This week the Home Secretary Suella Braverman has signed an agreement with her counterpart in France, Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin to increase efforts on the French coast to prevent small boats bringing migrants across the Channel to the UK. This will increase the number of French police patrolling along their coast to 300, and for the first time British law enforcement agencies will be working on the ground in France with their counterparts, sharing intelligence about the activities of people trafficking gangs. Currently about half of the boats that try to leave France to reach the UK are stopped by the police, but we need to do much better than that. We need to stop these dangerous crossings and demonstrate to criminal gangs who are trying to operate across the Channel that their efforts will be futile. The best way to do this is to prevent the boats from leaving France, and to achieve this we need a close and effective partnership with the French authorities. I also raised with the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week in the House of Commons, the need to prevent criminal gangs exploiting social media platforms to recruit people to make these Channel crossings. The government’s Online Safety Bill which will shortly return to the House of Commons will give regulators the power to require that these platforms identify and remove such content.
Last Sunday I attended the Remembrance Sunday commemoration in Hythe. This is always a moving occasion, especially as local school children read out the names of each of the servicemen who is commemorated on the war memorial. It was good to see once again representation from Hythe’s twin town of Berck-sur-Mer in northern France, continuing a long-standing tradition of marking these occasions together. The war in Ukraine has provided a reminder this year, that brutal wars of aggression have not been confined to the history books. In recent months, volunteer soldiers in the Ukrainian armed forces have been training in east Kent, including at the ranges in Hythe and Lydd. We will continue to all we can to support them in their struggle to free their country from Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion.
Last week we also lost a great British serviceman with the passing of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, and former Chief of the Defence Staff, Lord Boyce. In his role as Lord Warden he was a familiar figure at major civic occasions in the Cinque Port towns. I was pleased to have the privilege of working with him on the Step Short project in Folkestone, where he was a patron of the charity, which delivered the First World War centenary memorial arch on The Leas. His whole adult life was given in service to his country, for which we offer our thanks and prayers for his family.