Michael yesterday welcomed members of the Sevenoaks Youth Council to Westminster.
Led by Sevenoaks Town Council Chief Executive Linda Larter, the group received a tour of the Palace of Westminster before meeting Michael in one of Parliament’s historic committee rooms.
Michael answered questions on a range of topics relating to his responsibilities as Secretary of State for Defence, including North Korea, cyber security and nuclear proliferation.
The group were also able to watch Michael from the public gallery in the House of Commons as he answered questions from MPs.
Michael said: “I was delighted to welcome members of Sevenoaks Youth Council to Parliament. With their perceptive and intelligent questions, they showed that young people in my constituency are increasingly interested in major political issues. I always enjoy welcoming people to see how Parliament works and look forward to hosting more schools and community groups soon.”
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 today welcomed members of the Weald CP School Bridge Club to the Houses of Parliament.
Local volunteers have been promoting Bridge to pupils at the school for over a year. The visit to Parliament celebrates the Bridge Club’s achievement of becoming the most successful school bridge initiative in Kent. 16 pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6 have already gained English Bridge Union (EBU) proficiency certificates and there are now plans to extend the programme into other schools.
Hosted by Baroness Henig, captain of the House of Lords Bridge team, pupils were given a tour of Parliament and had the opportunity to play Bridge with several members of the Lords before meeting Michael.
Michael said: “I was delighted to welcome the pupils to Parliament today. They should be very proud of their achievement. It is good to see that initiatives like this one are proving to be so successful in our local schools.”
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.
Michael was welcomed on Friday to Rural Age Concern Darent Valley’s Cottage Day Centre in Fawkham.
Greeted by Chief Officer Liam Curran and Trustees including Cllr Madeleine Rogers and Cllr Faye Parkin, Michael met clients and heard about the charity’s exciting expansion plans.
The day came after his visit to Age Concern’s refurbished shop in the centre of Swanley in April.
Michael said: “I was delighted to meet clients and staff at the day centre. It offers a vital service for older people living in rural areas in the north of my constituency. We need facilities like this to be bigger and even better and I look forward to supporting Age Concern’s efforts to expand.”
On Saturday, Michael cut the ribbon on the first piece of disabled friendly equipment to be installed in Swanley Park. He was joined by local councillors, the Mayor of Swanley, Cllr Shanker Gaire, and local resident Kerry Rogers and her family.
Michael said: “I was delighted to open the new piece of disabled friendly equipment at Swanley Park. I am particularly pleased that even more children will now be able to make the most of what the park has to offer. With the impressive fundraising efforts of the Mayor of Swanley, Shanker Gaire, and the hard work of local councillors, I am sure this will be only the first of many improvements.”
Swanley Town Council has committed to building an extension to the existing playground in Swanley Park which will provide disability friendly and sensory playground equipment. Cllr Gaire’s fundraising efforts are supporting this commitment and the council will shortly be inviting companies to submit bids and design ideas for the extension.
Michael today hailed a local ‘success story’ as he joined local parents and children to open the Children’s Workshop’s new building in Sevenoaks.
The pre-school was formerly located at Sevenoaks Rugby Club but decided to move to new and improved premises last year. Michael assisted the school as it sought to secure planning permission for its new timber-clad building on the edge of Lady Boswell’s School. Permission was granted in October 2015 after special consideration was granted.
Michael spoke about the importance of pre-school education for working families in Sevenoaks before the building was formally opened by Mr Bloom from CBeebies with the firing of a confetti cannon.
Michael said: “I have been proud to support the Children’s Workshop’s move and I was delighted to attend today. The new building is a success story, demonstrating what can be achieved when local communities come together. It will provide a vital service that benefits both parents and children for many years to come.”
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.
Michael has announced that he is ‘reassured’ after a recent visit to Sevenoaks Hospital.
His visit came following recent changes to the outpatient services offered by Sevenoaks Hospital.
Following significant local concern, Michael secured assurances from West Kent CCG and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, that Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust would take over the clinics previously offered by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
Michael was met at the hospital by David Griffiths, Chairman of Kent Community Health, Paul Bentley, Chief Executive, matron Rachel Nicholls and other representatives. They showed him the hospital’s wards and the Minor Injuries Unit, before accompanying him to Darent House, the former site of the Knole Centre. Mr Griffiths and Mr Bentley then briefed Michael on the latest developments at the hospital.
Michael said: “There has been some concern in Sevenoaks about the future of our hospital. Having visited, I am reassured that it will retain its vital role in our local NHS, taking pressure off acute hospitals like Pembury and Darent Valley. We need more local NHS care, not less, and I will continue to press for even more services to deliver the healthcare we need at Sevenoaks Hospital.”