Kent's waiting list for NHS wheelchairs has reduced by more than 40 per cent in the eight months since MPs called for more investment.
Severely disabled people had been waiting months for repairs and in some cases more than a year-and-half for assessments after Millbrook Healthcare took over wheelchair services across Kent and Medway in 2017.
Kent MPs approached local NHS bosses and in September 2018 more than £1.5 million of additional funding was agreed.
The overall waiting list has dropped from 3,369 in August 2018 to 2,008 in April 2019. Meanwhile the number of people waiting more than ten days for a repair has dropped from 461 in August 2018 to 30 in April 2019.
I was one of those leading the calls for action. It is encouraging news – yet it is vital to see these improvements continue. I was appalled when severely disabled constituents of mine came to me saying they were waiting more than 18 months for referrals. I'm pleased local NHS bosses listened to our concerns – because it was completely unacceptable.
Kent MPs have made the case for extra health spending for some time – and we recently had the largest, longest funding settlement in the NHS's history agreed. We are also getting east Kent's first medical school – a £30 million facility – and around £200 million of upgrades for east Kent emergency departments.
That's what you get with the Conservatives – a strong economy that delivers proper investment in our public services.
Since the referendum we've worked tirelessly to make sure the Government is ready on day one for Brexit – deal or no deal. Because nowhere are preparations more needed than at the Dover frontline.
Not only is it a sensible precaution, it is the best way of securing a good deal for our country. European leaders needed to know we mean business and are prepared to walk away if need be.
The current Prime Minister could have done so much more. Especially investing in technology to ensure smooth trade at the border, as well as greater investment in our roads – like widening the A2 and building the lorry parks we have long needed. This would have given us a world-leading border well suited to the free-trading, global economic powerhouse we want to become.
That's why I was one of the first to call for fresh leadership. And my belief is that whoever the next Prime Minister is – they must believe in Brexit, believe in Britain and be willing to ramp up the preparations so we are fully ready for every eventuality at the end of October.
In recent weeks I met Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay at the Port of Dover. He told me how the Government is now looking to "enhance" plans at the border. I told him that enhancement is not enough – we must act now to make sure we will be fully ready on day one, deal or no deal.
I also made clear there is no need for hold-ups at Dover or Calais – as long as we make full use of the Transit Convention. Already used by many non-EU countries, it allows traders to cross borders without being delayed by customs declarations or import duties. We just need HMRC and the Treasury to get themselves properly organised so we are ready to take full advantage.
It's great we already work closely with the French on passport controls, with our border officers working on the other side of the Channel. This should be extended to cover checks on food and any other trade checks that may be needed. We also need to ramp up pre-assessment, trusted trader schemes, a single Government department to be responsible for the border – all the things in the reports I wrote with industry experts over two years ago.
Because while there may only be a few months, we can be ready to leave at the end of October. This nightmare has gone on long enough. It needs to end on Halloween so that we can fully enjoy our freedom on All Saints Day, November 1.
That's why we need politicians who will match the political courage shown by British people in 2016. They believed in better. They believed in the global Britain we can build together. Now is the time to make that change and ensure we leave the EU and move on. That's why I will be backing Boris Johnson to be our next Prime Minister.
I called for full regulation of the mortgage industry in Parliament today.
A debate on a cross-party motion I brought to set the so-called "mortgage prisoners" free took place in the Main Chamber of the House of Commons.
Up to 200,000 people are trapped in expensive mortgage deals due to affordability rules brought in after the financial crash. The regulations say they can't afford to re-mortgage – even with interest rates lower than they are already making.
Meanwhile customers with banks like Northern Rock had their mortgages sold by the Treasury to unregulated funds. The so-called "vulture funds" are not licensed to receive deposits or make new loans – so these customers too are stuck on high interest rates.
Every one of these 200,000 families has a story of how they have struggled to get by, struggled to meet expensive payments to keep a roof over their heads. But what about the people who got them into this mess? What has happened to Northern Rock's old boss Adam Applegarth? He got a £760,000 pay off in 2008 and is set to enjoy a £304,000 a year pension.
The debate took on fresh urgency after Tesco announced plans to sell off its £3.7 billion portfolio of mortgages, affecting some 23,000 customers. Metro Bank is also understood to be considering selling some of its loan book.
Earlier this month I introduced the Banking (Consumer and Small Business Protection) Bill which seeks to address the issues. It would ban sales to unregulated entities – and oblige lenders to waive affordability tests for customers up-to-date with payments.
That is why we need to consider a wholesale ban of selling mortgage to unregulated funds. The best way to achieve that is to consider regulation of the whole industry. This would ensure customers are treated more fairly by mandating best practise. We must ensure this country always puts consumer interest before corporate interest.
Last weekend, a record number of illegals entrants arrived in a single day. In the end there were eight boats with a total of 74 illegal entrants. This comes on top of a record number of illegal entrants arriving in the past month.
This crisis was meant to have been dealt with at Christmas. We were told an agreement entered into with the French in January would put a stop to these dangerous crossings. But no. The situation has got worse. What was a crisis at Christmas looks set to continue to surge through the summer.
The Home Office needs to get a grip– and prevent a summer of chaos in the English Channel. For this is not simply a question of border security – even though that is incredibly important. It is about the exploitation of vulnerable people by criminal gangs. Gangs that Britain and France should be working together to catch and bring to justice.
These journeys are also incredibly dangerous. The boats are almost always overcrowded boats with men, women and children on board. The risk of tragedy in the middle of the English Channel is very real.
Some people tell me these are desperate people fleeing for their lives. That is nonsense – because it doesn't explain why they have gone through a number of safe countries to get here. The right way is for people to make any asylum claim before setting off on a dangerous journey across Europe. The UK invests more in international aid than any other European country. People who seek asylum in the places of safety we provide are doing the right thing.
Yet the cases of people doing the right thing are disadvantaged by people doing the wrong thing. The people making dangerous journeys, travelling through safe countries and paying vast sums to people smugglers. We must not reward the gangs and increase the pull of the Calais migrant magnet.
Make no mistake. These illegal entrants making dangerous crossings really do risk making Calais a migrant magnet once again. We should never forget the horrors of the Jungle – a desolate place where vulnerable people lived in squalor. People smugglers roamed free. Truckers and tourists feared for their lives as chainsaws were revved at the side of the road.
That's why I fought so hard to get rid of it once and for all. The French authorities finally caved in to strong and sustained pressure. By the end of 2016 the camp was dismantled. We must never allow it to return.
The Home Office must act now with France to end this crisis. Only with a powerful message that you cannot break into Britain will we see improvement. That's why stronger and safer borders must become a national priority.
I pressed the Home Secretary to hold urgent talks with his French counterparts after a record eight boats carrying 74 migrants arrived in Dover on Saturday.
In a meeting last night (June 3), Sajid Javid promised to renew efforts to stop illegal entrants getting into Britain across the English Channel. It also came to light that gilet jaunes protests in France are blamed for fewer police patrolling the French border over recent weekends. I made the case that UK assistance should be offered.
I told him we need to do more. If we make the Channel a joint protection zone, we can help the French secure their border when their police are too busy battling rioters in Paris. I also pressed the need for 24/7 aerial surveillance and for the French to step up the action they are taking to stop these people setting off from French beaches.
Because one thing we know around here – whether it's Sangatte or the Calais Jungle – you will only put a stop to this when migrants and traffickers know the attempts won't succeed.
We also discussed the need to ensure people traffickers are caught and brought to justice. This morning it emerged that a French court has sentenced an imam to two years in prison for helping migrants try to cross the Channel in inflatable boats. The 39-year-old Iranian national was accused of arranging several crossings from northern France to England. A 29-year-old Senegalese man who attended the mosque where the imam preaches was given nine months in jail and was banned from visiting Nord and Pas-de-Calais for three years.
I welcome these convictions – but we need to see more of them. Mr Javid agreed on the need to focus ever harder on smashing the criminal gangs behind these dangerous crossings. I hope we see urgent improvement on this whole issue – and a new, stronger agreement with the French – because stronger borders should be a national priority.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay visited the Port of Dover this week – and revealed the Government is looking to "enhance plans" at the border.
Mr Barclay met with me as well as officials from Border Force and the Port of Dover during his visit. He said he wants to use the extra time we've got to ensure, whether it's a deal or no deal, we're well prepared to leave.
During the talks, I re-iterated how the Common Transit Convention should be used to ensure smooth trade through the port. The EU confirmed in December that UK Membership of the Convention will continue after Brexit. Already used by non-EU countries like Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, Turkey, Macedonia and Serbia, it allows traders to make customs declarations and pay import duties when they arrive at their final destination.
I again underlined how we must be ready on day one to leave the EU deal or no deal. The Transit Convention means we won't need any hold-ups at the port. We need to take advantage of that. It's essential we step up no deal preparations – so we are completely ready for anything that happens."
Protecting the environment matters to us all. Whether it's looking after our countryside or tackling climate change for the next generation, these are hugely important issues.
Last week I met with residents who are concerned about proposals to build on fields near Finglesham. They are fighting plans for 3,750 homes along with schools, shops, restaurants, a doctors' surgery and a new Dover to Deal dual carriageway. I listened carefully to what they had to say. They were clear that brownfield sites like the old Tilmanstone Salads and the Betteshanger Colliery sites should be built on – not Finglesham Fields.
Therein lies the balance. There is a need for new homes – yet we must protect the environment too. Building on brownfields should enable us to have the housing we need while preserving our environment and countryside.
It's the same challenge nationally too. How can we ensure that our economy grows while guarding against the threat of climate change? The answer is we have been achieving exactly that for the past decade. Because it's incredible how much the Government has achieved on this vital issue. We've cut CO2 emissions by 3.7% a year – more than any other major industrialised country. It's been so successful that emissions are now at the level they were in 1888.
Since I became an MP, CO2 emissions have fallen by a quarter. Renewable electricity generation has quadrupled in the same period. Electricity generated from coal has fallen from almost 40% in 2012. We had our first "coal free" generation day since the industrial revolution in April. Even better, fully clean electricity now gives us over half our total.
We've also been cutting down on the plastics and micro beads that harm flora and fauna. This matters because anyone who has seen the Blue Planet knows how sea life, from the humble seahorse to the great whale, is greatly impacted by our actions.
Yet there is so much more to do if we are to properly protect our planet for our children grandchildren. I want to see us build a land powered by renewable solar electricity. From solar panels on our roofs – not solar farms in our fields. These solar panels should not simply be tasked with powering our homes. They should power zero carbon electric cars too. With advances in battery technology, this is no longer some far-off dream.
This is the future that now lies before us – that I hope will be the step change in the next decade to cut CO2 emissions even further. Indeed, environmental enterprise should be part of a wider rebirth of exports in this country – as we become a free-trading, global nation again. That way we can have strong economic growth, rising prosperity and preserve and protect our environment too.
The Government has achieved much. It has some great plans. Yet we need to go so much faster. We should aim to dump petrol, diesel and coal for good. Building a zero-carbon Britain, we can be the beacon for a cleaner planet.
Rail chiefs have confirmed that regular high speed services will continue from Deal after it emerged the Southeastern rail franchise would be extended. The number of services between Deal and London faced being reduced in the new franchise – while a timetable consultation has also been underway.
The new franchise specifications state a minimum of 12 high speed trains per day in each direction must stop at Deal and Sandwich. There are currently 14 high speed calls to London and 17 in the other direction.
I argued against the reduction in talks with rail minister Andrew Jones – and made further representations in a meeting with Southeastern Managing Director David Statham. Mr Statham has now confirmed the new timetable proposes no changes to High Speed services from Deal.
I have fought really hard to make sure we keep the number of high speed services we currently have. It's welcome that the high speed services from Deal, Walmer and Martin Mill will not change during the franchise extension. We had a long battle to get the fast train sweeping in all day, every day. It's made such a positive impact on Deal. We need to make sure that carries on.
More recently we've pressed rail bosses to improve Deal station and to act on antisocial behaviour. They need to get a grip on it so it is an even greater place to visit and travel to.
Teagan Appleby, nine-years-old and from Aylesham, is wheelchair-bound and can suffer up to 300 seizures a day. Little Teagan was born with the rare condition Isodicentric 15, a severe form of epilepsy. Last year she required life-saving treatment five times in just eight days.
Teagan's mum Emma tried everything to ease her nine-year-old daughter's pain. The one thing she couldn't try was cannabis oil – despite NHS trials showing it could dramatically reduce epileptic seizures. The alternative suggested by doctors was Teagan having risky procedures on her brain.
Understandably, Emma has been fighting to get a licence granted for Teagan to get cannabis oil treatment. Of course cannabis is a banned drug for recreational use. Yet so too is heroin. That does not stop us using it for medical treatment as morphine. Should we licence the use of medicinal cannabis to help people who are suffering like Teagan? That was the key question in a Parliamentary debate this week where I spoke in support of Teagan and why we should be brave enough to use new medicines if they will work.
This isn't about legalising cannabis for recreational use. This is about medicine that can help children in severe pain. That's why I urged the Home Secretary to intervene in Teagan's case – and welcome that he did so. Last October he announced cannabis could be medically-prescribed by specialist consultants. Yet Teagan's treatment was still delayed, firstly due to restrictive guidelines drawn up by the NHS, and then due to supply issues.
I have visited Emma and Teagan at their home in Aylesham. Teagan is so charming. Things had definitely improved but Teagan was still suffering seizures during her sleep. Emma then started fighting to get the stronger, THC form of cannabis treatment approved, to see if that could put a stop to the seizures altogether. She went to mainland Europe but it was seized on her return.
After a battle we got it returned to her and a prescription was issued. Emma tells me Teagan's condition has improved greatly. She now goes whole days without seizures – something that was extremely rare before. She can now walk short distances too.
Yet the battle is not over. Her doctor has issued a fresh prescription. But Teagan is still waiting for NHS funding for the treatment. Meanwhile she faces forking out thousands more to import the product from abroad.
Parents should not have to fight so hard for something as fundamental as their kids' health. They should be supported and helped.
That's why I have been determined to help and been speaking up for the family in Parliament. I will do everything I can to make sure the system does not stand in Emma and Teagan's way. Teagan must be given every chance for a better life.
Residents concerned about a proposed new development known as Finglesham Fields attended a meeting with me this week. Campaigners are fighting plans for 3,750 homes along with schools, shops, restaurants, a doctors' surgery and a new Dover to Deal dual carriageway. Residents turned up in force on Thursday (May 23) at his constituency office at The Strand, Walmer.
I listened carefully to what they had to say. They were clear that brownfield sites like the old Tilmanstone Salads and the Betteshanger Colliery sites should be built on first and that our green fields should be protected. I will be taking this up with the developer and the council.
Everyone knows I believe we should build on brownfield first. That we should be steadfast in protecting the environment and slow to bulldoze green fields.I have long been concerned about the death trap Dover to Deal road – which is far too congested and dangerous. There is a strong case for a new road to the North End of Deal. Yet I do not believe that means we need to bulldoze green fields.
The project, still in its infancy, has been presented to Dover District Council's forward planning department. It will be examined by DDC to determine if it is suitable for inclusion in the Local Plan, which will be decided in the autumn.
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!