Last week I gave a speech to the think-tank Policy Exchange in my capacity as Minister for Childcare and Education, in which I outlined some of my thoughts on how we give children the best start in life. You can read the speech here:
Earlier this year, after I was approached by constituents hit by a vishing scam, I called for a new, industry-wide public information campaign, to improve awareness of the latest scams and what customers can do to avoid them.
Having met with the British Bankers Association to discuss the issue, I am delighted that the Know Fraud, No Fraud public information campaign has now been launched.
You can read the BBA's advice here. I would encourage everyone to read this information carefully, and share it with family and friends to reduce the risk of falling victim to these pernicious scams.
On Saturday I joined with the parents of a young couple tragically killed in a car accident on Titsey Road, Oxted, to call for better safety on our rural roads.
Titsey Road remains extremely hazardous for drivers, and more needs to be done to improve safety to prevent further tragedies from occurring. Whilst I would like to thank Surrey County Council's Tandridge Local Committee for the action they have taken so far, introducing temporary signs to alert motorists to the dangerous corner and action to level the road surface, I urge them to implement a 40mph speed limit as soon as possible.
However, this is a much wider issue, both in East Surrey and across the UK, where three people die each day on average on country roads. That is simply not acceptable. We need to do more to raise awareness amongst drivers of the dangers of rural roads, and greater action from local authorities to ensure that speed limits are appropriate and potential hazards well sign-posted.
For any parent, this is an unthinkable tragedy to have to come to terms with. I have nothing but admiration for the way in which the families affected have coped.
Photo: at the site of the accident on Titsey Road with Cllr Nick Skellett, David and Patricia Sanders and Madeline Palmer. Photo courtesy of Kevin Black
My next Sam Direct will be at the Christ Church Hall, Kings Cross Lane, South Nutfield, RH1 5NG on Friday 7 November at 7.00pm.
These sessions are a relaxed, informal opportunity for those present to ask whatever questions they have about local issues or on the wider, national topics of interest.
All are welcome to attend, and you can see a flyer for the event here.
I have been extremely concerned by recent reports from across the constituency of the misery caused by increased air traffic at all times of the day, including in areas not previously overflown. With both Heathrow and Gatwick insisting that recent flight path changes have not affected our area, I have held a series of meetings with local residents and the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Gatwick and Heathrow airports and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to understand the source of the problem.
It transpires that the core issue is the use of the Precision Area Navigation (PR-NAV) system, which allows planes to fly with increased accuracy in and out of Gatwick. Designed to maximise runway use at Gatwick, the changes are part of a wider consideration of our National Airspace Strategy, which feeds, in turn, to the European Airspace Strategy. The effect, however, has been to concentrate aircraft along a much narrower 250-500m corridor of airspace over Felbridge, Lingfield and Dormansland.
The system became mandatory in May this year and coincided with changes in weather conditions causing the normally westerly take-offs to switch to easterly. Typically, 70% of departures from Gatwick will fly to the west, with the remaining 30% taking off to the east. But recent weather has seen this figure reversed, with 90% of flights in September taking off to the East and just 10% flying west.
This has caused an unacceptable concentration of aircraft over our area, which clearly was not taken into account when the system was trialled two years ago. It is shocking that so little has been done to make residents aware of this change, or to ensure an effective mechanism through which they can register their concerns.
The Civil Aviation Authority has responsibility for PR-NAV, and are due to undertake a post-implementation performance review. Working with other Surrey MPs I have already requested an urgent meeting with the CAA, but I would encourage everyone affected to make their views known by contacting them directly.
You can contact the Civil Aviation Authority by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post (Airspace Policy Directorate, CAA, CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6TE).
I have also raised concern about the unusual level of noise over Warlingham, Woldingham and Oxted with Gatwick and Heathrow. Neither airport accept responsibility for the increase in complaints. I would encourage constituents experiencing increased noise in these areas to report times and dates of specific planes flying overhead, so that we can present a clear case to stop these unwelcome disturbances.
I was very pleased to learn that this afternoon the appeal against a High Court ruling permitting a hard runway has been upheld. The judgement confirms that a development of this kind is not permissible within the Government's guidelines to protect the greenbelt, and is hopefully the end of a long-running battle that has blighted the lives of local residents who would have been affected.
This result is a further endorsement of Tandridge District Council and Reigate & Banstead Borough Council's judgement, that this was the wrong development in the wrong place at the wrong time. I would again like to pay tribute to the persistent hard work of Keep Redhill Aerodrome Green (KRAG), Nutfield Parish Council, and the local residents who campaigned so strongly against this development.
Tomorrow's referendum is not just an issue for the people of Scotland. The consequences of ending our three hundred year-old union will be felt deeply all across Britain, whether you live in east Scotland or East Surrey.
Families would find themselves divided by a new border, businesses would face new barriers to trade, and as a smaller country with a weaker economy, the rest of the UK would be far less influential in Europe and the wider world.
I passionately believe that the best future for all of us, whether we live north or a long way south of the border, is for the United Kingdom to stay together. As we approach the final hours of the campaign, I would encourage everyone to get in touch with family and friends in Scotland, to let them know why the United Kingdom matters and why it is in all our interests for Scotland to stay with us.
Click here to read my interview with the Independent, covering my role and priorities as Early Years & Childcare Minister.
The quality of rail services in East Surrey has been a key concern over recent months (see here and here). Last week, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for the Government to do more to help commuters with the cost of rail fares and, specifically, for January's scheduled fare increases to be scrapped. I also made the case for greater investment in the local rail network and the electrification of the Uckfield line to improve capacity.
The fact is that for many people in East Surrey who commute into central London, there is no alternative to using rail services. The planned above-inflation increase in rail fares would have seen the price of an annual season ticket into London with a travelcard rise to £2,368 from Caterham, £3,035 from Oxted and £3,991 from Horley. This would have put a further strain on families, especially for those in which both parents commute.
I am delighted that the Government has since responded, announcing that rail fares in England will be frozen in real terms for 2014-15, a repeat of the offer made to commuters last year. This is a welcome move for anyone who relies upon the rail network to get to work, and particularly for families where both parents commute by train.
In my letter to the Transport Secretary, I also called for the electrification of the Uckfield line, which would help to reduce pressure at peak times and be a major step towards achieving the faster, more efficient service that our area needs. Over the coming months I will also be discussing with Govia (parent company of Southern Rail and winner of the TSGN franchise) the case for implementing flexible ticketing measures in East Surrey, such as reduced-price season tickets for those commuting into London for only part of a week.
Evidence suggests that children from less advantaged backgrounds currently start primary school up to 19 months behind their peers. In 21st century Britain this is unacceptable. That is why I am delighted to announce the extension this week of 15 hours of free early education to the 40 per cent of most disadvantaged two year olds, to help them fulfil their potential in life.
Already 116,000 two-year olds benefit from this free childcare, and from this week more than 260,000 children will be eligible, including 2,900 in Surrey. This is an important step that will help ensure that, whatever their background, the next generation will receive the best possible start in life.
Last week I gave a speech to the think-tank Policy Exchange in my capacity as Minister for Childcare and... http://t.co/SJDigsvSJM
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Earlier this year, after I was approached by constituents hit by a vishing scam, I called for a new,... http://t.co/mfAr36clbL
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