This week the Foreign Secretary implied that the Government would be willing to make it a requirement for university students to be double-vaccinated before moving to halls of residence. This now places universities alongside nightclubs and live sporting events as settings in which vaccine passports will now seemingly be required. I am deeply uncomfortable with this as I fear it will, in effect, lead to a two-tier society. I am also concerned at the alarming lack of scrutiny involved following today's news that the Government has spent over £23m on a Covid certification programme.
While I absolutely recognise the importance of people getting their vaccination when offered, and I will certainly be continuing to encourage those who are hesitant to ask questions and ultimately get their jab, I do not believe that such coercive measures are the way forward. Restricting young peoples' ability to get a degree is fundamentally immoral and therefore I shall therefore continue to oppose these punitive policies in Parliament. BBC RADIO 4: ANY QUESTIONS This evening, at 8pm, I will be on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions alongside the President of the National Farmers' Union, Minette Batters, Labour MP, Thangam Debbonaire and Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg. As ever, I anticipate a lively and robust debate around this week's news agenda. To listen, click here. TEAM MARGOT
Today I had the pleasure of meeting Team Margot, a charity which
campaigns for more people to join the worldwide register of potential bone marrow and stem cell donors. The charity was set up in memory of a young lady called Margot, who sadly passed away in 2014 following a battle with blood cancer. Margot required a bone marrow transplant to stand the best chance of survival, but in their search for a transplant her parents discovered that her mixed heritage meant it wasn't possible find her 'perfect' match.
The charity - run by Margot's father, Yaser and aunt, Nadia - is especially interested in those from black, Asian, mixed race and minority ethnic communities, they are most disadvantaged when it comes to seeking a donor with a matching tissue type. The registers of stem cell and bone marrow donors are simply not large enough, nor are they sufficiently diverse, with just 3% of registered bone marrow donors mixed race. This is important as when it comes to donating tissue, race is significant. There must
be 10-12 matching genetic markers for the transplant to be successful, and these are dictated by race.
They are also keen for people to visit Giving to Help Others, a site which provides educational materials to primary schoolteachers on introducing the idea of donation, along with the importance of registering to be a blood and tissue donor.
Everyone at Team Margot is an unpaid volunteer, meaning 100% of donations goes to the causes they support. To make a financial donation, or find out more information about registering, please visit: https://www.teammargot.com.
On Tuesday, the planning applications for the proposed developments at the former Stag Brewery site were taken to City Hall, where representations from both sides were made to Sadiq Khan. The Mayor ultimately decided to refuse the developments' planning permission. The reasons for his refusal included the impact the developments' height would have on the local community, as well as what he felt was an insufficient offering of affordable housing. Critically, and in my view, disappointingly, the impact the developments would have had on the local traffic were not factored into his decision. The indefinite closure of Hammersmith Bridge to motor traffic has had severe consequences on air quality in the area and it was therefore disappointing that the extent to which the proposed developments would have exacerbated the problem even further were not taken into account. Nonetheless I was grateful for the continued hard work and efforts of the local campaigners who once again put their cases forward with real force and vigour at the hearing. I was similarly glad that the views of Chertsey Courts residents were reflected in the final decision. Ultimately, however, I am disappointed that the hearing has served only to delay whatever prospect we had of an appropriate development getting a green light. At the beginning of 2020, the Council approved a plan for housing, which included a degree of affordable housing and a much-needed secondary school. This was a proposal that I was pleased to support. However, when the Mayor decided to call the applications in, the developers subsequently altered the proposal in consultation with the Greater London Authority. This therefore scuppered the earlier plans, leaving our community with no proposals to develop and a local traffic system that remains terribly congested. I am currently looking into what the next steps are and how we can best move forward in finding a development that serves both London's affordable housing crisis and the needs of the local community. TRAVEL SECTOR This week I was delighted to hold a small business surgery with representatives and business owners from the travel sector. This is an industry that has been severely damaged by the pandemic. It is in a unique position insofar as, while furlough support has been welcomed, they have ultimately needed their staff to be in the office, responding to the myriad cancellations, re-bookings and amendments customers are making, all of which take a great deal of time but offer no revenue in return. They are also suffering greatly from a real lack of consumer confidence in terms of booking holidays in advance, which is in part due to the Government's confusing and seemingly erratic traffic light system. I have therefore written to the Department for Transport asking for targeted financial support and a more transparent system which makes clear how and why countries are moved around. E-SCOOTERS The recent incidents involving E-scooters, including the two deaths, are tragic. I was desperately sad to see them, and my thoughts are with the victims' families. I recognise that this is an area around which many of my constituents have real concerns. With that in mind I have written to Heidi Alexander, the Deputy Mayor of London for Transport. She provided reassurances that the recently begun trial follows a significant programme of research and engagement to understand the views and concerns of stakeholders from diverse communities and the possible impacts of the rental e-scooter trial on people with protected characteristics. The purpose of this trial is of course to better understand what role e-scooters can play in transport in London and, importantly, to look at how to make them as safe as possible for people using e-scooters as well as other road users and pedestrians. Safety, I have been reassured, despite recent tragic incidents, is the primary concern of the trial. I am a strong advocate for green transport and schemes like this will be vitally important in informing what is and what is not feasible. TfL will continue to closely monitor the e-scooter trials to ensure the impacts on individuals with protected characteristics are being appropriately assessed and where necessary, issues actioned through appropriate mitigations. I was also pleased to read that Richmond Council has made similar commitments. The use of privately-owned e-scooters in any public place, however, remains illegal and will be managed by (and is ultimately a matter for) the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), who TfL has been working closely with during the development of the trial. The MPS will continue to undertake enforcement activity to deal with non-compliance and e-scooters being used in a dangerous manner. I have also written to the local police authorities to urge them to do all they can to crack down on this behaviour within our Borough as I recognise fully just how dangerous they can be when bought and used illegally. BREXIT: SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT FUND The challenges that British businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), have faced as a result of the UK's trade deal with the EU have been profound and have severely limited their ability to remain competitive. The sheer abundance of paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles led the Government to launch the SME Brexit support fund in February to support small exporters who were struggling with these new extra costs. The Government offered up to £2,000 for every business to pay for practical support for importing and exporting, such as dealing with new customs, rules of origin and VAT rules. The pot was worth a total of £20m and was intended to help up to 10,000 small companies. I was extremely dismayed to read this week that only 4,376 companies have been offered grants of about £6.8m, leaving over two thirds of an already-modest pot un-administered. Complainants have pointed to the complexity of the system as a reason for the low uptake. This represents a gross betrayal of British small businesses who simply do not have the time or resources to navigate the new trade arrangements, nor the cash to employ specialist agencies to do it on their behalf. The Government appears incapable, or unwilling, to grasp the scale of the problem many SMEs are facing. I will therefore be writing to the Treasury and the Department for Business to urge them to provide more comprehensive, effective support to those who need it. DANGEROUS BEHAVIOUR AT TEDDINGTON LOCK I am growing increasingly concerned by the activity at Teddington Lock which is seeing large numbers of young people, often in the hot weather and under the influence of alcohol, jumping off of the lock and footbridge at Teddington. The fear, shared by many of my constituents who have written to me, is of cold water shock or being struck by a boat. I have therefore written to the police and spoken with the Environment Agency, who manage the lock. They are aware of the problem and have put in place a number of mitigating measures, such as increased signage, fencing and security guards who are on site seven days a week. As a navigational authority, however, their remit is ultimately limited. With that in mind, they are continuing to work with the Council and police to explore further ways to address this behaviour. I am keen to see a more permanent patrol boat presence there as soon as possible, and will also be looking at ways to engage directly the demographics of people most likely to partake in this kind of activity. BARNES HOSPITAL DEVELOPMENT A consultation for the proposed development on the Barnes Hospital site has now launched. To access and submit your views, please click here. REPORTING A CRIME While I appreciate my constituents making me aware of any criminal activity they witness, I must nonetheless stress the importance of reporting crimes directly to the police, using the approved methods of ringing 101/999. There have unfortunately been a few instances recently where residents have, instead of contacting the police, reported the crimes to my office, which is neither the most appropriate nor quickest way of tackling crime. RECYCLING I also wanted to remind people to please break down their cardboard boxes before putting them into the recycling. Too many people are currently putting unbroken-down boxes into their collection bins, especially in flats, which are subsequently overflowing and filling the entire bin shed. This ultimately puts a limit on how much recycling can be processed and stops the collection workers from properly doing their jobs. A further issue is that some people are contaminating their recycling by putting plastics in with cardboard, meaning the workers have to come back later to make a special collection. I'd therefore ask people to be mindful and considerate when processing their waste and recycling. RICHMOND NEWS FUNDING TO HELP RICHMOND BE MORE ACTIVE Local organisations are invited to apply for funding through the Active Richmond Fund to boost the borough’s offering of activities that improve people’s health and wellbeing. Applicants can either apply for a short-term Micro Grant of up to £1,000 or Main Grants of up to £5,000 for long-term projects. So far, funding has been awarded to Richmond Rugby, United Response and the Activate Sport and Wellbeing Hub. Any project that encourages people to become more active could be awarded funding. Find out more information and apply here. SUPPORT AND ADVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE THIS SUMMER Getting It On is a service dedicated to helping teenagers in South West London with their sexual and mental health, relationship problems, drugs and alcohol. The Council's Public Health team are running a campaign to remind young people in Richmond and Kingston how they can enjoy summer whilst keeping themselves safe. It is focused on mental wellbeing, safety around alcohol and drugs, and safe sex, and you can find more at www.gettingiton.org.uk. FREE YOUTH CENTRE SUMMER ACTIVITIES Youth centres throughout Richmond upon Thames have free activities for young people to get involved in over the school summer holidays. Get involved in activities such as football, basketball, art, cooking, music production, table-tennis, skating, wellbeing and much more. Visit Achieving for Children to view the different youth centre programmes of activity and book online. KINGSTON NEWS CALLING YOUNG PEOPLE TO BECOME COVID CHAMPIONS! Kingston Council is looking for young people to volunteer as 'community champions', engaging with their networks to share vital information and also discuss any concerns about the vaccines. If you would like to get involved in this very important work, please email: email@example.com. FREE EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT FOR KINGSTON RESIDENTS If your job been affected by COVID-19, are looking for new opportunities or to move into a different sector and/or need training or help writing your CV, you might be interested in the services of Work Match. This is a free service which provides local jobseekers with professional support, guidance and training and can connect you with prospective employers. Find out more and register here. TEMPORARY JOBCENTRE OPENS TO PROVIDE TARGETED SUPPORT A new Jobcentre located at Anstee House, Kingston, will open on 4 August. While the present office in Guildhall 2 will be working with jobseekers aged 18 to 24, Anstee House Jobcentre will focus on those aged 25+. All customers will be notified again nearer the time. You can find more information here.