The news from Ukraine continues to be distressing and I am grateful to constituents who have been in touch to ask what they can do. The best way that people can help is through cash donations to the various aid agencies who are co-ordinating relief work with refugees at the border and in Ukraine itself.
This can be done through the International Red Cross, which has set up a Ukraine appeal. They are working with the Ukrainian Red Cross to provide food, water, clothing, shelter and medical care to displaced persons. You can see their Ukraine appeal page here.
If you specifically want to help children in Ukraine, you could direct your donation to UNICEF, who are also running a Ukraine relief campaign. More information on their work and how to donate can be found here.
Alternatively, the International Rescue Committee is working with Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland. If you want to help IRC with their work supporting Ukrainians who have crossed the border into Poland, please donate here.
If you want to give to Ukrainian organisations specifically, the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain is sponsoring an appeal along with a number of Ukrainian churches and civic groups based here in the UK. They are working with accredited charities in Ukraine to provide emergency aid to those in need in the country. You can see their GoFundMe page here.
This week, I was pleased to attend a meeting of Parliamentarians with the Ukrainian ambassador to London on Wednesday evening where he expressed his gratitude for the support of the UK to his nation at this very dark time. He was clear that he would like the UK government to offer a visa-free passage to all those fleeing the conflict and to go further on sanctions against those who support Putin’s regime. The Liberal Democrats stand firmly behind the Ukrainian people in calling on our government to take more action in both these areas.
Our country has a proud history of providing sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution. We must not abandon Ukrainian refugees in their hour of need.
FREEPORTS AND RUSSIAN MONEY
We must not allow freeports, sites at which goods are imported from abroad and are exempt from tariffs, to become hubs for money-laundering and illicit trade. Yet on Tuesday the Conservatives frustratingly voted down a Liberal Democrat amendment to the National Insurance Bill that would have created a public register of beneficial ownership for businesses in UK freeports. There is now a real risk that Kremlin-linked oligarchs and other economic criminals will be able to hide their cash in our new freeports with next to no scrutiny. The Government must use its upcoming Economic Crime Bills to address these very real risks. To see part of my contribution to Tuesday's, click here.
HIGHEST RAIL FARE INCREASE IN NINE YEARS
I share my constituents' dismay at this week's rail fare increases, particularly as train timetables remain in flux. Given the unprecedented cost of living crisis, it is unfathomable that the Government has allowed a 3.8% rise in fares. I have written to the Transport Secretary urging him to freeze fares for five years to help encourage people back onto rail. I will update my constituents when I have a response from him. You can see my letter here.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTE: HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE
On Wednesday the Public Accounts Committee held a session on supporting local economic growth, at which a number of senior civil servants were present, including from the Department for Transport. I therefore took the opportunity to ask the department head for an update on the funding plan for Hammersmith Bridge. I was pleased to hear that progress is being made between the three parties, and that the Permanent Secretary committed to sharing with me more detail in writing. I also made the point that we should be thinking more widely about our approach to bridge ownership so that this kind of fiasco isn't allowed to happen again. To see part of our exchange, click here.
At the beginning of 2022, new import controls were brought in as part of the Brexit trade deal. This has caused considerable confusion for my constituents, especially small business owners. I therefore took the opportunity in Parliament this week to raise the issue in the chamber, using one particularly distressing example of a constituent whose goods have been stuck in a warehouse for two and a half months owing to the new regulations, something we can all agree is unacceptable. To see the exchange, click here.
HAM CLOSE DEVELOPMENT
On Friday I had the opportunity to visit the Ham Close redevelopment consultation and take a closer look at the updated plans with Cllr Penny Frost. I was encouraged to hear that residents' views had been factored in and that they are, largely speaking, happy with the direction the development is now taking.
Of course, some residents remain concerned -- namely private leaseholders who face a period of uncertainty. This is something I'll be looking into in the coming days and weeks. Please let me know if you would like to be kept informed of any future activity on this development by emailing me on email@example.com.
UPWARD ONLY RENT REVIEWS - PRIVATE MEMBER'S BILL
I will soon be submitting a Private Members Bill on upward only rent reviews. If any of my constituents have suffered from this unfair practice and would like to share their story with me to inform my presentation of the bill, I would be grateful to hear about your experience. I will be offering examples in my speech, but will of course anonymise any information shared with me if I cite it in the House chamber.
CONTACTING THE POLICE
I have been contacted by a number of constituents lately who have sadly been the victims of robbery or burglary. I want to once again encourage everyone to report any crime they encounter to help ensure we are receiving our share of police resources in this area.
In an emergency you must call 999. This includes if a serious offence is in progress or has just been committed, someone is hurt or in immediate danger, or property is in danger of being damaged.
Call 101 for non-emergency enquiries.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can use their textphone service on 18000. Or you can text them on 999 if you have pre-registered with the emergency SMS service. If it isn't an emergency use the textphone service on 18001 or text 101 if you have pre-registered. Please see further information about registering for this service here.
You can also report crime online at https://www.met.police.uk/ro/report/
Or on Twitter you can message @MetCC.
You can also contact these partner agencies:
Stay 100% anonymous by reporting information to the independent charity Crimestoppers. Report online at crimestoppers-uk.org or call 0800 555 111
Call the UK Anti-Terrorism Hotline on 0800 789 321 if you've seen or heard something that you think could suggest terrorist activity.
British Transport Police
Text on 61016 to report incidents on the train and tube discreetly.
Report Hate Crime
To report hate crime indirectly to police visit True Vision here.
Contacting your local neighbourhoods policing team
Find out who your local neighbourhood policing team is, contact them, find out when their next meeting is and see local crime information by typing in your postcode here.
Southwest London NHS has written to me to ask me to thank constituents for coming forward for the vaccine in such high numbers. Vaccination has significantly reduced the impact of this pandemic on our communities in South West London. New research shows that the risk of death involving Covid-19 is 93% lower for those who have had a booster or third dose compared to those who are unvaccinated. (You can see the ONS data on this here.)
Whether it is your first dose, second dose or booster, the vaccine can greatly reduce your risk of being hospitalised if you catch COVID-19. It's never too late to get vaccinated and the staff at the vaccination centre will be very pleased to welcome you. You can book your vaccine here.
If you have concerns about allergies that are holding you back from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, you are invited to pop into one of your local vaccination centres to talk with a matron about the vaccine. Please take a look at this video inviting you to come in.
THOMSON HOUSE SCHOOL STREET
On Tuesday at 6:30pm there will be an online workshop taking place for the Thomson House School Street. To sign up and share your views, click here.
COUNCIL PLANS FOR THE QUEEN'S JUBILEE
To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and her Green Canopy, the Mayor of Richmond upon Thames will host a tree planting event at Moormead Recreation Ground on Friday 11 March 2022, planting an English Oak tree at 11:00am. Further trees will also be planted in every ward of the borough.
The Queen’s Green Canopy is a tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, which invites people from across the United Kingdom to ‘Plant a Tree for the Jubilee’. Everyone from individuals to Scout and Girlguiding groups, villages, cities, counties, schools and corporates are being encouraged to play their part to enhance our environment by planting trees during the official planting season. The tree planting season runs from October to the end of March, so this month is the perfect time to plant a tree for the Queen.
HAM PARADE MARKET
Ham Parade Market is back this Saturday 5th March from 10.00-14.00 with fresh organic produce, locally produced crafts and eco-friendly home and lifestyle needs. This month they are supporting the Healing Trust, who run healing sessions from The United Reform Church in Kingston. They will be selling raffle ticket to raise funds as well as showcasing local young musical talent with the return of the music stage, the Basement Door. For more information, go to: hamparademarket.org.
WORK BEGINS ON NEW COUNCIL HOMES
I know how badly we need new social housing in Kingston, so I was delighted to hear this week that work has begun to build more homes. Working with Countryside, Kingston Council has started construction on over 100 much-needed affordable new council homes for its residents. All of the homes will be high quality and sustainable, benefitting Kingston residents for generations to come, and supporting the council’s aim to reduce the borough’s carbon emissions.
Councillor Andreas Kirsch, Leader of Kingston Council, said his week: “In our borough, there are nearly 1,000 households living in temporary accommodation and 3,700 on our waiting list for a council home. With property prices and living costs going up, this number is only set to increase unless we act. We are delighted to have started building our first new-build council homes in a generation, making the best use of underutilised sites across the borough.”
The project is part of an ambitious programme of development across the Council's portfolio, including the regeneration of the Cambridge Road Estate. You can find out more about all the new homes on the Council's webpages.