In his latest monthly column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about the need to improve broadband provision in Sevenoaks:
Over Parliament’s February recess, I visited the Falkland Islands in the first trip by a UK Defence Secretary in more than a decade. As well as meeting islanders and military personnel, I paid my respects to those who died in the 1982 war. Britain is committed to the Falkland Islands and they have a bright future ahead of them.
Sevenoaks’ own bright future is always at the forefront of my mind. In particular, we must ensure that our town has the better, faster broadband it needs. Our local economy is buoyant, with over 500 more businesses set up and a 60 percent reduction in unemployment across my constituency since 2010. But, as the Chamber of Commerce has confirmed to me broadband is vital for the continued success of local businesses.
Superfast broadband expansion is as essential today as the introduction of gas, electricity and water networks in past centuries. The Government has put aside £1.7 billion, of which over £17 million has been spent in Kent. Progress has already been made: as of June 2015, superfast broadband availability in my constituency had reached 76 percent. But this needs to make more difference on the ground where there are still big gaps, particularly in more rural areas, for our businesses to prosper.
We must also ensure that we keep up with a world that is becoming faster and faster. With speeds of at least 100 megabits per second, ultrafast broadband is the future – and yet availability was at only 1.2 percent in June.
I will shortly be launching a fresh campaign to ensure that our town and local businesses have what they need to flourish. For a bright future, Sevenoaks needs better broadband; now and for years to come.
Michael has announced his support for Britain remaining in the European Union following the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s renegotiation.
Michael said: “The Prime Minister’s renegotiation of our relationship with the EU is substantial. It will now give Britain special status within the EU and ensure our sovereignty is maintained, with the exemption from ‘ever closer union’.
Whether or not to remain in this reformed EU is a decision for the British people and my vote counts as much as anyone else’s.
I remain a Eurosceptic. But Britain’s national security is paramount and we are safer and stronger inside the EU: leaving would be a big gamble on an uncertain future.”
Michael has visited the Falkland Islands this week in the first visit by a UK Defence Secretary in more than a decade.
He spent time with islanders and MOD personnel in the capital Stanley and other sites, witnessing some of the construction work which is taking place as part of a £180m, 10-year commitment to modernise the defensive infrastructure of the islands. The £180m upgrade package includes £60m to improve the power station at Mount Pleasant Camp, £22m to improve facilities at the berths in Mare Harbour, and £20m of work on accommodation at Radar Heads.
As well as meeting current military personnel he also visited key locations from the 1982 conflict, including at Goose Green and San Carlos, and paid his respects to those who died on both the British and Argentinian sides.
Michael said: “This was an important opportunity to hear about life on the islands and the potential for economic development that will bring more jobs and prosperity. The right of the islanders to determine their own future was settled over 30 years ago and confirmed by the recent referendum.
Now we want to build a better relationship with the new Argentinian government, as neighbours in the South Atlantic and fellow G20 members.”
In the first of a new monthly column for the Sevenoaks Chronicle, Michael has written about his support for a new GP surgery in Dunton Green:
Following our grammar school success and with renewed progress on the Oyster campaign, with this new monthly column I will be keeping you up to date about my work as your Member of Parliament.
One of the best parts of my job is spending Friday and the weekend visiting different parts of my constituency. I look in on schools and businesses, I meet residents, and of course I hold my monthly advice surgeries in both Sevenoaks and Swanley.
Recently, I spent time focusing on healthcare and the challenges that our growing and ageing population will bring to Sevenoaks. We need more GP places and I believe a new medical facility in Dunton Green could help.
This is not just about Dunton Green, though with the ongoing development at Ryewood this is a rapidly growing area. It’s a valuable opportunity to relieve the rising pressure on other surgeries, securing benefits for residents across Sevenoaks.
I also met West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group which oversees our GP services. As they made clear, it is important to create a long-term plan for GP provision in Sevenoaks – but we must also deal with the immediate situation. Several local surgeries are already full and without timely action the situation could worsen.
We also need to look again at Sevenoaks Hospital and make sure that we are making fullest use of all the services provided there. The NHS is much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it’s local and loved.
Michael has announced that he has made further progress towards his manifesto commitment to bring Oyster to Sevenoaks.
Following a new commitment by Transport for London (TfL) to make a contribution towards the extension of the network, Mr Fallon will be seeking a joint meeting with TfL and the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, to push for action.
Michael said: “I welcome TfL’s strong support for the extension of Oyster to Sevenoaks. I am clear that Oyster is convenient and proven to work well. I made a commitment to the people of Sevenoaks to bring Oyster to our town and I intend to deliver it. I look forward to meeting with TfL and Claire Perry to make further progress.”
Evidence of strong local support is always important, so please click ‘Leave a comment’ to the left of this post if you believe Oyster should be extended to Sevenoaks.
Michael has given a cautious welcome to the independent review of the noise impact of arrivals at Gatwick Airport, which was published today.
Amongst its conclusions, the review proposes modifying aircraft and altering final descent procedures to reduce noise. Other proposals include the creation of an improved noise complaints system and measures to disperse arrivals to spread and reduce the impact of noise.
Michael said: “This report contains several sensible proposals that I hope will be introduced as soon as possible. Measures such as aircraft modifications could lead to improvements for everyone. I remain concerned about any changes that would lead to more of my constituents being affected by noise. I will continue to make representations in any future consultation.”
Michael has welcomed a new consultation on proposals for a new crossing of the Thames.
The Lower Thames Crossing would relieve congestion in the area, reduce air pollution levels and produce significant economic benefits for the region. The scheme, which could be completed by 2027 at the latest, would lead to the creation of 5,000 jobs and boost the economy by £7 billion.
Michael said: “A new Thames crossing would be a vital addition to Kent’s transport infrastructure. The number of complaints I receive about the Dartford Crossing shows that, despite recent changes, a long-term solution is needed. I encourage anyone concerned to participate in this consultation.”
Michael has welcomed the news that West Kingsdown Medical Centre will remain open after he intervened.
After a number of patients raised concerns with him, Michael pressed NHS England South East and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG to find a solution that maintained a local GP service in West Kingsdown.
Following his intervention, NHS England South East have announced that new local GPs will take over the medical centre, ensuring continuity for patients and opportunities for improved care.
Michael said: “This is excellent news. West Kingsdown needs its own surgery and I am glad that the NHS and the local CCG have listened to the concerns of local people and their representatives. I will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible.”
Last Friday, Michael was delighted to meet Pat Moore, a veteran of the Second World War D-Day campaign, at Pat’s home in Sevenoaks.
Pat has recently received the Legion d’Honneur from the French government in recognition of his service. Michael personally intervened after Pat experienced delays in receiving the award.
Pat said: “I met Michael and showed him my award. We talked about my time in the war and his own family’s military history as his Grandfather was a Royal Engineer. The award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to receiving it formally in March at Graye-Sur-Mer, Normandy.”
Michael also visited the Sevenoaks studio of scribe and illuminator Patricia Lovett MBE. He learned about the differences between materials such as vellum and parchment and listened closely to Patricia’s concerns about current plans to use paper instead of vellum
for printing Acts of Parliament.
Patricia said: “I was delighted to welcome Michael to my studio. Michael has been really helpful and most supportive of the Heritage Crafts Association’s campaign about continuing to print Acts of Parliament on vellum and we really appreciate his interest and considerable influence on this.”
Commenting on his visits, Michael said: “I was very pleased to meet Pat again and congratulate him on his award. He is a war hero and this award from the French is a well-deserved recognition of his participation in the D-Day campaign in particular. I am sure he will make the most of the formal presentation later this year.
I was also pleased to be able to visit Patricia’s studio. Vellum is an important part of our national history and Patricia’s incredible knowledge and skill suggests that it will continue to be so for many years to come. I will be urging my parliamentary colleagues to continue the use of vellum.”
Following the news that national campaign group Comprehensive Future will not be challenging the Government’s decision to approve a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks, Michael said:
“It would have been outrageous for politically motivated national campaigners to attempt to block the expansion of a successful school that is strongly backed by the people of Sevenoaks and Kent County Council.
I welcome the news that the annexe can now start to be built, meaning that local parents will at last have the same choice of schools as elsewhere in Kent.
We need more good school places in Kent in academies, grammars, and free schools. Any successful school should be allowed to expand, so it is wrong to discriminate against grammar schools.”