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.”
This has been a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley. Unemployment in the constituency has continued to fall in the last twelve months from 492 to 435. And we have had other very positive news too.
In particular, I welcome the Government’s decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to open an annexe in Sevenoaks. This long-awaited decision will lead to more school places and more choice for local parents and pupils. There must now be no further delay.
Of course, there is still more work to do. From aircraft noise to local healthcare, I am committed to ensuring that the interests of my constituents are properly represented. I also remain resolute in my desire to secure the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks and I will be meeting with the relevant organisations in the spring to seek further progress towards this ambition.
I look forward to continuing to serve Sevenoaks and Swanley in Parliament in 2016. I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year.
Michael has expressed concerns about the closure of the Knole Centre in his Sevenoaks constituency.
The centre provides neuro-rehabilitation care for patients across West Kent. It is run by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT), which announced its intention to close the service earlier this year. This has taken place early due to concerns about safe staffing over Christmas.
Michael said: “Clearly this is not an ideal situation. People will be understandably concerned about the closure of the service just before Christmas. Ultimately, patient safety has to come first. If the Knole Centre is unable to guarantee patient safety then it is right that it closes.
I am confident that significant planning has gone into managing the immediate situation but I will be seeking assurances that the new permanent services will provide a high quality of local, personal care.”
Michael has warned commuters in the Sevenoaks constituency to be prepared for significant rail disruption over the Christmas period.
In addition to the regular reduced service level between Christmas and New Year, no trains will be stopping at Charing Cross, Waterloo East, Cannon Street or London Bridge from 8pm on Christmas Eve until 4am on Monday 4th January. Service frequency will begin to reduce from the afternoon of 24th December. All trains will be redirected to Victoria, Blackfriars or New Cross and tickets will be accepted on Transport for London services.
Kent’s Members of Parliament met Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, and his team earlier this week to hear more about the plans, which are part of the Thameslink improvement programme at London Bridge.
Michael said: “Whilst I understand this major disruption to services is necessary for the ongoing redevelopment of London Bridge station, I will be monitoring the work to ensure that the reopening of the stations is not delayed. Passengers must not experience any more disruption than is absolutely necessary.”
On Friday, Michael was delighted to visit Knole Academy in the heart of Sevenoaks.
Michael answered questions about his work as a Member of Parliament and Defence Secretary from a range of students, including the Head Boy and Girl, the School Council and students involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Amy Edwards, who Michael recently welcomed to Parliament in her capacity as a National Citizen Service national ambassador, was also present to greet him.
Michael said: “It was excellent to be back at Knole hearing about their latest achievements. It was also good to see Amy again and to meet some of the school’s leading students. The quality of education available in Sevenoaks continues to improve. With Mrs Boyle at the helm, Knole has an important part to play in that progress.”
On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also visited Rockdale Housing Association and held his regular advice surgery.
Michael has welcomed Southeastern’s commitment to introduce a number of measures to minimise disruption for commuters from the Sevenoaks constituency this autumn and winter.
Michael wrote to Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, earlier this month to seek assurances about what plans Southeastern has to mitigate the impact of poor weather conditions on train performance.
In his response, Mr Statham stated that:
An additional three water jetting trains have been allocated to Kent this year by Network Rail to remove leaf debris;
Additional trackside equipment has been placed in areas that have caused serious disruption to journeys in the past to reduce the risk of disruptive incidents;
Southeastern will run empty trains through the night to keep tracks clear of ice;
Network Rail has installed heaters and NASA grade insulation to points at key locations and protective covers to points and point motors to keep snow out and prevent damage by ice falling from trains;
Southeastern has invested in hand-held mechanical snow ploughs to keep platforms, car parks and forecourts free of ice and snow;
Southeastern has reached agreement with Kent County Council to use its resources to ensure that station approach roads are kept clear.
On 4th October, Southeastern also introduced some changes to their timetable to take account of changing weather conditions and give passengers more certainty about arrival times.
Michael said: “I welcome the assurances that Southeastern have given me. They believe they are better equipped for poor weather conditions than before. But I will be continuing to monitor their performance to ensure that any problems that develop during the autumn and winter are dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible so that my constituents suffer the minimum of disruption.”
Michael enjoyed a visit to Tubs Hill House in the heart of Sevenoaks on Friday. The site formerly consisted of offices and is now being converted into 100 high quality new apartments, which will reinvigorate the centre of Sevenoaks.
The Prime Place project was begun in the summer by contractors Buxton Group, who will be using local tradespeople for the project. Willmott Dixon, who own the site, have a close relationship with Sevenoaks, having already constructed brand new buildings for Trinity Free School and Knole Academy.
Michael said: “It is essential that we build the homes that we need for future generations. Redevelopments like the one being undertaken at Tubs Hill House are an intelligent way to create more homes and reinvigorate our town without creating further urban sprawl or intruding on the Green Belt. It was a pleasure to see the latest progress on the site.”
On this latest regular day in his constituency, Mr Fallon also met Inspector Robert Slade at Swanley Police Station to discuss a number of local concerns and held his regular advice surgery at the offices of Sevenoaks District Council.
Michael applauds the Department for Education’s decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to build an annexe in the Sevenoaks constituency.
Following the announcement, Michael congratulated everyone who supported the campaign. He also called on the school and Kent County Council to implement the decision as soon as possible in order to successfully achieve the intended opening date of September 2017.
Michael said: “I am very, very pleased with the decision to approve Weald of Kent Grammar School’s application to build an annexe in Sevenoaks. I have strongly encouraged the Minister to reach this decision, which will finally end the absurd situation of Sevenoaks being the only area in Kent not to have a grammar school. It will also help to ease the growing pressure on school places in West Kent. Parents will have more choice, pupils will have shorter journeys and more of them will be able to access high quality schooling on their doorstep.
‘I would like to congratulate all the parents and campaigners who worked so hard for so long to achieve this great result. It was strong local support that helped make the difference. Following Thursday’s excellent decision, it is now time to move forward and get this new annexe built on the Wildernesse site as soon as possible. After all the time taken to get the go ahead, parents and pupils have a right to expect no further delays.”
On Saturday, Michael was pleased to attend the launch of Sevenoaks Community First Responders’ new 4×4 medical emergency response vehicle.
Communtiy First Responders are volunteers who are trained by the ambulance service to respond to emergency calls through the 999 system. Their new vehicle, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, has been named Ingrid after a member of the team who recently passed away.
Michael met the responders and discussed their important work. He was joined at the event by the mayor, the leader of Sevenoaks District Council and Tom Tugendhat, Member of Parliament for Tonbridge and Malling.
Michael said: “It is a great pleasure to be involved in the launch of Ingrid. Sevenoaks Community First Responders is an excellent voluntary organisation that plays a vital role in saving lives in our local community: this new vehicle will enable them to offer a better service than ever.”