July briefing from our local MP.

The following newsletter has been received from Faversham and Mid Kent MP Mrs Helen Whately. Items not relating to the Hollingbourne area have been removed as well as links that seem to be incompatible with the KCC website platform used by Hollingbourne Parish Council. The full text can be obtained from: helen.whately.mp@parliament.uk 

It’s sweltering in Westminster’s un-air-conditioned committee rooms and debating chambers – and temperatures are running high over Brexit. Like many of my colleagues, I’m trying to keep a cool head, and figure out what’s best for Kent. We need to deliver on the outcome of the referendum, and take back control of our borders and laws, but we mustn’t crash out chaotically with no deal and we can’t have delays at Dover paralysing the roads and turning the M20 into a giant lorry park.

After such a close and passionately fought referendum, Brexit understandably generates a lot of political heat, but there have been plenty of great developments on the domestic front too – with £20.5 billion for the NHS, progress on Maidstone’s three new schools and new plans to tackle Operation Stack.

In this newsletter you can read updates on my campaigns on the solar farm at Cleve Hill, Broadband not-spots, a fairer deal for tenants and an upgrade for Brenley Corner.

Kent must not be paralysed by Operation Stack

It’s unacceptable for Kent’s roads to be paralysed by Operation Stack, so it’s vital that we get this fixed. I am also determined that we end dangerous, illegal lorry parking. With £250 million for an alternative to closing the M20 when there is disruption at the Channel Crossings – there could be an opportunity to both.

Highways England have come up with a temporary plan to keep traffic on the London-bound part of the motorway while stacking lorries coast-bound. At the same time they are asking for people’s views on what this should be: whether we need a new lorry park, where a lorry park or parks should be, whether they should be run by Highways England or commercial operators, and whether they should be available for overnight parking to help tackle illegal ‘fly-parking’. You can find more information about the pros and cons of the different options at https://tinyurl.com/yakvz9cf. There will also be a public information event at Sessions House in Maidstone on Saturday 7th July from noon to 6pm.

I am pleased that Highways England are moving ahead with a permanent solution to Operation Stack and I want to make sure your voice is heard. So I encourage you to complete the questionnaire here, and to let me know your views to help me form my own response to the consultation.

£20.5 billion for the NHS

Everybody has an NHS story, whether a child born, a disease cured or a life saved. It’s been there for us for the past 70 years, and we all want it to be there for us in the future.

To keep pace with growing demand, the NHS needs money. The Prime Minister has announced that the NHS budget will increase by £20.5 billion in real terms by 2024. That’s a 3.4% rise every year for the next 5 years.

To make sure every penny of that money is well spent, the NHS will need to make some changes. First, we need to make better use of technology, so doctors don’t waste time updating patient records, or restarting a frozen system. That will give them more time to spend with patients.

Second, we need more doctors and nurses. We’re training more doctors, we’ve scrapped the cap on the number of nurses coming to the UK from abroad, and Kent’s getting a new medical school. But at the moment it’s a struggle to fill vacancies. Working for the NHS should be such a fulfilling job, but doctors have told me they feel like “cogs in a machine” and no one ever listens to them. So we need to make the health service a better place to work.

Finally, it’s time to end the division between mental and physical health. When the two are joined together, it improves outcomes for patients and provides better value for the NHS – better outcomes at lower cost, which is exactly what we need and want.

The best Brexit for Kent

Whether you voted leave or remain, and whatever sort of deal you would like to come out of the negotiations, I hope you will agree that it’s important to prevent chaos on the day we leave. The EU Withdrawal Act does this by translating all the EU legislation that we are signed up to into UK law, and I voted in favour of it a few weeks ago. You can read more of my thoughts about it here.

As for our future relationship, the Prime Minister set out her plan at Chequers. It’s true to the referendum result and addresses problems like disruption to manufacturing supply chains. I’ve been warned by businesses that customs checks at the border would be difficult to cope with, and if there are delays, we’ll bear the brunt of the queues in Kent.

The Prime Minister’s proposal ends free movement, ends the jurisdiction of the ECJ over the UK, ends huge payments to the EU every year, and gives us the freedom to make trade deals.

This does mean agreeing to common regulations on goods (including food) – the ‘Common Rule Book’. But we’d have our own agriculture and fisheries policies, and set our own rules for services – our most important export market worth over £140 billion.

I know this won’t please everyone, but so far I haven’t heard a credible alternative. Some people argue that we should fall back on World Trade Organisation (“WTO”) rules. This means trading with the EU on the same terms as non-EU countries – and paying the same tariffs. We do need to be prepared in case of ‘no deal’ – but I think we can do better.

So this plan is the best chance we have of bringing our divided country together – it respects the referendum result by getting us out of the EU, but it also protects the aspirations and incomes of people whose jobs depend on trade with the EU.

Pictured below is Mrs Whately.

Mrs Helen Whately MP – Faversham and Mid Kent – Conservative.