An interview with…….

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Amber Rudd

On hearing that our MP, and now Home Secretary, was going to be holding her weekly constituency surgery in Rye last week, it seemed a good opportunity to get her views on some of the ongoing questions currently facing the Town.

Amber Rudd
Amber Rudd

I had been allocated just ten minutes (she’s a busy lady and a lot of her constituents – and therefore genuinely more important than a mere journalist – wanted her attention) and so arrived exactly on time to find (perhaps unsurprisingly) that she was overrunning with her earlier appointments. However, that gave me time to have a good chat with the police officer in charge of her close protection detail. Quietly spoken, undoubtedly very intelligent and interesting and understated, her handshake, when we parted, was very firm which, I have no doubt, matched her character. Our Home Secretary would seem to be in good hands.

The time allowed was short and I was pointedly reminded on meeting her that she was here in her capacity as a constituency MP and not as Home Secretary. I took the hint. At the time of the interview, the rail strike had just been called off but negotiations were ongoing. So the first question: what was happening with Southern Railway and were we going to see the strike back again.

Ms Rudd was cautiously optimistic and thought that we had probably seen the end of the strike. It was mainly political, organised by a hard left union leader demonstrating his industrial muscle, she contended. Other companies were running the same system Southern want to adopt and perfectly successfully and safety was not an issue. Her main drive was to ensure the arrival of HS1 on the Marsh Link line in due course (post 2020) and to replace the existing trains with four-carriage units as soon as possible. These would effectively be ‘second hand’, being sourced from other areas of the country as they, in turn, were replaced by other units. She commented that some £38 billion was currently being spent nationally on the railways although was not specific on how much of the total was coming in our direction.

I then asked about policing and traffic issues, pointing out that Rye now had no permanent police presence on the streets. Did she feel that the new system adopted by the Police and Crime Commissioner was working? The current system is still experimental, I was told, and therefore not necessarily permanent. It will be examined on an ongoing basis and adjusted or changed as required. As for parking, Rother and Wealden District Councils were already talking together but these things take time to implement (as I discovered last week when talking to Paul Osborne).

Finally, with time almost up, I reminded her that here in Rye we were very much on the front line for anything happening on the Continent and asked about the effect of Brexit on the UK Border Control’s outpost in Calais – would it be moved back to Dover? Absolutely not, was the immediate answer. Our presence (and money) in Calais is as valuable to the French as it is to us and both sides needed the exchange of intelligence that could be put at risk if we withdrew back to this side of the Channel

What about people smuggling cross the Channel? Its a busy and dangerous route was the answer, which is likely to be a defence in itself (as a sailor who has crossed the Channel many times in small boats, I am not sure I accept this). There is one Border Control vessel currently based at Dover but eight more smaller boats are being constructed and will be delivered over the next 18 months. Not all will be based at this end of the Channel, but some clearly will and will be on patrol here.

There was so much more I wanted to ask and a lot more detail I would have liked to extract on the subjects we discussed. But time was up. I left, however, with an invitation to come back again and next time perhaps fewer subjects and more detailed questioning.

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