Michael recently opened the new head office of major construction firm FM Conway.
Conway, which was founded in 1961, has moved its operations and 250 staff to Sevenoaks from Dartford. The company works across the South East, including Olympic and Diamond Jubilee Projects as well as the Barclays’ Cycle Superhighway in London. The new office is the result of a complete refurbishment, with state-of-the-art office facilities and a fresh exterior.
In his speech, Michael welcomed the company and its staff to Sevenoaks. He announced that unemployment in his constituency has fallen to its lowest ever recorded level and said that he was proud that jobs like those provided by Conway mean that Sevenoaks is a bustling and vibrant centre of employment.
On Thursday, Michael addressed the annual Sevenoaks Chamber of Commerce summer reception. As Patron of the Chamber, Michael spoke about the impact of the EU referendum result for small businesses and the important role of the Chamber in the local economy:
Thank you Colonel.
It’s a pleasure to join you all tonight in this, the busiest week in politics since last week.
Every MP will tell you that they represent the best constituency in the country.
But clearly they’ve never been to Sevenoaks.
All of you here tonight, coupled with these beautiful surroundings, make that clearer than ever.
I always like to remind people that it is small and medium-sized businesses like some of those represented here tonight which make up 99 percent of the total in Britain.
In Sevenoaks, there are now 600 more businesses than there were six years ago.
Employing more people, producing more goods, selling more services.
That’s the equivalent of a new business being set up every three days.
So despite that success, or perhaps because of it, I know some of you are concerned about the result of the referendum on our EU membership and our current economic instability.
I would like to reassure you that our new Government, led by a new Prime Minister, is already working hard to restore the confidence and certainty that we need.
We are well prepared for the period of adjustment that lies ahead.
We will do whatever it takes to protect our economy.speech
We will forge new arrangements and trade deals.
We will make it work.
As we leave the EU, there will be lots of changes.
It will not be easy to negotiate a deal with the EU that controls immigration and recovers sovereignty while protecting our hard won economic growth.
But what will not change is the ingenuity, commitment and hard work of businesses like yours all around the country, but most of all here in Sevenoaks.
That’s always been valuable and I think its value will become even clearer in the coming years.
But the importance of your contribution demonstrates why the work of our Chamber of Commerce is so important.
I am always impressed by the range of the services and events that are on offer.
I am reliably informed that the new networking meetings are proving to be successful, as well as your recent charity golf day, your newsletter and the Curry Club.
It is with opportunities like these that our local economy can go from strength to strength. I encourage you all to make full use of them.
Finally, I would like congratulate the Chamber of Commerce on its achievements over the past year, and wish you all the very best of luck.
It’s now a pleasure to introduce Marc Vernet, headline sponsor of tonight’s event and owner of that stalwart of Sevenoaks for the past 25 years, Amherst Accountancy.
Michael has welcomed the announcement that the Government will introduce a new legal right to a fast broadband connection.
In the Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty stated: ‘Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband.’
The news is a boost to Michael’s ongoing campaign to secure improvements to broadband for homes and businesses throughout his constituency. Michael has already met representatives from BT and is continuing to press for assurances about the progress of the superfast rollout programme.
Michael said: “I am delighted by this new commitment. Sevenoaks needs better broadband, now and for years to come. This new universal obligation will mean that no home or business is left behind. I will continue to fight for my constituents to ensure it is implemented as soon as possible.”
Last May, I was honoured to be elected for the fifth time as your Member of Parliament.
Since the election, I have continued to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents. I hold two advice surgeries each month, as I have done consistently since 1997, and I regularly raise issues and concerns on your behalf. My Westminster office also deals with hundreds of emails and enquiries every week. I work closely with our county, district, town and parish councillors, as well as other organisations such as Kent Police, the Citizens Advice Bureau and West Kent Housing.
I remain closely involved in campaigns across Sevenoaks and Swanley. From fighting to save Hextable Dance Studio to defending Sevenoaks Hospital, I am proud to support my constituents and fight for our communities.
Supporting our local schools
I am a strong supporter of schools across my constituency. Since the election I have visited schools in Westerham, Sundridge, Swanley, Sevenoaks, and elsewhere to speak to pupils and answer their questions about my work as MP.
Winning our campaign to secure grammar school provision last October was probably my best ever day as your MP. This decision was long in coming but the priority now is to get this annexe built and open for local parents and pupils. My next goal is to secure grammar provision for boys and I am working on this.
Getting a better deal for commuters
Our ageing railways cause a huge amount of frustration for commuters and passen
gers. Disruption may be the price of the vital work at London Bridge – but passengers need to know why they are delayed and what is being done about it. I was concerned to learn on a recent train cab ride that drivers are often unable to inform passengers about ongoing disruption and slow running while their train is in operation. Making sure drivers and passengers have rapid, clear and sufficent information is essential. I will continue to raise these issues with Southeastern to make rail travel easier for my constituents.
Bringing Oyster to Sevenoaks was another promise I made at the general election. Rail passengers have waited long enough and I will be meeting the Rail Minister again shortly to push for a definite date.
Fighting for our NHS services
I am committed to our local NHS. We need to see more services in Sevenoaks, not fewer. That’s why I have continued to defend Sevenoaks Hospital against the threat of closure. The withdrawal of some clinics was concerning but I have secured assurances that these vital services will continue to be available for local people.
Protecting GP services is also important. There is a review of GP provision underway and I will ensure the views of local people are fully represented. The NHS is so much more than the big district hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley; it works best where it is local and loved.
Boosting our local economy
In Sevenoaks and Swanley, our local economy is strong. Compared with 2010, there are 600 fewer people out of work, including 200 fewer young unemployed, and we have 600 more businesses. I see evidence of this progress on each of my regular constituency days. Since the election, I have visited businesses, shops and local sites throughout the constituency and I have more visits already planned for the next few months.
But there is still more to do to support our local economy. Broadband is a key issue that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce continue to raise with me. I have recently begun a fresh campaign to demand further action from BT. We need to make sure our local businesses and those who work from home have the broadband they need to thrive, wherever they are based.
On Friday, Michael opened the fifth annual Sevenoaks Business Show at the Stag Plaza.
In his speech, Michael spoke about the 600 new businesses that have been established in Sevenoaks since 2010 and the constituency’s historic low level of unemployment, which has fallen by sixty percent since 2010. He also referred to the Government’s support for the ‘South East Accelerator’ with lower business rates and corporation tax.
Michael concluded by saying: “This is the fifth annual show and each year there is more and more evidence of the incredible success of our local enterprises. I am always proud to be Patron of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership – but I am never more proud than when I open this annual Business Show.”
Following his speech, Michael spent time speaking to each of the 32 businesses with a stall at the show and meeting a number of local apprentices.
Michael was given a fresh insight into Westerham’s strong community spirit on Friday. In a series of visits, he heard about local concerns and voiced support for the town’s businesses and initiatives.
Michael participated in an assembly at Churchill C of E Primary School and answered questions from pupils. He also heard about and endorsed the school’s ‘Traffic Watch’ scheme to reduce speeds on nearby roads.
He joined local residents and volunteers at the ‘Forget-me-not’ Memory Café at Westerham Congregational Church, which brings dementia sufferers and carers together once a month for conversation and companionship.
Visiting a number of small businesses, including Westerham Cyclery and Chartwell Apothecary, he discussed the state of the local economy and the impact of the changes to business rates announced in the Budget last Wednesday.
Michael said: “With innovative local businesses like Westerham Cyclery and its strong community atmosphere, I was pleased to see that Westerham is as vibrant as ever.
Abolishing business rates for small businesses and shops should be a big boost.”
Town Clerk Angela Howells said: “The Forget-me-not Café has been running for seven months and we were pleased that Mr Fallon was able to come and hear about the need that this initiative is meeting.”
Michael welcomed figures released this week showing that tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Sevenoaks and Swanley are now able to benefit from superfast broadband coverage.
The Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to bring superfast broadband to as many people as possible across the UK. The Kent element of the national programme has been allocated over £17 million.
In the Sevenoaks constituency, this will ensure that 14,726 premises will benefit from superfast coverage by June 2017, of which 11,724 have now received coverage. This is in addition to the 23,584 premises that have received it under the commercial programme.
In the three months to June specifically, 1,769 premises across the constituency have gained coverage.
Michael said: “I welcome that the Government’s commitment to superfast broadband expansion is continuing to benefit people across my constituency. It is crucial to keeping our local economy growing and will make life easier, cheaper and faster. I will continue to advocate further expansion over the coming years.”
Michael welcomed new figures showing that 60 people have started their own business after being helped off benefits in his Sevenoaks constituency, with the support of the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance.
Since its introduction in April 2011, the allowance has helped 73,000 people on out of work benefits across the country to set up their own businesses. Individuals are supported by a business mentor and receive 26 weeks of financial support.
Michael said: “It is excellent news that so many people in my constituency have not only left a life on benefits, but have also started to make such a positive contribution to our economic success. This is the latest example of the Government supporting those who want to work. I wish all those who have been helped by the New Enterprise Allowance every success.”
On Friday, Michael visited The Darent Wax Company Limited in his Sevenoaks constituency.
Michael was shown around the site by Anthony Ward, who founded the business in 1984, and manager Louis Finlayson-Green. They discussed how as the local MP he could support the company’s desire to expand into new premises elsewhere in the constituency.
Michael was particularly impressed by the hardworking team, many of whom live locally and whose skills the company are keen to retain.
The company is a leader in the wax industry with its head office and production facilities based in the Sevenoaks constituency.
Michael said: “It was a great pleasure to be shown around Darent Wax by Tony and Louis today. Small- and medium- sized businesses like this are the lifeblood of our local economy, creating more jobs and prosperity, and I will be supporting future expansion in any way I can.”
I was pleased to support and officially open the Sevenoaks Business Show today.
There are now 760,000 more business in the UK than there were five years ago. Since 2010, more than 2.2 million new jobs have been created. In the Sevenoaks area the number of unemployed persons has halved – from 1,074 in 2010 to 484 in March 2015. These are both remarkable achievements.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the driving force of the economic recovery. From cutting taxes to helping hire staff – the Government is backing small businesses and will always make sure that they get the support they need to start up and thrive.
We have some amazing businesses here in the Sevenoaks area. As MP and a Minister I have always been unashamedly pro-enterprise. That means promoting competition, opening up markets, and championing new firms. It’s something I’ve done whether in the Business Department scrapping red tape, or as an Energy Minister backing new suppliers. It is also what I am doing in the Ministry of Defence by opening up more government spending to SMEs.