Congratulations to everyone who received their GCSE results this week. Students, teachers, parents, and guardians should all feel incredibly proud of the work they have done and the support they have provided over the last three years. Well done to you all, I hope you have an excellent bank holiday weekend!
As we come to the end of the summer recess and MPs get ready to return to Westminster, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back at 2022 so far and reflect on the key challenges I have been addressing in Parliament this year.
COST OF LIVING CRISIS
Today, Ofcom announced that the energy price cap would rise by 80%, in a move that will hurt millions of households already struggling to get by. I understand this winter will be difficult for many, and I therefore wanted to reiterate that if I can assist in the coming months, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In February, I spoke in Parliament to press the need for early and decisive action to lower the cost of energy bills. In my speech, which you can see here, I pressed the Government to introduce a Windfall Tax on the excess profits of oil and gas companies, in addition to extending the Winter Fuel Allowance and the Warm Homes Grant. Throughout the year, I have continued to work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues to develop proposals which would put money back in the pockets of ordinary families. These policies, which range from a cut to the top rate of VAT from 20 per cent to 17.5 per cent, in addition to our most recent proposal to cancel the upcoming rise in the energy price cap, provide real solutions to this crisis, and I have continued to urge the Government for their immediate introduction. Should you wish to see a clip of me discussing these proposals in more detail, you can do so here.
In addition to these, I have also used my Parliamentary time to advocate for a renewed emphasis on using green energy. In June, I introduced the Minimum Energy Performance of Buildings Bill in the Commons. This legislation would enshrine into law set targets for domestic properties to have a minimum EPC C energy ratings, thereby giving new impetus to significantly improve the energy efficiency of our homes, saving families money and the planet from further emissions. The Second Reading of the Bill will be taking place in March 2023, and I hope this Bill will be given adequate time for debate. You can see a clip of me presenting the Bill here, and I will keep constituents informed of its progress in advance of its further stages.
I wanted to conclude by reassuring constituents that both in my capacity as the local MP, but also in my role as the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Treasury and Business, I will continue to fight to propose policy which will mitigate the worst effects of this crisis.
It has now been six months since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The integrity and resolve of the Ukrainian people has been an inspiration to us all and I know many constituents are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine.
In Parliament, I have contributed to debates to raise issues with the UK’s visa application process for Ukrainian refugees. You can see a clip of one such contribution here. You can also read the full transcript of my speech here. My team have been working tirelessly to support constituents who are hosting Ukrainian refugees, and also to assist in resolving any issues that Ukrainian arrivals may experience. To date, my office has handled over 100 pieces of casework regarding Ukrainian visa applications. If you require any such assistance, please contact me with the details here.
Outside of Parliament, I have been in regular contact with the council and organisations trying to support refugees fleeing the conflict zone, including Refugees Welcome in Richmond. Such organisations also do vital work to support refugees from conflict zones right across the world, such as Syria and Afghanistan. I am aware that long delays to processing times for asylum applications are causing significant distress, and that there also continue to be many issues with the UK’s scheme to relocate and resettle Afghan nationals. I will continue to work with colleagues to raise these issues in Parliament. I have also been very disappointed to see the Government push through hostile immigration policies in the Nationality and Borders Bill, and in pursuing their policy to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. I have spoken out against these measures in Parliament and I will continue to oppose any such erosions of human rights commitments.
FIGHTING AGAINST THE DISPOSAL OF RAW SEWAGE
The dumping of raw sewage into our waterways has hit the headlines once again this week after new data shows that instances have drastically increased over the last year. The Liberal Democrats have long called for tougher measures to be implemented by the Government so that water companies can be properly held to account.
Current measures in place are not effective and water companies are failing to monitor sewage discharges at popular British seaside resorts. A new analysis of Environment Agency data by the Lib Dems reveals that one in four (24%) sewage discharges went unmonitored last year because water companies either failed to install monitors, or the monitors weren't working for at least 90% of the time.
The Lib Dems have also called for a Sewage Tax on water companies, after firms which pump sewage into lakes and rivers made over £2.8 billion in profits. The tax on their profits would produce a fund worth hundreds of millions to prevent sewage from polluting our waterways. Furthermore, in Parliament, my Lib Dem colleagues and I backed amendments to the Environment Bill to end sewage discharges. However, this was blocked by Conservative MPs.
Other forms of water pollution are also of grave concern. Back in March, an oil spill occurred in Beverly Brook which left 13km of black waste oil and iridescence visible along the river. I took the opportunity to raise this directly with the Prime Minister in PMQs, highlighting the lack of resources within the Environment Agency to investigate such instances, and also calling for the Office for Environmental Protection to be strengthened so that it can hold public authorities to account over environmental damage. You can see a clip of my contribution here.
SUPPORTING FAMILIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN
Throughout my time in Parliament, I have used my platform as an MP to support the First 1001 Days Movement - a group of organisations and professionals working together to campaign about the importance of the emotional well-being of babies.
My work has largely focused on the importance of health visiting and on calling for more mental health support for new parents. Health visitors play a vital role in supporting new parents and families and identifying any areas where some may require additional support. But the health visiting service is underfunded and its workforce has a shortage of around 5,000 staff. In 2021, some 19% of babies did not receive their 12-month health visitor review by the time they were 15 months old. In June, I set out my concerns and expressed the urgent need to rebuild the health visiting service during a debate to mark Infant Mental Health Awareness Week. You can watch a clip of my contribution here, and you can read a full transcript of my speech here.
I have also been supporting the NSPCC’s ‘Fight for a Fair Start' campaign and I hosted a Parliamentary reception back in May to celebrate the NSPCC’s work and to highlight the perinatal mental health issues that many parents experience. Also in May, I sponsored a reception in Parliament to celebrate the fantastic work that local charities Home-Start Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow do to support struggling families. I encourage any young family who is looking for support to reach out to Home-Start here.
This year saw the long-awaited start of the stabilisation works to Hammersmith Bridge. With the bridge finally reopened to foot traffic, attention has turned to the £100 million - £140 million required to complete the strengthening works. Rumours that the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) is considering a toll on the Bridge to pay for their share of the works have concerned many residents and in late June, I spoke in Parliament to highlight the need for greater transparency from both LBHF and the Government. You can view my speech here.
The Hammersmith Bridge Task Force was set up, in part, to allow all key stakeholders from both sides of the river to have their views heard. I have repeatedly called on Baroness Vere, the leader of the task force to call the group together, but unfortunately, my requests for clear, open lines of communication have been rejected at every turn. The fact that LBHF has had to resort to drastic cooling measures this summer, the possibility of a toll on the bridge, and the monumental bill for repairs need to be considered carefully, but without strong leadership from the government, communities on both sides of the river will be left out of the decision-making process. I will continue to press the government for greater transparency in the next session, and I will continue to keep residents apprised of any developments.
The chaos at Heathrow airport this summer had a disastrous effect on many of those living under the flight path. Delays meant that the last planes often landed at 12:30 am while the first came in just 4 hours later. For residents, this has meant late nights, early mornings, and days spent feeling under-slept.
Rumours circulating in the media suggested these issues would be worsened by the Government relaxing restrictions on night flights to help Heathrow cope with summer passenger numbers. For this reason, I wrote to the Minister for Aviation, Robert Courts, to request a public statement rejecting these plans, a request he duly acceded to in the weeks following. I am now working with my colleagues in Parliament and the GLA to press the government to impose tighter restrictions on Night Flights and create stronger regulations to protect our community. If you would like to read more about my work challenging night flights, you can do so here.
This year, I have met so many inspiring local people who are working hard to protect the community. While I enjoyed every one of my visits, I would like to take a look back at three organisations that have been particularly interesting to meet with over the last 8 months,
Habitats and Heritage are a wonderful organisation that is working hard to both protect Richmond's biodiversity and help strengthen communities' ties with the area they live in. In June, I joined their team clearing Himalayan Balsam, an invasive plant species damaging the local ecosystem, from the banks of the Thames. They offer great opportunities to anyone who wants to volunteer and I highly recommend looking into their series of events with the link here.
I know that my constituents are eager to see more police on our streets and in our communities. Whether I was speaking to the Kingston Police Team about their efforts in the Town Centre, hearing about the British Transport Police's work on the Safe Space Richmond Initiative, or meeting with Richmond's inspectors about the Metropolitan Police's response to major incidents, I have been incredibly impressed by the dedication and hard work of the officers involved. You can keep up to date with the police's work in your area through their website here.
Finally, it was my great pleasure to visit the Vineyard Community Centre earlier this year. The work they do distributing food parcels, providing a hub for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees in the borough, and supporting the local community in a thousand other ways deserves to be applauded. If you don't already know about the great work they do, I would urge you to visit their website with the link here.
NEW SAFETY MEASURES ON SWR TRAINS
This summer, SWR has highlighted a series of safety measures designed to keep their customers safe as they travel around Richmond and beyond. When travelling on an SWR train, look out for carriages with a yellow light flashing on the outside of the carriages. This light marks where a guard is present and can assist passengers who need help.
The company is also funding additional security measures in the form of Railway Community Officers, these guards travel can enforce railway legislation using powers given to them by the British Transport Police and actively work to reduce crime and ASB on the network. You can read more about them here.
FRIENDS OF BARNES COMMON
The friends of Barnes Common are looking for a keen volunteer with an interest in all aspects of growing including planning and seed sovereignty, as well as everyday tasks such as watering, weeding, seed sowing and harvesting to help them continue their Community Growing Project. I would urge anyone with the experience, who would also like to get out into the Common and spend some time in nature, to apply by emailing email@example.com.
NEW MALDEN MURAL
Lionel Stanhope, a renowned street artist and Kingston local has adorned the New Malden train station with a colourful mural this week. Commissioned by New Malden Residents Association (NMRA), Stanhope's work was funded by the Kingston Council's Community Grants Scheme. The mural represents part of the Council's commitment to regenerating the area and its aim to bring in further investment by beautifying the borough's town centres. If you are interested in securing funding for your local area, visit Kingston Council's website here.
Locals will be pleased to hear that Kingston Carnival will be back in full swing this year! Organised by Kingston Racial Equalities Council (KREC), Kingston Carnival brings together different local communities to experience a range of music & culture, and food, in a family-friendly atmosphere. The procession starts at noon on the 4th of September and makes its way along High Street, Eden Street, Clarence Street, and Church Street, finishing at the Ancient Market Place at 1 pm. The event is a wonderful day out and I highly recommend joining the festivities if you have a moment next Sunday.