RETAINED EU LAW BILL
The Retained EU Law Bill (REUL) is currently in a state of ping-pong, being passed between the House of Lords and the Commons as the Government will not accept the Lords’ amendments to the Bill.
Despite the Government’s U-turn, the Liberal Democrats are still concerned that this legislation could see around 600 EU-era laws slated for removal by the end of this year alone, with a further 4,000 potentially being scrapped by 2026, each removed without any consultation or vote in Parliament.
On Monday, I spoke in favour of Lords’ amendments to REUL, which would ensure that the Government could not reduce levels of environmental protections and would increase Parliamentary scrutiny. In my speech, I highlighted concern from local residents about the Thames Water abstraction scheme. Should environmental protections that govern water quality be weakened, such schemes would be subject to less scrutiny, which could lead to irreversible damage to the waterways we all enjoy.
COPYRIGHT PROTECTIONS FOR CREATIVES
Intellectual property rights are fundamental to the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries. Yet creative workers are routinely seeing their content being used to train AI platforms without permission or payment. This not only causes economic harm to the individual and undermines the integrity of original work, it also poses a threat to the future of the creative sector as a whole.
I have been campaigning over the last 6 months to raise this issue in Parliament and to ensure Government policy balances the needs of both the digital and creative economies. At Departmental Questions on Wednesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology – the Department responsible for AI regulation – whether she believes that AI developers scraping creative content without obtaining a licence constitutes copyright infringement under UK law. Although the Secretary of State assured me her Department recognises the importance of intellectual property, I was disappointed that she did not provide a direct answer to my question.
On Wednesday, I participated in a debate on the Procurement Bill, which reforms existing public procurement rules. Public procurement accounts for around 1/3 of all public spending. It is therefore essential that we have a transparent, effective procurement system with sufficient safeguards in place to ensure value for money for the taxpayer, especially at a time of straitened public finances.
The Government’s shambolic procurement of PPE over the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses in our procurement system and shown what can happen when Ministers are awarded too much power with too little scrutiny. A key example of this was the awarding of large contracts to firms closely linked to Conservative ministers and their friends through so-called ‘VIP lanes’, which resulted in scandals related to conflicts of interests and excessive profits.
I tabled an amendment to the Procurement Bill seeking to prevent the use of VIP lanes in future public contracts, and another amendment to make sure that the NHS complies with the new procurement rules set out in the legislation.
WORLD BLOOD DONOR DAY
On Wednesday, I hosted a drop-in event to mark World Blood Donor Day in my capacity as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion. The event was held to raise awareness of the need to increase the number of registered blood donors in the UK, particularly from mixed heritage and minority ethnic backgrounds.
I was delighted to see so many MPs and staff come along to speak with blood donors and learn more about the urgent need for more people to give blood. The NHS Blood and Transplant division is aiming to recruit 140,000 new blood donors this year, with a target to ensure 12,000 of these are from Black, Asian, mixed and minority ethnic backgrounds. This is particularly important considering the rise in Sickle Cell disease diagnoses - now over 17,500 a year - which primarily affect these communities.
The APPG will be conducting an inquiry over the coming months to explore why it is so much more difficult for people from mixed and minority ethnic backgrounds to find a suitable donor. We expect to publish a report with our findings in autumn. You can read more about the APPG here.
This week, I learnt that at a recent meeting of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham's (LBHF) Cabinet, Cllr Stephan Cowan, leader of LBHF, stated that Sadiq Khan would oppose the introduction of a toll across Hammersmith Bridge in a recent meeting between the two. The toll would not have been my first choice of solution for the bridge; however, I do understand Cllr Cowan's position that without private financing, LBHF will never be able to fund its portion of the works.
By opposing the creation of the toll without presenting a viable alternative solution, Mayor Khan has thrown the future of the bridge into jeopardy. While my understanding of the situation is that the creation of a toll order is ultimately the responsibility of the Secretary of State rather than the Mayor, The Mayor's opposition could prove to be a significant issue.
For this reason, this week, I wrote to both Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads and Local Transport, and Sadiq Khan, asking them to restate their commitment to fully repairing the bridge. Hammersmith Bridge is a vital part of London's infrastructure, and it must not become a monument to Government failure and political infighting.
HEATHROW: NOISE ACTION PLAN CONSULTATION
Last week, Heathrow launched its Noise Action Plan consultation, calling for the local community's views on its proposals to help reduce noise coming from the airport. In amongst their proposals, I believe there are two key areas local people should be particularly aware of: a new sound insulation scheme and changes to restrictions on night flights.
Heathrow suggests that their new sound insulation scheme will cover 20,000 people and pay for 100% of the cost of insulating their homes against aircraft noise. While this is a good step forward, the airport has not released the exact area that will be prioritised, and I fear Richmond Park residents may be excluded. I will be raising this with Heathrow and will share their answer with residents when I have it.
I was extremely pleased to see that after my campaign last summer, Heathrow is making efforts to reduce night flights significantly. While their proposed temporary ban from 12 am to 4:30 am does not go far enough, I do believe the commitment to increasing the number of nights without any flights at all is a positive step.
SUMMER READING CHALLENGE
I'm extremely pleased to support the Reading Agency's Summer Reading Challenge, launching on the 8th of July. The challenge is a great way to keep children's minds sharp over the summer holidays and give them motivation to read more and expand their imaginations.
This week, I dropped into the Reading Agency's event in Parliament. During my visit I picked up a copy of Noodle the Doodle, a wonderful book designed to make it easy to read for children with dyslexia.
All local Richmond and Kingston Libraries are participating in the scheme and I hope that this summer, many of my younger constituents will be excited to take on this challenge.
For more information, click here.
CYSTIC FIBROSIS WEEK
This week was Cystic Fibrosis Week, when the Cystic Fibrosis Trust works to raise awareness of this painful, incurable, but also invisible condition. More than 11,000 people in the UK suffer from Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and while great steps have been made towards treating the condition, the average life expectancy of someone with CF is only 38. Living with CF is also extremely expensive, with a recent study by Bristol University showing CF sufferers can lose as much as £6500 per year due to their condition.
I am calling on the Government to consider providing more support to people living with CF, as well as to boost its commitment to life changing research that could add years to sufferers lives. To learn more about CF trust's work, click here.
VISIT TO TWICKENHAM JOB CENTRE'S JOBS FAIR
I very much enjoyed speaking with Job Centre staff at their well-attended Jobs Fair yesterday. I could see how passionate they are about helping people into work and was impressed with the positive and buzzy environment they foster at their office in Twickenham. I spoke with a number of the employers with tables at the fair, who were keen to tell me about their recruitment plans directly. Over the course of the day 302 customers attended to find out about jobs. Of those 190 were offered a job and a further 51 were invited to a second interview.
The Twickenham office supports jobseekers from all of Richmond borough, and is just a stone's throw from Twickenham Station. You can see see their contact details here. My Kingston borough constituents can use the equally central Kingston Job Centre. Their phone number is here.
Kingston Job Centre is having a Jobs Fair next Thursday 22 June. You can see details here.
WARM WEATHER HEALTH ADVICE
Southwest London NHS has emailed me this week to ask me to share some information with constituents. Hospital services across South West London are currently very busy due to extreme heat, pollution and pollen levels. They are seeing high numbers of people coming in with breathing difficulties and older people who are dehydrated.
Advice for coping in hot weather, particularly for those with asthma or hayfever, can be found on their website and below.
If you, or your child, has asthma or other respiratory conditions – keep taking your regular preventer inhaler and stay indoors wherever possible, keeping windows and doors closed as much as possible. If you do need to go outside, shower and change your clothes to wash pollen off.
Older people are particularly at risk of becoming unwell during a heatwave. Drinking water and staying out of the sun are the most important actions for staying well.
The NHS is always here for people who need care. If you need medical help or advice to please go to 111.nhs.uk first, unless it is a life-threatening emergency in which case, call 999.
PLEASE HELP LOCAL TREES!
It's not only humans and pets that need help with hydration in the hot weather - trees will be thirsty too!
Young trees are especially vulnerable to drought, so if there are any newly immature trees on your road they would appreciate a drink if you are able to water them. This includes the 20 new Yoshino cherry trees recently planted in Old Deer Park in Richmond to mark the coronation of His Majesty King Charles.
You can see Richmond Council's informative tree page, including advice on how to water them, here. Kingston Council is equally keen for residents to help out with watering young trees if they can. Their top tips for giving thirsty trees a drink are:
Ideally, try to give 1-2 watering cans per watering – although anything you can manage is great
Tap water, rain water or even dishwater is fine, but no chemicals stronger than washing-up liquid
If there's a black watering tube at the base of the tree, please use that, or slowly pour the water over the roots, letting the water soak into the soil
POPPY FACTORY PLEDGE TO LGBT+ VETERANS
Employment charity The Poppy Factory has committed to warmly welcome and support members of the LGBT+ community who have served in the Armed Forces, by signing up to the Pride in Veterans Standard.
The programme, run by trusted LGBT+ military charity Fighting with Pride, aims to help veteran-focused organisations be more proactive in opening up to the whole ex-Forces community. It seeks to ensure all veterans are treated with dignity, respect and understanding. Any LGBT+ veterans with mental or physical health conditions can register for The Poppy Factory’s employment service, with one-to-one support from the charity’s expert Employment Consultants. The rainbow flag has been raised on the roof of the factory and will be flown until the Pride in London event on July 1. The Poppy Factory also leads the London Veterans Partnership network and is a member of the Veterans’ Places, Pathways and People programmes in the South East and Midlands. The aim is to bring together partner organisations, including Fighting with Pride, to help boost veterans’ mental health and wellbeing and connect them to services, events and opportunities.
LOCAL SUMMER EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES
Saturday 17 June from 11am - 6pm on Kew green This idyllic volunteer run fete has raised £178, 803 for local charities since it started in 2010
You can see everything it has to off here.
MET POLICE WALK AND TALK EVENT
Come along and raise your concerns at a walk and talk event with a female police officer from Richmond Neighbourhoods Team.
Friday June 23 from 1-3pm
Meeting point War Memorial, Whitaker Avenue, Richmond
BIKE ACROSS CULTURES IN RICHMOND PARK
Free refreshments, head massage, henna tattoos, face painting, free raffle and a picnic area for all the family, all to promote safe cycling and walking to all communities.
Free rental bikes will be available on the day.
Saturday 24 June, 11.00am - 3.00pm with last entry at 2.00pm. Meet at Kingston Gate, RIchmond Park
ST MARY MAGDALENE'S MORTLAKE SUMMER FAIR
Saturday 1 July from 12-4 on on the Brewery Green, Mortlake
Adults £3, OAPs £1, children go free.
Live music, Wheel of Fortune, Food and Drink, Children's Entertainment, Rides, Market Stalls, local children' groups performing
HAM YOUTH CENTRE SUMMER PROGRAMME
Ham Youth Centre has planned a full programme for 10-16 year olds this summer - an exciting mix of film making, cultural activities, sports, arts, socialising and trips out. This is particularly aimed at young people on free school meals and funded by AfC's FUEL programme, but is open to all. They even provide lunch!
Booking is through the QR code link on the flyer below.