By now you will all have heard that the Prime Minister has implemented the Government's Plan B strategy for Covid-19 reduction in response to the spread of the Omicron variant and high Covid-19 case numbers.
From 10 December 2021, mandatory face covering rules are back in place in indoor public places and on public transport, but not in cafes, restaurants and pubs. Workers are instructed to work from home if possible. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work. Certain venues and events will be required by law to check that adult visitors are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.
I know there is a great deal of dismay that these measures have had to be reintroduced, especially given the Prime Minister's cavalier attitude to lockdown violations by members of his own Government. Many of my constituents have written this week to tell me how angry they are that the Prime Minister was holding a party last Christmas while they were being kept away from close and/or vulnerable family members, and that 4000 people were fined for breaking the same rules that the Prime Minister broke.
I share the anger of my constituents - especially those who were alone at Christmas last year, some unable to say goodbye to a dying loved one. The Prime Minister must take responsibility for this scandal.
Nevertheless, the Omicron variant is now spreading in the community, and Covid-19 case numbers are already very high in Richmond Park. Our hospitals are coping for the moment, but could be tipped over the brink by a sharp rise in hospitalisations if the Omicron variant turns out to be less susceptible to our two-dose vaccination regimen. We are once again in a race between vaccinations and infections, with the NHS sprinting to keep the booster jab programme ahead of the spread of Omicron.
I urge everyone to do all they can to slow the spread of the virus by complying with both the spirit and the letter of the new regulations. Please wear your mask in enclosed public spaces, wash your hands and test yourself regularly (especially before attending social events.) You can see all the ways to get free home lateral flow test kits here. And please make sure you and your family are up to date with all of the vaccinations for which you are eligible. You can book your vaccination appointments here.
I know the Prime Minister has lost the moral authority to ask us all to make sacrifices again. But I am asking everyone to do so anyway, not because he asks it, but because it is the only way to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.
HELPING SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES
Earlier this week I wrote an article for Politics.co.uk about the need for the Government to do more to help small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to navigate the new systems and processes put in place since the UK left the EU. Larger companies may have the money and resources to cope with the new obstacles to trade, but many SMEs do not. The Government must urgently make changes to stop our businesses and our economy from being fatally harmed. You can read my article here.
I also wrote to Paul Scully, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets at the
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy this week to ask him to hold an urgent hospitality summit. Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses are seeing unprecedented rates of booking cancellations for the festive period. With the sector relying heavily on the Christmas season to offset the slower months of the year, we need to do more to save these vital community businesses. You can see the letter, co-written with my colleague Daisy Cooper MP, here.
DEBATE ON TRANSITION TO ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Yesterday I participated in a Westminster Hall debate, led by my Liberal Democrat colleague Wera Hobhouse MP, on the steps we need to take to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles by 2030. During Wera's impassioned call for the Government to be more proactive in strengthening the National Grid
infrastructure, funding charging point installation and investing in renewable power generation, I spoke to remind everyone that while we are transitioning to electric vehicles we also need to be encouraging people away from private motor cars and onto public transport.
During my speech, I made the point that the Department for Transport must agree terms with Transport for London (TfL) for a funding solution.
I was appalled to learn about job cuts at TfL this week, forced by the Government's failure to agree a suitable funding plan for London's transport system. Without a robust and reliable transport network, we risk removing access to jobs, education and services for the most vulnerable. We also risk an enormous blow to London's business community from the loss of customers and employees. With the national economy, and the Treasury coffers, so dependent on London's economic success, the Government must offer more support for our public transport system, and over longer terms.
SUPPORTING TENANT FARMERS
In yesterday's Oral Questions for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) I took the opportunity to question the Secretary of State about the issue of farmers' income under the Basic Payment Scheme reductions. I asked him what he plans to do to help farmers who will lose income as a result of the scheme. You can see the text of my questions and the Secretary's responses here.
VISIT TO MOMENTUM CHILDREN'S CHARITY
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the office of Momentum’s Children’s Charity, which began life in Kingston and still provides a service to many families in my constituency. Since 2004 it has been supporting families across southwest London whose children are facing cancer or a life-challenging condition. Whatever the outcome, and for as long as needed, they provide tailored support so that no family has to cope alone.
It was fantastic to see the exciting plans they have for the future, which include partnering with a number of hospitals to provide facilities for children. This will all be underlined by a firm commitment to retaining the familiar, family-focused spirit that's made them such an important organisation over the years.
KINGFISHER LEISURE CENTRE
I understand there is ongoing concern from constituents about the plans for the Kingfisher Leisure Centre. The centre was closed in November 2019 when the roof was declared dangerous. Kingston councillors decided at that time that instead of a costly and lengthy repair process they would build a new and better leisure centre. Their decision to demolish the existing building and opt for a brand new centre is one that has my full support. For more information on the plans, please click here.
Transform Kingston has now entered its third phase of consultation, complete with a new survey, having reviewed the feedback submitted during the summer consultation. To see the updated design and once again share your views, please visit: https://transformkingston.co.uk/phase-3-survey/.
Last month I had a meeting with Transform Kingston to discuss the updated plans and I was really encouraged by what I saw. Not only do the new designs look much more accessible than the current offering, it also promises to be far more energy efficient.
I recognise that concerns around financing remain. I understand from the same meeting with Transform Kingston that a clear and transparent plan on funding will be released pre-spring next year, which I look forward to seeing and sharing with with you all.
PROJECT RUGBY YOUTH FESTIVAL
On Monday I was delighted to support the Project Rugby Festival hosted by Harlequins rugby club and the Metropolitan Police. The event involved more than 140 school pupils from the London boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond and Kingston. Participants took part in a rugby training session and workshops with the police. It was a great initiative and I know the young people gained a lot from the day.
NASAL FLU VACCINE FOR CHILDREN
Parents and carers are reminded to make sure their children are protected from the flu virus with the free and painless nasal spray flu vaccine. As the main flu viruses can change each year, a new nasal spray vaccine has to be given each year. It does not cause the flu in children and is safe and effective. The nasal spray vaccine does contain small traces of pork gelatine – if this is not suitable, please speak to your child's nurse or doctor about your options.
Parents and carers of 2- and 3-year-olds will need to book their vaccine with their GP.
Older children will receive their vaccination at school. Please make sure you return the consent form allowing them to have the flu vaccine. If you have missed the consent cut-off date but still want your child to be vaccinated, please contact the School Age Immunisation team HRCH.ImmunisationTeamRichmondMailbox@nhs.net
Please visit the NHS website for more information on the children’s flu vaccine.
TONIGHT! RICHMOND TORCH WALK IN MEMORY OF WOMEN KILLED THIS YEAR
Residents of Richmond upon Thames are invited to join a torchlight walk tonight (Friday) to mark the end of this year’s 16 Days of Action campaign, which raises awareness of violence against women and girls.
The short walk will begin at 5.30pm in the Quadrant, Richmond, (outside Santander Bank) and ends outside of York House, Twickenham, where 133 white flowers will be laid – one for every woman killed by men in the UK this year.
People are encouraged to join the walk with either an electric torch or the torch on their phone to demonstrate Richmond’s solidarity and determination to eliminate violence against women and girls.
White Ribbon’s 16 Days of Action asks men everywhere to recognise the necessity for them to stand up and take responsibility in working towards a future without violence against women and girls.
KEW ROTARY CLUB FUNDING DRIVE FOR FOOD BANKS
The Kew Rotary Club has written to ask me to publicise their drive to support the Vineyard foodbanks in Richmond, Barnes, Hampton and Whitton. They are concerned that foodbanks will be forced to turn hungry families away or reduce the size of food parcels due to insufficient resources this year. Increased demand is being triggered by the end of the furlough scheme and the withdrawal of the temporary uplift to Universal Credit. The Vineyard foodbanks aim to support over 100 families this year, and Rotarians are matching the first £1,000 of donations. For full details and to donate online visit: www.kewrotary.co.uk
TENANT ENGAGEMENT CONSULTATION
Kingston Council has started engagement on their draft Housing and Landlord Services Resident Engagement Strategy 2022 - 2024. Following discussions with stakeholders and using feedback from residents over the past year, the draft strategy looks at how they can improve engagement with tenants and leaseholders specifically, to ensure that they continue to listen to, and act upon, the issues that affect them, as well as offer further opportunities for participating in decision-making. Kingston Council is asking for thoughts on this new strategy, and the action plan included within it. To view the survey, please visit: kingstonletstalk.co.uk/resident-engagement-strategy.
NEW DIRECTOR OF PLACE
Kingston Council has appointed a new Executive Director of Place, Matthew Essex, who will lead an ambitious programme of heritage-led regeneration and renewal and drive forward plans to deliver new sustainable homes across the borough, including the first new council homes to be built for decades.
Housing development is part of Kingston's programme of heritage-led regeneration and renewal, which places Kingston’s unique history at the centre of the Council's efforts to provide the communities, economy and homes local people need and value, as well as new high quality jobs and state of the art sustainable provision such as schools, dementia care and leisure facilities.