I received over a thousand emails this week regarding a vote in Parliament on Wednesday on the SNP’s amendment to the King’s Speech on the situation in the Middle East.
My colleagues and I also tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech setting out our position, which I would have liked to have voted for on Wednesday. Sadly, though, it was not selected for a vote by the Speaker. You can read the text of our amendment ( o ) on p.15 of the Order Paper. We have also tabled an Early Day Motion which details our call for a bilateral ceasefire. I believe that neither the Labour party's nor the SNP’s amendments fully represent the best way forward. For instance, the SNP amendment made no reference to a two-state solution. I did, however, vote in favour of both the Labour and SNP amendments as both condemn in the strongest terms the terrorism of Hamas, call for the release of the Israeli hostages and call for unfettered access for aid for Gaza.
In the midst of all of this, I have felt sorely disappointed at the tone of the debate. I want the death and destruction in Israel and Gaza to stop. I want the hostages to be freed, and for aid to reach those who need it. Regrettably much of the debate has devolved into point-scoring amongst other parties. Rather than working together to build consensus and pressure on the government, we have seen a politics of division that must not continue.
DEBATE ON THE COST OF COURT TRANSCRIPTS
On Thursday, I held an adjournment debate on the cost of court transcripts. Alongside my constituent, Juliana Terlizzi, I am campaigning for a change in the law to enable victims to obtain free transcripts of court proceedings.
Juliana was drugged and raped by her former partner. She came to me earlier this year for assistance after being quoted £7,500 for a transcript of the 10-day trial in which her rapist was convicted. I was shocked to discover that many other victims have been charged thousands of pounds by private companies to produce transcripts.
Transcripts are important to victims to aid their recovery and understanding. Many do not attend trial - either to avoid reliving their trauma or because they are misadvised or even actively discouraged from attending. Even for victims, like Juliana, who do attend, it is very difficult to recall what was said in court due to high levels of emotional distress.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing a pilot scheme to waive costs of transcripts for victims of sexual violence. I am calling on the UK Government to take the opportunity presented by the Victims’ Bill to ensure all victims in the UK have the right to access transcripts free of charge. I have tabled an amendment to this effect and will continue to campaign on this moving forwards. You can watch a clip, or read a transcript for more information on my debate.
RESPONSE TO THE KING’S SPEEECH
On Tuesday, I participated in the fourth day of debate on the King’s Speech. The King’s Speech took place last week and set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the year.
The debate I spoke in was titled ‘Securing high, sustained economic growth in every part of the country’. I focussed my remarks on the Government’s mismanagement of the UK economy and lack of a coherent strategy to achieve economic growth.
Although each day of debate had a given theme, MPs have a wide scope to raise any matters important to their constituents. I therefore took the opportunity to request a meeting with the Department for Transport to discuss the opportunities for a new, licenced rickshaw service across Hammersmith Bridge and the surrounding areas.
Additionally, I noted that the King’s Speech did not contain a single piece of legislation to tackle the crisis in our NHS and relayed constituent’s disappointed that the Government seems to have scrapped plans the reform the Mental Health Act. I also raised the need for a new tougher water regulator to hold water companies such as Thames Water to account.
RWANDA SCHEME BLOCKED
This week, I am very happy to report that the Supreme Court ruled that the Government’s proposed Rwanda Scheme was unlawful.
From the outset, I have believed that the scheme was not only immoral, but also both unworkable and incredibly costly for taxpayers. Furthermore, it fails to do anything to tackle the broken, overwhelmed asylum system. Currently, we have around 150,000 asylum claimants living in hotels awaiting processing, and a far better solution would be to tackle the sky-high asylum backlog and create genuine safe and legal routes for sanctuary across the globe, negating the need to arrive illegally.
I made this point recently on BBC Radio 5 Live, and will continue to stand up against any Government attempt to re-work the Rwanda Scheme.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: ADJOURNEMENT DEBATE
This week, I spoke in a debate called to discuss the state of London's Bridges and the dire need for Government intervention. Hammersmith Bridge was, of course, the main point of discussion, but Guy Opperman MP, the newly appointed Minister responding to the debate, again refused to provide any firm commitment to the full repairs.
What was good to see was the growing cross party coalition calling for the Government to stop prevaricating and agree to the full strengthening works. Alongside the Members for Putney and Hammersmith, we were joined by Northern Irish MP Jim Shannon, who laid out his support for our community and called the DfT to take a more active role in repairing crossings across the UK.
One piece of positive news to emerge from the debate was confirmation by the Minister that the bridge's carriageway should be reopened to cyclists very early in 2024. As stated in an earlier section, in preparation for this, I have been pressing the Mayor's Office and DfT to bring in a new pedicab/rickshaw service that could bring older and less mobile residents across the Bridge while negotiations take place over the next phase of the works.
ON PATROL IN COOMBE VALE
Last Friday, I joined local ward councillors Andrew Bolton, Andrew Sillett, and Kamala Kugan on patrol with officers from the Coombe Vale Safer Neighbourhood Team. It was fantastic to see the team working hard to keep the community safe and I was extremely pleased to hear quite how knowledgeable they were about criminal activity in the local area.
Earlier this year, I uncovered that since 2015, the number of officers on these teams across London have fallen by almost two thirds from over 6400 to just under 2500. After seeing the vital work they do first hand, I've redoubled my calls on the Mayor demanding that they restore community policing to the levels it once operated at.
This week, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate two of my constituents for their work protecting and representing our community. Bunny Farnell-Watson spent 30 years as Richmond's Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator and in that time has spent countless hours supporting residents and working with the police to keep our streets safe. Earlier in November, she was awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to our community and I want to thank her on behalf of Richmond Park for all her work over the past 3 decades.
Alongside Bunny, I would also like to recognise the achievement of one of my younger constituents in Kingston. Han wrote to me recently to tell me that he will be representing New Malden in the National Youth Orchestra over the coming year and will be spending the the next few months months performing across the UK. Alongside 157 other young musicians, Han will be part of a national team representing the power of music education, and the transformational impact that playing and listening to orchestral music can have on young people. I wish him the best of luck in his performances and hope that this is the start of a long and inspiring musical journey.
RICHMOND STATION REFURBISHED
I am pleased to say that SWR have committed to a small series of refurbishments to Richmond Train Station, including restoration of the Art Deco exterior and upgrades to the station's toilets. I know how many people have been inconvenienced by the regular closure of this public convenience and so it is good to see the company taking on board the community's concerns. SWR hopes to be able to embark on a more major restoration over the coming months and I will update residents when I have any further details I can share.
CRIME DOWN ACROSS THE BOROUGH
This week, I received some incredibly encouraging news that after months of hard work by local police officers, crime in many areas across the borough has fallen dramatically. Burglaries over the past 4 weeks are 23.6% lower than they were in the previous 4 weeks, and robberies (including muggings) have fallen by a staggering 61.5%. While there are still hotspots for specific crimes that the Met will be targeting with additional resources, the statistics show that our streets are slowly but surely being made safer.
Of course there are plenty of factors that influence this, time of year and national events play their part, however, I would like to congratulate the hard working officers who undoubtedly were instrumental in deterring crime and responding to incidents. As the Met continues to reform its practices, I will continue to press all agencies and authorities to get local officers the resources they need to be able to keep our communities safe.
KINGSTON'S DISABILITY NETWORK
This UK Disability History Month 2023, Kingston Council is launching a new network to give disability communities living in and connected to the borough a stronger voice.
The Kingston Disability Network launch brought together over 25 organisations working on disability issues across the borough to share knowledge and boost opportunities for awareness raising. The network was officially launched yesterday at FUSEBOX, a multi-arts space for young people on Kingston riverside.
If you're interested in learning more about the network and getting involved, visit Kingston Council's website with the link here.
KINGSTON CHORAL SOCIETY:
Kingston Choral Society are singing in All Saints Kingston Church on Saturday, November 18th at 7.30 pm. The pieces include the Da Vinci Requiem by Cecilia McDowell, who will be present. Four weeks later their Christmas Concert will be in St Andrew’s in Surbiton and include plenty of audience participation both in singing and consuming complementary mince pies.
Sections of the choir will also be be busy raising money for charity singing carols in Bentalls and bringing Christmas cheer to older residents who attend a day care centre. If you are able to attend any of these events, I would thoroughly recommend going along. For more information about their upcoming concerts, click the link here.