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New Thameslink Rail Times ‘Positive’

Michael has responded positively to the second phase of the Thameslink timetable consultation.

The proposed timetable, effective December 2018, will double the number of Thameslink trains from two per hour to four per hour in the constituency. This will affect mainline routes from Swanley and Otford and metro routes from Swanley, Eynsford, Shoreham, Otford, Bat & Ball and Sevenoaks to London.

During off-peak periods, however, existing Thameslink services will operate between Sevenoaks and London Blackfriars only. Whilst reducing the number of London destinations may make trains more reliable, Michael wrote, the only way to ensure that passengers are not then inconvenienced is to install Oyster-style ticketing for whole journeys at all stations in Sevenoaks.

Journeys from Swanley to London Bridge, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International and beyond to Cambridge will be faster. A direct train service between Sevenoaks and Welwyn Garden City will also form part of the expansion of the Thameslink network.

Michael said: ‘Plans to double the number of trains per hour show that the train operators are listening. That’s why engaging in consultations is important. Now we need to make sure that these plans are delivered.’

The consultation closes on 27 July. To respond, visit transformingrail.com.

Barclays Bank’s Response ‘Constructive’

Michael has said discussions with Barclays regarding the announced closure of their Farningham branch have been ‘constructive’.

‘There is a regrettable trend away from high street banks to online banking, which is understandable but can leave local businesses and customers dependent on the bank with few other options’, Michael said.  ‘That’s why it’s important that Barclays now support the community in delivering alternative banking provision.’

In their letter to Michael, Barclays said 74 customers have been identified as being dependent on the Farningham branch.  Barclays have assured Michael that they will contact each of these customers to ensure they have a better understanding of the alternative banking options available.

‘I welcome the support Barclays plans to our area during this transitional period’, Michael said.  ‘Our job now is to ensure that customers and businesses do receive this support and that local premises that can offer full banking services for customers and businesses are able to do so.’

Michael has contacted Barclays for a further meeting.  He hopes to organise an event in the constituency whereby customers dependent on the Farningham branch are trained in accessing alternative banking safely and securely.

Kent Route Study Needs More Solutions

Michael has written to Network Rail calling for more solutions to combat capacity strains on South Eastern railways.

In response to the South East Route: Kent Area Route Study draft consultation document, Michael said that Network Rail must consider further solutions ‘beyond those mentioned in the consultation draft’ to meet population growth forecasts.

‘It is crucial that the South Eastern rail network has the capacity to accommodate the increasing demand on its services’, writes Michael, who suggests this could be achieved by extending train carriages, increasing carriage size, and striking a better balance of seating and standing room for passengers on-board.

Further, improving connectivity on the South Eastern railway is important to Michael. ‘Rail services need to be reliable’, Michael says, ‘but during periods of unexpected disruption, crucially, passengers also need to be better informed.’

Michael welcomed the opportunity to discuss these matters in more detail with Network Rail during the next stage of the Kent Route Study draft.

COLUMN – Grammars Aren’t Gone

One of my first duties as the newly re-elected MP, having sworn in on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, was to discuss the contents of the Queen’s Speech on BBC South East.

There are many great initiatives in the Queen’s Speech that will benefit our area, including extra investment in our transport, bills that champion equality, and a plan to protect our agricultural industry.

However, as many will have noted, there is one conspicuous exclusion: our election plan to scrap the current ban on building new grammar schools.

Michael with KCC Project Manager Esther Larner, Weald of Kent Chair of Governors David Bower, Weald of Kent Headteacher Maureen Johnson, and Willmott Dixon Build Manager Alex Heath in 2016.
Michael with KCC Project Manager Esther Larner, Weald of Kent Chair of Governors David Bower, Weald of Kent Headteacher Maureen Johnson, and Willmott Dixon Build Manager Alex Heath in 2016.

Having campaigned for so long for more grammar provision in Sevenoaks, I am disappointed that the current grammar school legislation will continue at least for the next two years.  The constitution dictates that we must play the cards the electorate has dealt to us.  So, with a minority Government, it is important that we put forward the best deal for Britain.  That means amending slightly our manifesto commitments in the national interest to ensure they can be delivered in Parliament.

But rest assured, I remain committed to securing grammar provision here in Sevenoaks for boys, and we can do that without changing the law, by adding a boys’ annexe to the girls’ one at Wildernesse.

There is strong local demand for a boys’ grammar.  Sevenoaks is the only area in Kent without a grammar school, and there is substantial pressure on local school places.  Parents need more choice, and to travel back and forwards to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells wastes time and money.

Later this year, I will be welcoming a young constituent and his class from Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys to Parliament.  I will be delighted to welcome the new class of girls from our Sevenoaks grammar annexe, too, after they start in September.

We Need Good Local Banks

Following the announcement that the Barclays bank branch in Farningham will close in September, Michael has written to the Barclays CEO expressing his disappointment at the decision.

Michael expressed his concern that his constituents may be left without access to the banking services they need, asking what consultations Barclays has held with its customers and businesses before announcing the closure.

‘I am concerned that my constituents have not been sufficiently consulted before the decision was taken by Barclays to close their local branch’, he writes: ‘a strong local economy needs the support of a good local bank.’

Barclays says that its customers have been informed and recommended customers use local Post Offices for their banking services. But Michael urges Barclays to ensure that the local Post Offices ‘meet the full range of customer needs’ for personal customers and businesses in his letter.

The proposed closure of Barclays in Farningham comes two months after Lloyds Bank announced that its New Ash Green branch would close in July. Michael sent a letter along with a petition opposing the closure signed by over 900 people to Lloyds Banking Group calling for answers.

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Michael said: ‘This closure may have a huge impact on the lives of people and businesses in Farningham. We need answers from Barclays. I will continue to work with local councillors, businesses and residents, and the Post Office itself, to ensure that my constituents will not be left without the services they rely on.’

Swearing the Oath

MF Swearing In 1 (2)On the day of the State Opening of Parliament, Michael took the special Oath to become the Member of Parliament for constituency of Sevenoaks.

He said to the House: ‘I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law.  So help me God.’

Before the swearing-in ceremony commenced, the Speaker of the House of Commons reminded Members that until they take the Oath, they must not participate in any debate or vote in any Division of the House.

Michael said: ‘I am deeply honoured to have been elected with an increased majority, and would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support.’

Michael is re-elected!

Michael has been re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Sevenoaks. His share of the vote increased by 6.8%, meaning he secured a record 64% of the vote.

Michael’s majority is now nearly 22,000 votes. A candidate has only achieved over 64% of the vote in Sevenoaks twice in the last 120 years, first in 1900 and second in 1935, both times when Labour either didn’t exist or didn’t stand.

General Election 2017: SEVENOAKS

Michael FALLON (Cons)          32,644 votes        63.7%        (+6.8%)

Chris Clark (Lab)                     10,727 votes         20.9%        (+8.1%)

Alan Bullion (LibDem)            4,280 votes           8.4%          (+0.5%)

Graham Cushway (UKIP)        1,894 votes            3.7%          (-14.2%)

Philip Dodd (Green)                1,673 votes             3.3%          (-1.2%)

Majority                                              21,917 votes               42.8%

Turnout                                    51,218 votes          72.1%         (+1.2%)

Michael meets youngest voter

Michael recently met the youngest voter in the Sevenoaks constituency, Ciara Mcgauley, who turns 18 years old on Thursday 8th June.

Michael said: ‘I am delighted that Ciara will take time out from her birthday celebrations to vote on 8th June.  Voting is an important part of our democracy, and a chance to have a say over the future of this country.  It is heartening to see that voters as young as Ciara recognise this.’

We Need Strong Defence

This election is the most important election in my lifetime. As the United Kingdom negotiates its exit from the European Union, our country needs stable leadership to see us through.

But this election is about more than Brexit. In an uncertain world, it is about maintaining our strong defence. It is about the future security of our country and the safety of our people. It is about ensuring we continue to work closely with our partners in Europe on security. And it is about standing up and protecting freedoms that are threatened around the world by conflict and terrorism.

Strong defence requires an increasing defence budget. Britain’s budget is £36 billion this year, rising to almost £40 billion by 2020/21. We will continue to meet the NATO 2 per cent commitment, and go further by increasing our defence budget by at least 0.5 per cent ahead of inflation in every year of the new parliament. No other party is making such a strong ongoing financial investment in our armed forces.

We will continue to act in the national interest by leading in NATO and deploying troops, ships and planes to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and counter Russian aggression. We will continue to play a leading role in the campaign against Daesh, helping to drive terrorists out of Iraq and Syria, and keeping our streets here at home safe. We will also step up around the world to protect British interests, support fragile democracies, and contribute to UN peacekeeping in vulnerable countries like South Sudan and Somalia.

We will maintain the overall size of the armed forces, including an army that is capable of fielding a warfighting division. We will provide our armed forces with the new frigates, submarines, fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft and armoured vehicles that they need – the biggest investment programme for generations. That programme totals £178 billion over the next decade, creating high-skilled jobs across the whole country, including £31 billion on a new fleet of four Dreadnought ballistic missile boats, £15.4 billion on land equipment and £11.1 billion on new helicopters.

We will support our veterans as they move into civilian life. We will help them to start new careers by ensuring that the skills and qualifications they gained in service are better recognised by civilian employers. We will introduce a twelve-month National Insurance holiday for employers taking on veterans. We will strengthen the Armed Forces Covenant and improve the coordination of government services to veterans, including housing, employment and mental health services, by establishing a Veterans Board in the Cabinet Office.

We will protect our brave servicemen and women from unjustified legal harassment. We are already bringing to an end the investigations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will ensure that further investigations in Northern Ireland do not reopen previously examined cases without new evidence. We will not allow our hands to be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights when protecting our troops’ ability to operate in future conflicts.

In the face of growing challenges abroad, it is more important than ever that we maintain and renew our nuclear deterrent. I was proud to have cut steel last October on HMS Dreadnought, the first of our new nuclear ballistic submarines which will provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety right through to the early 2060s.

All of this is at risk from Jeremy Corbyn propped up by a coalition of chaos. A Corbyn-led government would abolish our nuclear deterrent, review our NATO deployments and undermine our contribution to the counter-Daesh campaign in Iraq and Syria.

So the choice on 8 June is clear. It is a choice between Theresa May providing strong and stable leadership for the United Kingdom, or a coalition of chaos led by a weak Jeremy Corbyn. Only Theresa May and the Conservatives can give this country the strong defence that we need to continue to stand tall in the world.