As the war in Israel and Gaza continues, my colleagues and I have been calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as a pause in hostilities which will facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza and provide an opportunity to realise the release of the hostages. I know how deeply this conflict has affected members of both the Jewish and Muslim communities here in Richmond Park, and I have been appalled to see a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in other parts of the capital. If you have been the victim of this kind of attack, I would urge you to speak with the police immediately, officers I have spoken with are aware of the increased risk and are ready to help however they can.
This week, Parliament has been prorogued in preparation for its State Opening by the King on Tuesday. The State Opening marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and is the day when the King sets out the Government's agenda for the next 12 months. The King's speech is then followed by 5 days of debates in which MPs and Peers debate and respond to the policies laid out. While Parliament is prorogued, no business can take place in the House, giving MPs a period where we can take on additional work on behalf of our constituents and the United Kingdom.
ZAMBIA: AFRICAN REGIONAL CONFERENCE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEES
I was extremely privileged to have been invited to join the UK delegation for the Regional Workshop for African Public Accounts Committees in Lusaka this week, jointly hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK and the Zambian National Assembly. This was a three day workshop for members and clerks of Public Accounts Committees from the UK and across Africa to share information and best practice.
It was a very stimulating few days, and myself and Dame Meg Hillier, the UK PAC Chair, learned and shared a great deal of useful knowledge about holding governments and officials to account for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.
Our Zambian hosts were extremely welcoming and it was a particular pleasure to meet the Rt Hon Ms Nelly BK Mutti MP, the Speaker of the Zambian National Assembly and recent winner of the Commonwealth Parliamentarian of the Year award, and to meet with members of the Zambia Women Parliamentarian Caucus to talk about how to improve female representation in Parliament.
After the workshop, Dame Meg and I joined the High Commissioner to Zambia, Nicholas Woolley, on a visit to Chongwe, a town about 40km from Lusaka. The local councillors were keen to show us how money from the new Constituency Development Fund (CDF) had been spent on the building of a new classroom for the local primary school. The Zambian government are starting to implement free education for all children and there is high demand for new classrooms and desks in existing school buildings. The government have launched the CDF to distribute funds to each constituency, to be spent upon projects chosen by the local community. As well as additional school buildings, the money will be spent on clean running water and new roads in the Chongwe district.
It was an extremely stimulating and thought provoking trip and I’m extremely grateful both to my Zambian hosts and to the CPA UK for organising. My lasting memory will be of the wild zebras that live in the parkland surrounding the Zambian National Assembly – very reminiscent of our own deer in Richmond Park!
U-TURN ON TICKET OFFICE CLOSURES
This week, I was incredibly pleased to see that rail operators have backed down on their plans to close ticket offices and cut staffing hours at stations across the country. They were forced to make this u-turn after massive opposition from almost 750,000 people, including disability campaigners, community safety organisations, local authorities and Members of Parliament.
These plans should never have made it to the consultation stage. They made the rail networks less accessible, put lone travellers at greater risk, and would have stripped vital community assets out of our transport system. This summer, I joined councillors and campaigners in a protest outside Mortlake Ticket Office calling for the Government to scrap these plans and I am so proud we could play our part opposing this terrible change. I would like to particularly thank Councillor's Julia Cambridge and Margaret Dane for all their work rallying the community in opposition to these proposals.
If you would like to learn more about this decision, visit the link here.
NEW FLIGHT PATHS: LONDON ASSEMBLY MOTION PROTECTING RICHMOND PARK
On Thursday, the Liberal Democrat Group in the London Assembly put forward a motion calling for the protection of Richmond Park from new flight paths. This comes in the wake of Heathrow submitting a proposal to the CAA that included a number of new flight path systems that ran directly over Richmond Park and would mean that this island of serenity in the capital would now be overflown by around 60,000 relatively low flying aircraft every year.
I was very pleased to see Assembly Members from all political parties put aside their political differences to support this motion. Richmond Park is the heart of our community and a beautiful feature of London, protecting it is a duty all of the city's representatives at every level share, no matter their political affiliation. This motion is a good first step, but now the Government must step in and force Heathrow to reconsider it's proposals.
Pictured: Protest against Mortlake Ticket Office Closures earlier this year.
MEETING YOUR LOCAL POLICE
On the 7th November, between 1 pm and 2 pm, the Tudor Ward Safer Neighbourhood Team will be at the Hawker Centre hosting their regular Coffee with a Coppa session, where residents can sit down and chat to the local police teams who are dedicated to keeping our streets safe. If coffee isn't quite your cup of tea, the team will also be hosting Running with a Coppa on the 18th of November at 8 am.
For the location and more details email the Tudor ward team on at email@example.com.
REFUGEES WELCOME IN RICHMOND
On Thursday 9th November between 6 pm and 8 pm, the Vineyard Community Centre is playing host to a free and informal evening with beautiful art, music, food, wine and soft drinks to celebrate Refugees Welcome in Richmond gaining its status as a registered charity. The organisation does fantastic work supporting people who have been through the most terrible tragedies, hosting events, providing befriending services and language support, and doing everything they can to make sure the people who come to them feel welcomed in Richmond.
HAM POND BIG AUTUMN PRUNE
At 10 am tomorrow, the Ham and Petersham Association will be out in force at Ham Pond pruning back and tidying up the trees and shrubbery. This is a big task and they need as many hands helping out as they can muster. If you have an hour to spend cleaning up the area and keeping it a wonderful space for everyone to enjoy, I would urge you to go along. Friends and family are more than welcome and tools can be provided if you do not have your own.
Photo Credit: Ham and Petersham Association