This week, I appeared on BBC Politics Live, where I had the chance to put forward my thoughts on several issues, including the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, artificial intelligence and the Illegal Immigration Bill.
In the discussion, I challenged the Conservative MP on his party’s record in Government, including their lack of a clear plan to reduce carbon emissions and hit our climate change targets.
When the discussion moved towards the Government’s Illegal Immigration Bill, I outlined my opposition to these unworkable proposals. I believe the best course of action would be to cancel the appalling ‘Rwanda Plan’, and reinvest the money into clearing our asylum claim backlog, which currently stands at 160,000 applications. This figure has quintupled since 2017. Clearing the backlog of applications is the best way to empty the costly and inhumane asylum hotels, allowing those who have a legitimate claim to stop being supported by the taxpayer and start contributing to the economy as workers.
The discussion closed by referring to artificial intelligence, where I again stressed the need for those in creative sectors such as musicians and artists to have their work protected by copyright law that would prohibit AI from utilising their work without permission or payment.
You can see a clip of me discussing Net Zero here.
PRIME MINISTER'S QUESTIONS
At Deputy Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, I challenged Dominic Raab on NHS figures that recently revealed that GP numbers across the country had fallen by 850 since January 2019.
Conservatives are failing to fulfil their promise at the last election to recruit 6,000 more GPs. Across London, there are now 2,466 people per fully qualified GP, a rise of nearly 20% from the 2,071 figure in December 2016. Separate figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have also found that there are 547 fewer GP surgeries in England compared to 2019, including a drop of 101 in London.
My Liberal Democrat colleagues have launched a pledge to recruit more GPs and give patients a legal right to see a GP within 7 days, or 24 hours in an emergency. This would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs, a programme to retain experienced doctors and staff, and launching a recruitment drive to encourage those who have left the NHS to return.
You can see a clip of my question here.
I also raised the topic of NHS waiting times on Thursday as an Urgent Question to the Department of Health and Social Care on the upcoming strike by junior doctors. Shockingly, there are now over 7.2 million people waiting for NHS treatment. I challenged the Health Secretary on what he is doing to address that backlog. You can see a clip of that question here.
ORAL QUESTION ON HOUSING
This week I also had the opportunity to ask a question to the Minister for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC.) I focused on the recent increases to service charges that many constituents have been experiencing. I have been informed by many constituents that not only is their rent being increased for the coming year, but so is their service charge payment. Often it is this payment they fear will cause them a real financial challenge.
My question referenced a particularly appalling example from one constituent whose service charge is to be increased by over 700%. The response to the question by Felicity Buchan, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness, stated that such tenants are welcome to take their cases to the Housing Ombudsman to be assessed. You can find the transcript of my question and the Undersecretary's response here.
Should any constituent feel their service charge has been increased by an unreasonable amount, feel free to contact my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNITED FOR WARM HOMES CAMPAIGN
It was a pleasure to meet with activists from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace this week to discuss supporting the United for Warm Homes Campaign. Millions of people around the country are struggling with soaring energy bills and have been forced to make the choice between heating and eating. The United for Warm Homes Campaign is fighting for urgent support for energy bills, a massive nationwide insulation program, and a significant investment into cheap, green renewables.
As you may remember from last week’s newsletter, I have been pressing the Government to make homes more energy efficient for some time, making it the focus of my most recent Private Members Bill in the House. For this reason, I was especially pleased to be able to offer the campaign my full support and I look forward to supporting activists’ efforts in the future. If you would like to read more about the campaign, click the link here.
INQUIRY INTO DIVERSITY AND TRANSPLANTATION/TRANSFUSION
On Monday, I hosted an event in Parliament to launch the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion, of which I am the Chair. I was delighted that over 100 people were in attendance, including health practitioners, charities, donors, patients and policy makers.
At the event, I announced that the APPG will be conducting an inquiry over the coming months to explore why it is so much more difficult for patients from diverse backgrounds to find a suitable donor. Our aim is to come up with some concrete policy proposals to address the health inequalities that exist for patients requiring blood transfusions or organ, stem cell and bone marrow donations.
Local charity Team Margot provide Secretariat services to the APPG. You can read more about Team Margot and their work here.
VISIT TO HS2 SITE
On Tuesday, I was invited as a member of the Public Accounts Committee to visit Euston Station to discuss the progress being made on HS2. While this project has been beset by delays and budget overruns, these kinds of large-scale infrastructure projects will become increasingly important as we move away from domestic air travel. Fast, efficient, and reliable rail links between major cities could solve many of the problems we are facing in England today, relieving pressure on London’s housing market, bringing investment into other regions and connecting the nation.
This week, Foster and Partners + Cowi, the team behind the double-decker solution for Hammersmith Bridge, put on a number of information events on both sides of the river to answer residents’ questions about the scheme.
For those who have not been able to attend the Bridge information events, the double-decker proposal involves the creation of a temporary roadway through the existing arches, with a walkway for pedestrians and cyclists underneath. With this in place, the existing bridge can be removed by contractors to be repaired off-site, reducing construction noise and the total time that the bridge will be closed.
I also met with the team privately on Thursday to learn more about the scheme. In this meeting, I raised points regarding bus routes, cycling provision, air quality, safety, and a host of other topics. While their answers were too long to be included here, I would urge you to visit my website where I have posted a full update on the meeting here. If you would like to receive my monthly updates on the bridge, please email me at email@example.com.
I was delighted to speak at Creative Richmond’s ‘Evening with your MPs’ event last night alongside Twickenham MP Munira Wilson. It was good to meet local businesses and get an insight into the issues they have been facing over the past few months. This is a group I’ve been particularly interested to meet with since championing artists and musicians’ rights in the face of the threat of AI. It was extremely interesting to hear more about how this emerging technology is impacting them.
Creative Richmond is a wonderful organisation set up to build a thriving community of creatives in the heart of the borough. If you are interested in meeting other people in your industry and building your network, I highly recommend you visit their website here.
I had a lovely time last Sunday at Kingston Music Service's spring concert. It was a great pleasure to hear all the soloists and groups perform and appreciate the incredible talent and enthusiasm of the musicians. Kingston Music Service offers a range of music activities for young people and adult learners at home, in school and at four music centres across the borough. For more information about this superb service click here.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Latchmere School cricket team, winners of the 2023 Indoor Cricket Finals and recipients of the William Greaves Trophy. The event was hosted by Capital Kids Cricket, a youth development charity that aims to inspire young people to challenge themselves. The Latchmere team rose to their challenge brilliantly and I congratulate them on their success.
CRIME IN THE CONSTITUENCY
I know that many residents in Barnes, Mortlake, and East Sheen have been particularly worried about the muggings and burglaries that have taken place in the area over the past few weeks. While I appreciate how concerning these have been, I would like to reassure residents that the police are taking these matters very seriously.
Extra officers have been brought in from Twickenham, overtime for local officers has been approved, and 999 response units will be patrolling the area. Police have identified the suspects and investigators are working closely with teams from neighbouring areas to ensure the suspects are brought to justice.
If you see a crime in progress, always call 999. If you would like to report an incident which you have witnessed, but it is not an emergency, you can do so either through 101 or on the Met’s website here. You can also see all of the contact details for the Met Police's local teams in Richmond borough at the bottom of this page.
UPCOMING COFFEE MORNINGS
There are still a few spaces left for my next community coffee morning in Kew next Tuesday at 10:30, at a location near the Green. Kew residents are cordially invited to come along for a brief update on what I am doing as your MP both in Westminster and in the constituency, followed by conversation with participants about any topics of interest to them.
Following that I will be hosting a special coffee morning for residents from Ukraine. This will be in Richmond town centre on May 12. Anyone who has come to the constituency from Ukraine is welcome to attend. I look forward to hearing how you are doing here and listening to your views.
You can sign up for either of these events on my website here.
LATEST PLANS FOR THE CORONATION WEEKEND
To update constituents on the latest plans to mark the Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen Consort, the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey will take place on Saturday May 6. It will reflect the Monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in long-standing traditions and pageantry.
A Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on the evening of Sunday May 7 will showcase our diverse cultural heritage and see iconic locations across the UK lit up with projections, lasers, drone displays and illuminations. In addition to the public ballot, representatives from charities, youth and community groups from across the country have been invited, and the concert will be broadcast live on the BBC.
The Big Help Out will take place on Monday May 8, which will be an additional bank holiday to mark the Coronation. In tribute to His Majesty’s lifetime of public service, the Big Help Out will encourage people to try volunteering for themselves, highlighting the positive impact volunteering has on communities and good causes across the nation. This website shows you ways to get involved.
Tens of thousands of Coronation Big Lunches are expected to take place this May. Free downloadable resources are available here to help people and organisations get started with planning. Richmond residents who would like to have a street party need to apply by this Sunday, April 2 for a street closure. More details here. Kingston residents have until April 14 and can find more information here.
The interactive Coronation website offers key information about the Coronation, links to information and resources, including guidance on how organisations and businesses can use the official Coronation emblem free of charge for associated activities. The website also includes an interactive map of community events across the country. If you are hosting a community event, you can add it to the page, and everyone can use it to find out what’s happening nearby.
NHS PRESCRIPTION CHARGES
The charges for NHS prescriptions and some devices will be rising as of tomorrow. An inflation rate of 3.21% has been applied to current costs, so the prescription charge will increase by by 30 pence from £9.35 to £9.65 for each medicine or appliance dispensed. For more information click here.
People needing regular medicines or multiple prescriptions can sometimes save a greal deal of money with a pre-payment certificate. This now includes many prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy. For information about pre-payment certificates, including which medications/conditions are eligible for this programme, please click here.
RECRUITING COMMUNITY AMBASSADORS
Richmond social housing residents might like to know that the Council is recruiting volunteer Community Ambassadors. They are looking for a spread of ambassadors across the social housing estates in the borough. As a Community Ambassador, you would:
Collect fellow residents' views and share them with your housing association and the Council
Bring positive physical change to your local area
Bring opportunities for your community to come together
Help identify the issues around your home through estate inspections
Work with residents to bring about projects that will benefit your community
Make sure your housing association hears from its residents
You do not need any previous voluntary experience to apply. If you are interested in the programme and would like to apply, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and phone number.
UPDATED FLOOD RISK STRATEGY
Richmond Council is updating its Local Flood Risk Management Strategy from 2015, and looking for input from residents and community organisations. The Council's aim is to modernise flood risk management, increase community preparedness and help to restore a more natural watercourse to our urban environment. The new strategy needs to consider a wide variety of perspectives on flood risk and experiences of flooding, so it is important that members of the public comment on it.
People who live and work in the borough are encouraged to have their say through this strategy survey, which will be open until 3 May 2023. If anyone needs help completing the survey or would like a paper copy or different format, they can email email@example.com or call 020 8891 1411.
CONSULTATION ON KINGSTON TOWN CENTRE
Over the last year, the council has been actively engaging with a Citizens’ Panel, local communities, students, businesses and landowners to better understand their aspirations for the future of Kingston town centre. Based on the feedback heard so far a draft vision has now been published for consultation which includes a series of ambitious goals, and ideas to turn them into reality. This includes enhancing the riverside connections, celebrating our culture and heritage and improving our transport routes to make them safer, greener and healthier.
The council has set up an exhibition on the vision in the pilot urban room, Open Frame, in the Market House, in Kingston’s Market Place. This is open to look at Wednesday to Sunday and is staffed by the Place Making team every Thursday 10am-1pm. The council is keen to hear feedback, so if you have a chance to stop in, please do so. The consultation is open until 30 April 2023.
CRACKING DOWN ON ILLEGAL VAPE SALES
Kingston Council has asked me to share with residents the good news that the Trading Standards team recently completed a series of operations in partnership with Kingston Police to seize a total of 3666 illegal and potentially unsafe vapes. This is a fantastic effort to protect residents and keep the community safe.