RETAINED EU LAW BILL
On Wednesday, I spoke in a Parliamentary debate on the Retained EU Law Bill. If passed, this Bill would grant huge powers to Conservative Ministers to revoke or reform thousands of EU-derived laws without any Parliamentary oversight or consultation. EU-derived laws currently guarantee a host of worker’s rights such as holiday leave and maternity pay, as well covering key environmental protections and ensuring food quality and animal welfare standards.
I received around 300 emails from constituents in support of Amendment 36. This amendment would ensure that the Government produces a definitive list of legislation that would be impacted by this Bill and increase Parliamentary oversight. At present, we simply have no idea what this Bill covers. The Government’s dashboard has listed just over 2,400 laws. However, the National Archives in Kew have found serious omissions in this dashboard and the true total is thought to be around 4,000.
Furthermore, the Government has set an arbitrary deadline for all legislation to be reformed or revoked by the end of 2023. This creates an unnecessary cliff-edge and creates further uncertainty for businesses and households at the worst possible time. It is unrealistic for officials to trawl through 4,000 pieces of legislation – and enact replacement UK laws - in less than 12 months. I will continue to oppose this legislation as it passes through Parliament.
MINIMUM SERVICE LEVELS DURING STRIKE ACTION
Many constituents have emailed me this week to express concern that the Government’s proposed ‘Minimum Service Levels’ legislation would restrict worker’s right to strike.
This Bill is another attempt by the Government to distract from their failure to avert strikes in the first place. Minimum service levels won’t avert disruption or help to solve staff shortages in the NHS. It does not contain any detail about what minimum service levels will be, while handing extraordinary powers to Government Ministers to change current legislation without proper scrutiny.
Furthermore, some key public services are currently unable to provide a ‘minimum service’ even outside of strike action. The closure of Mortlake and North Sheen stations over the Christmas period occurred on ‘non-strike days’ which this legislation does nothing to address.
The best way to avoid disruption is to prevent these strikes in the first place, which means the Government getting around the table with staff and employers to find a solution.
VISIT TO THE BANK OF ENGLAND
It was a pleasure to take part in a cross-party visit to the Bank of England yesterday. In recent months we have faced considerable economic instability following Liz Truss’ mini-budget and Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. In light of this, it was particularly important to hear how the Bank is working to deliver monetary and financial stability for the UK. We focussed specifically on the Bank’s involvement in ensuring the stability of the mortgage market, which I know will be of concern to many constituents.
SIXTH FORM POLITICS TRIP TO PARLIAMENT
I had the pleasure of welcoming a group of sixth form politics students from Richmond Park Academy to Westminster earlier this week. They had a tour of the Parliamentary Estate and then I met them for a Q&A on my work as their MP. It was a pleasure to meet these bright, engaged students and learn about which issues interest them most.
I would like to invite more schools and colleges to visit Parliament and learn more about their government. As Mr Charlton, who brought his students on the visit, said to me afterwards, "It’s easy to forget the sense of awe and wonder that a first visit to Parliament can evoke; it can also sometimes be hard to see visible examples of meaningful representation/dialogue between constituents and MPs. Both of these things became crystal clear for our students this week."
If you would like to know more about school/college visits to Parliament, please email my office on email@example.com.
THAMES WATER - WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN
This week, Thames Water held its first consultation event on its recently unveiled Water Resource Management plan. The most controversial and pertinent part of this plan for Richmond Park is the plan to remove 75 million litres of fresh water a day from the Thames, from a point in Ham, just above Teddington Lock. This lost water will be replaced by recycled water or ‘effluent’, pumped down to Teddington from Mogden Sewage Treatment Works.
On the face of it, this scheme seems to be an environmental catastrophe in the making. However, I feel it is important for residents to be clear on certain facts. First, this scheme will only operate in periods of drought, limiting the amount of recycled water flowing into the river. Second, the scale and environmental impact of the scheme is smaller than what has been reported in the media. While we do not yet know the full environmental impact of the scheme, I have been reassured by the fact that the Environment Agency and Natural England are being consulted closely on the project.
Any plan that involves pumping effluent, no matter how well decontaminated, into the Thames, must be scrutinised carefully. There must be checks in place to prevent it going forward if information emerges that the scheme poses a significant threat to the local ecosystem of the river. Unfortunately, years of Conservative government have left the Office for Environmental Protection and Ofwat toothless, and the Environment Agency without the resources to properly protect our rivers and waterways.
The retained EU Law bill I spoke about this week could see hundreds of EU-derived laws that guarantee environmental protections revoked. Instead of relaxing regulation, the Government urgently need to be doing more to empower regulators and ensure that water companies are held to account.
I will be meeting with local agencies and campaign groups over the coming weeks to gain a clearer picture of what the environmental impact of this plan will be. I am also eager to review the full environmental impact assessment of the scheme to see if Thames Water has properly considered our local environment’s health. You can watch a clip of my speech to parliament here and find out more about the consultation here.
POLICING IN RICHMOND PARK
This week, I had the opportunity to meet with Metropolitan Police Southwest London Borough Commander, CS Lis Chapple. In this meeting, CS Chapple provided me with an update on the response to the horrific crimes of former PC David Carrick. She assured me that as soon as the force became aware of Carrick’s crimes, they acted as rapidly as possible.
The Metropolitan Police has also created a specialist team within the Anti-Corruption and Abuse Command, the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Offences Investigations Unit. This has been set up to build cases against those in the organisation who, like Carrick, commit domestic abuse and sexual offences. While the police still have a long way to go in rooting out corruption and abuse in the service, I am pleased that the force is taking these steps.
Locally, I know that there has been a growing concern over instances of anti-social behaviour, car theft, and vandalism, especially in the Mortlake and Barnes area. I raised these reports with CS Chapple during my meeting and I am pleased to say that the force will be maintaining an increased presence in affected areas to deter further issues.
If you have concerns about policing in your local area, you can contact your Ward’s Safer Neighbourhood Team with the link here. In an emergency, always call 999.
I enjoyed a visit to Maria Grey Nursery School in Richmond last week, where I met headteacher Sabina Stuart-Lyon, and former headteacher Jenny Samuel. They discussed the difficulty they have in providing the mandated free hours of nursery care on the funding they receive from the Government for them. Nursery funding needs to be reformed, to support this struggling sector and provide affordable, good-quality childcare for working parents.
On Tuesday I was delighted to join the British Tamil Forum at a reception to celebrate Thai Pongal and Tamil Heritage Month. Thai Pongal is an annual celebration akin to harvest festival and is also an occasion to celebrate Tamil culture and values. Attendees enjoyed traditional Tamil food and drinks alongside performances and speeches. I have worked alongside the British Tamil Forum throughout my tenure as MP for Richmond Park to ensure the concerns of my Tamil constituents are represented in Parliament, and I call on the Government to UK Government to work with international partners to support democratic and political reform in the Tamil homeland of Sri Lanka.
CHARITY SHOP DONATIONS
I would like to gently ask my constituents not to leave donations outside charity shops outside their business hours. These donations can pose a hazard to users of the pavement, and are a nuisance for charity shops, which often end up having to dispose of the items at their own time and expense. Please remember that leaving unwanted items on the pavement is fly-tipping. I ask all residents to only take items to a charity shop during opening hours.
TfL CAMPAIGN AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT
I was pleased to see that TfL has launched a campaign to fight sexual harassment on its services. You can see their new posters below, explaining how you can help safely if you see something worrying happening. The campaign also encourages customers and staff who experience or witness sexual harassment to report it. If you ever feel unsafe on a train or tube service, contact the nearest member of staff or text the British Transport Police on 61016. I sincerely hope that TfL’s efforts will empower all riders to help keep women and girls safe.
RICHMOND BUSINESS AWARDS - NOMINATIONS OPEN!
Richmond Chamber of Commerce’s (RCC) Richmond Business Awards will celebrate the best of our local businesses. They invite businesses commercially active in the Richmond upon Thames Borough to share their achievements by entering, sponsoring, voting and attending the Awards Ball with colleagues, friends and family on Friday 3rd March 2023 at Twickenham Stadium.
The deadline to enter is 31 January. You can find the entry form here.
UPDATED EMPLOYMENT AND SKILLS STRATEGY
In July 2021, Richmond Upon Thames Council launched an Employment and Skills strategy in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on the local labour market. The strategy outlined how the Council would help combat some of the challenges brought on by the pandemic and ensure that its core objectives are being achieved.
The updated strategy aims to ensure that residents hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, as well as new residents to the borough including Ukrainian and Afghan refugees, have access to sustainable jobs and appropriate learning opportunities. You can read about the new strategy here.
There will be an Employ Richmond job event featuring local jobs, advice and guidance, next Friday, January 27 from 10:00 - 2:00 in Clarendon Hall at York House in Twickenham. Anyone looking for new employment is invited to drop in.
COMMUNITY SAFETY SURVEY
The Safer Kingston Partnership (SKP) is a multi-agency group including the police, local authority, fire brigade, health and probation services. The group’s goal is to keep Kingston a safe and vibrant place to live, visit, work and learn and they work together to ensure Kingston continues to be one of the safest boroughs in London. They have recently launched a new survey to find out what community safety issues most affect your neighbourhood and business, and hear how you think they can improve things. You can share your thoughts by filling out their short survey by 1 February 2023.
MAYOR'S COMMUNITY AWARDS
Each year Kingston's Mayor presents a small number of awards to people whose service to the Community is worthy of special recognition. Residents are invited to nominate someone who deserves recognition for giving up their time to better their community in a particularly important or meaningful way. This will include a special ‘Young Person’ Community Award (to someone under the age of 21).
If you would like to make a nomination or find out more please click here.
The presentation of the awards will take place in the Council Chamber on Friday 17th March 2023 between 12:00 and 2:00pm.
Care Workforce Wellbeing Project: As a carer working in Kingston, how have the challenges in the past couple of years affected your work? Have you been impacted by the cost of living crisis? Has the pandemic and other challenges impacted your mental health? If you needed support, would you know where to go? Please tell them about your experience. The deadline to fill in this survey is Tuesday, 28 February 2023.
Pulse Check Survey - Myalgic Encephalopathy and Fibromyalgia: Are you a Kingston resident who suffers with myalgic encephalopathy (M.E) / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyaliga (Fibro), or both? If so, they want to hear from you. The deadline to fill in this survey is Tuesday, 28 February 2023.