I would like to commend the organisers for bringing this event together to ensure the many issues affecting our environment are firmly on the political table ahead of the coming election.
1. Can each candidate explain the fundamentals of their party’s environmental policy?
I am proud that under the Conservative Party the UK Government is leading the way on environmental issues.
Since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis by any G7 nation. To continue this momentum, the Government published the Clean Growth Strategy in 2017, setting out its plans for meeting the UK's carbon targets and the ambition to legislate for a net zero emissions target. This has been boosted by significant innovation funding being made available through the Industrial Strategy.
At the same time, the ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan outlines the Government's commitment to supporting and protecting the world's most biodiverse forests, supporting sustainable agriculture and promoting zero-deforestation supply chains. That said, we must do more, and that is why the Government has introduced a legally binding net zero target to end the UK's contribution to global warming entirely by 2050. The foundations to achieve this have been laid and it is expected that other major economies will follow suit. Furthermore, under the Conservatives, the UK Government will also use its international influence to encourage nations around the world to take action to tackle climate change.
2. Can the candidates explain how they will demonstrate leadership on the climate and ecological crisis?
I will, if re-elected, use my influence and vote in Parliament to back measures which will protect and preserve our natural environment and eco-systems. I will also continue to bring together local stakeholders, including our local authorities, Government, businesses and residents, to tackle the major environmental challenges in Maidstone and The Weald such as flooding and air quality.
3. Can each candidate tell us what they are doing in their own professional and/or home life to advance the environmental agenda?
In my professional life, if re-elected, I will continue to support environmentally friendly policies in Parliament. I will also continue to bring people together in Maidstone and The Weald to tackle our own environmental challenges such as flooding and air quality.
In my personal life, my family and I are very conscious of how the decisions we make in our everyday lives impact upon the environment. Among other things:-
- We have drastically reduced single-use plastic in our home;
- We make active purchasing decisions about our food based on eco-friendly packaging and sustainable transportation,
- We recycle all our waste as far as possible
- We have reduced our use of air travel
- We are restricting the use of private cars in favour of lower emission travel alternatives whenever possible.
- We have planted new trees in our garden and support several projects that include larger scale tree planting initiatives.
4. Have the candidates been involved with any environmental, climate or ecological campaigns that they would like to tell us about - and were these successful?
Yes, perhaps the best example is in Marden where I supported a farmer to access the funding he needed to develop a natural flood management scheme which will help to protect residents from flooding. This is a sustainable and ecologically friendly flood defence which also provides a wonderful environment for local wildlife, particularly waterfowl. I stand ready to assist other landowners with developing such schemes.
5. Maidstone and the Weald is particularly vulnerable to severe weather impacts such as flooding and drought, how would each candidate increase our resilience to these growing threats?
As a former resident of Yalding, I know how worrying the threat of flooding is to people in the Low Weald. I will therefore continue, as I have throughout the last ten years, to raise the concerns of residents with the Environment Agency and the Government to ensure all homes get the flood defences they need.
I stand on my record of action in this regard; convening, hosting and co-chairing the first two collaborative flood management action forums following the Christmas floods of 2013. I was a founding member of the Joint Parishes Flood group, now part of the comprehensive Medway Flood Partnership formed in 2017. I was instrumental in helping obtain central government funding for flood management feasibility studies in the middle Medway valley and helped make individual property protection scheme funding become a reality; I also supported the development of the Flood Re reinsurance scheme making flood cover more affordable for ‘at risk’ properties.
If re-elected I will continue to work with all stakeholders, including supporting our farmers to develop natural flood management schemes, as part of a joined-up, sustainable solution to flood management.
6. How would each of the candidates seek to address Maidstone and the Weald’s transport problems both in and outside Parliament?
I am only too aware of the nightmare that is Maidstone’s traffic congestion and the worrying impact this has on air quality in our town.
If re-elected I will continue to do everything within my power to bring together Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council to improve the road infrastructure in our town. I will also continue to robustly make the case for a Southern Relief Road as part of a solution to our congestion woes. Finally, I will build on my record of battling for the improvements to our public transport that we need; particularly our bus and train services.
7. All parties are seeking a significant increase in house building and Maidstone is in the midst of a well-documented homelessness crisis. If elected, how would each candidate deliver the housing growth needed in an environmentally sustainable way while complying with national planning policy?
It is so important that the homes we need are only built in the right numbers, in the right places and, crucially, with the required supporting infrastructure. The infrastructure must come first, and I am pleased that the Conservative manifesto makes a vital commitment on this important point.
I am also pleased that our manifesto commits us to building homes in a sustainable fashion. A Conservative government will protect and enhance the green belt, increase biodiversity and continue to prioritise brownfield development.
8. What else does each candidate see as the biggest environmental challenge facing Maidstone and the Weald and what is their plan to help tackle it?
I think the two biggest threats I have already referred to. They are the threat of flooding in some of our more rural areas and the challenge posed by congestion in urban Maidstone. Addressing both will continue to be top priorities for me if I am fortunate enough to be re-elected next week.
9. What is the most important area of national environmental policy, and if you were elected, how would you improve things?
Our environmental policy will change fundamentally as we leave the European Union, and this provides a golden opportunity to enhance our environmental protection legislation. I am delighted that our manifesto confirms this in more detail by pledging to: introduce our own legal targets for air quality, create new national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, continue to lead the world in tackling plastics pollution and strengthen animal welfare legislation.
Our departure from the EU will also allow us to reshape our rural payments system so that farmers and landowners are rewarded for delivering public goods including protecting and preserving our natural environment. This is a measure which has my full support.
10. What do the candidates see as the biggest international challenge in terms of environmental policy and how will you use your position (if elected) to influence this agenda for the better?
I think everyone would probably agree that the biggest environmental challenge internationally is the threat posed by Climate Change. To take the action required, the whole of the international community must co-operate better - this is not a problem confined to any one nation. I will always support Britain leading the way in facilitating that co-operation and I am delighted that we will host the crucial COP 26 conference in the UK next year.
I have also been asked by the Secretary of State for the department for International development to help with the organisation and presentation of the UK-Africa Investment Summit. It is being held on January 20th, 2020 in London and part of the core focus of the summit is upon investment in clean energy and sustainable agricultural programmes spearheaded toward environmental protections and tackling climate change across the African continent.