WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.247.
A dramatic end to the year in Westminster with the new Rwanda Bill finally passing in the House of Commons. Also a lot of local news ahead of the Thames Water public meeting this week and new developments on the Bramley smell, both of which feature in this week’s Herald article.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
NOT A COP OUT There was some positive news from COP28 - but right at the last minute. For the first time almost 200 countries have agreed to move away permanently from fossil fuels - a really significant development not least because the event was hosted in Dubai. There were several other announcements during the two weeks, including £100 million from the UK government to support some of the countries most vulnerable to tackle climate change. There were also measures to protect rainforests, cut methane emissions, and new clean energy agreements. There is a certain irony in the big international climate shindigs (to which everyone flies) but they probably are necessary to create momentum. The UK is a genuine leader, having cut our emissions by 49% compared to 41% in Germany and 23% in France…and the first world leader to draw attention to the issue was actually Margaret Thatcher in 1989.
RWANDA BILL PASSES FIRST HURDLE We rightly have a generous asylum system, which has helped hundreds of thousands of people who need it, including from Ukraine and Afghanistan. But if we want our system to work and remain generous, we need to make sure that it is not overwhelmed - and that the numbers admitted are decided by parliament not people smugglers. That means people arriving here illegally should not expect to stay, which is the essential thinking behind the Rwanda Bill which passed its second reading in the House of Commons this week. It has not been an easy week for the Conservative Party but worth remembering two things: small boat crossings are down by a third this year in the UK compared to an 80% rise in some Mediterranean countries; and whilst other parties have taken delight in the difficulties the government had none of them want to pursue any scheme that will actually deter people from wanting to cross just as other European countries like Germany, Denmark and Italy are exploring their own versions of the Rwanda policy.
HMT UPDATE Work at the Treasury has already started on the next Budget – not a moment wasted. Our focus will be on winning the battle against inflation and laying the foundations for long term growth. Of course growth right now is subdued with interest rates necessarily high as we bear down on inflation but as I said this week it is positive that real wages are now growing faster than prices. Last week I was in Manchester where researchers showed me a laboratory-generated flash of lightning used to test the resilience of power cables (quite a sight) - more in this video.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
BRAMLEY SMELL Last week I went to Bramley to meet Environment Agency (EA) senior managers alongside Councillors Jane Austin and Michael Goodridge for an update on the fuel contamination which continues to cause a really horrible smell over a year later. A petrol leak (historic and now sealed) has been confirmed from the petrol station. But the nasty smell of petrol fumes is still plaguing the High Street, made worse after rain. Fuel is polluting the village stream and, worryingly, petrol has also penetrated pipework in a couple of houses, meaning their supply is contaminated and they are restricted to bottled water only. It is incredibly frustrating for Bramley residents as well as being terrible for biodiversity. The EA is now working towards a prosecution and there is a roadmap to a solution but it is quite complex and will take several more months. I have therefore been in touch with Asda’s CEO (ASDA now own the petrol station) again to ensure Bramley residents are fully supported– we all want this to be dealt with as quickly as possible. This video shows what is in place at the moment but as I saw for myself the smell really is palpable still.
THAMES WATER PUBLIC MEETING A final reminder that the public meeting with Thames Water will be tomorrow Friday 15th December at 17.15 at Surrey University. Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford, and I will co-host the meeting with Joint CEO of Thames Water, Al Cochrane as we say here. There will also be senior representatives from Surrey County Council there and our objective is to understand why it happened so we can avoid a repeat. Click on the link here to book your place.
A POSITIVE BOOST TO CANCER FUNDRAISING Last week’s highlight for me was the 'Positive Festive Note' concert at Weydon School in Farnham last Friday. Four choirs came together to raise over £1,500 for the Royal Surrey Cancer and Surgical Innovation Campaign. Performing were The Royal Surrey Choir, Farnham and Bourne Choral Society, Harmonix and the Weydon School Senior Choir who did a very moving Silent Night partly in German to remember the time when troops stopped fighting each other to play a game of football in WW1. There were over 100 singers on stage for 'Have yourself a very merry Christmas' at the end - many thanks to Judith Storey and her team for their brilliant organising - which led to a cheque for £40,000 being presented to the hospital charity at the end of the evening.
GREEN SPACES- LITTER PICK AND TREE PLANTING Thanks too to those who came to the litter pick in Ash last Friday where…it did not rain! Do stay tuned for future dates next year. Thank you also to Martin Bamford and his team in Cranleigh for what they do and for allowing me to be part of the volunteering tree planting effort on Friday. Knowle Park really is one of the best things to have happened to Cranleigh recently.
HEADWAY CHARITY On Friday I visited Headway in Guildford, an absolute brilliant charity that helps people with acquired brain injuries. They help about 60 people every week with counselling and support but are concerned they are not reimbursed their full costs by commissioning authorities so I will look into the issue.
CRANLEIGH VILLAGE HOSPITAL I also visited Cranleigh Village Hospital on Friday where I heard about plans for a Minor Injuries Unit. It would make a huge difference to the many older people in Cranleigh who currently have to get a bus to get to the Royal Surrey, Milford or Haslemere. Many thanks to Dr Mike Bundy and his team for the amazing work done and for talking me through the plans.
BLUESTAR PROJECT Last Friday I met with the Bluestar Project who outlined to me how children and adults who are survivors of sexual abuse are still being advised to wait years before they can access support services if they have an ongoing police investigation. It is worth noting that following updated Crown Prosecution Service guidance, this should not longer be the case, but it is taking time for the message to reach police and support services. The Bluestar Project provides resources for therapists, police officers, or lawyers to gain confidence about these new changes and start to offer much-needed support. For more information visit https://www.bluestarproject.co.uk/.
PLEDGE A PRESENT FOR A PATIENT Another reminder that the Royal Surrey are running a gift appeal in which you can buy presents for patients staying in hospital over Christmas. Do take a look at the excellent cause and donate if you are able to do so here.
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AND FINALLY… Looks like Rudolph and co have been causing traffic jams in Suffolk— let’s hope our presents in Surrey still get delivered…especially to 3 minor Hunts in Hambledon.