every year. When you add in Eurotunnel, the Channel Ports account for about a third of the UK's trade in goods.

This is good for business – and good for Britain. And EU nations do very well out of this too. They sell twice as much to us as we do to them. It is very much in their interests to keep this trade flowing.

That's why suggestions that the French will grind the Port of Calais to a halt – unless we hand over £39 billion, even in the event of no deal – are frankly ridiculous. Everyone knows this would hurt French farmers and German car-makers more than us. Any sort of extra tariffs or slow-down in traffic would hit them twice as hard.

It seems these empty threats emanate from the Élysée Palace in Paris. Fortunately Xavier Bertrand, the forward-thinking boss of the Calais and Dunkirk region, takes the opposite view to President Macron. Mr Bertrand knows that the Port of Dover is an economic powerhouse – that benefits both the people of Calais and Kent. He wants to do the right thing, keep trade flowing and look after the people he serves.

In stark contrast, President Macron and the EU want to bully us into accepting a bad deal. They think Britain's greatest days are past and that we must be punished for daring to leave. Here at the Dover frontline, we know what it takes to face up to bullies. Now, as a nation, we need to show the EU how wrong they really are about the British people.

We need to believe in Britain and strike a deal that works for us. A deal that delivers on the historic vote of 2016 by taking back control of our laws, borders, money and trade.

Detailed legal analysis shows we don't owe the EU a penny. In fact, they owe us £10 billion! However, if they offer us an advanced trade deal that works for us, we should consider what a fair price might be.

To strengthen our hand in the negotiations further, we need to turbocharge preparations to leave the EU on World Trade terms. The truth is that this work should have started the day after the 2016 referendum. I have long argued that we need to be ready on day one for every eventuality – deal or no deal.

There is still time to make a difference – if we make real investment at our borders now. We need to expand off-road motorway lorry parking facilities like at Stop 24 on the M20. The M2/A2 to Dover should be upgraded and fully dualled. And we should modernise our border systems and become a world leader in frictionless trade and security.

Why is it so important to agree a deal with the EU that works for us? Because so many countries – like Australia, the US, China, India, Singapore and Japan – are waiting in the wings, ready to strike free trade deals with us. We cannot let this historic opportunity slip.

That's why we must show real political courage, refuse to be bullied – and take back control of our destiny. Only if we hold firm and believe in Britain can we truly become a free-trading, global nation once again. Our greatest days are not behind us – they are ahead of us.

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31 OCT 2018

Budget measures set to boost high streets in Dover and Deal

A new tax on online retail giants and business rates cuts were among Budget measures I fought for to boost high streets in Dover and Deal.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a 2% rate against sales large digital companies make in the UK. It follows my long campaign in Parliament to ensure big corporations pay a fairer share of tax. In July I told a Treasury Select Committee hearing that the likes of Amazon and eBay had an unfair competitive tax advantage.

Small business owners in Dover and Deal work tirelessly to make a success of their shops, cafes and restaurants. I have raised this issue with the Treasury many, many times, yet they kept waiting for the European Commission to do something. They have finally heeded my calls and taken this action unilaterally, so it is a great step forward. We must do everything we can to support the great British high street.

Mr Hammond also announced a package of business rates relief – another issue I campaigned heavily on in a bid to boost the high streets of Dover and Deal. Rates will be cut by a third for two years for shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes in England with a rateable value of less than £51,000. Alongside, new mandatory business rates will be relieved for all toilets made available for public use. It was another specific issue I took up after Dover Town Council complained to him the rates were an "unsustainable burden", with its kiosk on the seafront subjected to a recent £70 monthly increase.

Yet again we had these needless, unfair taxes while huge corporations paid none at all. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy – creating jobs and feeding families in Dover and Deal and all over the country. They must be supported.

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26 OCT 2018

Cars race through village at 80mph - we need speed cameras

Residents fed up with cars speeding through their village at up to 80mph turned out in force to raise their concerns with me. People in Nonington want average speed check cameras set up after five deaths along an eight mile stretch of road in just 20 months.

Dozens of villagers gathered in Dolphin's Hall on Friday, October 19, to ask for help from myself and Kent County Councillor Steve Manion. Residents told us they had collected data which showed more than 3,000 vehicles travel through Nonington every day – and nearly two-thirds flout the 30mph speed limit. Speeds above 65mph are regularly recorded – including a shocking 80mph one night at 11.30pm. Some of the highest speeds have been recorded at rush hour.

Residents fear the village is being used as a rat run, including by large lorries and delivery vans directed by sat-navs. The problem is made worse by the lack of footpaths, meaning people often have to walk in the road, including at blind corners. Three young people have died in recent months along the "lethal" stretch of road between Woodnesborough and Adisham Road in Barham, which runs through Nonington. In July there was a fatal crash in Snowdon in which an 18-year-old man died. In September an 18-year-old woman and a 27-year-old woman died in a crash in Womenswold.

A number of traffic calming options were discussed during the meeting – including pinch points, eye-catching warning signs designed by children, greater traffic police presence and introducing a 20mph limit. Yet the most popular suggestion was to set up average speed check cameras. They would be located just after the Mill Lane entrance to Nonington and leaving the village at the end of Holt Street. I told the residents I would contact Kent Highways and Kent Police and urge them to look into the viability of setting up cameras and request more traffic patrols in Nonington.

Nonington should be a peaceful place where people can walk with their family safely – not be in constant fear of speeding cars and crashes. Too many people have died along the stretch of road between Barham and Woodnesborough. It's no surprise residents are concerned a fatal accident could occur in the village. The strength of feeling was very clear at the meeting. The authorities need to seriously consider the proposals being put forward.

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Charlie Elphicke

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

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