The following Christmas and New Year newsletter has been received from Mrs Helen Whately, Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent which includes Hollingbourne. Although she does not mention Hollingbourne specifically she does refer to the fact that Operation Stack on the M20 at Hollingbourne will be replaced by Operation Brock whereby the M20 from Junction 8 at Hollingbourne to Junction 9 at Ashford will be used to stores thousands of vehicles if we leave the European Customs Union and Single Market after Brexit. This is because there could be significant delays at Dover and Eurotunnel for Customs once the UK leaves the Customs Union because of the additional documentation and checks required per lorry. During Operation Stack in 2015 there traffic problems not just on the M20 but on surrounding roads.
The full text of Mrs Whately’s Christmas message is below but the full version complete with images is at https://mailchi.mp/a08197d320a1/octo2018-1564801?e=fa4b90dcf5
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Congratulations to Leyla Tezer, 8, from Roseacre Junior School, who won the competition to design my Christmas card with this lovely wintry Kent scene
Brussels, charades and long arguments – in Parliament it’s like every day is Christmas! Top of my wish list is getting a break from Brexit debates and spending some time with my family.
Thankfully, we’ve moved back home after we were flooded out in spring. While in Westminster it feels like a political earthquake, it’s lovely to return to normality at home. I’m hugely grateful for the kind messages and offers of help we received.
In the summer, the Prime Minister appointed me the Party’s Vice Chair for Women. In this centenary year of women winning the right to vote, I’ve been at the forefront of a cross-party campaign to get more women to stand for election. Parliament is very different from how it was in 1918, but a century on, just under a third of MPs are women. One thing we know is that many women wait to be asked. If you’re a woman reading, please consider putting yourself forward.
I’ve also been working hard on my local campaigns. There’s not room to cover everything in this newsletter, but I’ve included some highlights, including progress on Operation Stack, Kent’s medical school, fruit pickers for farmers, mental health and equality for disabled people.
Brexit has divided Parliament. Some people argue for a Canada-style free trade deal, others would prefer to stay in the single market or not to leave at all. But the Prime Minister is not Santa Claus and she can’t please everyone. She fought hard for a pragmatic deal that respects the result of the referendum by ending free movement and huge payments to Brussels without risking jobs and curtailing trade with our largest export market.
As I write, the Prime minister has just won a confidence vote. I supported her and I’m pleased colleagues did the same so she can get back to work. This is a crucial point in the negotiations, not the time for a leadership contest.
Whatever happens, I’ll try to do the right thing, to the best of my judgement, for Faversham and Mid Kent and the country as a whole. I am not looking to be a hero, nor to have any particular place in history. I am just deeply aware of my responsibility to the people I represent.
Being MP for Faversham & Mid Kent is a privilege and an opportunity to do good, but it’s also a responsibility. This year that responsibility has weighed particularly heavily on my mind. As the year comes to an end, I hope that in 2019 we will be able to move on from the divisions of Brexit and focus on all the things that we need to do to make this constituency and the country a better place to live.
Kent is getting a medical school, now it’s time to sort out our hospitals
The news that Kent is getting a medical school was one of my best moments of the year
It’s been a difficult year for healthcare, especially the long cold winter of 2017/18. One reason East Kent’s hospitals have struggled is that they can’t recruit enough doctors for A&E. In March we had a great success for the campaign for a medical school. Kent will get one of five new medical schools to train a new generation of doctors. Having worked on this with the Kent universities and the local NHS since 2016, hearing this news was one of the best moments of my year.
Now we need to make sure we have great hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries for them to work in. I have pressed the local NHS to give proper consideration to a new specialist hospital in Canterbury.
While hospital decisions are contentious, the continued uncertainty means that hospitals are getting more dilapidated, so the NHS must get on with it.
More money for mental health
I was re-elected chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health, giving me the chance to influence national policy—and I was delighted when the Chancellor announced an extra £2 billion for mental health.
Locally we’re seeing the benefits of investment, with £500,000 allocated for mental health teams in all our A&Es and a new £2.3 million mother and baby unit in Dartford for new mothers needing inpatient care. My biggest concern locally is children and young people’s mental health services, where we have long waiting times. I’m working with colleagues to put pressure on the NHS to get a grip of this service.
Farmers need fruit pickers
Seasonal workers’ scheme will allow farmers to hire fruit pickers from outside the EEA
Our countryside and economy are enriched by fruit farming. But it’s a tough business as farmers are struggling to find workers to pick and pack fruit.
This is a problem across the EU, but it’s particularly hard in Britain because of the fall in value of the pound. Campaigning with other MPs,
I got the Government to agree to pilot a seasonal agricultural workers scheme for 2,500 workers from outside the EEA.
It’s a good start, but the horticulture industry employs 80,000 seasonal workers a year, so I’ll be working to make sure the pilot scheme is a success and can be scaled up.
No more Operation Stack
We must never see a return to scenes like this
Leaving the EU without a deal would have particular consequences for Kent. We know what it’s like to have the county turned into a lorry park because of Operation Stack. I have called on Ministers and Highways England to make sure traffic can flow if we get delays at the Channel crossings.
The new plan is called Operation Brock, and involves a contraflow on the M20. Manston Airport and the M26 have both been identified as options for further queuing but there are questions about feasibility. The reality is even small delays at the border could lead to some very long queues. A Brexit deal which avoids border checks would put us in a much better position.
My Bill will make flying fairer
I decided to change the law to make flying more accessible after a constituent from Kingswood told me what a nightmare he’d had at an airport in my advice surgery.
I’ve introduced a Private Member’s Bill to make sure airport and airline staff are properly trained and wheelchairs are kept safe during the flight.
Disabled people have been overlooked while able-bodied people have benefitted from cheap, easy, flights. We’ve made buses and trains more accessible, now it’s time to make flying fairer
Solar park could obliterate marshes
Cleve Hill proposals will change this landscape forever
I’m worried that plans for a solar farm will cover Graveney marshes, harming wildlife and changing the landscape beyond recognition. Though the developer has listened to concerns and reduced the scale, it’s still huge.
Solar energy is important for a sustainable, green future – but this is just massive. With 880,000 panels, it will industrialise swathes of open countryside. This beautiful, eerie landscape loved by walkers might never be the same again.
New lifts at Faversham station at last – now Headcorn needs them too
The faulty lifts at Faversham station were finally fixed in December. Great news for disabled passengers, parents with buggies – anyone who can’t use stairs. Now it’s time for other stations like Headcorn and Lenham to get step-free access.
With over 600,000 passengers a year, Headcorn is a particularly strong candidate and I’ve been working hard with borough, parish and county councillors to raise its chances. The Government has announced a £300 million fund to improve step-free access at train stations, and we’ve just heard Headcorn has been shortlisted for a share of the money. I’ll be making a strong case for this station to be prioritised for funding.
Mrs Whately can be contacted at
Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid-Kent
House of Commons
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
020 7219 6472
Pictured below is the M20 in Hollingbourne which is being prepared for Operation Brock after Brexit if the UK leaves the Customs Union. The coastbound lane on the left will be used for storing 2000 lorries while the lanes on the right will be contraflow with the centre two lanes for non-lorry coastbound traffic and the London bound inside lane and hard shoulder being used for all London bound traffic including lorries.
In 2007 the then Government promised to resurface the M20 in the picture with quiet tarmac to reduce the surface noise from the concrete section of the M20 from Hollingbourne to Ashford. Unfortunately nothing has been done despite election promises from successive Member of Parliament and the Highways Agency has indicated that no work is likely to happen until probably 2031 when it is due for renewal. Presumably the ongoing use of this section of the M20 for Operation Brock will make roadworks very difficult. This section of the M20 was the last motorway to be built with a ribbed concrete service and is not compatible with current EU noise standards.