Column: Let’s Give Local Businesses A Bright Future

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 Visits the Falkland Islands

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Michael speaking to military personnel on the Falklands. Crown Copyright.

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.

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Michael paying his respects to those who fell in the 1982 conflict. Crown Copyright.

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.”