WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.241.
This week has seen big drama at the Covid Inquiry but the AI Summit in Bletchley Park may actually be more significant for all of us. As computing becomes vastly more powerful and cheaper, so too does the capacity for bad people to misuse it which is why Rishi Sunak is gathering the best brains from around the world to try to make sure it remains a force for good. Perhaps of less global significance but I have also been busy on constituency duties...
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER (OR BLETCHLEY PARK)
AI SUMMIT Artificial Intelligence provides us with so many opportunities– from giving doctors tools to diagnose illnesses, to teachers having help with admin and lesson planning, and police being able to make the most of technology to fight crime – and we have a lot of AI businesses locally, one of which I will be visiting next week. But we also need guardrails - for example to stop terrorists building nuclear bombs. That is why Rishi Sunak has spearheaded the UK hosting the first ever AI Safety Summit over the past two days, with world leaders like Kamala Harris and tech leaders like Elon Musk, who I met last night. AI is being developed incredibly quickly whether we like it or not – so we need to make sure we are leading the efforts behind those protections. At the same time, and writing with my Chancellor hat on, we want the UK to remain Europe’s AI hub – indeed the third global hub, with a technology industry now twice Germany’s and three times that of France. Google are basing their global AI research in London at a British company they own called DeepMind, and earlier this year the ChatGPT owner OpenAI announced that their first overseas office will be here in the UK. So much to play for with respect to the UK economy as well as the global security concerns this summit is addressing.
COST OF LIVING PAYMENT Can I give a plug for the support the government is giving to help people with the cost of living crisis? It amounts on average to over £3,000 per family, including paying half of people’s electricity bills and is one of the reasons we have not fallen into recession this year contrary to predictions. It continues – on Tuesday over 8 million vulnerable households (including 6000 locally) began receiving their second of three new cost of living payments of £300. More details here. Of course the biggest thing I can do is bring down inflation and we will soon find out if we are going to meet the PM’s pledge to halve it this year.
ISRAEL Events in Israel and Gaza, including the strike on a refugee camp, continue to be heartbreaking, not least to our Jewish and Muslim communities where hate attacks and anti-semitism have spilled into our streets in a way that shames us all. Why do we not support a ceasefire? Because Israel would not then be able to prevent Hamas doing the same thing (or worse) again. We should remember it is a choice by Hamas not Israel to embed themselves in civilian populations - precisely because it wants to turn the world against Israel as it hunts them down. I mentioned last week the humanitarian support announced by the UK government– which has in total more than doubled our previous support to Palestine. And even if we are not supporting a ceasefire, we do want humanitarian pauses in fighting to deliver aid safely and in a sustained way.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
DON’T MISS OUT ON ROYAL SURREY CHRISTMAS CARDS It’s never too early to get organised and think about the festive season…The Royal Surrey has produced a great range of Christmas and holiday cards this year. You could tick this off your list and also help the amazing charity and the team who are working hard to support the Cancer fundraising campaign.
GREEN SPACES - LITTER PICKS I wrote in this week’s Herald about what the government is doing on litter. But we also need to play our part locally so I have booked in several litter pick days, including this Saturday at 10am in Farnham, as well as Godalming (10/11) and Haslemere (8/12). Do email my office if you are keen to join - and extra brownie points if you come to Farnham on Saturday when it may be raining!
CONSTITUENCY CALLS I had a packed set of surgery calls last week. My first call was to a Farnham entrepreneur (and old friend) who has set up an innovation hub with an extremely exciting way to tell companies the return on investment if they spend money on their employees’ health. We have nearly 100,000 people dropping out of the workforce for health reasons every year so it sounded very interesting and I will share details of his project with DWP Secretary Mel Stride.
I then spoke to a lady from Elstead who has an eight year old boy with complex neurological needs who has had a totally inadequate response from Surrey Children's department after having to take him out of school which I will raise with the leader of Surrey County Council.
Next I spoke to a lady from Godalming about the challenges of cycling between Godalming and Guildford and what we could do to make it easier which I will raise with Surrey Highways - with interest as a cyclist myself.
I also spoke to a lady from Dunsfold about the drilling plans by UKOG. Like me she is not against trying to find domestic sources of energy, including fossil fuels as we transition, but is very concerned about this particular application.
Finally I spoke to a grandmother from Haslemere about the challenges facing families who adopt children who very often have attachment disorders or anxiety. They often do not get the support they need from social workers or CAMHS so I am going to raise her issues with Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan.
GRAND OPENING OF BIRTLEY LIFT BRIDGES Last Saturday a great crowd attended the opening of the lift bridges which completes the latest phase of the Wey and Arun Canal Trust’s ongoing restoration works and improves the connection between Shamley Green and Bramley via the Downslink. This is the culmination of 4 years of hard work from many volunteers, staff and donors – well done all! A route for me and Poppy to check out on one of our walks.
DID SOMEONE MENTION CHRISTMAS? The Hunter Centre in Haslemere will be holding 'A Christmas Celebration' in aid of the brilliant dementia charity. Taking place on Thursday 7th December at St Christopher's Church, Haslemere GU27 1DD, the evening will feature The Winterbourne Singers and will include music, poems, mince pies and mulled wine. For more information or to buy your ticket (£12.50 each) please contact Denise Sawcuk on 01428 654710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIREWORKS A reminder of all the fireworks events taking place this weekend - fingers crossed for the weather. Here are the links for fireworks in Bramley, Cranleigh, Chiddingfold, Farnham, and Guildford.
ARTISAN MARKETS FOR EARLY CHRISTMAS SHOPPING The Cranleigh Surrey Hills Artisan Market takes place this Saturday on Cranleigh High Street– see here for more information. The Artisan Christmas Fair in Albury will take place on Farley Green on 11th and 12th November– more details can be found here.
SOCIAL MEDIA If you would like more regular updates of my work locally and nationally, do follow me on Facebook, X (Twitter), or Instagram.
JOIN ME Want to get more involved locally? Email me at email@example.com to join my growing team supporting our work in our community.
AND FINALLY… The mystery on the community boards of the lights seen over Surrey last week has been solved… They were neither early fireworks nor an early Father Christmas visit– but my new friend Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink satellite!