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Richmond Park News: 10 February 2022

It was an honour to be in Westminster Hall on Wednesday to listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing a joint session of Parliament.

President Zelenskyy is one of the great heroes of liberal democracy of our age, and it was inspiring to hear him speak. It is a source of great pride that the British people have stood firm and unwavering in support of the brave people of Ukraine. Now, as we approach the one year anniversary of the invasion, we must continue to assist Ukraine until their country is safe again.

On Wednesday, President Zelenskyy said again that we should treat Russia as a terrorist state. One way we could do that is by defining the notorious Wagner Group - mercenaries who are carrying out atrocities against Ukrainians on a daily basis - as a terrorist organisation. We must also continue to work with our international allies to ensure we take a coordinated approach to countering Putin’s aggression.



QUESTION TIME

This week, I was pleased to be asked to appear on BBC Question Time, sitting alongside Labour’s Lisa Nandy MP, Minister George Freeman MP from the Conservatives, journalist Matthew Syed and broadcaster Inaya Folarin Iman.

The topics discussed included whether we should send fighter jets to support Ukraine to the comments raised by the new Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson, regarding food bank usage and the death penalty, before closing on how we can rebuild trust in the police after a series of revelations regarding the conduct of officers, particularly against women and girls.

To begin the debate, I set out the Liberal Democrats' position that President Zelenskyy’s request must be considered carefully in the context of escalating the conflict. I believe the Government should urgently convene a meeting with NATO allies to discuss the proposals. I stressed the need to ensure that any jets sent are sent in collaboration with our allies, to show a united front against Putin and his allies.

When the discussion moved onto the conduct of Lee Anderson, I objected to Minister Freeman’s assertion that he does not speak for the Government in his new role. I attacked Anderson’s claim that poverty could be alleviated by ‘better budgeting’ by people on low incomes. This is a comment all too representative of the attitude of a Government that is not doing enough to help those struggling the most during the cost of living crisis.

In the final subject on the show, I shared fellow panelist Matthew Syed's admiration for the fantastic work of the local police in Southwest London BCU, particularly in Richmond Park. However, I also used my contribution to highlight how crucial it is that bad officers are rooted out of the force immediately, and that stronger safeguards in recruitment and review are needed to ensure those such as David Carrick are identified and removed from the police.

Should you wish to see me discuss my comments on poverty, you can do so here, on the police here, and you can watch the full show on BBC iPlayer.


SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO NHS DENTISTRY

The Health and Social Care Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into NHS Dentistry Services, following the release of survey data which shows 90% of practises across the UK are not accepting any new patients. I know that this issue is especially stark across Richmond Park and I am regularly contacted by constituents who are unable to register with an NHS dentist.

I have submitted evidence to the Select Committee inquiry on behalf of constituents and local healthcare services. In my submission, I highlight steps the Government should take to improve access to dentistry services, such as ensuring funding allocations reflect local need, and making improvements to the NHS website. I also put forward a number of proposals to improve recruitment and retention of dental professionals. You can read a copy of my submission here.

Submissions to the inquiry have not yet been published online. However you can read the full terms of reference of the inquiry here.


TURKEY / SYRIA EARTHQUAKE

I shared the distress of the many constituents who wrote to me this week about the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The magnitude of this earthquake was truly devastating, and many UK residents are desperately trying to find out what has happened to family and friends in Turkey and Syria.


Communications are hampered by the scale of this disaster and the terrible weather, with ten densely populated cities affected, some under feet of snow. The cut to the international development budget means we are less able to respond to disasters like this, so I know many of my constituents will be looking for ways to help. I am recommending that you make monetary donations instead of sending goods, as it will be very difficult for physical donations to get there. You can see the matched donations site here.



CONSTITUENCY VISITS


I was very pleased to join Cllr James Manthel, Sue Baker and her volunteers last Friday at Tea and Treats, a free community tea party held each month at Swinnerton Hall in north Kingston.


The space for this wonderful event is donated by St Luke's Church in Kingston, and volunteers make all the baked goods and serve the guests. Guests can engage in activities such as board games, crafting, blood pressure checks by local pharmacist and conversation with other local residents. Last week, guests included Ukrainian and Iranian refugees visiting with Refugee Action Kingston. The event was also attended by local Met Police officers who came to hear any concerns that attendees wanted to raise with them and give advice.


Everyone there said how much they enjoyed participating, whether as a volunteer or a guest, and I can say that I enjoyed being there just as much.


I also visited King's Oak School on Dickerage Lane in New Malden last week. Kings Oak is a friendly and caring school giving many of my young constituents a fine education. There is plenty of play space and the school is full of energy.


Headteacher Ian Hutchings spoke to me about the enormous financial pressures that schools are under, particularly with the inadequate Special Educational Needs funding from central government. The pressure on teachers to do more and more with less and less every year is causing staff absence due to stress, compounding the pressures.


I spoke with children on the school council about my work in Parliament and some of the topics they are interested in, like water pollution and climate change. I was interested to hear that the children take it in turns to go to the Forest School in Berrylands Nature reserve, which they really enjoy. The year groups also take it in turns to receive Brite Box meals on a Friday - this is part of their Health Education and provides a cooking opportunity to the children.


King's Oak has places available now.




CROSS COUNTRY RUNNING RICHMOND PARK


Following concerns expressed by constituents who heard misleading reports earlier this week that Royal Parks has banned cross country running in Richmond Park, I checked with Royal Parks about their actions and plans. I am happy to assure my constituents that Royal Parks has not banned cross country running in Richmond Park and has no plans to do so. You can see Royal Park's statement in response to this unfortunate misunderstanding here.



KINGSTON SOCIAL SPACES PROJECT

The Social Spaces project aims to bring additional seating and planting to the town centre. Since 2021, temporary planting, seating and greening have been implemented in three locations: outside the train station; on lower Fife Road and on Thames Street. Following positive feedback from local residents, visitors and businesses Kingston First and Ryder will be working with businesses, local communities and users to develop plans and designs to introduce permanent seating and greening in these locations. You can view the project's timeline here.

Throughout February there will be a series of meetings sharing the initial design for locals, residents and businesses in Kingston town centre. This is your chance to talk, share ideas or ask questions.

  • Tuesday 21 February – 12-2pm - Urban Room (Market House), Ancient Market Place

  • Thursday 23rd February – 5-7pm – Online session

If you are interested in attending the online session, please email shareena.merzi@kingstonfirst.co.uk



TUDOR DRIVE LITTER PICK


Tudor Drive Library Friends are organising a community litter pick tomorrow from 10:30 - 12:00. All are welcome to come and have fun helping to clean up. Meet at the library; equipment will be provided.




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