The Houses of Parliament have now returned after recess and I wanted to update you all on what I have been up to in East Surrey, Parliament and as Universities and Science Minister. Many of you will have received periodic updates on particular issues you have individually contacted me about, so if you want further details please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for the latest news.
I am aware of the appalling service many of you have experienced with the changes to the Southern and Thameslink rail timetables. You are right to be angry and this has gone on for far too long.
I have written to Charles Horton, CEO of Govia, to see what is being done to minimise disruption and when you can all expect the service to stabilise after the changes to the timetable. I have also asked them detail the exact changes they have made to services across East Surrey, particularly how they affect the number of direct services to London.
I met with Chris Grayling to raise your concerns and find out exactly what is being done to rectify the situation. He mentioned some measures that will be announced soon and I can send out an update when they have been confirmed.
Traveller Community on Godstone Green
Godstone Green is Parish Council land and I have been in regular contact with all the parties involved to see what help I can offer. Godstone Parish Council have a court hearing on Friday 8 June 2018 where they hope the judge will give the families on Godstone Green an order to quit.
This has gone on too long and It has affected the quality of life of those living in Godstone, an idyllic and beautiful part of East Surrey.
In the interim, I will be speaking to Surrey Police requesting that they action Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which would remove the Travellers from Godstone Green and prevent them returning for the next three months. I hope that this pressure will force action and I am fully supportive of the Parish Council in their wish to remove the Travellers.
I will provide an update when I can on this.
Chalkpit Lane and Oxted Quarry
I received a reply to my letter to Surrey County Council about the unacceptable and ongoing issue around HGVs accessing the Oxted Quarry.
I was very disappointed to see they have delayed their decision until later this year to give the company running the quarry more time to compile their economic impact assessments.
I will keep up the pressure on the SCC to make sure this issue is brought before the Planning Committee as soon as possible. I was outraged to hear that the HGV lorries accessing the quarry on Chalkpit Lane are trying to find ways to access the site by avoiding the strip sensors that monitor traffic to and from the area - one such post on the Oxted Facebook group shows a lorry coming down the narrow hill from Woldingham Ridge.
This is completely unacceptable and I encourage anyone who has witnessed this to please email/write to me and share the evidence which I can present to Surrey County Council.
Visits to Paris, Brussels, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)
Over the Parliamentary recess, I went on a series of overseas visits to promote the UK's world-class R&D and Higher Education sectors.
In Paris, I attended the European Higher Education Area 2018 Conference.
Here, I met with the Higher Education and Research Ministers from The Netherlands, Switzerland & Norway, among many others from across Europe, to discuss the need to put students concerns at the heart of higher education, the need for quality assurances, qualification recognitions and for academic freedom post-Brexit.
I also had the privilege of celebrating the RAF 100 anniversary in the garden of the British Embassy in Paris.
I then went to Brussels for the EU Competitiveness Summit where I spoke to EU Science representatives and outlined the UK's position on how best to be part of the Euratom and Horizon 2020 programmes post-Brexit. It needs to involve a fair financial contribution, a fair level of influence and a fair level of access that works to our mutual benefit.
After Brussels, I travelled to Israel and the OPTs to further strengthen our ties in research, innovation and higher education.
While there I signed new landmark agreements which will boost innovation, academic and scientific collaboration between the UK and Israel - these will explore the potential for artificial intelligence in helping solve the challenges raised by an ageing society as well support the companies making these breakthroughs. We opened the new Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) as part of this.
I met with a group of venture capitalists and the innovators they invest in to discuss how best to support innovation and how we can learn from Israel's experience in being the leading 'start-up nation in the world.
I had the privilege of visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre. Here I paid my respects to the the victims of a horrible crime - we must preserve the memory of those who were lost and ensure this never happens again.
In the OPTs, I visited a new city, Rawabi, which is also an emerging tech cluster for young entrepreneurs hoping to develop their ideas. I met with the Palestinian Minister for Higher Education and the Vice Chancellors of Palestinian universities to explore how we can collaborate further - part of this was unveiling new schemes to help Palestinian students study in the UK as well as the CERN complex in Switzerland.
That’s it for this edition. If there are issues that haven’t been covered this time and you would like an update on what I am doing in such areas, please email me for details.
Sam Gyimah MP