Tag Archives: Jeremy Hunt

Climate Change meeting with Jeremy Hunt

“You have chosen a week when I am about the most toxic man in the country.” So said Jeremy Hunt at the beginning of a meeting with a dozen of his constituents to discuss climate change.

The meeting, at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, on April 29, was a postponement of one in March which Mr Hunt withdrew from, citing “unforeseen circumstances”. This time, despite stating that he was “toxic” and that he assumed that “none of the group had voted for me”, he and the constituents sought to find common ground.

Mr Hunt started by stating that the Conservative commitment to climate change policies is genuine, and that the future of the environment is something that Conservatives must think about, but that “economic growth holds the key”.

Local architect Chris Holmes introduced the main topics that the group was interested in talking to Mr Hunt about – flood prevention, particularly by planting trees on the Farnham floodplain; energy-efficient buildings; and alternative transport. Mr Hunt was particularly keen on the idea of cycling and said he wanted to press for more cycle lanes in Farnham.

He was, however, frustrated by the fact that different councils had responsibility for different aspects of planning, including transport planning. This is something he had come up against when he mooted the idea of pedestrianisation. “Our local democracy is totally flawed,” he said. “We should have a Farnham council with an elected mayor so we know where the buck stops. When I proposed the pedestrianisation of Farnham it was a complete nightmare as, for example, traffic comes under Surrey County Council, the East Street development under Waverley Borough Council, other things come under Farnham Town Council. In the end I called a referendum on pedestrianisation so that Surrey County Council could not ignore it if there were a ‘yes’ vote.”

This structure has an effect on planning too. The group was keen to look at ways that new homes planning could be co-ordinated taking in to account the need for more active travel and lower carbon emissions. The question was raised why new houses had to have gas fuelled heating and cooking rather than renewables or electric which could be converted to renewables later. Why, Mr Hunt was asked, are developers not forced to install solar panels on new houses?

Jo Musker-Sherwood, from the group Hope for the Future, asked why the government policy for zero-carbon new homes had been cancelled. She asked whether, in the light of this, the government was really committed to tackling climate change. This was something that Mr Hunt agreed he could raise with Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

On the subject of transport Mr Hunt said that agreed with Mark Potter of Protean Electric that “We need a paradigm shift so that we can look at other ways of providing transport.”

“I agree we need a paradigm shift,” he said and added: “I pay tribute to Ken Livingstone – and it is not a fashionable day to do that – because he brought in the congestion charge in London and put the money he made into improving bus travel. In London there are more frequent buses, more bus lanes, and in London there has been a paradigm shift.” He said that he wanted to encourage people to cycle because “every one person we can get to cycle is one out of a car or (in London) off the tube”.

He also listened with interest to an idea put forward by Clive Davidson from Haslemere who said that in Haslemere a group had been looking at how it would be possible to use the Hoppa buses to take people to and from the station. The Hoppa buses are on the road after the early-morning time when most cars are used and before the evening commuter period. They wanted to investigate whether the Hoppa could be used to pick up commuters from villages in the morning and take them back in the evening.

Asked what else he would do to address the concerns of the constituents there, Mr Hunt seemed to feel that flood risk had been dealt with as in Godalming a £3.4million scheme to put in flood defences had just been signed off. He also stalled on making any commitments in terms of active travel/alternatives to cars powered by fossil fuels as he said he believed that first Farnham needs to be pedestrianised and then the town could rethink its public transport. He said he believed in “small steps”, though some in the group begged to differ that this was a small step.

However, this is the beginning of a dialogue and, having agreed to let the group know what Amber Rudd said about zero-carbon emissions on new buildings, he said he would be happy to have further discussions after the summer break, perhaps in September.

Stella Wiseman

Meeting with Jeremy Hunt

“You have chosen a week when I am about the most toxic man in the country.” So said Jeremy Hunt at the beginning of a meeting with a dozen of his constituents to discuss climate change.

The meeting, at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, on April 29, was a postponement of a public one in March which Mr Hunt withdrew from, citing “unforeseen circumstances”. He agreed to a new meeting with a strictly limited number of constituents and, despite stating that he was “toxic” and that he assumed that “none of the group had voted for me”, he and the constituents sought to find common ground.

There were three main topics of discussion: flood prevention, particularly by planting trees on the Farnham floodplain; energy-efficient buildings; and alternative transport. Mr Hunt was particularly keen on the idea of cycling and said he wanted to press for more cycle lanes in Farnham and agreed that there was a need for “a paradigm shift.”

He added: “I pay tribute to Ken Livingstone – and it is not a fashionable day to do that – because he brought in the congestion charge in London and put the money he made into improving bus travel. In London there are more frequent buses, more bus lanes, and in London there has been a paradigm shift.” He said that he wanted to encourage people to cycle because “every one person we can get to cycle is one out of a car or (in London) off the tube”. However, he would not yet make any commitment to campaigning for alternatives to cars powered by fossil fuels as he said he believed that first Farnham needs to be pedestrianised and then the town could rethink its public transport. He said he believed in “small steps”, though some in the group begged to differ that this was a small step.

On the subject of flood prevention, Mr Hunt said that in Godalming a £3.4million scheme to put in flood defences had just been signed off so he did not seem to feel the need to consider Farnham at the moment.

Mr Hunt did agree to talk to Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, on the subject of why the government policy for zero-carbon new homes had been cancelled. He also agreed that the meeting was the start of ongoing discussions with his consituents and said that he would be happy to meet them again after the summer break, perhaps in September.

Climate Change Meeting to meet with our MP

Jeremy Hunt, South West Surrey MP and Secretary of State for Health, was unable to come to St George’s Church on March 12 to discuss climate change with his constituents as we had originally hoped, but this turned out not to be the problem that many of us had thought it might be.

In fact, it gave the 30 or so constituents who gathered at the church that morning the chance to have a focused meeting to discuss what questions should be put to him at a meeting to be held later, something that he has promised. Indeed, Mr Hunt has said that he wants “an ongoing conversation” about climate change with his constituents.

Helping us to understand the issues were representatives of Hope for the Future, a group born out of the Church of England and which helps churches across the UK to lobby MPs and parliamentary candidates on climate change.

The meeting acknowledged what many of us feel – that it can seem overwhelming, that we can do little to help in the face of melting ice-caps and sea levels rising so high that they will flood and destroy places like the Pacific nation of Kiribati or cause the soil in parts of inland Bangladesh to become so salty that nothing can grow there, and in the face of a leaked report saying that the UK is set to miss by around 25 per cent its obligations to get 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The meeting also emphasised that there are things that can be done. In particular, as one participant, Clive Kiley, said: “When we all come together, we have a more powerful voice.”

Having a voice and expressing our opinions was central to the day, a fact borne out in the introductory session when Hope for the Future recounted the way the group had helped constituents in Cheltenham to persuade their MP, the Conservative Alex Chalk, to challenge his party on the climate change bill.

MPs, as elected representatives of the people, are duty-bound to consider what constituents are asking them to do, if enough agree, so the more that constituents lobby about climate change the better. However, it makes sense to narrow the focus so that real action is possible.

The discussions on what would be most useful to concentrate on when talking to Mr Hunt were wide-ranging and included many issues that were important to constituents such as transport, planning, building on flood plains, pedestrian safety, solar energy, recycling, local food production, care of the woodlands and much more. However, an effective way of moving forward in discussions is to identify issues that all parties care about and two areas that particularly concern Mr Hunt were identified – the pedestrianisation of Farnham and, of course, health, and he has expressed particular interest in supporting those with dementia and their carers.

The plan was to structure a conversation with Mr Hunt, looking at measures that would both slow down the rate of global warming and have a positive effect on health. For instance, a Health Protection Agency report states that the cost to the British economy of pollution is £16 billion. Emissions from burning fossil fuels cause pollution which causes global warming. Pollution also causes health problems. The pollution in Farnham would be reduced if there were fewer vehicles being driven through and more people were able to walk or take public transport. Walking, too, is good for the health.

Hope for the Future took away with them all the suggestions that we had given them and will now help us formulate questions that we can ask at a meeting that Mr Hunt has assured us will take place soon. With the right questions the church could have a real impact.

Stella Wiseman

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Climate Change questions to ask our MP

The climate change meeting on the 12th March at 9:30am at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, will be going ahead with constituents meeting to network and formulate environmental questions to ask our MP, Jeremy Hunt. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Jeremy is unable to join us on that day. However, we plan to meet with Jeremy on another occasion when we will present him with our core environmental concerns and look forward to having a focused meeting on an important issue.

For further information please contact Lesley on 01252 820537 or revdlesley@gmail.com.