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Richmond Park News: 8th December 2023

VICTIMS BILL DEBATE ON COST OF COURT TRANSCRIPTS

On Monday, my amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill regarding the cost of court transcripts was debated in Parliament. My amendment sought to enable victims to request a transcript of court proceedings free of charge. I have been campaigning for this change after my constituent Juliana Terlizzi was quoted £7,500 to obtain a transcript of the trial in which her former partner was convicted of raping her.

You can read my speech in the parliamentary debate under this Hansard link or watch a clip here. Unfortunately, my amendment was not selected for a vote, however I am hopeful that it can be carried forward by colleagues in the House of Lords.

Although the amendment was not accepted by the Government, in acknowledgement of my campaign and the importance of transcripts to victims, Minister Ed Argar announced a one-year pilot scheme to enable victims of rape and other serious sexual offences to request Crown court sentencing remarks. This pilot is a welcome step towards improving transparency and accountability in our justice system, but I do not believe it goes far enough. I have written to the Minister to set out my concerns and to urge the Government to look at what more can be done to address this issue as the Bill progresses through the House of Lords. You can read a copy of this letter here.



ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP FOR ETHNICITY TRANSPLANTATION AND TRANSFUSION


I was delighted to launch the APPG for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion’s report ‘Where are our nation’s donors?’ on Monday morning.


The report found that the UK’s mixed heritage and ethnic minority population faces a double blow of inequality as they are more likely to need donors due to conditions which disproportionately affect them, such as sickle cell anaemia and kidney disease, but less likely to find well matched donors on the blood, stem cell, and organ donor registers. This report received 54 pieces of written evidence and held two oral evidence sessions with expert witnesses.


This event was attended by fellow MPs, health care specialists, charities, and experts in the field. We heard personal stories from Beverly de-Gale OBE and from Mark Bale, a prominent figure in healthcare policy and genomic medicine.


Healthcare should not be a lottery shaped by a person's ethnicity. Equal access to life saving treatment is a right and I hope that in the coming years, the Government will do more to tackle this inequality.



PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: MANAGING GOVERNMENT BORROWING


This week, I led the Public Accounts Committee session on Managing Government Borrowing. During the session, I had the chance to put questions to the Head of the Office of Budget Responsibility and senior civil servants, including the Permanent Secretary of HM Treasury, James Bowler.

In the session, we focused particularly on the cost of borrowing, and how UK Government debt was being managed, particularly with regards to recent expenditure and higher interest rates. In my questioning, I drew attention to the projections made about the overall impact of quantitative easing, and why projections made by the OBR on the subject have varied so drastically in recent months.

It is crucial that the Government’s economic policy continues to receive thorough scrutiny as we move towards a General Election. As both a member of the Public Accounts Committee and as Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Treasury, I will continue to hold the Government to account for its utter mismanagement of our economy.



HONG KONG WATCH PANEL DISCUSSION


It was a pleasure to join the advocacy group Hong Kong Watch for a panel discussion in Parliament on Tuesday evening.


During the panel, I was joined by Alicia Kearns MP and Catherine West MP along with the co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, Benedict Rogers. We discussed many issues that Hong Kongers in Richmond Park face everyday, such as difficulty accessing pension funds, the cost of university for BNO students, and unequal recognition of professional qualifications.


The constituency is home to a growing number of Hong Kongers and it has been a pleasure to see more and more new arrivals joining our community. If you or anyone you know has been impacted by the issues I have outlined above, please don't hesitate to let me know.



THE HAPPIEST PLACE IN BRITAIN


I was delighted to discover that this week, Richmond upon Thames was ranked the happiest place in Britain in Rightmove's "Happy at Home Index". This is the first time any London borough has won the top spot in the 12 years the survey has been running, and it is incredibly well-deserved.


As I said to LBC earlier this week, one of the factors that makes our community such a wonderful place to live is the sense of community and belonging. We have some of the highest rates of volunteering in the country here in Richmond Park, and the commitment residents have to looking after one another is fantastic to see. Since I was elected in 2019, I have witnessed the incredible generosity of residents who gave up their time to support people during the COVID pandemic, opened their homes to Ukrainian guests, and given what they could to foodbanks and local charities throughout the cost of living crisis.




MANOR CIRCUS ROUNDABOUT


After months of congestion and chaos, it looks as if TfL are nearly able to make some adjustments to the Manor Circus roundabout works which will ease congestion in the area. While I believe all of TfL's timelines should be taken with a very large pinch of salt, it does appear as if work is progressing, although these works are still behind schedule.


Thames Water's failure to attend a burst water main for over a week earlier in the year is one factor behind the current delays. However, I am pleased that TfL think they can improve the situation before Christmas. I would like to thank the North Richmond Ward Councillors and Richmond Council's transport leads for all the work they have done helping to secure extended working hours and pressing for 24 hour working on the site. It is appalling that TfL did not conduct any substantial analysis on the impact closing this section of the A316 would have on local traffic conditions, and I will continue to raise this shocking oversight with the Mayor and his deputies over the coming months.


To learn more about the works visit TfL's website here.



TEDDINGTON DRA: LAST CHANCE TO RESPOND


On Monday, Thames Water's consultation on the controversial Teddington DRA project will come to an end. While this is not the last consultation Thames Water will hold on the scheme, this is the last chance residents will have to put forward their views at this stage of the project's development. It is of paramount importance that anyone who will be affected by the project makes their views known before the 11th.


So far, I have received hundreds of emails in opposition to Thames Water's plans. While each has raised their own concerns with the project, an underlying theme throughout has been our community's desire to protect both our natural environment and peaceful neighbourhoods from unnecessary over-development.


This project is not essential to securing London's water resources in the future. Other, better options, have been developed and abandoned by Thames Water previously and should be revived. You can respond to the consultation by visiting the link here and scrolling to the bottom of the page.


Pictured: Sarah attending Thames Water's Consultation event at the Hawker Centre in North Kingston.


PEDIATRIC CANCER CARE MOVING FROM ST GEORGES


The NHS is currently consulting on whether to move paediatric cancer care for our area from St George's Hospital and the Royal Marsden to the Evelina Hospital in Lambeth. As I have said before, St George's Hospital has decades of experience delivering dedicated paediatric cancer care supporting parents and children through unthinkably difficult times. Many of its staff are highly specialised, and the hospital hosts some of the country's handful of paediatric neuro-oncological surgeons. Comparatively, the Evelina would need to build many new teams almost from scratch.


Furthermore, removing paediatric cancer care from St George's would deprive the hospital of sorely needed resources. Staff who currently split their time looking after cancer patients and those children with other conditions would lose part of their funding, but would still need to be retained to fulfil their other roles.


Of more immediate consequence to patients is the fact that if parents want to travel to the hospital by car, they would have to pay the congestion charging zone fee and travel through heavy central London traffic. This would be especially challenging for the parents of children on immunosuppressants, as public transport is not a viable option in these cases, and easy access by private transport is essential.




RICHMOND NEWS


WHITE RIBBON WALK: 9TH DECEMBER


Tomorrow at 12:45 pm, residents and community leaders from across Richmond will be gathering in solidarity with victims of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) outside Pools on the Park. This walk is the culmination of 16 days of activism in the fight against VAWG and I hope that anyone who is able will take a moment out of their Saturday to join the walk.


To find out more about White Ribbon UK's work, and get involved in the campaign visit their website using the link here.



KINGSTON NEWS


BRITE BOX CHRISTMAS APPEAL AT THE BENTHALL CENTRE


The BRITE Box project is a fantastic initiative that sends meal kits to local families to help them cook healthy meals on a budget. This year, Voices of Hope, the charity behind BRITE box have partnered with the Bentall Centre. There will be a donation point on the ground floor, and between the 9th and 16th of December (11 am to 4 pm) the BRITE Box team will be onsite, offering free children's workshops making Christmas Tree decorations. I would highly recommend dropping by if you have the opportunity.


As more families are struggling with the cost of living, Voices of Hope are working to provide more BRITE Box recipe meal kits in our local area. If you would like to learn more, volunteer with them in Kingston, or at their new Richmond Hub opening in January 2024, or would like to support them in any way please see the link here.




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