The 2022-23 session of Parliament commenced this week, following the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday. In the absence of Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Charles delivered the speech, setting out the Government’s legislative agenda for the year ahead. I was very sorry that Her Majesty was unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament, and I wish her the very best as she recovers from her mobility issues.
I was very disappointed that the Government did not offer anything in the Queen’s Speech to help ease the cost-of-living crisis. The Liberal Democrats have called for an emergency VAT cut and for a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas giants, which I strongly believe would help enable families to deal with the worst of this crisis.
I look forward to full detail on the Government’s proposed Bills being published in due course, and to working alongside my colleagues across the House to hold the Government to account over the course of this Parliamentary year.
APPG FOR ETHNIC MINORITY BUSINESS OWNERS
On Thursday, in my capacity as the Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnic Minority Business Owners, I attended a meeting between the APPG and UK Finance. The meeting was held to discuss how Government policy can better support ethnic minority business owners who wish to access financial support, but are struggling to do so.
We were delighted to welcome Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden MP, and representatives from The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to detail how they propose to address this issue. It was heartening to see complete agreement that more should be done.
I look forward to continuing my work with the Government to support ethnic minority business owners, and I am pleased to say the APPG will be consulted by BEIS as they work to develop policy in this area.
HOMESTART RECEPTION IN PARLIAMENT
On Tuesday, I was pleased to host a reception in Parliament for local charity, Home-Start RKH. The event, entitled 'Giving Babies the Best Start in Life', was held to promote the fantastic work that Home-Start does across Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow supporting young families. Home-Start provide practical and emotional help to those facing mental health difficulties, post-natal depression, isolation, loneliness, the effects of domestic abuse, and those suffering from physical health problems.
Attendees at the reception included my colleague Sir Ed Davey MP, journalist Alastair Stewart, with actors David Linden and Lloyd Owen. We were also joined by Andrea Leadsom MP and Helen Hayes MP, who each spoke at the event, paying tribute to Home-Start for their tireless work supporting young families.
Home-Start RKH are a fantastic charity, and I encourage any young family who is looking for support to reach out to them here.
ROYAL PARKS MEETING
This week, I had the opportunity to meet with Royal Parks to sit down and discuss various topics that have been raised to me about Richmond Park. I am delighted to welcome Paul Richards as the new Park Manager, and I would like to wish Simon Richards a happy retirement after many years of fantastic work.
The implementation of the Movement Strategy is still in its temporary phase, while the Royal Parks consider how the needs of different user groups can best be balanced once car usage has been reduced. The Parks have consulted widely and will be bringing in some changes to enhance pedestrian safety before the final decision to adopt the Strategy is made later in the year.
I discussed, on behalf of constituents, concerns about toilet facilities, access for disabled users and the possibilities of greater public transport options to and around the park; I will continue to press the Parks on these points. Plans to introduce parking charges will need an Act of Parliament to implement, and we do not envisage Parliamentary time being given to this in the current session.
SWR TIMETABLE CHANGES
From Sunday 15th March, South Western Railways will be implementing a slightly amended timetable. Before the pandemic, timetables changed twice a year, in May and December. This is a move back towards that approach rather than the frequent chopping and changing that happened during Covid.
I am very pleased that as part of the new timetable SWR will be restoring the 07.00 weekday peak service from Shepperton to Waterloo via Twickenham. This services will pass through the constituency at the following times: Richmond 07.32, North Sheen 07.34, Mortlake 07.36, and Barnes 07.40.
SWR have informed me that there are various other minor changes across the timetable, but no other major changes planned at this point. Updated timetables for each route are available on the SWR website.
PASSPORT RENEWAL PROCESSING
I would like to make my constituents aware that due to a large increase in passport applications since the pandemic ended, passport renewals are taking currently taking about 10 weeks. If you plan to travel this summer, please check the expiry on your passport now.
An important note: Some destination countries require your passport to have been issued less than 9 years and 6 months ago. As the UK passport office allows applicants to add unused time on a previous passport to a new passport, the expiration date on your passport may be more than 10 years from the issue date. If your destination country uses date of issue rather than date of expiry as its guide, your passport may need to have nine months of remaining validity or more instead of six months in order to be able to travel on it.
Please check carefully and make sure you have plenty of time on your passport, or plenty of time for a passport renewal application before booking your travel. My office is not able to assist with passport applications made less than 10 weeks ago unless you are travelling for compassionate reasons - the death or serious illness of a close family member.
Although the government has removed remaining domestic restrictions in England, you are advised to check foreign travel advice for the country you’re travelling to. The country you’re visiting may still have COVID-19 entry rules and may require isolation or vaccinations as a condition of travel.
You can check foreign travel advice by visiting https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
The Covid-19 spring booster dose is being offered to people who are aged 75 and over or aged 12 and over with a suppressed immune system. You can book your appointment now on NHS.uk/covid-booster or find your nearest walk-in here http://ow.ly/g5kY50HRPho
Children aged 5-11 are also now eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine. If you have questions about giving your child the vaccine and would like to speak to someone, NHS clinical staff are happy to chat. To find out more, visit: https://swlondonccg.nhs.uk/covid-speak-to-us/speak-with-someone-about-vaccination/
If you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccination overseas, the NHS will need to check your vaccination status and update your NHS record. In southwest London this can be done at the following vaccination clinics, where you can either walk in or book an appointment in advance:
Centrale Shopping Centre, Croydon
Roehampton Vaccination Centre
More information about walk-in vaccinations and recording overseas vaccinations can be found on the CCG website.
HEALTHWATCH RICHMOND EVENT: LIVING WITH LONG COVID
Healthwatch Richmond is organising a panel discussion on Long Covid (also known as Post Covid Syndrome) on 24th May from 6 to 8pm at The Exchange, Twickenham. You will hear from healthcare professionals working with different aspects of Long Covid, from self-management to mental health. There will be an opportunity to ask questions during a Q&A session after the discussion.
This event is suitable for people who suffer, or suspect they might suffer, from Long Covid. But it is also suitable for their carers, for healthcare professionals wishing to learn more about it, voluntary sector workers, or anyone with an interest in Long Covid.
This is an in-person event and numbers are limited. CLICK HERE to book for this FREE event.
RICHMOND VOLUNTEER FAIR
The annual Richmond Volunteer Fair will be on 26 May 2022. The Richmond Volunteer Service is delighted to invite all residents to meet a wide range of local organisations and join ‘Team Richmond’. The Volunteer Fair returns to an in-person event this year and will offer the opportunity to talk to some of the amazing groups that support and enrich our local communities. Whether you have a few hours to fill and would like to help others, or are looking for a new challenge, the borough has hundreds of charities and groups where you could make a difference.
The stallholders will include groups working in the areas of sport, health, culture, children and young people, neighbourhood support and more – all with interesting and, sometimes, surprising roles you could get involved with.
It’s free to visit and will take place on Thursday 26 May 2022, from 2 to 6pm, at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult and Community College. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Richmond Volunteer Fair 2022 Eventbrite page. Advance registration is essential.
FUSE INTERNATIONAL - CREATIVE YOUTH FESTIVAL 2022
Kingston University's Town House is hosting the first-ever launch of FUSE International (previously known as IYAF) on 19 May, with evening performances, food, and drinks for you to enjoy throughout the night. Register for your free tickets and find out more.
ANTIQUE AND VINTAGE MARKET
An antiques and vintage market is coming to Kingston on 22 May, with 24 stalls selling vintage and retro items. If you love vintage, this is a great opportunity to find rare vinyl records, vintage homewares, branded clothing, and more! Find out more.
KINGSTON INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The 2022 Kingston International Film Festival will be on 24 - 25 June 2022 at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Submissions for the Kingston International Film Festival are open for aspiring filmmakers until May 31! Find out more.