BANNING NIGHT FLIGHTS
On Monday, I put forward a new bill to parliament paving the way for a full ban on night flights landing at and departing from Heathrow. This bill would compel the Government to perform a full inquiry into the impact night flights have on the health and wellbeing of residents living under flight paths across the UK.
The bill, which was co-sponsored by 6 cross party MPs, comes as part of my long running campaign against night flights, which began when Heathrow Airport saw a shocking 724% increase in additional night time departures between 2021 and 2022. Academic evidence shows that night flights are the most intrusive and damaging form of airport noise, putting millions of people across the UK at a higher risk of mental and physical illness, including an increased risk of stroke, cardiovascular issues, mood swings, and substance dependency.
London is one of the most overflown cities in the world and yet, despite the growing evidence, the Government has refused to bring in more serious controls against night flights. As summers get hotter residents are being increasingly forced to choose between sweltering nights with windows closed or listening to the roar of jet engines. My hope is that this bill is the next step towards quieter nights for everyone under the flight path.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE: £250 MILLION POUND PRICE TAG
On Thursday, the Evening Standard and BBC confirmed that the estimated cost of the repairs to Hammersmith Bridge had risen to almost £250 million. This is dire news as it raises the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, TfL, and the DfT's contribution to over £76 million each. As LBHF's entire annual operating budget is only £133 million (from which it must deliver all local public services) this price tag is clearly beyond their reach.
What is particularly frustrating to note is that had the Government agreed to finance the works in 2019, it would have not only prevented years of pain for residents, but also saved the public nearly £100 million. My view is that only the Department for Transport has the necessary funds to finance the strengthening works and that it is both irresponsible and deceitful for ministers to claim Hammersmith and Fulham can and should pay an equal share.
Last week, I tabled a series of written questions on Hammersmith Bridge on topics ranging from when the carriageway will reopen to cyclists, to the timeframe for the total project. Unfortunately, the ministers' responses were completely inadequate. As such, I've followed up with the Minister for Roads and Local Transport to ask that he reconsider his colleagues' answers and provide a genuine response for residents.
Left: Presentation of the Prohibition of Night Flights Bill. Right: Adjournment debate on the benefits of banning Night Flights
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE LOSSES
Last week, Parliamentary Questions I tabled to the Ministry of Defence revealed that nearly 200 pieces of Department equipment had been stolen in the last year.
The losses, which included everything from a de-commissioned machine gun to silencers and night vision scopes for rifles, reveal an alarming complacency from Ministers who are running a Department responsible for our national security. The fact that expensive military equipment can simply go missing is extremely worrying and I have therefore urged the Government to launch an inquiry into how these thefts occurred, and what steps need to be taken to ensure nothing similar is ever allowed to take place again.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
In my role as a member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), I attended an evidence session on Wednesday regarding what happens when large companies who supply many public services fail and when it is necessary for the Government to intervene and alleviate some of the damage.
During the committee meeting, my colleagues and I questioned the Government’s Chief Commercial Officer, Sir Gareth Rhys Williams CB and the Director General of Growth and Productivity in HM Treasury, Jess Glover.
For my part, I asked Sir Gareth Rhys Williams if he would comment on the compensation that Fujitsu will pay the Sub-postmasters who were victims of the Horizon scandal, which I know is of much interest to many of my constituents.
This week, the House of Commons voted on the Government’s revised proposal which seeks to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing.
As I have outlined in many of my previous newsletters, the Liberal Democrats oppose this legislation on several grounds. I firmly believe that this proposed solution to addressing the asylum backlog is unworkable and unaffordable, and has been dominated by internal Conservative posturing and infighting.
Shockingly, the proposed cost of this programme, which is reported to near £290 million, is significantly more than the proposed cost to fix Hammersmith Bridge, and would also have left millions of pounds left over for investment in other areas. Going forward, I will continue to oppose this legislation and this Government’s shocking use of public money.
It was wonderful to attend the Thai Pongal event in Parliament on Monday night.
Thai Pongal is an annual Tamil celebration linked to the harvest festival and it is a lovely occasion to celebrate the community's culture and values. During the event, I had the chance to enjoy traditional Tamil food and drinks alongside performances and speeches. I have worked alongside the British Tamil Forum, who organised the event, throughout my tenure as MP for Richmond Park to ensure the concerns of my Tamil constituents are represented in Westminster. We are very fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant Tamil community in Richmond Park and I'm already eagerly awaiting next year's celebrations.
MAYOR OF KINGSTON'S COMMUNITY AWARDS
Every year the Mayor of Kingston presents a small number of Awards to people outside the employment of the Council, whose service to the Community is worthy of special recognition.
If you know someone who:
· deserves recognition of their supreme effort, strength, bravery or achievement?
· has given up their own time and without prompting offered to help other people or the community?
· has done something, which benefits the neighbourhood or even the whole of our Borough?
Then I would highly recommend nominating them for this honour. The Mayor would also like to present a special ‘Young Person’ Community Award (to someone under the age of 21). So please also consider nominating young people who may be setting an example to their peers by the voluntary work they undertake (excluding community work undertaken as part of the Duke of Edinburgh or other similar programme). If you, or someone you know, would like to make a nomination please use the link here.
Please supply background information about the nominee and also the reasons why you believe this person should receive one of the Mayor's special awards.
The nominations will be judged on the week commencing 12th February so please note that the closing date for ALL nominations will be 5pm on Thursday 8th February 2024.
BIG BARNES PONDER 2 RESULTS
Almost 1000 residents contributed to the Big Barnes Ponder in late 2023 and this week, the Barnes Community Association released the results. The Big Barnes Ponder is an event which compiles ideas from residents for a list of projects for the BCA to work on over the coming years with the aim of improving the area for all residents.
Among the projects are a library of things, where residents can borrow items they may not want to store in their homes, an initiative to reduce plastic use across the community, and a community safety plan to improve awareness of how residents and businesses can protect themselves and each other.
For a full list of proposed projects, click the link here.
HAM AND PETERSHAM POLICE WHATSAPP
As part of the Met Police's efforts to build trust in the community and update residents on their work the local Safer Neighbourhood Teams have begun rolling out WhatsApp channels across the borough. These are virtual noticeboards which alert residents to about local events in their neighbourhood.
Ham and Petersham is the latest area to get its own Whatsapp channel which can be joined through the link here. This channel operates as a broadcast channel only and cannot be used to report crime or related incidents. If you do require police in an emergency, please dial 999. For non-emergency matters please call 101.