Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 31 October 2023

Asylum seekers

This week the government made further progress with its plans to improve the UK’s asylum system. 

So far this year the number of small boat crossing in the Channel has fallen by more than a quarter compared with last year. This decline should also be seen in the context of the significant increases in illegal migration that have affected other countries in Europe in 2023. In particular, the returns agreement between the UK government and Albania has seen a more than 90 per cent reduction in illegal Albanian arrivals on small boats.

We have also passed the Illegal Migration Act, the toughest piece of immigration legislation in recent history, which renders the asylum claims of people who come here directly from safe countries inadmissible and establishes safe and legal routes as the only lawful means by which to come to the UK. 

The Home Office has stated that it wishes to end the use of hotels for temporary asylum accommodation. On Tuesday 24 October it announced that it would end the use of fifty hotels across the UK, including the Southcliff Hotel in Folkestone. The government is now terminating its contract with the Southcliff and its use for asylum accommodation will cease by the end of November 2023. Residents currently accommodated in the hotel will be moved to other parts of the Home Office’s asylum estate. 

High Speed 2 construction hits the buffers

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference in October, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the government would not now go ahead with the construction of the High Speed 2 rail line between Manchester and Birmingham. However the high speed line from Birmingham through to London’s Euston station will still be completed.

In east Kent we have seen the benefits that high speed rail can bring to communities, with improved journey times to and from London, and the economic investment this attracts.

Manchester will still benefit from High Speed 2, and the trains will run from London to the north west, but will only travel at high speed for journeys between Euston and Birmingham. This will work in the same way as High Speed 1, where the javelin trains run on the traditional railway to their final destinations east of Ashford. For Manchester, rail journey times using High Speed 2 will still be thirty minutes faster than there are today. Rishi Sunak announced in his speech that from the £36billlion in savings being made from the High Speed Rail budget, other transport schemes in the north of England and across the rest of the country will be delivered. This will include the upgrading of the junction of the M2, A2 and Thanet Way at Brenley Corner near Faversham.

Police and Crime Commissioner wins £900,000 for safer streets programme

On 27 October, Matthew Scott, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, announced that he had secured over £900,000 in funding from the Home Office under the ‘Safer Streets’ programme. This money will help Kent Police to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour, tackle violence against women and girls, support local businesses, establish neighbourhood watch groups and improve local parks. Over £335,000 from this fund will be allocated to Folkestone town centre over the next two years and will seek to target sexual offences, stalking and harassment, violence against the person, retail crime, antisocial behaviour, drug offences, theft and vehicle interference.  It will include better CCTV, improved safety at taxi ranks and a Safe Taxi Scheme, support for outreach workers and Street Pastors as well as graffiti and litter removal.

By Ed

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