I welcome the Chancellor’s plans. The additional resources given to UK Export Finance and the significant expenditure on research and development will be vital if we are to grow our national capability.
Three key areas, however, require more attention.
First, we must speed up the development of critical infrastructure. Bureaucracy too often delays important projects: our airports, ports and river crossings must be built more quickly if we are to make a success of Brexit.
Second, the Government must look again at its funding for schools and skills. The increase in pupil numbers, and huge increase in pupils with additional needs, education authorities such as Kent County Council have to divert resources away from the main schools funding block to deal with the demand.
Finally, the current savings ratio, at 4.9% of disposable income, is the lowest since records began. One painless way of boosting savings is to simplify and encourage share schemes: create a more streamlined approach; open them up to companies owned by private equity; reduce holding periods and improve the tax treatment of shares. We know increasing employee’s involvement in company’s boosts productivity – it’s time we make the schemes simpler and more engaging.
Michael today joined fellow Conservative colleagues to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, calling on the Government to stop the witch-hunt into our Northern Ireland veterans.
The letter, entitled ‘Defending those who defended us’, opposes the proposed new Historical Investigations Unit, which would re-open cases against veterans that have already been investigated.
Sir Michael said: “There can be no moral equivalence between our ex-servicemen and women who fought to defend us, and terrorists who wanted to do us harm. We must stop the hounding of our veterans, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s – and defend those who defended us.”
It was another busy day in the constituency on Friday 19th October.
First, Michael met senior management at the Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust at Highlands House in Tunbridge Wells, where he reviewed mental health provisions and resources in the area, as well as what more can be done to reduce waiting times for treatments.
Michael then cut the ribbon at NFU Mutual’s store opening on Sevenoaks High Street. NFU Mutual, a leader in the insurance industry, moved from Edenbridge and will employ locally – they have already taken on 2 graduate trainees. Michael welcomed NFU Mutual’s addition to the High Street.
Later that afternoon, Michael met Age Well West Kent, where he received an update on their progress, in addition to his regular advice surgery appointments in Sevenoaks on Friday evenings, and in Swanley on Saturday mornings.
Sevenoaks MP Sir Michael Fallon has today expressed his serious concerns about the Government’s plans to turn the M26 into a lorry park in the event of a no deal Brexit.
The move would close the motorway from 8pm to 5am every night between 15th and 19th October, and 19th November and 29th March 2019. Ministers failed to consult local councils and MPs.
Sir Michael said: “It is wholly unacceptable that residents were not consulted on these proposals, which will have severe pollution and noise consequences for my constituents’ evening travel and access for local businesses. Any lorry parking will cause significant disruption for those in Dunton Green, north Sevenoaks, Otford, Seal and Kemsing. I have urged the Transport Secretary to reconsider these plans and meet me at the earliest opportunity to find an alternative solution.”
Sevenoaks MP Sir Michael Fallon has today pledged his support for opponents of Roxhill Developments’ proposal to build a DPD distribution centre at Moorhouse tileworks.
The new distribution centre, which would become DPD’s largest, delivering an initial 25,000 parcels a day and resulting in 800 extra vehicle journeys a day, would cause an unacceptable increase to traffic on the A25, particularly through the historic villages of Westerham, Brasted and Sundridge.
Sir Michael said: “A similar scheme was rejected two years ago, and this proposal is no better. The significant increase in traffic would choke the A25 and bring unreasonable pressure on our historic villages. I have outlined my strong objections to Tandridge District Council and Kent County Council, and I have urged them to oppose this development.”
Sir Michael Fallon has today urged again the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to lower the “wholly unrealistic” housing target of building 13,400 new homes by 2035.
The request follows research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which suggested that the Government’s previous house building projection of 210,000 new homes had been downgraded to 159,000.
Sir Michael said: “I have already urged the Housing Secretary to revisit the wholly unrealistic target due to Sevenoaks’s overwhelming amount of Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The newly revised ONS figures show he must not force us to build on the Green Belt when there’s no need to do so.”
Today in Parliament, I had the pleasure helping Breast Cancer Now prepare for #wearitpink on October 19th.
Since 2002, Breast Cancer Now has raised over £31 million to fund life-saving research, including here in Sevenoaks. 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year – and it is organisations such as BNC that drive forward research into detection, prevention and effective treatment.
Michael had a very busy constituency day on Friday 31st August. First, he met Jill Roberts, Chief Executive at West Kent Mind, to discuss progress and was delighted to learn that they had increased their funding on last year and were running at full capacity.
West Kent Mind are working on several new initiatives, including meeting local schools agencies to try to detect early signs of mental health in children and prevent it. West Kent Mind now also run counselling services for those who have suffered loss (not just bereavement), and have expanded their work into Ashford. For more information on the fantastic services West Kent Mind run, visit here: https://westkentmind.org.uk/
West Kent Housing Association
Swiftly after that, he visited White Oak Court in Swanley where the West Kent Housing Association (WKHA) and Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) have set up self-contained apartments as part of their ‘Starts at Home’ sheltered housing scheme.
Michael met residents and received a tour of the apartments along with local councillors. County Councils are increasingly asking planning authorities to factor extra care housing such as White Oak Court as alternatives for more expensive residential care homes.
Michael held his regular monthly surgery in Sevenoaks, helping constituents with a range of issues, before he addressed local Conservative Party members at the Sevenoaks Town Council offices about Brexit and the Prime Minister’s Chequers Deal.
Michael took questions for 90 minutes on the current state of Brexit negotiations, and local members were free to air their views in a lively discussion.
It is for Sevenoaks District Councillors to adopt the Local Plan and they are consulting on the details.
I want to make clear that I am not in favour of building new houses on our Green Belt. Indeed I have continued to object to the 14,000 total of new houses that the government proposes: it’s unachievable without breaching a significant amount of Green Belt land. I will continue to urge the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, to reconsider.
I am aware that Sevenoaks Hockey Club and Sevenoaks Rugby Club (where I am a Vice-President) need more pitches, and I support both of them. But this should not be interpreted as support for any particular new housing proposal.