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Richmond Park News: 28 April 2023

SUDAN CONFLICT AND SUPPORT FOR BRITISH NATIONALS

Two weeks after fighting first broke out in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, violence has spread across the country due to a power struggle between military leaders.

The UK Government is currently running evacuation flights to help British nationals to leave Sudan. British nationals are advised to make their way to the British Evacuation Centre as soon as possible. A renewed 72-hour ceasefire in Sudan is in place and is due to end at midnight Sudan time on 30 April. Full information on other exit routes and support offered by the UK Foreign Office is available here.

At present, the Foreign Office is only evacuating British passport holders and immediate family members (spouse/partner and children under 18 years old) who are either non-visa nationals or those with existing UK entry clearance. I know that many people, including constituents of Richmond Park, have grave concern for the safety of family members in Sudan. The Liberal Democrats are therefore urging the Government to look at establishing a safe and legal route for Sudanese people escaping war.

If you are concerned for a British citizen in Sudan, you can call the Foreign Office on 020 7008 5000. You can also submit a submit a written enquiry, or contact the Foreign Office on Twitter or Facebook.

More broadly, we are urging the UK Government to continue to work with its international allies, both through the UN and the Quad, which comprises of the UK, US, UAE and Saudi Arabia, to stabilise and resolve this crisis.


TEACHERS’ STRIKES

I know that many parents and children across the constituency will have been impacted by industrial action in schools this week, which is also due to take place on Tuesday 2nd May. I met with teachers on Thursday morning to discuss their concerns, which align with many of my own.

Teachers are not only concerned about working conditions and pay, but also about the resources available to support students with special educational needs and about Ofsted’s approach to inspections - all of which have a detrimental impact on their ability to provide high-quality education to children in a supportive learning environment.

I am particularly concerned that the Government's most recent pay offer would have to be funded out of existing school budgets, which I know from my many conversations with headteachers over the last year would not be affordable. I can therefore understand teacher’s frustration and decision to reject the offer. The Government must urgently sit down with the unions to agree a fair, sensible and fully-funded deal that all sides can accept.

I previously wrote to the Department for Education on behalf of the many parents and teachers who wrote to me to voice their concerns. I have now received a response back from the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb. You can read the Minister’s response here.

MOTION TO SUPPORT CREATIVE INDUSTRIES

I tabled a motion to the Government this week as part of my ongoing work to support creative industries. This motion calls on the Government to scrap its proposals to grant artificial intelligence developers an exception to copyright and to work with the creative industries to develop a new Code of Practice which enables both the creative and digital economies to thrive. You can read the full text of the motion here.

Copyright protections are fundamental to the success of the UK’s world-leading creative industries and it is vital they are not undercut by tech developers. If creatives cannot retain control over how their work is used, or benefit from the value created by their original work, the future of creativity in this country could be at risk.



SEWAGE DUMPING INTO THE THAMES

This week, research I commissioned from the House of Commons Library showed that sewage was dumped into 31 of London’s rivers for a total of 6,968 hours in 2022.

As expected, the Thames was the worst affected, with a total of 769 sewage spills for a total of 3,287 hours into the river. These dumps, many which occurred from outlets which are either within, or very close to Richmond Park, are an indictment of the Government's ongoing failure to outlaw sewage dumping by water companies. I was absolutely horrified by the revelations, which have a direct affect on the local environment and pose a health risk to thousands of local residents who use the river every week.

To compound these statistics, on Tuesday the Government chose to block the Sewage Discharge Bill in the House of Commons. The unamended Bill, which I supported, would have implemented a legally binding target to reduce sewage dumping events, such as the ones which occurred across the capital last year. However, Conservative MPs chose to amend the Bill, nullifying it and proving that they cannot be trusted to take the decisive action needed to punish polluting water companies.

Should you wish to read more about the story, you can do so in the Evening Standard here.


QUESTIONING DoT ON HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE

On Monday, I used the Public Accounts Committee session with the Department for Transport to ask senior civil servants whether they could provide me with any further update on the plan to re-open Hammersmith Bridge.

As both Hammersmith and Fulham and TfL have previously indicated that the repairs will put a strain on their resources, I was particularly interested to learn whether the Government has a contingency plan in place in case either party cannot cover its share of the works. The answer was unfortunately a clear no. Despite committing to getting the bridge fixed in 2019, the DfT have indicated that the project will not go ahead unless the cost is split.

This demonstrates very clearly that work must not be delayed any further. TfL, Hammersmith and Fulham, and the DfT have to start working together and must deliver this project as quickly as possible

You can see a clip of my question here.



APPG FOR ETHNIC MINORITY BUSINESS OWNERS

This week, I chaired the regular meeting between the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ethnic Minority Business Owners and UK Finance.

The focus of the meeting was to promote the upcoming review to be conducted by the APPG into access to finance for ethnic minority business owners, with the aim to present a series of solutions to the Government which could be incorporated into better policy making.

Should you wish to know more about the work of the APPG, you can do so here.


PETITION FOR RICHMOND POLICE

Earlier this week I met with new SW London Borough Commander for the Metropolitan Police, DS Clair Kelland, who was keen to assure me that she has a plan to improve the response to burglaries in this area. We also talked about Richmond police, who are working closely with residents to respond to anti-social behaviour in the town centre at weekends. The local team also has some new initiatives in Mortlake to combat crime there.


In support of my campaign for better local policing, last Friday I launched my petition to reopen Richmond Police Station. In just seven days over 1000 local residents have joined my calls on the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police to bring a station back to our community. This overwhelming display of support is a clear indicator of the depth of feeling in our community for more local policing and a more visible police presence. If you feel strongly about this issue, please share the petition as widely as you can with your neighbours, through social media and on community WhatsApp groups. You can find the petition with the link here.



VISIT TO TIFFIN GIRLS SCHOOL

Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting Tiffin Girls School to discuss careers in politics with pupils interested in public service. I talked about the different pathways into political work and the challenges I faced on my own journey. I enjoyed talking to them about all the different employment areas in government and politics they might not be aware of, such as the civil service, campaign work and local government. It was a great pleasure to have a chance to explore their opportunities with them.


DEAF AWARENESS WEEK

Next week is Deaf Awareness Week, a time when campaigning organisations from across the UK come together to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by deaf and hard of hearing people. It's a good time to make sure you are communicating effectively with someone who may not be able to hear you.

If you speak to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing you can follow simple steps to make sure they are included. For example, be sure to sit in the light so your mouth is visible and make eye contact before starting to speak. You might even try learning a small amount of British sign language.


Being deaf can be an extremely isolating experience but I hope that this week, many of my constituents will take the time to ensure they know how to make life a little easier for the 1.2 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK. For more information on how best to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing people, click the link here.


DOGS IN RICHMOND PARK THIS SEASON


The Royal Parks has asked me to remind constituents that ‘dogs on leads’ will be mandatory from 1 May until the 31 July in Richmond and Bushy Parks, to protect both dogs and deer during the deer birthing season. The season marks a vulnerable time for female deer, who hide their young in bracken and long grass to conceal them from dogs and other perceived predators.

Dog owners who choose to walk their dog in Richmond and Bushy Parks during this season must have their dog on a lead, and for their own safety should also be on high alert for female deer, avoid areas of long grass and bracken where newly born deer could be concealed, and stick to the perimeter of the park in case they need to escape. All park users are requested to give deer plenty of space, keeping at least 50 metres away, and never touch or handle a newborn deer under any circumstances, even if it’s on its own.



RICHMOND NEWS

EAST SHEEN MARKET


East Sheen Market returns tomorrow, Saturday 29 April from 11:00 - 5:00 in front of Sheen Library. Come along to enjoy live music, food and drink, children's entertainment, craft and artisan food stalls.



THAMES WATER FINE


Richmond residents and visitors may be interested to know that Richmond Council has fined Thames Water for the overrun of their works in the Richmond Bridge area. Thames Water did respond promptly to my report about poor work practices at the site, but the work caused disruption for an unnecessarily long time. I am pleased to see that the Council took this decisive action to hold them to account.



KINGSTON NEWS


FAMILY FRIENDLY FUN BIKE RIDE

The first family-friendly Fun Kingston Bike Ride will take place on Sunday 4 June, coinciding with World Bicycle Day (3 June) and the start of Bike Week (6 June). The ride has been organised by Kingston Cycling Campaign with the support of other local groups (Full Cycle Community Bike Project and Kingston Hive). Their aim is to help build confidence levels amongst all ages and abilities by taking in quiet roads and cycle routes in a fun and sociable way.


The ride will set off from Fairfield Park at 11am and the route will go into Richmond Park constituency, including Latchmere Park and the Lower Ham Road. There will be both 4.5 mile and 7.5 mile options. For more information and to register please click here.



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