It was the privilege of my life to be elected as your Member of Parliament just over a year ago. From dealing with the pandemic, securing more money for pothole filling, and protecting the Surrey Hills, to assisting with local businesses and supporting the Chancellor with the Covid-19 economic response in my role as PPS to HM Treasury, last year was certainly a busy start. As a newbie MP, still learning the ropes, I wanted to make myself as accessible as possible last year. I hosted surgeries in the Westway Centre, worked with the Caterham Flood Action Group, and heard from our young people in local schools. I also carried out virtual constituency visits, held remote surgeries, and hosted Facebook Live Q&As. But this year I hope to meet many more of you in person.
One of the reasons I supported this second lockdown was extensive talks with East Surrey Hospital and our local NHS Trust and looking at the most reliable data which, in my view, is hospital admissions. It was clear that our elective surgery, including endoscopies, was at risk. I have spoken to Victoria Robinson, too, from Cancer Research, and she outlined her concerns about delays in diagnoses and some people's reluctance to speak with their doctors. As your local MP, I just want to emphasise that if you have existing medical appointments and check-ups, you should continue to attend them. And if you find anything irregular when carrying out self-checks or if you think you need to speak to your doctor about a medical issue – no matter how small – you can and should do so as normal. The NHS is there to serve you – and it remains fully operational. I do want to leave you in no doubt, though, that I am deeply against fighting the virus with lockdowns in the long term. That's why I sought – and received – assurances that, on 2 December, our exit from lockdown in East Surrey will be judged on our local rate of infection, not on a national 'R' rate.
As part of my work with the East of Surrey Local Economic Taskforce that I established in June to support the local economy has made a lot of progress this month, I visited Gatwick Airport last week to discuss the challenges they're currently facing and what I can do to help. I recently wrote to the Transport Secretary this month to ask him to consider Gatwick's suggestion to replace or shorten quarantining with an approach centred around testing. I’m very pleased that the Government has since set up the Global Travel Taskforce, which will operate in collaboration with the transport industry, the tourism and local business sectors, and the private testing sector, as well as engaging with partners from governments across the globe. It will consider what steps Britain can take to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel – an industry on which I know so many local jobs and livelihoods in Caterham depend. Two weeks ago, neighbouring MP Crispin Blunt and I also met with the Minister for Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, to push for £2.5 million for East Surrey College’s Advanced Technology Centre. This proposal is even more vital considering the need to skill up our young people into the jobs of the future. The meeting was very constructive, and both Crispin and I were encouraged by the Minister’s positive response, and we will continue to work hard on getting this funding.