WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.250
A very busy week in both Westminster and Surrey – from the Rwanda Bill to important developments in the long-running Bramley fuel saga. And contrary to rumours spread about by local political opponents, I will be standing at the next election and hope to be Godalming and Ash MP for many years to come! More on the wider Surrey constituency boundaries in this BBC article.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
HOUTHI REBELS IN YEMEN The Houthi rebel group, backed by Iran, has been attacking commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November. On 9th January they launched a direct attack against British and American warships protecting commercial shipping. The Prime Minister therefore last week rightly ordered the RAF to strike two Houthi military bases in Yemen, working with our American allies with support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands. The strikes were limited and carefully targeted as a response to a direct threat to the UK ships and UK trade interests. Why? Because without the Red Sea and Suez Canal ships have to take a 5,000 mile detour around the continent of Africa leading to much higher energy and goods prices.
RWANDA Westminster has once again been focussed on the government’s plan to deter the dangerous channel crossings. As I have said before, I support the government’s proposals: we want to be an open and welcoming country for migrants and asylum seekers but the decision as to how much migration to accept should lie with parliament not human traffickers. I am proud of the support we have given people from Ukraine, Hong Kong and Afghanistan but if we are to remain generous we need to make sure we are not overwhelmed. It was therefore good to see the Bill complete its passage through the House of Commons yesterday. Also worth remembering that even before this week we have been making progress: channel crossings down by 36% last year compared to increases of 80% in some Mediterranean countries.
POST OFFICE SCANDAL This week the public inquiry continues with evidence to either it or the Commons Business Committee from sub-postmasters Alan Bates and Jo Hamilton, as well as ex-MP James Arbuthnot, Post Office CEO Nick Read and Fujitsu CEO Paul Patterson. I wrote in this week’s Herald about Chirag Sidhpura in Farncombe who I supported over many years. It is truly exceptional for parliament to intervene in legal processes in the way the government is doing - but absolutely the right thing to do.
INFLATION On Wednesday we saw inflation statistics which showed inflation is at 4%. As is also the case in the US, France, and the Eurozone, inflation never falls in a straight line. But it is worth remembering that since I became Chancellor it has fallen from 11.1%, so it has more than halved in that time, and it is still nearly a percentage point lower than where the OBR predicted it would be only in November. As I also say in this video, we have a plan which is working and we have to stick to it if we want sustainable economic growth– anyone who remembers the 1970s and 1980s knows just how important that is.
HMT UPDATE As Chancellor, I am often banging the drum for our fast growing industries, and last week I had two important meetings on the topic. Our financial and professional services sector generates billions in the economy and employs 2.5 million people, so I was happy to visit Capital Group’s new offices in London. We have reduced our carbon emissions faster than any other G7 economy and increased the proportion of electricity generated from renewables from under 10% to nearly 40% but there is further to go if we want to reach net zero by 2050, which is why in the Budget last year I announced significant support for nuclear energy. It was also a genuine pleasure to discuss this topic with Bill Gates on Friday whom I met to discuss both this, climate change and global poverty. I have also been in Davos banging the drum for investment in the UK - see this clip of me speaking on a panel about the power of AI as I make a sales pitch for the UK as Europe’s Silicon Valley, home to more technology companies than anywhere else on the continent.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
CANCER CAMPAIGN Following a recent mailshot to residents in Cranleigh and other parts of Surrey, the campaign for a new Cancer and surgical innovation facility at the Royal Surrey has been boosted by an amazing £40,000! Thank you so much to all those who kindly donated. I will be running the London Marathon again this year which will be the next big fundraising event of the year so do stay tuned for training pics…and requests to donate! Two 8 milers completed this week…and next week it goes up to 12 miles aargh!
BRAMLEY FUEL I had a productive meeting last Friday with James Barge from Asda (who now own the site) and Will and Lee from EPS (Asda's Environmental Remediation Consultants) in Bramley. They were able to provide confirmation that the leak is now sealed (although they are double checking this). The land underneath the petrol station is sand which is holding a mixture of water and petrol a bit like a sponge so pumps are being inserted into the sand via boreholes. The pumping will start as soon as permissions come through, expected to be early March. Hopefully at that point we will see a dramatic reduction in the smell and pollution into the stream– although the whole process will take several months.
The other main piece of work EPS and Thames Water (in addition to a burst pipe) is managing is the installation of the barrier pipe to two properties on the High Street whose supply was contaminated by fuel - they have been coping with no drinking water supply for 3 months now. Teams have been working round the clock, but it is a major job requiring lots of heavy machinery and two-way traffic lights. This has been very disruptive, as local neighbours and anyone queuing through Bramley can attest! Local Councillors Jane Austin and Michael Goodridge joined me in suggesting a community update meeting which Asda and EPS have agreed to. More on that soon…
THE EDGE It was great to see The Edge reopening to sports clubs this year, following a long campaign by the local community and sports groups, supported by me and councillors– particularly Zoe Barker-Lomax. However, this arrangement will only last 12 months and it is now up to all parties to work with local groups to find a long-term solution. I know how important The Edge is to local families and community groups, so I do hope this happens. Together they have run a fantastic campaign which I’m delighted has moved Waverley Borough Council (kicking and screaming) to to get this much-loved centre back in use by local clubs again.
GREEN SPACES Great to see that since 2019, Conservative-led Surrey County Council has made remarkable strides towards net zero. That includes the installation of 83,000 low-energy streetlights across Surrey, 31 new electric buses, planting 470,000 trees, and installing 13,000 electric vehicle charging sessions across the county. More information on their work here.
SHEEP KILLED IN BRAMLEY I was really shocked and saddened to learn a number of lambs have been mown over by a car which had forced its way into a field south of Bramley. I have raised this with Surrey Police as a priority and will report back with an update.
HELP FOR UKRAINIANS MOVING FURNITURE A reminder that there is a group of volunteers who want to help Ukrainians move furniture into independent accommodation, so if anyone has a van or large vehicle they are able to offer for occasional use, please do get in touch with our office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we will pass on your details. Those who require help can still contact Godalming Town Council if needed.
HASLEMERE MACULAR SUPPORT GROUP The Haslemere Macular Society Support Group, which supports people with sight loss, is celebrating its 10th birthday on Friday 2nd February. They meet on the first Friday of the month at the Haslewey Centre. Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, so the group provides support and information to those affected. For more details please contact the Macular Society Helpline on 0300 3030 111.
LISTED PLACES OF WORSHIP GRANT Great news that since August 2022 places of worship in the constituency have received over £70,000 in government funding which I know is so important to support their preservation.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND GODALMING MINSTER On Sunday there was a wonderful service for the new Godalming Minster which will unite the parishes of St Peter and St Paul with St Mark’s, Busbridge and Hambledon. It was a great combination of traditional classics like Thine be the Glory with more contemporary ones like ‘My Lighthouse’ to which the Hunt children know the movements rather better than Dad. Pics here.
COLD WEATHER Gritters are out in Surrey twice a day given the icy temperatures! This map helpfully outlines the salting routes in the county. Please do contact the office if you encounter any issues with dangerous roads– my team and I will be happy to do what we can to help.
WINTER AT WATTS Throughout the month of January there is 50% off admission to the Watts Gallery– see here for information on tickets if you are interested in the Sculpture Gallery, walks around the site, or even the seasonal menu in the Tea Shop.
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.
PICTURE OF THE WEEK… I have decided to start including a picture to show a highlight of my week in either Westminster or Surrey. Do let me know what you think! This week’s picture (on the third photo slide above) is of me in front of the school where I learned to read in Shere…which I hope to be representing as MP for Godalming and Ash after the election.
AND FINALLY… This American couple have brought a completely new meaning to the phrase ‘my dog ate my homework’ after their dog ate $4,000 in cash! Our Labrador Poppy is very well behaved but it is a helpful reminder to keep important Treasury documents away from her just in case…