With the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting in London this week, the Government has an ideal opportunity to discuss the most pressing matters of the day. I hope to hear later this week that the ministers have discussed the spiralling Covid-19 crisis in India and the need to send vaccine doses to countries that are not vaccinating in large numbers.
I want to extend sympathy to all of my constituents who have family in India, about whom they must be deeply worried. All of the G7 countries could be doing more to assist India in managing the crisis, especially the UK with our very low case rates and high vaccination rates. Our historic ties with India impose a special duty on us to come to their aid; the Commonwealth should support our common health.
In order to prevent a similar epidemic from engulfing other countries, we must increase the supply of vaccines to countries that have not been able to purchase them. I co-signed a letter this week with my fellow Liberal Democrat MPs calling for a parallel rollout of vaccines to countries in greatest need. Now is the time to increase our aid to less developed nations, not cut it. I hope the foreign ministers will find a way to work together to make everyone safe from Covid-19.
GOVERNMENT PLAN TO HALVE FUNDING FOR CREATIVE ARTS COURSES
The Office for Students has published its university funding plans for next year, which include cutting funding for courses in performing and creative arts in half. The creative arts sector has already been decimated by the pandemic, receiving very little government support despite its importance to our economy and our international stature. Just last year Minister for the Creative Industries, Nigel Adams noted that the creative industries contributed nearly £13 million pounds to the national economy every hour. To cut off the supply of future creative professionals would be a tragic false economy.
The Office for Students is currently running a consultation on their funding proposals for 2021-2022, including the plan to slash funding for arts courses. This consultation closes this Thursday May 6. If you are as appalled as I am at this short-sighted gutting of arts education and the creative sector, I urge you to participate in the consultation by clicking here and by sharing the link with like minded friends.
SUPPORTING FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES
Last week I wrote to Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng about working conditions for Amazon delivery drivers. Some of you may have heard of the demands made on them, including impossible delivery schedules, low pay and zero-hours contracts.
I urged the Business Secretary to launch an investigation into the impact of the pandemic on delivery workers. I asked him to consider setting a 20% higher minimum wage for people on zero-hour contracts, to compensate them for the uncertainty of fluctuating hours of work. I further called for giving zero-hours and agency workers the right to request a fixed-hours contract after twelve months of employment.
It is long past time to give critical workers like delivery drivers decent pay and conditions. You can see my letter here.
HOLY TRINITY VISIT
On Friday I enjoyed a delightful visit to Holy Trinity C of E School in Richmond to see the children completing their Captain Tom 100 Challenges. The children did everything from 100 painted hand print “high fives” by the nursery unit to planting seeds, doing maths problems, and running. I was also interviewed by young reporters from the Kingfisher magazine asking me insightful questions about everything from “Have you met the Prime Minister?” to “What made you want to go into politics?”
I was also interviewed remotely by year six children from the Unicorn School in Kew on Friday. They were interested to know my views on climate change and racism, along with what it was like to be an MP.
This week, I would like to spotlight East Sheen’s La Ciclista cycling cafe, which originally opened in September 2019. Like so many local businesses, COVID-19 has had a tremendous negative impact on sales. With lockdown lifting and better weather on the horizon, I look forward to seeing more and more cyclists, walkers and runners visiting local businesses and making use of the wonderful amenities our community has to offer, like La Ciclista.
If you know of any individuals, businesses, or organisations that you would like to spotlight, please email your recommendations to Charlotte.Weir@Parliament.uk. I look forward to reading your recommendations.
BARNES FILM FESTIVAL
Barnes' annual film festival will return this summer from Thursday 17 to Wednesday 23 June 2021 to showcase the best film making talents from up-and-coming storytellers. The weeklong programme of events will include workshops, discussions, screenings and gatherings which will be held online to accommodate larger audiences during the pandemic.
Go to Barnes Film Festival for more detailed information.
KEW GARDENS COLOUR EXHIBITION
Kew Gardens has a new art exhibition opening on May 17 that explores the origins of colour and vision, showcasing how botanical artists have depicted the brightest and most intense colours found in nature.
The exhibition features a mesmerising, large-scale kaleidoscope with an ever-changing projected image. It also includes artworks and objects created using ‘Pure Structural Colour’, a cutting-edge piece of technology that replicates the most vivid shades found in the natural world, on display to the public for the first time. Entry is included with a ticket to the Gardens, but you must book your slot here.
'LET'S TALK' PORTAL FOR DISCUSSIONS AND CONSULTATIONS
Kingston's Let's Talk portal can help you find and participate in discussions and consultations that interest you in Kingston. The portal is designed to make it easy for Kingston residents to shape the future for Kingston and how we all live and work. Have a look at the portal here for events like Kingston's Licensing Policy Review, which closes on 9 May, and the Kingston 100 Histories project, which is open-ended.
MAYOR'S COMMUNITY AWARD WINNERS
I would like to congratulate the Kingston residents who gave up their time to help others this year and have been recognised by the Mayor's Community Awards. The award winners were announced by the Mayor of Kingston Councillor Margaret Thompson. This year, the awards were split between Community Awards and Covid Special awards with 34 winners. You can see all the winners here.