The national response to the coronavirus crisis has shown us how important it is to have a skilled workforce. From healthcare, to manufacturing, to transport, to retail – workers from a range of different sectors and industries have gone the extra mile to support their communities and rise to the unique challenges that this virus and lockdown have presented. As members of the European Union, the UK was able to benefit from skilled workers coming here from across the continent, which greatly enhanced both our workplaces and our communities. In return, UK residents had the opportunity to live and work in 27 other countries. I voted against the Second Reading of the Immigration Bill in Parliament yesterday as its main effect is to end the enormous advantages that Freedom of Movement offered us all.
DRIVING AND MOTORCYCLE TRAINING
I have had a number of enquiries from local driver and motorcycle training instructors asking if they can return to work. I submitted a written question to the Secretary of State for Transport last week, asking them to consider allowing this in order to make it possible for more people to stay off public transportation.
The reply I received last night regarding automobile driving lessons said "Approved driving instructors (ADI) should only provide lessons to candidates who have an essential need. ADIs should ask pupils to bring appropriate identification to demonstrate the need for the lesson. It is the responsibility of the ADI and the pupil to consider the risks to their health and to decide if the driving lesson is essential."
I also asked the Secretary to allow motorcycle training centres to reopen their CBT (Common Basic Training) courses, which grant successful candidates provisional licenses to ride mopeds. The response I received was similar: "Motorcycle approved training bodies can continue to provide compulsory basic training for critical workers. Trainers should ask their pupils to bring appropriate ID with them to demonstrate the need for the training. It is the responsibility of the trainer, and the pupil, to consider the risks to their health before deciding if the training is essential.
Both automobile and motorcycle instructors must put in place protective hygiene and distancing measures to prevent transmission of the virus, in line with government guidance.
The Secretary added: "CBT, direct access scheme (DAS) or DVSA enhanced rider scheme instructor registration certificates that are due to expire before the end of June 2020, will automatically be renewed."
DOGS TO BE KEPT ON LEADS IN RICHMOND PARK UNTIL 6 JULY
From yesterday, Royal Parks have made it compulsory to keep dogs on leads in Richmond Park and Bushy Park for animal welfare reasons. This policy will remain in force until the end of deer birthing season on July 6. Royal Parks wrote to me today saying:
"Deer birthing season is an incredibly vulnerable time for female deer, who conceal their young from dogs and other perceived predators in bracken and long grass. In the last few weeks, we’ve received over 20 reports of dogs worrying deer across Richmond and Bushy Parks, and very recently we had to put down a heavily pregnant deer due to injuries sustained from an out of control dog. If people continue to let their dogs off the lead during deer birthing season, we believe there will be increased conflict between deer and dogs, that more newborn deer will be killed by dogs, and that visitors could be put in harm’s way."
I know this is disappointing for many dog owners, but please be assured this is a temporary measure that Royal Parks feels is necessary to protect deer, dogs and humans from harm.
CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU - AVAILABLE TO HELP CONSTITUENTS
Citizens Advice Bureau is continuing to advocate on behalf of its clients in this difficult economic and legal climate. If you need financial or legal assistance, Citizens Advice can help you find your way forward. They are providing advice in a number of ways:
You can find frequently updated advice on a range of issues related to the Coronavirus outbreak at citizensadvice.org.uk/coronavirus.
You can contact Richmond Citizens Advice Bureau on 0300 330 2114, or email them by filling out the form on their website, here: https://www.citizensadvicerichmond.org/
You can contact Kingston Citizens Advice Bureau on 07395 611524 or email them by filling out the form on their website, here: https://www.citizensadvicekingston.org.uk/
You can call the national Adviceline on 03444 111 444 - chat with an adviser online on our website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk
PUB COMPANY RESPONDS TO THE CRISIS
Since the lockdown began, I have been calling on pub landlords to offer better support to local publicans. We have a number of pubs in the constituency whose landlord is Ei Pub Company. Stonegate (which last month acquired Ei) has released information about the package of support they are now offering to their publicans, which includes:
three months’ rent holiday for pubs that have not received a government grant.
trade credits of either 75% or 50% of the value of three months’ rent for pubs that have received a government grant between £10,000 and £25,000.
tie release fees, and fixtures and fittings rentals, are cancelled for three months
planned price rise on tied products has been postponed until further notice
This is a good start; I will continue to press other pub landords to offer packages like this to the pubs in this constituency. Publicans are also calling for advance notice from government before they are allowed to reopen, so they have a definite date to prepare for.
THANK A TEACHER TOMORROW
Tomorrow, May 20th, is National Thank a Teacher Day. Students, pupils and families are encouraged to show their appreciation to local teachers this week. Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Committee at Richmond Council, said: “Across the borough, staff have continued to work in our schools since lockdown – teaching vulnerable children and those of our important essential workers. It is thanks to them that our country has managed to keep moving. In addition, hundreds of teachers across the borough have been logging on each morning and finding new and creative ways to educate children from their homes."
You can send a free card with a personal message through the Thank a Teacher website. Pupils, parents, grandparents or colleagues all have the opportunity to say thank you to a teacher, teaching assistant, headteacher or team by going to: https://thankateacher.co.uk/
KINGSTON LIBRARIES UPDATE
Kingston Libraries has been working hard throughout the lockdown to keep people stocked with reading material and support those who are isolated. Weekly digital events take place on their Facebook page, including Rhyme Time for under 5s, anxiety workshops, and e-book reviews. Tune in this week for five apps to help with your mental health, storytime, a library quiz and a scavenger hunt you can complete with friends and family. You can also still access all their digital resources. If you don't have a library card just click on 'join the library' and your temporary library card will give you full access to our digital library. Ancestry - a family history resource - has also now been made available to access online. Kingston Libraries have also launched their very first book group - for more information, visit their Facebook page.