FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS
On Wednesday I hosted an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on our future free trade agreements with Ghana and Cameroon. This is a vitally important issue as it gives us an indication of how our tree trade agreements will look with parts of the developing world in the aftermath of Brexit.
I am very concerned by the deals that have been struck with the two countries, and the process by which they were arrived at. Having effectively been brushed under the carpet with minimal scrutiny, these “rollover” trade deals will make a mockery of our commitment to human rights and our environmental obligations.
The Government has been extraordinarily arrogant in rebuffing Ghana’s request for a deal that better supports regional integration. Furthermore, by ignoring humanitarian concerns around the conduct of Cameroonian government forces in the Anglophone separatists conflict, we are essentially turning a blind eye to unconscionable violence. And in the year the UK has the COP26 Presidency, it is unacceptable that neither one of these trade deals includes provisions to tackle the appalling levels of illegal deforestation and land use change that both Ghana and Cameron are currently suffering from.
GP DATA COLLECTION PROGRAMME TO BE DELAYED
I am happy to report that, following concerns about the programme expressed by the NHS, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs, and calls by the Liberal Democrat MPs, the Government has announced that they will delay the implementation of the General Practice Data for Planning and Research programme from 1 July to 1 September.
Jo Churchill, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, announced that they will use this time to strengthen the programme and ensure data security. I hope they will also use the time to publicise their plans more widely and ensure that everyone who would like to opt out has the knowledge and opportunity to do so.
This data will be incredibly useful to researchers, and will certainly contribute to important advances in treatment and healthcare planning. But people should be fully informed and empowered to decide for themselves if they wish their data to be used in this way. I am happy that we have convinced the Government to slow down and ensure that it is collected and managed securely and appropriately.
GIVE BLOOD OR PLASMA AND SAVE A LIFE
Yesterday I had the pleasure of donating blood at the dedicated blood and plasma donation centre in Twickenham, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. The donation centre is on the 8th floor of Regal House in Twickenham, with panoramic views to enjoy while you are donating. The location, right next to Twickenham Station, is easily accessible for anyone in reach of a train station or a Twickenham-bound bus. The staff, (including Vicente, pictured taking my blood below!) were incredibly friendly and capable and made the whole experience very pleasant.
In addition to giving blood you can also donate plasma, which is the liquid component of blood. Plasma is used to treat a variety of immune deficiencies and genetic disorders. Until recently the UK had to import plasma from abroad at considerable cost. Now we have 14 centres across the UK that can collect it, including Twickenham. Plasma donation allows the NHS to make lifesaving immunoglobulin medicines.
I am happy to report that as of Monday, the rules on blood donation will be changed and gay men will no longer be prevented from giving blood. Following the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group’s recommendations and in line with the latest scientific evidence, people will be screened to donate based on their health, travel and sexual behaviour rather than their sexual orientation. This is a welcome move against discrimination, and I know that the centre will be busy next week with donors celebrating Pride Month by seizing this long-awaited opportunity.
The Twickenham blood and plasma donation facility is open six days a week year round; you can book an appointment to suit you on the NHS website here. They are always in need of new blood donors; nearly 400 new donors a day are needed to meet UK demand. There is high need for Black donors because of a rise in demand for some rare blood types that are more common in people of Black heritage, but all donors are needed and welcomed. I highly recommend booking an appointment if you want to make a difference to someone else's life.
I was informed by Public Health London today that Covid-19 cases are still rising across London, with the Delta variant the dominant strain -- representing 91% of cases now. I am glad to report that there has been no significant corresponding increase in hospitalisations as of yet, showing the success of the vaccination programme in protecting those most vulnerable to serious illness. There are, however quite a few people aged over 60 or clinically vulnerable who have not yet been vaccinated. If you know of someone in this category, please encourage them to speak to a health care provider about any concerns that may be stopping them from taking the vaccine.
With cases rising in Richmond and high levels in Kington already, please maintain your hygience and social distancing. Book your vaccination as soon as you are called, and do your lateral flow tests twice a week.
Anyone 25 or over is eligible for a vaccine and asked to book their jab either online or by calling 119.
EU CITIZENS - JUNE 30 DEADLINE FOR SETTLED STATUS APPLICATIONS
I learned this week that there are still quite a few EU citizens living in my constituency who have not applied for settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The deadline to apply is June 30. Those who have not applied by the deadline will lose their legal rights to live, work and access benefits in the UK. If you have not applied and you want to stay in the UK, please apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible.
RISING CYCLING NUMBERS
New data from Transport for London (TfL) and cycling retailer Halfords has revealed record increases in the number of people cycling in London, with an increase of more than 200 per cent on some weekends, while survey data from Halfords suggests bike owners are cycling more often and feel safer on the roads.
TfL and Halfords launched a partnership last November to enable safer cycling through better training and safety equipment. Since then, more than 12,000 people have registered for TfL’s free online Cycle Skills course. In addition to the free online Cycle Skills course, face-to-face cycle training across London’s boroughs restarted in March, making it even easier for people to learn the skills they need to cycle safely.
Despite fewer journeys being made during the pandemic, cycling numbers continue to be significantly above the long-term average at weekends, with a 68 per cent increase across 29 - 30 May compared to the baseline year. I am delighted to see this increase in active travel and hope the trend continues after lockdown is over.
OFSTED INSPECTION OF LOCAL SEND SERVICES
Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) are now carrying out anspection of our local area. The inspection will evaluate how effectively Achieving for Children identifies and meets the needs of children and young people with Special Eductional Needs and Disabiliities.
The views of children and young people with SEND, and the views of their parents and carers will be gathered during visits to a number of early years settings, schools, colleges and specialist services.
The inspection will also include a survey of parents and carers. The survey is open until 15 June 2021, next Tuesday. Parents and carers who would like to take part in this survey can follow this link or email their contributions to Lasend.firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF RICHMOND LENDING LIBRARY
Richmond Lending Library, London's oldest public library still in use, will close from Friday 11 June 2021 at 6.00pm until mid-September 2021 to complete major repair works to protect the Grade II listed building, which was damaged by an incendiary bomb during World War II.
Whilst works are underway, a pop-up library will open in the Richmond Library Annexe, operating 7 days a week and for the same hours as Richmond Lending Library. From Monday, users will be able to reserve books via the Click & Collect services and will also be able to browse selections of stock that will be moved from the Lending Library to the Annexe. The Annexe will also have a children’s book area. Public computers will be available at the nearby Information and Reference Library.
COUNCIL WEBINAR ON THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Residents are invited to join Richmond Council’s online webinar ‘Beyond Recycling: The Circular Economy’.
Residents will have the opportunity to learn about the Circular Economy: what it is and how it can be applied to residents’ daily lives. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimising the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
The webinar will provide residents with an opportunity to have their questions answered about a system aimed at eliminating waste and promoting the continual reuse of resources. Attendees will also receive handy tips on how they can make changes in their daily lives.
The webinar will also spotlight local businesses and projects that are already engaged in work around the Circular Economy, including Richmond Furniture Scheme, a local furniture-recycling charity serving Richmond and Twickenham, and Refill Larder, a zero waste store in Teddington that is helping to reduce plastic and packaging waste.
The webinar will take place on Thursday, June 17th during London Circular Economy Week 2021, from 6:30pm – 7:30pm. To register for this event please sign up here.
To find out more about London Circular Economy Week 2021, please visit https://ceweek.london/
ENHANCED COVID-19 RESPONSE IN KINGSTON
Because of the high case rate in Kingston, Kingston residents, and pupils at Kingston secondary schools, are invited to have a PCR test as well as their usual twice weekly lateral flow tests. PCR tests, unlike lateral flow tests, are able to identify the particular strain someone is infected with.
Surge testing with PCR tests will really help the NHS track the different strains circulating. For more information on the three-week increased level of response in Kingston, and to find out how to get your PCR test, pleasevisit: kingston.gov.uk/surge.
You can hear Kingston Council Leader Caroline Kerr talking about the new measures here.
HEALTHWATCH KINGSTON OPEN MEETING
Kingston residents are invited to join Healthwatch Kingston's open meeting via Zoom on Thursday 15 June. They'll be joined by Paul Shanahan, BCBA Research Support Lead / Behaviour Analyst, Neurodevelopmental Services who will be discussing research findings relating to young people with learning disabilities. The meeting will also touch on Long Covid and Healthwatch Kingston's vaccine survey.