Michael has reviewed the Government’s proposed new legislation on offensive and dangerous weapons with local knife maker Clive Witton.
The Sevenoaks MP recently visited Mr Witton’s workshop to learn more about the process of knife making. As a specialist knife-maker, Mr Witton is concerned that the new rules from Government will make it more difficult for craftsmen to send knives in the post.
Mr Witton said: “While I understand that the UK needs to consider new ways to stop young people getting hold of knives, the Government must ensure that the small craft sector is not damaged as a result.”
Michael raised Mr Witton’s concerns directly with the Home Secretary, who assured him that the proposal to restrict the online sale of knives is aimed at strengthening the prohibition on sales of knives to under-18s.
According to the Home Office, evidence from recent test purchase operations shows that the failure rate on online test purchases is high. However, the Home Secretary said Mr Witton’s points will be carefully considered as part of the Government’s response to the consultation process, which ended in December.
Michael said: “It’s right that the Government reviews our weapons law. But those affected like Clive should have their say, so I’m pleased that the Home Secretary will listen.”
Michael has welcomed the new arrival of Westerham Brewery in Westerham at an official opening ceremony last week.
The return of the brewery to the town has been long-awaited but locals were finally able to explore the tap room and shop on Thursday (12). The brewery uses locally-sourced malt, hops and hard water that is highly rated for the brewing of ales such as the IPA for which Westerham was once famous.
Robert Wicks, the brewery owner, invited Michael to say a few words to mark the special occasion following a tour of the site for over 100 people.
Westerham is renowned within military circles for having provided troops posted in Normandy during the Second World War with ales. These ales were smuggled across the Channel in the empty auxiliary tanks of Spitfires from Biggin Hill.
‘I should think our servicemen and women aboard our new aircraft carriers would also appreciate being reminded of Westerham’s historic role in our military’, Michael joked.
Michael hopes the new development will increase the town’s tourism. He said: ‘Having benefitted directly from the regional investment programme I set up as Business Minister back in 2014, Westerham Brewery will strengthen not only the rural economy but also the character of the town.’
Michael has welcomed new figures released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that show current superfast coverage in the Sevenoaks constituency is over 92 per cent.
The Government funded BDUK programme has made superfast broadband available to 13,112 homes and businesses, and it estimates that 95 per cent of the constituency will have superfast coverage by the end of the year.
The Government is also introducing a Broadband Universal Service Obligation to give consumers the right to request fast, affordable broadband wherever they live and work.
This will mean that by 2022, everyone can request a connection of at least 10Mbps, which is around half the speed of superfast, but still quick enough to download a half-hour TV show in two minutes. Currently, less than 3 per cent of premises in the Sevenoaks constituency receive below 10Mbps.
Michael said: ‘It’s good news that much of the constituency is already covered by superfast broadband. But I won’t rest until we get 100 per cent coverage. I will continue to work hard with ministers, BT and KCC to ensure constituents and businesses are getting the speeds they need.’
Michael has today praised local businesses ahead of the sixth annual Sevenoaks Business Show.
The local MP, who is also Patron of Sevenoaks Town Partnership, opened the fifth annual Sevenoaks Business Show last year, and will be meeting with a number of local businesses on his constituency visit this Friday.
Michael’s visit comes one week after new unemployment figures showed that Sevenoaks is among the constituencies with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. The total number of unemployed claimants in Sevenoaks in March 2017 was 395, representing a decrease of 19 per cent since 2015 and of 67 per cent since 2010.
Michael said: ‘It’s a great time to be in business in Sevenoaks. Unemployment remains at an historic low, more people are finding full time jobs, wages have grown yet again, and there are over 700 more businesses in Sevenoaks than there were in 2010.’
Michael visited Chevening Financial in Sundridge on Friday to congratulate them on becoming the first ever recipient of the Small Business Big Heart Award.
He was met by representatives including David Hawes-Gatt, Managing Director of Chevening Financial, and heard about the business’ work and contribution to the community.
Chevening Financial secured the title after stiff competition from small businesses across the UK. It was selected as the winner in recognition of its eight-year long programme of community support. This includes taking housebound pensioners out for shopping and socialising, with Mr Hawes-Gatt clocking up 4,000 miles in total to date. The company is donating its £1,000 prize money to DEBRA, a charity it supports which helps people with the genetic skin condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB).
Michael said: “I was delighted to be able to congratulate David and his team at Chevening Financial in person for receiving this award. Becoming a regional finalist was impressive; winning the national competition is a quite remarkable achievement. I am proud that a business in my constituency is playing such an active role in the community and I look forward to hearing more about its work in the future.”
On his latest day in his constituency, Michael also discussed healthcare with local commissioners, visited the Parents’ Consortium in Hextable and met representatives from Swanley Town Council.
In a sometimes unsettled year nationally, Sevenoaks, Swanley, Westerham and our villages have continued to go from strength to strength. Unemployment remains at record low levels. Our new grammar annexe is being constructed and will open next year. Our local economy is vibrant and prosperous.
Building on this progress will require more work in the New Year. Bringing fast broadband to all parts of the constituency is still a top priority. We must also continue to work hard to protect our much-loved Green Belt from inappropriate development. Most importantly, though, the spring will see consultation on the new rail franchise and I will use this opportunity to push for the extension of the Oyster network to Sevenoaks.
At the end of a successful year for Sevenoaks and Swanley, I would like to wish all of my constituents a very happy Christmas and New Year. I am always proud to represent this constituency and I look forward to being as active as ever throughout the area in 2017.
Michael showed his support for local businesses earlier this month with a visit to Sevenoaks town centre.
He met business owners on from high street shops and small businesses such as The Chinaman, Sevenoaks Bookshop, Barkers and Grace to talk about the busy lead up to Christmas and their efforts to attract customers. He was joined by Sevenoaks District Council Leader, Cllr Peter Fleming and Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Cllr Roddy Hogarth.
Michael said: “I was pleased to visit these thriving local businesses at such a busy time of the year. They really are the lifeblood of Sevenoaks’ economy and this was an excellent opportunity to hear about their latest progress.”
On Friday, Michael visited the Teardrop Centre in Swanley.
The site, which was formerly derelict, has recently been brought back into use by Trimline Distribution Group. Michael was shown around by Partner Bruce Hazell and heard about the progress that has been made to restore the centre.
He spoke to an assembled group of employees about the Government’s support for the economy and answered questions about his work as Secretary of State for Defence.
Michael visited Buzy Bees Soft Play Area in Ash on Friday to celebrate its first birthday under new management.
Buzy Bees offers children a fantastic soft play environment and Michael was delighted to see so many children enjoying the facilities.
As well as the soft play area, Buzy Bees offers an after school club and a holiday club for parents needing extra childcare.
Michael said: “It was wonderful to see the children enjoying the soft play area and to see their parents and guardians taking advantage of the on-site café. This thriving local business is offering an invaluable childcare service to the local community. I would like to wish Buzy Bees the very best of luck for the coming year.”
To find out more about these facilities, please click here.