17 MAY 2019

Let's set the mortgage prisoners free

The financial crash may be over a decade ago, yet people are still suffering. Especially hard-working families who have become trapped in expensive mortgage deals. Last week I presented a bill to Parliament to set these so-called mortgage prisoners free - and to forge a new covenant that would deliver a fairer deal for small business borrowers too.

Some 200,000 people across the country have become trapped by changes in mortgage regulation following the financial crash. The new rules say they can't afford payments lower than they are currently making. How can they not afford to pay less?

Take Charlotte, who is 39 years old and lives with her husband. They took out a Northern Rock mortgage in 2007. In 2010 she had twins who suffer from serious disabilities – both are wheelchair bound. They've never missed a single mortgage payment. Yet they cannot re-mortgage due to the regulators' affordability test. Why does this matter so much? Because with a fairer mortgage, they could pay much less and afford more therapies for their sick children.

So how can people like Charlotte be freed? These borrowers have proven their ability to pay for over a decade. So it makes no sense to have a computer-driven affordability test that ignores what's happening in the real world. My bill would legislate for computer says no to be overruled when reality says yes.

New laws are needed to protect small businesses borrowers too. You'd think that when they are making loan payments, they are untouchable. Yet it's all too easy to seize on a technical loan condition breach. Plenty of perfectly viable, successful businesses are wrongly ended this way. My bill would prevent a business being bankrupted by the banks if it is up to date with payments. It would also create a new Financial Services Tribunal – so small businesses that can't afford sky-high legal fees can fight back in these matters.

Legislation is also required to stop mortgages being sold off to vulture funds by the Treasury. These funds are unable to offer cheaper rates – and they are too often ruthless with homeowners and small business borrowers alike. No sales should be permitted without proper protection for borrowers.

We all know that capitalism is vital to the success of our economy – and a cornerstone of our way of life. Yet it must be tempered by responsibility and fairness. We want those who work hard to be rewarded. Yet we cannot allow people being taken unfair advantage of. That is why we need to forge a new covenant – to deliver greater fairness for borrowers and set the mortgage prisoners free.

If you have been affected by these problems, please get in touch. I want to hear your story and will do my best to help.

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10 MAY 2019

Community hub set for Deal train station

A community hub with a kitchen is set to be installed at Deal train station as part of efforts to tackle antisocial behaviour. The news follows a recent campaign by myself and Helen Charlton's volunteer groups Deal Station Gardeners and the Clean-up Crew.

Alongside commitments to install platform shelters and resurface the footbridge, Southeastern has refurbished redundant station buildings. A senior officer from British Transport Police has also been allocated specifically to the Deal area for the first time.

Elsewhere in the station, dehumidifiers have been installed to address damp which closed the toilets. They are expected to be re-opened soon. But recently installed bin covers have been vandalised – although Southeastern said the antisocial behaviour problems "appear to be improving".

I'm pleased rail bosses are stepping up to get our train stations back on track. Residents should be able to enjoy using these areas. We fought hard to get the High Speed service sweeping into the town all day, every day, but investment in the station itself was long overdue.

We also need to see the police continue to have a stronger presence there, so our station is a nicer place for everyone for years to come.

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09 MAY 2019

A record of action and a promise of more

The local election campaign trail was a great opportunity to chat to people about what matters to them. Unsurprisingly, there was a sense of deep frustration over Brexit and a strong desire to get on with it – deal or no deal. We need to leave the EU and move on.

Yet the election also produced a hugely impressive set of results. An increased majority was a real testament to the hard work, teamwork and dedication of our local team. So much progress has been made locally in recent years. We've been working tirelessly to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent.

Back in 2010 things looked bleak. Unemployment locally had rocketed 50% in the Great Recession. Yet there are now 7,700 more people in work in Dover and Deal, while there has been more than £500 million of investment.

Nearly a year ago the new £50 million St James development opened. Where Burlington House once scarred the skyline, there now stands a brand-new multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants. Meanwhile the new leisure centre is a packed-out, massive success.

The £250 million Western Docks Revival is also well underway. I was lucky enough to walk along the new pier which opened recently. It will be a great asset for our community in the years to come.

In Deal, the town's pier is undergoing its most comprehensive refurbishment with £500,000 of investment and £600,000 more to follow. The new Deal Pier Kitchen draws hundreds of visitors who can at last truly enjoy this iconic landmark. The long-awaited Regent cinema plans are progressing.

Big companies have set up shop in our district too. Multipanel UK relocated its manufacturing operation from China to Eythorne in 2014. Last year I visited their 24/7 operation, producing more than 500,000 square metres of aluminium composite panels a month. Bosses told me they have been so successful that they hope to open new production lines – and hire up to 100 more staff.

All this investment has been delivered with the lowest council tax in east Kent. This is what a strong vision and teamwork can achieve – real investment, excellent services and great value for money.

We've been able to deliver more jobs and money by getting the nation's finances back in order. Unemployment is at a record low. We've also cared for the least well off by taking more than five million people out of paying income tax altogether. And over the past year wages have been rising well above inflation.

Much has been done. Yet there is much more to do. We need more investment in our roads, including a dualled A2 and lorry parks. We must focus like a laser beam on our high streets. We must strive for stronger borders.

And we want to get on with leaving the European Union. An incredibly bright future lies ahead – for this country and for our area. Let's keep working together to deliver it.

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07 MAY 2019

Presenting a Bill to free the mortgage prisoners

I proposed a new law to free mortgage prisoners trapped in expensive deals today.

I introduced the Banking (Consumer and Small Business Protection) Bill in a Ten-Minute Rule motion in the House of Commons. It aims to help up to 200,000 mortgage prisoners across the UK impacted by affordability tests brought in after the financial crash.

In many cases they stipulate homeowners can't afford to pay less than they are currently paying – while others had their mortgages sold off to unregulated "vulture funds". The new laws would exempt reliable borrowers from the affordability tests payments – and ban the Treasury and lenders from selling mortgage deals to unregulated funds.

It's time to set the mortgage prisoners free. Every one of these 200,000 families affected has a story of how they have struggled to get by. Struggled to meet expensive payments to keep a roof over their heads.

It's insulting for them to be told they cannot afford to pay less. The Government should be lending a helping hand, not a tin ear. Capitalism is vital to the success of our economy and a cornerstone of our way of life.

Yet we know that it must be tempered by responsibility and fairness. We want people who work hard to be able to enjoy success. Yet we will not tolerate people being taken advantage of.

The Banking (Consumer and Small Business Protection) Bill also aims to protect small business borrowers and create a new Financial Services Tribunal.

Currently business loans above £25,000 are unregulated. The bill would ban the practise of seizing on technical loan condition breaches where borrowers are up to date with payments.

Meanwhile a new Financial Services Tribunal would allow small businesses to take on big banks. Currently many are too big to use the Financial Ombudsman Service, but too small to be able to afford expensive court battles.

Small businesses are the lifeblood and job creators of our economy. Every time a small business closes, part of our economy dies. We need to see them treated fairly so they focus on doing what they do best – creating jobs and making our country stronger and more successful.

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01 MAY 2019

Calling on the PM to back our campaign for better postnatal care

Prime Minister Theresa May was asked to back the campaign for better postnatal care in Kent as part of World Maternal Mental Health Week. I raised the case of Rebecca Kruza during Prime Minister's Questions today.

Rebecca took her own life in 2017 while suffering from postnatal depression, with the coroner saying more deaths could occur unless action is taken. In the House of Commons today, I asked Theresa May: "In 2017 my constituent Rebecca Kruza had her whole life ahead of her when she took her own life while suffering from postnatal depression.

"Her baby boy will now grow up without a mother. And many mothers returning to work struggle with their mental health while seeking to balance the demands of work and parenting.

"Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day. Does the PM agree that there needs to be stronger support for mothers returning to work and will she back the campaign by Rebecca's family for more specialist mother and baby units across the country?"

Prime Minister Theresa May responded: "Can I first of all thank my Honourable Friend for raising a very important issue. And secondly send condolences to the family of his constituent, particularly that young son who will be growing up without his mother.

"It's this issue of postnatal depression – that issue of people returning to work as well and balancing those childcare and work responsibilities – is an important one.

"We are looking at a new returners programme to help those who are returning to the workplace. I know my Honourable Friend the minister responsible for mental health is also doing some very good work looking at this whole question of mental health provision particularly for mothers with young babies.

"This is an area – it's right for my Honourable Friend to have raised it – it's one the Government is looking at in a number of ways.

"And we will aim to ensure that nobody else suffers in the way that his constituent and her family did."

Following Rebecca's death, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust was ordered to produce a Regulation 28 Report to explain how it will improve postnatal support. It followed the death of Rebecca Kruza, 39, from Folkestone, who took her own life at her mother's home in Alkham in June 2017.Following a traumatic labour and breastfeeding difficulties due to her baby's tongue tie and colic, Rebecca became sleep deprived before being diagnosed with postnatal depression. At her inquest Coroner Alan Blundson initially ruled the suicide could not have been prevented, but then ordered the Regulation 28 Report to Prevent Future Deaths.

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust has responded pointing to an eight-bed Mother and Baby Unit in Dartford which opened last year.

But Rebecca's mother Lyn Richardson and sister Kate Kruza say more units and wider support are needed – because the new unit serves a population of 4.5 million across Kent, Sussex and Surrey. In the absence of beds, the alternative means sectioning to a Kent hospital psychiatric unit and forced separation from the baby until a bed becomes available.

Lyn and Kate are working with me to increase provision.

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25 APR 2019

Time for real investment in our roads

Steel barriers in the middle of the carriageway. Thousands of cones weaving one way then the other. Speeds limited to 50mph. This is today's reality of the main route to the Channel Ports. The M20 has become the nation's slowest motorway.

Residents are furious – and rightly so. Operation Stack's replacement scheme Operation Brock started on March 25. This contraflow system between Junctions 8 and 9 London-bound was intended to allow traffic to flow in both directions should there be delays at Eurotunnel or the Port of Dover.

That was the intention. The reality has been yet another large section of the M20 with a reduced speed limit, joining most of the rest of the motorway where traffic flows at a snail's pace. Junction 10 has a 50mph limit because of roadworks to complete the new Junction 10A. Meanwhile Junctions 3 to 5 is being changed to become a so called "smart motorway". Both projects aren't due to be completed until 2020.

In the meantime, Kent drivers face long delays. And a speeding ticket if they even just slightly exceed the limit. With the new revenue-raising average speed cameras, motorists need to be sure to keep to a crawl for miles at a time. Maybe that's fine for those with expensive cars with cruise control, but it's not so easy for everyone else.

Yet again, this underlines why we need more investment in Kent's roads. Not Brock. Nor smart motorways. We need serious investment in wider roads and more capacity. Starting with dualling the A2. By 2030, freight traffic at Dover is projected to rise by 40%. A single carriageway A2 is simply inadequate.

There needs to be investment in off-motorway lorry parking too. Lorry parking that the Department for Transport was meant to build long ago. Kent MPs spent a long time convincing the Department for Transport to provide money for the Stanford lorry park – now we need to get that important project back on track.

Investment in our roads has been put off by successive governments. It is needed now more than ever. That's why I will continue to work with my fellow Kent MP to make the case to secure the investment we need. I recently led a call by all of East Kent's MPs and council leaders for the A2 dualling to be urgently taken forward. I am meeting the roads minister again in the coming weeks to press our case.

Real investment in Kent's roads is long overdue. Better roads to the Channel Ports is not simply a priority for our community – it is a national priority too. A smoother flow across the English Channel with fewer delays will benefit our trade and our economy. That's why I am fighting tirelessly to ensure we get a better deal – with more investment in our roads. 

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25 APR 2019

Major investment announced for Dover Castle

A total of £26 million will be invested in Dover Castle over the next ten years in a bid to attract "hundreds of thousands more visitors" to the site. Up to £10 million is set to be spent in the next four years on a major programme of works, English Heritage has confirmed.

It includes investment in car parking, new visitor experiences, extensive conservation work and improved family facilities. English Heritage's Head of Historic Properties Neil McCollum met Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke to explain the works.

Dover Castle is incredibly important to our community – a stunning piece of history that residents and visitors can enjoy. It was a real pleasure to be shown the exciting new plans including a major injection of funding. With the new shopping centre, the new leisure centre and the new seafront, it's another sign Dover is finally getting the investment it deserves.

Dover Castle is the largest castle in England and was founded in the 11th century. Some buildings even date back to the Roman era. Today visitors can climb the Great Tower to meet medieval characters, or even delve deep within Dover's White Cliffs to the Secret Wartime Tunnels, where key operations like the Dunkirk evacuation were masterminded.

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18 APR 2019

Roads to prosperity

Stronger transport links are central to delivering more jobs and money for our area. That's why I work hard to deliver road and rail improvements.

So far it's made a real difference. We fought a long battle to get the High Speed train sweeping into Deal all day, every day. This has boosted the local economy. More people than ever now commute to work and it's so much easier for tourists to visit.

This is a far cry from how things were. The previous Government had refused to extend the High Speed service to Deal, describing it as a village. Yet by working together, finally in August 2011 fast trains finally started running to Deal, Walmer and Martin Mill as a peak commuting service. This cut journey times to London by half an hour. It was an incredible success.

The next step was to extend it again – this time to an all-day service. Another campaign saw Transport Ministers announce the move from January 2015.

This background is important – because the pace of positive change to Deal's economy has increased alongside. Better transport links is one of the reasons our area has attracted more than £500 million of investment in recent years, including 7,700 extra local jobs. Having fought so hard for these successes, it's vital we build on them.

That's why I have held urgent talks with rail minister Andrew Jones after it emerged the number of direct High Speed trains between Deal and London could reduce in future. The Minister was left in no doubt about my strength of feeling on this issue – and I hope that we will now see action.

I also called on him to invest more in local stations. Led by Helen Charlton's volunteer groups Deal Station Gardeners and the Clean-up Crew, Deal station has been much more cared for recently. More investment is planned with a new deck and steps, while major improvements to the footbridge at Dover Priory are also in the pipeline. To address antisocial behaviour, a senior officer from British Transport Police has been allocated to Deal for the first time.

Our area deserves the best possible transport links. We've achieved a lot on rail. Yet our roads need investment too. We need to see the A2 dualled all the way to the port. We need a better road between Dover and Deal – because the A258 is so overcrowded and dangerous. And we need to see the M20 lorry parks that have long been promised finally delivered.

These schemes are vital to unlocking our area's potential. Because prosperity comes down a train line and a dual carriageway. Transport investment pays for itself and boosts economies in communities like ours.

We need to keep up the momentum – so we continue to speed along the road to greater prosperity in the years to come.

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17 APR 2019

M20 is now the nation's slowest motorway

The M20 has become the slowest motorway in the UK and residents across Kent are furious.

Steel barriers were put up between Junctions 8 and 9 London-bound, so traffic can flow in both directions when there are delays at the Channel ports. But it means another large section of the M20 has a reduced speed limit.

Junction 10 currently has a 50mph limit because of roadworks to complete the new Junction 10A, while Junctions 3 to 5 has one during upgrades to become a "smart motorway". Both projects are due to be completed in 2020.

In recent days a decision had been made to "deactivate" Operation Brock by returning the 70mph limit on the three coastbound lanes. But the steel barriers on the London-bound side, including the 50mph limit, will remain in place.

Residents are furious. Operation Brock is not a solution. It means yet another section of our motorway has a reduced speed limit. The M20 now has to be the slowest motorway in the country. The most frustrating part is there are solutions and they are simple. We need long-term investment – in things like lorry parks and a dualled A2. This had been needed for years. If we just got on with it, we wouldn't need these bizarre, go-slow traffic schemes.

In recent weeks I arranged for a joint letter from all east Kent MPs and council leaders to ministers at the Department for Transport. It urged them to release funding for a feasibility study to dual the A2 to the Port of Dover, and for the scheme to be included in the next Road Investment Strategy. I am due to have talks with roads minister in the coming weeks.

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15 APR 2019

Working to improve postnatal care in Kent

I am working to improve postnatal care in Kent.  A coroner has said deaths could occur unless action is taken - following the suicide of a mother whose family are my constituents. 

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust was ordered to produce a Regulation 28 Report to explain how it will improve postnatal support. It followed the death of Rebecca Kruza, 39, from Folkestone, who took her own life at her mother's home in Alkham in June 2017.

Following a traumatic labour and breastfeeding difficulties due to her baby's tongue tie and colic, Rebecca became sleep deprived before being diagnosed with postnatal depression. At her inquest Coroner Alan Blundson initially ruled the suicide could not have been prevented, but then ordered the Regulation 28 Report to Prevent Future Deaths.

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust has responded pointing to an eight-bed Mother and Baby Unit in Dartford which opened last year. But Rebecca's mother Lyn Richardson and sister Kate Kruza say more units and wider support are needed – because the new unit serves a population of 4.5 million across Kent, Sussex and Surrey. In the absence of beds, the alternative means sectioning to a Kent hospital psychiatric unit and forced separation from the baby until a bed becomes available.

Mental health treatment is improving but we can do more – particularly for new mothers who are under extra pressure in lots of ways. I am backing Lyn and Kates's campaign for better provision. I have contacted the chief executive of the trust and I hope we can all work on this together.

Rebecca's mother Lyn Richardson, who has fought to get the coroner to order the report, was the person who discovered her daughter in June 2017 – while holding her baby. Lyn feels a lack of professional communication, information sharing, safeguarding and risky assessment and follow procedures have been identified as responsible for failures."

Lyn added the family was also passionate about providing local Early Help and Mother and Baby Respite Homes for mild to moderate forms of postnatal depression. She feels it will prevent unnecessary escalation to severe mental health and avoid the need for psychiatric interventions and hospitalisation.

The family are carrying out a survey called "What Mums Need" to identify required improvements in perinatal mental health support Information can be found at the Facebook page "Everglow the Rebecca Kruza Foundation" where people can also donate.

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11 APR 2019

It's time to leave the EU and move on

The past week has witnessed incredible scenes in Parliament – not least the first tied vote seen for 25 years. The 2016 EU referendum deeply divided the nation. It is therefore unsurprising that there has been such strength of feeling on both sides of the debate.

Yet here in Dover and Deal there was a stronger consensus. Some two-thirds of voters backed leaving the EU. My mandate was clear. To leave the EU and take back control of our laws, trade, money and borders.

We are of course very much on the front line of this decision. So as your MP, I have worked tirelessly to make sure that our area is as ready as it can be, deal or no deal. I set out a blueprint for this Ready on Day One approach. My series of papers detailed how customs and border security systems could be overhauled and brought into a single Government department to ensure order at the border.

We formed a Brexit Task Force at Dover District Council. I have met time and again with Transport Ministers, Treasury Ministers and Ministers from the Brexit Department to press the case for early preparation and readiness. I have asked the Prime Minister in Parliament for greater investment in our borders and to make sure we are ready on day one, prepared for every eventuality. Millions of pounds have been secured for preparations – from additional resources for Kent Police and councils to investment in the Channel Ports and transport infrastructure.

Yet Brexit has now become all consuming. We need to move on and focus on the many other things that matter to us all – especially jobs, schools, hospitals, home ownership and policing. I am against a second referendum. It would simply mean endless Brexit. We need to break out of this Brexit Groundhog Day, not have another year leading up to yet another Brexit referendum. The referendum was held. The decision was made. It's been nearly three years. It's now time to move on.

So where do we go from here? In Parliament I have voted for a no deal departure and against staying in the Customs Union and Single Market that would give us no control over EU immigration and force us to accept EU laws, including EU trade policy. I have also voted against a second referendum and opposed an Article 50 extension. I believe we have talked about Brexit for long enough. We now need to leave the EU – deal or no deal – and move on.

In the meantime, I continue to focus on delivering for our community. We have been able to achieve an incredible amount here in Dover and Deal – record jobs, more cash for healthcare, over £500m of investment and so much more.

For me it's time to believe in Britain – the global trading power we can be and the economic powerhouse we can build. Let's leave the EU now and move on. Our best years are yet to come.

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08 APR 2019

Social media giants must do more to tackle trolls

A family faces waiting more than a year for police to prosecute their son's killer who it is believed has been sending them abusive messages from prison.

Chloe Bednar, 17, was targeted in January this year on Snapchat. Her brother Breck was killed in 2014 after being groomed through online gaming by Lewis Daynes, who was jailed for life after pleading guilty to murder. The sickening messages sent to Chloe recount her brother's murder in graphic detail.

Kent Police is lodging a request to Snapchat to identify the accounts which sent the messages. Yet they have been advised such a request could take 12 to 18 months to process. I met with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright last week to argue that social media giants should be forced to act more quickly.

Following the meeting, the Government published a White Paper on Online Harms today.

It pledges to "work with law enforcement to review whether the current powers are sufficient to tackle anonymous abuse online" and that they "expect companies to do substantially more to keep their users safe and counter online abuse".

The content of these messages was vile and deeply distressing for Breck's family. Chloe is just 17 years old and still grieving her brother's death.  Social media giants like Snapchat must do more to help the police bring the culprits to justice. Otherwise sick trolls will continue to pour out this poison without fear of punishment. The social media companies provide the platform for these twisted individuals to spew their hatred. It's time they took responsibility – and put a stop to it now.

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05 APR 2019

Fighting for better train services

I held talks with rail ministers after it emerged the number of direct high speed trains between Deal and Sandwich and London could reduce in the next franchise.

New 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. The number of high speed trains between London and Dover will remain unaffected.

Myself and South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay demanded a meeting with rail minister Andrew Jones to call for more direct services for Deal and Sandwich.

We fought so hard to get the fast train sweeping into Deal all day, every day. Now we want to secure more trains - especially at rush hour. The minister was left in no doubt about our strength of feeling on this. I was grateful he took our concerns on board and hope that we now see action.

The high speed service to Dover was extended to Sandwich, Deal, Walmer and Martin Mill in 2011 following a long campaign. It meant journey times to London were reduced from around two hours to one-and-a-half. The Department for Transport is yet to choose an operator for the next South Eastern franchise, stating a decision will be made later this year. Current providers Govia as well as Stagecoach and Abellio have made bids.

We also called on the Department to improve station facilities. At Sandwich around £4 million is being invested ahead of The Open golf event at Royal St George's. And following a recent campaign, major refurbishment works have been agreed at Deal and Dover Priory train stations. Deal will get a new deck and steps as part of a complete refurbishment, while major improvements to the footbridge at Dover Priory have also been confirmed

To address reported antisocial behaviour at Deal including "train surfing", a senior officer from British Transport Police has been allocated to the station for the first time.

I was pleased rail bosses responded to our campaign and stepped up to get our train stations back on track. Yet I am determined to keep fighting. Our area has benefited so much from improved train services and deserves the best possible transport links.

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04 APR 2019

Getting a better deal for taxpayers' money

Too much of our taxpayer cash is wasted. Whether it's building an airport where planes can't land, or NHS trusts ordering fax machines long after they've become obsolete, these tales of fiscal farce have drawn public ridicule for years.

Next year, the Government will spend £840 billion. That's some £31,000 per household - an eye watering sum of money. Yet incredibly there is hardly any Parliamentary oversight of how this money is spent.

In fact, there's so little oversight that a month ago just under £300 billion of spending was voted through by the Commons without any debate – or even a vote. This needs to change, which is why I am making the case to establish a powerful Parliamentary spending watchdog, a Budget Committee.

In recent years, parliaments around the world have been setting up budget committees and parliamentary budget offices – such as the well-known Congressional Budget Office in the US. Yet our Parliament has not kept up. In fact we are so far behind that experts consider the Commons to have one of the weakest spending oversight systems in the developed world.

With a powerful Budget Committee, Treasury figures would be subject to independent checking. Detailed questions could be asked before projects and plans are signed off. Accordingly, before Parliament signs off on further vast sums for projects like HS2, serious work could be done on where it is going, what difference it will make and whether existing budgetary governance is adequate for that project. Taking a longer-term approach would mean risks as well as long term costs and benefits could be assessed.

The work of the Budget Committee would not just apply to the oversight of individual projects. It should also cover Government spending reviews too. All too often complex and detailed budgetary work is decided in a flurry of salami-slicing as the Treasury rushes to meet the spending review deadline. With a powerful and independent Parliamentary Budget Office, spending reviews could be made rolling, led by Parliament, with a zero-based approach focused on cutting waste and seeking efficiencies.

We have achieved so much in managing the economy. Employment is now at record highs, while wages are rising above inflation. In Dover and Deal 7,700 more jobs have been created since 2010. That has been driven by more than £500 million of investment, including a new shopping centre, a new leisure centre, the fast train and major seafront regeneration.

Now it is time to focus on spending taxpayer's hard earned money better. If we manage to save just one per cent of that £840 billion, that would mean £8.4 billion – a sum equal to 2p off basic rate tax, and not far off from the entire annual spending on policing.

It's time we got more bang for the taxpayer buck.

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03 APR 2019

Calling on ministers to step up security in the Channel

I have called on ministers to step up security in the English Channel following a recent spike in attempts by migrants to cross in small boats. The Home Office responded confirming aerial surveillance is in place to deter people trafficking and 20 migrants have been returned to France. But I insisted aerial surveillance must be 24/7 – and more migrants should be returned.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes responded: "My Honourable Friend is right to emphasise that it absolutely is people traffickers and organised crime gangs who are encouraging people to make these extremely perilous crossings.

"We do deploy aerial surveillance but the House will appreciate that I will not be able to discuss these covert assets in detail.

"He is right to emphasise that we are working with a number of member states including France to facilitate returns and around 20 individuals who have crossed via small boat have been returned to date. Further returns are in progress."

I am concerned the better weather will lead to even more attempts to cross the Channel.

We must focus on the ruthless people traffickers who prey on vulnerable people. The only way to stop them is ensuring they can't successfully smuggle anyone into the UK.

That's why the Channel should be made a joint security zone with aerial surveillance, so we can find and return boats safely back to the French coast.

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01 APR 2019

Another successful Jobs Fair

Hundreds of people came along to my seventh Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair on Friday. Jobseekers spoke to staff from dozens of organisations offering jobs, apprenticeships and training schemes at Dover Town Hall on March 29.

The main sponsors for this year's Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair were P&O Ferries. Dover Technical College, electricals firm Megger and food manufacturers Bakkavor also contributed to the event. Charlie spoke to workers from all the businesses who came along to meet prospective employees. A wide variety of stalls showcased opportunities including Border Force and Red Eagle Recruitment, whose spinning wheel gave people the chance to win freebies.

This is what my Jobs and Apprenticeships Fairs are all about. I'm passionate about getting people into work – and helping them find jobs which are right for them. It's so important to get employers and jobseekers together in the same room, so they can talk through opportunities face-to-face.

Our area is full of hard-working, talented people. Many want a foot on the ladder, a new challenge, or to discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. We must ensure we give them the chance to do so.

Since 2010, more than £500 million has been invested in Dover and Deal, including a new shopping centre, a new leisure centre, the fast train and a major seafront regeneration. More than 7,700 jobs have been created as well as more than 6,000 apprenticeships. Wages are rising ahead of inflation at 3.3% on the year, the biggest increase since 2008.

Despite all the worries about Brexit, we have built a robust economy. These really are exciting times for Dover and Deal – because our beautiful corner of Kent has so much potential. I'm more determined than ever to work hard to deliver more jobs and money to our area.

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29 MAR 2019

Dover gets new funds to tackle rough sleeping

Dover will get an extra £175,000 to tackle homelessness after I held talks with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The area was not in the 83 which were considered worst for rough sleeping and received part of a new £30 million fund.

But following talks with Secretary of State James Brokenshire in February, Dover was selected to receive part of an additional £12 million pot this week. Dover District Council will now receive £175,000 along with Folkestone and Hythe District Council, as part of their joint initiative. It comes after the annual central government grant for homelessness prevention in Dover increased 15.1% on the previous year – from £150,219 to £172,842.

I'm pleased the Secretary of State listened to the serious concerns I raised with him. The numbers in Dover might not have looked as high as other areas, but everyone knows it is a problem. We need to do more to tackle homelessness. People must get the help so they can eventually support themselves. It's great to see the Government investing in the services we need to help people here in Dover and Deal.

Across the country the funding will provide for over 750 new staff focused on rough sleeping. It includes outreach, specialist mental health and substance misuse workers. It will also provide for over 2,650 new bed spaces in emergency, temporary and settled accommodation.

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28 MAR 2019

Let's build a global Britain

I have always been clear we must respect the referendum result and leave the EU, deal or no deal.

Sadly, people who never accepted that will not allow us to leave without a deal - and look set to force through a soft Brexit or even a second referendum.

I believe this would cause serious damage to this country's great tradition of democracy. It would also lead to endless argument over Brexit - when people want us to get on with it and focus on other hugely important things, like schools, hospitals, home ownership and law and order.

I will therefore give my support to the Withdrawal Agreement. Because as some of the longest and strongest supporters of Brexit have said, while it is not a good deal, it is better than not leaving at all. And that is the choice we now face.

It still means an end to billions for Brussels bureaucrats. An end to uncontrolled immigration. An end to having to adopt new EU laws on tax, the environment, labour, state aid and business. New controls over farming and fishing.

Over the next two years, after we have left the EU, strong leadership will give us the opportunity to negotiate a positive future relationship and escape the Backstop trap.

That is where I believe our efforts should now be focused. Our goal should be nothing less than a truly global Britain.

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25 MAR 2019

Talks over future of Kent Mining Museum

I have asked the Government's Further Education Commissioner to allow East Kent College to take over the Kent Mining Museum project in Betteshanger.

The £9.5 million scheme was said to be "85% finished" until the resignations of the deputy principal and chief executive of the Hadlow Group, which was funding the project. The Further Education Commissioner has since formally intervened over concerns understood to be related to the group's finances.

I attempted to break the impasse at Betteshanger by asking the Further Education Commissioner to hand the site over to East Kent College for educational use. Last week, I met with the project managers at Betteshanger and builders Marpaul Southern Ltd to see the situation for himself.

We need to get this project back on track. It's so nearly there. Handing it over to East Kent College could be the answer. This facility would be great for our community, celebrating its mining heritage alongside a range of activities for families to enjoy. I'm doing everything I can to ensure it's completed.

Work at the 121-hectare derelict colliery first stopped after problems building on a spoil heap, before restarting in September 2017. The Sandwich Road building is set to be as long as London's iconic Gherkin tower is tall. Set among the 250-acre country park, it is meant to become home to Kent Mining Museum, a green energy centre, cycle hire and change facilities, learning and conference spaces, a shop, a café and outside seating and decking.

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22 MAR 2019

First homes at Connaught Barracks in Dover due for construction

Developers say the first 20 dwellings at Connaught Barracks in Dover will start being built by the end of this year.

A recent public exhibition displayed plans for 300 homes, with 64 due in the first phase at the Officers' Mess on the southern end of the former barracks site. A total of 500 homes have been earmarked for construction by Homes England. Connaught Barracks was selected as one of just five sites in the whole country to receive a share of a substantial government grant to build starter homes.

I visited on Thursday (March 21) to meet with Senior Development Manager Allert Riepma and Construction Manager Barry Seeley. I was pleased to see things are now moving forward having long called for faster progress at the site.

We all want Dover and Deal to be a place where you can get a job, have a home to call your own and raise a family. I'm passionate about reversing the decline of home ownership. That's why I have been supporting local developments at Connaught Barracks and Farthingloe. We must do more to help young people and give everyone a chance to get on the housing ladder.

An application for the Officers' Mess site was lodged in September, detailing plans for 64 new homes off Dover Road. In total 39 three bedroom houses, 23 four bedroom houses, and two two-bedroom houses will be built. Work started on the demolition of the old buildings in 2016, originally due for completion in spring 2017.

However a series of delays pushed construction work back. I called for faster progress on many occasions, including directly to ministers.

We need to build more homes and ensure they go to the local families who need them. That's why I back the Help to Buy scheme and have called on ministers to extend it beyond 2021. It's helped more than 200 local families to buy their first home.

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21 MAR 2019

A brighter future for Dover and Deal

We've come a long way together since 2010. Much has been achieved – yet there is much more to do. As we leave the EU, we need to think about the kind of Britain we want to build.

Here in Dover and Deal much has been delivered. Over £500 million of investment in our area. 7,700 more people in work than back in 2010.

We have a strong economy and wages are rising. We've delivered a new Dover hospital and safeguarded the future of Deal's Hospital. Meanwhile education standards are also up with 27 local schools improving their Ofsted ratings. School budgets are on the increase too, while early years providers and primary schools are in the UK top 10.

Yet that is not all. The town of Deal is on the rise, with the fast train having made an incredible difference. While in Dover, Burlington House no longer scars the skyline – in its place is the bustling St James development. The Port of Dover is now Forever England and seeing investment with the £250m Western Docks Revival.

So far so good. Yet what about the future? Brexit is a great opportunity to reshape our country. We can build a Britain that delivers a better deal for working people. One that will lower taxes, starting with the lowest paid. Big business needs to pay a fairer share of taxes – and without having complex EU laws it will be easier to force them to do so. We also need a better deal for consumers with big energy suppliers, big banks and the like broken up to promote competition.

It's important to build a Britain everyone can be part of. A Britain that doesn't just work for the big cities – but for all parts of the country. That's why we need a renaissance of the regions, which would see more investment in the roads we need, skills, investment zones, free ports and economy boosting measures that will boost every corner of our land.

We also need a Britain that works for our community. More homes are needed in Dover and Deal to help for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. The A2 needs to be dualled and everyone knows there needs to be better access to Deal. Greater access to health care is needed locally to save people long journeys. Making Dover a free port would power investment forward there too.

And more investment is needed in further education colleges to give our young people the best possible start in life. With the rise in county lines drugs gangs, it's clearly time for more police investment too. Yet we can only deliver all of this with a strong economy.

This is an exciting time for our country. The next few weeks may not be easy – yet I believe that if we hold our nerve, we can move forward to leave the EU and focus on the things that matter to us all.

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15 MAR 2019

Investing in our border security

Attempts to break into Britain are becoming ever more brazen. We must remain vigilant here at the Dover frontline – because these dangerous incidents will only stop when traffickers know they will not succeed.

Just the other week, hundreds of migrants stormed a ferry docked at the Port of Calais. Dozens clambered aboard and a small group scaled the funnel. Others hid inside the ship. It must have been a terrifying experience for the crew. The French authorities need to explain how on earth such a shocking security lapse took place.

They also need to get a grip of their militant unions. Last week a strike in France caused chaos at the border. French officers decided to needlessly enforce regulations in pedantic detail. This was about pay and conditions and nothing to do with Brexit. It is surely time they found a less disruptive way of conducting workplace negotiations – one which doesn't undermine our border security. Lorries were left queuing 15 miles back as far as Dunkirk, as groups of migrants gathered nearby waiting to sneak aboard.

These incidents risk making Calais a migrant magnet once again. We will never forget the horrors of the Jungle – a desolate place where vulnerable people lived in squalor. For the truckers it was like running a gauntlet, with burning branches thrown across the highway and traffickers revving chainsaws by 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 and by the end of 2016 the camp was dismantled. We must never allow it to return. Not just for our security – but to protect people from the traffickers seeking to exploit them for the evil trade.

Because as we have seen with the recent spike in crossings in small boats, the traffickers don't care a jot for people's safety. Women and children – even toddlers – have been crammed into unseaworthy vessels, then kicked into the Channel in the most appalling weather conditions.

Our campaign to put a stop to it has been vital. Home Secretary Sajid Javid accepted my invitation to visit Dover, where he was able to see first-hand how our heroic lifeboat crews, Border Force and emergency services work tirelessly along the coast. He soon agreed to have Border Force cutters returned from the Mediterranean, re-assigning other patrol boats in the meantime. He then met his French counterpart and struck a joint agreement, which included sending unsuccessful asylum seekers back to France.

Yet there is much more to do. I want to see the English Channel made a joint UK/France security zone with round the clock aerial surveillance, so migrants can be picked up in French waters and returned safely to France. Because unless we send a powerful message that you cannot break into Britain, traffickers are encouraged and the migrant crisis will escalate. As will the risk of a tragedy in the Channel.

We must do more. Investing in our border security should be a national priority.

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11 MAR 2019

Social media giants must crack down on vile abuse

The sister of a murdered 14-year-old boy has been sent vile messages on social media by someone claiming to be her brother's killer. Chloe Bednar, 17, was targeted in January this year on Snapchat.

Her brother Breck was killed in 2014 after being groomed through online gaming by Lewis Daynes – who was jailed for life after pleading guilty to murder. The sickening messages sent to Chloe recount her brother's murder in graphic detail.

Chloe's mum Lorin LaFave contacted me to ask for his help in ensuring the police can identify the culprit behind the messages and bring him to justice. Ms LaFave and Breck's father Barry, who lives in Surrey, met with me in Westminster last month.

I have since teamed up with Barry's MP, Chris Philp, to help the family. We have raised our serious concerns about the case with Kent Police's Chief Constable Alan Pughsley and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott. We urged them to contact Snapchat in order to obtain information about the device, account and user identity from which the messages were sent. We are also calling on Snapchat to immediately release the information to the police.

The content of these messages is vile and deeply distressing for Breck's family. Chloe is just 17 years old and still grieving her brother's death. Social media giants like Snapchat must do more to help the police bring the culprits to justice. Otherwise sick trolls will continue to pour out this poison without fear of punishment. The social media companies provide the platform for these twisted individuals to spew their hatred. It's time they took responsibility – and put a stop to it now.

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08 MAR 2019

Remembering the victims of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster

A ceremony was held in Dover to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster.

The families and friends of those who lost their lives and many Dovorians were in attendance at the remembrance service at St Mary's Church.

I was among those paying their respects.

A roll-call was read out of the names of the 193 people who lost their lives when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge on March 6th 1987.

 The people of Dover will never forget this terrible tragedy. Yet again large numbers turned out for this deeply moving service – as they rightly do every year.

We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on.

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08 MAR 2019

Working to be ready at the Dover and Deal frontline

We've long been fighting for more funding locally to boost Brexit preparations at the Dover frontline. Ever since the referendum we've worked hard to get the Government to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.

Not only is it a sensible precaution, it's the best way of securing a good deal for our country. European leaders need to know we mean business and are prepared to walk away.

It's also important for our area. Nowhere will preparations be more needed than at Dover and the Tunnel. They account for around a third of the UK's entire trade in goods. It's in everyone's interests that traffic continues to flow.

That's why back in 2016 I got together with industry experts and worked up a blueprint. It set out how we could be prepared for every eventuality – by investing to create a modern, world-leading border.

As a result, the Chancellor set aside £3 billion for no-deal preparations. We worked with Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner to secure £850,000 for Kent Police. Most recently I held talks with Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, demanding more cash for the Channel Ports. Last week he announced nearly £300,000 for Dover District Council.

The Dover Brexit Taskforce met again this week to review preparations. Much has been done. Yet there was one key area of concern – using Manston Airport as a lorry park. The idea that lorries will leave the M20, cross Detling Hill and go to Manston makes little sense. An even greater concern is that lorries would then be expected to travel down the often single track A256 and then enter the port by the A2's single track section. I fear this will not work and leave Dover and Deal cut off.

Moreover, the priority must be to stop port traffic causing gridlock in Dover town. A ticket system or number plate technology need to be considered. That way any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.

I've spent a lot of time making our case. I brought fellow Kent MPs to the Port of Dover at the end of last year, so they could see first-hand just how vital it is that we keep trucks moving. I've met numerous ministers there too. We had MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council around the table for a 'no deal' summit at the Department for Transport with the Roads Minister.

Because it's vital we get this right. I am determined to keep up the pressure so we can be prepared for every eventuality.

Brexit is an opportunity to be grasped – not a problem to be managed. That's why we must make the most of it, while being fully prepared.

Much has been done. Now we just need to have a sensible plan to enable us to be as prepared as we can be, deal or no deal.

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06 MAR 2019

MPs visit Port of Dover ahead of Brexit day

The Port of Dover hosted Brexit-backing Conservative MPs to discuss their plans to keep freight traffic moving smoothly after the UK leaves the European Union. The visit last Friday (March 1st) was organised by myself.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson MP and Marcus Fysh MP joined me for talks with port chiefs at Harbour House. We then visited traffic control in the Eastern Docks – to see first-hand how the port keeps lorries, cars and coaches moving freely.

It was the second time in the space of two weeks that Mr Paterson and Mr Fysh had visited Dover. They also met with local customs agents in February – who insist they can be ready for Brexit, deal or no deal. We are urging the Government to engage more with the East Kent customs experts.

It's been great to welcome Owen and Marcus to Dover – so they can see first-hand how we can make Brexit work here at the Channel Ports. The Port of Dover has a clear plan to keep lorries moving through the docks. This is vital as we must ensure traffic is kept out of Dover town.

I have urged Ministers to engage more with the custom agents we have here in our historic corner of Kent. People seem to have forgotten that these guys made things work before we joined the EU's Single Market – and they have the expertise to make it work again!

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01 MAR 2019

Fighting for more investment, jobs and money in Dover & Deal

We've been working tirelessly to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent.

Back in 2010, things looked bleak. Unemployment locally had rocketed 50% in the Great Recession. More investment was badly needed in Dover and Deal.

Over the past decade we have come a long way. There are now 7,700 more people in work in Dover and Deal than in 2010. Meanwhile, more than £500 million has been invested in our area.

Nearly a year ago the new £50 million St James development opened. Where once Burlington House scarred the skyline there now stands a brand new multiplex cinema, shops and restaurants. It's a symbol of how much has changed.

Meanwhile, the £250 million Western Docks Revival is well underway, with the new seafront pier set to open by this summer. Half of this project's huge workforce are from East Kent. And by sourcing material and workers from our area, the port says there has already been a £157 million boost to the local economy. From the new marina curve, people will be able to relax while watching ferries sailing in and out of the port.

In Deal, the town's pier has already been transformed through £500,000 of investment – with £600,000 more to follow. The new Deal Pier Kitchen now draws hundreds of visitors who can at last truly enjoy this iconic landmark.

Big companies have set up shop in our district too. Multipanel UK relocated its manufacturing operation from China to Eythorne in 2014. I recently visited to see first-hand their 24/7 operation, producing more than 500,000 square metres of aluminium composite panels a month. Bosses told me they have been so successful that they hope to open new production lines – and hire up to 100 more staff.

We've been able to deliver more jobs and money by getting the nation's finances back in order and strengthening our economy. As a result, unemployment is now at a record high, rising 3.55 million since 2010. We've also helped the least well off by taking more than five million people out of paying income tax altogether. And over the past year wages have increased by 3.4% too.

We need to keep building on this important work. This time next month – on March 29th – I will be holding my seventh annual jobs fair. Every year we welcome hundreds of people to Dover Town Hall to meet with firms such as P&O Ferries and Megger, as well as local colleges and councils. I'm really looking forward to welcoming more people this year and helping them find the right job for them.

So much has changed in Dover and Deal in recent years. Yet we all know there is more to do. I will do everything I can to keep bringing more investment, jobs and money to our corner of Kent.

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27 FEB 2019

Major works agreed at our train stations

Major refurbishment works have been agreed at Deal and Dover Priory train stations.

At Deal, damp and mould on the walls will be addressed with canopy drainage in the next three weeks, according to Southeastern. This will be followed by replacing signage with vinyl and painting the footbridge, which will get a new deck and steps as part of a complete refurbishment between 2022 and 2023.

At Dover Priory, Network Rail says it has included major improvements to the footbridge in its next control period. It has also commissioned a report on works to the canopy on platform 2.

To address reported antisocial behaviour including "train surfing", a senior officer from British Transport Police has been allocated specifically to the Deal area.

The improvements follow a campaign led by myself and local resident Helen Charlton's volunteer groups Deal Station Gardeners and the Clean-up Crew.

I'm delighted rail bosses have stepped up to get our train stations back on track. Residents should be able to enjoy using these areas – without fear of being subjected to antisocial behaviour. We fought hard to get the High Speed service sweeping into the towns all day, every day, but investment in the stations was long overdue.

With increased police presence promised as well, the stations in Dover and Deal will hopefully be much nicer places for years to come.

Helen Charlton said: "I would like to express gratitude for the continuing efforts that are being made to the improve Deal Station.

"The very welcome news that Network Rail are finally set to improve some of the structures, and the Transport Police are to increase their staffing is indeed excellent, not only for the station and its staff but for the residents of Deal and its ever increasing number of visitors and commuters.

"We are delighted that our efforts and successful communication with our MP are paying dividends, and appreciate him taking up our concerns and pushing for action. We very much look forward to continuing our voluntary work with added enthusiasm."

Anyone interested in helping Helen and the Clean-up Crew should contact helench61@yahoo.co.uk

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22 FEB 2019

My seventh Jobs Fair coming soon

I will hold my seventh annual Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair on "Brexit Day". More than 30 firms are already signed up to have stalls at Dover Town Hall on Friday, March 29th.

Jobseekers can speak to P&O Ferries, Megger, Kent Police, Viking Maritime Group, East Kent Hospitals and many other employers on the day. Schools, colleges and universities will also be represented at the event.

I'm delighted that so many firms have already signed up to my seventh jobs fair – a real vote of confidence in Brexit Britain. I'm passionate about getting people into work and helping them find jobs which are right for them.

It's so important to get employers and jobseekers together in the same room, so they can talk through opportunities face-to-face. Dover and Deal are full of hard-working, talented people. Many want a foot on the ladder, a new challenge, or to discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. We must ensure we give them the chance to do so.

Since 2010, more than £500 million has been invested in Dover and Deal. Meanwhile, 7,700 more people are in work and 6,000 apprenticeships have been created.

These really are exciting times for Dover and Deal. Our beautiful corner of Kent has so much potential. I'm more determined than ever to work hard to deliver more jobs and money to our area.

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22 FEB 2019

Time for a Renaissance of the Regions

Last week in the House of Commons, I called on the Prime Minister to do more to support areas like Dover and Deal after we leave the EU. We must ensure that a renaissance of the regions – including in coastal towns like ours – is at the very heart of building Brexit Britain.

Theresa May agreed that it is vital to support "left behind" communities. There is no doubt that the 2016 EU referendum was a vote to take back control and for change. A vote heard loudest in the historic towns and regions of our nation – but far less so in the big cities that account for so much of our national wealth.

People in Dover and Deal are proud of their towns and their community. Yet many feel deeply that Britain works for the big cities, but not for communities like ours. That's why since 2010 I've been fighting hard for us to get our fair share – and to ensure our voice is heard.

We've been battling for stronger borders – dismantling the Calais Jungle and tackling the people trafficking and illegal immigration we have seen for so long here at the Dover frontline.

We've been fighting county lines drugs gangs – getting stronger sentences for the dealers and more police officers on our streets. Just last week we secured £800,000 for the St Giles Trust charity, which has a proven track record of tackling these drugs gangs locally.

We've worked hard to deliver a fairer share of healthcare – getting the new £24 million Buckland Hospital built and safeguarding Deal Hospital. A new £30 million East Kent Medical School is on the way too, so more GPs and nurses can be trained locally.

School standards are on the rise too and the number people in our community with no qualifications has halved. Our early years education is ranked the second best in the entire country. And we delivered a £25 million new school building for Goodwin Academy – a school on the up.

We've also delivered more jobs and investment in our area. With the St James cinema and shops, the transformed Deal Pier, the new leisure centre and the Western Docks Revival, more than £500 million has been invested since 2010. And 7,700 more jobs have been created.

Yet this should be just the start. Brexit Britain must provide a fairer share for Dover and Deal. That means better road links for our area – with the A2 dualled and for a modern link road from the A256 to northern Deal. Dover should be made a free port to attract even more investment.

Brexit Britain must be a fairer country – one where big businesses are made to pay a fair share of taxes. It's time for a level tax playing field between town centre shops and online giants like Amazon. Our high streets are hubs of our communities. That's why I'm backing the bid by Dover Town Team to revitalise Market Square. And I'm working with the council to secure cash from the Government's Future High Streets Fund.

We must deliver a renaissance of the regions – and we need to get on with it. We need to leave the EU no later than March 29th and start building Brexit Britain.


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20 FEB 2019

Brexit cash boost for Dover District Council

Nearly £300,000 in Brexit preparation cash is being handed to Dover District Council (DDC). The Government funding boost is to be used to plan for the impact of leaving the European Union at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.

DDC acts as the Port Health Authority at both the Dover docks and Channel Tunnel – and will receive £272,724 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Folkestone and Hythe District Council will also receive funds.

It comes after I held crunch talks with Communities Secretary James Brokenshire earlier this month – demanding more cash for the Channel Ports. I've long been fighting for more funding to boost Brexit preparations at the Dover frontline. So I'm delighted ministers have listened and handed more than £500,000 extra cash to support our local councils' work at the Channel Ports. It's vital that we are ready on day one to leave the EU and keep trade flowing across the border.

Today's announcement is a welcome step forward. I will keep doing everything I can in Parliament to make our case – and urge transport chiefs to ensure traffic is kept out of Dover town.

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19 FEB 2019

Dozens helped into work by Dover Jobs Club

Dozens of people have been helped into employment, training and voluntary work in recent months by the Dover Jobs Club. Free weekly sessions are run by Southern Housing Group at the Big Local unit in the Charlton Centre.

Employment skills officer Sarah Hampton told me that they offer employment and benefits support, alongside free computer access. The group meets every Tuesday between 10am and 2pm on a first come, first serve basis. Eight laptops have been funded for Big Local as part of the project.

Ms Hampton said she has been running the Job Club for about three years now. In the last three months they've had around 168 people attend, helping around 10 into employment, around 10 into voluntary work and around 10 into training.

This is a really great project offering free help and support in a friendly setting. It builds on work across the country in recent years to improve employment prospects. In Dover and Deal alone there are 7,700 more people in work since 2010. As well as more jobs, in our corner of Kent we have fought hard for more investment. We tore down Burlington House and the St James shopping and cinema complex has risen in its place.

On top of that wages are now growing well ahead of inflation. And all this 'despite Brexit'. Yet it's vital we keep building on that strong economy – and deliver a brighter future for our area.

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15 FEB 2019

School standards on the rise in Dover & Deal

Every parent wants to give their children the best possible start in life. So it's great news that school standards locally have been rising, with more than two thirds of our schools now turning in Key Stage 2 results above the national average. Higher school standards are delivering better results at all ages, with three quarters of local students getting at least five GCSEs. The number of people in our community with no qualifications has halved since 2010.

Some of our schools deserve particular praise. Last week I spoke in Parliament to highlight the efforts of pupils and teachers at Eythorne Elvington Community Primary School. In last summer's SATs exams, every child met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths. Government Minister Nick Gibb MP heaped praise on this "exceptional" performance. He pointed out how more than half of the students there have qualified for Free School Meals at some point in the last six years.

Indeed our area is leading the way in quality education for youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. A Government social mobility report has ranked Dover and Deal in the top 10 in England for primary school quality, with 98% of children eligible for Free School Meals attending schools rated "good" or outstanding". In early years education we are second best in the whole country – out of 533 constituencies.

Our teachers deserve huge credit. Whenever I visit local primary schools one thing that stands out is the positive atmosphere – the care and attention that every child receives.

Children are also getting a better start at home. An all-time high of around 9 in 10 children now live in a household where at least one adult works. That doesn't just set a strong example – it also means more money, with 300,000 fewer children now living in absolute poverty since 2010.

Resources matter too. Our schools have received a big funding boost. Dover district secondary schools received £1.23 million extra in September – an inflation-busting 3.9% increase. Sir Roger Manwood's got 5.5% more, Astor College 5.3% more, Dover Grammar for Girls 4.4% more, and the Boys Grammar and Dover Christ Church Academy 4.1% more. Total school funding in Kent has now topped £1 billion for the first time – the highest amount for any local authority area in the UK.

This investment came because we fought hard for a new and fairer funding formula. Historically our pupils were thousands of pounds worse off than their London peers. When the new formula kicks in properly in 2020, our schools will get several million more – for years to come.

Yet there is more to do. Universities get a lot of focus, while further education languishes. East Kent College teaches 13,000 of our youngsters with less cash than it got in 2010. I've been campaigning in Parliament to change that.

Every youngster in Dover and Deal deserves the best possible start in life. We're working hard to make that happen.


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12 FEB 2019

Prime Minister urged to hand Dover and Deal a Brexit boost

The Prime Minister was today urged to hand Dover and Deal a Brexit boost. I called on Theresa May to support coastal town communities who feel like they have been "left behind". Mrs May told me I had made an important point and that she wanted to ensure the Government worked for "coastal towns like Dover and Deal".

My question follows reports that the Government is considering allocating more funds to Leave-voting areas represented by Labour MPs – if they support her Brexit deal.

Speaking in the House of Commons after the Prime Minister had given a statement on Brexit negotiations, I said: "Would the Prime Minister agree that talking about helping 'left behind' areas is not something that should be seen as a tactical matter to get through the Withdrawal Agreement?

"But it should be at the very heart of what this Government is about, promoting a renaissance of the regions as part of building Brexit Britain – and that means every region, including coastal towns like Dover and Deal?"

Mrs May said: "My honourable friend has made an important point.

"When I stood on the steps of Downing Street on the first day I became Prime Minister, I was very clear that I wanted to ensure that we worked for those communities who did feel that they were left behind, who did feel that they hadn't achieved the benefits that they'd seen some other parts of the country have – and that does mean certain parts of the country.

"It also means certain types of town – like coastal towns like Dover and Deal, that my honourable friend represents and champions so well."

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11 FEB 2019

Staff say Deal Hospital managing winter pressures better

Staff at Deal Hospital say they have noticed a real improvement this year in managing extra winter pressures. I spoke to nurses during a visit to the London Road site last month.

They showed me the hospital's brand new £250,000 machine which is halving X-ray times – so more patients can be seen and faster. Staff also told me how the womb clinic at Deal is set for an overhaul in March. Paul Bentley, chief executive of Kent Community Health Trust which runs the hospital, joined me on the visit. He said that the trust has launched a £1.5 million nursing academy, with the first group of 50 students beginning training now.

I also met with patients on the wards and asked about their experiences at the hospital.

Deal Hospital continues to go from strength to strength. I was struck by how hard the staff here work and how much they care about their patients – who were full of praise for the doctors and nurses.The nurses told me they had a noticed a real improvement this year in managing the extra pressures our NHS faces at winter. It's great to see the Government's winter funding boost making a difference.

In Dover and Deal we are lucky to have such dedicated doctors, nurses and hospital staff who go above and beyond every single day, putting patients first. I am determined to keep fighting for our NHS – and to deliver a fairer share of healthcare for our area.

The Government boosted winter funding for East Kent Hospitals by £6.5 million this year. And in local A&Es the number of patients treated within the national standard of four hours has significantly improved. East Kent Hospitals NHS University Foundation Trust say the standard was met with 75.2% of A&E patients in December 2018, compared to 61.3% in December 2017.

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08 FEB 2019

Making our streets safer and more secure

Keeping our streets safe is one my key priorities. A big part of that is ensuing we have enough bobbies on the beat.

That's why I've been campaigning in Parliament to get more funding for Kent Police. Last year this enabled our Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to recruit 200 more officers.

This year we had another battle over money. Kent Police was facing huge pressure on increased pension costs. I organised a letter from Kent MPs to the Chancellor and the Policing Minister, setting out our serious concerns.

The Government listened and agreed a £4 million increase in funding for Kent Police, along with a further grant of £3.4 million to help with the pensions. What's more, Matthew Scott's spending power was boosted by up to £17 million. I fully support his plan to use this extra cash to recruit another 180 officers. I will push hard for as many as possible to be deployed here in Dover and Deal.

More officers will help keep our streets safe – and boost the fight against drugs. We face a huge challenge. Drug deaths have doubled in Kent in the last three years.

My first priority has been to take the fight to the drug dealers. An important milestone in this campaign has been securing tougher sentences under Robert's Law – in memory of Deal's Robert Fraser who was killed by the dangerous new drug fentanyl. Last month three drug dealers were handed jail terms totalling 43 years – the first convictions for fentanyl supply since Robert's Law was introduced. We needed our justice system to recognise this particularly evil type of drug dealing. Now the culprits face decades behind bars.

We must also be relentless in our fight against London gangs who recruit and exploit youngsters here in Dover and Deal. There are currently 48 so-called "county lines" gang operations in Kent. I've met with East Kent's police chiefs, setting out my concerns over reports dealers were targeting children at our schools. As a result, the police have been taking firm action – with the arrest, charge, and removal of a number of county lines drug dealers from our community.

Yet it's not just Kent Police who are making a difference. The St Giles Trust is a charity which trains teenagers who had already overcome disadvantages to help other troubled youngsters. They have a proven track record in helping local children involved in county lines get away from the gangs. Yet their funding was uncertain, so I asked Matthew Scott to help – and he acted to ensure the St Giles Trust have funding until April.

I am now battling to ensure this funding is secured for the long-term. We must do all we can to stop young people in Dover and Deal falling into the dark world of drugs and crime. I will continue to fight for more funding and more officers in our area – so we can make our streets safer and more secure.

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07 FEB 2019

Funding boost for Kent Police

Kent Police will receive a £23.6 million cash increase from April. The 8.1% boost in funding was confirmed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid after I lobbied Ministers over recent months. 

Kent Police had been facing huge pressure on increased pension costs. I organised a letter from Kent MPs to the Chancellor Philip Hammond and the Policing Minister Nick Hurd, setting out our serious concerns. I also met with Mr Hurd, urging him to increase the force's budget so Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott could recruit more officers.

The Government listened and agreed a £4 million increase in funding for Kent Police, along with a further grant of £3.4 million to help with the pensions. Matthew Scott's spending power was boosted too – and he intends to use the extra cash to recruit another 180 officers. This year's cash increase for Kent Police follows a boost of £9.5 million in the 2018/19 financial year. This has taken Kent Police's total resources from £279.3 million in 2017/18 to £312.4 million in 2019/20.

Keeping our streets safe is one my key priorities. A big part of that is ensuring we have enough bobbies on the beat. That's why I've been campaigning in Parliament to get more funding for Kent Police. I'm delighted the Government has listened and significantly increased the force's cash two years in a row.

I'm fully backing Matthew Scott's plan to use his boosted spending power on recruiting 180 more officers, on top of the extra 200 last year. I will push hard for as many as possible to be deployed here in Dover and Deal – so we can make our streets safer and more secure.

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05 FEB 2019

Raising a glass to another fantastic Festival of Ales

I enjoyed a delicious pint of locally-brewed beer at the 26th White Cliffs Festival of Winter Ales, joining scores of punters at Dover Town Hall on Friday evening. 

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

Nothing beats the taste of a pint of real ale at Dover beer festival. I particularly enjoyed the amazing ale on offer from the Breakwater Brewery. Despite the chilly weather, it was great to see Dover buzzing with so many people having a great time.

I will keep campaigning in Parliament to keep beer duty down. It's vital we back our local pubs and brewers.

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01 FEB 2019

Working for a fairer share of healthcare

We've battled hard to deliver a fairer share of healthcare for Dover and Deal – and we are seeing real improvements on the ground.

Deal Hospital continues to go from strength to strength. I visited just last week. I was struck by how hard the staff here work and how much they care about their patients – who were full of praise for the doctors and nurses.

The nurses told me they had a noticed a real improvement this year in managing the extra pressures our NHS faces at winter. The Government boosted winter funding for East Kent Hospitals by £6.5 million this year and it's great to see it's making a difference.

There's so much good work to celebrate at Deal. Over the past two years, the amount of time people are staying in the hospital has reduced by a third. That means people are getting off the wards and back home much sooner. The trust that runs the hospital has launched a £1.5 million nursing academy, with the first group of 50 students beginning training now. The womb clinic at Deal is set for an overhaul in March. Plus the hospital also has a brand new £250,000 machine halving X-ray times – so more patients can be seen and faster.

It's incredible to think that back in 2010 Deal Hospital had been left teetering on the brink. The progress we have made since underlines why we were right to campaign to safeguard the hospital.

Deal Hospital is not our only success. After a strong community campaign, we also delivered the £24 million Buckland Hospital, with state-of-the-art facilities. Twice as many clinics are now operating at the hospital than in 2015 – and it has GP services too.

Just next door, work is underway on a £3.5m "dementia village" – the first of its kind in the UK. Six derelict semi-detached blocks in Randolph Road are being renovated to house 30 beds for elderly residents. They will be helped to live as independently as possible – with an on-site shop, cinema, pub and hairdressers.

Meanwhile, East Kent A&E departments will soon be upgraded through investment of £200 million. Mental health is also being boosted with spending rising to more than £11 billion. The Government is also set to boost the number of mental health professionals by 21,000.

Much has been achieved. We've come a long way together since 2010. Yet more is needed. Particularly in recruiting more GPs. That's why in Parliament we fought a long and hard battle for a new £30 million East Kent medical school, so more doctors and nurses can be trained locally. Other Kent MPs joined the fight. And last year it was finally confirmed that our bid had been successful. This victory will make a massive difference in the longer term.

In Dover and Deal we are lucky to have such dedicated doctors, nurses and hospital staff who go above and beyond every single day, putting patients first. I am determined to keep fighting for our NHS – and to deliver a fairer share of healthcare for our area.

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I could not agree more about the excellence of Deal Hospital. The staff, above all, and the facilities, are first class. And it’s a stone’s throw from where. I live.
- Sydney Gibson

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29 JAN 2019

Raising the devastating Premier FX case in Parliament

Today I raised in Parliament the case of a constituent who has lost nearly £500,000 following the sudden collapse of a payment services firm. Pauline Creasey, from Dover, is one of 250 customers across the UK affected by the shutdown of Premier FX. Terri and Brian Randall from the Tonbridge & Malling area have lost £44,675. Residents in the Maidstone & the Weald area have lost a total of more than £100,000 too.

Administrators have received claims of around £10.6 million from consumers – but report that the firm only has £1.1 million in assets. Ms Creasey, single parent and responsible for three generations of her family, met with Charlie at one of his constituency surgeries earlier this month and told him she was owed £462,113 by the Portugal-based firm.

Premier FX was authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as a money remittance firm. Yet the administrators have said that Premier FX was undertaking activities beyond that authorisation – deposit taking and potentially some trading in forward contracts.

The sole director and shareholder of the firm, Peter Rexstrew, is "said to be dead" following heart surgery at a Lisbon hospital on June 16 last year. The firm went into administration on August 13 2018 – without sufficient assets to cover its customers' claims.

Ms Creasey told me that she had intended to buy a house in the UK after selling her home in Portugal, where she had been working. But when the purchase of the UK house fell through, she had looked for a safe and secure place to put the funds and deposited it with Premier FX. Ms Creasey says the firm claimed they were authorised by the FCA and Barclays to hold escrow accounts and they were protected by the firm's compensation scheme as well as UK banking laws.

She had been using Premier FX since 2006 for foreign exchange transactions and found the service prompt and cost effective. The firm sponsored TV programme 'A Place in the Sun', was a member of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and recommended by a number of high profile financial and legal firms.

I vowed to take up Ms Creasey's case with the authorities – and today challenged Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, during a Treasury Select Committee hearing.

I said: "I want to ask you about cases affecting one of my constituents who's lost £500,000 in the collapse of Premier FX.

"The firm was able to misrepresent its FCA authorisation, which was for remittances, and effectively represented themselves as a deposit taker.

"How were they able to act beyond their authorisation?"

Mr Bailey replied: "Well if that is indeed what they did – and there's a strong suspicion that's what they did – then it's illegal, first of all.

"So we are, as you probably know, carrying out an investigation. I am very concerned that the money of individuals has been lost in this activity. My team so far, I can tell you, has looked at nearly 250,000 transaction records to try and trace this money – and we will not stop doing this.

"But I would say to you quite honestly, the principal involved in this activity is said to be dead. I think it is incumbent upon his relatives, his business partners, to tell us where the money is."

Charlie then raised concerns over the FCA's response to reported warnings about the activity of Premier FX.

Charlie said: "In 2017, the Bank of Portugal fined Premier FX for trading outside the regulations in compliance with its license in Portugal and reported that to the FCA. There was no follow-up by the FCA under safeguarding regulations. Why was the breach not detected?"

Mr Bailey replied: "We will look thoroughly at the record of this case. The first priority is to find the money, frankly, because that's what we owe to the victims. If we missed clues in this case, particularly in the reauthorisation process under the European Payment Services Directive, we will look at that.

"I also have to say, as you rightly point out, I don't know which jurisdiction some of this activity went on in yet, because it crosses over between the UK and Portugal – but we will look at that."

I am deeply concerned by this case and am determined to do everything I can to help Pauline and other victims of Premier FX get their money back. The FCA must treat this as a top priority. I am meeting with Mr Bailey to press him further on this matter – and I am working with fellow MPs too. Innocent people have been left in terrible financial hardship. The authorities need to get to the bottom of this urgently.

I have also written to City Minister John Glen MP, Security Minister Ben Wallace MP and Barclays CEO Jes Staley expressing my serious concerns.

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28 JAN 2019

The new Dover Leisure Centre is on schedule

I visited the new Dover Leisure Centre in Whitfield just weeks before the £26 million facility is due to open its doors to the public. BAM Construction – the main contractors – insists work is on budget and on schedule for an official opening in the spring.

The project includes the first county-standard, eight-lane competition swimming pool in Kent, a 250-person capacity spectator stand, a sports hall, an interactive climbing area, outdoor football pitches, squash courts, a sauna and steam room and several multi-purpose gym rooms and studios. I was shown around the site with Dover District Council cabinet member Trevor Bartlett and DDC's Strategic Director Roger Walton.

It was a real pleasure to be shown around what will be a fantastic community asset for years to come. Fitness and sport are hugely important. That's why it is vital that we offer people better facilities locally than the current rundown building in Townwall Street. The new leisure centre in in Whitfield really does look first class – another sign our area is finally getting the investment it deserves.

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25 JAN 2019

Working hard to make sure we're ready on day one

Dover is on the Brexit frontline. More so than anywhere else in the country. That is why I have a particular responsibility as your Member of Parliament. And why I am doing all I can to cushion the impacts to our local economy and infrastructure. At the same time, we must honour the referendum result. That means taking back control of our laws, borders, trade and money while making sure we don't have problems at the border or Kent's roads. Everyone knows what a challenging task that may turn out to be.

That's why since the referendum result, I have been working tirelessly on practical options to keep traffic flowing and our local economy robust.

I travelled to Calais to meet with political leaders in Northern France. We have been working together to ensure the Dover to Calais route continues to be a huge success. Earlier this month the Port of Calais chief insisted there would be no extra checks, deal or no deal. There would be no hold ups. And last week the Port of Dover's new chief executive insisted they are prepared for every eventuality too.

I've also worked with a former Border Force boss, local firms, haulage chiefs and industry leaders on a blueprint to ensure we are ready on day one. We held summits in Parliament and published a detailed report for Ministers.

I organised crunch talks with the Department for Transport too. It was great to get MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council round the table. I am working hard to ensure the Department's priority is to stop port traffic from causing gridlock in Dover town. That Kent's motorways are kept open. And that Kent Police gets the funding they need to be ready for Brexit.

It's vital that our community's voice is heard. Because here at the frontline we know what works and what does not. After all, we've experienced long queues of lorries year after year – before we even thought of leaving the EU.

We must be ready on day one to meet the challenges this historic moment presents. We must also be ready to forge ahead and build a better country. Yet we must also be ready for bumps in the road – and we know some of these bumps could even be pretty jarring.

With the decision to leave the EU made, we must now see Brexit as an opportunity to be grasped, not simply a problem to be managed. We can become world leaders in developing a border fit for the future. We can create jobs and use better technology to crack down on smuggling and people trafficking. We can build on our expanded cargo capacity at the Western Docks and become a hub of global trade, boosting local jobs. Finally, we can invest more in the regions – in towns like Dover and Deal – and put a stop to uncontrolled immigration.

Two-thirds of people in Dover and Deal and 17.4 million people nationwide voted to grasp these opportunities. It is now our job to deliver on the referendum result – and make our country prosperous and successful for generations to come.

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21 JAN 2019

Call for cutters and aerial surveillance on the Channel

I pressed the Home Secretary in the House of Commons on when the two long promised cutters would return from the Mediterranean to UK waters. I also called for 24/7 aerial surveillance along the French coast and a new cross-Channel compact between the UK and France to ensure all migrant boats are intercepted and returned safely to France before a tragedy occurs on the English Channel.

During Home Office Questions, I asked: "The arrival of 39 suspected migrants in crossings in just the last two days is a considerable concern to my constituents in Dover and Deal.

"Can I ask the Home Secretary when he will next meet his French counterpart to discuss this matter, whether round-the-clock aerial surveillance is something the Home Office will do urgently – and can he confirm the date on which the two cutters in the Mediterranean will return to be on station to secure our borders?"

Mr Javid replied: "My hon. friend is absolutely right to raise this. Aerial surveillance is already a measure that we have started deploying on the English Channel since I declared it a major incident.

"Also, whilst we are awaiting the arrival of two cutters for early February, we have increased the presence of vessels including with help from the Royal Navy. And in terms of meeting my French counterpart, Mr Castaner, I will be meeting him this week."

It's now getting on for a month since we were told the cutters would be brought back from the Med. Now we learn they may not return for another few weeks. That is completely unacceptable - they are needed urgently to secure our borders and protect lives.

The most effective deterrent to people trafficking and the best way to prevent tragedy is for traffickers to know that small craft will always be intercepted and returned to France. That's why when the Home Secretary meets his counterpart he should seek a new cross-Channel compact to put an end to these crossings.

Any compact must include 24/7 aerial surveillance, so that any small craft setting off from the French coast will be swiftly intercepted and helped safely back to France. This crisis has gone on far too long. Urgent action is now required to bring the crisis to an end before there is a tragedy in the English Channel.

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18 JAN 2019

Robert's Law in action as gang jailed for 43 years

Three drug dealers have been handed mammoth jail terms totalling 43 years – the first convictions for fentanyl supply since Robert's Law was introduced.

Tougher sentences for supplying fentanyl – a drug 50 times stronger than heroin – were introduced last year. Robert's Law followed a campaign led by myself and the mother of Robert Fraser, an 18-year-old from Deal, Kent, who died after taking the drug in 2016. The Sentencing Council published new guidance putting even small quantities of the drug into the top sentencing category.

The West Yorkshire gang jailed today (January 18) at Leeds Crown Court represents the first major conviction since Robert's Law was introduced. Jake Levene, 22, was given 16 years six months in jail, Lee Childs, 45, 10 years six months, and Mandy Christopher Lowther, 21, 16 years six months. It is thought the previous longest jail term handed out for fentanyl supply was Ross Brennan, who got 13 years. Six people identified from the latest gang's UK customer lists are known to have died from fentanyl-related deaths.

The gang mixed the drugs with bulking agents and posted them to customers throughout the UK, as well as to the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina and Singapore. Between December 2016 and April 2017 their business turned over £163,000 in cash.

The NCA said the trio operated from an industrial unit in Peel Street, Morley, Leeds, which was raided in April 2017. Inside investigators found Fentanyl, equipment for mixing and blending the drug, and 677g of pure carfentanyl, an even more powerful variant. Heavy duty gloves and two respirator masks, which the men wore to protect themselves while mixing and packaging the drugs, were also found.

Today we have seen Robert's Law in action for the first time. Fentanyl is not a conventional drug – it is a poison. People often don't know they are taking it because it is added cheaply to increase profit. We needed our justice system to recognise this particularly evil type of drug dealing. Now, anyone foolish enough to consider doing it will think twice, knowing they face decades behind bars.

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18 JAN 2019

Fighting for our high streets

Last week we learnt that Amazon pays just £63 million in business rates despite recording sales of a staggering £8 billion. Meanwhile small business owners here in Dover and Deal pay eye-watering amounts in business rates while working tirelessly to make ends meet. Small surprise then that they look at the unfair advantage of online retailers and demand a more level playing field for tax.

This is why I have long campaigned in Parliament for online giants to be made to pay their fair share of taxes. Of course, local stores need to adapt to the rise of internet shopping. Yet everyone needs to be able to compete fairly. That's why we need to do everything we can to support the great British high street.

This became even clearer this week when Marks & Spencer, a Deal high street fixture of 80 years, announced plans to close. I am extremely disappointed, but also very much surprised. Deal is a town clearly on the rise with a hugely successful town centre – only recently voted the UK's best. Meanwhile the store itself is busy throughout the day. I wonder if a full retail assessment has been carried out – or whether this was a decision taken by spreadsheet. I have asked for an urgent meeting with Marks and Spencer bosses where I will urge them to reconsider.

Here in Dover and Deal I'm also fighting to ensure we get a fairer share of investment. I recently invited Cllr Graham Galpin, who sits on the Government's expert panel on high streets, to come and see what our towns have to offer. Along with Dover District Council leader Keith Morris, we visited the St James development – where the hated Burlington House once stood. The new cinema, shops and restaurants have risen in its place. The once desolate car park is now packed with shoppers. The £50 million invested is paying off. We also walked down Flying Horse Lane and spoke to shopkeepers in Cannon Street and Biggin Street about the challenges they are facing – and listened to their ambitions for the future.

Meanwhile the fast trains to London we campaigned for and delivered has improved Deal and Dover. Yet our station has been left to rust. I'm battling to get it spruced up, so it properly reflects the rising success of Deal.

We also discussed bidding for the Government's Future High Streets Fund, announced in the autumn Budget. Towns can bid for up to £25 million of cash. They need to present a plan on how they will change the use of empty commercial properties, improve transport access and boost footfall. Our corner of Kent is exactly where this money should be invested.

Already much is being done. Town centre retailers are being offered grants of up to £10,000 to smarten up shop fronts and attract new customers – with Brunch in Biggin Street being the latest beneficiary. And an application for a £3 million project to "revitalise Dover's Historic Market Square and Old Town" has reached the next stage of the Government's Coastal Communities Fund.

Our town centres have such huge potential – to offer people the sort of experiences and community spirit which you just can't get online. I'm determined to see the likes of Amazon pay a fairer share. And to make our high streets the best they can be.

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15 JAN 2019

Dover and Deal primary schools achieving above national average

Pupils at Dover and Deal primaries are outscoring their peers across the UK, according to new figures. Nationally, the proportion of youngsters achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths has risen from 61% to 64% this year. And two thirds of primary schools in Dover and Deal bettered the national average in their 2018 Key Stage 2 performance.

Top of the class are Eythorne Elvington Community Primary School, where 100% of pupils met the expected standard, rising 23% since last year. Meanwhile, 97% at both Kingsdown and Ringwould Church of England Primary School and Sibertswold Church of England Primary School got the required grades.

Twenty-two (68.7%) of the 32 Dover and Deal primaries for which results are available achieved above the national average. A number of schools made huge strides in the proportion of pupils hitting the standard. Guston Church of England Primary School made the biggest improvement, from 57% to 92%. Meanwhile, Northbourne Church of England Primary School leapt from 46% to 76.

It's fantastic to see school standards continuing to rise in Dover and Deal. The hardworking teachers and staff at our primary schools deserve huge credit. We must keep doing everything we can to ensure our youngsters get the best start in life."

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11 JAN 2019

Fighting to make our borders stronger and safer

The migrant crisis in the English Channel escalated yet again over Christmas and New Year, with dozens more arriving along the Kent coast.

Here at the Dover frontline, we have been fighting hard over the past few months for Ministers to take action. In November in the House of Commons, I called on the Prime Minister to tackle the traffickers and boost our border security by increasing patrols. I'm pleased to see that our campaign is now making a difference.

Firstly, the Home Secretary acknowledged this is a major incident and appointed a Gold Commander. He then listened to our calls to return the UK's two cutters back from cruising in the Mediterranean to patrol the English Channel and take back control of our borders.

I was delighted Sajid Javid also accepted my invitation to visit Dover. He was able to see how our heroic lifeboat crews, Border Force and emergency services work tirelessly along our coast to protect the border and keep people safe.

Meanwhile, the National Crime Agency have recently made arrests in connection to the smuggling network allegedly behind the recent spike in crossings. And the deployment of HMS Mersey is a welcome first measure too – as we seek to increase the deterrent in the Channel.

Now we need to see more action from the French. It's vital they immediately increase the number of craft and police patrolling their coastline – to stop these small boats from embarking. And there is a strong case for using aircraft with thermal imagery cameras to track any attempts to make these dangerous and illegal crossings.

We cannot be complacent. Because it was a lack of swift action that led to the rise of the Calais Jungle. At its height, some 10,000 people lived in the migrant camp in misery and squalor. People traffickers roamed free exploiting the vulnerable and terrorising tourists and truckers. Only after a hard-fought campaign was the Jungle dismantled and the number of migrants being trafficked plummeted. We cannot risk allowing the bad old days to return.

The Home Secretary is right to send a strong message and remind everyone that asylum should be claimed in the first country people come to, not the last. Indeed, why are they not claiming asylum in France, which is a very safe country? To return those attempting to cross to France would be the best deterrent and I hope the French will agree to that.

For too many years, the UK has gained a reputation as a soft touch on immigration. That needs to change or else people will continue to huddle on board these unseaworthy vessels, risking their lives and those of their young children.

We cannot allow this to carry on. The key is to stop the boats before they leave the French shore – and catch the ruthless people traffickers behind this crisis.

Investing more in our border security and taking firm action on illegal immigration must be a national priority.

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20 DEC 2018

More jobs, better healthcare, great schools and safer streets

With all the focus on Brexit, it is easy to forget the bread and butter issues that affect our daily lives. However jobs, money, homes, better healthcare, safer streets and great schools matter to us all as well.

That's why it's such good news that jobs are at record numbers – with 32.5 million Britons in work and wages rising. Such a strong labour market is only possible with policies which support business and enterprise. That strong economy also provides the money we need to increase investment in our public services.

We have made incredible progress locally – building the new hospital in Dover that everyone said would never happen, as well as safeguarding Deal Hospital which had been left teetering on the edge. Yet the £20 billion extra investment in the NHS will enable so much more to be done, starting with a greater priority for mental healthcare. Working closely with community groups like Talk It Out, I know how much mental health support matters – and how the quality of service has not been good enough in the past. That's why the extra investment in mental health matters so much.

The extra investment in schools is paying off too. Almost two million more children are now being taught in good or outstanding schools. In Dover and Deal, 2,432 kids are now attending these higher quality schools. Goodwin Academy in Deal is making real progress under new management. The Boy's Grammar School in Dover has ambitious plans. I have been working hard to get improvements and new buildings for the Girl's Grammar School in Dover, where construction is now underway.

Meanwhile Deal's primary schools look set to come together under a head teacher with a truly outstanding record of success. Everyone knows how easy it is to play cheap politics with schools and use them as a political football. Yet what really matters to parents is getting the best possible chances in life for our children. That only comes with the best teaching and the highest school standards.

We also need to ensure our streets are safe. Tackling crime – especially county lines drugs gangs – has been coming up the agenda. For years, crime has been falling. The signs are that may be changing. Working closely with Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner I have pressed the Home Office and the Treasury for more cash. This has been successful with another £24 million being allocated to boosting policing in Kent. That is on top of the extra 200 officers currently being recruited.

We've come a long way since 2010. Yet there is much more to do. Of course we have big decisions to make on the EU and Brexit. But we mustn't let that crowd out our other priorities. A strong economy provides us not just with jobs, but the cash to invest more in public services too. It is only with a strong economy that we can deliver on those other hugely important issues that affect our daily lives.

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14 DEC 2018

Giving Teagan a chance

It's every parent's worst nightmare to see their child in pain. Yet this is the awful reality Emma Appleby has faced for so long.

Her beautiful daughter Teagan was born with the rare condition Isodicentric 15, a severe form of epilepsy. She is wheelchair-bound and can suffer up to 300 seizures a day. Earlier this year she required life-saving treatment five times in just eight days.

Emma had tried everything to ease her nine-year-old daughter's suffering, as any parent would. Yet nothing seemed to work. In July she got in touch with me to see if I could help.

Emma was fighting to get a license granted for little Teagan to have cannabis oil treatment. With known medication failing, the only other alternative suggested was for her to have risky procedures on her brain.

I felt strongly that Teagan should be given a chance. We were reading in the news of other youngsters being granted cannabis oil treatment. Clinical trials showed it helped dramatically reduce seizures. My view was that if we are prescribing patients morphine – which like heroin, is sourced from opium – then why should we not prescribe cannabis for medicinal purposes? This isn't about legalising cannabis for recreational use – that is just an unwelcome distraction. This is about helping children in severe pain.

That's why I urged the Home Secretary to intervene in Teagan's case. And in 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.

Without the help she needed, Teagan was soon back in intensive care suffering terrible seizures. I contacted the chief executive of the Trust which runs Evelina Childen's Hospital where she was being looked after. Kent-based GW Pharmaceuticals was eventually permitted to supply cannabis-based Epidiolex to Teagan's doctors.

Last week, I visited Emma and Teagan at their home in Aylesham to see how they were getting on. Teagan sat and watched Mickey Mouse on her iPad while Emma told me how she had been able to continue on the drug since leaving hospital. Things have definitely improved but Teagan is still suffering seizures during her sleep.

Emma's next fight is to get the stronger, THC form of cannabis treatment approved for her daughter, to see if that can put a stop to the seizures altogether. Emma hopes Teagan will return to school at the brilliant Whitfield & Aspen.

I was struck by how hard Emma has to fight, day in day out, for her daughter – and at times what a lonely and exhausting battle that must be. Yet her love for Teagan shines through. She will not stop until Teagan gets the help she needs.

I am determined to help. I will do everything I can to make sure the bureaucrats do not stand in Emma and Teagan's way. Common sense must prevail.

Teagan must be given every chance for a better life.

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11 DEC 2018

Plans to re-instate village bus services in Dover and Deal

Reinstating bus services in villages around Dover and Deal was top of the agenda during crunch talks with Stagecoach bosses. The firm's South East acting managing director Mike Watson and commercial director Matthew Arnold met with me to discuss recent changes.

Last year Stagecoach cut a number of commercial routes in rural areas. Kent County Council also announced that a further 78 subsidised services across the county were under threat. I led a campaign by Kent MPs against the plans. Council leader Paul Carter agreed to halt the proposals and launch a consultation.

Dover has now been selected as one of five areas for a new public transport pilot scheme – re-establishing regular services into Northbourne, Great Mongeham, Sholden, Ash and Staple from summer 2019.

We have had to fight incredibly hard for bus services in our corner of Kent. But it has paid off – because we are one of the few areas getting them re-instated. There is still a lot more to do. Stagecoach has been engaging well but I was clear I want to see more work done, particularly on services for Eythorne and between River and Canterbury. People in rural areas rely on buses to go to school and work and access vital services. The council must keep working with the bus companies to ensure people aren't cut off.

A new bus service will be created for Northbourne and Great Mongeham, connecting to existing services at Sholden and Ash along the main routes between Canterbury, Sandwich and Dover. New shelters will be constructed at Northbourne and Great Mongeham, with real time information departure boards. Timetables, routes and fares will be confirmed closer to the launch in 2019.

A KCC spokesman said the feeder service would be going out to public procurement. Stagecoach South East Commercial Director Matthew Arnold confirmed Stagecoach would be bidding for the contract.

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07 DEC 2018

Determined to be ready on day one

Ever since the EU referendum in 2016, we have been urging the Government to make sure we are ready for Brexit, deal or no deal.

We knew Brexit would present a challenge – and that nowhere would preparations be more important than at the Dover frontline. The Channel Ports account for around a third of the UK's entire trade in goods. It's in everyone's interests – the French's as well as ours – that traffic continues to flow.

However, there is of course a risk that the likes of President Macron may seek to punish us for daring to leave the EU. He may wish to make an example of us – in order to deter anyone else from having the courage to follow our lead.

That's why back in 2016 I got together with industry experts and worked up a plan to ensure we are ready on day one. Our blueprint set out how we could be prepared for every eventuality. Yet sadly the Government has so far failed to grasp the nettle and properly prepare for 'no deal' as they should have.

We are now leaving the EU in little over three months. It's crunch time. That's why last week I organised a 'no deal' summit at the Department for Transport with the Roads Minister.

It was great to get MPs, the port, police, Highways England, Kent County Council and Dover District Council round the table. There were a few things we made very clear to the Minister.

Firstly, that the Department's priority must be to stop port traffic from causing gridlock in Dover town. Secondly, that we have serious concerns about proposals to use Manston Airport as a lorry park. And thirdly, that we must ensure Kent Police have the funding required to handle any traffic queues in the event of no deal.

It was confirmed that Highways England's so-called Operation Brock will soon become a reality. Plans to erect steel barriers along the Londonbound carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 for the contraflow system will go ahead in February, deal or no deal.

I urged the officials to look at whether the Dover TAP cameras could enable an automatic number place recognition system to be used. That way any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.

Two days later I brought fellow Kent MPs along to the Port of Dover, so they could see first-hand just how vital it is that we keep trucks moving. This follows a visit from the Transport Secretary to the docks a few weeks before.

I am determined to keep up the pressure and so we can be prepared for every eventuality. We must have a clear plan for Kent – and to make sure our police and authorities have the resources they need to keep traffic flowing.

Of course, leaving the EU presents a challenge, particularly here at the frontline. But even though they knew it would be tough, 17.4 million people still chose to accept that challenge, including two-thirds of Dover and Deal. It's our job as politicians to take up that challenge too – and use all our energies to deliver for the people.

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I wonder what your opinion is on Highways England's proposal to seek permission to carry out surveys on private (green belt) farmland in Shepherdswell with a view to installation of a 1000 truck stop facility? We already know that the junction at A2/Lydden/Coxhill Road is dangerous and HE have no plans to adapt or make further changes to it. Coxhill Road is not suitable as an access road for HGVs to enter and exit the A2: which is HE's preferred option. We are already blighted by HGVs that come through Shepherdswell as a result of drivers following domestic sat nav devices and the construction of a huge lorry park in the vicinity of Shepherdswell will just compound this problem. We need our MP's support to stop this ill-thought out plan before surveys are even carried out.
- Ally Cooper

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05 DEC 2018

Children 'surfing' on Deal trains are risking their lives

Children are putting their lives at risk by "surfing" on trains departing from Deal station, staff have warned me. Station manager Kyle Miller said that anti-social behaviour was an increasing issue on the platform.

He said that the problem has recently escalated with teenagers "surfing" on trains on Saturday, November 17, and Sunday, November 18. The "surfing" involves the children grabbing on to the side of the carriages and holding on as the train starts moving. Mr Miller said the train drivers put the brakes on as soon as they spot the youngsters. As a result, delays are caused for passengers on board and further down the line.

This behaviour is incredibly dangerous and needs to stop now. These youngsters are putting their lives at risk. Staff are becoming increasingly worried about anti-social behaviour on the platform. British Transport Police need to increase their presence at Deal station and put a stop to it.

The surfing issue was revealed during a meeting Charlie organised with Southeastern to discuss sprucing up Deal station. I am backing the Deal Station Clean-up Crew, who he joined for a litter pick in October. He called for Southeastern and Network rail to get the station back on track.

Southeastern listened to residents' concerns and put in new bins in recent weeks – but the protective plastic covering has already been smashed. The responsibility for sprucing up the station's metal bridge and rusting signs lies with Network Rail. I am raising the issue with them once again, while also urging British Transport Police to tackle reports of anti-social behaviour.

Deal deserves better than this. We need a spruced-up station which residents can be proud of – and to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

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02 DEC 2018

The Port of Dover's White Cliffs Christmas launch

The Port of Dover Cruise Terminal doors swung open for the White Cliffs Christmas experience on Sunday. I was among scores of visitors at the official launch of this year's event, which runs until January 1 2019.

For the third year in a row, the Old Marine Station has been transformed into a winter wonderland complete with an ice rink, traditional Christmas market and Santa's grotto. I met up with organiser Amanda Stewart to discuss the "bigger and better" offer this year.

The historic building at Cruise Terminal One, Dover Western Docks, has once again been decked out with Christmas decorations, feature rides including bumper cars, Christmas activities, a new bar managed by locals Breakwater Brewery, a tea room and several food outlets.

There was a packed programme of entertainment for the launch from 10am until 8pm, including live music from local bands and Father Christmas' arrival on his sleigh pulled by real reindeer. Adding to the seasonal mood was the undercover real ice rink, which is larger than ever this year measuring some 400m².

It was fantastic to see so many local families getting into the Christmas spirit down at the port. A real festive atmosphere with lots of activities run by fantastic local businesses have made this event a huge success. It's getting better and better each year and everyone involved deserves huge credit.

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01 DEC 2018

Crunch talks with Roads Minister on 'no deal' Brexit impact

Crunch talks on how a "no deal" Brexit could impact East Kent were held at the Department for Transport this week. I organised the meeting on Tuesday (November 27th) with Roads Minister Jesse Norman so the Port of Dover and Kent Police could raise their concerns.

I told the Minister that the Department's priority must be to stop port traffic from causing gridlock in Dover town, and also raised his serious concerns about proposals to use Manston Airport as a lorry park. And I reiterated the need to ensure Kent Police have the funding required to handle any traffic queues in the event of no deal.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, Port of Dover chairman Richard Everitt, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott and Kent County Council leader Paul Carter also attended the meeting. We were also joined by Cllr Nigel Collor – a district councillor who also represents Dover Town at KCC – and Highways England's John Kerner, who is in charge of "Operation Brock".

The port's finance director Shaun Pottage and operations manager Emma Ward, along with Kent Police's assistant chief constable Peter Ayling and Department officials, were there as well. 

We discussed the plans for the contraflow system between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M20, known as "Operation Brock". The proposals would create 2,000 on-road lorry holding spaces on the coastbound carriageway. It was confirmed that plans to erect steel barriers along the Londonbound carriageway for the contraflow will go ahead in February, deal or no deal.

Other traffic management options in the event of queues at the Channel Ports include Manston, Dover TAP and parking lorries on the M26. I suggested that the Dover TAP cameras could enable an automatic number place recognition system to be used – so any trucks caught skipping the queues would be sent all the way to the back or hit with fines.

I called this summit in order to get everyone around the table so the Minister could hear the very real concerns we have here in Dover about stopping our town from being gridlocked. If the EU seeks to cause queues at Dover and Calais in the event of no deal – we need to make sure our local roads are kept clear. People need to be able to get to work and carry on as normal.

The Minister was left in no doubt of the serious concerns many of us have about using Manston Airport as a lorry park. We need a clear plan for Kent – and to make sure our police and authorities have the resources they need to keep traffic flowing.

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30 NOV 2018

My grave doubts about the Brexit deal

In the 2016 referendum, some two thirds of the voters in Dover & Deal voted to leave the European Union. The decision was clear – to take back control of our borders, laws, money and trade.

I have reviewed carefully the proposed EU Withdrawal Agreement. I have grave doubts about it for the following reasons:

1. In the EU we have a say and we can leave. Under this proposal we will effectively stay in the EU, but have no say and can never leave. It is like Hotel California – you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. Indeed President Macron is already looking to take advantage – warning the UK will be trapped forever in the so-called "backstop" unless we cave in on fishing.

2. This proposal fails to honour the referendum mandate. We will not take back control of our laws, waters, money or trade.

3. It fails to honour the Conservative Manifesto. We will not leave the EU's single market or customs union in any meaningful way. Nor will we make the Supreme Court supreme again as the European Court of Justice will still hold sway over us.

4. Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the UK. It effectively creates a border down the Irish Sea. This undermines our precious union which cannot be acceptable.

5. The Future Relationship political declaration is just that – a declaration not a treaty. Should £39 billion of your hard-earned money be spent on a promise rather than a legally enforceable trade treaty?

It would be better instead to enter a Canada style trade agreement with the EU. There is still time for the Prime Minister to change course and deliver a better deal for Britain. A deal that honours the referendum mandate and enables us to depart the EU as friends.

In coming to this conclusion, I have also thought deeply about the impact on our community. On the one hand I have a clear instruction for the UK to leave the EU. On the other many are concerned that if we leave the EU without agreement it would make trade across the English Channel harder. That the result would be queues of lorries across Kent and that cross-Channel trade and Dover would both suffer.

That's why after the referendum I called a summit of the ports and transport industry to see how systems could be devised to ensure the Dover-Calais route continues to be a success. Together we drew up a blueprint with a detailed plan setting out how we can be ready on day one, deal or no deal. Sadly, the Government failed to properly prepare for no deal as they should have. So 'no deal' could be challenging for our area in the short-term, if the EU try to punish us and take advantage of our lack of preparation.

This is an important time in the history of our nation. A time for political courage. We don't need to be bullied by the EU into this bad deal. Deal or no deal is a false choice. The Prime Minister should go and seek a better deal for Britain to become a free-trading, global nation once again. I believe our greatest days are not behind us – they are yet to come.

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I have questioned the government's resolve on the whole Brexit deal from day one.... Why agree a Divorce settlement fee before the rest of the divorce has been agreed.... You wouldn't do it if you were husband and wife so why treat this "deal" any different... If the EU want to play hard ball then we say the settlement fee is no longer on the table, oh hold on dont tell me this government has already signed the paperwork to agree we will give them the money no matter what!!!!!
- Ralp spicer

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27 NOV 2018

50 new border jobs coming to Dover

Fifty new jobs are coming to the HMRC site in Dover. The Priory Court building currently employs around 150 full time equivalent employees – but it will become the new Dover Specialist Site accommodating some 200.

It includes moving around 30 roles from Maidstone's Organised Crime and Mobile Enforcement Teams as well as 20 new specialist compliance roles, adding to the 120 already there. The staff will work in HMRC's intelligence teams – tackling fraud and assessing risk – in close co-operation with Border Force and the National Crime Agency.

It was revealed in a letter to me from HMRC's chief executive Jon Thompson, who made the case for more investment at the Dover frontline.

Fifty jobs coming to our area is fantastic news, especially when there had been fears the Dover office might close. Yet we made the case for Dover and HMRC listened. It means we have actually beefed up border security resources here at the frontline ahead of Brexit, which is exactly what I have been calling for.

"But I want to see even more investment. As well as extra staff, we need more resources and state-of-the-art technology to deliver the truly modern, secure border our nation needs.

In his letter, Jon Thompson wrote: "I am now pleased to be able to confirm that having considered options in the Dover area we will be retaining our existing site for the foreseeable future and that, from 1 April 2021, the site will become our Dover Specialist Site.

"Priory Court will accommodate around 200 full time equivalent employees, more people than we currently have based there, in specialist compliance roles within our Fraud and Intelligence and Risk and Intelligence teams.

"They will work closely with colleagues in Border Force and National Crime Agency who are also located on the site.

"It makes operational sense to have our Specialist Teams in one location. Dover is already an important strategic location for our Fraud Investigation Service and EU Exit makes it more important than ever to boost our presence there."

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26 NOV 2018

High streets expert discusses plans for Dover and Deal

Exciting and innovative plans for the future of Dover and Deal's town centres were discussed when a Government expert on high streets visited last week. I invited Cllr Graham Galpin of Ashford Borough Council, who sits on the Government's expert panel on high streets, to see what our area has to offer.

Dover District Council leader Keith Morris and head of regeneration Tim Ingleton also attended and discussed the authority's ambitious plans. We met at the St James development and then walked down Flying Horse Lane to Cannon Street and Biggin Street – which has been dubbed Dover's "old town" – and spoke to shopkeepers.

We then visited Deal, which won high street of the year in 2013 and has since gone from strength to strength following my campaign to bring the fast train to town. We also talked about bidding for the Government's new £675 million Future High Streets Fund, announced in the autumn Budget. Towns can bid for up to £25 million of cash – but need to present a plan on how they will change the use of empty commercial properties, improve transport access and boost footfall.

It was fantastic to discuss exciting and innovative plans for Dover and Deal with Graham and Keith. Our town centres have such huge potential. Yet it's vital adapt to the rise of internet shopping.

One idea people have suggested is for our high streets to become more residential, with more independent shops and cafes too. So we offer people the sort of experiences and community spirit which you just can't get online. I'm determined to work with the district council to help make our high streets the best they can be.

Early next year the Government is launching a High Streets Taskforce to support local councils – with initial bids for the Future High Streets Fund opening in Spring 2019. Cllr Galpin's visit comes as an application for a £3 million project by Dover Town Team to "revitalise Dover's Historic Market Square and Old Town" successfully reached the next stage. The team have until January 21 to submit their Stage 2 application and business plan to the Government's Coastal Communities Fund. Successful projects are set to be announced in Spring 2019.

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23 NOV 2018

Fighting for stronger borders

Fighting for stronger borders is one of my top priorities. For years ruthless people traffickers have been exploiting the Dover-Calais route in order to break migrants into Britain.

Things reached crisis point in the summer of 2016. By then 10,000 vulnerable people were living in the squalor of the Calais Jungle. Driving along the road to the Port of Calais was like running a gauntlet – particularly for truckers forced to dodge burning branches lobbed across the carriageway, as people traffickers revved their chainsaws at the side of the road.

Yet after a hard-fought campaign we got the migrant camp dismantled. Since then the number of migrants detected at Dover has plummeted by more than a third, from 792 in 2016/17 to 503 in 2017/18. Of course, we still hear some reports of trouble in Northern France. Yet the situation has vastly improved – and the people of Calais have got their town back.

But everyone knows the battle for stronger borders is far from over. Because these people are desperate to reach our shores – and they will keep trying by any means possible. Now we've cracked down on the number of clandestines smuggled in trucks, we are seeing increasing numbers arriving in small craft.
Just last week, 48 migrants were rescued from the English Channel in the space of 48 hours, in five separate incidents. We've seen this sort of thing before – but more sporadically, and very rarely during November. To see this number of brazen attempts to break into Britain, even as winter sets in, is unprecedented and deeply concerning.

One small, open boat even had a toddler on board, underlining just how desperate these people are. Clearly we must do more to deter them from making these dangerous journeys across the world's busiest shipping lane.

A damning report last week revealed that just two Border Force cutters are in operation to patrol almost 11,000 miles of UK coastline. This compares to 600 cutters patrolling the Italian coast, more than 3,000 miles shorter, and 147 covering Spanish waters, more than 4,000 miles shorter. Meanwhile, the number of hours our cutters spent at sea dropped from 11,137 in 2015 to 9,497 last year.

What's more, only two of the Home Office's eight Coastal Patrol Vessels purchased in 2016 are in operation. And 'Project Kraken', launched to improve intelligence gathering from people working in the marine sector, received just 49 referrals in 2016/17, with only two considered "actionable".

We must do more, with a clear plan for greater investment in securing our borders and more properly trained staff – not some sort of Dad's Army set-up.

Otherwise evil people traffickers will continue to exploit the situation and more and more people will break into Britain. The Home Office must not turn a blind eye to this growing issue. We must keep fighting for stronger borders.

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21 NOV 2018

Fighting for Albert Road residents affected by flooding

Albert Road residents will no longer have to pay for flood defences.  The street in Deal has suffered three serious flooding incidents in the last four years, the last of which was in January 2016. Following the downpour, Southern Water fitted flood gates, boards and doors to affected properties.

But in July this year, the firm wrote to residents saying they should be maintained within three years and residents would have to pay for it. I contacted chief executive Ian McAuley, pointing out the defences would not have been needed if it wasn't for the company's mistakes. Mr McAuley has now confirmed Southern Water will carry out inspections and foot the bill for maintenance.

In a letter to me e wrote: "In response to the concerns that you have shared with me, I asked for a review of our policy. We recognise that the flooding that has historically occurred at Albert Road was attributable to the operation of our assets, and in acknowledgement of this we will be amending our policy in this instance."

I'm glad Southern Water have done the right thing. The suggestion residents should pay was absolutely ridiculous, and I made that clear to Mr McAuley. I still want to see more investment in the Albert Road area. We got Southern Water to spend a million upgrading Golf Road pumping station and extending the outfall at Canada Road.

But residents have been told time and again that problems have been fixed, only to see their homes flooded with foul water again. Southern Water need to ensure these issues are addressed once and for all.

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19 NOV 2018

Two Border Force cutters for whole coastline is ridiculous

Just two Border Force cutters are in operation to patrol almost 11,000 miles of UK coastline, it has been revealed. Border inspectors looked at immigration controls at south coast seaports in a report published this week.

It found that out of the UK's fleet of five cutters – vessels built for speed to patrol large areas – two continued to be deployed in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas in response to the migrant crisis. Out of the three left, inspectors were told only two were operational and a third was kept on standby.

It compares to 600 cutters patrolling the Italian coastline, more than 3,000 miles shorter, and 147 covering Spanish waters, more than 4,000 miles shorter. The news emerged as 66 migrants were rescued from the English Channel over the last week.

Two cutters for the whole coastline is frankly ridiculous. We are hearing about more and more attempts to smuggle illegal immigrants into this country at beaches, inlets and small ports. We need more investment so the whole border is secure.

To see so many brazen attempts to break into Britain in one week is unprecedented and deeply concerning. That people are taking the risk of crossing such a busy shipping route on small craft - some even with young children on board - shows just how desperate they are.

The Home Office must act urgently to tackle this growing problem by boosting our borders budget and the number of vessels and skilled officers.

The report also revealed that despite purchasing eight Coastal Patrol Vessels in 2016, only two are in operation. Two were found not to be suitable due to cramped sleeping quarters, two were being refitted with suitable accommodation at the time of the inspection, and for the final two "nothing has been agreed". The report also said cutters' hours at sea dropped from 11,137 in 2015 to 9,497 last year.

Meanwhile Project Kraken, first launched in 2008 and relaunched in 2016, aimed to improve intelligence gathering from people working in the marine sector. Yet Border Force data for the south coast showed it had received only 49 referrals in 2016/17, with only two considered "actionable".

A previous inspection report recommended that Border Force rolled out a scheme to assess risk posed by all "known" unscheduled commercial vessels. Yet border officers at some ports did not record the ratings. At one, unnamed for security reasons, less than 1% (19 of 3,032) commercial vessels which arrived were actually met by Border Force officers.

We need to see greater investment in securing our borders – and clear plan to tackle the number of small craft landing on our shores. Otherwise evil people traffickers will continue to exploit the situation and more and more people will break into Britain.

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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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26 OCT 2018

Putting mental health first

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

That means bringing more services to Buckland Hospital and Deal Hospital. It means fighting for more GPs in our area.

And it also means battling for better mental healthcare. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

That's why I fought so hard against plans to slash hours at Deal Mental Health Centre. Thankfully health chiefs did the right thing and have agreed to keep this vital service open five days a week.

And it's why we brought in a new trust to help local youngsters with mental health issues. Too many young people had been waiting far too long for treatment. The new team are tackling the backlog and the waiting list is now coming down.

It's been a long battle – but things are starting to improve. Equal treatment of physical and mental health has been enshrined in law. Spending on mental health has now increased to more than £11 billion. The Government is boosting the number of mental health professionals by 21,000.

And here in Dover and Deal, a few local heroes have been making a real difference. Take Tracy Carr, who runs the Talk It Out support group in Deal. I cannot begin to guess how many lives she's saved and how her incredible work has taken pressure off local health services.

It's important that volunteers like Tracy get the help they need – and that vulnerable people know where to turn to in a crisis. That's why I organised a mental health roundtable last week to bring everyone together.

Tracy joined me and representatives from local heath bodies. We heard from some of Talk It Out's service users about how things could be improved – particularly with the Crisis helpline, which people are advised to call in their most desperate hour.

We also heard how mental health services and caseloads at Coleman House in Dover have got better in recent months. And that plans are afoot for more primary care mental health specialists in our area.

There has been more good news recently with the opening of support charity Take Off's new base in Dover, which I recently visited. Their team are a real inspiration to everyone who has suffered from mental health problems. They have all battled through really difficult times themselves – and are now using their experience to help others.

It's vital we work together to help people suffering with mental health. People need somewhere to turn in their darkest hour. The more we can improve local services, the more lives we can save.

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24 OCT 2018

Bid to get village brewery's pints poured in Parliament

Pints made at a local village brewery could soon be poured in Parliament.

I have requested Strangers Bar in the House of Commons hosts one of Ripple Steam Brewery's beers as a guest ale. I want other MPs to see what proper beer tastes like after being given a tour by chief brewer Dave Cliff and the team.

Mr Cliff gave a detailed talk about the brewing process and how they use former dairy machinery to make their ales at their base in Sutton, near Deal.

I sampled the Deal Hop Farm Hopping M.A.D. Green Hop beer. The ale was "Made Around Deal" by 250 different people this year, producing 170 kilos of hops.

The Ripple Steam team then brewed the beer which has been served in local pubs in recent weeks.

The success of Deal Hop Farm underlines why independent brewers are so important. Dave and the Ripple Steam team do a fantastic job. So I'm trying to get one of their ales on tap at Strangers Bar in Parliament – so MPs can see what proper beer tastes like!

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22 OCT 2018

Kent to receive social care winter funding boost

Kent will receive more than £6 million in social care funding this winter – a bigger boost than any other local authority in the UK.

The cash will pay for the equipment and treatment needed to help patients recover fully at home, and avoid unnecessary stays at hospitals.

The funding is part of a £240 million country-wide boost to the social care system announced earlier this month.

Its main aim is to ease pressure on the health system, and follows a further £145 million pledge to improve emergency care at the NHS this winter.

I have been urging ministers to provide extra cash to support hospitals and social care in Kent.

Everyone knows how important it is that we offer the best possible social care. We must ensure that our loved ones are being properly looked after – particularly during the winter months and the Christmas period.

That's why I've been urging Ministers to step in and increase funding for Kent. I'm delighted that they have listened and are delivering a £6 million boost."

Kent County Council will receive £6,164,434 in total. The money will be used on social care packages that allow patients to leave hospital as soon as they are well enough, and ensure they can regain independence and confidence at home.

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19 OCT 2018

The Calais Jungle must never return

We will never forget the horror of the Calais Jungle. This was a desolate place where vulnerable people lived in appalling squalor. There was no running water – and no sanitation. The only accommodation was rickety shacks. People traffickers roamed free exploiting the desperate people who lived there with false promises of a better life.

Day by day the numbers in the camp grew – they came in the hope of breaking into Britain for a better life. Calais became a migrant magnet. By the summer of 2016, more than 10,000 people were living in the Jungle.

As Dover's border security was stepped up, the traffickers became ever more desperate. They attacked lorries on the roads to Calais. Wielding machetes and chainsaws they chopped down trees and threw them into the road. They wreaked havoc – stopping lorries so migrants could be smuggled into the back. Truckers and tourists were left terrified as burning branches were thrown across the highway, while traffickers revved their chainsaws by the side of the road.

It was chaos. That's why I fought so hard to get rid of the Jungle once and for all. The French authorities finally caved in and in the autumn of 2016 the camp was dismantled. The people of Calais got their town back. We must never allow the Jungle to return. Not just for our security – but to protect vulnerable people from the traffickers seeking to exploit them for the evil trade.

Yet already it seems the lessons of the recent past have already been forgotten by some. One London Labour MP is calling for the UK to take in more migrants from Calais. When we hear about vulnerable people living in harsh conditions, of course our first instinct is to want to help. Yet here at the Dover frontline we know that it will simply make Calais a migrant magnet again – and condemn vulnerable people to appalling conditions and a hellish life once more. We cannot allow that to happen.

Let's not forget what happened after the Prime Minister met French President Emmanuel Macron and agreed to speed up the processing of child migrant applications as part of the so-called Sandhurst Treaty. They did this with the best of intentions – yet the worst of results. Within weeks the number of migrants in Calais doubled. Fresh clashes broke out between rival groups with gunfire and violent brawls. While many adults posed as children seeking to game our compassion.

We must be compassionate – yet we must also send the right message. That we will help the needy in conflict zones, that we will take in vulnerable people from those conflict zones, yet we will not allow people to break into Britain from Calais.

The Calais Jungle brought nothing but misery to thousands of people. We must be resolute in ensuring that it will never return.

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17 OCT 2018

Early years education in Dover and Deal ranked second best in country

Early years education in Dover and Deal has been ranked second best in England – out of 533 constituencies.

Our pre-schools and nurseries are in the top 20% for both measures of early years education in a new House of Commons report.

The study found that 97% of Dover and Deal childcare providers were rated "outstanding" or "good" by Ofsted.

Meanwhile, 64% of children eligible for Free School Meals achieved a "good level of development" by the age of five.

Dover and Deal was also in the top 10 in England for primary school quality, with 98% of children eligible for Free School Meals attending primary schools rated "good" or "outstanding".

Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said: "School standards have been rising in Dover and Deal.

"We are now well above average for reading and maths in primary schools. Meanwhile, 9,643 children are attending schools rated good or outstanding – an increase of 2,432 since 2010.

"The hardworking teachers and childcare providers at our primary schools and nurseries deserve huge credit. We must keep doing everything we can to ensure our youngsters get the best start in life."

Across the country, 93 per cent of early years providers were rated as good or outstanding last year, compared to 74 per cent in 2012.

In August, the Government announced a £30 million fund to create more nursery places run by successful primary schools where they do not currently have the facilities.

Another £20 million will be spent on training and professional development for early years staff in disadvantaged areas, aiming to improve children's early speech and language development.

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16 OCT 2018

Residents and commuters steaming at state of Deal train station

A hard-working group of volunteers has been carrying out regular clean-ups of run-down Deal station – to stop it being a "focus for crime and grime". The local residents have been picking up litter, weeding, sweeping up dirt and washing down windows and sills.

I met the "Deal Station Clean-up Crew" on Thursday, October 11, to offer my support, helping out with the litter pick and talking about the need for the station to be spruced up for the increasing number of commuters and visitors. I told organiser Helen Charlton and the team that I am seeking to meet with rail bosses to raise his concerns and echo their message that "Deal deserves better".

Representatives from Network Rail and Southeastern met with the clean-up crew last month and pledged to support their efforts. The group want to see netting provided under the platform canopy, to stop seats being covered in bird droppings. They would also like more bins and a better disposal unit for cigarette butts, as the current one is hard for passengers to locate.

Helen and the Deal Station Clean-up Crew have been doing an incredible job, doing their very best to keep the station tidy. I'm pleased rail bosses have pledged to support the hard work of these residents. Investment in our station is long overdue.Hard-working commuters from Deal spend thousands of pounds a year on season tickets. Yet Southeastern and Network Rail appear to have left parts of our station to rust. It's time for the station to be brought back on track. The current state of neglect cannot continue.

The next meeting of the Deal Station Clean-up Crew is on Thursday, November 8th, at 2pm. Helen says everyone is welcome to come and help the team.

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12 OCT 2018

Nearly 3,000 motorists hit with new M20 roadworks speeding fines

Highways England should not to treat motorists like a cash cow. Nearly £300,000 in speeding fines were dished out to drivers travelling through roadworks on the M20. More than 1,200 people have been hit with the £100 fines while driving at night – when motorists report there is little traffic and no workers.

The roadworks – part of a plan to upgrade the M20 with new junctions and smart motorways – began in early July in Maidstone, and mid-May in Ashford. Speed cameras enforcing a 50mph speed limit are switched on 24 hours a day. A Freedom of Information request by my office has revealed a third of the 2,969 fines, equalling to £124,200, were handed out overnight between 8pm and 6am. At the current rate, motorists are set to be paying out a whopping £909,306 a year in fines.

Drivers are already paying a high price having to crawl through miles and miles of roadworks on the M20. Now they are finding out that more than 1,000 people have been hit with fines while driving at night – when there is no work taking place. It's no wonder they feel like they are being taken for a ride.

Highways England needs hurry up and finish these roadworks. And the Government needs to do the right thing – and spend the funds raised through fines on improving Kent's roads and fixing the potholes that blight our county.

I have raised the issue with Highways England. They said that the cameras are in place in protect workers, and act as a deterrent to drivers passing through the roadworks at night. Of course it's important that people drive safely and workers are protected. Yet at the current rate 26 people are caught every day, costing motorists nearly £1 million every year. It's important that Highways England keeps a strict deadline, finishes these works on time, and ensures motorists are not treated like a cash cow.

Drivers have been handed 454 speeding fines between Junctions 3 and 5 of the M20, between 1 July 2018 and 13 September 2018. Of these, 123 speeding offences occurred during the day between 6am and 8pm and 341 occurred overnight. Between 15 May 2018 to 13 September 2018 between junctions 9 and 11, some 2,505 fines were handed to drivers with 1,604 happening during the day and 901 occurring overnight. The roadworks at the M20 in Ashford and the M20 in Maidstone are expected to end within the first half of 2020.

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11 OCT 2018

Helping people around the world

We are so lucky to be British. Living in the developed world we have a level of prosperity that developing nations do not. That's why it's so important that we do our bit to help people in other nations with international aid.

That was my message to pupils at Aycliffe Community Primary School when I visited last week. I had received a letter from the school's "pupil panel" asking what was being done to help people around the globe. So I went to visit the school to discuss what is being done.

Speaking to the school assembly, I explained how aid is important – yet it must be spent in the right way. It should not go to nations that are able to afford space programmes. It should not be given to governments that make off with the cash. Instead it should go to the people who need it – to make a difference at the front line.

Our international aid budget has been doing much to help young people. Between 2011 and 2015, the UK supported more than 11 million children in schools across the world. That includes helping 430,000 Syrian children get better access to education. Meanwhile, we have helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. These are real achievements that we should be proud of as a nation.

I was quizzed about the importance of our work around the world and whether we are supporting the United Nations too. It was impressive how the children are concerned to see that we help children in poorer countries. They also care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet – and what we are doing to tackle pollution.

Inevitably I was also asked about Brexit, with one youngster asking: "What continent will be in if we leave Europe?" This question was an incredibly important one. It was about what the future holds for him and his classmates – and what our nation's place in the world will be in the years to come.

Rightly so. For we won't be cutting along a dotted line down the English Channel and pushing ourselves out into the Atlantic. We may be leaving the EU – but we are not leaving Europe. We must remain as outward looking and concerned with continental and global affairs as we have ever been.

I was hugely impressed by how kind, caring and compassionate the pupils are. Their parents and teachers should all be really proud. The 'pupil panel' team put a lot of thought into the questions they asked – and are clearly passionate about helping others.

Executive headteacher John Dexter, head of school Jacky Cox and their team deserve great credit for the amazing job they have done at Aycliffe, which has been rated "good" and is now moving towards outstanding. We should all be proud of the children in our community – and their concern for others who are less fortunate.

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10 OCT 2018

Questioning the PM on county lines

The Prime Minister has been urged to crack down on county lines drugs gangs in Kent. During Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon, I raised "the rise of county lines operations" – where London dealers target youngsters in regional towns to run drug operations.

I asked Theresa May whether she shared my concern that drug-related deaths in Kent have doubled over the last three years, also pointing out that there are now 48 county lines in operation in Kent. I asked whether the Prime Minister agreed that "it's important for the Home Office to put more priority on making sure we win the war on drugs?"

Mrs May said Charlie had "raised a very important issue." She said the Government recognised that county lines "has been a growing problem and the Home Office is taking action".

My question to the Prime Minister comes after the Home Office axed funding for a project which has dramatically reduced child gang activity in Kent. The St Giles Trust charity has been training people with previous experience in gangs to become specialist caseworkers, who are then assigned to troubled youngsters involved in county lines across Kent.

According to a new report, 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 last year. Kent Police calculated more than a quarter of a million pounds had been saved in resources, compared to £80,000 spent on the caseworkers.

After the huge success of the scheme, I wrote to Home Office asking for funding to be extended. Yet Minister Victoria Atkins said the St Giles Trust should explore other options. I asked Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to step in – and he agreed to provide cash to keep the work going until April 2019.

But I want the Home Office to recognise how vital this project is and commit to long-term funding. Last week I ministers for "not taking county lines seriously enough" and for "proposing reviews rather than action". I have also been supporting Families United, a group of Dover parents whose children have been caught up in county lines. They are fighting to raise awareness of the issue and have been working closely with the St Giles Trust.

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09 OCT 2018

Ex-detective opens new Dover mental health base after personal battles

A former Metropolitan Police detective who suffered "manic depressive episodes" has spent the past 10 years helping others who suffer from mental health problems. Mark Kilbey is the director of Take Off, a support charity which recently opened up a new base in Dover. He invited me to come along and meet the team at Unit 1a in Granville Street last month.

Like Mark, who is bipolar, everyone in the team has experienced mental health problems. Mark says this makes the 37 "peer workers" across East Kent uniquely placed to help others. Indeed, mental health experience is "an essential qualification". Take Off, which was set up in Canterbury 20 years ago, held 840 group meetings last year.

Mark told me that he suffered a "psychotic episode" in 2005 while working for Kent County Council. He says his treatment "probably cost the NHS £100,000". He has dedicated the past decade of his life to working with Take Off to try to help others and promote awareness of mental health issues. I also met assistant director Ellie Williams, Dover co-ordinator Wayne Smith and Folkestone co-ordinator Madlin Brinton at their new Dover base.

Mark and his team are an inspiration to everyone who has suffered from mental health problems. They have battled through really difficult times and are now using their experience to help others. I would encourage anyone who feels like they need help to contact the Take Off team. I am determined to do all I can to support people in Dover and Deal struggling with mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

All the peer workers at Take Off are paid. The charity receives funding from Kent County Council, Canterbury City Council, the local clinical commissioning group and a number of local businesses. Take Off offers group therapy sessions and much more. Anyone wanting to contact the team should call 01227 788211 or email office@takeoff.works

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04 OCT 2018

Scaffolding removed the Crypt

The controversial 'Welcome to Dover' sign has been torn down – along with "dangerous" scaffolding at the former Crypt site. I met with town centre businesses and tourism chiefs in June to jointly call for the "horrible hoarding" in Townwall Street to be scrapped.

Residents also raised concerns about the Crypt site around the corner in Bench Street which has been left to ruin for decades – with the rusty scaffolding above "in danger of collapse". Just weeks later Dover District Council said a plan had been agreed with land and property owners to clean the area up. And last month the hated sign was gone and new hoardings put up.

I went to see local fish and chip shop boss Mario Macari to see how things had improved. Mr Macari, who runs Europa Fish & Chips, right next door to the former Crypt site told me he was pleased action had been taken. But he was still concerned about the "horrible and dangerous" scaffolding. I took the issue up with Dover District Council once again – and days later the scaffolding was gone.

Dover District Council deserve huge credit for listening to our community's concerns and taking action. Since our campaign started we've got rid of the embarrassing 'Welcome to Dover' sign and got the scaffolding above the Crypt site taken down too. We've made bigger steps forward in the last four months than we had for decades. Now we need to see the whole Crypt site spruced up – and to properly commemorate those whose lives were lost.

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04 OCT 2018

Fighting back in the war on drugs

Locking the doors at night. Bolting the windows. Householders going to bed ready to be up and out in the street at a moment's notice. These were the stories I heard from concerned parents of Dover. Yet this was not about keeping people out. It was about keeping their children inside – and safe.

Sitting round the table with the parents of Dover's Families United support group I heard how they are the front line in the war against drugs. Every parent wants to give their children a stable, loving home. Nothing is more important than ensuring our children our safe – whether at school, online or out and about with their friends. Yet these parents' children had been targeted by "county lines" drugs gangs and they needed help.

This is a rising problem. Drug deaths have doubled in Kent in the last three years – to the highest level in the UK. My first priority has been to seek tougher action against the drug dealers who exploit young people. Starting with more prosecutions and tougher sentences. An important milestone in this campaign has been securing Robert's Law. This means there is now stronger prosecution guidance and tougher sentences for the dangerous new drug fentanyl – in memory of Deal's Robert Fraser who was killed by the deadly opioid.

Yet we also need to take the battle to the drugs gangs. There are currently 48 county lines gang operations in Kent. All of these gangs exploit vulnerable children. I met with East Kent's police chiefs to seek further action. I set out my concerns over reports dealers were targeting children at our schools. As a result, the police have been taking firm action – with the arrest, charge, and removal of a number of accused county lines drug dealers from Dover.

We also need to support the parents. Families United told me they felt they were fighting a lonely battle. They needed back up. They had support from the St Giles Trust. This charity has been doing great work, yet only had funding until September for a pilot scheme in Dover. This project trains teenagers who had already overcome disadvantages to help other troubled youngsters. Yet their funding was uncertain, so I asked Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to help – and he has acted to ensure they now have funding until April next year. I am working to get the Home Office to provide support too.

Families United want to found a new youth hub in Dover town centre. The group are trying to find a suitable space where young people can go after school. This is incredibly important. If you know of such a space, or can help, do get in touch with me or Families United urgently.

Beating drugs and addiction is hard. We can only help the county lines victims by coming together – families, community, government and police – to protect our children and take the battle to the London drugs gangs. That's why all of us need to do our bit to help rid our community of drugs.

Families United has asked anyone with suitable space in the Dover town centre area to contact them on familiesunited2018@gmail.com or my office on charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk

Please do watch the ITV video of these brave Dover parents here: http://www.itv.com/news/2018-09-28/i-wouldnt-wish-this-on-my-worst-enemy-parents-lift-the-lid-on-the-damage-county-lines-does-to-families/

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02 OCT 2018

School kids quiz me on poverty, pollution and Brexit

Youngsters at Aycliffe Community Primary School quizzed me on tackling global poverty, protecting the environment – and what Brexit will mean for them. I answered questions in front of a whole school assembly on Thursday, September 27th.

I had been invited to come and speak in a letter from the school's "pupil panel" team. The group of up to 70 youngsters meet for 15 minutes every week to discuss issues that matter to them. On Thursday, youngsters from the panel asked Charlie about the global goals of the United Nations, what the Government is doing to help children in poorer countries – and tackling pollution. I talked about the UN's mission to end poverty and hunger and to give everyone a right to a good education.

I told them how the UK spends £13 billion a year on overseas aid – and between 2011 and 2015, had supported more than 11 million children in schools across the world. That includes helping 430,000 Syrian children get better access to education. Meanwhile, the UK helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions.

I explained how in my role as MP I have been fighting for more use of clean energy – like solar and tidal power. And I told the children of my battles with ministers for more funding for Dover and Deal's roads – and my campaign to keep lorries out of Aycliffe, which make their parents cross.

Yet I faced even more tricky questions from the children. One pupil asked: "Should we get rid of money in order to stop poverty?"

Another said: "What continent will be in if we leave Europe?"

I was then taken on a tour of the primary by head of school Jacky Cox and prefects Ella, Nirubiga, Isabelle and Naomi, hearing how out of those Year 6 pupils who took the recent SATS tests, 100% achieved the expected standard in maths and 90% in reading and in spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG). Ms Cox said the school has been rated "good" and is now moving towards outstanding.

I was hugely impressed by the kind, caring and compassionate pupils at Aycliffe. Their parents and teachers should all be really proud. The 'pupil panel' team put a lot of thought into the questions they asked – and are clearly passionate about helping others. This really is an excellent school. Executive headteacher John Dexter and head of school Jacky Cox and their team deserve great credit for the amazing job they have done.

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01 OCT 2018

Company donates half a billion to charity

A company has donated £500 million to a disability charity following my direct appeal in Parliament. 

Motability, a part-taxpayer funded scheme which provides adapted vehicles to disabled people, faced severe criticism earlier this year. In February a Charity Commission inquiry found it was hoarding £2.4 billion and paying huge salaries to senior staff, including £1.7 million to chief executive Mike Betts.

I argued that with its growing profits, the private firm should make a substantial donation to the associated Motability charity. Addressing Mr Betts directly at a joint select committee hearing in March, I said: "The variables all seem to be up and away every year since 2011. Don't you think you could afford to be a little more generous and give more money to good causes? Don't you think you should be doing a one-off immediate, substantial transfer to the charity so you can help its good charitable works?"

Hugh Radojev from the Civil Society, which supports the charity sector, highlighted that the donation followed this criticism. Motability Operations has now committed to making an initial £400m donation, which it said will be paid out of its profits this year. The company hopes to donate a further £100m to its charity arm next year.

Speaking at Motability's AGM this morning, Lord Sterling thanked Motability Operations for "once again delivering a splendid level of service to disabled people and their families" and said the charity governors "very much appreciate" the £400m charitable donation. He said the amount was "considerably higher than the charity was initially expecting".

It's very welcome to see that Motability have listened to our serious concerns and stumped up more cash for good causes. People were understandably angry that so much money was being hoarded. This is a big step in the right direction.

The Motability charity was first set up in 1977 by Lord Sterling of Plaistow. The Queen is its chief patron, while Theresa May and a number of former Prime Ministers are among its patrons.

Since it was set up in 1977, the scheme has provided over four and a half million vehicles for disabled people.

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27 SEP 2018

We need to believe in Britain and deliver Brexit

Leaving the EU must mean just that. That we take back control of our laws, money, borders and trade. That's why the Prime Minister must chuck Chequers and seek a free trade deal – and be fully prepared to do a World Trade deal if necessary. We must make it clear to the EU that we won't be bullied.

Why did the nation vote to leave? Because they believed in better. They believed in the kind of country we can build, where everyone has the chance to get on and succeed. Where we are free to run our own laws and our own economy in a way that works best for us – not Brussels.

The Chequers proposals put forward by the Prime Minister fail to honour the referendum mandate. We would be out of Europe yet still run by Europe. And it is now clear that Chequers doesn't work for the EU either.

What's more, the Chequers proposals would be bad for Britain. We would be tied to EU rules forever. We would never be truly independent. We would be saddled with regulations that work for other countries and protect big businesses from competition. These rules are also bad for hard working taxpayers, as they allow giant corporations to dodge taxes. They are bad for shoppers as they increase the cost of food and clothing to protect inefficient EU businesses. Nor would we be able to boost our economy through free trade deals with other nations. Chequers would not just be a bad deal. It would make our country poorer in the long term.

That's why the Prime Minister must now change course. This week the independent experts at the Institute for Economic Affairs set out the sort of free trade deal the Government should look for. A deal that honours the referendum mandate and enables us to depart the EU as friends.

That would leave us free to build a better Britain. One where we can scrap import taxes on goods we don't produce ourselves, so lowering prices for shoppers. Regulations that work for us and boost jobs and money. A fair immigration system seeking the skills we need equally from the EU or anywhere else in the world. And when it comes to Northern Ireland, we would agree to undertake all necessary investment and co-operation, so everything can be done away from the Irish border.

Last week's failed Salzburg summit underlined the disdain the EU has for us. Their insulting and immature behaviour shows it may not be possible to get an agreement before we leave. What we must not do is beg for more time. It will make us look pathetic and weak. Instead, we should be ready to leave under a World Trade deal that would save taxpayers from having the stump up the £39 billion divorce bill. To strengthen our hand, we should turbocharge preparations, so we are ready on day one, deal or no deal.

The EU referendum was the biggest vote in British history. Some 17.4 million people voted to take back control of our laws, borders, money and trade. The Government must now deliver on the referendum mandate by chucking Chequers and seeking a free trade deal with the EU.

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26 SEP 2018

Toasting the success of Kent's best pub!

I popped in for a pint at The Lanes in Dover – which has been crowned Kent's best pub.

I congratulated owner Debbie Lane for scooping yet another prize for the popular Worthington Street micropub.

The latest award from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) comes after The Lanes won East Kent pub of the year for the second year running in June.

Debbie and Keith run a great pub and have rightly been recognised for the delicious drinks on offer.

With the Mash Tun, the Breakwater Taproom and the Thirsty Scarecrow in town too, Dover has some brilliant micropubs – and I would encourage people to try them all!

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26 SEP 2018

Raising residents' concerns over Snowdown road

Residents tell me they fear it is only a matter of time before there is another fatal accident on an "incredibly dangerous" stretch of road through Snowdown.

Two young women were killed in a crash in Nethersole Road, Womenswold, on Friday, September 14.

An 18-year-old man died just weeks earlier after a car travelling from Nonington towards Snowdown crashed in Holt Street on July 29.

Residents of Weston Mews in Snowdown, whose homes are located between the two crash sites, fear "further heartbreak" unless urgent action is taken to introduce traffic calming measures.

I met with Kate Comfort and Rev Rex Morton on Thursday, September 20, after being invited to see the road for myself and discuss their concerns.

Mrs Comfort said: "We firmly believe that unless urgent action is taken to deter speeding motorists driving through Snowdown, it is only a matter of time before there is yet another fatal accident on our doorsteps.

"Cars, motorbikes and lorries speed past at 60mph on a narrow road only feet from our front doors. We all worry for our safety and for the safety of our children and pets."

The two recent fatal accidents come after a 21-year-old man died in a crash in Sandwich Road between Nonington and Chillenden in June 2016.

Rev Morton said: "I'm heartbroken at young lives being lost and ruined because of speed. This stretch of road is incredibly dangerous."

Fellow Weston Mews resident Rachel Thompson said: "Cars travel too fast outside our houses throughout the day and night. The road currently has a 60mph limit which needs reducing, alongside other speed reduction initiatives.

"Snowdown is a lovely place but we do not feel safe taking children or animals out the front."

And Gina Lipman added: "Since our houses have been built, it has been a real concern for me the speed at which the cars go along the main road at the front. Although at the end of our row of our houses there's a 40 mile sign, many drivers ignore that.

"Also because of the bridge over the train station, it makes it quite difficult to see cars coming from Nonington, as you're turning out on to main road, and that's a real potential for an accident."

The residents want the speed limit in front of their homes to be reduced to 30mph – as well as "some form of physical speed restriction" to force motorists to slow.

They told me that adjustments to traffic restrictions have not changed since the new homes were built in 2016. They are also concerned that the wooded area adjacent to their line of houses obstructs motorists' views.

I am urging Kent County Council to listen to residents' concerns.

Too many young lives are being lost on this stretch of road.

We need better street lighting, traffic calming measures and a lower speed limit – especially in front of the Weston Mews houses.

Residents fear it is only a matter of time before there is another fatal accident on their doorsteps. We must act now to make this road safe.

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20 SEP 2018

Backing our local high streets

High streets up and down the land are facing challenging times. They struggle to compete with online retailers. These internet giants don't have to pay for high street buildings – or business rates. And their selfish culture of tax dodging gives them an even stronger edge. Small wonder then that so many high street shops struggle to make ends meet.

Here in Dover and Deal it's no different. Our high streets find things tough too. We can't wish it all away. The hard truth is that our high streets will need to change. That's not to say we shouldn't act to make a level playing field with online retailers. We should. For example, in Parliament I have been active in making the case to tackle online tax dodging. Yet proud as we are of our high streets, we all know there is work to do.

Locally, we must remember just how far we've come. For decades the hated Burlington House cast a long shadow over Dover. It took a monumental effort – yet it was finally torn down. The fall of Burlington House was a symbol of how Dover was changing for the better. The new St James cinema, shops and restaurants rose in its place. The once desolate car park is now packed with shoppers. The £50 million invested is paying off. The redevelopment of the leisure centre next door will boost things further.

No-one likes empty shops. There are 45 empty shops in Dover and 10 in Deal. So it's welcome to see a scheme for grants to spruce up empty shop fronts approved by Dover District Council's Cabinet last week. In Dover, the old Stembrook Co-op store is being turned into a start-up business base, helping entrepreneurs test ideas before moving into the high street.

Deal's high street has been crowned Britain's high street of the year and tops a list of the UK's best coastal towns. So Deal is in a better position. Yet even there retailers tell me things are not always easy.

The key to the future will be to make our high streets attractions in their own right. This is part of the reason Deal has done better – the sea is closer and there are quite a lot of more niche businesses. A key question will be how we can make Dover's high street more of an attraction and put more buzz in. Maybe having more people living in the town centre will help – as could having more entertainment there to draw people in.

There are no easy answers and it's something we need collectively to think about. To work together to make our historic high street successful destinations with a greater future. I would welcome hearing what readers think we should do to move things forward.

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19 SEP 2018

Funding boost for our hospitals

An extra £6.48 million of Government funding has been handed to local hospitals to help staff prepare for winter. The cash was allocated after East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust put forward plans to help with its emergency care capacity. The investment is part of a £145 million pot for 81 schemes at hospitals across the country.

The Department for Health says the funding will enable the NHS to deliver additional beds, redevelop A&E units and upgrade wards, enhance bed management systems, and improve 'same-day' emergency care.

I welcome the funding boost for the Trust, which runs local hospitals including Buckland and the William Harvey. This funding will be well received by the hardworking staff who keep our hospitals running day and night throughout the difficult winter period. Every year our local NHS staff go the extra mile, working additional shifts and long hours. We must do everything we can to support them and put patients' care first.

I have long fought to deliver a fairer share of healthcare for Dover and Deal, getting the £24million Buckland Hospital built and securing the future of Deal Hospital. Both hospitals have continued to see improvements, with clinics operating out of Buckland doubling since 2015 and staff numbers at Deal Hospital rising by a fifth.

I am also battling to bring more GPs to the area – and successfully campaigned in Parliament with fellow Kent MPs to deliver a new £30 million East Kent Medical School. To tackle the issue in the short-term, I have called on Kent County Council's Health Overview Scrutiny Committee to launch an inquiry into GP recruitment issues in South Kent. I have also asked the Committee to examine what South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is doing to boost the number of doctors locally – and to support the hard-working GPs we already have.

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17 SEP 2018

Battle of Britain memorial service

A memorial service to mark the heroics of the Battle of Britain was held in Dover on Sunday. I was among those paying their respects to The Few. Air Cadets from the 354 (Dover) Squadron also joined the commemoration along with standard bearers at Dover Castle's St Mary in Castro.

It was an honour to join the service and remember the brave pilots who fought the Battle of Britain across our skies 78 years ago. We will never forget the The Few who defied the odds to defeat the Luftwaffe – and save the lives of so many.

The Air Cadets on parade showed yet again how they are a real credit to our community. It would be great to see even more local youngsters joining the squadron. Lt Col John Morrison and Canon Jonathan Russell led the service, organised by The Royal Air Forces Association.

On September 15th in 1940, the Luftwaffe launched their largest attack yet on Britain. The RAF's defence of London and the South East resulted in a decisive victory that marked a turning point in the Second World War.

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14 SEP 2018

Backing the campaign for a new youth hub

Parents of troubled youngsters from Dover are on the lookout for buildings in the town centre area for a new youth hub. I am backing the Families United campaign and trying to help them secure funding for the project.

The group wants to hire space where young people can hang out after school to "keep them off the streets". They would like to provide seating, speakers and games and keep the hub open between 4pm and 9pm seven days a week. The campaign comes amid growing concerns over 'county lines', where drug dealers from urban areas target young people in regional towns to run their operations.

County lines has become a real problem. Police are cracking down on it – but as a community we have to play a part as well. I have met with Families United a few times now and really want to help them with their project. First of all we need a suitable location for the hub.

Families United has also been working closely with the London-based St Giles Trust, a charity which trains people who have already overcome disadvantages to help other troubled youngsters. I met with St Giles caseworkers, who were working with Dover youngsters as part of a pilot scheme until September funded by the Home Office. I spoke to Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, who has agreed to take over funding until at least April, while a bid for further funding is made to the Home Office intervention fund.

Families United were clear the St Giles team were getting real results. I was very impressed myself after meeting them. So I asked Matthew Scott to keep funding their work. I am delighted he has managed to do so. Yet again he has shown real foresight and leadership.

Families United has asked anyone with suitable space in the Dover town centre area to contact them on familiesunited2018@gmail.com or my office on charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk.

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14 SEP 2018

Fighting to get more doctors in East Kent

We've come a long way in delivering a fairer share of healthcare for Dover and Deal.

After hard-fought community campaigns, we got the new £24 million Dover hospital built – and the future of Deal hospital has been secured.

Twice as many clinics are now operating at Buckland than in 2015. Deal Hospital staff numbers are up a fifth. Meanwhile, around £200 million is going towards upgrading East Kent's A&E departments.

We're getting more healthcare provided locally. Yet I know there is much more to do.

For many years, I have been urging health chiefs to step up efforts to bring more GPs to our corner of Kent. And I've been doing what I can in Parliament to help.

We fought a long and hard battle for a new £30 million East Kent medical school, so more doctors and nurses can be trained locally. I asked other Kent MPs to join in the fight. And earlier this year it was finally confirmed that our bid had been successful. This victory will make a massive difference in the longer term. Yet it's clear that more needs to be done right now to bring more GPs to our area.

This issue has been brought into sharp focus by Eastry Surgery's proposals to close and move all appointments to Sandwich. The doctors would like to keep the practice running – yet despite their best efforts, they have not been able to recruit any more GPs.

Residents are understandably concerned. The two public meetings held to discuss the plans were packed. People are particularly worried about public transport and parking. The GPs have listened and tell me they are taking action to address these concerns. Yet it's clear this problem would never have arisen had we been able to bring more doctors to Dover and Deal. We simply must do better.

That's why I've called for Kent County Council's Health Overview Scrutiny Committee to launch an inquiry into GP recruitment issues in South Kent. I've asked the Committee to examine what South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is doing to boost the number of doctors locally – and to support the hard-working GPs we already have.

This is a problem that needs addressing fast. The CCG have opened a new £2.3 million GP hub at Buckland and Deal hospitals, where doctors can work seven days a week so more people can be treated locally. Yet to make this work properly, we need more GPs.

We must get better at attracting doctors to South Kent – and at training GPs locally too. This is exactly what the £20 billion funding boost for the NHS announced in June must go towards – not more pay for middle managers and bureaucrats.

In Dover and Deal we are lucky to have excellent GPs who work long hours and care deeply about their community. Doctors who put patients first. I am determined to do all I can to support them.

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12 SEP 2018

Disability firm under threat due to EU rules

A Kent disability firm says it is "likely to go out of business" because of EU tariff charges which can't be changed for almost a decade. Kingsdown resident David Wilsher's firm Mission Cycles, based in Maidstone, sells products designed for disabled people – which should make them exempt from import duty.

But HM Revenue and Customs enforced a rate of 6% – an £85,000 bill for the small business – blaming tariff classifications decided by the EU. A more recent order was subject to new anti-dumping charges on Chinese steel imports. The electric trikes from China were suddenly charged at a rate of 43% – an extra £17,640.

Mr Wilsher said: "I had no advance notice that duties of 37% would apply before I could clear the order through customs. I had to take a loan out from the bank just to get the products out of the warehouse, where they would have been picking up even more charges.

"Our customers rely on these products for mobility. They are not wealthy and it is extremely important to their quality of life. Meanwhile, we as a company are likely to go out of business."

After I went to HMRC, their officers reduced the £85,000 bill to around £65,000 and arranged a visit to Missions Cycles to discuss the remainder. But officers did not agree to further concessions, again blaming the EU's classifications.

During the visit, Mr Wilsher says he asked how the tariff classification could be changed and says he was told submissions had already been made for 2022, so it couldn't be looked at until the next round in 2027.

This case underlines how damaging EU rules can be to British businesses – and why it is so important that we take back control of our trade policy. The EU's Customs Union protects foreign companies with no links to the UK. And it stops poorer countries in the rest of the world from trading with us.

Lower tariffs mean lower prices, for everyone. That's why I am fighting for a proper Brexit, so we can have a trade policy that is sensible, flexible and global.

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10 SEP 2018

Crunch talks over Eastry Surgery

I have urged health chiefs to step up efforts to attract more doctors to East Kent, calling for an inquiry into GP recruitment issues – following crunch talks over the future of Eastry Surgery. Imet with doctors, health chiefs and councillors on Thursday to discuss the practice's proposals to move all appointments to The Market Place Surgery in Sandwich.

I had previously written to the Eastry GPs highlighting villagers' worries over parking in Sandwich and public transport. The doctors told me they were meeting with Dover District Council to discuss tackling the concerns over parking. They also said that a nurse practitioner could potentially work out of the pharmacy in Eastry.

Meanwhile Cllr Sue Chandler told the meeting she is looking into how concerns over transport could be addressed with the help of local transport schemes and community bus services. The GPs said that Eastry Surgery had to close due to difficulties attracting more doctors. I have now asked Cllr Chandler, who chair Kent County Council's Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, to launch an inquiry into GP recruitment issues in South Kent.

We need to attract more GPs to our corner of Kent. That's why I fought so hard to help secure the new medical school, where more doctors and nurses will train and work locally. Yet we also need to tackle this issue right now. Local health chiefs must step up efforts to boost the number of GPs in Dover, Deal and the villages.

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Hopefully Clr Sue Chandler will arrange for any new transport scheme to accept bus passes, otherwise it will be unaffordable. The closure of Eastry surgery has come at a time when there have been cuts to bus services in the villages. To get to Sandwich from Eythorne will now take over two hours by bus, travelling via Canterbury. At what point were patients going to be told about the closure? I have been registered at Eastry surgery for 36 years, but only heard about this by word of mouth. How is it going to be possible to get an appointment at Sandwich if all the patients from Eastry are added to the list?
- Eythorne Resident

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07 SEP 2018

Fighting for resilient roads

Families stuck in standstill traffic for 12 hours. No communication from the authorities. Drivers not knowing whether they will be able to make it home.

This is the sort of thing we've seen all too often on the roads to Dover – usually caused by the French. Yet this the problem with the Department for Transport. Time and again they seem unable to put people travelling on the roads first.

We all remember the summer of 2015, when strikes by French ferry workers led to scenes of bedlam. Queues of 4,600 lorries stretched back 30 miles. Emergency teams handed out more than 18,000 bottles of water and 6,500 meals to truckers and passengers. Four days' disruption cost the economy £1 billion.

A year later, in the summer of 2016, a shortage of French border staff led to extraordinary disruption. There were delays of up to 10 hours with traffic queuing back 12 miles. 250,000 people were caught up in the chaos – many forced to sleep in their cars for two nights.

Then last week we saw it all again – this time at the M25 Thames Crossing. Two lorries collided between junctions 30 and 31. Before long, huge tailbacks formed along the busy motorway.

Yet it didn't have to be this way. I happened to be driving back from East Anglia that day and, luckily, had checked the traffic before getting too close. I knew that with the motorway closed, people would start heading towards the Blackwall Tunnel and that would soon snarl up. The only way to get back to Dover was to go all the way round the M25 in the other direction.

If I hadn't checked, we would have been stuck all night long. Just as thousands were – babies who went hungry, diabetics for whom time can be critical and the elderly and infirm suffered too. All because the information provided by Highways England was wholly inadequate. There was no warning of the gridlock that lay ahead. Listening to the radio phone-ins, many drivers had the same experience. The roadside signage flagged up possible queues of one hour – when in fact people were stuck the whole night. It's not good enough.

The chaos showed yet again how fragile our road infrastructure really is. Just like when the French cause delays at Dover, a closure of the M25 causes gridlock for thousands of people. It's not a regional problem – it's a national one. It shows how the Department for Transport is not fit for purpose.

That's why I've been fighting to secure resilient roads. To get the Lower Thames Crossing taken forward at speed. It was approved last year. Yet progress so far has been at a snail's pace. Everyone knows we need a viable alternative to Dartford. Yet it takes years for the Department for Transport to build even the simplest road in today's Britain.

Or lorry parks for that matter. We need lorry parks along the M20 and the M2/A2. Yet despite the urgent need to get going, the Department for Transport has conked out. Their latest claim is that motorways are best for parking. That may be an inevitability given the way they carry on. Yet it's time they put their foot on the accelerator, built resilient roads, ensured motorways are for free flowing traffic, the lorry parks are built and the Thames Crossing is taken forward at speed. Yet above all, they need to make sure people on the road come first.

Photo: Brian Chadwick

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05 SEP 2018

Homeless refuge's future secured after campaign

The future of a homeless refuge in Dover threatened by funding cuts has been secured following a hard-fought campaign.

Staff at Emmaus Dover described it as an "immense relief" after the Government scrapped plans to shake up housing benefits. I urged Ministers to scrap the controversial proposals after meeting with the Emmaus team last year.

Under the Government's former plans, funding for refuges and short-term supported housing would have been overhauled, removing both from the current welfare system.

The changes would have meant that vulnerable people seeking shelter at charities like Emmaus could not pay for the accommodation using housing benefits.

Currently, such benefits are the last guaranteed income available for refuges, making up 53 per cent of their funding on average.

Emmaus operates out of Archcliffe Fort in Dover and offers a home and work to 27 formerly homeless people.

Debra Stevenson, community manager at Emmaus Dover, said: "I want to thank Charlie for his support in safeguarding the future of Emmaus Dover and other supported housing organisations.

"The Government's announcement that housing benefit will be retained for supported accommodation was an immense relief. We wholeheartedly welcome the decision."

Emmaus, and other charities offering supported housing, play a vital role in Dover, ensuring our most vulnerable get a warm bed, a warm meal, and the chance to build the skills and confidence to get on in life.

My support of their work is a given – and I will resist any attempt to rob them of their funding. That's why I pressed Ministers to scrap their plans.

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03 SEP 2018

Seeing the unique new stand at Deal Town Football Club

Deal Town Football Club welcomed me to the Charles Ground last week. Chairman Dave Chmura showed me around the recently refurbished facilities in St Leonards Road.

We chatted in the plush hospitality suite, before popping into the new club house and walking out onto the pitch. Mr Chmura told me how they are now able to hire out the club house to groups including the NHS heart therapy team, MAPS learning difficulties/disability group, EE Fitness classes and new club sponsors Channels & Choices foster care company.

He also showed me the new "stand", a double decker bus being converted so fans can watch the game from the seats inside. They also discussed the club's ambitions to have a 4G pitch, so more local youngsters and adults can play at the Charles Ground throughout the whole year. The modern facilities at the club, playing in the Southern Counties East Football League, were built following a huge fire in 2011. Some 30 firefighters were called out to tackle the blaze that destroyed a partially completed new pavilion.

It was great to come and meet Dave at the Charles Ground to see the great work he, the directors and a small force of volunteers have been doing. From the ashes of the fire in 2011, they have built something truly impressive. The new hospitality suite and clubhouse are fantastic – surely the best facilities in the league! From these foundations I'm sure the club can keep building a bright future and boost attendances even further. No-one likes to see a team 'park the bus'. But Dave assures me the brilliant new double-decker stand will be behind the goal – not in front!

Mr Chmura said: "What you see now is really only the beginning of what we aim to achieve here. Yes it all looks bright and beautiful but unless we can replace the aging floodlights our current league status is in jeopardy.

"To maintain our dream of a fully committed club for the whole community we need a 4G pitch working 24/7.

"The grass pitch, although looking the best it's ever been, cannot take the strain of everyday use.

"We should have a constant stream of children playing football here during these school holidays and adults playing late into the evenings.

"We have already received welcome help from Kent County Council councillors Trevor Bond and Derek Murphy but we need 100% backing from every Dover District Council councillor – because Deal Town FC should be the heart of the district's community. This is a venue for every single person in the area not just for a few football fans.

"Thanks to DDC our new 99 year lease should see football and maybe other sports played here into the next century and as we are only the current custodians, we need to build and leave a sustainable legacy for future generations.

"As we say in the clubs newly adopted battle cry: 'Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now!'"

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30 AUG 2018

Building the homes we need

We all want Dover and Deal to be a place where you can get a job, have a home to call your own and raise a family. Yet too many young people are priced out of the housing market.

Cutting stamp duty and bringing in the Help to Buy scheme have been making a difference. New figures reveal that more than 200 families across Dover and Deal have bought their own home thanks to Help to Buy. The 52 homes purchased in 2017 represent an increase of a third on the previous year, bringing the total to 210 households since 2013. I'm urging ministers to extend the scheme beyond 2021.

In Dover and Deal the number of new builds started last year was 434 – almost twice the national average. This is a good start. Yet there is still much more to do.

We must do more to help young people and renters save for deposits – and give everyone a chance to get on the housing ladder. For too long foreign investors and Buy-to-Let landlords have controlled the market. Things have got to change. We need to build more homes and ensure they go to local families who need them.

That is why I have been supporting local developments at brownfield sites in our area. At Connaught Barracks, 500 new homes are planned at the former MoD site off Dover Road. While at Farthingloe more than 521 new houses and flats are proposed to be built where temporary housing for Channel Tunnel workers once stood. The developer wants to give Dovorians first pick too.

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

Of course, we all want to protect our beautiful countryside. Yet, despite what many people think, just 0.1% of the UK is densely built up. Indeed, 85% of the Dover district is farmland.

The real issue is making sure we have the right infrastructure in place when new homes are built. That means investment in roads, schools, local health services, transport and decent broadband. I know this is a huge concern for so many people. Because in our corner of Kent, we have to fight relentlessly to get our fair share.

It shouldn't be this way. Britain should not be a country that only works for the big cities and big business. Ours should be a nation that works for the regions and hard-working families across the land.

As we leave the European Union we have the opportunity to take back control of our laws and make Britain work for our young people. To invest in our historic towns and have a renaissance of the regions.

Dover and Deal should be leading the way. It's time to focus on the future that we can build together. A Britain that works for our young people.

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30 AUG 2018

Fighting to save Satheesh

I have asked the Home Secretary to make an urgent intervention in the case of local physio Satheesh Sankara Gounder.

Satheesh is the only physiotherapist in the Dover area and has invested tens of thousands of pounds in a practice in the town.

The last of his savings went on a Tier 1 application for leave to remain and associated legal fees.

Yet the application has been turned down and Satheesh, who came to the UK in 2011, faces deportation to India.

I have been battling to keep Satheesh in the UK and earlier this month made a direct appeal to Sajid Javid.

In my letter to the Home Secretary, I said: "[Satheesh's application] has been refused because he does not get enough points for employees. Yet he has employed two receptionists, and provided proof of numerous attempts over the last two years to employ more physiotherapists.

"There is a known shortage and none are willing to come to Dover. Which demonstrates the sad irony here – we are about to deport Dover's only physiotherapist, precisely because of the lack of them.

"Some 66,000 people have signed a petition for him to stay. As I said, Satheesh has invested all his savings – tens of thousands – in this country, and is about to be booted out.

"For Satheesh to be deported would be a great injustice. He must stay in the UK."

To help our campaign add your name to the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/home-office-to-deprive-dover-of-its-only-private-physiotherapy-clinic

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30 AUG 2018

Joining the crowds at Dover Regatta

Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy Dover Regatta on Sunday.

I joined the crowds at the annual event on the seafront and bumped into Dover District Council vice chairman Cllr David Hannent, who was enjoying the various races and performances on show.

It was fantastic to see so many people out and about and making the msot of everythig on offer – despite the rain that fell later in the day.

I was impressed to see so many local organisations and groups showcasing their skills.

It's great for the local community that the Port of Dover hosts this hugely popular event year after year.

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24 AUG 2018

Fighting for Dover and Deal - a community to be proud of

It's been brilliant to be able to spend more time in our beautiful corner of Kent over the past few weeks. If it was up to me, I would be in Dover and Deal every day if I could. But when the House of Commons is sitting, I have to be up in Westminster, voting on key Brexit bills and campaigning for our community.

So this month I've been making the most of the opportunity to get out and meet as many people across Dover and Deal as possible.

The sun was shining as hundreds of people turned out for Deal Hospital Fete. It was great to catch up with Ken Buxley from the organising committee. Ken and the team work tirelessly all year round to make this hugely popular event a success.

Last Sunday, I was delighted to take my family to watch an excellent performance by the talented youngsters of the St Margaret's Festival Ballet. Director Sarah Dean deserves her own round of applause for putting together such a great show.

People in our area care so much about their community. Take Rachel Devlin. She spotted Dover District Council leader Keith Morris and me when we were out and about in town. Rachel asked us what the former Co-op store in Stembrook was going to be used for. We explained that the council is working with Dover Big Local to turn the site into "starter spaces" for new small local start ups – before they set up shop in the town. Rachel told us that the scheme "sounds amazing" and is "what the town needs".

We then walked through Pencester Gardens and chatted to a local police officer on patrol as part of Operation Urban. This is a joint crackdown by Kent Police and DDC on street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the town centre. Concerns over this issue were raised earlier this year. So I organised a meeting at La Salle Verte café so local shop owners and councillors could speak to police chiefs about trouble spots. Since then a number of arrests have been made – and the situation has now really improved.

Later on we also popped in to see Dover Town Team chairman John Angell in his jewellery shop for a chat. I'm passionate about supporting high street business owners like John. The St James development has been a huge success so far. But we need to see the high street benefit too. So I'm fully backing the council's plans to offer £10,000 grants to retailers to smarten up shop fronts and attract new customers.

It's great to see everyone working together for Dover and Deal. Whether it's councillors, our police team, business owners or local volunteers – they are all passionate about making our area the best it can be.

There is no doubt that we have come a long way together over the past few years. And I am more determined than ever to keep fighting for our community.

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21 AUG 2018

210 Dover & Deal houses purchased using Help to Buy

More than 200 families across Dover and Deal have bought their own home thanks to the Help to Buy scheme. The 52 homes purchased in 2017 represent an increase of a third on the previous year, bringing the total to 210 households.

Help to Buy was a new policy rolled out in 2013 and designed to help first-time buyers. It means people only need to deposit 5% of a new build property's value, with the Government providing a loan for 20% and mortgage lenders covering the rest. In the four years since the launch, housing supply in England has increased by 74% – the fastest rise ever recorded. Across England 160,000 new homes have been purchased. Four out of five purchasers are first-time buyers.

I have called on ministers to extend the scheme, which is due to end in 2021. I'm passionate about reversing the decline of home ownership. It's been clear for a while that things have got to change. I voted for this scheme because foreign investors and Buy-to-Let landlords have controlled the market for too long. We need to build more homes and ensure they go to local families who need them. That is why I have been supporting local developments at Connaught Barracks and Farthingloe – and why I am calling on ministers to extend Help to Buy beyond 2021.

We all want Dover and Deal to be a place where you can get a job, have a home to call your own and raise a family. That's why we must do more to help young people and renters save for deposits – and give everyone a chance to get on the housing ladder.

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17 AUG 2018

Dozens of youngsters waiting more than a year for treatment

Twenty-five young people in Dover and Folkestone suffering from mental health problems are waiting more than a year for treatment to start. A further 164 youngsters are waiting for between 18 and 52 weeks. The total waiting list for South Kent – covering Dover and Folkestone – is 482. The figures are revealed in a letter from John Brouder, chief executive of the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) – in charge of Kent's child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Mr Brouder was writing in response to my letter requesting an update on how the trust was tackling the backlog. Mr Brouder and his team told Kent MPs in June that 1,481 children in the county had been waiting 18 weeks for treatment to start. This included 144 waiting more than 52 weeks.

In his letter, Mr Brouder says a new service delivery model has been implemented since the meeting. As a result, the trust is now able to offer "the ability to provide a minimum number of fixed clinical appointment sessions per week for children and young people well in advance". Appointments will be offered "based on the presenting clinical need of the child or young person".

Mr Brouder said there has been a decline in the overall number of youngsters waiting over 52 weeks. He added that staff are making contact with the families of the 25 youngsters in Dover and Folkestone who have been waiting more than 52 weeks. If necessary, the next available appointment will be offered.

No-one suffering from mental health problems should have to wait more than a year for treatment – especially vulnerable young people. I'm pleased the trust has taken action and is working to bring down the waiting list they inherited from the previous provider. This is a matter of real urgency. Mental health is just as important as physical health – and it must be treated that way.

NELFT took over Kent CAMHS from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in September last year.

The current level of waiting times has resulted from a continued rise in demand from young people – and the number of cases inherited from the previous provider. NELFT said they expect to receive around 14,500 referrals this year, compared to around 10,500 in the 12 months to September 2017.

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16 AUG 2018

Making our borders safer and more secure

Just two years ago, more than 10,000 people were living in squalor in the Calais Jungle. People traffickers lurked around every corner in the migrant camp, just across the English Channel from Dover.

Tourists and truckers were regularly waylaid on the road to Calais. Gangs would do everything possible to cause delays so they could smuggle migrants into the back of lorries. From traffickers wielding machetes and chainsaws, to burning branches being thrown across the dual carriageway – we saw it all.

It had to stop. So with French political leaders and haulage companies I fought to get rid of the Jungle once and for all. A few months later, the French authorities finally caved into the pressure and dismantled the camp. Since then the number of people trying to break into Britain through Dover has plummeted.

This was a huge step forward. Yet we must remain vigilant and act swiftly to stop any new camp from forming – before the first tent is pitched.

It's also vital that we patrol our own border properly. At the height of the Calais crisis, smugglers time and again tried to sneak people into the UK using small craft, landing at Walmer beach and other vulnerable coastal locations.

Worryingly, there has been a rising number of reports over the past few weeks. A speed boat was intercepted by Border Force at Walmer. Four Vietnamese people were arrested. Another recent incident saw migrants flee from the back of a Spanish lorry carrying vegetables to Gomez near Canterbury. Managing director Jim Parmenter said the firm had to scrap the £20,000 worth of goods in the truck.

Thankfully we have also seen traffickers being brought to justice. One smuggler was jailed after two Afghan migrants were found in a specially adapted hiding place under the floor of his van – a dangerous concealment that investigators described as a "sarcophagus". Yet again this underlines the extreme lengths ruthless people traffickers will go to in order to ply their evil trade.

I raised my concerns over trafficking, illegal immigration and the need for stronger borders when I met with Home Secretary Sajid Javid at Border Force's Dover docks base. We saw first-hand the cutting edge work done by our highly trained and expert officers. Their job is fundamental to our safety and security. I urged the Home Secretary to ensure they get the resources they need as we take back control of our borders. We need to invest in skilled officers patrolling the whole of our border. We can't have border security on the cheap with any kind of Dad's Army-type set-up.

For too long Britain was seen as a soft touch on immigration. Dismantling the Calais Jungle has done much to change that perception. Yet we must continue to fight for stronger borders – where we control immigration and keep our nation safe and secure.

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16 AUG 2018

Crunch talks with Southern Water

Flooding in Albert Road was high on the agenda again during my crunch talks with Southern Water. The street in Deal has suffered three serious flooding incidents in the last four years, the last of which was in January 2016.

I have fought for more investment and Southern Water has spent around £1 million upgrading Golf Road pumping station and extending the outfall at Canada Road. But residents remain concerned after Southern Water highlighted insufficient capacity in a submission to a planning application for 54 new homes, before later claiming its data modelling was wrong. In May heavy rainfall was predicted and Southern Water closed the road, sending down workers and sandbags.

Last week, chief executive Ian McAuley and I met at the Golf Road Centre for further talks. I completely understand why doubts remain for Albert Road residents. They have been told many times before that problems have been fixed, only to see their homes flooded with foul water again. Southern Water have been engaging well, but it matters little to people paying high insurance premiums and living in fear of the next storm.

Mr McAuley and his team insist previous flooding incidents were caused by asset failures. He pointed to significant investment and has provided details of maintenance plans. I pointed out how the problems span decades and pushed again for a long term fix. I still believe there is a surface water issue. Albert Road is a low point, with rainwater flowing down and entering combined pipes which become full.

Southern Water still insists there is capacity. So I have now asked for data on all heavy rainfall incidents since 2016. That would prove the system is now resilient. Otherwise, I remain unconvinced. Albert Road residents deserve concrete assurances.

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13 AUG 2018

Brilliant ballet at St Margaret's

A brilliant ballet performance was put on by youngsters in St Margaret's on Sunday. The St Margaret's Festival Ballet stunned the audience with their take on Coppelia, composed by Leo Delibes. 

My family was among the crowd in St Margaret's village hall. Audience members were also invited to join the performers for afternoon tea with homemade cakes between performances.

This was a truly brilliant performance by hugely talented local youngsters. Director Sarah Dean deserves her own round of applause for putting together such a great show. They are all a real credit to our community.

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09 AUG 2018

Why our port will rise to the Brexit challenge

The Port of Dover is a massive success. Our port is the busiest port in Europe. Every year it transports 12 million people and 2.5 million trucks. Our port will continue to be massive success after Brexit. In fact, I believe it will be more successful than ever.

Lots of scare stories have surfaced in recent weeks – from the usual suspects who want to cancel Brexit and drag us back into the European Union. These are people who don't really believe in Britain and by and large are hoping it all goes wrong. Tales of terrifying tailbacks abound. Clogged roads will grind our area and the wider economy to a halt. We are all familiar with this. It is the latest version of Project Fear. It doesn't have to be this way and we can make a clean Brexit a massive success.

Dover hasn't forged a reputation as one of the world's great ports by standing still. It has adapted time and again over the centuries. Brexit presents a new challenge - yet nothing beyond this country's capabilities. As you would expect since ours is the fifth largest economy in the world.

It's important to remember that Dover and Calais being a success is just as much in Europe's interest as ours. We all do well out of trade - yet Europe does better out of it than we do. They sell us £100 billion more goods every year than we sell them. Tariffs would hit Europe twice as hard as they would hit us.

So deal or no deal, it's in the interest of all for frictionless trade to continue. We already work closely with the French on passport controls, with our border officers working on the other side of the Channel. This could easily be extended to any checks needed on trade. I have written a detailed report on other measures we can take to ensure we all continue to benefit – pre-assessment, trusted trader schemes and a single agency at the border to name a few.

Yet I have always been clear that this requires investment. We need lorry parks, a dualled A2 and the new Lower Thames Crossing. All this is long overdue. We saw last weekend how holidaymakers were gridlocked in Dover yet again. I have demanded answers and action to ensure traffic is kept out of town. But it shows how upgrades are long overdue.

The Department for Transport think our motorways should be used for lorry parking. I don't agree. I think motorways are for free flowing traffic. And that lorry parking should take place in lorry parks - parks the DfT has failed to build. They need to show more energy.

People voted to leave the EU because they believed in better. They rejected project fear then and they reject it now. We need our Government to have the political courage to believe in Britain, as an independent land of opportunity that will be a massive success in the years for come. Growing trade is in the interests of Dover and Calais - Britain and Europe. That is why Dover will continue to be a massive success in the years to come.

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08 AUG 2018

Port talks with the Home Secretary

Home Secretary Sajid Javid held talks with me at the Port of Dover on Friday. The newly appointed Home Secretary came to the area to see border operations up close.

Mr Javid met with myself, Border Force Director General Paul Lincoln, and Director for the South East and Europe Paul Morgan ahead of a tour of the site. We discussed Brexit before meeting officers, visiting search facilities and learning about some of the methods deployed to police the border. It included demonstrations with sniffer dogs and of how cars and objects are used by criminal gangs to conceal drugs and cigarettes.

It's always incredible to see first-hand the cutting edge work done by our highly trained and expert border force officers. Their job is fundamental to our safety and security. It's crucial they get the resources they need as we take back control of our borders. I continue to make the costed case for a substantial increase in border funding at every level.

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06 AUG 2018

Drug death increase shows importance of Robert's Law

Shocking new figures show deaths from fentanyl rose by 29% last year. The news comes just weeks after the announcement of Robert's Law in memory of a Deal teenager who died after taking fentanyl, a substance 50 times stronger than heroin.

Robert's Law was the culmination of a campaign led by myself and Robert Fraser's mum Michelle, pushing for tougher jail sentences for those caught dealing the deadly drug. In June the Sentencing Council issued new guidance reflecting the dangers of fentanyl.

The number of fentanyl deaths increased from 58 in 2016 to 75 in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. These horrifying numbers underline the importance of Robert's Law. From now on, drug dealers know they will face a long period behind bars if they choose to peddle this poison. Michelle and I have argued all along that sending a strong message in the courts will save lives. Now we must see convicted suppliers properly punished so this awful rise in fentanyl deaths is reversed.

Last year heroin and morphine related deaths decreased for the first time since 2012. Yet fentanyl – which has often caused death having been found mixed with heroin – had a 29% increase. Robert Fraser was 18 when he died in 2016 after taking fentanyl. Police believe a dealer gave it to Robert as a "freebie", while across the country dealers are secretly adding it to increase profits.

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05 AUG 2018

Police cracking down on drug dealing in Dover

Police tell me they are cracking down on 'county lines' drug dealing in Dover, following reports criminal gangs have been trying to recruit schoolchildren. Chief Superintendent Tom Richards and I met to discuss the issue, after I told him how local secondary school headteachers and parents had contacted me raising concerns.

Residents in Dover and Deal say some pupils are being targeted by gang members from London – who try to recruit local children to deal drugs in the area. It follows reports of students at secondary schools in Thanet also being approached. Ch Supt Richards assured met police were taking firm action on county lines, gangs and drug dealing.

And this week Chief Inspector Mark Weller, Dover District Commander, told me he was pleased to report a number of individuals engaged in such activity have been arrested, charged and now removed from the Dover area.

Reports that London gang members are coming to our area to recruit local teenagers are deeply concerning. We must fight back and stop our young people being lured into the dark world of drugs and crime. It's welcome that some of these individuals have been charged and removed from Dover and Deal. Our local Chief Inspector Mark Weller and his team deserve great credit for taking action. Yet we must all remain vigilant.

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01 AUG 2018

How to tackle the tax dodging giants after Brexit

Leaving the EU offers a real opportunity to boost the great British high street – by levelling the playing field between local firms and online giants like Amazon.

Small business owners in Dover and Deal work tirelessly to make a success of their shops, cafes and restaurants – and they pay their taxes in full. Yet some big businesses seem to think it's OK that the person cleaning their offices pays more in tax than they do. It's not – and I have been campaigning in Parliament for years to put a stop to this.

The problem I've run up against time and again is European Law, which international businesses exploit in order to dodge taxes. That's why when the UK leaves, it's vital we are no longer bound by EU rules that hinder us from making our tax system work fairly. This is a great opportunity to see that big international businesses are required to pay their fair share.

Because things can't carry on as they are. Amazon will tell you that ordering goods from your kitchen table in the UK – delivered from a warehouse in the UK – is somehow taxable in Luxembourg. Do you buy it?

Meanwhile, Google with five British offices, 5,000 staff and a £1 billion super-HQ in London will tell you they are only taxable in Ireland. This kind of tax fiction infuriates people – especially small business owners in our area working all hours of the day to make ends meet.

Outside the EU, we can ensure everyone pays their fair share – and use the extra cash to further reduce business taxes across the board.

VAT is another tax whose rules are set by the EU. I've been battling in Parliament against massive VAT fraud by overseas traders online. The potential tax dodging we are talking about runs into billions of pounds – money we need to fund the NHS and our schools.

Yet because the VAT rules are set by the EU and very inflexible, we cannot currently force the likes of Amazon and eBay to collect VAT. As an independent country in full control of our tax system we would be able to – as indeed they have in Australia. Amazon went bananas about this. But the Australians stuck to their guns and saw it through. I have no doubt the Australians will soon end up with a lot more tax revenue – and see their high streets compete on a more level playing field.

It's clear we need to get as far from the EU as fast as we can – so we can reap the full benefits of independence and what the globe has to offer. By taking back control of our laws, we can create a level playing field for small businesses and high street shops in Dover and Deal. We can build a tax system that is fair to all – and makes big businesses pay their fair share of taxes.

Image by Lewis Clarke

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31 JUL 2018

Couple wakes to bus passengers staring into living room

A Deal couple were startled one morning to see a bus shelter being built right outside their house – pointing directly into their living room.  Shocked Josey Grimshaw and John Mills could not believe what they were seeing – as the shelter had not featured on any plans submitted by housing developer Persimmon.

The couple were upset because they had moved from a busy area of London in the hope of quieter surroundings in Deal. Ms Grimshaw contacted me asking for help. We spent three months chasing Persimmon for answers.

Finally in July workers arrived to tear the bus shelter down. Persimmon told me they would replace it with a single bus stop sign. I don't think anyone would be happy to wake up and find a bus shelter being built right outside their house with no warning. Let alone trying to relax and watch TV with people staring through your living room window.

I'm glad that after months of pressure Persimmon finally took action. At last Josey and John can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet!

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29 JUL 2018

Helping businesses set up in Dover

A Dover mum says a scheme to help new businesses get started before setting up shop in the high street is "what the town needs". Rachel Devlin, from Blenheim Drive, bumped into me and Dover District Council leader Keith Morris in town on Thursday (July 26th).

She asked what the former Co-op store in Stembrook, recently acquired by DDC, was going to be used for. We explained that the council is working with Dover Big Local to turn the site into "starter spaces" for new small local start ups – before they set up shop in the town. Rachel said: "I think it sounds amazing. It's what the town needs."

We also talked about how the number of homeless people in Dover had significantly reduced this year. Walking through Pencester Gardens, we chatted to a local police officer on patrol as part of Operation Urban. This is a joint crackdown by Kent Police and DDC on street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the town centre. So far three people have been arrested – and two charged. Kent Police has issued Community Protection Warnings to five people. Two have been served a formal Community Protection Notice. One person also received a Fixed Penalty Notice for breaching the Public Spaces Protection Order.

Keith and I then popped in to see Dover Town Team chairman John Angell in his jewellery shop for a chat about the plans for the former Co-op and boosting the high street. It's fantastic to see that Dovorians are excited about the plans to help new businesses set up in town. Cllr Morris has shown real energy and drive to build on the success of St James and boost Dover town centre. What's more, the council and police have listened to the community's concerns and cracked down on street drinking and anti-social behaviour. Things are improving – yet we must keep fighting to support our high street.

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28 JUL 2018

Grammar stream set for Goodwin Academy

A grammar stream will be introduced at Goodwin Academy, the school's principal has confirmed, and implemented from September 2019.

I called for a grammar stream when I met with Mr Smith and Stuart Gardner, the chief executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust in July.

Goodwin Academy is joining Thinking Schools in September 2018, when twice as many pupils are set to enter Year 7. The year group has been increased to seven forms due to high demand, with 197 children starting at the Deal school, compared to 104 last year.

I'm delighted that the Goodwin Academy is introducing a grammar stream. It shows just how ambitious the new Thinking Schools Academy Trust is for what students can achieve. This school – with the new £25 million building we fought for, a great new sponsor in Thinking Schools and huge demand for Year 7 places – clearly has so much potential. I'm determined to do everything I can to support local parents and students – and make this school a huge success.

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27 JUL 2018

It's time to believe in Britain

Why did two thirds of people in Dover & Deal vote to leave the EU? Because they believed in better. They believe in Britain and the kind of country we can build – a land of opportunity, independent in the world.

They knew it wouldn't be easy. To vote for change on this scale is not for the faint-hearted. It takes political courage.

That means making the most of the opportunities that lie ahead. Everyone knows that Europe's share of the global economy has plummeted in recent decades. It used to account for 30% a few years ago. Now it's fallen to just 15%. If we make the most of our renewed national independence to reform our economy and forge stronger links the world over, we can grow as the rest of the world grows. With 90% of future global growth coming from outside Europe, that will be a brighter future for Britain.

Everyone has a part to play in delivering that future. We need to get past Remain and Leave – past the endless refighting of the referendum. We need to come together and make the most of our global future.

First, that means rejecting the politics of fear. Especially the sort we had in the EU referendum campaign. Now we're hearing dire warnings all over again. We need to reject it all and plan for the kind country we want Britain to become.

That's why we need to make sure we are ready on day one, deal or no deal. So we are fully prepared for Brexit to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. We must not make any agreement that will make it harder for Britain to make trade deals around the world. We must work together to overcome every barrier that may lie in our way. Take the Calais Jungle. They said it would come to Dover if we voted out. Yet after a strong campaign we managed to get the Jungle dismantled.

Moving forward, I have been working out how we can build the roads, lorry parking and improved customs systems we need to ensure trade keeps flowing at Dover. I've been working closely with the authorities in Calais. They know that trade with the EU benefits everyone – and the EU does best from this as they sell us £100 billion more in goods than we sell them. We all want to see that continue while we also seek out new trading opportunities across the globe.

What's more, leaving the EU will enable us to keep more of our hard-earned money. And it will enable us to put an end to uncontrolled European immigration.

Leaving the EU must mean just that. That we take back control of our laws, borders and money. Yet it is also about the belief in better. That's why it's time for the whole nation to come together and make the most of our national potential in the years to come.

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24 JUL 2018

Crackdown on street drinkers and anti-social behaviour

When we met with Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott earlier this year, our local community and high street businesses called for a crackdown on street drinking and antisocial behaviour in the town centre.

So it's fantastic to see that thanks to great work from Kent Police and Dover District Council, Operation Urban is making a real difference.

They report that there have been three arrests and two people have been charged. One person was charged with public order offences, and a second with a breach of a criminal behaviour order.

What's more, enforcement action by Kent Police has seen Community Protection Warnings issued to five people, with two of these following to the next step of being served a formal Community Protection Notice. One person also received a Fixed Penalty Notice for breaching the Public Spaces Protection Order.

It's great to see people's concerns being taken on board - followed by swift action.

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24 JUL 2018

Quizzing Governor on financial crash

The Governor of the Bank of England says people in Dover and Deal are right to be concerned that the lessons of the 2008 financial crash have not been learnt.

Mark Carney said there is "a lot of wisdom in their concerns", when I questioned him last week.

During a Treasury Select Committee hearing on Tuesday, July 17th, I said: "My constituents in Dover and Deal feel like the lessons of the financial crash have not been learnt.

"They feel like they have been made to pay the price, while bankers have got away with it. Are my constituents wrong?"

Mr Carney said: "Your constituents are right to be concerned – without question. And there is a lot of wisdom in their concerns. Because the history of financial crises and finance in general is one of institutional memory loss."

The Governor told me that steps were being taken to ensure there is not a repeat of the financial crisis a decade ago.

This includes having the Bank of England answer MPs' questions, a new cyber-strategy and holding senior managers to account.

The financial crash hit the Dover district hard, with 970 businesses closing between 2008 and 2010. Pfizer closed its site in Sandwich, leading to the loss of 1,500 jobs. Unemployment rose from 2.1% in 2008 to 3.9% in 2012.

We've been working tirelessly to clean up the mess left by the bankers and the Labour Government.

More than £500 million has been invested locally since 2010, while unemployment has near halved.

Yet people still feel strongly that those responsible for the crash have not been brought to book.

It's vital we learn the lessons of the past, keep public spending under control and ensure taxpayers are protected from rogue bankers' reckless behaviour.

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19 JUL 2018

Ambitious for our young people in Dover & Deal

We should be hugely ambitious for the future of Dover and Deal. More than £500 million has been invested in our area since 2010. Deal is now ranked as the best coastal town in the UK. A new cinema, restaurants and shops have opened in Dover. A £200 million marina and cargo terminal is underway at the Western Docks.

Yet our future is not only about what we can build – it's about the people who will help build it. So when we talk about being ambitious for Dover and Deal, we mean being ambitious for our children's futures. That's why I'm determined to fight for our schools – so every youngster in Dover and Deal has the best possible start in life.

I recently visited Dover Christ Church Academy to see how the school is getting on. I was particularly impressed by science teacher Kelly Corroyer's excellent class. Pupils were keen to learn and really enjoying the lesson.

It's clear that principal Jamie Maclean has put in a huge amount of work in his first year. He has ensured that from September the academy will have a full roster of teachers – for the first time ever. This school really has come a long way since the days of Archer's Court. It's a true Dover success story.

Meanwhile in Deal, we're battling to get the Goodwin Academy's debt written off. More than £3 million was built up on the Department for Education's watch. They should take responsibility for it – not hard-working students and teachers.

I recently met with the school's new sponsor, the Thinking Schools Academy Trust. Chief executive Stuart Gardner told me he always puts pupils' interests first. I'm really excited about what can be achieved here. Because this is a school worth fighting for. We campaigned and delivered a new £25 million school building. And now 197 pupils will be starting in Year 7 in September – twice as many as last year.

Currently, more than 1,700 students living in Deal have to travel out of town to get to school. It's vital we offer parents real choice. That's why I'm pushing for a grammar stream at the Goodwin Academy. It would be a brilliant addition and show just how ambitious the new trust is for students.

We have some of the best teachers and students in the country. So I campaigned long and hard to secure them a fairer funding deal. And from September, Dover district secondary schools will receive an inflation-busting 3.9% funding increase on the previous year. This will help build on the huge strides we have already made. In Dover and Deal, 2,432 more children are now attending schools rated good or outstanding. Meanwhile, 61.6% of pupils in our area meet the expected levels in reading and maths tests, compared to 53% nationally.

It's great that standards are rising. Yet we cannot be complacent. We must keep battling for our schools – and be ambitious for every single pupil in Dover and Deal.

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18 JUL 2018

Pushing for cannabis oil licence for Teagan

I have urged the Home Secretary to grant a license for cannabis oil treatment for an Aylesham girl who has one of the worst cases of epilepsy in the UK.

I requested a Schedule 1 drug license on behalf of Teagan Appleby, eight, who was born with the rare condition Isodicentric 15. She is wheelchair-bound, suffers up to 300 seizures a day and recently required life-saving treatment five times in an eight-day period.

Experts have pointed to recent clinical trials advocating cannabis oil as an effective treatment. A number of UK cases have since emerged, including 12-year-old Billy Caldwell who was granted a Schedule 1 license through special powers used by the Home Secretary.

My team met with Teagan's mum Emma Appleby and I now written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, urging him to intervene. It's every parent's worst nightmare to see their child in such pain. The Home Secretary has sensibly ordered a review of this whole issue, but in the meantime an eight-year-old girl is suffering terribly.

Emma, the family and the NHS are trying their best for poor Teagan. Yet with known medication failing, the next step would be risky procedures on the brain itself. Of course the family wants to explore all other options. That's why I have urged the Home Secretary to grant the license and I will keep working with the family to try and ensure that happens.

Isodicentric 15 is a chromosome abnormality that for Teagan has progressed to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy. According to Emma, she currently takes two types of drug daily, which for most cases are only used as "rescue medication" to prevent death. Emma says Teagan's "rescue medication" is itself unlicensed, but prescribed by the NHS anyway due to the severity of her condition.

Meanwhile Professor Deb Pal, a child epilepsy expert at King's College London, recently said: "There is now good evidence from clinical trials... that pharmaceutical preparations of cannabidiol are effective against two types of severe childhood epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome... more recently reviews of human and animal evidence conclude that THC also may have anticonvulsant properties."

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18 JUL 2018

Brilliant advert for our corner of Kent

Lamb racing and Morris dancing were two of the main attractions at Alkham village fete on Saturday. I went along to meet local residents and take a look around all the different stalls. I also met Dover town councillor Callum Warriner at the event.

The people of Alkham always put on a fantastic village fete. It was great to see so many residents out enjoying the sunshine all the exciting attractions on offer. This fete is a brilliant advert for our beautiful corner of Kent.

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17 JUL 2018

WATCH: Why MPs must show the same Brexit courage as voters

My speech in the House of Commons, during the debate on the 'Customs Bill', on why MPs must show the same courage as voters when it comes to Brexit,

In the referendum campaign, the Home Office told my constituents that the jungle would move from Calais to Dover. The former Prime Minister said that there would be queues of lorries and gridlock on the way to Dover—a mantra that the Labour party took up. The Treasury told my constituents that they would lose their jobs and their homes to boot in a calamitous disaster.

Despite that level of fear, my constituents believed in the opportunity that lay before them. Two thirds voted to leave the EU. Why? Because they believed in the kind of opportunities and the kind of Britain that we can build. They believed in better. They believed in the future, in our sense of nationhood and independence and in the country that we could build: independent and out in the wide world.

It is important to remember that, because change does not come easily; it takes political courage. Our voters have shown more courage than far too many Members of this House, who fear change and are afraid of grasping opportunities and what the world offers. Our voters better understand the need for that courage. They can look at the figures and see that the EU has been in relative decline in the past few decades, going from 30% to just 15% of GDP. [Interruption.] The spokesman for Brussels, the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), does not like those figures, but they are true.

Our voters also know that 90% of future economic growth in the world will come from outside the EU. That is why it is so important to believe in better, back our constituents and make a success of Britain out in the world—a global Britain.

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12 JUL 2018

Celebrating our local community champions

Recent weeks have been a powerful reminder of how many people in Dover and Deal go the extra mile to make a difference. These community champions are making a massive difference – changing the lives of people around them vastly for the better.

Take James Salmon from Dover Sea Safari. In his spare time he's been working tirelessly to transform the quality of life of disabled people with his team of fellow volunteers at Wetwheels. This is an amazing project which gives disabled people the chance to go out on the water in specially-designed power boats.

The inspirational founder of Wetwheels is Geoff Holt MBE, the first quadriplegic to sail around Great Britain and across the Atlantic Ocean. Yet even he was stunned by the efforts of James and the Dover team. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy being on the water. This is now a reality for so many more people.

In Deal, Tracy Carr runs the Talk It Out group to support people suffering mental health challenges. I cannot begin to guess how many lives she's saved and how her incredible work has taken pressure off local health services.

We recently learnt that nearly 150 youngsters in Kent are waiting more than a year for mental health treatment to start. That makes the work of volunteers like Tracy even more vital. When I visited the group last month, one of the members told me: "When it comes to mental health, pills aren't the answer. Groups like this get people better – it's as simple as that."

Earlier this year, Facebook was full of reports about the disgusting state of the King Street public toilets. So Darren Gregory-Foster of local cleaning company Channel FM swung into action to clean the loos for free – because he cares about the town he grew up in.

Local business people and firms like this who have great community spirit deserve our backing. And probably the cleaning contract for the toilets too!

Back in Dover, it's a similar story. Entrepreneur Victor Evans is determined to make his hometown the best it can be. With the help of council grants he has transformed a derelict area of Lorne Road.

He has built an amazing brewery and micropub, making and selling tasty ales. And he has also constructed five houses and seven flats by the river on the brownfield site opposite.

Victor tells me he wants to give something back to Dover. When people want to invest in our area and improve it, we must give them our full support.

Tracy, Victor, Darren and James are just a few examples of local people going above and beyond. I know there are so many others working tirelessly to make a difference in Dover and Deal.

So if you know someone who is making a difference, please let me know. I would love to visit them and tell everyone about the work they are doing to improve people's lives. I'm determined to do everything I can to back our incredible community champions.

You can get in touch via my Facebook page, by emailing charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 01304 379669. 

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12 JUL 2018

Horrible hoarding is coming down!

The 'Welcome to Dover' sign is being torn down and the Crypt is being cleared up!

This is fantastic news. Dover District Council deserve huge credit for listening to the community's concerns and taking action.

I met with met with local fish and chip shop owner Silvio Macari and White Cliffs Country Tourism Association chairman Graham Hutchison in the area last month.  

They agreed that the 'Welcome to Dover' sign, put up by the Labour mayor four years ago, has become an embarrassment to the town. This horrible hoarding simply has to go.

Meanwhile, the former Crypt site has been left to ruin for decades – so the council's promised comprehensive clean-up will be welcomed by the community and local businesses.

This is yet another significant step towards making Dover town centre the best it can be.

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11 JUL 2018

Dover school has no vacancies for first time

Dover Christ Church Academy will begin the new school year with a full roster of teachers – the first time there have been no vacancies since it converted from Archer's Court. Over the past year the academy has recruited and trained 13 teachers, ensuring they have talented teachers in every classroom.

They have also hired a number of experienced staff with years of expertise to help mentor the younger recruits. Four of the trainees are from the Government's Teach First scheme, while five are training through School Direct. The teacher training is supported by the academy's sponsor, Canterbury Christ Church University.

Principal Jamie Maclean invited me to visit the school last week and see students in action. I popped into maths, history and film studies lessons, as well as meeting pupils and staff in the Aspen unit. I also met head of science Kelly Corroyer, who was teaching pupils about electricity currents.

CIt was great to visit Dover Christ Church Academy and see how the school is progressing. I was particular impressed by Ms Corroyer's excellent science class. You could tell how keen the pupils were to learn and how much they were enjoying the lesson. It's clear that Mr Maclean has put in a huge amount of work in his first year and ensured the academy will have a full roster of teachers from September.

This school has come a long way since the days of Archer's Court. It's a true Dover success story.

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10 JUL 2018

Quizzing the PM over Kent lorry park

I questioned the Prime Minister over the delivery of a lorry park in Kent and preparations for a "no deal" Brexit. I asked Theresa May how preparations for leaving the European Union without a deal were being "stepped up".

I want these plans to include a lorry park on the roads to the Channel Ports. This was promised two years ago but has not yet been delivered by the Department for Transport.

The Prime Minister told me the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab would be in charge of stepping up "no deal" preparations. She added: "Can I say to my honourable friend, I know from previous discussions the concern that he has about the potential lorry park in Kent in relation to the Port of Dover. He champions the rights of his constituents and the needs of his constituents very eloquently in this House."

My question followed the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons on the Government's plans for leaving the European Union.

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06 JUL 2018

Calling for a grammar stream at Goodwin

Twice as many pupils will enter Year 7 at the Goodwin Academy in September. The year group has been increased to seven forms due to high demand, with 197 children starting at the Deal school, compared to 104 last year.

It comes as the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), which runs successful schools across Kent such as Rochester Grammar School and the Victory Academy, is set to take over as the academy's new sponsor. I held talks with Thinking Schools' chief executive Stuart Gardner and Goodwin Academy's Principal Simon Smith on Thursday (July 5th).

I called for a grammar stream to be introduced at Goodwin to give parents greater choice and to boost aspiration. More than 1,700 Deal children have to travel out of Deal every day to get to secondary school.

I'm delighted Thinking Schools Academy Trust, a sponsor with a proven track record of success, is taking over the Goodwin Academy. Stuart was clear – he always puts pupils' interests first and I'm really excited about what can be achieved. Everyone knows too many children in Deal have to travel out of town to get to school. So it's great that twice as many will be starting at Goodwin Academy this September.

It underlines why the new £25 million school building was worth fighting for. I think a grammar stream would be a brilliant addition to this school – and show just how ambitious the new trust is for students.

I also vowed to keep fighting for the school's debt, reported to be £3.5 million, to be written off. I recently raised the issue in the House of Commons, urging the Department for Education to take responsibility for the sum. He has also held meetings with the Education Secretary and Schools Ministers. The debt was built up by SchoolsCompany Trust, before a new interim chief executive and interim finance director were appointed earlier this year.

The Goodwin Academy has incredible potential to be one of the best schools in the area. So I will keep fighting for the debt to be written off. The £3.5 million was built up on the Department for Education's watch and they should take responsibility for it – not hard-working students and teachers. Meanwhile, of course, anyone at SchoolsCompany Trust found to be culpable must be brought to book.

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06 JUL 2018

Celebrating Deal cleaning firm's community spirit

A Deal firm which cleaned up the King Street public toilets for free has now won a top award for being environmentally-friendly.

I visited Channel FM, based at Almond House in Betteshanger Road, to hear about their community-spirited clean-up – and plans for boosting the business.

Managing director Darren Gregory-Foster told me that they had contacted Dover District Council earlier this year after reading on Facebook about the state of the King Street loos.

Darren, who is born and bred in Deal, said he offered to clean the toilets for free because he cares about the town he grew up in.

He spent 20 years in the cleaning industry before setting up Channel Facilities Management four years ago.

His firm, which only uses non-chemical cleaning products, were recently crowned the South East's "greenest" facilities management firm at the AI Global Media awards.

Darren is a Deal lad and clearly cares a lot about his hometown. It was great to meet him and his staff at Channel FM.

They run a brilliant business and use environmentally-friendly products – which is so important these days.

Local firms like this who have a great community spirit deserve our backing.

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06 JUL 2018

Victory in our campaign for Robert's Law

People often tell me that the war on drugs is lost. I disagree. Because we cannot stand by while drugs cause the deaths of young people whose lives lie ahead of them. Young people like Robert Fraser of Deal who was just 18 when he was tragically killed by the dangerous new drug fentanyl.

Of course it's often difficult to catch the dealers and the suppliers. Yet with a rising drugs problem, we should redouble our efforts and seek tougher punishments for serious drugs crimes.

That is exactly what Robert's mother Michelle Fraser set out to do. Distraught at the loss of her 18-year-old son, she decided to campaign for a change in the law - Robert's Law - to seek tougher punishments for people who supply fentanyl.

Robert was killed by fentanyl in 2016. Police believe a dealer gave it to Robert as a "freebie". Her son was no addict. He had no idea that what he was taking was effectively poison.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. It has been linked to the deaths of 120 people in the UK over the past 18 months. In the US, traces are found in a third of all overdoses. 60,000 people have died.

So since that terrible day Michelle has been fighting to raise awareness of this deadly drug. Last year she came to see me at one of my surgeries to ask for my help. We decided to campaign together for Robert's Law.

After just a few months, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed to change its drug offences guidance to include fentanyl. Then the Sentencing Council launched a review on their sentencing guidelines. I met with the Justice Minister Rory Stewart to press the case further – and we secured a debate in Parliament on fentanyl.

Then last week we received incredible news. The Sentencing Council announced new guidance putting synthetic opioids in the most serious category. During our debate last Tuesday, the Justice Minister said: "This now moves the expert witness to state that fentanyl will be in the top category of Class A drugs for prosecution. This is going to be absolutely vital in deterring people from supplying and importing these drugs."

He also said this change would not have happened so quickly were it not for our campaign. Michelle's passion and drive really has made people stand up and take notice. She has done her son proud.

I was so pleased that Michelle and Robert's sister Amy were able to come to the Westminster debate and see what an incredible difference they have made. This campaign is so important – not just for Michelle, but for every parent. By bringing in Robert's Law we will take the battle to the drug dealers and help save lives.

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05 JUL 2018

Backing council scheme to spruce up empty homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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05 JUL 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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05 JUL 2018

Amazing Dover project transforming people's lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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28 JUN 2018

Delivering a fairer share of healthcare for our community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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28 JUN 2018

Dozens of jobs to get Snowdown Colliery buzzing again

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

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

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

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

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

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26 JUN 2018

Victory in campaign for Robert's Law

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

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

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

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

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

"This now moves the expert witness to state that fentanyl will be in the top category of Class A drugs for prosecution. This is going to be absolutely vital. It's going to be vital in deterring people from supplying and importing these drugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21 JUN 2018

Fighting to deliver Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18 JUN 2018

Health bosses discuss bringing more services to Buckland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15 JUN 2018

144 young people waiting a year for mental health treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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14 JUN 2018

Fighting back in the war on drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12 JUN 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11 JUN 2018

Plans to cut Deal Mental Health Centre opening hours scrapped

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

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

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

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

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

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

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08 JUN 2018

How traffic and trade can flow freely after Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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06 JUN 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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04 JUN 2018

Invest in roads to Dover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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02 JUN 2018

Dovorians to get 'first pick' on Farthingloe homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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01 JUN 2018

Delivering investment in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24 MAY 2018

Campaigning to keep our streets safe and secure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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22 MAY 2018

Community spirit still strong in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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18 MAY 2018

Urging road chiefs to tackle traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17 MAY 2018

Fighting injustice is my most important job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15 MAY 2018

New public toilets block set for Dover town centre

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

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

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

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14 MAY 2018

Meeting business owners and police chiefs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 MAY 2018

Drug deaths double showing need for Robert's Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 MAY 2018

We need to get on with investment at the frontline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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04 MAY 2018

Dover customs operators say Brexit can work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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03 MAY 2018

Securing millions more for schools in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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01 MAY 2018

Getting funding for a disabled constituent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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26 APR 2018

Fighting for cleaner, clearer roads across Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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26 APR 2018

Unemployment in Dover and Deal drops to lowest level

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

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

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

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

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

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19 APR 2018

How we can be better off after Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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13 APR 2018

GP hub IT issues must be fixed

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

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

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

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

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

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12 APR 2018

Dover's dementia village to open by July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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12 APR 2018

Hard won investment is making the change in Dover & Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 APR 2018

Major litter clearances across Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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09 APR 2018

Nominating local nurses for an award

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

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

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

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

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

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07 APR 2018

Enjoying a cheeky Nando's in Dover

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

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

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

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

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

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06 APR 2018

Dover's new marina is taking shape

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

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

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

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

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05 APR 2018

Delivering a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment

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

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04 APR 2018

Business under threat due to EU rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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03 APR 2018

Fentanyl dealers face tougher sentences thanks to our campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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29 MAR 2018

Fighting for more services at Deal Hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 comments

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

I was diagnosed with Emphysema. My symptoms included shortness of breath, dizziness, lack of oxygen to all body parts, numbness of fingers, no energy, no appetite, fatigue, and bloodshot eyes. I was living at a place that has mold and mildew in the air conditioning unit. I also smoked a pack a day for 20 years. The Pulmonologist started me on Spiriva and Advair plus nose sprays, to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on Emphysema Disease Natural formula from THE HERBAL GARDENS, the Emphysema natural formula immensely helped my condition, it reversed my Emphysema. My severe shortness of breath, dry cough, low energy, fatigue, chest tightness and others gradually disappeared. Visit THE HERBAL GARDENS via their official web-site ww w. Theherbalgardens. org. This Emphysema treatment has improved the quality of my life greatly, i breath much better and feel comfortable doing so. Since the procedure I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!
- joan rhodarmer

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29 MAR 2018

Campaigning for stronger borders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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28 MAR 2018

Visiting Porchlight as homelessness funding increased

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

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

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

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

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

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

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26 MAR 2018

Fighting for greater police presence in town

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

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

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

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

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

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22 MAR 2018

Fighting for more money and jobs in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

This is what my Jobs and Apprenticeships Fairs are all about. I'm passionate about getting people into work – and helping them find jobs which are right for them. It's so important to get employers and jobseekers together in the same room, so they can talk through opportunities face-to-face. Dover and Deal are full of hard-working, talented people. Many want a foot on the ladder, a new challenge, or to discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. We must ensure we give them the chance to do so.

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

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

These really are exciting times for Dover and Deal. Our beautiful corner of Kent has so much potential. I'm more determined than ever to work hard to deliver more jobs and money to our area.

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22 MAR 2018

Theresa May welcomes new Kent medical school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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16 MAR 2018

Home Office should throw book at immigration fraudsters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15 MAR 2018

Campaigning for fair share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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13 MAR 2018

Pupils learn about life as an MP at Houses of Parliament

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

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

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

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

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

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08 MAR 2018

Government must act 'urgently' on Dover Brexit preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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08 MAR 2018

Fighting for our fair share in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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07 MAR 2018

Dovorian toasts micropub's success

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

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

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

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

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06 MAR 2018

Herald of Free Enterprise memorial service

A deeply moving ceremony was held in Dover today to mark the 31st anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. The families and friends of those who lost their lives and many Dovorians were in attendance at the remembrance service at St Mary's Church.

Myself, Dover mayor Neil Rix and Dover District Council chairman Sue Chandler were also among those paying their respects.  A roll-call was read out of the names of the 193 people who lost their lives when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized off Zeebrugge on March 6th 1987. 

The service, led by Rev Mark Warner of the Sailors' Society, included hymns 'Abide With Me' and 'Eternal Father, Strong to Save'. An acapella version of 'Amazing Grace' was sung by Steve Erickson in front of the hushed congregation. Rev Bill McCrea, who was the Sailors' Society Port Chaplain in 1987, spoke of the "heartbreak and agony" felt by the families of the victims.

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

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

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

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02 MAR 2018

Cancer survival rates up in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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01 MAR 2018

Dover is brilliant and has an even brighter future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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28 FEB 2018

Government invests in border after my campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excellent news!
- Alex Emery

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27 FEB 2018

St James development finally gets power

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

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

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

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

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26 FEB 2018

Goodwin Academy debt should be written off

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

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

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

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

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

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22 FEB 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15 FEB 2018

Kent Mining Museum to open this year

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

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

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

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

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15 FEB 2018

Fighting for the investment Dover and Deal deserves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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14 FEB 2018

Save jobs at Goodwin Academy, I've told ministers

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

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

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

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

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

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13 FEB 2018

Number of teens from Dover and Deal applying to university soars

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

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

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

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

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

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12 FEB 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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08 FEB 2018

Battling for better broadband in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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05 FEB 2018

Dover's new leisure centre is "on schedule"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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02 FEB 2018

Enjoying a pint at Dover Beer Festival

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

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

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

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

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01 FEB 2018

Spring clean litter picking events in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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01 FEB 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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30 JAN 2018

Dover and Deal now above average for superfast speeds

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

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

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

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

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26 JAN 2018

We can't let Calais become a migrant magnet again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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26 JAN 2018

Connaught Barracks 500-home development latest

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

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

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

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

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

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25 JAN 2018

Funding the frontline is not a bridge too far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24 JAN 2018

Buckland Hospital car park should not be a cash cow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21 JAN 2018

Discussing Deal Pier's half a million refurb and future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18 JAN 2018

First class healthcare is my top priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17 JAN 2018

Banking regulators let down the people of Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12 JAN 2018

Villages finally get fast broadband after hard-fought campaign

Fast broadband has arrived in Dover villages after my campaign.

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

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

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

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

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

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10 JAN 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Fentanyl killed 20,000 people in the US last year — up from just 3,000 three years before. Deaths in the UK have also increased in recent months. Robert's mum Michelle and I want to toughen laws so the American trend is not repeated here. "Robert's Law" would force police to prioritise cases involving fentanyl, and courts to impose harsher sentences on those caught supplying the drug.

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

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

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04 JAN 2018

Ambitious for our area in 2018

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

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

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

So what are the next steps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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02 JAN 2018

Millions more for east Kent hospitals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21 DEC 2017

Backing our businesses in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18 DEC 2017

Dover and Deal primary schools are forging ahead

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

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

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

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

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14 DEC 2017

Amazing progress at St James development

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

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

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

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

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

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14 DEC 2017

We must build the homes our young people need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11 DEC 2017

Urging the PM to make Dover a Brexit trade talks priority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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08 DEC 2017

Live exports from Dover and Ramsgate must end post-Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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07 DEC 2017

Bus cuts are unacceptable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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06 DEC 2017

Fighting for more school funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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05 DEC 2017

Housebuilding in Dover and Deal still well above UK average

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

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

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

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

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

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

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04 DEC 2017

MPs back my calls for more investment at the border

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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30 NOV 2017

A fitting tribute to an incredible person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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27 NOV 2017

This stunning design won my Christmas card comp

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

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

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

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

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

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27 NOV 2017

374 firms in Dover and Deal have had rates reduced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23 NOV 2017

Fighting for better healthcare in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

It's great that there are more services at Buckland. The old hospital had been decimated over a decade – yet the opposite is happening in the new one. Now we need even more services. Around 30 per cent of the new hospital remains unused. I also want to see beds commissioned at the brand new residential facility next door. Patients should be recovering as close to home as possible.

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

Across East Kent, A&E performance has risen to 78.7% in the last fortnight in terms of patients treated within four hours of arrival. With an extra £800,000 of central government investment, our hospital trust has recruited ten new specialist emergency doctors, installed three new treatment areas and a new ambulatory care unit.

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

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

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

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22 NOV 2017

Three billion set aside for Brexit in Budget after my calls

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

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

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

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22 NOV 2017

Lorry parks for customs checks should be built off M20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17 NOV 2017

Chancellor must not raise fuel duty

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

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

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

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17 NOV 2017

Fabulous festive designs in my Christmas card competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17 NOV 2017

Why the values of our nation matter so much

The job of the Member of Parliament is not about the Member of Parliament. It is about what you do, the team you build and what you achieve for the people you serve.

We have come a long way together over the past 10 years. We have achieved much and we should be proud of the change we have made together in our community.

Let's remember how things were back in 2010. Our port was about to be sold off. Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade – services withdrawn and wards axed one by one. Deal's hospital was left teetering on the edge. Deal itself was called a "village" by the Government, unfit for the fast train. Unemployment had rocketed and things looked bleak.

Fast forward to today and there is a brand new hospital in Dover. Deal hospital has been safeguarded. We are now working tirelessly to get more services in both hospitals – to save people long and expensive journeys to hospitals far away. We stopped the port sell off and it is now not just forever England – it has been reformed to bring it closer to the community. The fast train now sweeps into Deal all day, every day and Deal is a town transformed. In Dover Burlington House is gone and a new shopping complex rises in the heart of the town. Unemployment has halved. Ours is a community on the up.

Just this week hundreds of letters have gone out to constituents. Whether it's fighting their corner on issues such as housing, health or getting a decent bus service – this work goes on, and will continue to do so. I am still holding surgeries, doing everything I can to help people. It's business as usual.

I write this because sometimes I need to remind myself as well as our team why we do it and why it's all worth it. And I want to thank the hundreds of well wishers from across Dover & Deal – indeed across the whole nation - who have got in touch in the past week.

So what then is my explanation for what has happened and what I am accused of? I cannot give one. Because, two weeks on, I still do not know.

But let me say some things about the way matters of this sort should be handled. First, there must be a fair due process for people who are the victims of crime – and fair due process for those facing allegations.

Moreover in the febrile atmosphere that grips our country from time to time, we must never rush to judgement. We must not confuse accusation with proof. We can never muddle courts of law with courts of social media and public opinion. Nor should we confuse prejudice with fact. The whole area of reporting misconduct and managing allegations of misconduct in public life is a mess. I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are. The more so as political parties are quick to panic and throw people under the bus for the expediency of looking tough and strong. That is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it's an injustice to those who stand accused – and in at least one case the humiliation has tragically proven too much to bear. But also wrong because it undermines our fundamental values as a country.

We believe in the rule of law – that everyone, be they so very high or so very low, should be equal before the law. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We believe in natural justice. These are cornerstones of our constitution.

It was not in keeping with these values that the media were told of allegations made against me last week before I was. It was not in keeping with these values that the presumption of innocence was undermined by the panicked action of my party. And it was not in keeping with these values to cause prejudice and harm the chances of my getting a fair hearing.

Whatever it turns out I stand accused of, I deny any criminal wrongdoing. I cannot deny that the pressure of these events has taken a heavy toll on me and my family. Yet I will stand fast to our values and do all I can to uphold them, whatever the price may be. I am not here for myself, but for the people of Dover & Deal – the people I serve.

I have always done my utmost to work hard for our community. And I am resolved to continue to do so. I have always put all my energy into fighting for the people of Dover and Deal – and I am resolved to continue to do so.

For me, the interests of the people of Dover & Deal will always come first.

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15 NOV 2017

Asking the PM for a billion at the border

I repeated calls for £1 billion to be set aside for Brexit border preparations during Prime Minister's Questions today. I told Theresa May that businesses in his constituency are getting ready for leaving the European Union.

Government should invest in the Dover frontline now – to ensure the UK is ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit, deal or no deal. The Prime Minister said she appreciates that the need to prepare for leaving the EU is "very tightly felt" in Dover and Deal. Mrs May said funds have been made available for Brexit preparations and that the Government will look at what further work is necessary to ensure the UK is ready for leaving the EU.

I asked: "Businesses at the Dover frontline are now preparing to leave the European Union. Will the Government consider earmarking at least £1 billion in the upcoming Budget to make sure that we are ready on day one, deal or no deal – and prepared for every single eventuality."

The Prime Minister said: "I thank my honourable friend for his question.

"Obviously in his constituency, this issue of preparations for the position when we leave the European Union is very tightly felt. There's great focus on it – and I appreciate why that is the case.

"We have already made funds available for the preparations and work that is necessary across Government in preparations for Brexit – and of course we'll be looking at what further work is necessary to ensure that we are ready.

"We hope we are going to get that good deal – and we're working to get that good deal. But either way there will need to be some changes from the Government point of view – and we're ensuring the resources are there to do that."

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09 NOV 2017

Statement to Dover and Deal Conservative Association

On Thursday, November 9th, I made the following statement to the Executive of the Dover and Deal Conservative Association:

I want to start by saying that I wish we were not meeting under these circumstances.

The job of the Member of Parliament is not about the Member of Parliament. It is about what you do, the team you build and what you achieve for the people you serve.

We have come a long way together over the past 10 years. We have achieved much and we should be proud of the change we have made in this community.

Let's remember how things were back in 2010. Our port was about to be sold off. Dover's hospital had been decimated for a decade – services withdrawn and wards axed one by one. Deal's hospital was left teetering on the edge. Deal itself was called a "village" by the Government, unfit for the fast train. Unemployment had rocketed and things looked bleak.

Fast forward to today and there is a brand new hospital in Dover. Deal hospital has been safeguarded. We are now working tirelessly to get more services in both hospitals – to save people long and expensive journeys to hospitals far away. We stopped the port sell off and it is now not just forever England – it has been reformed to bring it closer to the community. The fast train now sweeps into Deal all day, every day and Deal is a town transformed. In Dover Burlington House is gone and a new shopping complex rises in the heart of the town. Unemployment has halved. Ours is a community on the up.

Just this week hundreds of letters have gone out to constituents. Whether it's fighting their corner on issues such as housing, health or getting a decent bus service – this work goes on, and will continue to do so. I am still holding surgeries, doing everything I can to help people. It's business as usual.

I say this because sometimes I need to remind myself as well as our team why we do it and why it's all worth it. And I want to thank you, the entire Conservative family and the many well wishers who are not Conservative supporters who have got in touch in the past week.

So what then is my explanation for what I am accused of? I cannot give one. Because I do not know what I am accused of. I received a call from a journalist just after 9pm on Friday evening saying he had heard I was having the whip withdrawn in time for the 10 O'Clock news and asked me what was going on. I said I had absolutely no idea. Minutes later I received a call from the Chief Whip telling me that serious allegations had been made against me earlier that week and that these had been passed to the Police. I asked what the allegations were and he would not tell me. He only said that he and the Prime Minister had decided the whip should be suspended from me. As we spoke, the news spread across the national media.

And that is all I can tell you. Since then I have had no further information. And here we are.

So extraordinary as it may seem I am no wiser now than I was on Friday evening when the Chief Whip called me.

But let me say some things about the way our Party has handled this. First, I want to echo what the Labour MP Chris Bryant has said. "If this fortnight teaches anything it is there must be a fair proper process for those who feel they have been harassed or abused AND fair due process for those facing allegations."

I think that's spot-on. The fact is that this whole area of reporting misconduct and managing allegations of misconduct is a mess. I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it's an injustice to those who stand accused. But also wrong because it undermines our values as a country.

We believe in the rule of law – that everyone, be they so very high or so very low, should be equal before the law. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We believe in natural justice.

So, I ask you: was it in line with our values as a country that the media were told of allegations made against me last week before I was? Was it in line with our values that the presumption of innocence was undermined by the whip being suspended? Was it in line with our values to cause prejudice and harm the chances of my getting a fair hearing?

Finally let me say that whatever it turns out I stand accused of, I deny any criminal wrongdoing. I have always done my best to work hard for our community – and will continue to do so. I have always put all my energy into fighting for the people of Dover and Deal – and will continue to do so. For me, the interests of the people of Dover & Deal will always come first.

15 comments

Agree 100% Charlie. I hope something is done to stop such travesties of justice in the future. Lastly, I hope this all works out well for you, and your family's sake.
- Sid Perkins

Well said.
- Mel Augustine


- Agree 100% , you have a right to know the allegatons against you, which I do not believe are true and those who deny you that right are cowards

I am not one of your constituents but I agree with you wholeheartedly and wish you well
- Maureen Pope

It sounds like you've had a dirty deal- I wish you true justice- all the est - Peregrine
- Peregrine

Hang in there Charlie. I thought(wrongly as it turns out), that every UK citizen had the right to be told of any allegations made against them. It appears that Tory MP`s are denied those rights. How Bizarre. Is there darker moves afoot politically. One begins to wonder, especially now that the government is so fragile
- John Woollen

I am not a constituent either but wanted to express my incredulity at the cavalier way you have been treated. Whatever you may or may not have done, this is no way to go about resolving the issue and the party should hang its head in shame at the way you are being treated. Chin up!
- Peter Colmer

Charlie, we do not know each other but every time I pass through Dover (which is often) I look in amazement at the changes that you have made. I think that you are being treated despicably through trial by social media and am staggered that our prime minister can behave as she has done.
- andrew suddards hartley

I agree - innocent until proved guilty.
- Del

I think you have been treated abysmally - I hope that you are exonerated of any wrong doing. Some idiots moan that you are one for a photo opportunity, the reason we keep seeing your picture in the local papers is because you are constantly campaigning for local causes. Not just at voting time like many others in politics. Superb MP that I still hope is destined for higher office within the party.
- Tony

Astonishing the way you have been treated. I feel for your wife and children. Seems as if we are in North Korea or Iran rather than the UK !
- Peter Davis

Discasful that you have been treated like this. One must question the Chief Whips compatance in this matter. Career polititions are know different to young corporate executives all to quick to through a colleague under a bus to further their careers. Just look at the pervious Chief Whip and Micael Falon. It's about time these people put the country first. Good luck Charlie.
- Mike Hawker

I do not think I have ever heard of such a farcical situation. Guilt by television, guilt by announcement guilt by suspension. Extraordinary is not strong enough a word. This is a sad indictment of the procedural value of our times. It seems that the smoke is more important than the fire even when there is no smoke and no fire. As far as I am concerned there is no stain on Charlie's character in the slightest and his considerable integrity is unscathed.
- Steve Oxenham

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

Best of luck Charlie
- Steve Greaves

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09 NOV 2017

Kelly was an inspiration to everyone in Dover and Deal

We woke up to the most heart breaking news on Monday morning - that Kelly Turner, the girl who united our entire community, had passed away.

Our thoughts are with her parents Martin and Linda, who fought relentlessly to save their daughter. They needed to raise £1 million for treatment in the US. And in a year they raised more than half that target. They did so through tireless campaigning which inspired the people of Dover.

The response from the Dover community has been incredible. So many people got involved to do their bit for Kelly. It felt like the whole town was pulling together. Whether you knew Kelly personally or not, it didn't matter. Everyone wanted to help. To give Kelly the chance and the hope she deserved.

And this is part of what makes Kelly's death, aged 17, so devastating. It feels like the passing of this incredible brave girl is more than just a single life lost. It's the loss of someone who united the entire community. The town is in mourning and Kelly and her family will be in our thoughts when we pause for a minute’s silence on Sunday.

The devastation also hits hard at the thought of Martin and Linda having to say goodbye to their beautiful daughter. A girl with real artistic talent who had so much potential. Yet not only was she talented – Kelly’s determination and drive was clear for all to see. Her determination to battle a rare form of cancer which weakened her body day by day - yet her spirit was always strong. Her determination to keep fighting against the steepest odds - and always keep smiling. To get up, go to school and achieve great results in her GCSEs.

Kelly was a softly spoken, polite young girl. Yet deep inside there was a fire raging. She refused to let her spirit be beaten.

Kelly was a true inspiration. None of us doubt that she could have achieved great things. Yet all she wanted - more than anything - was to live.

This has been cruelly denied her. It leaves us asking painful questions. Why does this have to happen? Why Kelly? Why was she taken so young? These questions are all the more painful because we cannot begin to answer them.

We feel angry - that despite doing everything we could it still wasn't enough to save Kelly. We grieve because we feel one of Dover's brightest lights has gone out.

So what can we do? We must follow Kelly's example. We must keep a fire burning in all our hearts. We must remember Kelly for who she was - the girl who united our town and always stayed strong.

I will remember Kelly as the girl enjoying herself at Dover Music Festival this summer - smiling and dancing like a teenager should - in the moment, loving life. Defiant and brave as always.

Kelly and her family will always be in our hearts. We will never forget her fight and her spirit. In Dover, her light will never go out.

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Well said. Heartbreaking news but some warm and human memories. As you say, " In Dover, her light will never go out."
- Bernie Mayall

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04 NOV 2017

Simple solution to speeding in Capel

Residents in Capel are calling for a crackdown on cars and trucks speeding through their village. Members of Capel Parish Council met with me to discuss their concerns.

Villagers want the 40mph limit on the B2011 – which runs from Dover to Folkestone through the village – to start much closer to the junction with the A20. The parish councillors say it would be safer if the 40mph limit began before vehicles reached the turnings into caravan sites situated along the road.

Bosses at the Jarvis Homes development being built on the coastal side of the road have agreed as a condition of planning to pay Kent Highways £20,000 for the work to be done. Yet the parish councillors say Kent Highways are refusing to listen to their concerns or investigate the proposed changes.

I am taking up the case and has written to Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, asking for a site meeting. I have spoken to Ch Insp Mark Weller, Dover District area commander, about concerns over speeding in Capel.

Everyone can see that moving the 40mph down the road makes sense. This way cars will be travelling at a slower speed when they pass the caravan sites and enter the village. It's frustrating that Kent Highways have not put these sensible plans into action. I've asked for a site meeting so we can show them how simple the solution could be.

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03 NOV 2017

Twice as many clinics now operating at Buckland Hospital

Buckland Hospital is now operating almost twice as many clinics as when it first opened. A total of 32 outpatient specialities are based at the Coombe Valley Road site, delivering 9,895 clinics each year. It compares to 25 departments delivering 5,020 clinics at the end of 2015.

Seven new ophthalmic consultants have been recruited to work at the hospital, including in its brand new cataract surgery theatre. And health chiefs told me "good progress" was being made on getting GP services co-located at Buckland and creating a primary care hub.

The latest figures come as I held more crunch talks with local health bosses this week. Representatives from East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust and the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning group attended a meeting with Kent MPs I organised. We discussed improvements being made to A&E waiting times and plans for a medical school in Kent.

I'm delighted there are more services at Buckland. It's something I am constantly pushing for. The old hospital had been decimated over a decade, yet the opposite is happening in the new one.

But I still want to see even more services. Around 30 per cent of the new hospital remains unused. I also want to see beds commissioned at the brand new residential facility next door. Patients should be recovering as close to home as possible.

The recent news follows positive healthcare developments elsewhere in east Kent. A&E performance, recently rated as one of the worst in the country, has improved by 5% to 78.7% in the last fortnight in terms of patients treated within four hours of arrival.

With an extra £800,000 of central government investment, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust has recruited ten new specialist emergency doctors, installed three new treatment areas and a new ambulatory care unit at the William Harvey, and expanded ambulatory care and provided a new combined surgical assessment unit at Margate. Meanwhile at Deal Hospital, new figures show staff numbers have increased 17% since last year, from 126 to 147. And in Canterbury, an application for a brand new medical school run by the city's two universities will be submitted by the end of the year.

People often say the NHS is underfunded by the Conservatives. It's simply not true. An extra £10 billion in real terms is going into the system, bringing the budget to more than £120 billion – three times what we spend on schools.

I have been really encouraged by the new leadership team and the improvement plan they have implemented. The recent good work must continue because patients in Dover and Deal deserve better.

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02 NOV 2017

Three good reasons to invest one billion at the front line

We must be ready on day one for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover frontline. Planning for no deal is not simply a negotiation point in our talks with the European Union. Increasingly it is the responsible thing to do.

This was the case I made in the House of Commons last week – that it is in the national interest to be ready on day one. There are three key reasons.

First, insurance. You buy house insurance before you are burgled. In the same way we should insure against the risks of error in the current Brussels brinkmanship by making sure we are ready on day one.

Second, to get the best deal. Any experienced negotiator will tell you that if you want a deal, prepare first for no deal. If you can walk away you get a better price and better terms.

Third, this is no regrets spending. Our customs computers are creaking, the border systems are ageing and roads in Kent are far from resilient. In other words, this is investment we need at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel anyway.

Lack of investment already costs the economy billions of pounds when there are problems at the Channel Ports. In 2015, tailbacks caused by strikes in Calais caused queues of 4,600 lorries over 30 miles. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks with miles of traffic and 250,000 people caught up in the delay. Gridlock at Dover will mean gridlock for the British economy.

It would be wrong to wait until the last moment to start investing. It is in the national interest that we invest now. At least £1 Billion should be set aside in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two.

Now, some will say that however ready we are they won't be ready across the English Channel. Yet ports like Calais and Dunkirk would be required to upgrade their systems in line with a new global trade agreement that came into force in February. So if we start preparing now, there is no need for queues of lorries on either side of the Channel.

Others will say we cannot possibly be ready in time. That our system of administration and government organisation simply cannot cope. These are not people who believe in Britain. Nor are they people who have studied our history. For when there is a need, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome – no challenge we cannot meet. We can do this – and we must do this to deliver the greatest opportunities offered to our future generations by seeking a global future.

Yet we must prepare now. As the closest point to Europe, the most important preparations of all will be at the Dover frontline.

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01 NOV 2017

BrightHouse interest rates should be capped

I used the story of a constituent to force the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to consider capping interest applied by rent-to-own companies like BrightHouse. Electricals retailer BrightHouse was last week fined £14.8 million by the FCA for irresponsible lending and treating customers unfairly.

In a Treasury Select Committee hearing yesterday, I grilled chief executive Andrew Bailey about what else FCA was doing to curb BrightHouse's "predatory" behaviour. I highlighted the case of a woman who paid more than £2,200 for a TV worth £600, and one of his own constituents who paid off 70% of the value of a product before having it taken away by a "very rude bloke" for one missed payment.

I asked Mr Bailey: "These people end up repaying three times, or more, what they should.

"And you yourself said in a speech that the cap on payday lending of two times maximum has been effective, and people haven't lost out.

"So why aren't you doing it with this sector?"

He responded: "That's what we are doing with high cost credit. We are looking at a number of sectors... Because I agree with you. The issue is real."

I continued: "Can I ask you to take away, as a message, there ought to be caps in this sector – just like payday lending. And will you take action?"

Mr Bailey responded: "Good point. That will be in the frame in terms of what we look at as a solution.

"Caps work better for some products than others but I want to be clear I'm not ruling it out."

I followed up by quoting the interest rates of a number of rent-to-own companies – BrightHouse (70%) PerfectHome (70%) and Buy As You View (69%), adding: "It's not a competition is it? It's a cartel."

We must do more to crack down on firms who prey on the poorest and most vulnerable in society. 

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31 OCT 2017

Visiting our mental health trust team

It seems like real strides have been made in mental health support in Dover and Deal. I visited Coleman House in Dover to meet with Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) chief executive Helen Greatorex, her deputy Victoria Stevens, and the area's new permanent consultant Dr Kirsten Lawson.

Earlier this year KMPT received an improved rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and stats show improved performance has followed.

It was great to get the latest from Helen and her team. Mental healthcare is incredibly important. For too long it was given less attention than physical health and people struggled to get proper support. But this Government acted to give it equal weight in law, along with an extra £2.25 billion by 2020. I'm pleased to see this is already helping things on the ground.

CQC rated eight out of ten services provided by the trust as Good or Outstanding. Inspectors said KMPT was closing in on being rated Outstanding overall, something boasted by only two trusts across the country.

Dr Kirsten Lawson began running services in the Dover, Deal and Folkestone area in June. For the previous 18 months it had been served by locum doctors on rotation.

Recently the area has consistently exceeded the national target of 95% of patients receiving follow-up contact within a week of being discharged. Assessments within four weeks have also improved significantly, increasing each month from 46% in March to 80% in August.

I have pushed hard for better mental healthcare since I became MP and things finally look like they are on the up. There is more work to be done, of course, but real strides have been made.

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30 OCT 2017

Launching a campaign to bring in Robert's Law

I am working with the mum of a teenager who died after taking killer drugs to bring in "Robert's Law".

Robert Fraser, from Deal, was 18 when he died in November 2016 after being given fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin. According to friends, a dealer gave it to him for free saying it was similar to ecstasy. His family discovered his body in his bedroom that evening.

Fentanyl killed 20,000 people in the US last year — up from just 3,000 three years before. Deaths in the UK have also increased in recent months.

I am working with Robert's mum Michelle in a bid to toughen laws, so the American trend is not repeated here. Together we want to bring in "Robert's Law" – which would force police to prioritise cases involving fentanyl, and courts to impose tougher sentences on those caught supplying the drug.

Michelle is an incredibly brave woman. She doesn't want other parents to have to go through what she has. Robert had his whole life ahead of him. But he died from a powerful and increasingly abundant drug he did not know he was taking.

We need to send a strong message to dealers. You will be punished for the misery you inflict.

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

Robert's story will frighten every parent out there. And I want Robert's law to frighten every dealer.  All drugs are dangerous, but these some of these new synthetic ones are on a whole different level. We have to tackle this head on, right now, before it gets out of control.

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26 OCT 2017

Fighting for better mental healthcare in Dover and Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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25 OCT 2017

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

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

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

Planning for no deal is not simply a negotiation point. Increasingly it is the responsible thing to do. It would be wrong to wait until the last moment to start investing. It is in the national interest that we invest now.

At least £1 billion should be set aside in the November Budget to invest in upgrading our systems and infrastructure so that we will be ready on day one to forge ahead on day two.

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

In 2015, tailbacks caused by strikes in Calais caused queues of 4,600 lorries over 30 miles, at the cost of £1 Billion to the British economy.In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks with miles of traffic and 250,000 people caught up in the delay.

Gridlock at Dover will mean gridlock for the British economy.

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

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

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

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23 OCT 2017

Calling for crackdown on speeding through Capel

Residents in Capel are calling for a crackdown on cars and trucks speeding through their village. Members of Capel Parish Council also met with me to discuss their concerns.

Villagers want the 40mph limit on the B2011 – which runs from Dover to Folkestone through the village – to start much closer to the junction with the A20. The parish councillors say it would be safer if the 40mph limit began before vehicles reached the turnings into caravan sites situated along the road.

Bosses at the Jarvis Homes development being built on the coastal side of the road have agreed as a condition of planning to pay Kent Highways £20,000 for the work to be done. Yet the parish councillors say Kent Highways are refusing to listen to their concerns or investigate the proposed changes.

I am taking up the case and have written to Cllr Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, asking for a site meeting. I have also spoken to Ch Insp Mark Weller, Dover District area commander, about concerns over speeding in Capel.

Everyone can see that moving the 40mph down the road makes sense. This way cars will be travelling at a slower speed when they pass the caravan sites and enter the village.

It's frustrating that Kent Highways have not put these sensible plans into action. I've asked for a site meeting so we can show them how simple the solution could be.

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

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19 OCT 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18 OCT 2017

Industry leaders need "certainty" over Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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13 OCT 2017

Crunch talks with bus bosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12 OCT 2017

Schools are getting the investment we fought for

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

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

I visited Whitfield and Aspen last week to hear about their fantastic outreach programme. Staff go out to nurseries across Dover and Deal and help children who have special educational needs.

One youngster they helped was Darwin Burnett at Kid Ease nursery at the Triangles Centre. His family were really pleased with his progress and wanted him to go on to Whitfield and Aspen School. Yet they were having difficulty securing school transport for him. I was delighted to help out and to persuade Kent County Council to fund his transport. It was brilliant to meet Darwin last week. He really is a charming young lad and it's great to see his confidence growing.

Yet none of this would have happened without Whitfield and Aspen's amazing outreach programme. The school is looking to expand when the new Whitfield development goes ahead – so they can help even more youngsters.

I also visited Goodwin Academy on Friday for the official opening of the school's hugely impressive new £25 million building and facilities. It was great to be shown around by two polite and well-informed pupils, who looked very smart in their new school uniform. We fought a long and hard battle to deliver the new building for the Goodwin Academy. Thanks to everyone's determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Dover and Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

Another school which has undergone a complete transformation in recent years is Dover Christ Church Academy, with brand-new facilities and ever-improving results. While our excellent grammar schools continue to deliver outstanding results.

Lots of people spoke to me about school funding during the General Election campaign. I pressed the Government for action and now our schools are set to get a huge cash boost from the Conservatives' new national funding formula. Kent County Council should introduce the new system next year – boosting secondary school funding by an average of 7.2%, or £1.54 million.

I'm passionate about giving people ladders in life. Schools must give children the support they need to climb as far as their talents can take them. That's why we're fighting for our schools in Dover and Deal. Because no matter where you come from – every child must have the chance to get on in life.

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11 OCT 2017

Calling on the Chancellor to invest in Brexit border systems

I have called on the Chancellor to invest in upgrading border and customs systems now – so Britain is ready on day one for leaving the European Union, deal or no deal.

I highlighted the need to press ahead swiftly with the M20 lorry park project as Philip Hammond faced questions from myself and fellow MPs at a Treasury Select Committee hearing. The Chancellor had earlier written in The Times that funding should not be spent yet for preparations for no deal with the EU.

At the hearing, I told him: "Uncertainty is our enemy – but resilience is our friend. Why wouldn't we want world class border systems and road infrastructure? Why don't we make this investment that we need anyway? That means we are also in a really great position – deal or no deal."

The Chancellor said any spending on Brexit preparations would be "specific", depending on whether Britain strikes a deal with the EU – and what that deal will look like. I pressed the Chancellor on the need to get the proposed M20 lorry park at Stanford built in time to ensure "resilience" for Brexit.

The Treasury's recent Customs Bill white paper says that in the event of "no deal" over Brexit – the presentation of goods to customs "would take place inland as much as possible." Mr Hammond said the M20 lorry park "is one of the factors that needs to be considered".

I asked: "How resilient do you believe our borders system and customs system are to handle leaving the single market and customs union on March 29th, 2019?"

The Chancellor said: "We need to prepare for a wide range of scenarios. The commitment we have made is that we will be ready with the necessary minimum structures to operate to system on day one. Will everything we will ever need be in place by day one? Definitely it won't. We will build over time more refined infrastructure to deal with the situation we are facing – once we know what that situation is."

The Chancellor wrote in The Times that funding for preparations for no deal with the EU should only be spent "when it is responsible to do so".

At the hearing I also asked Mr Hammond under what circumstances he envisaged it would be "responsible" to spend funds on preparing for no deal. The Chancellor said where spending is "uniquely required in a no deal scenario... we need to work backwards from March 29th 2019 and identify where we need to make the commitment decision in order to deliver on time."

It's vital that investment in infrastructure like the M20 lorry park and world class border systems begins now. Rather than wait for the EU to get its act together, we must take action now. If we are ready on day one, we can forge ahead on day two.

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10 OCT 2017

Helping a young lad get transport to school

A four-year-old boy is loving life with his new classmates after receiving help to get transport to school.

Darwin Burnett started at Whitfield and Aspen School in September. The school had been helping Darwin, who has special educational needs, as part of their outreach programme while he was still at Kid Ease nursery at the Triangles Centre in Dover.

His family were really pleased with his progress and wanted him to go on to Whitfield and Aspen School. Yet they were having difficulty securing school transport for him. I wrote to Kent County Council and persuaded them to fund Darwin's transport.

It was brilliant to meet him last week. He really is a charming young lad and it's great to see his confidence growing. When his family were struggling with school transport I was delighted to help out.

I was shown around the school, where children with special educational needs mix with youngsters in the mainstream, by headteacher Joseph Cook and outreach coordinator Annmarie Formoy. They told me how staff visit 16 nurseries across Dover and Deal as part of their outreach programme. Six children recently went on to mainstream schools straight from nursery after receiving their help.

I was also shown plans for the school's expansion when the new Whitfield development goes ahead. Incredible work is being done by some truly inspirational teachers and support staff and Whitfield and Aspen School. It's clear their outreach programme makes a huge difference to so many youngsters.

It's great that the school is expanding – so they can help even more children.

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09 OCT 2017

Opening the new Goodwin Academy building

The official opening of the new £25 million building at the Goodwin Academy in Deal was held on Friday.

The ribbon was cut by The Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce after guests were given a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities.

I was delighted to see the new building up and running after fighting a long and hard battle to secure funding for the school. It was great to be shown around by two polite and well-informed pupils, who looked very smart in their new school uniform.

The new Hamilton Road site, built next door to the current 1930s buildings in Mill Road, has capacity for 1,300 pupils. Equipment from the maritime studies centre based at the former Walmer Science College site was moved to the new building. Guests also had a look at the modern gym equipment inside the new sports hall.

We fought a long and hard battle to deliver the new building for the Goodwin Academy. Now some £25 million has been invested. Thanks to everyone's determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

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06 OCT 2017

Discussing crime concerns with the local police chief

Residents' concerns over local crime issues were discussed at a meeting between myself and the area's police chief.

I told Chief Inspector Mark Weller that people had raised a number of issues – including anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and speeding in some areas. Residents also sought reassurances over police presence in Deal.

Ch Insp Weller told me the local force would be looking into all the issues raised.

He said a Kent Police operation during the summer had resulted in a number of street drinkers being moved out of Dover town centre.

Ch Insp Weller, who started out as a police constable covering Dover and Deal in 1996, said tackling drug dealing was a top priority. He will also look at measures to tackle speeding – particularly around Dover's one-way system and in Capel. He insisted that police officers are in Deal covering the town every day.

It's great to have an area commander who knows the Dover and Deal patch so well. Ch Insp Weller clearly cares deeply about fighting crime in our area and is happy to take on board residents' concerns.

I'm pleased the local force will look at tackling the dangerous practice of drivers speeding around Dover's one-way system – and that Ch Insp Weller confirmed there are police officers in Deal every day.

Our local force do an incredible job. And it's great our area commander is engaged with the community and listening to people's concerns.

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05 OCT 2017

Dover and Deal are on the up

We're working hard to build a brighter future in Dover and Deal. And it's clear things are on the up in our beautiful corner of Kent.

The new cinema and shops at St James are set to open in the coming months. The £120 million Western Docks development is underway. Deal continues to go from strength to strength and was recently ranked as one of Britain's top coastal towns.

There are exciting times ahead and people I speak to when I'm out and about are really positive about the future. Indeed, last week research was published which said happiness in Dover and Deal has reached its highest levels since records began.

Our level of happiness in 2016/17 was 7.69, researchers found. This is above the national average of 7.51 and a big rise locally from 7.17 last year. When the Office of National Statistics started measuring personal well-being in 2011/12, the level of happiness in Dover and Deal was 7.38.

Life satisfaction in the constituency is also up year on year, while anxiety is down. More people feel what they do in life is "worthwhile" than in 2011/12.

Too often some people talk us down. Yet the truth is that Dover and Deal are on the up. We've come a long way in the past seven years. We stopped the port sell-off, got a new hospital built in Dover and safeguarded Deal's. We secured £500 million of investment for our area and unemployment has near halved.

People said we'd never get the fast train to Deal – yet now it sweeps into the station every day. People said Burlington House would be there forever – yet we kept fighting until it was torn down. Now the former St James site is transforming before our eyes. Meanwhile the rubble from Burlington House is being used to lay the foundations of the Western Docks Revival.

Of course, there is still much more to do as we build a brighter future for Dover and Deal. The most vital issue of our times is ensuring we are ready on day one for Brexit. We cannot have a situation where there are long queues of trucks clogging up our roads. That's why I've been working with industry experts to put together a plan setting out the action we need to take now at the Dover and Deal frontline.

If we get it right, we can enjoy a real boost from Brexit. I got 40 MPs together to write to the Chancellor, calling for duty free sales on travel to Europe to return after Brexit. This could help boost visitor number and our ferries.

Things are changing. We are working relentlessly – taking action to secure investment, plan ahead and build a brighter future for Dover.

And if there's one reason above all else to be happy – it's that we finally got rid of the 40mph limit on the A20!

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05 OCT 2017

Public support has safeguarded our greatest landmark for future generations

Our iconic White Cliffs are a symbol of freedom and our nation's wartime defiance.

I'm delighted that so many people have rallied together to raise £1 million in less than three weeks.

It just goes to show how deeply people care about protecting our greatest landmark for future generations to enjoy.

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05 OCT 2017

Border controls are a Brexit priority

Border control upgrades must be a Brexit priority, councils across the South East have told Brexit Secretary David Davis.

The leaders of South East England Councils (SEEC) and the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM) have written a joint letter to Mr Davis.

I welcome the letter, which reflects many aspects of my Ready on Day One report presented to the Government earlier this year: http://www.elphicke.com/downloads/ready-on-day-one--meeting-the-brexit-borders-challenge.pdf

The letter says: "As UK negotiators work towards achieving the UK's exit from the EU, local authorities across the South East want to urge you to prioritise upgrading of border controls for passengers and freight in advance of Brexit."

It adds: "Dover and Shepway councils have particular concerns about the future of borders as they are the UK gateways for the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover, which is the closest port to the European mainland."

The letter also calls for juxtaposed border controls at Dover and Calais to remain in place. And the Government is asked to pursue agreement on the future inspections required for food imported from the EU "as a matter of urgency".

It is great to see councils across the South East working together in this way.

It is in the national interest to ensure we are ready on day for every eventuality of leaving the European Union. Nowhere will preparations be more vital than at the Dover frontline.

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28 SEP 2017

Council leader leaves a legacy to be proud of

Last week Councillor Paul Watkins announced he would be standing down after 15 years as Leader of Dover District Council. And what an incredible 15 years it's been. So much has happened in our corner of Kent - so much has been transformed. And so much of that could not have been achieved without Paul Watkins playing a key role at every stage. Paul can look back with enormous pride at what he has achieved as leader of Dover District Council.

He has worked tirelessly, year after year, doing his level best to boost Dover, Deal and the villages. He battled every step of the way to defy the doubters. Doubters who never believed investment would be delivered in our community.

He leaves a legacy he can rightly be proud of. Deal is a town transformed. The fast train now sweeps into the station every hour. Cllr Watkins helped fight to deliver the service which has helped the town go from strength to strength. Projects he masterminded transformed the sea front and improved the High Street. Not only has Deal won high street of the year, it is ranked number one in a Times newspaper list of the top UK coastal towns.

Paul has worked tirelessly to make Dover and Deal open for business and to encourage investment in the area. When the financial crash hit and Asda pulled out of the Dover Town Investment Zone scheme (or 'DTIZ' as it was then known) it was a big setback. People walked along Townwall Street, looked up at Burlington House, shook their heads and thought about what might have been.

Yet Paul never gave in. He had a vision for the future and kept going regardless. When I was elected as MP in 2010, one of the first things Cllr Watkins and I talked about was reviving the town centre – and bringing down Burlington House. When I spoke to people around town, they told me it would never happen. This twelve-storey eyesore would blight our landscape forever.

Still Paul kept on going. And finally, in 2015 demolition crews started tearing down Burlington House brick by brick. In 2016 it was gone forever. A huge victory – a symbol of how things really are changing. Legal and General agreed to put more than £50 million into the St James scheme. Cineworld, Next, M&S, Nando's and many others signed up. And the exciting new development is set to open next year.

So much has changed since Cllr Watkins first joined the Council in 1983. Yet whether as ward councillor, chairman or leader – he has given his all to driving the district forward. Everyone can see how deeply this former Dover schoolboy cares about his community.

I wish him a happy retirement with his wife Christine, their two daughters and three grandchildren.

Cllr Watkins has done what he set out to do 15 years ago – and more. Incredible progress has been made. We will miss him as Leader of the Council. Paul can look back on all he has achieved with real pride.

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26 SEP 2017

Meeting a minister at the port to discuss Brexit

I met a Treasury minister at the Port of Dover to discuss why action must be taken now to ensure the border is ready on day one for Brexit.

Alongside Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride MP at the Eastern Docks, and Port of Dover chief executive Tim Waggott, we visited Border Force operations and spoke about plans to handle customs after Brexit.

It is clear we need to take action now to ensure our border is ready on day one for Brexit – particularly at the Dover frontline. I have been working with industry experts on detailed plans setting out what we must to do be prepared.

I'm pleased the Treasury is listening to our concerns. Yet now we need to see action – with more investment at the Channel Ports and making sure our customs systems are ready.

I have set out a range of measures that will help prepare the border for Brexit and keep traffic flowing freely, which I discussed with Mr Stride. My plan includes a 'trusted trader' scheme for lorry firms, so fewer customs checks have to be done at the border. I also want dualling of the A2 and the M20 lorry park to be prioritised.

It is in the national interest to ensure we are ready on day for every eventuality of leaving the European Union. Nowhere will preparations be more vital than at the Dover frontline.

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22 SEP 2017

We must make better use of Buckland

I have held crunch talks with local health chiefs – calling for urgent action to tackle A&E delays and better use of Buckland Hospital.

Last week I spoke with East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust interim chief executive Liz Shutler and chairman Nikki Cole after Matthew Kershaw's resignation. 

Ms Shutler detailed several measures to improve emergency departments – including hiring 10 new doctors, opening three new treatment areas and an ambulatory care unit in Ashford, and expanding the facility in Margate.

She also agreed to look at bringing more services to Buckland Hospital in Dover.

It was great to speak with the trust's new chief, but I told her I have serious concerns. Emergency care in our hospitals is not good enough. People are waiting far too long to be seen.

The Government is pumping an extra £10 billion of cash into the NHS in real terms. Our trust needs to be run better – and I've been encouraged by the discussions I've had this week.

But I want to see real improvements. I want to see our brand new hospital in Dover being fully utilised, with more services. Ms Shutler promised to have a serious look at this and I welcome that commitment."

I have also been told a healthcare provider recently placed into special measures could have its contract terminated. Nestor Primecare Services – which delivers NHS 111 and out-of-hours doctor services across east Kent – was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission last month. A damning report said it put patients at risk with low staffing, untrained staff and delays in treatment.

I demanded South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group take urgent measures to ensure patients in Dover and Deal were safeguarded. I have now been assured that a service improvement plan has been agreed, and that a 90-day notice to terminate the contract will be triggered if performance does not improve.

Inspectors say people in Dover and Deal have been put at risk by the new provider. That is unacceptable. We are getting more services at our local hospitals, but healthcare outside of them is just as important.

We must see Primecare deliver swift and significant improvements. If we do not, the CCG should stick to their word and sack them.

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21 SEP 2017

Caring for those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy

In the early hours of Wednesday, June 14th, a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, West London. Many of us woke up that morning to horrific images on our TVs of flames engulfing the 24-storey building. At least eighty people were killed in the tragedy.

At such times we feel like we must do something to help those in need. Yet we ourselves feel helpless. What can we really do to make a difference? Local charities were bombarded with clothes and donations. Yet before long they started turning things away because they already had far more than they could handle. People here in Dover and Deal got in touch with me asking what could be done to help.

My first thought was what do we here have to offer in our corner of Kent? We have beautiful beaches, incredible history and lots of things to do. The victims of the fire should be offered the opportunity to enjoy all Dover and Deal has to offer.

I met with local hotelier Ian Dunkerley. He wanted to do something to help the victims too. His daughter works in a school just 400 metres from the tower. Hoteliers at The Clarendon, The King's Head and The Royal in Deal also offered to help.

We got our heads together and started planning an all-inclusive trip with local businesses. Dover Sea Safari offered a boat ride around the harbour. The Dover Marina Hotel said they could put on lunch. English Heritage provided tickets for Dover Castle and Walmer Castle. Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant would do dinner. And the Clarendon Hotel offered an overnight room. All free of charge.

And last month I was delighted to welcome Judith and Rafthina Peterson down to Dover and Deal. We met in the square outside The King's Head in Deal where live music had been playing all afternoon in glorious sunshine. We had a long chat about the fire at Grenfell. How they had been made homeless. How their lives had been turned upside down. It was heart breaking to hear.

Yet when we asked how they had enjoyed their trip to Dover and Deal, big smiles appeared on their faces. They said they'd had a fantastic time and it was one the best breaks they'd ever had. Their local council said Judith and Rafthina returned to London with a spring in their step.

Of course nothing will ever put right that tragic day in June. Yet we wanted to show that every corner of the country cares deeply about what happened at Grenfell and the people affected by it.

Community spirit is one of our many strengths around here in Dover and Deal. We always rally around to help those in need. It's what makes me proud to live in this area and call it home.

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19 SEP 2017

A wonderful weekend in Dover and Deal

A fete raising money to save a village hall and a popular firework display were some of the local events I attended over the weekend.

On Saturday I went to Hougham Village Fete, held on West Hougham Village Green. Its aim was to raise money to repair the Village Hall, which I visited earlier this year and have since helped with efforts to find funding. The event itself had stalls and games including crafts, a dog show, a bouncy assault course, homemade treats and live music.

In the evening I attended the annual Nonington Firework Fantasy, held at Nonington Cricket Ground. Entertainment included a BBQ, fun fair rides, candy floss, live music, dancers and the spectacular firework display.

What a great way to see out the British summer in our glorious corner of the country. I've been very busy in Westminster recently working on detailed Brexit plans, but I really wish I could spend every day in Dover and Deal.

I want to give a huge congratulations to the organisers of both events. I had a lovely time and met some amazing people.

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18 SEP 2017

Our schools are set for a huge cash boost

Schools in Dover and Deal will get a huge cash boost from the new national funding formula. Funding for secondary schools would increase by an average of 7.2%, or £1.54 million, if the new system was adopted next year.

A new formula was demanded by headteachers across the country who said the old one was outdated and unfair. It is due to be introduced in two years. In the transition period (2018-19 and 2019-20) local authorities will draw up their own local formulas to allocate money.

But if the national formula was adopted next year, Astor College would get 11.1% more cash, Dover Grammar School for Girls 10.4% more, Dover Grammar School for Boys 9.4% more, St Edmund's Catholic School 9.1% more and Goodwin Academy 8.4% more. Overall, primary and secondary schools in Dover and Deal would get a 4.7% increase.

I am calling on Kent County Council to consider introducing it next year. The new method is much fairer. Experts say for the first time resources will be distributed according to the individual needs of every school.

It's clear Dover and Deal was let down by the old system. There were thousands less spent per pupil compared to parts of London. Lots of important factors weren't taken into account. I raised this with Government ministers plenty of times and they were right to take action.

The new system means schools in Dover and Deal are going to get a lot more money in the future. That is great news. But I want Kent County Council to consider how unfairly our area has been treated when they decide allocations next year.

Despite the transition period, funding for schools across the country will still increase well above inflation next year – by 3.4%. The £41 billion for 2017-18 will rise to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and £43.5 billion in 2019-20. Additional investment will secure an increase for every pupil in every school, a minimum per pupil funding level, a minimum increase level for every school, and a big increase in high needs funding.

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16 SEP 2017

Dover and Deal are surging ahead in Kent

Official figures show Dover and Deal's economy is surging ahead of the rest of Kent.

The unemployment claimant count has reduced by more in the last year (by 228) than in any of the county's 12 districts.

Meanwhile the district now has the second lowest number of workless households (3,000) and the fourth highest number of full working households (23,000). It also had the second biggest rise in average annual earnings in Kent in a year, behind only Ashford.

This is all good news for the area. Back in 2010 Dover was near the bottom of the table when it came to jobs and money. Unemployment had risen for years under Labour, job prospects were limited and investment had dried up.

Since then £500 million has been secured for the area. Burlington House is down and the new hospital is up. Houses are being built at double the rate of the national average. A shopping centre and major seafront regeneration are on the way.

Deal continues to go from strength or strength and was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain. We really are on the road to a brighter future for our area. Yet we must keep fighting for more jobs and money in Dover and Deal.

Official figures show there are now less than a thousand (869) Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claimants in Dover district, or 1.3% of the population.

The number is 228 less than a year ago and 65% down since 2010, when there were 2,527 claimants. Youth unemployment in the constituency is down 53% since 2010, from 660 claimants to 310.

And the latest annual pay survey found average annual earnings in Dover and Deal jumped by 10.1% in a year. 

Let's keep going. 

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15 SEP 2017

Seaside trip for Grenfell fire victims

I was proud to help organise a trip to Dover and Deal for two sisters caught up in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Judith Peterson, 53, and her sister Rafthina, 57, enjoyed a boat ride around Dover harbour, lunch, a special exhibition at Dover Castle, live music on Deal seafront, dinner at a seafood restaurant and an overnight stay in a hotel. They visited Walmer Castle the next day.

The pair were made homeless following the Grenfell Tower fire in West London on June 14th which killed at least 80 people.

I met with Ian Dunkerley, who runs Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant Hotel, soon after the Grenfell tragedy. We decided we wanted to do something to help the victims of the fire. Hoteliers at The Clarendon, The King's Head and The Royal in Deal all offered to help too.

Of course nothing will ever put right that tragic day in June. But we wanted to show that every corner of the country cares deeply about what happened at Grenfell and the people affected by it.

Community spirit is one of our many strengths around here in Dover and Deal. We always rally around to help those in need. I am so proud to live in this area and call it home.

The boat ride around the harbour was organised by Dover Sea Safari, lunch was put on by the Best Western Plus Dover Marina Hotel & Spa, English Heritage provided tickets for Dover Castle and Walmer Castle, Dunkerley's Seafood Restaurant put on dinner, and the Clarendon Hotel offered an overnight room. All was provided free of charge.

Judith said: "I had a fantastic time. Everyone was really lovely. They looked after me.

"I'd never been to Dover and Deal before and it was one of the best breaks I've ever had."

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14 SEP 2017

Pollution yet another reason for new Deal to Dover road

The roads to Dover and Deal are put under huge strain every day. Thousands of lorries travel along the A20 and A2 to the port. And thousands of cars go between Dover and Deal on the only main road available – the A258. Traffic levels have been rising for decades. Yet the capacity to handle it is the same. It's no surprise the roads so easily get congested.

This is why I've been fighting for more investment in our roads. To get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. We need to make sure the infrastructure is in place to be ready on day one for Brexit and avoid gridlock.

I'm also passionate about tackling pollution. That's why we fought to get queues of trucks out of Dover town. They are now queued at lights before they reach the first roundabout.

Yet pollution is also a problem in Deal. Last week I met with organisers from local campaign group Deal With It. They told me about their research showing air quality near Deal Castle is worse than in parts of central London. Nitrogen dioxide levels measured 52.9 micrograms per cubic metre. They tell me this was the only reading in East Kent to exceed the EU's legal limit of 40.

It is of serious concern that we have illegal pollution levels in the centre of Deal. Everyone knows congestion is a major cause of poor air quality. There is simply too much traffic in the centre of Deal. This is another reason why we need to think about a new road to the North of Deal – to stop traffic going through the town centre unnecessarily.

All this town centre traffic is not just polluting. The high levels of traffic on the A258 into Deal is also dangerous. In the past six years there have been 100 accidents. Over the last 15 years, 18 accidents have resulted in serious injuries. Five have been fatal. Each accident is down to driver error. Yet there is no doubt that the A258 itself is a major factor. This road simply cannot handle all the traffic that travels on it. And every time there is a crash, the road is closed. Even when there is not an accident, tailbacks are common, creating yet more engine fumes.

Deal is a great place – yet it would be greater still with less traffic and pollution in the town centre.

This is why so many people are saying we need better road access to Middle Deal and the North End that doesn't go through the town centre and Walmer. Residents tell me we should think about building a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.

It's clear we must take action soon – to build clearer, cleaner and safer roads for Dover and Deal.

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11 SEP 2017

Congestion means air in Deal is worse than parts of London

Parts of Deal suffer worse air pollution than areas of central London. That is shocking and I want to see action to address it. 

Research carried out by local campaign group Deal With It found nitrogen dioxide levels measured 52.9 micrograms per cubic metre. The EU's legal limit is 40.

They were taking readings near Deal Castle as part of an air quality study by Friends of the Earth. The reading was the only one in east Kent to exceed the legal limit.

After meeting with Deal With It organisers last week, I believe it is further proof of the need for a new road into North Deal.

It's shocking that parts of Deal have worse air pollution than central London. Everyone knows congestion is a major cause of poor air quality. There needs to be less unnecessary traffic in the town centre. A new road direct to North Deal would help get cars out of the town centre and reduce pollution.

I have long called for safety improvements on the A258. I would like to see a new road built direct to North Deal, providing a faster route between the towns and relieving pressure on the existing route.

In recent weeks Tracy and Symon Squire – the parents of tragically killed cyclist Daniel – backed my campaign. Daniel Squire was 18 years old when his bike was struck from behind by a van on the A258 in 2013.

A total of 228 crashes have taken place on that stretch since 2003, including more than 100 between 2010 and 2016.

I want the authorities to look at building a new road to connect the towns, such as a dualled spur from the A256 to connect to Middle Deal and the North End.

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07 SEP 2017

Duty free return would boost Dover and Deal

The return of duty free sales on travel to and from the European Union would deliver a real boost for Dover and Deal. It would benefit the ferry industry, as duty free goods will attract more people to travel. And it will boost visits to our cruise port at the Western Docks. By having one non-EU stopover on a cruise, the entire journey becomes duty and tax free for passengers. The return of duty free would mean towns and regions home to ports or small airports across the whole nation would be better off.

We need to plan ahead for Brexit now – that includes reviving duty free which helps ports like our and regional airports too. This is why I organised a letter to the Chancellor, signed by 40 MPs, calling for duty free to be reinstated for trips to Europe.

Duty free sales between Britain and the EU were axed in 1999. Since then duty free has only applied on trips outside Europe. We need to bring these duty free sales back – to boost regional economies like Dover and Deal. It's also important that when duty free returns, people should also be able to continue to bring in personal imports from the EU like they can now.

We only need to make minor tweaks to current laws. Yet these changes need to be made in good time in order to give operators time to be ready on day one of Brexit. Preparations could take up to nine months for our ferry firms.

It is vital that we prepare now for every eventuality of Brexit – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. That's why I've been working with industry experts and business leaders on the action we can take. And the Government has recently published papers on how we can tackle the Brexit customs challenge. Forward-thinking politicians like Xavier Bertrand, who heads up the Calais region, have welcomed our work so far.

Yet it's clear from the behaviour of Brussels that no deal is a real possibility. The clock is ticking and the EU need to start negotiating seriously. That may not happen in time – which is why we need to be ready on day one, deal or no deal.

Ironically, the EU will be the big loser from no deal. For tariffs would hit Europe's exports to us twice as hard as they would hit our exports to them. No free-trade deal would mean Europe's exports to us would be hit for £13.2billion of tariffs. Meanwhile, tariffs on our exports to Europe would be just £6.5billion. Hopefully the economic realities will begin to focus minds in the EU and more progress can be made.

Yet we must be prepared for no deal. That means taking action now to be ready on day one. Getting ready for the return of duty free is part of that. And ensuring we are prepared for the customs challenges ahead at the Dover frontline.

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04 SEP 2017

Unemployment in Dover and Deal keeps falling

The unemployment claimant count in Dover district has fallen – while average earnings are up.

Official figures published last week show there are now less than a thousand (869) Jobseeker's Allowance claimants in the district, or 1.3 per cent of the population. The number is down 65 per cent since 2010, when there were 2,527 claimants.

Meanwhile, youth unemployment in the Dover and Deal constituency is down 53 per cent since 2010, from 660 claimants to 310.

And the latest annual pay survey has found that average annual earnings in Dover and Deal jumped by 10.1 per cent in a year.

We have some incredibly hardworking people here in Dover and Deal and these figures show the hard work is paying off.

There has been more than £400 million of investment in the area since 2010. In Dover the cinema and shopping complex is taking shape and a major port regeneration scheme is on the way. Deal continues to go from strength or strength. It was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain.

This all shows that our plan to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent is working. Now we must keep pressing ahead – and build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

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01 SEP 2017

Fighting for more jobs in Dover & Deal

More jobs and money for our area has long been a key priority. We've made real progress – unemployment has halved since 2010, with apprenticeships and young people being particularly successful. The latest official figures say average earnings in Dover and Deal rose 10% in a year. It's been great to see so many new businesses starting up or expanding.

In the heart of Dover steel frames are giving shape to the new cinema, shops and hotel that are being built. The £50 million St James development gets closer to completion every day. It will give such a boost to Dover and provide real momentum to the renewal of the town. Not long ago this site was home to the hated Burlington House. So much has changed.

In Deal, we fought hard to get the fast train. We succeeded and it's been a success. The prosperity it has brought the town has made a real difference – and Deal was recently voted one of the best coastal towns in Britain. I want to bring more jobs and money to the area. Like the fast train – a new, better road connecting Dover and Deal has the potential to do just that.

At the Port of Dover, they're handling record levels of traffic. This underlines the importance of our campaign to get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. The Western Docks revival, set to deliver a new marina and new jobs on the seafront, should make a real difference.

We need to make sure that we keep bringing in more jobs and money after we leave the European Union. Recently I took a group of MPs who represent port constituencies to meet the Brexit Minister. We stressed the importance of the port-related jobs in our areas. And we all agreed it is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land. I will work tirelessly to ensure we are ready on day one for Brexit at the Dover frontline.

I'm passionate about helping people get into work. At my Jobs Fair earlier this year it was clear lots of businesses are recruiting locally. This is good news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further – full employment is my aim so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

We have some incredibly hardworking people here in Dover and Deal and the hard work is paying off. There has been more than £500 million of investment secured for the area since 2010. We can deliver even more – and boost business and jobs.

This all shows that our plan to bring more jobs and money to our corner of Kent is working. Now we must keep pressing ahead – and build a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

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30 AUG 2017

Dover District Council can Save Our Banksy!

I launched a campaign in June to safeguard the Brexit-themed mural on the corner of Townwall Street and York Street in Dover. Officials have now confirmed Dover District Council CAN save the Dover Banksy.

I applied to Historic England to have the iconic artwork listed, and called on Dover District Council (DDC) to do everything possible to preserve it.

Historic England's planning director Dr Andrew Brown has said the building does not meet their test of "special architectural or historic interest". But Dr Brown confirmed DDC "have powers to safeguard the mural through normal development control measures".

This is great news. We now know the council can save the Banksy after all – whether that's through retrospective permission, stop notices, new planning applications, or other control measures.

I have passed this information to the council and urged them to do the right thing.

The huge mural appeared on the wall of the former Shakespeare Hotel in May. The building's owners, the Godden family, later released a statement saying they were exploring options for the removal or sale of the piece.

I called on Dover residents to back my campaign to save the Banksy. I approached Historic England and DDC, before asking Arts Minister John Glen for his support at a meeting at the House of Commons.

It had been said the former Shakespeare Hotel was due for demolition, but the council have confirmed there is no demolition order against it.

The building forms part of DDC's waterfront development plans. The council's masterplan is yet to be finalised.

There is still time to do the right thing and preserve this asset.

I had hoped the Banksy would be listed and given the greatest possible protection. But I'm delighted Historic England have confirmed Dover District Council can save this much-loved artwork.

People have travelled across the country to come and see it. It's a massive draw for visitors to Dover and we need to make it the centrepiece of any new development.

Dover is the Banksy's rightful home. To demolish it would be a crime against culture.

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30 AUG 2017

Duty free must be brought back after Brexit

Duty free sales on travel to and from the European Union must return after Brexit.

I have written to Chancellor Philip Hammond with the support of 39 Conservative MPs calling for duty free to be reinstated for trips to Europe from March 29th, 2019.

Duty free sales between Britain and the EU were axed by the EU in 1999. Since then duty free has only applied on trips outside Europe.

Bringing back duty free will boost regional economies like Dover and Deal. Towns and districts home to ports and smaller airports, as well as the ferry industry and airlines, are set to benefit most.

The return of duty free would deliver a real boost to Britain. The benefits would be felt across the nation – particularly in coastal communities and regional airports. Bringing back duty free would be a real boost to the ferry industry at ports from Dover to Holyhead - as well as regional airports from Aberdeen to the East Midlands.

The return of duty free could also boost UK cruise ship ports. By having one non-EU stopover on a cruise, the entire journey becomes duty and tax free for passengers.

The reintroduction of duty free on travel between the UK and EU states should occur two years from the triggering of Article 50 (March 29th, 2019). Duty free should be brought back - and people should also be able to continue to bring in personal imports from the EU like they do now.

The letter says: "These changes need to be made in good time in order to give operators time to be ready on day one of Brexit. We understand that preparations could take up to nine months for ferry firms and airport operators."

Only minor amendments to legislation on VAT, excise duty and excise goods are required to reintroduce duty free, according to industry experts.

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24 AUG 2017

Why we need a new, safer Deal to Dover road

Last week I met with Tracy and Symon Squire. Their son Daniel was killed when his bike was hit by a driver who had been texting earlier in the journey. Daniel was a keen tri-athlete with a bright future ahead of him. He secured a place in the Bolton Iron Man shortly before he was killed. Daniel was loved by everyone who knew him. This is every parent's worst nightmare. Tracy and Symon will never get over what happened.

The driver was irresponsible, yet the danger was made worse by too many vehicles driving too fast on a road that is too small – the A258. In the past six years there have been 100 accidents on the A258. Over the last 15 years 18 accidents have resulted in serious injuries. Five have been fatal.

Tracy and Symon have placed a memorial by the side of the road marking the spot where Daniel lost his life. The white bicycle stands as a silent reminder to drivers of the need for extra care and attention when travelling on this dangerous road. Each accident is down to driver error. Yet there is no doubt that the A258 itself is a major factor. This road simply cannot handle all the traffic that travels on it.

Moreover, every time there is a crash, the road is closed. Motorists then divert through narrow country lanes, often leading to scrapes and stand offs. Even when there is not an accident, tailbacks are common.

The problem with the A258 is not simply the weight of traffic on it. It is the main road out of Deal and Walmer. So traffic heading from Middle Deal and the North End go through the centre of Deal and Walmer, creating more pollution and congestion. The town is a great place – yet it would be greater still with less traffic and pollution in the town centre.

We need to think as a community what we can do about the A258 and reducing traffic and pollution in the centre of Deal. To my mind it's time to think about better road access to Middle Deal and the North End that doesn't go through the town centre and Walmer.

Three miles away from North Deal there is a near empty dual carriageway – the A256. A du

alled spur from the A256 could be built to connect to Middle Deal and the North End. It would do much to solve traffic problems suffered by the residents of Middle Deal. It would enable a new route out of the North End that would avoid Middle Deal and the town centre. Traffic travelling on the A258 would fall dramatically. Residents of Walmer would benefit too.

This is a serious matter that has been a cause of grave concern to our community for years. It's time to address it. I would like to hear what people think about creating a new entry to Deal and the difference that it could make.

1 comment

A258 what can we say,We moved to st margarets from deal,we love it here,but the near misses i see every day,going in to deal on this very busy heavily congested A258 road is a ACCIDENT waiting to happen,A proposal for us st margarets people at the junction turning right in to Deal, why if we sign the road with no turn Right in to Deal, turn left towards Dover have a roundabout at the next st margarets turn off junction to safely come back into deal,
- joanne strouts

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22 AUG 2017

Meeting the Talk It Out team at their new cafe

A café set up to help people with mental health issues is going from strength to strength after receiving a £10,000 grant.

The Wellbeing Café, based in the Landmark Centre in Deal, is run by the Talk It Out mental health support group.

The café recently received the grant from the mental health and policing fund set up by Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott.

Talk It Out founder Tracy Carr, who I have worked with for some time, invited me to visit.

It was great to sit down for a chat with everyone at the Wellbeing Café, which is clearly so well loved by all those who attend.

The mental health and policing fund set up by the energetic Matthew Scott is a superb initiative. The £10,000 grant could not have gone to a more deserving cause.

Talk It Out makes such a huge difference to so many people and Tracy really is an inspiration to us all.

We must do all we can to support groups like this. That's why I'm fighting for a fairer share of healthcare and better mental healthcare in Dover in Deal.

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21 AUG 2017

Daniel Squire's parents back my calls to make A258 safer

The parents of tragically killed cyclist Daniel Squire are backing my calls to make the A258 safer.

Daniel Squire was 18 years old when his bike was struck from behind by a van near Ringwould on the Dover to Deal road in 2013.

A total of 228 crashes have taken place on that stretch since 2003, including more than 100 between 2010 and 2016.

Locals know the single carriageway for being busy throughout the day and heavily congested at peak times.

I wants the authorities to look at building a new road to connect Dover and Deal – to ease pressure, reduce journey times and improve safety.

Daniel Squire's parents, Tracy and Symon, agree. Tracy said: "Daniel was killed because of careless driving. But also because there are too many vehicles driving too fast on a road that is not wide enough.

"Daniel was loved by everyone who knew him, and we will never get over what happened.

"But if motorists become more aware of cyclists, if we manage to be part of making a major road in the area safer, his death will not be for nothing."

Symon added: "We were extremely close, working together at London Fancy Box in Dover and training together as members of Deal Tri.

"The road is a nightmare for cyclists, but there aren't a lot of alternative routes. We really need to try to make it safer in some way."

I have long called for safety improvements on the A258. I would like to see a new road built elsewhere, providing a faster route between Dover and Deal and relieving pressure on the existing road.

Everyone knows the A258 is too busy and too dangerous. It has been that way for years. The road is not fit to handle such high levels of traffic. The route must be made safer.

That's why we need to seriously consider building a new road to connect Dover and Deal. We need to see action on this, before any more serious incidents.

1 comment

This is a great idea and long overdue. Let's hope that this doesn't become political and that all sides of the political divide support this campaign
- Alasdair

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18 AUG 2017

Let's get on with Brexit

Ask someone in Dover what they want the Government to do following last year's vote to leave the EU and they will tell you straight. Get on with it.

People want to know why it's all taking so long. They also ask why there's all this talk of transitional arrangements. These are fair questions – why can't be ready on day one in March 2019?

Seeking to answer this I have written a series of articles on how we can be ready on day one for Brexit. Deal or no deal. We need to be ready for no deal. Talks could break down over the EU's excessive demands and we need to be fully prepared if that happens. Here at the Dover & Deal frontline we are the tip of the spear – if we're not ready, ours is the community that will bear the brunt of it.

So what do we need to do to be ready on day one? We need to be ready to manage customs – using electronic filings like VAT there is no reason why there needs to be searches or queues at Dover. We need to keep a positive relationship with France and make sure the border stays in Calais. This matters to the French as much as to us. For if the border gets weaker at Calais, then Calais will become an even bigger magnet for migrants.

We need to be ready on day one to take back control of our borders and end uncontrolled EU immigration. This means we need to invest in our borders and in systems that ensure we know who is coming here and keep out criminals. Moreover we need to use intelligence to help our border officers focus on persons of interest and reduce passport queues for the law abiding majority.

I have also set out a plan to solve the tricky Irish question and how we can make the most of our new freedom to trade around the world on terms that work for Britain.

Finally, out of the EU we can do so much more to stop the disgraceful tax dodging by big international businesses – and we can build a renaissance of the regions. A renaissance built on Coastal Enterprise Zones which are treated as outside the UK for customs purposes. And a renaissance built on the return of duty free. Everyone loved the booze cruise – and it was great for Dover. Out of the EU we can bring it back and bring a new boost to our area.

Brexit means Brexit and we need to get on with it. We could and should be ready on day one. That way we can end uncontrolled immigration sooner, increase trade around the world, bring back duty free and take forward a renaissance of the regions that will benefit places like Dover and Deal.

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15 AUG 2017

High speed broadband in every corner of Dover and Deal

I welcome a commitment to deliver high speed broadband to every corner of Dover and Deal.

My campaign for faster broadband in rural areas has gone on for some time. Villages like Lydden and Temple Ewell currently get internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover town.

I met with residents in March and laid out the case for improved speeds, contacting ministers and BT executives. A street cabinet with new fibres is now being installed in Lydden.

And Government has since committed to delivering universal broadband – meaning every part of Dover and Deal should have access to high speed broadband by 2020.

These days internet is such an integral part of people's lives. Yet the service in some of our rural areas is shameful.

For small businesses in our regions to thrive, we must have better broadband. These excruciatingly slow speeds make a mockery of modern Britain.

That is why I welcome the Government's commitment. I keep telling ministers how frustrating it is for my constituents and I am glad they have acted.

The Digital Economy Act 2017 introduced the idea of a broadband universal service obligation – requiring providers to deliver minimum speeds of 10 megabytes per second.

BT has volunteered a proposal to deliver the obligation, which the Government will consider over the coming months.

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14 AUG 2017

Hundreds of local businesses will have rates reduced

Hundreds of businesses in Dover and Deal will have their business rate bills reduced after I put pressure on ministers.

A business rates revaluation took place in February, but several firms criticised suddenly increased hikes.

I held meetings with business owners in the Dover and Deal area and took their views to ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This week Marcus Jones MP, the Minister for Local Government, announced several relief schemes which 628 firms in Dover district qualify for.

The New Burdens funding comes through three schemes – the Supporting Small Business Relief Scheme, the Discretionary Business Rates Relief Scheme and the Pub Relief Scheme.

Dover District Council has been identifying eligible firms since March. Leaders have been told to provide the relief and rebill them "as soon as possible".

I was very concerned to hear of hefty hikes for some businesses in our area. The revaluation was cost neutral, but certain types were hit hard and it is absolutely right for them to be supported while they adjust.

I raised this point in strong terms with ministers several times. I'm really pleased to see they listened.

With corporation tax reduced dramatically in recent years, new firms have been opening in our district and across the country at an amazing rate.

It's clear the Conservatives are still the only party that will deliver for businesses, jobs and the wider economy.

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07 AUG 2017

Joining the fight to save Hougham village hall

The West Hougham community is fighting to raise up to £15,000 to save their village hall.

Villagers feared the building, which dates back to the 1930s, would be sold off due to a lack of use.

But after losing their village pub, post office, and bus service in recent years, residents rallied together to fight to save the hall.

In June the community formed an action group called Heart of Hougham – and the hall now has regular parties and functions. It also hosts tennis and gardening clubs and regular yoga and Zumba classes.

Heart of Hougham organisers invited me to visit the hall and offer advice on how to get funding to restore it.

I said I would back a bid for funding from the National Lottery. I have also written to Dover District Council asking if there is any cash available to help.

I was delighted to visit West Hougham village hall. It's a fantastic building and it's great to see it back in use again. We must do all we can to keep it running.

What impressed me most was the incredible community spirit in the village. They have rallied together and shown that people power really can make a difference.

It's exactly the sort of project the National Lottery should be backing. And Dover District Council should also see what they can do to help.

Residents also raised the issue of infuriatingly slow broadband speeds in the village. Mr Elphicke has taken up their case and written to BT and Kent County Council urging them to swiftly boost broadband in the area.

West Hougham village fete, organised by Heart of Hougham, will be held on the village green from 1pm on Saturday, September 16th.

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07 AUG 2017

Dover cheerleaders under threat

A hugely successful group of Dover cheerleaders may have to leave the district unless they find a new hall.

Some 200 youngsters from the Vista Twisters could be left without a place to practice when Dover Leisure Centre closes.

I met with head coach Ruth McDade at one of the group's practice sessions. She said that the club had so far been unable to secure space at the new leisure centre in Whitfield for their growing programme.

The group have been looking for alternative accommodation in the district. But they have not found anywhere suitable – and fear they may have to move to Folkestone.

I have written to Dover District Council, urging them to help the Vista Twisters find a new place to practice.

The Vista Twisters are a massive Dover success story. The council must do everything they can to keep this club in the district.

These youngsters always do the town proud when they perform in competitions across the country – and in tough European contests too.

We should be looking after them – and helping them build on their incredible success here in Dover.

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03 AUG 2017

Gridlocked again - why we must be Ready on Day One

Twelve months on from last year's disaster, the roads to Dover were once again in gridlock this weekend. The A20 had queues stretching back to the Roundhill Tunnels. While on the A2 traffic jams stretched back to Lydden. Cars and lorries started to pile through Capel and Folkestone Road on the B2011.

Year after year it is the same. Last summer the traffic chaos was caused by French border officers failing to turn up for duty. This weekend adverse weather conditions and a P&O ferry breaking down led to the tailbacks. It happens all too easily and all too often – and shows that our infrastructure is too finely balanced to cope properly. The people of Dover suffer every time – and so does the nation as delays at the port costs our national economy dear.

Action is needed now. We need more investment in the roads to the Channel Ports. The A2 needs to be dualled, the M20/A20 to be expanded and the lorry park to be delivered on time. The Government needs to be better prepared for French strikes, bad weather or ageing ferries conking out.

Very soon we will also face the challenge of Brexit here at the Dover frontline. That's why I have put together a detailed report with industry experts and business leaders on the action we must take now to ensure we are ready on day one for every eventuality.

Stories in the national press this week warned that we will be hit by huge border delays and suffer more than £1bn a year in economic damage when we leave the European Union. The truth is that Brexit can be a huge success for Britain and for Dover – but only if we are prepared. At the moment the Government is not doing enough to be prepared. So I am pressing them to get a grip and do better.

That includes accelerating investment in the technology and infrastructure we need to keep trade flowing freely through our ports. With fellow MPs I have been urging the Treasury to move faster in preparing our border for Brexit. Especially to take on board that for customs, the border is a tax point - not a search point - and that with digital borders customs clearance can be managed incredibly quickly. In Singapore, for instance, clearance takes less than a minute.

We have also been urging the Department for Transport to invest in roads and infrastructure to ensure Britain is Brexit ready on day one at Dover and the Channel Ports. It is concerning the Department for Transport appears more interested in Crossrail than cross-border trade. For too long Britain has worked for big cities like London rather than the towns and regions. This has to change. We need a renaissance of the regions.

With Brexit less than two years away, we must have real investment at Dover. There are huge opportunities to increase our trade across the globe when we leave the EU. We must invest in our borders now to ensure we can boost business from day one.

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02 AUG 2017

Migrant centres will not help Calais

I am not happy about plans to set up migrant centres in Calais. I worked very hard to get rid of the vast makeshift camp that had sprung up before. 

But now French courts have ruled that there must be facilities in place for 300 to 400 migrants in the area. There were many more of them last year - several thousand in fact - which proves we were right to have it dismantled. 

There is a real risk that setting up these two new centres will make Calais even more of a migrant magnet.

It means thousands more vulnerable people will be encouraged to make the perilous journey across Europe - with many falling into the hands of ruthless traffickers.

We cannot allow a new Jungle or Sangatte to spring up in Calais yet again.

Our border needs to be more secure than ever - particularly at the Dover frontline.

And the French must be on high alert to protect tourists and truckers from attacks by trafficking gangs.

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Why must there be facilities for migrants in the area? Why are they not sent back to the first country that they entered? What about lorry drivers who have to run the gauntlet of migrants trying to get tnto their lorries? What will it take? Maybe when a lorry driver is killed they might take notice instead of shirking their responsibilities.
- B.Harrison

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31 JUL 2017

Demanding faster and more frequent trains

The fast train should travel from Dover to London in sixty minutes and Deal needs two high-speed services every hour, I have told the Transport Minister. 

My "essential requirements" were included in a letter to Paul Maynard. Co-signed by 10 other Kent MPs as well as Bromley and Chislehurst MP Bob Neill, it comes in response to the Department for Transport's consultation on the South Eastern franchise. Operators are bidding to run the train franchise from 2018 to 2027.

The letter calls for extra carriages on overcrowded services during peak hours and expresses concerns over the quality of service offered to customers of Govia's Southeastern.

It says: "Passengers are dissatisfied. With insufficient room to stand at times and with some season tickets at more than £6,000 they feel they are not getting value for money."

We list several essential requirements that the new operator must put in place. They include:

Faster services to East Kent – in particular to Dover in an hour (Dover in 60), two trains to Deal and Sandwich every hour and a one hour service from London to Thanet; The modernisation of the points and signalling on the Kent Fast line to facilitate overtaking and faster services; Better connections with Gatwick Airport, in particular the restoration of direct services from Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge.

The letter also sets out a number of essential requirements for Network Rail. They include:

Significant improvement in its contribution to train performance; A plan to further reduce journey times;Improvements to the Tonbridge to Hastings infrastructure for Kent and East Sussex; Capacity improvements at Ashford including connecting the high-speed line to the line at Rye and Hastings;Sufficient capacity at major stations to cope with the forecast growth in demand;Improvements in signalling on the route from Ashford to Folkestone, Dover, Deal, Sandwich and Ramsgate, and completion of the East Kent re-signalling scheme between Canterbury West and Ramsgate.

People said we would never get the fast train in Deal. Yet thanks to our community campaign it now sweeps into the station every hour of every day. Now we need to see the service improve – with two high speed services for Deal and Sandwich an hour.

And we need to see the fast train get to Dover in sixty minutes or less. Faster services will attract even more people to visit our stunning corner of Kent.

It's great that the Kent MPs have yet again united to fight for better services in our county. Together we make a powerful case and I hope the Transport Minister considers it carefully.

1 comment

Drop Ebbsfleet from the Kent Coast services. It serves no purpose on peak services as they are already full by Ebbsfleet, there are no people boarding/leaving on off peak services and it cuts at least 6-7 minutes from the journey by not having to slow down, stop and accelerate again. Ebbsfleet is served by more than enough HS trains without overloading the 6 car Kent coast trains. The two stops in Folkestone also needs looking at.. 2 stations 400 yards apart is pretty silly, and no new stops at Otterpool if it ever gets built.
- Steve Coleman

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27 JUL 2017

Our ports must be ready to thrive after Brexit

At a meeting with Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP on Wednesday (July 19th) Conservative MPs and I raised our concerns over preparations for Brexit at Britain's ports and discuss solutions to ensure that the UK's ports are ready to thrive after Brexit.

With both MPs and members of the European Research Group (ERG) present, we stressed the importance of protecting port-related jobs and preventing long queues of lorries.

The meeting came after Amyas Morse, Comptroller General of the National Audit Office, raised concerns over the Government's post-Brexit IT system to record declarations on imports and exports.

As we prepare to leave the European Union we need to make sure that we are in the best position possible to succeed and prosper in the world. A vital part of these preparations must be ensuring that our ports are Ready on Day One.

We all agree that is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land – particularly at the Dover frontline.

Of course, we hope that a trade deal will be done with the EU that will enable tariff-free trade to continue. Yet if on day one no trade deal has been agreed, we must be fully prepared.

Gridlock at out ports will mean gridlock for the UK economy. Yet with proper planning we can not only be ready on day one – we can make Brexit a real success.

Together we can build a new Britain that is a great, global trading nation.

After the meeting Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP said: "The preparedness of our borders for success on day 1 of exit under all scenarios is a clear priority for the Government. Colleagues representing ports are doing a fine job of representing their constituents concerns together with potential solutions. We will consider these alongside our current, well-developed plans."

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27 JUL 2017

Remembering the brave members of the Dover Patrol

On Sunday I laid a wreath in remembrance at the Dover Patrol Memorial.

The service was held in memory of the members of the Royal Navy who risked and gave their lives defending our nation.

Around 2,000 members of the Dover Patrol died during the First World War.

We must never forget the great sacrifice members of the Dover Patrol made to keep Britain safe during the First World War.

I was proud to lay a wreath at the memorial on Sunday. It was an incredibly moving service.

It is so important that we remember everyone who lost their lives. We will never forget the sacrifices they made for our country.

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27 JUL 2017

My vision for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal

Last week I was delighted to meet with East Kent's Fair Deal for the NHS group. Like me they are passionate about our NHS. We all felt strongly that healthcare has to remain free to all. They had many questions about what's happening locally and inspired

me to write about my vision for a fairer share of healthcare here in Dover and Deal.

We've come a long way together since 2010. In Deal, our much-loved hospital had been left teetering on the edge. Only with a strong community campaign were we able to secure its future. Now I'm working to see more services are provided from Deal Hospital.

In Dover, for over a decade Buckland Hospital had been decimated. Services were withdrawn and wards axed one by one. We fought valiantly for a new hospital. Then two years ago the new Buckland Hospital opened to the public – a state-of-the-art facility with the potential to provide many more services. I am passionate to see more outpatients and diagnostics services are provided at the new Buckland Hospital.

And we need beds at Buckland too. Right now there is a great opportunity to commission care beds at a new facility right next door to Buckland Hospital. This care facility is brand new and run by a crack team of expert staff. We should be grabbing the chance for local health chiefs to commission care beds in Dover, right next door to our hospital.

Millions of pounds are wasted every year by health services and social services doing the same job. We need to bring health and social care together and be better at looking after people who have complicated long-term conditions. More money is going into the NHS than ever before – more than half a trillion pounds in the next five years. Since 2010 there are 11,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses and midwives. Yet the system is still struggling, largely because people are living longer – which is why it is so urgent to reform social care.

So my vision is for a bigger role for our hospitals in Dover and Deal. We need to make full use of the £24 million Buckland Hospital. Deal Hospital needs more services, like the ground-breaking Rheumatology clinic which opened last year.

We need more of a focus on mental health too. Last week I visited the Talk It Out mental health support group at their inspiring Wellbeing Café at The Landmark Centre in Deal. The group recently received a £10,000 grant from Matthew Scott, the energetic Kent Police and Crime Commissioner's mental health and policing fund. Talk It Out makes such a huge difference to so many people and we must do all we can to support groups like this.

More local services, more care beds and more mental health support. This is my vision for a fairer share of healthcare here in Dover and Deal.

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20 JUL 2017

Our front line must be Ready on Day One

This week I met with the Brexit Minister to discuss the importance of investing in our ports – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. As we prepare to leave the European Union we need to make sure that we are in the best position possible to succeed and prosper in the world. A vital part of these preparations must be ensuring that our ports are Ready on Day One.

I took a group of MPs who represent port constituencies to meet the Minister. We stressed the importance of the port-related jobs in our areas. And we all agreed that is vital that Brexit is a success at our ports up and down the land.

Nowhere will our preparations for Brexit be more important than at the Dover and Deal frontline. When we voted to leave the EU last June, I got to work straight away. The first thing to do was get the Calais Jungle dismantled. We worked closely with the French and within months the migrant camp was gone

I also met industry experts and business leaders in Parliament. With their help, I put together a detailed plan to keep trade flowing and ensure that we can thrive as a global trading nation post-Brexit.

Of course, we hope that a trade deal will be done with the EU that will enable tariff-free trade to continue. Yet if on day one no trade deal has been agreed, we must be fully prepared.

This means putting in place simple things like a Trusted Trader Scheme for haulage firms – and mutual recognition of meat products. And we need investment in state of the art technology to deal with customs checks rapidly. Singapore's average customs clearance time is 10 seconds. If we invest now, goods can move just as swiftly through Dover.

We also urgently need investment in our roads. The new Thames Crossing must be taken forward at speed. The M2/A2 needs to be upgraded and dualled all the way to the Channel Ports. And the planned M20 Lorry Park must be delivered on time.

Too often vested interests get in the way and it takes years to build the simplest road. Yet we have less than two years to get ready. That's why I'm campaigning for a Brexit Infrastructure Bill. We need a powerful new law to speed through administrative processes to enable vital projects to be delivered on time.

So far there's been a lot of posturing from Brussels, which comes as no surprise. But the reality is that it is in both Britain and Europe's interests for trade to grow. The French are just as keen as we are to keep tourists and truckers moving freely across the Dover and Calais border.

That's why my plan matters – so we are prepared for every eventuality to keep trade flowing across the English Channel.

2 comments

Well done Charlie Elphicke for putting in so much time and effort into this plan. The future for the UK Border can be very bright if we get the green light to implement it.
- Tony Smith CBE

Great news Mr Elphicke that you are still doing all you can to make the passage of goods as easy as it can be considering the situation.I have been a private importer for 40 years and remember the days of C10'sC12's T2L,s certificate of origin forms.Waiting at customs for many hours.The sad night in March 1987 when The Hereld filled with water leaving Zeebrugge. We can not and must not go back to that.This result was never expected so nothing was planned I can see that.Please keep up you great work and perhaps you should consider standing as the next party leader.I believe you would have great support. Deal
- Peter Murphy

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19 JUL 2017

More proof evil traffickers will stop at nothing

People traffickers are in the news again after three people were arrested trying to smuggle migrants into the UK - on a plane.

The British pilot of a four-seat Cessna plane was arrested, along with two other UK nationals, at an airport in Calais before it took off.

Four Albanian migrants were found on-board and it is understood they had been due to fly to these shores. An investigation into the incident by French authorities is underway.

Yet again we see that ruthless people traffickers will stop at nothing to break migrants into Britain.

We've cracked down on smuggling through lorries, dinghies and small boats. Now they are using light aircraft.

We cannot allow this latest extreme tactic to take off. We must smash the trafficking gangs and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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18 JUL 2017

Finally, the A20 limit is gone!

It was a huge victory for residents when the hated A20 40mph speed limit was finally axed on Monday night. 

I have battled relentlessly to return the Folkestone to Dover dual carriageway to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is in place.

Last year Highways England finally caved into my campaign and agreed to make the speed limit variable.

The permanent 40mph limit was removed before the morning rush hour on Tuesday.

Highways England should have got this work finished much sooner. But at long last the speed limit is being lifted.

This will be a huge relief to drivers across Dover and Deal. I would like to say thank you to every single resident who has written to me and Highways England to help our campaign.

I have also been informed the London bound A20 lane closure will be removed on Thursday (July 20), with no more road full closures to be carried out during the summer period.

The scrapping of the limit comes after I held a public meeting in Aycliffe on tackling traffic problems. Dozens of residents turned out at Aycliffe Church Centre to grill highways chiefs.

Residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. They said they want the traffic lights moved back down the A20, away from their estate.

I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

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18 JUL 2017

New care home can tackle bed-blocking in our hospitals

I visited a new state-of-the-art care home built next door to Buckland Hospital.

Willow Park Lodge in Coombe Valley Road, run by Athena Healthcare Group, offers a range of community care and includes a cinema, hair salon and library. But I would also like to see respite care beds commissioned at the site.

I have put South Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in contact with the care home managers and urged them to make use of it. The CCG has agreed to visit the care home.

It was a pleasure to be shown around Willow Park Lodge by their expert staff. It is a first class facility. The company has considerable experience in delivering a range of social care types.

I think we should be grabbing the chance to have step down care beds commissioned in Dover, right next to our Buckland Hospital. Too many beds are blocked by people ready to be discharged but with nowhere to go. Too many Dover residents are sent to all corners of east Kent to recover. Health bosses at South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group must make sure it is utilised.

Each floor of the four-storey care home has been designed to cater for specific needs. The ground-floor provides a hotel-style service for people with low levels of dependency. The upper two floors look after those with higher dependency conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Options for the top floor are still being considered, and I think health chiefs to explore options of commissioning respite care.

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16 JUL 2017

A busy weekend in the constituency

During a busy weekend in the constituency I presented an award and attended two village fayres.

I went to Whitfield recreation ground for Whitfield Village Fayre on Saturday, presenting a Kent Association of Local Councils Community Award to Pat Goldfinch, who has been Brownie Leader in Whitfield since 1974.

I want to give a huge congratulations to Pat Goldfinch for her incredible efforts across four decades.

On Sunday I attended Nonington Village Fayre, enjoying the stalls, entertainments and craft shows.

Our area really is the place to be over the Great British summer. If it was up to me I would spend every day in Dover and Deal.

I want to thank everyone who has helped organise our superb village fayres this year. They really are fantastic events and I urge as many people as possible to go along if they can.

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13 JUL 2017

Great news! The A20 speed limit is going

It was fantastic to see so many people turn out in Aycliffe on Friday to make their voice heard on traffic issues. It was a beautiful evening – perfect weather for a cold pint in a pub garden. Yet such is the strength of feeling in this community that every seat was filled in Aycliffe Church Centre. At least 20 more people stood at the back.

I organised the public meeting to give everyone a chance to put their views to those in charge – so we can work together to fix our roads. And it was great to see so many residents come along and ask important questions.

Aycliffe residents raised the issue of lorries parked up by the Western Heights roundabout causing noise and air pollution. Worst of all is when HGVs take a wrong turn and start driving round residential roads at night. So it's good to see Highways England have taken action and installed a gate at the entrance to the estate. Residents agreed this had made a big difference.

The people of Aycliffe also want the traffic lights at the roundabout moved back down the A20, away from their estate. I urged Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones to look again at whether this can be done.

Others highlighted the number of foreign lorry drivers flouting the A20 40mph speed limit. Kent Police's Inspector Ian Swallow said the force lacked the powers to give these drivers on-the-spot fines, like they do in France. I will keep up the pressure in Parliament to change the law and give police the powers they need.

Some lorry drivers use the B2011 through Capel and Elms Vale, as well as the Alkham Valley Road, as rat-runs to the port. Mr Jones said he would look at how we can stop HGVs diverting through these routes. He said Highways England and the port are working together to redirect trucks onto the M2/A2 rather than the M20/A20. Mr Jones confirmed they are looking at whether the A2 can be dualled.

The A20 40mph limit is the root cause of many of these problems. It's welcome to see that after a long and hard-fought campaign, Highways England have finally started scrapping it. Soon the work will be complete to return the road to 70mph – with the 40mph limit only enforced on the rare occasions Dover TAP is enforced. This should tackle the problem of lorries using the villages as rat-runs. Yet we must remain vigilant.

The representatives from Highways England, Kent Police and the Port of Dover were faced with tough questions on Friday. Yet they gave a very good account of themselves and received a deserved round of applause – as did Aycliffe's Ray Williams who did a great job helping me chair the meeting.

Much has been done to tackle gridlock and fix our roads. It is vital we work together to keep up the pressure.

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09 JUL 2017

Royal Marines Concert reinforced what we stand for

I laid a wreath at another poignant Royal Marines Concert.

Thousands gathered in front of Deal Memorial Bandstand on Walmer Green. The annual event pays tribute to 11 people killed in the Deal barracks bombing in 1989.

This year local Sea Cadets and The Victory Wartime Band warmed up the famous Royal Marines Band.

Opening songs were followed by an act of remembrance and rededication service, before rousing renditions of Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory ended the day.

It was fantastic to be part of a massive crowd enjoying wonderful music in the sunshine. But we must never forget what is being honoured when the Royal Marines Band returns every July.

Our town was attacked by evil terrorists. The lives of 11 totally innocent musicians were taken. Their families will never recover.

As a country we have come a long way since then, and recent events should only reinforce what we stand for. The Royal Marines' beautiful music captured it perfectly – the British solidarity we have always had, and will always need.

I want to thank the Deal Memorial Bandstand trustees for organising another superb, poignant event.

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07 JUL 2017

Praising progress at the new Goodwin Academy site

I looked around Goodwin Academy's new school site recently and was amazed at the progress made. 

I was given a tour by Principal Simon Smith and construction firm Kier of the state-of-the-art facilities being built at Hamilton Road, Deal.

We fought a long and hard battle to secure funding for the school. Now some £25 million has been invested – with the new school building set to open in September.

I was incredibly impressed with the new building. 

This school has made brilliant progress over the last few years. Huge credit goes to Mr Smith, his hardworking staff and the pupils.

The smart new uniform they will soon be wearing is also top class.

Thanks to all our determined efforts, this really is a school transformed. It's so good to see Deal getting the investment in education we fought for and deserve.

The new site, being constructed next door to the current 1930s buildings in Mill Road, will have capacity for 1,300 pupils.

Equipment from the maritime studies centre based at the former Walmer Science College site has now been moved to the new building in Hamilton Road.

I also had a look at the modern gym equipment inside the new sports hall.

Now we just need the school to keep going from strength to strength to become an "outstanding" educational institution.

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06 JUL 2017

Pressing for action on pavement parking

I am calling on the Government to tackle dangerous pavement parking – which puts blind and partially-sighted people's lives at risk.

I attended a guide dogs event at the House of Commons on Monday and heard from guide dog owners how parked cars blocking paths force them to walk into oncoming traffic they cannot see.

Some face these dangerous situations on a daily basis, risking their safety every time they go shopping or make the school run.

No one should be forced to walk out into oncoming traffic by cars parked on the pavement.

The Government must take action to end problem pavement parking across the country. Blind and partially-sighted people should be able to walk the streets without fear.

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06 JUL 2017

Calling for a rethink of bus service cuts

At a meeting last week I demanded that Stagecoach bosses rethink plans to scrap bus services.

The firm recently launched a two-week consultation over changes to their commercially-operated routes. It would mean some villages losing their only regular service.

I asked for the consultation period to be extended and Stagecoach agreed, pushing its deadline back to July 3.

I then met with the area's managing director Philip Norwell on Friday (June 30).

I am still furious that some people in this area face losing their only regular service. It's clear the original plans were badly thought through.

Yet Stagecoach have now promised to rethink scrapping route 15B, which would leave River residents sitting on a bus for an hour-and-a-half just to get to Canterbury.

They also said they would reconsider changes at Eastry, which would be left with only an hourly service.

And they pledged to hold talks with Kent County Council about ensuring villages left without any buses continue to get a bus service.

These promises are all very welcome, but they must result in action. So many people rely on buses to get around and they deserve a decent service.

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06 JUL 2017

Crunch talks with Highways England

I am calling on residents who are fed up with noisy lorries to attend a public meeting I have organised so we can demand answers from highways chiefs.

I have organised the crunch talks with Highways England to take place on Friday, July 7, at Aycliffe Church Centre, Old Folkestone Road, Dover, CT17 9HN at 7pm.

This is a chance to grill highways bosses on noise and air pollution in Aycliffe from lorries when the A20 Dover TAP scheme is in place. I also want action on enforcing speed limits in Capel and keeping cumbersome HGVs out of Elms Vale.

Highways England's area managing director Simon Jones will be in attendance, along with Kent Police Inspector Ian Swallow, Dover District Council chief executive Nadeem Aziz and the Port of Dover Police.

After a hard-fought campaign Highways England have finally started scrapping the hated A20 40mph limit. Soon the work will be complete.

Yet there is still more to do. Aycliffe folk are fed up with lorry drivers blaring horns, polluting the air and blocking their estate.

Capel residents have had enough of dodgy diversions and speeding. And people in Elms Vale want to keep cumbersome HGVs off their roads.

This meeting is a chance for everyone to put their views to the people in charge. Please join me so we can work together to fix our roads.

The meeting comes as work to scrap the 40mph speed limit on the A20 nears completion. Highways England say it will be gone by the end of July.

The national speed limit will return, with digital signs enforcing a 40mph restriction when there are serious traffic problems in Dover.

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06 JUL 2017

Why Dover is great

A publicity-seeking website seeks to mock Dover and rubbish our town. They probably think they're hilarious. But I don't find it amusing. I doubt these website people have ever even been to Dover. It's unacceptable for the sneering classes to talk our town down.

Let's look at the facts. Dover is a town with outstanding heritage. We have the greatest castle in the land, along with our iconic White Cliffs and the fantastic Roman Painted House. Let's not forget the Bronze Age Boat in the Dover Museum. Dover has a vibrant history. There are too many stories to tell here – but this is the town that repelled Julius Caesar and saw off Napoleon. It was here that the triumph of Dunkirk was planned and under these skies that the Battle of Britain was fought and won.

Yet it's not just our history which makes our town great. It's also the future we're building here and now. We are home to Europe's busiest ferry port and trade is booming. A new cinema and shops are rising at the St James site. Meanwhile the Western Docks Revival is set to bring 600 jobs and a new marina to the seafront.

Of course, there is work to be done. I'm deeply concerned by reports of street drinkers blighting park benches. We had this problem a few years ago before we worked with Kent Police to boot them out. I'm writing to Dover's Chief Inspector to seek urgent action once again to clear the town centre of this problem.

With the rise of internet shopping we need to rethink how high streets work across the land. While some shops have been closing, other exciting business ventures have been springing up. Dover is now home to several brilliant micropubs. Their huge popularity is a sign of how our high street may change going forward – with more independent bars, pubs, shops and cafes. We need to encourage more entrepreneurs to set up shop.

We must make sure we link our stunning promenade to the town centre. One flood-prone underpass is not good enough. I'm battling to Save Our Banksy because I believe it must be at the heart of any new waterfront development. It will draw so many people to visit the town and help make the development a success.

There is still much more to do as we build a brighter future for Dover. We have secured £500 million of investment since 2010. Things are changing. Dovorians will remember well the battle to bring down Burlington House. Yet we did it – and the formerly desolate St James site is transforming before our eyes. Meanwhile the rubble from Burlington House is being used to lay the foundations of the Western Docks Revival.

It's easy for cowardly keyboard warriors to hurl insults. Yet what do they ever achieve? Nothing. Meanwhile we are working relentlessly – taking action to secure investment and build a brighter future for Dover.

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29 JUN 2017

Our frontline has a bigger role than ever

Leaving the EU is a monumental change as well as an incredible opportunity for our nation. In order to achieve the best possible Brexit it is essential we are ready on day one.

Nowhere will our preparations be more vital than here at the Dover & Deal frontline. We face two great challenges. First making sure our customs checks are ready so tourists and trade continue to flow freely. That's why working with industry groups I have put together a detailed report for Government on how Britain can be prepared for every eventuality of leaving the EU. It is likely we will be leaving the single market and the custom union. If so we must make sure we are fully prepared so we can prove predictions of queues to the Channel Ports totally wrong.

Second we must ensure security at the border is stronger than ever. We must counter people trafficking, illegal immigration and terror threats. Last Summer we achieved so much when the Jungle was dismantled. It was a great success. It reduced pressure on the Dover border. Yet even so 50,000 illegal migrants tried to break into Britain last year. That's some 150 a day stopped by frontline border officers. 10 lorries were fined every day for having illegal migrants on board. Yet we also know from the stories of migrants landing on our shores in small craft that many more may be arriving undetected.

So we cannot afford to be complacent. With signs of attacks on tourists and truckers at Calais we must act now to ensure the problems of ast Summer are not repeated.

This underlines once again why we need more investment at our border. With so many migrants trying to break into Britain, our officers on the frontline are being put under intense pressure.

At Dover, they see thousands of trucks and cars pass every day. They use their experience to pick out suspect vehicles. They do an amazing job. Yet the smugglers and terrorists are getting ever more sophisticated.

So we need to boost our border force with the technology, data and people they need to protect our country and our trade.

I have set out the many ways of funding this investment. We can clamp down on tax dodging at the border. We can introduce a £10 visa waiver scheme like they do in the US. We can seize the traffickers' ill-gotten assets.

However we do it, it's clear we have no choice but to boost the borders budget. With Brexit fewer than two years away, we need to show we are serious about being fully prepared at our border. That's why I have been working with industry groups to plan ahead so we are ready on day one. We can make Brexit a massive success - but only if we're fully ready for it.

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28 JUN 2017

Asking the PM for more border investment

I called for more investment in border officers and technology during Prime Minister's Questions.

Addressing the House of Commons today, I highlighted the 50,000 attempts to break into Britain at Calais last year. It works out at 150 a day – or one every ten minutes.

So I asked Prime Minister Theresa May: "With 150 people a day caught trying to break into Britain, our hardworking border officers are under incredible pressure at the Dover frontline.

"Will the Prime Minister consider the case for more investment in state of the art technology and the recruitment of more border officers to defend our borders and help win the war against people traffickers?"

She responded with a commitment to invest £71 million this year in new technology at the border.

She said: "Our border force officers are doing an excellent job at our juxtaposed controls and in his constituency, particularly the work they are doing to stop illegal immigrants and human traffickers.

"And we have indeed been investing in the system capabilities. £108 million has been invested in the last two years in new technology and a further £71 million is earmarked for that in this current financial year.

"But of course there are particular pressures in Dover. That's why we have also invested more money to maintain security there, and to ensure the Calais camp remains closed.

"And we are making efforts upstream as well, to ensure we reduce the number of people trying to get to the UK illegally.

"The Department for International Development are now putting extra focus on the central Mediterranean route. An extra £75 million is going to humanitarian support there."

The PMQs exchange followed publication of Home Office figures for attempts to cross the Channel illegally.

Since 2010 British taxpayers have paid out £315.9 million on security in northern France. It's time we invested properly this side of the Channel too, and I welcome the Prime Minister's commitments today.

Here in Dover we know that illegal immigration has been a problem for years and remains shockingly high. We need to do more to protect tourists and truckers from attacks by ruthless people traffickers.

If migrants had no hope of breaking into Britain, they wouldn't go to Calais. That is what we need to aim for.

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22 JUN 2017

Save Our Banksy

We've been battling to renew Dover for years. And then a multimillion pound piece of artwork turns up in the middle of our town overnight. It would be daft to get rid of it. That's why I'm campaigning to Save Our Banksy.

On Friday, I met with residents at the giant Brexit-themed Banksy in York Street. Everyone was in agreement about what an amazing work of art it is – and that we must do all we can to save it.

The Dover Banksy is iconic. Our town is the gateway and guardian of the nation – and on the frontline of Brexit. Wherever you stand on Brexit, this artwork is a statement on our times. Brexit and the European question will loom large over everything for a long time.

The people of Dover want it to stay – and so do I. That is why I am asking for all your support to help save our Banksy. Because in Dover we have not done well enough in protecting our heritage and culture – in looking after the things Dovorians through the ages have loved dearly.

It's clear work needs to be done to improve Bench Street too. Everyone knows I have been calling for the site of The Crypt to be restored. It's been a wasteland ever since the terrible fire 40 years ago. The Crypt site is owned by the very same people who own the Banksy building. I urge them to work with us – to help us build a better Dover where we celebrate our culture and our history.

I hope the building's owners will listen to what the people of Dover want. Yet following the fiasco with the Folkestone Banksy, it's clear we cannot take anything on trust. That's why I have sent an application to Historic England explaining why it is essential this work of art is protected. The Abbey Road crossing immortalised by The Beatles has been listed. Even a 1960s Bournemouth bus depot described as "hideous" was listed. If they are going to list things like that, they should list an iconic piece of art like our Banksy.

It's also important for on Dover District Council to use all powers they have at their disposal to halt any demolition or removal of this Banksy. For it is clear the building's nature has fundamentally changed. The new waterfront development should be reworked to have this Banksy at its heart – as a central attraction. It will draw so many people to visit the town and help make the development a success. Renewal is about more than just new buildings. This is about protecting a piece of our culture and history for the people it was intended for, their children and grandchildren.

This artwork may be worth millions. Yet to the people of Dover it is priceless. Let's work together. Let's Save Our Banksy.

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20 JUN 2017

Plans to cut bus services are appalling

I have called on Stagecoach bosses to scrap appalling and inexcusable plans to cut dozens of local bus services.

Stagecoach last week launched a consultation over the changes which will affect Dover, Deal and villages across the area. Some would lose their only regular service.

The firm has given residents just two weeks to lodge their views, with the consultation period ending on June 26.

These changes are appalling and totally unjustified. There are reductions for almost every village, just when we are getting more investment and housing all over the district.

People are quite rightly fuming. The two-week window for consultation – and the vague wording in it – is unwarranted, inexcusable and unacceptable.

I have written to Stagecoach's area director making my views known in no uncertain terms and asked for a meeting as a matter of urgency.

To have your say on the proposals by Monday, 26 June 2017, e-mail southeast.enquiries@stagecoachbus.com quoting "Dover Area Proposals" in the subject line. Or you can write to Stagecoach at Stagecoach South East Dover Area Proposals, FREEPOST RTLL-RCTZ-AKAK, Canterbury, CT1 2SY.

For more details on the proposed changes, click here

3 comments

I cannot find out the changes stagecoach is proposing to carry out
- jean bryant

The link to the proposed changes is at the bottom, if you click on "here" in blue. Otherwise copy and paste this link into the address bar on your browser: https://tiscon-maps-stagecoachbus.s3.amazonaws.com/Timetables/South East/consultation document - proposed Dover area changes.pdf
- Charlie Elphicke

I am very unhappy, regarding the up coming changes, i live in West Whitfield, i use the 87 bus to Ramsgate through whitfield, i change at Sandwich to get to Ash, for regular special medical treatment. They are not running this service. I rely on all the busses to and from hospitals locally. The 60A that goes to Homebase etc, whitfield goes to Buckland hospital not running sept, we are getting a sports centre and supermarket, but no bus, amazing, we are expanding but having fewer busses. I am very unhappy with this indeed, i have no one to rely on with a car. Makes no sense at all. Very much appreciated that you are involved Mr Elphicke thank you .
- Miss Hickson-Brown

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17 JUN 2017

Delighted with approval of vital cancer drug

I welcome the approval of a life-extending cancer drug after lobbying the NHS over the issue.

Kadcyla adds an average of six months of life to women with terminal breast cancer – but at an undiscounted cost of £90,000 per patient.

The drug was available in Scotland from April, but deemed too expensive by the rest of the UK.

Earlier this year I met with local support group the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal, both in the constituency and in Westminster. They told me how important Kadcyla was for their members.

I lobbied Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which on Thursday (June 15) announced a U-turn in favour of funding the drug.

I am delighted by the outcome and there is no doubt all the pressure we piled on made a great difference. So many people were involved in this campaign.

I heard first hand from these courageous women how it was literally handing them a lifeline.

Time is the most important thing we have. If treatments work and give us more of it, money should not be an obstacle.

Chantele Rashbrook, who runs the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal group, has secondary breast cancer and is being treated with Kadcyla.

She said: "I'm not going into my third year on it and it's reduced the tumour on my lung to pretty much nothing.

"A lot of women in our group could end up with secondary breast cancer. They would never have been given this chance without this decision.

"I'm so happy. It's just brilliant.

"Charlie was on the ball and got other MPs to raise the issue too, and we got to talk to senior people in pharmaceuticals personally.

"It's made a big difference."

1 comment

I read about this in the Guardian. With all due respect I got the impression that the drug was made available through Roche, the manufacturer, agreeing to reduce their prices, rather than any lobbying undertaken by yourself. It stated quite clearly that the agreement was reached between Roche and NHS England. Whilst I would not wish to detract from any influence you may believe you made, you need to acknowledge the help given by Roche. cc. Roche
- jonathan stiles

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15 JUN 2017

Thank you for the support - now let's work together to make our community even greater

I am incredibly proud to have been re-elected as Member of Parliament for Dover and Deal. It was humbling that over half the voters supported me in the ballot box. The Conservative vote share here rose to 52.4% while the majority increased to 6,437.

Thank you for your support. When I was first elected seven years ago, I said my ambition was to make Dover and Deal once again a jewel in the crown of the nation. I meant what I said back then. And it's been an incredible journey. Together we have achieved so many things they said were impossible. We saved the Port of Dover from being sold off to the French or whoever. We built a New Dover Hospital after Buckland Hospital had been decimated for a decade. We tore down Burlington House – new cinemas and shops are now rising at the St James site.

Meanwhile Deal goes from strength to strength. We safeguarded Deal's Hospital which had been left teetering on the edge. They said Deal was a "village" unworthy of the fast train – today that fast train sweeps into Deal all day, every day.

Some £500 million of investment has been secured for our community since 2010. We have been working tirelessly to reverse the neglect of the previous decade. Yet I know how much more there is to do. I set out a clear plan for our future in this election.

We must ensure our borders are as secure as they can be and be ready on day one for Brexit here at the Dover frontline. We've delivered a lot of investment since 2010. I want to see even more – starting at our port. We've achieved a lot on jobs. Yet I am passionate to do all I can to boost business and employment. And we must keep working to get a fairer share of healthcare. We fought to safeguard our hospitals, now we must fight to stop health chiefs sneaking key services back to the faraway big hospitals. We need to get beds at Buckland and improve mental healthcare – and help the most vulnerable.

I'm determined to drive forward the changes we need. Everyone knows Brexit will present challenges – but there will also be real opportunities to build the sort of Britain we want. Where we support small businesses, help people buy their own homes and where hard work brings rewards.

A Britain where we build a renaissance of our towns and regions, with places like Dover and Deal leading the way.

Last Thursday was another momentous night in British politics. It's clear we must be united and work together to deliver certainty for the country. To respect the will of the people and deliver Brexit. Yet we must also plan ahead to build a Brexit Britain that takes our nation forward to an even greater future.

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18 MAY 2017

A20 victory is great news

This week, works are finally starting on the A20. At long last the hated 40mph speed limit is officially going. This is another important piece of progress for our area. Indeed, all over Dover and Deal cranes tower in the skyline and diggers roll by as workmen are busy getting things built.

Since 2010, we've come a long way together. We've built a new state-of-the-art hospital, fixed our rail line in record time – and soon new shops and restaurants will spring up at the St James site. Sorting out the A20 speed limit is another step forward. It was only ever meant to apply when there were problems with traffic. It was not meant to be on all the time. Finally getting highways chiefs to deliver what they were meant to do in the first place is positive for our community.

Thousands of new homes have been built across the constituency. Yet still, young people are finding it too hard to get on the housing ladder.

It shouldn't just be an aspiration, it should be the norm. Homes are somewhere to settle in the community and raise a family. Yet for too long people haven't had the supply to meet demand. That's why I'm backing projects like the Connaught Barracks development and the Aylesham Garden Village. Many of these homes will be starter homes for first-time buyers.

We've made a good start on getting new homes built. The number of new builds started in Dover and Deal in 2015 was 394, almost double the UK average of 222. Another 167 new builds were started in the first two quarters of 2016.

We've also had a jobs revolution in Dover and Deal since 2010. Unemployment is down 46 per cent, while youth unemployment has fallen 60 per cent. These new workers need good homes to live in and decent places to shop.

We've come a long way together. We've had hundreds of millions of pounds invested in our area. Yet for me this this is just the start. Delivering even more investment in Dover and Deal we can have a renaissance of our corner of Kent. We can make Dover & Deal a jewel in the crown of the nation once again. What a few short years ago seemed so far away is now increasingly within our grasp. That's why I am working hard to see through the exciting plans for our community - and why I am doing all I can to make sure we don't risk losing everything we've worked so hard for.

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12 MAY 2017

Border treaty benefits France as much as Britain

France has a new president. And I believe there is good reason for optimism in Dover and Deal about the new French leader.

Because Emmanuelle Macron may be a more positive force for Britain than people expect. With him there is the potential to forge a deeper relationship with France and reach an accommodation with Europe that will benefit both us and the EU. To strike a New Entente Cordiale – a stronger deal between Dover and Calais.

Five years ago I sat opposite Emmanuelle Macron, the then economics adviser to President Hollande of France. I was leading a cross-party Parliamentary delegation to discuss the EU and what kind of settlement Britain might negotiate.

We all thought he was incredibly young to be doing this critical job. Which is what they said when he later created his own party and ran for the presidency. Just as in his campaign, Emmanuelle Macron impressed us all from the start. He clearly wanted to see France pass the structural reforms that we battled so hard for in the 1980s and now take for granted. He was pro-European, yet struck us as incredibly pragmatic as well. He was also a hard-headed negotiator from his days as a deal-maker in the City of London. If anyone can turn France around, he can. He may well to see it is pragmatically in France's interest for our two nations to enjoy closer ties as we leave the EU.

Yet we need to plan now to make sure trade continues to flow freely – whether there is a deal or no deal with the EU. Dover is the gateway and the guardian of the nation. The port handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year. More than 10,000 freight vehicles pass through the docks each day.

Gridlock at Dover and Deal will gridlock the UK economy too. We've seen in recent years how finely balanced the infrastructure is and how problems can swiftly spiral. Tailbacks in 2015 caused by Calais strikes were estimated to cost Britain's economy £1 billion. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks on the roads to the port.

That's why I've worked with the ports, shipping and haulage industries to develop a detailed plan to ensure order at our border and that we are ready on day one when we leave. I've been working closely with the French too – and the plan is also backed by Xavier Betrand, president of the Calais and Dunkirk region.

In less than two years we will be leaving the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline. The truth is we can make a massive success of Brexit. By taking action now with a queue-busting plan we can ensure that we are ready.

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04 MAY 2017

Together we can keep building a better future for Dover & Deal

It's been an incredible two years. So much has happened. Not least getting more investment here in Dover & Deal. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested. It's also great news that unemployment has halved and wages have gone up 15% in the last two years.

After a fierce battle, we succeeded in tearing down Burlington House. Steelwork is now rising at the £50 million St James development. A cinema complex and a new shopping centre are taking shape in the heart of Dover – boosting the town rather than taking shoppers away.

Meanwhile Deal goes from strength to strength. The fast train we fought for and delivered now sweeps into Deal all day, every day. It's changed the town.  So much so that the Times newspaper now ranks Deal as number one in their list of the 20 best seaside towns in Britain. Yet I think we can do even better. That's why I want to see a new dual carriageway spur into Deal from the A256. It would transform the town even more – and save more lives being lost on the dangerous death-trap A258.

£50m was invested in our railways when the sea wall was repaired. Many feared they'd abandon the railway altogether yet we made sure it was repaired – way ahead of schedule. We stopped the port being sold off to the French or whoever and now it's getting the investment it needs. £120 million is being invested in the Western Docks Revival.

We've also had to fight to keep our borders secure. The Calais Jungle was dismantled last year after our hard-fought campaign. We  worked closely with French officials to make sure the Calais camp went for good. By the time the battle was won last autumn, nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in squalor. People traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants and attacking tourists and truckers nearly every night.

Here at the Dover and Deal frontline, we know we cannot risk a return of the Calais Jungle. That's why we're keeping up the pressure on the French to take action – before the first tent is pitched. With the French raising concerns about the border treaty, it's vital we have strong leadership to keep our borders secure.

Looking forward, we're leaving the EU. I'm working hard to make sure we are Ready on Day One on Brexit. We have less than two years to be ready. The most important preparations of all will be here at the Dover and Deal frontline.  So I've presented a detailed plan to the Government – to ensure the Channel Ports avoid gridlock and meet the Brexit borders challenge. Many hope for failure – but I'm determined to work hard to make a success of Brexit. To build a new Britain that is a great trading nation. It's what people voted for in the referendum and what I am committed to doing my best to deliver.

Dover and Deal have taken a giant leap forward. Yet there is still more to do. Together we can continue to build a better future for our area.

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Keep up the good work Charlie. I can't wait to see the outcome of all the work that is happening in Dover at the moment. For too many years Dover has been passed by but now it is getting what it deserves as this is the first thing that tourists see when they vist. Well Done
- Bazzer

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28 APR 2017

Telling the Transport Secretary A20 40mph limit must go

I met with the Transport Secretary this week – and set out why the A20 40mph limit must be axed as soon as possible.

I have been keeping up the pressure on Highways England after they caved into my campaign last autumn and agreed to make the speed limit variable.

Yet local drivers feel Highways England is taking far too long to get the work done. I raised his concerns over the delays with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

I completely share local drivers' frustration with Highways England's failure to get on with the job.

First of all they said they would have this absurd speed limit gone by March. Then they said it won't be gone until June.

Yet again they show they are not fit for purpose and have failed to get on with the job. It's wrong they continue to subject local people to yet more delays.

I passed on our concerns to the Transport Secretary – and called for swift action to be taken.

In recent crunch talks, Highways England told me everything was in place to begin construction work in May and finish by the end of July.

A Notice of Determination, a statement that the new A20 scheme will not have a significant impact on the environment, has been published in the London Gazette.

If it goes unchallenged, highways bosses say a six-week programme to install new digital signs will begin immediately.

Details about road closures are expected to be published towards the end of the Notice of Determination process.

I also spoke to Chris Grayling about the need for the A2 to be upgraded and dualled all the way to the Dover and the planned M20 Lorry Park to be delivered on time.

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Thank you for all your efforts in this matter. It has had such an adverse effect on so many lives, whilst foreign vehicles wiz past. Let us hope that the changes will be in plea e sooner rather than later.
- Sheilah Ramsey

I had the 'red mist' descend on me this morning over this absurdity. Having exited the A20 and descended into Dover down the B2011 I suddenly realised that, in common with all the other traffic, we had increased our speed to the point where the whole chain of traffic was hurtling down the hill into Dover. As someone who deals in human behaviour for a living it showed me that no one is immune to the consequential influences that the enforced behaviour on the A20 is having on the surrounding roads. There is an assumption that all drivers are idiots. We are not. We drive sensibly and usually to the safe speed for the road. Study after study has shown this. By enforcing a crass system the bureaucrats have inadvertently made speeders of many more of us. An assessment such as this would have gathered all the data necessary in one year. The complete annual traffic flow is then known. The probabilities can all be assessed from that data set. They are learning nothing more about traffic behaviour by extending the study: they just get more numbers to crunch. They are, however, spending public money and they continue to inconvenience the locals from the safe distance of their ivory tower. Thank you Charlie, for campaigning on this issue so hard. I hope that as well as hearing your case, Mr Grayling was actually listening.
- Mark Ridley

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27 APR 2017

My five-point plan for Brexit will ensure order at our border

In less than two years we will be leaving the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for every eventuality – particularly at the Dover and Deal frontline.

People opposed to Brexit talk up fears of chaos when we leave the EU. They speak of disaster at the border with queues of lorries all the way back to Essex. Let's prove the Remoaners wrong by being ready on day one to make a real success of Brexit. By taking action now to invest in upgrading the border and the roads to the Dover and Deal frontline we can be ready.

Dover is the gateway and the guardian of the nation. The port handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year. More than 10,000 freight vehicles pass through the docks each day.

Disruption at Dover is felt right across the country. Gridlock at Dover will gridlock the UK economy too. We've seen in recent years how finely balanced the infrastructure is and how problems can swiftly spiral. Tailbacks in 2015 caused by Calais strikes were estimated to cost Britain's economy £1 billion. In 2016, a lack of French border police at Dover caused huge tailbacks on the roads to the port.

That's why I've worked with the ports, shipping and haulage industries to develop a detailed five-point plan to ensure order at our border.

Resilient roads to Dover and Deal. The dualling of the A2 all the way to Dover, recklessly axed by the last Labour government, must now be carried out. The planned M20 lorry park must be delivered on time.Britain open for business with systems ready on day one to ensure that customs controls are handled seamlessly and long queues avoided.A New Entente Cordiale to extend the Le Touquet Treaty to cover customs co-operation and ensure we work closer than ever with France.A Brexit Infrastructure Bill. It takes years to build the simplest road. Yet we have less than two years to get ready. A powerful new law to speed through administrative processes would enable vital projects to be delivered on time.One Government at the border to ensure order. There is a mind boggling array of ministries, quangos and agencies with border responsibilities. There should be a single ministry where the buck stops – not a pea soup of bureaucracy.

I'm incredibly grateful to the businesses and industry leaders who joined me to develop this detailed plan for meeting the Brexit borders challenge. By taking action now we can make a real success of Brexit for Britain.

Let's move forward and get on with this vital work now. So we won't just be ready on day one – Dover and Deal will be more successful and stronger than ever before.

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22 APR 2017

Launching my election campaign in Dover & Deal

I launched my election campaign on Saturday.

I held street stalls and heard about the local issues which matter most to residents.

We also chatted about my plan for stronger borders, more investment and better healthcare in Dover and Deal.

It was great to meet people. A lot of them told me what a great job they think Theresa May is doing – and that she is the strong leader we need to make a success of Brexit.

I was really pleased to hear people support my plan for stronger borders, more investment and better healthcare in Dover and Deal.

This is one of the most important elections in modern times. Be in no doubt – every single vote counts.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's coalition of chaos would crash our economy. We cannot risk losing everything we've worked so hard for.

If you are interested in getting involved in the election email charlie@elphicke.com or call 01304 379669.

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20 APR 2017

Why strong borders matter

The Dunkirk migrant camp was destroyed in a fire last week. The flames tore through the closely-packed huts, burning them to the ground as hundreds of vulnerable people fled for their lives. The devastation brought back memories of the huge fires we saw at the Jungle camp in Calais. And it reminded us all of why we fought so hard to get the Jungle dismantled last year.

Because the Dunkirk fire yet again showed just how dangerous these camps are – for the people who live there and for tourists and truckers who travel through the area. We at the Dover and Deal frontline can all vividly remember what it was like in Calais. By last autumn nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in conditions of appalling squalor – rickety shacks and tents. There was no running water and little sanitation. Just 22 miles across our English Channel, people traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants – adults and children alike.

Dismantling the Jungle and moving the people there into safe reception centres far from Calais was a major step forward in weakening the pull factor people traffickers rely on. In putting an end to the Calais migrant magnet.

With the Jungle gone, the focus turned to the Grande-Synthe camp, near the port of Dunkirk. Yet the numbers there were only 1,500 – far fewer than at Calais.

The French rightly had a plan in place to dismantle the Dunkirk camp later this year. But last week's fire means hundreds of migrants are suddenly left looking for somewhere to stay.

Yet setting up a new camp would be completely the wrong thing to do. It would only make matters worse. French officials say the Dunkirk fire was started during a fight between Afghan and Kurdish people traffickers. It just goes to show that migrant camps are a magnet for these ruthless criminal gangs – a place for them to search out victims to lure into their evil trade of modern slavery.

That's why the French must be on high alert to stop any migrants from trying to set up new camps in Calais or Dunkirk – before the first tent is pitched. These vulnerable people should be helped to reception centres far from Calais – safe places with proper sanitation – and then helped back to their home nations. It's time to put an end to these squalid camps and the people traffickers who roam free within them.

And it's time we had the investment we need at the Dover and Deal frontline. The stronger our border security – the weaker the pull for migrants to make their way to Northern France.

We must continue to work closely with the French. To keep tourists and truckers safe from harm. And to wage war on the people traffickers – and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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11 APR 2017

Hearing how Dover firms will cope post-Brexit

I heard how one of Dover's biggest employers plans to make a success of trading post-Brexit.

The Megger Group manufactures test equipment for electrical power applications, employing around 240 people from its base in Archcliffe Road.

I was shown around the plant after a meeting with managing director Graham Heritage. He told me the firm is already having to look to Europe and beyond as they are struggling to recruit enough skilled workers from the UK.

Megger is a massively valued local employer. Their skilled jobs make towns like Dover tick. The firm continues to compete brilliantly. But they need to recruit highly-skilled workers to keep up.

Dover's new homes and shops should help pull in some of those people, but we have to do more to train our own. Local people must get opportunities if we are going to build a better future for our area.

Mr Heritage says Megger positions itself above the low cost market, developing "products for specific markets to a high standard but retain value for money. The firm's worldwide distribution network means revenue continues to grow year on year. Megger is already showing what we can achieve by looking beyond Europe.

There are choppy waters ahead, but we have the enthusiasm and expertise in Britain to navigate them. I will keep pushing Government for a quick trade agreement, reciprocal standards, a fairer tax system, and much more investment in training.

I have been so impressed by how British businesses have accepted the challenge. They are determined to make Brexit work, and crucial to it happening.

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06 APR 2017

We must be ready on Day One at the Dover & Deal frontline

Article 50 has been triggered and we're off. In two years we will leave the European Union. And on Day One of Brexit the sun shone brightly on our White Cliffs – a sign of brighter days ahead.

The White Cliffs are a symbol of freedom across the world – of our island's resilience and independence. For centuries, Dover has been the gateway and guardian of the kingdom. The front line that repelled Julius Caesar and saw off Napoleon. The skies in which the Battle of Britain was fought. Dover has always stood firm.

Once again Dover and Deal are at the frontline. A great proportion of Britain's trade with Europe comes through the port. Dover handles £120 billion of imports and exports every year as well as huge numbers of people. Deal or no deal, we need to be ready on day one.

Europe is only part of the problem. In many ways our greatest problems are those we create for ourselves. It takes years to build even the simplest road. Because there are always so many vested interests seeking to stop any work being done. Ask any driver and they'll tell you our roads are simply not up to the job.

It's little surprise that Michel Barnier, Europe's chief Brexit negotiator, claims there will be queues on the roads to Dover and Deal if there is 'no deal'. The entire system is so finely balanced there are already tailbacks every summer. Port chief Tim Waggott has also warned of repeats if we are not prepared at the Dover and Deal frontline. This simple truth is that gridlock at Dover means gridlock for the UK economy too

Over the past few months I've been working with the port as well as business and industry experts on both sides of the Channel. We've been looking at how to keep trade moving through Dover and Calais.

Key roads need to be upgraded right now. The M20 lorry park which we need to prevent the entire road system breaking down in the event of port problems is under threat. Vested interests – greenies and grumblers who don't care what's best for Dover and Deal – are seeking to stop it. Meanwhile the essential Lower Thames Crossing linking Kent and Essex is entering its third decade of planning. And the dualling of the A2 – axed by the last Labour government – must be back on the table.

We are going through a major change – one which will be written about in the history books. Yet the next two years can't just be about Brussels. Vital work needs doing here too.

So we won't just be ready on day one – Dover and Deal will be more successful and stronger than ever before.

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30 MAR 2017

Backing calls for Trump to help Kelly Turner

I have called on US President Donald Trump to donate to the Kelly Turner fund.

Kelly, aged 16 and from Dover, was diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT) in October 2015 and given two years to live.

After the NHS refused to carry out surgery, the St Edmund's pupil's family found a willing facility in New York – but at a cost of more than £1 million.

Fundraising efforts have since raised enough for Kelly to have surgery after her GCSE exams in July. But $700,000 for vital treatment after remains outstanding.

After a request from Kelly's dad Martin, I wrote to President Trump asking for support.

It might be a longshot – but I will do everything I can to help Kelly and her family. She is an incredible person and her parents Martin and Linda have fought so hard for her.

Our community has come together in an amazing way to raise the money, but the situation is still desperate and there will be considerable costs after surgery.

Please everyone, for the sake of this wonderful girl and her family, keep going with your efforts.

Martin Turner, Kelly's dad, said: "Working night shifts in Dover Docks, brainstorming with my colleagues, we came up with this fairly mad idea.

"I don't think I'm being unkind to say that President Trump doesn't have particularly good press in the UK.

"And he is New Yorker who grew up only a few miles from where Kelly is having surgery. He is also wealthy with considerable influence.

"Even if it doesn't work, I want to thank everyone in the community who has helped so far.

"The response has been incredible, but we still need your support. In fact, we need it more than ever."

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30 MAR 2017

We are at our strongest when we are facing the greatest adversity

Last Wednesday showed that we are at our strongest when we are facing the greatest adversity. I was expecting the day to be about wringing promises from the Government to make sure the M20 lorry park is ready on schedule. That and marking the 100th Birthday week of Dame Vera Lynn. At 12.20pm I duly rose from my place in a packed House of Commons and got the Prime Ministerial pledge I was seeking for our community.

Just a few hours later it all seemed so insignificant and so long ago. At 2.40pm, as Khalid Masood mowed down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, I was just leaving the Commons Chamber. I went upstairs to the committee room where we on the Public Accounts Committee were about to interview a senior civil servant. Suddenly the sitting was suspended and it became clear that there had been a terrible incident at the gates of Parliament. I looked out of the window at Westminster Bridge and noticed ambulances spread across the bridge. The incident at the gates was not the only one.

In the fog of events it was hard to know what had happened. There was a fear that these might be co-ordinated, diversionary attacks. Armed police swept through Parliament checking every room just in case there were attackers in the building. Only later did we come to know it was the work of a lone wolf – the hardest of attacks to detect. Masood was not some foreign fighter come to our shores to kill. He was one of our own countrymen, born and bred here. He was a long standing violent criminal who had been radicalised.

The hearts of all of us go out to those who were murdered, their families and loved ones. Police officer Keith Palmer fell in the line of duty. He gave his life to save those of others. He protected our democracy. He acted with the greatest heroism and the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. I shall be writing to the Honours Committee making the case he should be awarded the George Cross – and I hope I will do so with your support.

What happened last week was shocking to us all. As a nation we are united in grief for these terrible events. Yet it is also important to recognise that, thanks to the police and security services, this attack failed. It underlines that in our efforts to prevent radicalisation we are doing the right thing. We must work harder to prevent people getting radicalised – and we must make sure that our Parliament continues to be open for all in our democracy to visit and see. Because freedom is the cornerstone of our way of life and our democracy must be an open democracy. These are key values to us all and we must never compromise them.

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25 MAR 2017

Another successful Crocus Walk

It was great to join Kerry Rubins and the gang on another hugely successful Crocus Walk.

Kerry really is an incredible ambassador for Breast Cancer Now. She works so hard to lead the fight for people in Deal and across the country.

It was brilliant to see so many people taking part again this year. Thanks to The White Cliffs Hotel for providing and excellent mid-walk lunch!

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23 MAR 2017

The future looks bright in Dover and Deal

The hard work of so many years is beginning to pay off in Dover & Deal. Burlington House has been demolished and we're steaming ahead in building the homes we need. Last week, Deal was named a top seaside town by The Times newspaper. Last Friday I held my annual Jobs Fair – more businesses than ever turned up looking for people to fill their burgeoning vacancies. Tilmanstone Salads alone told me they wanted to hire 200 people. It's amazing how far things have come since 2010.

The fall of Burlington House was the firing of the starting gun on the regeneration we have so long needed. Seeing the steelwork go up at the St James development gives us all a glimpse of the future that is now arriving. A cinema complex, Nando's, Marks & Spencer and much, much more. It will be in the heart of Dover – boosting the town rather than taking shoppers away. My vision is that this development should be able to cross over Townwall Street and join up with a great waterfront development. That may take time but would make Dover a truly great destination.

Meanwhile The Times newspaper hailed Deal as one of the 20 best seaside towns in Britain – placing the town at Number One. This is a fantastic accolade for what we all know to be true. Deal has the nation's best high street, bags of charm, wonderful old houses and a superb seafront. The fast train we all campaigned for now sweeps into Deal all day every day – it is the icing on the cake that makes Deal a top place to live. I hope we will see even more visitors coming to boost our local economy and fill the brilliant restaurants and shops.

Destination Dover & Deal has taken a giant leap forward in recent years. Yet there is still more to do. Renewal is not simply about town centres. It's also about building the homes we need. Bringing opportunity and starter homes to our young people really matters. This is why I have been strongly supporting the new building developments at Aylesham and pressing for them to build more homes there faster. It's also vital we see quality homes for families and first time buyers built at Connaught Barracks.

We also need more jobs. My Jobs Fair certainly showed how many businesses are recruiting locally. This is good news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further – full employment is my aim so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

These are exciting times for our community. So much is happening. Yet we need to see more. There is increasing momentum in Dover & Deal. The future is looking brighter – but we need to keep going and see it through.

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22 MAR 2017

Fighting for better Dover roads at Prime Minister's Questions


I made the case to Theresa May for transport upgrades in Dover and Kent during Prime Minister's Questions.

I highlighted the need for the M20 lorry park to be built, the A2 dualled and for the Lower Thames Crossing to move forward – so the county is ready for Brexit on day one.

Dover is the gateway and guardian of the kingdom. We need to make sure the port is ready for Brexit on day one.

The Prime Minister May said the Government is "fully committed" to delivering the M20 lorry park. She added that the Department for Transport is considering closely the findings of the Lower Thames Crossing consultation. And Highways England are doing detailed work on the A2.

I also asked the House to pay tribute to Dame Vera Lynn, who turned 100 on Monday.

The Prime Minister was happy to join me in wishing Dame Vera Lynn a very happy 100th birthday week, adding that we should recognise the service she gave to this country, as many others did.

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The White Cliffs are iconic symbols of our country, but receive insufficient care and protection from, for example, refuse dumpers. I would like to see a special committee established to maintain a watching brief on this problem.
- John Groves

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17 MAR 2017

Meeting a dedicated Deal support group

I recently met with a Deal group fighting to maintain access to secondary breast cancer drugs.

Chantele Rashbrook, who runs the Breast Cancer Girls of Deal group, has secondary breast cancer and is being treated with Kadcyla. This treatment is at risk of being axed from the NHS.

This support group does such good work and I really enjoyed meeting them. They made a powerful case about the huge difference Kadcyla and other drugs can make.

I am writing to NICE, urging them to approve Kadcyla's continued use in treatment.

I am also writing to the Health Secretary asking for it to be an approved treatment of the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The Deal community has raised a huge amount of money for research into battling breast cancer over the years.

Health bosses need to listen to the concerns being raised.

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17 MAR 2017

More firms than ever at my latest Jobs Fair

I welcomed more than 600 people to my fifth Jobs Fair on Friday. More businesses than ever set up stalls at the event in Dover Town Hall. 

Jobseekers met with firms including P&O Ferries, DFDS, the Port of Dover, Coombe Valley Transport Ltd, Gomez and Kennedy Scott. Hundreds of jobs were on offer – with Tilmanstone Salads alone seeking 200 new employees.

My Jobs Fair shows how many businesses are recruiting locally. This is great news. Unemployment has plummeted since 2010, yet I want to see it fall even further. I want to see full employment so that everyone can get the best crack at life.

Youth unemployment in Dover and Deal has halved since 2010. More than 4,000 apprenticeships have been created. East Kent College and Hadlow College gave out advice and information on more local opportunities at the jobs fair.

I've been working hard to make sure we help young people in Dover and Deal get a foot on the ladder. It's great to see so many apprenticeships being created and I want to see this continue. 

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16 MAR 2017

We must be ready for Brexit at the Dover and Deal frontline

In two years we will leave the European Union. It is vital that we are ready on day one for whatever happens. I made the case in the House of Commons last week that the most important preparations of all will be at the Dover and Deal frontline.

Last summer we had a taster of what will come if we are not ready. We saw queues of traffic all the way along the A20, A2 and M20. Some say this was nothing compared with what will happen if we are not ready. That is why I am pressing for more and faster investment in our roads. For lorry parks off the M20. For dualling the A2. And for the Lower Thames Crossing.

There are some people who seem to revel in doomsday scenarios for Brexit. I take a different view. We need to be ready and prepared so that the worst does not happen. That means we must invest in the Port of Dover. Over the past few years we have handed over millions to strengthen Calais. It's time we put Britain, and Britain's border, first. We must invest in the Dover and Deal frontline.

Of course, the best case scenario is that in two years' time we get a good deal from the EU. I hope that we do – and I believe that Theresa May is the only leader who can deliver it. Yet as we are leaving the single market, leaving the customs union and ending payments to Brussels – we have to be ready if the EU won't do a deal. We must make sure we can maintain a seamless flow of trade. That is why I am working with industry experts on both sides of the Channel at how to keep traffic moving through Dover and Calais.

This is vital not just to Dover and Deal, not just to Kent, but for the whole nation. It will not be much good for Scotland if we have queues at Dover, because they will not be able to get their whisky out by road. It will not be good for the Northern Powerhouse if it runs out of power. The Midlands Engine will conk out if it cannot get the components it needs on time.

That is why it is of national importance that trade continues to flow freely through the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. It matters to the whole of the United Kingdom – and indeed to Europe. Brexit must work for the good of us all.

If on day one no free trade deal has been agreed, Britain must be prepared. I believe that we can, should and must be – for the good of Dover, Deal, Kent and of the entire nation.

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15 MAR 2017

Visiting the Job Centre ahead of my fifth Jobs Fair

I saw how technology is helping people back to work during a visit to Dover's Jobcentre Plus.

Staff explained how they are teaching people to use the internet, social media and other digital skills in their efforts to find work.

I visited the Maison Dieu Road hub ahead of the fifth Dover and Deal Jobs Fair later this week. Dozens of firms will have stalls at Dover Town Hall on Friday, March 17, from 10am to 3pm.

More jobs and money in our part of Kent is a priority for us all. My Jobs Fair is about putting this into action by bringing local jobseekers and employers together.

I'm passionate about getting people into work. Dover is full of talented, aspirational people. Many want to get a foot on the jobs ladder, find a new challenge or discover ways to help others and make the most of their skills. But taking that initial step isn't always easy.

The Jobs Fair gives employers and job seekers the opportunity to showcase themselves to one another in person, without all the paperwork and online form-filling.

Firms including P&O, DFDS, the Port of Dover, Discovery Park, Coombe Valley Transport Ltd, Gomez, East Kent College, Hadlow College and Kennedy Scott will have stalls. People will be able to get information on training, apprenticeships and full-time work in a wide range of industries.

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10 MAR 2017

Praising another 'outstanding' local school

I visited a local school recently ranked "outstanding" by Ofsted.

Touring the Kingsdown and Ringwould Church of England Primary School site, I spoke to headteacher Jo Hygate about their recent success of in achieving an "outstanding" grade.

I was deeply impressed by the children's enthusiasm and the outstanding teaching at the school. Staff told me how the Deal Learning Alliance has allowed local schools to share ideas and work together to improve. It's so encouraging to see schools in our area going from strength to strength.

I am also supporting Kingsdown and Ringwould Primary with their efforts to become part of a multi-academy trust.

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09 MAR 2017

We must never forget the Herald victims - or its lessons

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. On 6 March 1987, the Herald of Free Enterprise sailed out of the Belgian port of Zeebrugge for what was fatefully to be the last time. The bow doors of the ferry were not closed. Water came pouring in. The ship capsized. 193 people tragically lost their lives.

This is the 30th year we have gathered together in Dover to remember the worst peacetime maritime disaster of recent times. We gather together partly so that those who live on and have lost their loved ones know that we stand with them. They will never walk alone – our community will always walk with them.

We gather because as Bishop James Jones movingly said in his address at St Mary's Church on Monday, we do not seek closure. We seek remembrance of those our community knew and we seek acceptance – to be able to live with the terrible events. We cannot change what happened but it is still so hard to accept.

We gather together because we know we must also remember. The lessons of this tragedy must never be forgotten. Since that fateful day, alarm systems warn if anything is amiss, crew regulations have been tightened, any water coming in is swiftly monitored, a more careful lookout is required and much more. Our ferries must not just be seen to be the safest in the world. They must be the safest in the world. There must not be any backsliding from the regulations that came in to see that this is so.

So many in our community were affected by this dreadful event. I was so moved to hear the heartrending stories of the survivors. How a little girl managed to get picked up in a boat when the people she was close to in the sea did not. How some, by chance of place, managed to make it to safety while others did not. And how still others should have been aboard but were not by a late change of plan.

It is the seemingly random hand of chance that caused some to live and others to be lost that so many find so hard to deal with. How can you ever hope to fathom meaning in that which has none? For so many that is what makes this terrible event all the harder to cope with.

For me, this is why Bishop James was right in saying we should not seek closure, but acceptance. We cannot change what happened. Yet with acceptance we can respect the loved ones who were lost and perhaps lessen the pain.

We will never forget the victims. We will never forget what happened. We will always be there to care for the families and loved ones who live on. This is why I am so proud of the timeless values of our community here in Dover and Deal.

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06 MAR 2017

Getting a taste of the Deal Hop Farm project

I visited the Landmark Community Garden to get a taste of the Deal Hop Farm project.

The garden is one of hundreds signed up to the scheme, organised by local group Deal With It.

Volunteers distribute hop plants to members and give advice on how to look after them.

Later in the year the plants will be harvested and returned to the Ripple Steam Brewery – where the final product is made.

This is a fantastic project. People get out in the fresh air, make use of their gardens, learn new skills, and work together as a community. At the end of it all, we get to enjoy lovely local beer in some of our amazing pubs.

Deal continues to go from strength to strength and I applaud this latest brilliant idea from the Deal With It team.

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03 MAR 2017

Finally a commitment to faster broadband for our villages

I welcome a commitment finally being made to improve shameful broadband in parts of Dover and Deal.

Some residents in villages like Lydden and Temple Ewell get internet speeds of less than two megabytes per second – ten times slower than parts of Dover town.

I joined Lydden ward district councillor Mark Rose to speak with furious business owners and villagers. We have repeatedly called on Kent County Council (KCC) and BT to improve broadband speeds.

These days the internet plays such an important role in people's lives. Yet the service in some of our rural areas is shameful.

In order for small businesses in the regions to thrive, we must have better broadband. These excruciatingly slow speeds make a mockery of modern Britain.

KCC says a street cabinet with new fibres will be installed in Canterbury Road, Lydden, on the southern edge of Chunnel Plant Hire's depot. According to the authority, work will begin soon and finish by September this year.

We must not see any more delays. I will be pressing KCC and BT to stick to their timeframe.

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02 MAR 2017

Working hard to move things forward in Dover & Deal

More jobs and money for our area has long been a key priority. We've made real progress – unemployment has halved since 2010, with apprenticeships and young people being particularly successful. It's been great to see so many new businesses starting up or expanding.

In Dover Burlington House has come down. It took so long many doubted it would ever happen. Now new steel frames are rising up, giving shape to the cinema, shops and hotel that are being built. The £50m plus St James development will make such a change to Dover and provide real momentum to the renewal of the town.

In Deal, we fought hard to get the fast train. We succeeded and it's been a success. The prosperity it has brought the town has made a real difference - and Deal's high street is now one of the best in the land. Small surprise it won High Street of the Year and I hope it will soon do so again.

Down at the Port of Dover, they're handling record levels of traffic. This underlines the importance of our campaign to get the A2 dualled and the M20 lorry park built. The Western Docks revival is now moving ahead. A new marina and new jobs on the seafront should make a real difference.

We've done a lot, yet there is much more to do. So it was quite a surprise recently to see the new business rates revaluation. Every local authority area in Kent is seeing a fall in business rates of about 5%. Even swanky Sevenoaks sees falling business rates. So it was a shock to see the Dover district's rates pegged for a rise of 11%. How could this be when we have so much deprivation in East Kent?

Pressing the Communities Secretary on the issue, it's become clear this rise is due to a revaluation of the Channel Tunnel whose business rates are allocated to the Dover district. The Tunnel will see its rates go up a lot. This means that the rest of the Dover District will see a fall of 8% - a real boost to businesses in our community. It's also welcome that the Government plans to support smaller businesses which are affected by the ending of business rates relief.

The next key steps for our community will be to bring forward the homes we need. There are not enough homes to go round and our young people really struggle to get on the housing ladder. That's why I am working hard to support the building of the new homes our community needs – so long as they have the infrastructure to go with it.

There is a real sense that things are moving forward in our community. No doubt there will be bumps in the road, yet real progress is being made. I will do everything I can to make sure Dover & Deal continue to move forward in the years to come.

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28 FEB 2017

The Citadel fortress could become quality housing

I visited the Western Heights and heard how the Citadel fortress could be transformed into quality housing.

The site was previously used as Dover Immigration Removal Centre until its closure at the end of 2015.

We need more housing in Dover and Deal if we are going build a better future for our community. In this project we have a real chance to preserve the historic character of one of Dover's great historic assets – and make use of it for the good of the town.

The development would follow a similar project at Connaught Barracks, where demolition work continues ahead of some 500 homes being built at the former army headquarters.

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good plan
- peter heys

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26 FEB 2017

Backing the campaign against animal abusers

I am backing a campaign for tougher punishments for people who abuse animals.

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has highlighted the "unacceptably low" penalties for cruelty and neglect offences, and I am joining calls for the maximum sentence to be raised to five years in prison.

People may be aware that I am a proud animal lover with an eight-year-old Norwich Terrier called Star.

It is unacceptable that people can abuse animals and get away with such a small penalty. It sickens me to hear of cases of abuse. We must have tougher sentences for the despicable people who harm these helpless creatures. 

Claire Horton, Battersea's chief executive, told me: "It isn't acceptable that our courts are unable to hand out tougher sentences in such extreme animal cruelty cases, yet the likes of fly-tipping can result in prison sentences of up to five years.

"Let's get this into proportion and let the punishment for abusing animals truly fit the crime."

2 comments

Thank you. I am an avid lover of animals and applaud you for this. The penalty does not fit the crime. Animals need stronger deterrents to aid their protection.
- Helen Williamson

Thank You Charlie. I am a supporter of Battersea and know how much they care, but the backing is not there when needed. Good luck with your call for harsher sentences, they should fit the crime. Doreen
- doreen collins. email gaggsville@gmail.com

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24 FEB 2017

Meeting a Dovorian recognised for extreme bravery

I had the honour of meeting a Dovorian awarded France's highest military recognition for his bravery at Dunkirk and on D-Day.

David Norris, 97, was presented with the French Legion D'Honneur at Capel Le Ferne's Battle of Britain Memorial. 

Mr Norris was on board the King George V, helping rescue thousands of British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940. He was awarded the Dunkirk Medal.

Mr Norris was also involved in the D-Day landings of 1944. He served as a Greaser in the engine room of supply vessel Jesse G Cotting, making four trips to Utah and Omaha beaches carrying vital supplies.

It was a huge privilege to see him awarded the French Legion D'Honneur. Not only did he help rescue our army from Dunkirk. He also carried vital supplies across the Channel on D-Day to troops on the Normany beaches – from where they battled through France and to the eventual victory that ended the war.

Mr Norris was one of seven heroes and heroines being recognised at the ceremony for their part in helping to win the Second World War. Their valour then means we are free today. They were the survivors.

We must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice and always remember the corners of foreign fields that will be forever England.

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24 FEB 2017

Helping a local lad with a school project

Last week I welcomed a sixth form student to Westminster to help him with his school project.

Dover Grammar School for Boys pupil Arun Jarman-Chantler made sketches inside Portcullis House. Arun, aged 17 and from Kingsdown, is designing a new look for the building - which houses more than 200 MPs' offices - for his Extended Project Qualification.

It was great to welcome him and his dad Nigel to Westminster. I was really impressed with Arun's sketches and cannot wait to see his final designs.

His enthusiasm and talent is testament to the great work being done at Dover Grammar School for Boys these days.

Arun told me the trip was invaluable in helping the project. He got a real sense of how the building looks and is an integral part of the Westminster community.

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23 FEB 2017

There is so much potential for a prosperous future

It's been great meeting people out and about in Dover and Deal over the past few weeks. These really are exciting times for our community with so much going on. We have the potential of developments that will renew our area – and volunteers who do so much to make things happen.

At the St James development, work continues on the building site where Burlington House once stood. Last year, after decades of dithering, the empty tower block was at last demolished. This was a huge victory – a symbol of how things are changing. It is hugely welcome to see progress being made. This project is vital in building a brighter future for Dover and Deal.

The former Dover Immigration Removal Centre at the Western Heights is another great opportunity. Seeing round this site recently, it is clear there is so much potential – it could be turned into a hotel or a quality housing development. The citadel fortress played an important part in keeping Dover and our nation safe and secure. Now it could be the engine to drive the renewal of the Western Heights.

Volunteers make a huge contribution to our community. Take Deal Centre for the Retired – a volunteer-run hub which has become a home from home for older residents in the town. Meeting residents there recently, I could see this is not only a place to relax and chat. It also offers vital services like bathing, hairdressing and meals served in-house or delivered to your door.

The centre is a testament to the spirit of people in this area. Residents are always ready to stand together, make sacrifices and work hard for those who need our support most. That is one of the great things about Dover and Deal.

Our hard-working volunteers really do make such a huge difference. In Parliament this week I hailed the invaluable work of Deal's Talk It Out group – who do so much to help people suffering from mental health problems. Government Minister Penny Mordaunt rightly commended their work.

In Parliament I make our case for the things that matter most to people in Dover and Deal. This week I held talks with industry experts about how we can make Brexit borders a success for Dover and Deal. Leaving the European Union poses challenges but plenty of opportunities too.

It's so important we embrace the clear decision of the British people and work hard to deliver a clean and effective Brexit. There is so much potential, particular in Dover and Deal, to build a prosperous future for our nation. Our famous White Cliffs are a symbol of the fortitude and courage that we must show once more in these exciting times.

Our area led the way at the front line in former times. Now we must lead the way again in making Brexit work for Britain – as well as leading the renewal of the local towns and historic regions of England.

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21 FEB 2017

Praising volunteer-run local group in Parliament

I praised the invaluable work of Deal-based mental health support group Talk It Out in Parliament this week.

I highlighted Talk It Out's role in supporting people to be ready for employment during Work and Pensions Questions in the House of Commons.

Asking the Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt MP, I pushed for assurances that such groups will be given more support to carry out their work.

Ms Mordaunt in turn praised the "huge expertise and wisdom" of Talk It Out.

I said: "Does she agree that local voluntary groups such as Talk It Out in my constituency do invaluable work helping people to be work-ready and we must do more to support them?"

Ms Mordaunt replied: "I do agree with my honourable friend that voluntary organisations have huge insight and expertise that we can tap into and I commend the work of Talk it Out in his constituency.

"This is one reason why we are recruiting 200 community partners across the Job Centre Plus network so we can ensure we are reaching all these organisations and benefiting from the huge expertise and wisdom they have."

Talk It Out was founded by Tracy Carr in 2011. It offers confidential sessions online and in person for mental health sufferers when they are feeling particularly low.

The group will soon open a wellbeing café at the Landmark Centre in Deal on a three-month trial basis.

They work tirelessly to make a difference to local people suffering with mental health problems. They deserved to be recognised for it, so they know how grateful people are and so others can follow their lead.

But they do need more help. I want to see better mental health care in Dover and Deal.

Support saves lives and I will keep fighting to make sure things improve.

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20 FEB 2017

Work progressing apace at St James

I have seen how work is progressing apace at the St James development.

Last week I was given a tour of the building site – where Burlington House once stood – by workers from Dover District Council and developer Bond City.

Plans for St James include a six-screen Cineworld cinema, hotel, restaurants and shops with M&S, Next, Travelodge, Nandos, Bella Italia and Frankie & Benny's among confirmed tenants.

Real progress is being made with construction firm Gallagher clearing land, laying foundations and putting up steel frames.

I'm told the main contractor is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The chosen firm will be tasked with finishing most of the work by the end of the year.

After years of waiting, last year Burlington House was at last demolished. This was a huge victory – a symbol of how things are changing.

It was incredible to see how much progress has been made. The starting gun has well and truly been fired on the renewal of Dover.

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16 FEB 2017

We need to guard against a return of the Calais Jungle

At the Dover and Deal frontline, we have seen the true horrors of the Calais migrant magnet. This is why we fought to get the Jungle camp dismantled.

By the time the battle was won last autumn, nearly 10,000 people had been lured to Calais, living in conditions of appalling squalor – rickety shacks and tents. There was no running water and little sanitation. Just 22 miles across our English Channel, people traffickers roamed free, exploiting migrants – adults and children alike.

Dismantling the Jungle and moving the people there into safe reception centres far from Calais was a major step forward in weakening the pull factor people traffickers rely on.

This week the Government sought to tackle trafficking further – by limiting the number of child refugees Britain takes in under a scheme known as the Dubs amendment. People in Dover in Deal know the risk is that the good intentions of this scheme could cause the evil of the Jungle to return.

It sounds compassionate to bring in child refugees from Calais to Britain. Yet what would happen is that Calais would once again become a migrant magnet. The people traffickers would encourage families to make the dangerous journey to Calais. There they would once again be subject to horrendous conditions and terrible exploitation.

That's why the Government is right to be seeking to resettle people from war-torn countries like Syria. We have a strong record of making a difference. We took in hundreds of children from the Calais Jungle last year. We reunited them with their families already living in the UK – giving them a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their head at Christmas.

At the Dover and Deal frontline we have been working hard to care for refugee children. In Kent we look after nearly 800 – almost a quarter of all child refugees in Britain. That's five times more than the whole of Scotland – and 12 times more than Wales. This has put real pressure on public services. It's incredibly disappointing that other councils and other nations fail to do their bit.

In Kent we are in a very real way at the frontline of this migrant crisis. It is we who see families shivering in the back of refrigerated lorries at Dover docks. It is we who see desperate migrants landing on Deal beaches in dinghies and claiming asylum. And it is we who see our resources stretched to the brink as we care for ever more vulnerable youngsters dumped on our doorstep by ruthless people traffickers.

This is why taking in more refugee children from Calais and the Dubs amendment system is the wrong answer. The right answer is to discourage people from coming to Calais at all. And to take the battle to the people traffickers and end their evil trade of modern slavery.

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13 FEB 2017

Calling for clean-up of site destroyed by fatal fire

I am calling for a Dover town centre site to be cleaned up 40 years after it was destroyed in a fatal fire.

The Bench Street building, formerly known as The Crypt, was erected in 1840. There were bars and restaurants on the lower floors and residential accommodation upstairs.

That was until tragedy struck on March 27, 1977, when seven people died after a devastating fire ripped through the four-storey building. Since then the shell has been left to decay in the heart of Dover town centre.

For decades the former Crypt site has been left to ruin. It's high time this area was cleaned up.

Work on the exciting St James scheme continues. Yet we must make sure Dovorians can be proud of every corner of the town centre. We need to build a better future for Dover and I have been urging the council to take action.

I wrote to Dover District Council, calling for work to begin soon. They said the owner will take down the scaffolding before a general tidying-up.

According to DDC, Historic England will then likely launch a consultation over The Crypt's future use.

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10 FEB 2017

Visiting a community asset run by volunteers

I found out about the hard work of volunteers during a visit to the Deal Centre for the Retired last week.

The Park Street building has become a community hub where older residents can relax, converse, play games and have meals. The volunteers also do a meal delivery service and organise other things like bathing and hairdressing.

I can see why for so many people the centre has become a sort of home from home. The volunteers are warm, friendly and incredibly hard-working. It was lovely to meet Andy and Mandy who run the kitchen, serving more than 40 meals a day in the dining room and sending out more than 50 meals a day via delivery.

I first visited the day centre to meet the retirees and chat to volunteers over a cup of coffee. I then saw the Norman Wisdom Dementia Suite, where music, films and activities are used to help those with memory issues.

The centre is a real asset to the community and I hope they continue their vital work.

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10 FEB 2017

Dover factory is already leading way in global trade

I was given a tour of a Dover factory already leading the way in global trade.

Gatic is a manufacturing firm supplying access and drainage products to infrastructure projects in 93 countries. I met staff and saw their products and machinery first hand at the Poulton Close site.

Gatic has forged a reputation by making products to an extremely high spec and as part of a sophisticated supply chain. It is more proof our area is ready to capitalise on the global opportunities that will arise post-Brexit.

But Gatic's competitiveness is under threat because of EU rules aimed at offsetting cheaper Chinese imports, another example of European red tape. They should not be punished for the failure of Europe to reform and modernise.

I am talking to HM Revenue and Customs to try to get them exempted.

Gatic's products are at the high end of the market but have to meet minimum performance characteristics set by the EU. The Commission says Chinese products were sold in Europe at heavily dumped prices, so they have imposed duties ranging from 43.5 to 81.1 per cent. It says this will prevent damage to European companies.

Peter Burnap, Gatic's managing director, told me it could have serious repercussions for their competitiveness in the market and employment implications for their workforce.

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09 FEB 2017

Fighting to fix our roads

People in Dover and Deal have felt let down by local roads for too long. It's time for Highways England to step up and deliver for our community.

This feeling was clear when I went to talk to residents of Shepherdswell and Lydden. They've been calling for the A2 to be dualled for decades. They see vehicles travelling too fast down a road not fit for purpose. Residents were even more concerned when faulty traffic lights caused more chaos on the carriageway in recent weeks.

Temporary lights were in place because of roadworks, but they went out of sync. There have been several cases of long tailbacks since – and a very nasty crash. I urged Highways England to send workers to fix the problems, but it was sadly too late for some.

In the long-term, everyone knows the two main roads which lead to Dover need serious attention. After plans to dual the A2 were axed in the late 1990s, I've been making the case to the Government to get the scheme back on the table.

Meanwhile, I was disappointed by Highways England's latest delay in making the 40mph limit on the A20 variable. They now claim they will have it sorted by June. It was meant to be this March, so we shall see.

Just look at how quickly the railway sea wall was completely rebuilt along Shakespeare Beach. It was a remarkable feat of British engineering. Trains were running from Deal and Dover to London again in just nine months.

Surely it's much harder to rebuild a sea wall than make a speed limit variable? I raised my serious concerns about Highways England with the Transport Secretary this week.

Highways England also need to look at litter which builds up on verges and creates the wrong impression of our wonderful area. We are steeped in history and surrounded by beautiful countryside. Yet the first thing visitors see is rubbish on the roadside. Dover District Council want to clear it up – but they need Highways England to give access to the road. Both sides need to work together to sort it out.

It's vital we fix our roads – not just for Dover and Deal but for the entire nation. Gridlock in Kent costs the country millions of pounds. The A20 and A2 are vital routes and I'm pressing our case for more investment.

We've come so far since 2010 in building a brighter future for Dover and Deal – with a new hospital, Burlington House down and high speed trains sweeping through our stations. It's time we had roads fit for a renaissance of our region.

The hard working people of Dover and Deal have run out of patience with the excuses. Highways England have let us down for too long. It's time they shared the urgency the rest of us feel – and made 2017 the year of action.

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03 FEB 2017

Joining drinkers at another fantastic festival

I opened the 24th White Cliffs Festival of Winter Ales on Friday - and once again what an event it was. 

Outside Dover Town Hall scores of beer enthusiasts queued in the street before the doors were flung open at 1pm.

This year's event – run over two days by the Campaign for Real Ale – featured 30 Kentish ales, 11 Kentish ciders and 31 beers from elsewhere in the country. Dover's own Breakwater Brewery sponsored the pint glasses, while money was raised for the Poppy Appeal. 

It was great to be back in Dover for a tasty pint of ale at another fantastic festival. The historic building, with its huge paintings and old weaponry on the walls, was the perfect setting for this hugely popular event.

Everyone was in great spirits and it was great to see Dover buzzing. We need to see more events like this. It was also a great chance to celebrate Dover's magnificent micropubs and breweries.

1 comment

Great comments on the beautiful Maison Dieu; just do NOT let it be turned into luxury flats! Excellent to know that the cider and ale production in our area continues to be feted! CHeers to all you drinkers!
- S.Purton-Smith

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03 FEB 2017

Meeting residents fed up with faulty traffic lights

On Friday I met with residents of Shepherdswell and Lydden plagued by traffic problems on the A2 in recent weeks.

Temporary traffic lights were placed at the top of Lydden Hill during repairs, but motorists said sequencing problems caused chaos.

One woman told me how she suffered broken bones in a nasty crash which knocked her child unconscious. Others said they were left queuing for hours when all the lights went red.

Highways England sent workers to the site and finally fixed the lights after I contacted them last week.

It's no surprise the community feels let down. The road hasn't been fit for purpose for a long time and the latest problems only add to the frustration.

If we are going to realise a better future for Dover and Deal, we need to see growth without gridlock.

Just like with the A20 speed limit, highways chiefs have got to get on top of these things sooner – and make sure the road is safe.

The traffic lights needed replacing because a lorry struck the poles in early December. Repairs were not completed at the busy junction until January 31 – six weeks after the accident.

Residents also spoke of problems caused by speeding along the road, which turns into a single carriageway at Lydden.

The upgrading of the A2 is long overdue. I've been working tirelessly to make this happen. Plans were scrapped by Labour in the 1990s but I've been making the case to get the scheme back in the programme

I raised the issue in a meeting with the Chancellor this week and I will keep fighting to fix our roads. 

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27 JAN 2017

In Calais four months after the Jungle was cleared

On Friday I went to Calais. I wanted to see for myself whether the French had kept their pledge to stop the Jungle migrant camp from returning.

For years they had allowed the camp to grow. By the summer of 2016 it was home to 10,000 people, including hundreds of children. And lurking in the shadows were criminal gangs preying on the vulnerable.

As the Jungle grew, so did the number of attacks on tourists and truckers on the approach road to the Port of Calais. Ruthless people traffickers, armed with anything from chainsaws to machetes, would launch burning trees across the road. They were putting people's lives at risk in reckless attempts to stop traffic so desperate migrants could clamber on board Dover-bound lorries.

No matter how many walls and fences were built, the problem never went away. It became clear the only way to tackle this problem would be to dismantle the camp for good.

So during the summer I fought harder than ever to get this done, working closely with the Calais authorities throughout. It was a long and hard battle yet we never gave in. And in October last year the French Government caved in and work to clear the Jungle finally began.

Britain took in hundreds of cold and starving children, meaning they had a roof over their head and a warm bed at Christmas. Vulnerable people living in the camp were moved to centres across France, where they have sanitation and running water in place of the squalor of the Jungle.

We also took action to tackle the number of people reaching our shores on small craft. Too often we saw migrants land on the beaches of Dover and Deal. Who knows how many were arriving undetected.

So security has been stepped up along our shore and the Jungle has been cleared. Yet the migrant crisis has not gone away. That's why I've been putting pressure on the French to make sure they stop any new camps from forming – before the first tent is pitched.

I was pleased to see on Friday that what was once a squalid camp of ramshackle tents and makeshift shops is now completely empty. It was hard to believe that just a few months ago, thousands of people were living here in awful conditions.

So far the French have succeeded in keeping Calais clear. Yet we must all remain vigilant. The Jungle must never be allowed to return.

And in Dover we must invest in building a modern border – fit for Brexit Britain. That means using state-of-the-art technology, data sharing and surveillance to tighten security while keeping trade free flowing.

My top priority is making Brexit work for Dover and Deal. We must start by strengthening our borders and working to make sure the Calais Jungle is gone for good.

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You should set that to Elgar
- Simon Finlay

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26 JAN 2017

From riots to a renaissance of our region

January 30th will mark a year since far-right thugs and violent anti-fascists turned Dover into a warzone.

Families were forced to hide inside their homes as chaos broke out along Folkestone Road. Bottles and bricks were hurled across the street. Market Square descended into mayhem.

Seeing these ugly scenes developing, I knew immediately this must never be allowed to happen again.

The officers on the ground had bravely tried to contain these thugs. Yet they did not have enough support and lost control.

Fast forward to April last year – and many of the mindless louts who had come to Dover simply to cause trouble in January were back, hoping for another fight. Yet following my demand for Dover to be protected, this time there were more than 600 officers waiting for them. Unsurprisingly, the thugs stopped coming back.

And Kent Police have kept up the good work since then. More than 60 people have been charged and several jailed. This is exactly the sort of no-nonsense response the people of Dover and Deal demand. Kent Police should be applauded for their swift and effective crackdown.

Booting these thugs out of town was one of several problems we worked hard to fix in 2016. Let's not forget that last year also saw Burlington House come down, the Calais Jungle dismantled and the Dover to Folkestone rail line fixed.

This was all vital work which we must now build on. And it's clear there are businesses in Dover, Deal and Kent that are desperate to expand.

On Friday, I chaired a Kent summit where we discussed the roads, rail and skills investment needed for our area to thrive. I was joined on the panel by fellow Kent MPs in front of more than 75 business leaders. This Kent and Medway Economic Partnership Summit set a clear strategy on the things our county needs to grow.

We need investment in Kent's roads and railways. The A2 must be dualled – and we need to get on with building the Lower Thames Crossing. We must act now to prevent gridlock and delays – which would affect the whole country, not just Kent.

Meanwhile, we must increase capacity on our train services to meet demand. And it's vital to support East Kent College in providing the lifelong learning needed for a modern economy.

Everyone knows Brexit will present challenges – but there will also be real opportunities to build the sort of Britain we want. A Britain where we take back control of our borders. Where we become the new business centre of the world.

If we make the right investment decisions now, I'm confident the entrepreneurs of Dover, Deal and Kent will lead the way. We must work hard to ensure that this time next year, we are moving forward with the renaissance of our region.

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20 JAN 2017

Meeting the new head of high-achieving school

I met the new headteacher at high-achieving Dover Grammar School for Girls.

Pupils achieved outstanding A-Level results in 2016, with 71.6 per cent of grades coming in at B or above.

New headteacher Robert Benson, previously deputy head of Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Faversham, took over from Matthew Bartlett in October.

He told me he wants to carry on his predecessor's good work, as well as see the standard of facilities match that of exam results.

It was a real pleasure to be shown around the school – a shining example of the brains and brilliance of young people in this area.But they need investment in their old buildings, so they are in an environment that reflects their ability.

The school is having difficulty getting planning permission because of the confined nature of the site and its listed structures. They want to replace old mobile classrooms with a new science block and sixth form centre.

Mr Benson is clearly focused on securing this and it was refreshing to hear his vision for the school. I will do all I can to help make their case for investment.

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20 JAN 2017

How technology is speeding up mortgages in Dover and Deal

I visited Nationwide's Dover branch and saw how technology is being used to speed up the mortgage process.

Ispent time meeting the building society's staff, touring the branch and learning about new services on offer.

One of these is Nationwide Now, which allows customers to complete mortgage applications via video as soon as they get to the branch, rather than wait for appointments.

It was great to see Nationwide being innovative with digital services. Mortgage access is going to be key to building a better future for Dover and Deal.

I want to see more people owning their own homes and putting down roots in this wonderful area. That's why I was also pleased they have committed to keeping the Dover and Deal branches open, meaning people who want a more traditional service can get it.

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20 JAN 2017

Remembering victims and survivors of the Holocaust

I have signed a Book of Commitment to honour the millions murdered in the Holocaust and the thousands who survived.

The Holocaust Educational Trust's special tribute comes as Friday (January 27th) marks the anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

Thousands of commemorative events will be arranged across the country as part of Holocaust Memorial Day.

It is an important opportunity for people from Dover and Deal and across the country to reflect on this tragic event. To think such evil slaughter took place within the last century is a truly solemn reality.

As it moves from living history to the deeper past, it becomes more important than ever we take the time to remember the victims, and also pay tribute to the survivors.

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20 JAN 2017

Brexit talks at a micropub in Dover

I am calling on people to help me make sure Brexit means Brexit – and that we get on with it.

Many residents concerned about the Supreme Court case have contacted me over the past few months. They told me they don't want the metropolitan elite to be allowed to thwart the will of the people.

They also asked if I would respect the European Union referendum result.

I will vote to trigger Article 50.

I organised a meeting at the Mash Tun micropub in Bench Street, Dover, on Friday to ask people to help deliver a clean Brexit as quickly as possible.

The sooner we get out of Europe the better. We must work together to deliver the mandate of the masses, take back control and build a Brexit Britain that puts places like Dover & Deal first.

Residents interested in working to make sure Brexit happens should email charlie.elphicke.mp@parliament.uk, call 01304 379669 or write to Dover and Deal Conservative Association, 54 The Strand, Walmer, Kent, CT14 7DU.

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19 JAN 2017

In Brexit Britain places like Dover & Deal must come first

For Brexit Britain to work we need the investment concentrated for so many years in the capital – London – to benefit the districts like Dover and Deal.

The capital has for too long acted as a selfish city, furthering its own aims at the expense of districts like ours. It's not right for things to carry on like this. After all, the Hunger Games is just a film – not a reality.

So I was glad last week when the Transport Secretary refused to let Sadiq Khan get his hands on our trains. We need railways where our local needs are put before those of wealthy Londoners.

Southeastern doesn't run a perfect service – but look across to neighbouring areas served by Southern Rail and you'll see things could be a lot worse.

When I was elected in 2010, I was passionate High Speed rail should be extended. Soon fast trains were running to and from Deal as a peak commuting service, cutting journey times to London by half an hour.

The next step was an all-day service. After my long campaign Transport Ministers announced we would get it from January 2015. This boosted our local economy and made commuting much easier.

This is so important. Brexit Britain must be a nation that works for the local towns and historic regions rather than just the big cities. A Britain that works for the coastal communities as well as the post-industrial heartlands.

That's why it was such good news last week that Dover Priory train station will have a brand new car park.

Things also look promising on the Western Heights. At a meeting with Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah and Dover District Council, we looked at future options for the former Immigration Removal Centre. It could be turned into a luxury hotel or a quality housing development.

The citadel fortress played an important part in keeping Dover and our nation safe and secure. Now it could be the engine to drive the renewal of the Western Heights.

For too long London has grown and grown – not just in size but in wealth and opportunities. The Leave vote was so much higher outside the capital because people seek to change a system they feel doesn't work for them.

That's why we must build a Brexit Britain where you can succeed in the districts without being forced to move to the capital.

As we leave the European Union, Dover and Deal must become Britain's leading trading hub. I'm doing everything I can to ensure we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

And that means fighting to make Brexit Britain work for Dover, Deal and East Kent.

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16 JAN 2017

The return of police officers dedicated to Deal

I am absolutely delighted to announce the return of police officers dedicated to the Deal area. 

I held meetings with the district's new commander Chief Inspector Mitchell Fox, who took over from predecessor Steve Barlow in the autumn.

Chief Inspector Fox assured me the redeployment, which began at the end of last year, will raise police visibility in Deal and the surrounding areas.

A Deal Town Centre Constable now works a shift pattern incorporating up to six days a week. Officers from the Local Policing Team are also based in Deal, ready to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day.

The local force is fearless in its efforts to keep us all safe, and I was delighted to meet the new man at the helm.

Bringing back officers dedicated to Deal is something I have wanted for a long time, so I am delighted Chief Inspector Fox has made it happen. I know how much residents will welcome the greater police presence.

Chief Inspector Fox told me: "My dedicated team works tirelessly to deliver a quality service, place victims and witnesses at the heart of what we do, and in doing so ensure we do the right thing.

"I recognise the district is large and in order to best serve the people, my recent redeployment of officers has led to an improved service to the victims who require our support, and to greater visibility across Deal and the surrounding areas.

"Dover and its villages are typically Kentish – tranquil and safe – and it is my overriding aim to ensure they remain so."

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14 JAN 2017

Backing the campaign for more mental health support in Deal

I'm backing a campaign for improved mental health services in East Kent.

Tracy Carr's self-funded support group Talk It Out is calling for ring-fenced funding for mental health. She made the case in several TV and radio appearances this week. 

On Saturday I visited volunteers in Deal High Street to add my name to their petition, which has already gained more than a thousand signatures.

Tracy and Talk It Out work tirelessly to make a difference to local people suffering from mental health problems.

But they can't do it alone and I have real concerns about current provision, particularly from the Sussex Partnership. They simply aren't doing enough to help vulnerable people in a timely, meaningful way.

I want to see better mental health care in Dover and Deal and the surrounding areas – because support saves lives.

I organised roundtable discussions between Talk It Out, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group at Buckland Hospital at the end of last year.

I am also trying to help Talk It Out get a grant for a well-being café at the Landmark Centre in Deal.

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12 JAN 2017

Visa waiver system will fund stronger border

Leaving the European Union will mean a lot of change – nowhere more so than at the Dover and Deal frontline.

The end of unchecked EU immigration will require a beefing up of our border controls. The rising threats of organised crime, trafficking and terror all mean we must invest more in intelligence to keep us safe. Yet at the same time we want to maintain the free flow of trade at Dover – and have smooth journeys for legitimate travellers too.

How could we do it and be ready in two years' time? I have written to the Home Secretary, proposing we plan now to adopt a visa waiver system for EU visitors. If we charged every visitor £10, this should raise some £250m a year – enough to increase the UK's Borders Budget by 50%. With this extra money we can boost our efforts at Dover to combat traffickers, terrorists and criminal gangs.

There is a real challenge ahead for Dover. Post Brexit we will need to extend our full border control systems to travellers from the EU to Britain.

The number of visitors and the amount of trade coming through Dover continues to rise. It needs to stay that way. So it is in the interest of both the UK and European Nations that our borders remain open for business.

We must continue to work with our European neighbours to share intelligence and see that proper security checks are made at the borders as needed. This is because we all need to work together to combat organised crime, people trafficking, smuggling and terrorists. Meanwhile, passports must be properly checked on departure. Therefore, systems like the Le Touquet Treaty's juxtaposed controls at Dover and Calais should be maintained as they work in the interests of Britain and France.

Britain faces a number of serious threats at the border. As the Calais Jungle camp grew, the number of migrants being smuggled in the backs of lorries trebled. Add to this people traffickers and rising numbers of people turning up in small boats on the beaches and small ports of Southern England. They amount to a changing border security challenge that must be answered to prevent people breaking into Britain through the Port of Dover or the beaches of Deal – and to stop those who would seek to do us harm.

For faster checks at Dover, investment is needed in modern systems. We must make sure we have enough officers. By adopting a US style visa waiver system we can fund the investment we will need to make in our border controls.

By taking action now we can be ready to have strong borders immediately on Brexit. Borders where we still enable legitimate tourists and trade to flow freely. Yet borders that are strongly policed so we can crackdown on threats to our security.

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09 JAN 2017

It's all-go for train station car park

I was delighted to learn that a new car park at Dover Priory train station looks set to be built in 2017.

The 100-space surface-level car park was given planning permission by Dover District Council at the end of last year.

It follows a long campaign I led to get more parking provision at the site off Folkestone Road. Essex-based developers Churchgate Ltd will deliver it.

This looks set to be a real victory for commuters. It proves we were right to keep fighting for more parking at Dover Priory.

Network Rail dithered for months before letting us down, but we weren't there for long.

This car park will ensure local people can commute and travel conveniently – another crucial step in building a better future for Dover and Deal.

I will continue to make the case for more spaces, but there is room to expand and add decks when demand dictates it.

Churchgate has been working with Network Rail about using adjacent land which would increase the capacity to around 140 spaces.

The Network Rail-owned land was valued this week and Churchgate has confirmed an intention to buy it. Their managing director told me it will definitely be completed by the end of the year.

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Where is the new car parking? Planning permission has been granted - Dover needs additional parking at Dover Priory?
- Diane French

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05 JAN 2017

Let's make Brexit Britain work for Dover and Deal

Happy New Year! After a year of huge change, what lies ahead for Dover and Deal? The past 12 months brought us Brexit, a new Prime Minister and big questions about the future of Britain.

Brexit brings us great opportunities. 2017 will be about making Brexit Britain work for places like Dover and Deal – not just London. That's why I'll keep campaigning in Parliament on the things that matter to families and businesses in Dover and Deal.

Let's start by making sure Brexit works for the Port of Dover – with stronger border security and trade that continues to flow freely. Everyone knows that the best way to get growth without gridlock on our roads is to boost the Border Force budget. We need a new, state-of-the-art system in place to show the world that post-Brexit, Britain means business. Investment must start here at the Dover frontline.

We need a better deal for motorists too. I head the Fair Fuel campaign in Parliament and last year we managed to stop a rise in the tax you pay on petrol. Now we will be making the case for the Government to invest in more regional road projects like the long overdue dualling of the A2.

We need to build a Brexit Britain that works for everyone – and where everyone makes a fair contribution to pay for the public services we all rely on. That's why I am campaigning to make the super-rich and big corporations pay their fair share of tax. Too often it seems like it's one rule for them and another rule for everyone else. I am working to change that and get a better deal on taxes for the hard working classes of modern Britain too.

Meanwhile, the long-running battle to get beds at Buckland Hospital goes on. This has been a really tough struggle. But there is real hope now of success.

We are also working hard to get a new secondary school on the former Walmer Science College site. Too many children in Deal are forced to travel out of town. That's why we need a new school for Deal

I continue to press Highways England to hurry up and get rid of the hated 40mph limit on the A20. They have caved in to our campaign and said they would do it by March. They need to get on with it and deliver.

Brexit was about giving the boot to Brussels. Yet everyone wants to keep Britain open for business. That's why I am working with Calais' political chiefs to deepen our trading links with France. All this means exciting times for Dover and Deal – the gateway and guardian of our land.

There's lots to be getting on with. The hard work starts now. Here's to a fantastic 2017 where we make the most of all the opportunities that now surround us.

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21 DEC 2016

Meeting Xavier to discuss Brexit Britain

Just before Christmas I met with leading French politician Xavier Bertrand at Dover's Best Western Plus Marina Hotel.

Having worked together over the summer to get the Calais Jungle dismantled, we discussed boosting business, tourism and border security in a meeting with the President of the Hauts-des-France region.

Now the migrant camp is gone, we want boost business and tourism in Dover and Calais.

We also discussed the importance of making border security on both sides of the Channel water-tight – and increasing trade without gridlock on the roads.

The hotel's managing director Trevor Bond also raised potential business opportunities between the two regions.

It was fantastic to welcome Xavier Bertrand to Dover with an excellent lunch at the Dover Marina Hotel. We had a really good chat about the amazing opportunities there are to make Brexit work for Dover and Calais.

Mr Bertrand is very keen to work with us in making both Dover and Calais top tourist destinations. He also wants to boost business between the regions.

It just goes to show that Brexit was about giving the boot to Brussels, yet keeping Britain open for business.

This means exciting times for Dover and Deal.

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18 DEC 2016

Working hard to drive forward Dover & Deal's jobs revolution

Back in 2010, I pledged to do everything I could to bring more jobs to our area. And over the past six years we’ve had a jobs revolution. Unemployment in Dover and Deal has fallen 41% and youth unemployment has almost halved.

I'm passionate about getting people into work. For young people, apprenticeships are a fantastic way of getting on the jobs ladder. Not everyone has to go to university to do well in life.

But what about adults – either in or out of work – who are desperate to do something different? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Dover and Deal who would love to learn new skills and get a trade for life.

That’s why I’m pressing the Government to give more funding to further education colleges throughout the land. Post-Brexit, we need to build a Britain which leads the world in science and technology. Where we train people to drive the digital economy forward.

And at East Kent College’s Dover campus, as well as in Sandwich, forward-thinking Principal Graham Razey is doing just that. He showed me round the amazing facilities they have at Discovery Park. Good teaching of subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths is vital for the future of the UK economy.

In Dover and Deal everyone knows that over the next decade we must upgrade our border technology. This means youngsters should have the choice at school to learn the skills needed to man state-of-the-art border controls. Yet adults excited by the idea of a new career must have these opportunities too. That’s why we must have lifelong learning.

My view is this. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you come from – if you want to learn new skills then you must be given the chance. There must be ladders throughout life for everyone.

The most important thing is choice. I back the Government's bid to build new grammar schools. But I believe Ministers should also look at having more faith schools and more skills education at every stage of life. Parents in Dover, Deal and Kent as a whole see grammar schools and faith-based schools like St Edmund’s as engines of opportunity and aspiration. Yet we need skills for late developers and people re-training too.

Dover has two brilliant grammar schools. In recent years pupils at Dover Grammar School for Girls have even got better results than students at Eton.

But exams are not the be all and end all. It is also vital students are given the best possible life chances by having the choice to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry and electronics at every stage of life.

So, to keep driving forward Dover and Deal’s jobs revolution through the digital age, we must keep finding new ways of training people to work in a fast-moving market. That means more choice at school – and more opportunities for adults to learn new skills throughout their lives.

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08 DEC 2016

Burlington House rubble helps build Destination Dover

Huge pyramids of rubble are looming over Dover docks. They grow every day as work forges ahead on the Western Docks Revival. But there is more here than meets the eye.

These heaps of brick and rock, which will be used to build the new cargo terminal, are the remains of Dover's most-hated building – Burlington House. At last the Townwall Street eyesore is being put to good use, for the first time ever.

For decades the ugly empty building towered over Dover. After years of failed bids to knock it down, most people thought they would never see it demolished. Yet last year the demolition diggers arrived – and we had a fantastic summer watching it being torn down, brick by brick.

Getting Burlington House down was a huge victory for Dover. It was a symbol of how things are changing. And now Burlington House will become the foundations of a new cargo terminal at the Western Docks.

But there is far more to the Western Docks Revival than just cargo. Port chief executive Tim Waggott has often stated his ambition for Dover to be the best port in the world. And it looks like strong plans are now in place for a world class new marina to transform the seafront. When finished, people will be able to enjoy a drink and a bite to eat while looking out at, for me, the best view in the world – Dover Castle and the White Cliffs.

I was treated to a tour of the project on Friday – and you can really feel the excitement fizzing down at the docks right now. New chairman Richard Everitt is a breath of fresh air. This is the first time in a long time the port will have a chairman who will work well with the community and be trusted by the community. With strong leadership the port is now driving Dover forward towards a brighter future.

And our docks are also vital to the national economy – accounting for a quarter of Britain's trade with the European Union. So in the Commons on Thursday, I pressed Brexit Minister David Jones to prioritise Dover for funding to keep trade booming post-Brexit. And on Monday I asked Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill to spend more on upgrading our border technology to keep traffic flowing and security tight.

I have also written to Brexit Secretary David Davis, arguing Dover needs investment to grow without gridlock. Our freight traffic has gone up 30% in just three years – with a further 40% rise expected by 2030.

It's clear that Dover is leading the way, handling more trade than any other port and pushing ahead with exciting projects like the Western Docks Revival.

That's why I keep making the case for more investment at the docks – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover.

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08 DEC 2016

Ending the A20 40mph speed limit

The hated A20 40mph speed limit needs to be scrapped as soon as possible. Drivers are well and truly fed up of crawling along at 40mph – especially with foreign lorries dangerously tailgating and hurtling past.

That's why I got everyone around the table last week to make sure they work quickly to make the speed limit variable.

It was a really positive meeting. Natural England and the AONB said they would work closely with Highways England to get things moving. It's great that Highways England listened to our demands and agreed to scrap the 40mph limit. Now it's time to deliver. They must not let the timetable slip beyond March and need to keep a strong grip on this project.

I have also written to Kent Police, asking the force to step up their patrols and presence on the A20 to deter foreign lorry drivers from flouting the speed limit.

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08 DEC 2016

Dogs Trust

I am very pleased to support the Dogs Trust's campaign to protect our pooches from pet passport abuse and puppy farming.

The Dogs Trust has championed canine welfare for more than a century, most recently achieving success with the law requiring compulsory microchipping which came into force earlier this year.

Dog welfare is something I feel very strongly about, and I commend the incredible efforts Dogs Trust has gone to in a bid to improve the lives of dogs across the country over the past 125 years. I pledge to help do my bit to drive change for dogs over the next 12 months and beyond.

Over the years the Dogs Trust has opened shelters for dogs and campaigned against the widespread use of dogs for vivisection and the persecution of stray dogs following rabies scares.

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08 DEC 2016

Fairer Prices At The Pumps

As the cost of oil rises, too often we see prices rocketing at the pumps. Yet when oil goes down, forecourt prices fall like a feather.

This is why, along with fellow Conservative MPs Maria Caulfield and Peter Aldous, in my role as the chair of the FairFuelUK parliamentary group I have made the case to the Chancellor Philip Hammond that the Government look into the concerns people have about forecourt pricing. It is welcome that the Chancellor listened to the concerns of MP's and continued the fuel duty freeze in his Autumn Statement. We must ensure we get the best deal on fuel for hard working families and small businesses in Dover and Deal.

That's why a new independent watchdog like PumpWatch is needed - to crack down on predatory pricing at the pump.

We also argued for more money to be spent on fixing and improving roads in places like Dover and Deal – rather than all the cash being spent in London.

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02 DEC 2016

Sandwich Discovery Park

It was great to see the amazing facilities at Discovery Park in Sandwich, and to discuss the courses East Kent College offer there with their head Graham Razey.

Good teaching of subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths is vital for the future of the local and national economy.

It doesn't matter how old you are, or where you come from – if you want to learn new skills then you must be given the chance. That's why I've been pressing for more funding for further education. We must give people ladders throughout life.

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01 DEC 2016

Working hard to make our borders stronger and more secure

Last week more migrants arrived at Dover in a small craft. The seven men – all believed to be Iranian – were rescued after being spotted shivering in a dinghy off the coast.

This was yet another sign of the extreme lengths people will go to break into Britain. Crossing the English Channel in a small boat as winter sets in is about as dangerous as it gets. Earlier this month a man tried to do the same in a kayak. Amazingly he is thought to have made it all the way from Calais without any help. He survived, as did the seven men in the dinghy last week. But how many are not so lucky? It just goes to show the sheer desperation of so many people to reach our shores.

That's why I met with Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill last week, demanding a strong police presence is kept up in Calais. Of course, dismantling the Jungle camp was a huge step in restoring order at the border. The number of attacks on Dover-bound tourists and truckers at Calais has plummeted – as has the number of migrants smuggled across the Channel through our port. For the people of Calais, their town is at long last returning to normal.

Dismantling the Jungle was a hammer blow in our war against the people traffickers and their evil trade of modern slavery. Closing the camp means the hundreds of children and vulnerable people will now spend Christmas in a safer home, far from the traffickers, rather than freezing in the Jungle mud.

But seeing more migrants turn up at Dover in small craft reminds us that the war to secure our borders is far from over. It's clear that although the Jungle camp has gone – we now need to be more vigilant than ever. Last week's incident underlines the need to ensure we scan our seas for people traffickers, protect our borders and strengthen our intelligence effort with France.

Dover is both gateway and guardian of the kingdom. Making sure our border is strong and that trade flows through smoothly is vital. I wanted to see first-hand how this is working, so I recently visited the border controls at Dover. I was really impressed to see how Border Force officers were able to smoke out a smuggler who had stashed thousands of illegal cigarettes in a car. Our border officers do vital work stopping dodgy goods, drugs and guns from being brought into Britain.

This was a great spot by the officers. But it was also clear to me that, going forward, sharing information on crooks and working together with the intelligence services will become ever more important in keeping our border secure. The only way to truly win the war against the people traffickers is to make it impossible to break in to Britain. Keeping watch over our seas this Christmas will also save lives.

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01 DEC 2016

New Powers For Traffic Wardens

I have written to the Home Office and the Department for Transport, calling for traffic wardens to be given the powers to start fining lorry drivers for brazenly blocking roads.

Under current law, only the police can deal with vehicles parked dangerously or right in front of homes and businesses. However, officers busy dealing with serious crime treat reports of obstructive parking as low priority and fail to deal with them.

Shocking statistics show the number of fines has dropped by 97 per cent in the last 15 years, from more than a million across the UK in 2001 to just 42,800 last year.

It means in places like Poulton Close in Dover, lorry drivers block residential roads for several days at a time. They often leave litter lying around – and some residents come home to find they can not even get to their driveway.

Yet only a fraction of offences are ever dealt with, official crime figures show.

Rather than targeting people who have just nipped into the shops – surely traffic wardens would be much better off ridding our roads of poorly parked lorries, many of which are from overseas. It's common sense that traffic wardens should be doing this, while the police get on with making our streets safer by hunting down violent criminals.

It's time for traffic wardens to step up and rid our roads of these lorries.

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25 NOV 2016

Western Docks Revival

It is important that the Government invests in the Port of Dover – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover. In the Commons on Thursday, I told Brexit Minister David Jones that Dover accounts for a huge chunk of Britain's trade with the EU and must be prioritised for funding.

During a recent visit to the port, I hopped on board a patrol boat to see the impressive work being done on the Western Docks Revival. It was an historic day for our town when the fight to demolish Burlington House was finally won, and now the rubble from the hated building is being used to form the foundations of the new cargo terminal at the port.

Investment in the port is not only important to help build Destination Dover, but also so it can grow without causing gridlock in the town. I have written to the Brexit Secretary David Davis to make the case, highlighting that since 2005, Dover has had the highest increase in traffic of all UK major ports.

Since 2010 Dover has seen a higher growth in units passing through the port than any other major UK port. Freight traffic volumes have risen 30% in just three years. This is expected to rise by a further 40% by 2030.

It's clear that Dover is leading the way, handling more trade than any other port and pushing ahead with exciting projects like the Western Docks Revival. That's why I keep making the case for investment at the docks – to keep trade growing without gridlock, bolster border security and help build Destination Dover.

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19 NOV 2016

White Cliffs Christmas

It was great to go along to the fabulous White Cliffs Christmas at the Old Marine Station. It was so good to see families having fun at the ice rink, and the Cockles & Co. bar was also a delight.

Well done to the Port of Dover and everyone else involved in putting on such an excellent event. The event also included a Christmas market, sweet shop, food and drink concessions, and a display of vintage vehicles from the Dover Transport Museum.

White Cliffs Christmas is open at Cruise Terminal One until 2 January, so be sure to go along for a great time to be had by all with friends and family.

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18 NOV 2016

Visiting UK Border Force at the Eastern Docks

It was great to visit UK Border Force at the Eastern Docks to see the fantastic work Border Force officers do catching smugglers.

I was really impressed to see how Border Force officers smoked out one smuggler who stashed dozens of dodgy packets of illegal cigarettes from the Ukraine inside the wheel of a car.

These guys do vital work stopping dodgy goods, drugs and guns from being brought into Britain. They are also on the frontline in the war against the evil trade of people trafficking.

I have since met with Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill, demanding a strong police presence is kept up in Calais now the Jungle is dismantled. It's great that the migrant camp has been cleared and the number of people breaking into Britain through Dover has dropped, but we must remain vigilant at our borders. The French need to stop any new camps from forming – before the first tent is pitched.

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18 NOV 2016

Miners Pensions

Gary Cox, an ex-miner from Deal, has met with me to raise concerns over the miner's pension scheme after former coal workers in Dover and Deal told me they are getting a rotten deal.

I really think this needs to be looked at. A lot has changed since the pensions deal was struck more than two decades ago. Miners worked incredibly hard in tough conditions and they deserve dignity in retirement.

Hundreds of ex-miners live in the Dover and Deal area which is home to Kent's coalfields in villages like Tilmanstone and Betteshanger. I am proud of our coal-producing heritage, as well as the work we have done to bring that to life with regeneration projects like in Betteshanger.

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I will be writing to the committee chairman to ask for an inquiry into this matter – and asking to lead it. I have also written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green MP, and invited Mr Cox and several other ex-miners to the House of Commons for further talks.

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18 NOV 2016

Tax Credits Problems

There have been some big issues with HMRC and the payment of tax credits in recent weeks which has been affecting people across Dover and Deal who have been left out of pocket by the blunders of private firm Concentrix.

Gavin Smith and Amy Jones, from Deal, were left with barely enough money to put food on the table for their five children when their payments were wrongly stopped.

They had wanted to add another child to their existing tax credits claim. But instead HMRC closed their claim down and told them it would take "three to four weeks" to process a new one.

Gavin and Amy came to me for help, and we managed to get their claim sorted over the phone, backdating it to include money missing from previous weeks.

I'm delighted for Gavin and Amy, who really were in a desperate situation. I want people in Dover and Deal to know that if they need my help, I will do everything in my power to fight their corner.

I'm very concerned by what's been going on with tax credits, particularly with Concentrix. I will be raising my concerns on the Public Accounts Committee.

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18 NOV 2016

Fundraising for Kelly Turner

Our community has come together in an incredible way to raise money for Kelly Turner. She is now getting close to an amount that would pay for potentially life-saving surgery – but her family say the deadline is "now".

Kelly, aged 16 and from Dover, was diagnosed with a desmoplastic small round cell tumour (DSRCT) in October 2015 and given two years to live. After the NHS refused to carry out a costly procedure, the St Edmund's pupil's family found a facility in New York willing to do it but at a cost of £1 million. So far around £289,000 has been raised.

I am contacting NHS chiefs asking them to match fund what has been raised.

But we might get to half a million just through local action. That is a testament to the hard work, compassion and loyalty of the people of Dover and Deal.

Please everyone, for the sake of this wonderful girl and her family, keep going with your efforts.

To donate to Kelly Turner, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kelly-turner or text 70070 with the code 'KPTF99 £' and the amount after the pound sign.

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17 NOV 2016

Fighting to get families and firms a fairer deal on fuel

A month ago the price of oil rose, sterling went down and forecourt pump prices rocketed. Drivers in Dover and Deal watched with increasing alarm as the dials whizzed round ever faster. Since then the price of oil has fallen and sterling has gone up. Yet pump prices stuck fast at 117p a litre. They have been even higher in some places – I receive many complaints about this from residents of Deal.

This is yet another example of how pump prices jump like a rocket yet fall like a feather. Only when tackled in the media over the weekend have prices started to fall with the supermarkets leading the way.

This is why I got more than 50 Conservative MPs together to make a joint call for action. There needs to be a fairer deal for drivers at the pumps. For too long, greedy big oil companies have been making the fuel market work for them. It needs to work for the hard working people of East Kent. We need a fair deal at the pumps, a transparent market and a crackdown on predatory pricing.

The Government has done a lot. Fuel duty has been frozen since 2011. The notorious fuel escalator of the previous times has been junked. It's now time for big oil companies do their bit too. They must act fairly to drivers, businesses and the hard working classes of modern Britain.

Since the EU referendum it's clear to see how drivers have been taken for a ride. Research by the FairFuel campaign shows that in August, following the referendum, wholesale fuel prices fell by 5% but pump prices didn't