Constituency matters… a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 7 July 2021.

On Monday Boris Johnson announced the government’s intentions for the final stage of the roadmap out of the coronavirus social contact restrictions.

From 19th July we will see an end to legal restrictions, including social distancing and mask-wearing requirements. In addition to these, large events will be able to restart, restrictions on care home visits will be lifted, and all businesses will be allowed to fully reopen as everyone can return to work. The final confirmation for these measures will be given on 12th July.

We have reached this step thanks to the resilience of all, but special thanks must be reserved for the hard-working NHS staff and volunteers who have made our vaccination programme such a success.

In Folkestone and Hythe district, up to the 4th of July, 141,918 vaccines had been delivered: 79,075 first doses, and 62,843 second doses. This means that 83.9% of local residents have received their first vaccine, and 66.7% are double-dosed. This last figure is slightly higher than the UK-wide rate of 64%.

As a consequence of this, although infection rates have been rising over the last couple of weeks, there has only been one person in the East Kent hospitals trust area who has been admitted to hospital for treatment for covid.

The ending of the social contact restrictions is good news in particular for our local hospitality sector that will be able to fully re-open, and I look forward to visiting many of our wonderful local venues across the summer.

Bill to tackle illegal immigration

On Tuesday the Home Secretary Priti Patel introduced in Parliament the much-anticipated Nationality and Borders Bill, which will seek to tackle illegal immigration by cracking down on people smugglers and making it harder for those who enter the UK illegally to stay.

Life imprisonment

The flagship measure of the bill is to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission to be here. This will send a clear message to those thinking about making, or facilitating, the dangerous and illegal Channel crossings which I know many people living on the Kent coast, understandably, feel very concerned about.

Other provisions in the Bill will increase the punishment for people smugglers who facilitate illegal entry to the UK, putting migrants’ lives at risk in the process. These people smugglers will now face up to life imprisonment. The Bill will also make it easier to remove someone to a safe country while their asylum claim is processed and will allow consideration to be made when someone applies for asylum, if they have entered the UK illegally having travelled through a safe country in which they could and should have claimed asylum.

The Bill also proposes that those who have entered illegally but have successfully claimed asylum will receive a new temporary protection status rather than an automatic right to settle in the UK, and will be regularly reassessed.

By Ed