Wednesday 13 October 2021
Last week I attended the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester and was pleased to hear the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, address an issue that is very much close to home: the illegal migrant crossings in the English Channel. These crossings are both highly dangerous to those attempting them and concerning to residents who live along the Kent coast. We must do all that we can to stop them. Firstly, we need the French government to detect more vessels trying to enter the water on their coast, with the intention of crossing to the UK without the correct papers or permission to enter the country. Once these boats are at sea more needs to be done to identify them before they reach the UK’s territorial waters and then to return them to France. According to the French authorities about half of the groups attempting these crossings are stopped before they leave France but more needs to be done.
In her speech last week, the Home Secretary also set out the approach that the government is taking in its new immigration legislation to get tough on the people trafficking gangs who profit from these dangerous and illegal channel crossings. She told Conservative Party Conference that "we are smashing the economic model of the people smugglers so that they can no longer profit from human misery. The current maximum penalty for entering the country illegally is six months. We’re increasing that to four years. The current maximum sentence for people smugglers right now is 14 years. We are changing that to life." Also we want genuine refugees to use the new safe resettlement routes that the UK supports, and which are operated through the United Nations. These routes are open for those people who are leaving Afghanistan or escaping from other war zones, particularly in the middle east and Africa, and there are refugee camps established closer to the countries they are escaping from.
There has been a continued focus this week on the energy supplies for households and businesses. I support the efforts of the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to try and help vital strategic industries with their supplies and costs this winter. It is also important that consumers are protected from excessive price increases through the cap on energy bills. We need to plan as well for future sources of clean energy to supply the grid. For our local area I believe this should include a new generation of nuclear power at Dungeness through the deployment of small modular reactors. A consortium led by Rolls Royce is now looking for sites where the first three reactors could be operational by the early 2030s and I want Dungeness to be chosen for this. There is already enough land available within the current nuclear site at Dungeness to host these new reactors, as well as the existing connections to supply the electricity grid. I will be meeting with Rolls Royce later this month to discuss the progress they are making with this important project.