On Tuesday 2 May I was honoured to join members of both Houses of Parliament at a reception for King Charles III and Queen Camilla in Westminster Hall. It was in this historic building that Coronation banquets were held by Monarchs for centuries. It was also the place where King Charles I was sentenced to death at the end of the English Civil War and where hundreds of thousands of people queued to see the coffin of our late Queen, Elizabeth II, lying in state. Few buildings have witnessed so much of our history, and it was most appropriate that parliament should assemble there to greet our new King and Queen, in the week of their Coronation. Communities right across the country have been preparing their own events for this weekend, where families, friends and neighbours will join in the celebrations. This is the true measure of the importance of the Coronation to our nation, that it represents both a focal point and occasion to bring people together.
On Thursday 4 May we will be holding elections for Folkestone and Hythe District Council and for other town and parish councils across the area. As ever, however you vote, it’s important that your voice is heard. This year you will need to bring a photographic ID with you when you vote. Depending on what forms of ID you have, this could include, for example, a driver’s licence, passport, or an older person’s bus pass. If you are unsure what to bring you can find out more information at the Council’s website folkestone-hythe.gov.uk.
Last week parliament debated the important issue of water companies' discharge of sewage at sea. Under previous government’s this took place unmonitored and under-reported. We have changed that so that people can see when and where discharges are taking place. We have also set the toughest targets ever to reduce this activity and take action against the water and sewage companies when they are breaking the rules. Penalties of over £141million have been levied since 2015, and we will make fines unlimited alongside requiring water companies to invest up to £56 billion into our water infrastructure.
The main problem is when large quantities of rainwater get into the sewers through the drainage system, creating overflows. Solving this problem means building more capacity and working to try and separate these systems. There is no cost-free overnight solution. That’s why the government has introduced deliverable, costed plans to tackle this issue, which will require companies to significantly reduce storm overflows and clean up pollution as well as new powers for the Government to direct underperforming companies.
Last week I met with the team leading the restoration project for the Leas Lift in Folkestone. They have been working on an impressive fundraising drive to restore this important part of the town heritage, which can also play an important role in the future, connecting the town centre to the new Shoreline seafront development. You can find out more at their website leaslift.co.uk