This week, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced her ‘Plan for Water’, an attempt to clean up our rivers and beaches which are often the site of sewage overflow. The announcement was a mixture of previously announced measures combined with some small additions. I do not believe it is nearly enough to address the crisis of sewage in our waters.
Since my election as the local MP in 2019, I have fought to protect both the Thames and smaller local waterways such as Beverley Brook from water companies that use them as waste overflow. These companies are protected by a Government that has continually refused to outlaw the practise. Shockingly, in Southwest London, sewage was dumped into the Thames on 123 occasions for a total of 590 hours over the last two years.This is equivalent to 48 minutes every day during that time. This completely unacceptable situation and requires much stronger action.
I spoke to ITV London this week to set out what the Liberal Democrats would do to address this crisis. This includes the replacement of Ofwat, the water regulator, with an organisation that has the power to truly hold water companies to account. We would also reform water companies as ‘public benefit companies’ and require them not just to work for their shareholders, but also meet national economic and environmental policy objectives.
You can see the ITV London segment, including my comments here.
PAC: DIGITAL SERVICES TAX REPORT
This week, I led the publication of the Public Accounts Committee’s report into the digital services tax.
The report explored the effectiveness of the tax, which has been introduced as a temporary measure to ensure large multinational corporations pay sufficient tax in the UK, in advance of an agreement on an international tax to achieve the same end. Our findings found that the tax had raised more than was initially expected, yet that companies were likely to try and circumvent it. More broadly, our work found that HM Revenue and Customs needed to improve its general performance on collecting tax, especially across multinational corporations.
ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA ROUNDTABLE
Many constituents have emailed me to express their concern over the Arts Council England decision to cut funding for the English National Opera.
Last week I attended a roundtable with members of the ENO workforce to discuss the impact of the funding changes, as well as next steps to seek a review of Arts Council England’s decision. I will continue to support the cross-party effort to support the ENO and highlight the risk that the cut to funding poses to highly skilled professionals who work there.
CITY UK EVENT
Last week, I attended a breakfast event with business leaders working in financial and professional services, and participated in a Q&A session with attendees. We discussed the importance of stability in the economy to attract inward investment, action needed to mobilise finance to support Net Zero, and the need for well-enforced and well-designed regulation of financial services. It was encouraging to hear the appetite from the City to work with Government to transition to a green economy. I will continue to press the Government for an ambitious, long-term strategy to achieve our Net Zero goals.
Last week I had the pleasure of joining local councillor Andrew Bolton to visit a cost-of-living event hosted by the charity Mencap at Dickerage Community Centre. Mencap learners have developed a campaign to help local people maintain a healthy lifestyle during the cost-of-living crisis. It was wonderful to see how Mencap has supported and empowered them to contribute to their community. For more information about all the other valuable work done by Kingston Mencap, please click here.
I also spent some time along the riverside last week, meeting my constituent Mary Tester to have a look at one of the signs that she and her fellow members of Thames Seal Watch worked with Richmond Council to place along the towpath in several key locations in the borough. Thames Seal Watch is an organisation created to increase community education, awareness and protection for Thames seals, and the signs are part of a government backed national campaign called Give Seals Space. The signs are all over the UK in seal populated areas in hopes to minimise seal disturbance.
COFFEE MORNING IN KEW
I enjoyed meeting Kew constituents at the Coach and Horses on Tuesday for a coffee morning. After briefing them on what I am doing as their MP, we had a discussion covering a wide range of local and national topics, including the new Voter ID law, supporting the NHS, heat networks, the need for a police station on this side of the Borough, the need for a secondary school for Kew pupils, the ULEZ expansion and local developments. I took away a number of actions for attendees and am grateful to everyone who came for sharing their thoughts and questions.
I also want to thank Silvja and Jack at the Coach and Horses for offering us the use of their beautiful library and for their warm hospitality.
BARNES STATION LIFTS
After extensive engagement with me about accessibility, Network Rail has written to say that they will be carrying out works to install new lifts, stairs and footbridge at Barnes station, to provide step-free access across the station. The work will begin in May 2023 is and due to complete by the end of February 2024.
Network Rail will be holding a Community Drop In session for local residents and stakeholders to speak to the project team and see a presentation about the project. This will take place on Thursday 20th April 2023 from 3:30-6:30pm at Barnes Common Cricket Ground, Vine Road, London, SW13 0NE. Any residents who would like to know more about the plans are encourage to attend.
WORK EXPERIENCE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Every year I receive a large number of requests from secondary and sixth form pupils for work experience in my office. I work with local schools to reach out to young people about this, and offer as many places as I can.
I would like to encourage anyone who is in a position to do so to kindly offer work experience to young people. Having spent much of their adolescence in lockdown, they need to get out into the world as much as possible, and with so many workers now working from home, the opportunities for them are even fewer. If you are able to contribute to the community in this way, I know that pupils and schools will be very appreciative of any opportunities you can offer.
UK EMERGENCY TEXT ALERTS
On Sunday 23 April, there will be a national test of the UK Emergency Alerts service. The government does not need to know your phone number or location to send you an alert, and your ringer does not need to be on. Every compatible mobile phone or tablet in range of a mast will receive this. This alert will sound even if the phone is set to silent. Some people may be worried about having an alert coming from their phone, for their own personal reasons. If this concerns you or someone you know, do remember to switch these phones off or put them into 'airplane mode'. All phones will be activated with the loud alert on the evening of 23rd April.
Click here to read more about these Emergency Alert tests.
WARNING ABOUT LITHIUM BATTERIES
London Fire Brigade has asked me to warn my constituents about danger from lithium ion batteries. These batteries are found in computers, phones and e-scooters. When the batteries degrade they can set off a gas, explode, or catch fire at a very high intensity. They advise everyone not to leave devices charging unattended. More information on the danger of LIon batteries can be found here.