Richmond Park News: 20 May 2022
RESPONSE TO THE QUEEN’S SPEECH
On Wednesday, I spoke in the final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech to emphasise my key areas of concern for the legislative year ahead. You can read my full speech here.
The debate had a particular focus on achieving economic growth. Earlier this week, the ONS released their latest labour market statistics, which showed that UK unemployment has reached its lowest level since 1974. In my speech, I discussed how these headline figures mask more concerning features of the UK economy such as the widening skills shortage, the lag of wage growth in comparison to inflation, and the impact that increased barriers to trade is having on growth.
It is impossible to discuss economic growth without mentioning the cost-of-living crisis. In the debate, I urged the Government to invest in a comprehensive scheme to insulate homes across the country, especially for those in social housing and for low-income households. Improving household energy efficiency is one of the cheapest and most sustainable ways of dealing with soaring energy bills and would offer families some much-needed protection against rising bills ahead of the autumn, when the energy price cap is set to increase yet again. I also discussed my concerns for the autumn during a panel discussion on ITV London last night. You can see a clip of my contribution here.
The Liberal Democrats tabled a comprehensive amendment to the Queen’s Speech which would have helped deal with the cost-of-living crisis by reducing VAT from 20% to 17.5%, and imposing a windfall tax on the largest oil and gas companies to pay for an emergency support package for low-income families. I discussed the benefit of implementing a windfall tax during Cross Questions on LBC on Wednesday night (clip here). I also highlighted the impact that this uncertainty has on businesses and individuals during an appearance on Newsnight (clip here).
In my contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate, I also pressed the Government on the need to improve access to health services, especially mental health. The pandemic has accelerated a growing trend of increased mental health issues among young people, and both schools and parents are telling me that they are really struggling to cope. The Liberal Democrats are therefore calling for a dedicated mental health professional to be placed in every school. You can see a clip of my contribution here.
In the Queen’s Speech, the Government committed to improving the UK’s transport infrastructure and passing legislation to modernise the railways. I was therefore pleased to speak in the Transport debate on Thursday, in my capacity as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport, to highlight the areas that I believe must be addressed. I spoke about the importance of accessibility, funding for TfL, and increasing uptake of electric vehicles.
I also spoke about the continued lack of a strategic plan for the future of Hammersmith Bridge and I urged the Government to engage more intensively with Hammersmith and Fulham Council on the funding for the strengthening works. I was also able to raise Hammersmith Bridge at a Public Accounts Committee session with the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday. DfT informed me that they are awaiting the business case for full strengthening works from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, before a conversation on funding will begin. I will continue to keep constituents updated with any new developments.
Further, during the debate I asked the Minister to meet with me to discuss the regulation of rickshaws, which could be included in the upcoming Transport Bill. I believe that rickshaws offer great potential as a means of transport across the constituency, especially for those who are unable to participate in active travel. I very much hope to be given the opportunity to discuss this with the Minister.
You can see a clip of my contribution to the Transport debate here.