Faversham and Kent MP Mrs Helen Whately has sent out a newsletter about her voting intention tomorrow when the House of Commons will vote on Mrs May’s Brexit deal. Please Read More for further information.
Welcome to my newsletter
There is a vote on the deal planned for tomorrow and I hope it gets through. If it doesn’t then we are expecting further votes on whether the Government should go ahead without a deal, or request an extension of Article 50. I want us to leave with a deal to end all this uncertainty, deliver the referendum result and let us move on.
However we do need contingency plans for no deal. Over the past few weeks I’ve sat on committees to make sure that our laws will still work whatever happens at the end of the month, in particular for the shipment of radioactive materials and trade in animal products. The whole House has scrutinised the legislation to make other vital changes in areas like medicines, agriculture and financial services.
I wish that there was more clarity and certainty for everyone over Brexit, but this isn’t the case. My priority is to honour the referendum result by taking us out of the EU’s institutions while protecting jobs and businesses.
It’s so important to get Brexit right for the future of the country, but I’m not letting it get in the way of my local campaigns. In this newsletter you can read updates on the enormous solar power station on the Graveney Marshes, healthcare in East Kent and protections for park home owners. I’m also working nationally for a cleaner environment and equality for women.
Let’s make Graveney Marshes a haven for wildlife instead of a solar power station
From the top of the tower of All Saint’s Church you can see for miles across Graveney Marshes. You really get a sense of what a waste it would be if this landscape was covered with black solar panels. I went up the other day with local campaigners from the Graveney Rural Environment Action Team to hear about the impact plans for a huge solar power station could have on their lives.
I also invited representatives from the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Kent Wildlife Trust to discuss the impact on wildlife and the natural environment. Each organisation will have a say on the planning application, before the final decision is made by the Government.
Solar energy is important – but this site has so much potential. It could be used for natural flood management or as a habitat for rare birds. Industrialising it with swathes of solar panels would be a missed opportunity to do something even better for the environment.
What does stroke units decision mean for patients?
If you have a stroke and you live in Kent, your chances of recovering are currently worse than in other areas. That’s not acceptable. Now that the NHS has decided where the new stroke units will be we’re a step closer to getting better care.
Patients in Maidstone will now have a hyper-acute stroke unit on their doorstep. But on the other side of the constituency people are worried about the choice of William Harvey Hospital, and what it means for the future of the Kent & Canterbury. That’s why I have previously sought reassurance on this and been told very clearly that this does not affect forthcoming decisions about the future of East Kent Hospitals (and Kent & Canterbury specifically). If the decision is made to have the major acute hospital in Canterbury, the Stroke Unit would move there.
I have written again to the NHS following the latest announcement asking for confirmation of this, and assurance that if £20 million is spent on a unit in William Harvey, that facility can either be moved or repurposed to make sure public money isn’t wasted.
Bright futures begin at apprenticeships fair
Over 1,000 young people, including pupils from Abbey School, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar, Sutton Valence, Valley Park and the Lenham School, descended on Maidstone Leisure Centre for an apprenticeships fair I organised with other Kent MPs. They had the chance to meet over 50 employers, from Barclays Bank to the Army. Some applied for jobs there and then and got offers within a few days.
Locally apprenticeship numbers have more than doubled since 2008 – with 690 young people starting an apprenticeship in 2017/18. I want this number to continue to go up so that more young people can get their careers off to a flying start and to help make the economy more productive. I’m working to get tech companies like Google to come along to the apprenticeship fair so that next year it’s even bigger and better.
Faversham purges plastic
Congratulations to all the businesses in Faversham that have gone plastic free! Edible Culture has got rid of plastic straws bags, bottles, sachets and cutlery while The Yard, Jittermugs, Tides, The Pantry and MB Farms all allow customers to fill up their water bottles for free. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved in the brilliant Plastic Free Faversham Campaign.
I’m doing my bit by taking the Tearfund charity’s Plastic Pledge for Lent. I’m using a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, cutting back on products with too much plastic packaging in my weekly shop and avoiding disposable cutlery. And the Government has ambitious plans to make it easier for all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle. A deposit-return scheme for plastic bottles, a tax on plastic packaging that isn’t at least 30% recycled and simpler household recycling are all in the pipeline. You can read more here.
Parliament debates park homes
We need stronger legal protections for owners of park homes, tougher enforcement to make sure people follow the rules and people need to know their rights
Dozens of people asked for my help after spending their life savings on park homes to retire to, only to find that they’d actually been sold holiday homes. That means they don’t have the right to live in the property all year round and it must not be their main home. It also leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. Residents have told me they’ve faced unexpected demands from the landlord for large amounts of cash and are fearful of damage to their properties. They are also worried they might find themselves homeless – something I want to prevent.
After speaking to other MPs this clearly isn’t a one-off. It’s happening around the country, particularly affecting older people who have moved to park home sites for their retirement. I called a debate in Parliament to call on the Government to strengthen the law and prevent more people falling into the same trap.
Protect girls from FGM
The mother of a three-year-old girl has become the first person in the UK to be convicted of female genital mutilation [FGM]. It’s a landmark in the battle against this barbaric practice, but it’s also a chilling reminder that girls are still being cut – not just in Africa and around the world, but here in the UK.
The Government has introduced protection orders for girls at risk of FGM and extended the Serious Crime Act to cover taking a girls abroad to undergo FGM. We are also driving action against FGM globally. Since 2013, the UK has committed £85 million to support the African-led movement to end FGM, including a package of £50 million: the biggest single investment by any international donor. At PMQs, I asked the Prime Minister to go even further to protect girls from this horrifying procedure.
Mrs Helen Whately,
Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid-Kent
House of Commons
Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
Mrs Whately is a former Remain supporter as is Mrs May. For those who are Remainers, there is a march in London organised by the People’s Vote on 23rd March and more details are at https://www.peoples-vote.uk/
At the time of publication the Kent Resilience Forum is yet to publish a promised impact assessment and emergency plan for mid Kent including Hollingbourne in the event of a “no deal” Brexit. Their website is http://www.kentprepared.org.uk/
Pictured below is part of the last People’s Vote march in October 2018 which was attended by nearly 700,000 people including a number from Hollingbourne.