DEBATE ON PROPOSED TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT
In the House of Commons yesterday I called on the Government not to rush into the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to instead balance our diplomatic interests with our economic interests. Their deal would increase GDP by only 0.017%, yet the Government has hailed it as a of remedy to post-Brexit trade. In reality, it is a drop in the ocean.
Our most important trading relationship – with the EU - is suffering, as are British small businesses. The Government must start paying attention to the challenges our SMEs are facing rather than busying itself with the proposed TPP deal. To watch part of my contribution, click here.
TACTILE PAVING ON BRITISH TRAIN STATION PLATFORMS
There is a concerning lack of urgency when it comes to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) efforts to install tactile paving at our train stations. Network Rail’s stated aim of full provision by 2029 is not good enough and signals a lack of empathy for those living with a disability, who are forced to navigate unsafe transport systems. I therefore used my question during this week’s Transport Orals to ask the DfT to commit to bringing forward the timeline. In response I was told that they’ve asked Network Rail to bring the installation process forward and that they plan on making an announcement once they’ve received a plan. While I welcome the update, I nonetheless believe the situation still calls for more urgency.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), who have long been campaigning on this issue, provided me with some statistics which highlight the scale of the problem:
Up to 15% of people falling from platforms are blind or partially sighted
Around a third of railway platforms in Britain lack warning tactile surfaces
Evidence from America showed that when tactile was introduced, people falling from platforms was reduced by 65% among those with sight loss and 45% for the general public
I shall therefore be continuing to hold the Government to account. It's imperative that we seen action as soon as possible. Watch the exchange here.
TRAVEL INDUSTRY SMALL BUSINESS SURGERY
I am acutely aware of how difficult the present situation is for those in the travel industry. I am therefore looking to host another one of my small business surgeries, this time for firms in the travel sector. The aim would be for me to better understand the challenges people are facing and to establish whether there is anything I can do using my parliamentary resources. If you are a small business owner in the travel industry and feel you would benefit from such a session, please email email@example.com
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE REPLACEMENT FERRY PLANNING PERMISSIONS
As many of you will know, the Hammersmith Bridge replacement ferry is expected to arrive in September. Right up until this point it has been fraught with challenges. For the start-date to be subject to no further delays, we need all consenting authorities to grant their approval. The present applications of concern are the LBHF and LBRUT planning applications, which are for landing piers on either side of the River. There is growing opposition on the north side of the River, in particular from Hammersmith residents. I would therefore urge as many people as possible to submit their feedback to the consultation, laying out their support for the proposal. Let’s make sure our voices are heard and get this ferry up and running ASAP.
For the LBHF planning application click here.
For the LBRUT planning application click here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE SURVEY
Hammersmith Bridge SOS group, with the help of Barnes Community Association, has compiled a brief survey about attitudes to the ongoing closure of the Bridge. Specifically, they want to assess the impact the closure is having on people living in Barnes and the wider area. If you have been affected, please complete it. It is only ten multiple choice questions and takes just a few minutes to fill in: https://www.barnes-ca.org/hammersmithbridgequestionnaire.
EARLY DAY MOTIONS ON BOOK SHOPS AND YOUTH MOBILITY
To celebrate Independent Bookshop Week, I tabled an Early Day Motion this week calling on the Government to urgently recognise the social value and cultural importance of independent bookshops. As well as improving the literary skills of people of all ages, independent bookshops play a key role in providing a safe community space where people can come together through book clubs, book signings and other events. I urge you to visit your local independent bookshop this weekend to see what you might discover! You can see my Early Day Motion on this here.
I also tabled an Early Day Motion this week that urges the Government to expand the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) in recognition of the benefits it delivers to young people. Despite both the UK Government and the EU expressing an interest in facilitating youth exchanges from an early stage during the Brexit negotiations, no such provisions were included in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). The ability of young people to live, work and study abroad has consequently been significantly limited. One way to expand the possibility for youth mobility is to extend the YMS. The YMS allows young people from partner countries to live, work and study in the UK for up to 24 months (and vice versa). However, the scheme is available only to citizens of a select list of countries – none of which are within the European Union. You can see my Early Day Motion on this here.
MEETING WITH KINGSTON COLLEGE
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting with Peter Mayhew-Smith from South Thames Colleges and Mike Tweedale from Kingston College. They had some very positive feedback to share about how well their staff responded to the challenges of the pandemic and made a point of relaying their gratitude to Kingston Council for its collaborative and constructive working. Enrolment numbers are up for next year and they are very much looking forward to once again offering their pupils a normal college experience from September.
They did want to bring up a number of concerns with me, though. They are very worried about how much instruction their students missed during the pandemic, especially those on practical courses and apprenticeships. They were disappointed with the amount of funding allocated to help them catch up on lost learning, which was a fraction of what was recommended. The small group tuition funding announced by the Government will be helpful, but it isn't enough to make up for what has been lost. They need a budget uplift to ensure all of their students leave with good qualifications. No college wants to have to choose between lowering standards and denying young people the qualifications they need to progress to a career or to university.
I believe this issue has wider repercussions for our future economic success. We already have a shortage of workers with technical skills in the UK, which has been exacerbated by Brexit. If we don't invest in further education now we will be decimating a sector we need to be actively developing instead.
I was pleased to hear that the children of year 6 at Thomson House School in Mortlake held a peaceful 'idling action' protest on Wednesday 23 June at the Sheen Lane level crossing. The children took matters into their own hands after an online workshop hosted by the Idling Action London organisation.
As part of their topic on Climate Change, the children persuaded their teachers to mount a campaign to raise awareness of the problem and launched it to coincide with Clean Air Day 2021. The majority of drivers were very supportive of the children's efforts and did turn their engines off.
Headteacher Amanda Letch, said of the children's demonstration:
"I am immensely proud of our pupils who are not only demonstrating their good citizenship and concern for their local community, but are leading the charge in the battle to protect our environment"
VIRGINIA WOOLF STATUE CONSULTATION
The Virginia Woolf Statue committee is fundraising for a full-size bronze statue of the writer Virginia Woolf, to be installed on Richmond Riverside. It has been designed as an interactive artwork for the general public to enjoy for centuries to come. The award-winning sculptor Laury Dizengremel has designed the statue to include a bench which will ensure people can personally interact with the artwork.
To date, the crowdfunding campaign has raised 70% of the required funds to build the statue. However, it is an important time for the statue’s future as it is currently undergoing the second Public Consultation through Richmond Council. If you are happy with the idea, I invite residents to show your support for the project by taking this short survey. You do not need to live in the Richmond area to participate. The consultation ends July 1st.
HAM YOUTH CENTRE SUMMER ACTIVITIES FOR 10-19 YEAR OLDS
Residents with older children will be interested to see Ham Youth Centre's programme for the summer holidays. They are offering a wide range of activities to keep young people 10-19 engaged and busy. You can see the full schedule here.
VACCINATION AT KINGSTON MOSQUE
Kingston Mosque became a vaccination site today, offering vaccinations to mosque members and the community. I thank the mosque leadership for supporting Kingston's vaccination programme in this way.
Hedgehogs are one of the fastest declining mammals in the UK, with evidence showing that we have lost approximately two thirds of our hedgehogs since 1990. Almost 50 Kingston residents have volunteered to become local Hedgehog Champions - setting up wildlife cameras in their gardens and local nature reserves to monitor hedgehog activity, transporting equipment and helping to analyse the resulting data and footage.
I wish them the best of luck in helping to protect these wonderful creatures.