As Parliament rose for a short recess, this week remained a busy time as my team and I continue to work hard on behalf of the residents of Dover & Deal.
The dominant issue of the day is the pandemic and there is now some cause for optimism. Nationwide, new cases of the virus are falling– proof that sticking to the rules is really working. This is especially so in the Dover district, which has experienced one of the best turnarounds in new cases in Kent. Currently at around 120 new cases per 100,000 people in the most recent 7-day period compared to more than 600 during the peak weeks.
This progress comes alongside the continued rapid rollout of the vaccination programme. In addition to the completion of the initial vaccination programme for care home residents, our vaccination hubs in Deal, Dover and Folkestone have been vaccinating thousands of local residents in the first priority groups.
Outside of the virus, there is plenty going on in and out of Parliament. The Kirkup enquiry into tragic baby deaths continues its work. I continue to support families giving evidence to it, as well as pressing for continuing maternity improvements in our local hospitals.
We are still getting used to our new relationship with the European Union. I am pleased that to date Dover has not faced significant disruption, as many thought it would. I have enlisted the support of the Department for International Trade and the Treasury to assist individual local businesses who are facing documentation or other challenges from the new regime.
In Parliament I pressed Government on its commitment to our Keep Dover Clear campaign and I have asked the Home Secretary to continue to press France to exempt hauliers from Covid testing requirements so that vital goods can flow freely in line with WHO and international best practice.
Vigilance is key regarding Channel small boats crossings. I raised this in Parliament with the Minister for Immigration Compliance. He has suggested that Kent Police can apply for extra Government funding for their vital immigration role. So I have been working with the Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott to support him with getting more police funding.
Work is also ongoing on the proposed Inland Border Facility at the White Cliffs Business Park, which represents a multi-million pound investment by Government in our community. In my formal consultation submission, I have called for continuing regular local engagement, sympathetic development of the site, more work on the roads plans to Keep Dover Clear, for local businesses to be able to bid for works contracts, alongside securing new job opportunities. This would be a great boost for our area at this time, and I am determined to make sure we get the best from it.
The hard work will continue through the pandemic and beyond in standing up for the needs and priorities of our community here in Dover & Deal.