Protect Our Veterans

I am seriously concerned about proposals to not issue a statute of limitations on historical allegations against our Veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

As Defence Secretary, I shut down an inquiry into alleged human rights abuses by our soldiers in Iraq and I see no reason why there should be one for our soldiers in Northern Ireland.

I spoke on this subject in a recent Westminster Hall debate on 15th May, and you can watch my contribution from 17:06:40, and indeed the whole debate from 16:46:05 here: Westminster Hall Debate on Historical Allegations against our Veterans

I, and other MPs, are actively campaigning on this and will continue to do so.

Darent Valley Hospital Visit

Sir Michael last week visited Darent Valley Hospital, where he met staff and the Interim Chief Executive, Gerard Sammon.

He said: “I was pleased to visit Darent Valley Hospital and hear about how well they dealt with increasing demand in the winter months. Staff recruitment is always a challenge for the NHS but this hospital will benefit in time from Kent’s new medical school.”

Defibrillator Champion

Sir Michael this week became a Defibrillator Champion at an event held by The Oliver King Foundation, a charity set up following the sudden death of 12-year-old Oliver from a cardiac arrest. The Foundation campaigns to have defibrillators on site in every school in the UK.

He said: “Early access to a defibrillator is vital. I am proud to become a Defibrillator Champion for Sevenoaks and I will be working hard to ensure that there are defibrillators present in our public places, particularly in local schools to protect our children and teachers.”

Sir Michael becomes Debifrillator Champion

Valence School Hill Climb

On 13th April, Sir Michael attended the Valence School Hill Climb, a classic and vintage car show with a hill sprint, which raises money for extra resources and trips for the students.

Valence School, a Foundation Special School and part of the Kent Special Educational Needs Trust, is a school for children and young people who have physical disabilities and complex medical needs.

Sir Michael said: “I am a huge supporter of the work that Valence School does in enabling children with disabilities to lead more independent lives, and it was a pleasure to attend the Hill Climb to raise money for educational trips to supplement their learning.”

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Sir Michael in a vintage Auburn Supercharged Speedster
Sir Michael in a vintage Auburn Supercharged Speedster

Remap

Last week Michael visited the Kemsing-based charity Remap, home to an army of ingenious volunteer inventors who work alongside occupational therapists to provide bespoke equipment and gadgets for disabled people to enable them to live with greater independence and quality of life.  The inventions are not available to buy commercially and have helped over 3,500 people a year in the UK.

Some Remap inventions to date have included built-in ramps to assist with wheelchair access, custom-made paintbrushes to help those suffering from arthritis and pushchairs attached to a belt to enable parents who aren’t able to walk without assistance.

Remap’s Chief Executive, David Martin, said: “It was a pleasure to host Sir Michael at Remap, showing him our custom-made inventions and explaining some of the challenges we face.  Remap has the capacity to help more people lead more independent lives, but in order to do that we need more funding to improve our advertising and spread the word.”

Michael replied that “Remap’s volunteers do brilliant work to help people lead more independent lives, and are only paid expenses and for the cost of the parts of their inventions.  They are yet another example of the innovation here in Sevenoaks and I will be writing to the Minister for Disabled People, urging her to take a look at Remap’s work.”

Michael Pushes for Better Access to Heathrow for West Kent

Michael has pushed for better access to Heathrow for the residents of west Kent as part of new plans to extend Crossrail.

Speaking in an adjournment debate on the possible Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet, alongside Dartford MP Gary Johnson, Michael insisted that it would benefit the whole of Kent if residents could secure direct access to the UK’s largest airport.

He said: “Having direct access to Heathrow airport, which we currently lack, would relieve congestion in all parts of Kent considerably, not least on the M25. I would urge that the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission consider implementing these changes for the benefit of the whole of Kent.”

Dr Dambisa Moyo

Michael with Dr Danbisa Moyo at the House of Commons
Michael with Dr Danbisa Moyo at the House of Commons

Michael had the pleasure of chairing a fascinating discussion from the economist and New York Times bestselling author, Dr Dambisa Moyo, recently in Parliament.

 The event, hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, saw Dr Moyo lay out her ideas on how to tackle the current global economic and political problems we face. Drawing on her latest book, The Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It, Dr Moyo outlined her 10-point plan, which argued that economic growth can only be achieved by overhauling liberal democracy.

 Sir Michael said: “It was an honour to chair this event and listen to the ideas presented by Dr Moyo. We should all be taking seriously her proposals – including politicians.”

Meeting Southeastern

Michael met senior managers at Southeastern to discuss constituents’ complaints about the new timetables, overcrowding and out of use toilets.

He told Southeastern that it had to do better. He asked whether Southeastern could offer additional peak time services to London alongside Thameslink to give commuters more choice. Southeastern have offered to keep the new timetable changes under review to work with Thameslink to make further adjustments later.

Sir Michael said: “I have emphasised my concerns with overcrowding and the need to keep improving punctuality. Passenger numbers have increased significantly since privatisation, but the quality of service needs to reflect the high fares commuter pay. I will continue to make this case to Ministers as the next Kent franchise is prepared and awarded.”

Lizzy Yarnold MBE Tours Sevenoaks District

Lizzie with her 2 gold medals
Lizzy with her 2 gold medals beside the gold bus

Crowds turned out in force to welcome and congratulate Lizzy with her 2 Olympic gold medals for the sport of Skeleton.  The first medal was awarded in 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games and the second was gained this year at the 2018 Korea Winter Games in PyeongChang.  She was the only British athlete to gain a gold medal at this event.

Lizzy started her tour of the Sevenoaks area in an open-topped bus which left the District Council offices at 9.30 am and then visited as many schools as possible throughout the morning, meeting students from Knole Acadamy, Weald of Kent, Trinity, Otford, Shoreham, Eynsford, Farningham, Swanley, HortonKirby and finally West Kingsdown.

Lizzie Yarnold with Michael at SDC offices
Lizzy Yarnold with Michael at SDC offices

Fighting for Sevenoaks Commuters

Michael has vowed to continue fighting for rail travellers ahead of the new May 2018 timetable.

He met senior directors from Thameslink recently and complained that commuters to London and children heading to school in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells would be inconvenienced by the new timings.

In response, Thameslink made clear that it would provide the same number of services to London, though some timings are altered.  The new 700 trains would double capacity to 1,000 seats.  There was an extensive consultation last summer, with over 100 responses from this section of the line and the Sevenoaks Rail Passengers Association were involved.  The timetables had been co-ordinated closely with Southeastern, who share an office with Thameslink.

Sir Michael said: “The consultation wasn’t thorough enough.  Too many people have been inconvenienced.  I have insisted that Thameslink be prepared to make changes to the timetables if there is sufficient evidence that particular services can be re-timed in ways that create more winners and losers.  Timetables are revised again in December, and I am asking those who have complained to me to see if they can identify particular changes that could help.”