FINANCIAL SERVICES AND MARKETS BILL
On Wednesday, I spoke in a debate on the final stages of the Financial Services and Markets Bill. This Bill would revoke retained EU law on financial services and give HM Treasury and the regulators broad powers to determine the future architecture of financial services regulation in the UK.
I welcome the aspects of this Bill that will update the regulatory framework and bring in some long-anticipated reforms. However, I am concerned by the lack of accountability of the regulators to Parliament and the potential impact of the new competitiveness objective on financial stability. I also see this Bill as a missed opportunity to create a regulatory framework that turbocharges the green agenda and that strengthens protections for victims of fraud.
I tabled a number of amendments to this Bill to tackle the above issues. I also supported an amendment that would have guaranteed a minimum level of access to free-of-charge cash machines across the UK. Unfortunately, the Government did not support any of these amendments.
APPG FOR ETHNICITY TRANSPLANTATION AND TRANFUSION
On Tuesday, I chaired a meeting to create a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethnicity Transplantation and Transfusion, which I established with Team Margot, constituents of Richmond Park.
The Team Margot Foundation was set up in 2015 in memory of Margot Martini. Margot was just a toddler when she was diagnosed with two rare types of leukaemia, and her mixed family background was a key obstacle to finding her a “perfect” tissue type match. Margot’s family established the charity to raise awareness of the need for more people, particularly those from Black, Asian, mixed heritage & minority ethnic communities, to register as blood, organ, stem cell and bone marrow donors.
I will be working with Team Margot to further their objectives on a national level through the APPG. We will be promoting policy change such as mandating accurate recording of NHS patient and donor ethnicity. I am really pleased to be elected as the Chair of this APPG and look forward to determining a full programme of events in the new year. To read more about Team Margot, you can visit their website here.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: BEIS ACCOUNTS
This week, I attended the Public Accounts Committee session which examined the accounts of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I used the session to press officials on when updates will be given on the energy support schemes for businesses, and was delighted to receive the response that details regarding changes to be made to the scheme after April should be available before the end of the year.
It is absolutely imperative that businesses across the country, including the many fantastic local companies we have in Richmond Park, are provided with the clarity they need to allow forward financial planning, and to know whether they will be receiving further energy support after the expiration of the initial scheme. Should you wish to see my question and the response I received, you can do so here.
QUESTIONING THE GOVERNMENT ON UK COMPANIES CONNECTED TO RUSSIA
On Wednesday, there was an Urgent Question in the House of Commons regarding the ongoing involvement of some UK companies in Russia, and Russian controlled areas. I used this opportunity to challenge the Treasury Minister, James Cartlidge MP, on whether he felt this was correct, and whether any private UK citizens who continue to hold shares in companies which operate in Russia should sell them.
The Minister’s response was vague, however he did assure me that the Treasury is encouraging British companies to divest from Russia.
This issue is a complex one, but the Liberal Democrats firmly believe that no British company should continue to have financial involvement in Russia, and we should be doing all we can to support Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s invasion. You can see a clip of my question here.
UPDATE ON SUPPORT FOR HOUSEHOLDS BELONGING TO A HEAT NETWORK
Households on heat networks are eligible for the £400 discount that has been directly deducted from the energy bills of other domestic consumers, in £66 per month instalments. However, this cannot be directly deducted for heat network consumers as they do not have a standard relationship with the supplier.
Last week the government provided further information on how the £400 EBSS would apply to heat network consumers – through the Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding. This scheme will open for applications on gov.uk in January 2023. Eligible households will have to apply, rather than be identified by the Government. Funding will then be administered through local authorities.
I am in communication with both Richmond council and Kingston council, who are awaiting guidance about this scheme from central Government. Unfortunately until this guidance has been issued, neither my office nor the council are able to provide any further information. I will be updating households on heat networks through my heat network mailing list whenever I receive an update. To sign up to the mailing list, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject ‘heat networks’.
With work on Hammersmith Bridge finally progressing, and the stabilisation works due to be completed early in the new year, residents will be wondering what the next phase of works will bring. Despite urging from myself and parliamentarians across southwest London, we have been given very few hard facts by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF), Transport for London (TfL), or the Department for Transport (DfT) about both a possible toll or the Foster + Partners and Cowi double decker design.
For this reason, I wrote this week to the three people who bear responsibility for the bridge's repairs: Cllr. Stephen Cowan, Leader of LBHF; Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport; and Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads and Local Transport.
We here in Richmond Park must not be pushed to the side as decisions are made about our future. First, if there is to be a toll, it must be fairly implemented and applied. Second, all affected communities must be consulted. The toll was not in any manifesto promise and should not be rammed through without considering its effects on our community. Third, if the toll proves unworkable, the Government must step in, fund the repairs, and prevent further damage to our communities.
ROYAL MAIL SERVICE
I know that many of my constituents have been worried about the ongoing problems at Royal Mail. Letters are being delivered late and some people have been left waiting weeks for important documents.
While the issues the company is facing were compounded by recent industrial action, they are, at their root, the product of a reduction in staff numbers over the past years and months. I have written to Royal Mail to ask that they provide information on these issues and detail how they will be resolved. Further, earlier this week I took the opportunity to question the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy on what action the Government is taking on this. You can watch a clip of my question here.
Royal Mail have moved forward the final posting dates they can guarantee delivery before Christmas on. If you are using 2nd class stamps, you must post letters by the 12 December (Monday.) If you are using first class stamps, they must be posted by last pickup on Friday 16 December. You can find a full list of last posting dates here.
SEWAGE AND WATER POLLUTION
Over the past few weeks I have taken a closer look into the world of water pollution and sewage overflows, visiting Mogden Sewage Works and speaking with the Port of London Authority at Richmond Lock. While I have been impressed by the work done to clean London's waste and ensure it does not contaminate our water systems, I have also learned more about the complexity of the task. This is not simply a matter of holding water companies to account, but rather working with all parties, including developers and the Environment Agency to ensure rules put in place to protect us are obeyed.
One of the biggest issues facing campaigners is the lack of clarity over who is responsible for sewage spills and who has the power to make sure issues are dealt with promptly. Earlier this week, I wrote to the Environment Agency on this point, asking for clarity over their role and that of local agencies to enforce tighter standards on "cowboy builders" who incorrectly connect rainwater gutters into the sewage lines instead of into the surface water lines. This can cause sewage lines to swell with rainwater and overflow when it rains, discharging sewage into roads or properties. If you regularly use the river, keep up to date with any sewer overflows with the link here.
PENSION CREDIT CHECKER
Many of my constituents have contacted me to raise awareness of the vital lifeline that is Pension Credit. Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK are not receiving the Credit they are entitled to, and I therefore ask all of my constituents in Richmond Park who either are of pension age, or who have relatives who may be eligible, to please check using the link here. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email my team on email@example.com
HAM LIBRARY 70th BIRTHDAY
Last weekend I Joined Mayor of Richmond Upon Thames Julia Cambridge and Friends of Ham Library for their 70th Birthday celebration. I very much enjoyed meeting a 'reindeer' who came along with Father Christmas from Park Lane Stables. In this time of austerity we must celebrate our libraries and librarians for all the support and amenities they provide to the communities they serve. Thank you to the Library and to the Friends of Ham Library for all you do for the residents of Ham.
HONG KONG COFFEE MORNING
I was delighted to host a coffee morning for residents from Hong Kong who live in Richmond Park and Kingston with Ed Davey MP last Saturday. Many important issues were discussed, including the BNO visa, security concerns and difficulties in joining the workforce. As always, we were given a warm welcome by Peppe at The Cardinal Peppe Restaurant who hosted us. If you are a local Hong Kong national resident, and have any concerns or queries, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I was pleased (and well-entertained!) to attend the Gala opening night of Richmond Theatre's Christmas pantomime Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This classic fairytale has had their signature treatment so there were surprises, a wonderful story and beautiful images. You can still get tickets here.
Not to be outdone the Rose Theatre's Christmas show returns this year as well with A Christmas Carol. From Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, writer of the Olivier Award-winning Emilia, comes a brand-new retelling of Charles Dickens’ timeless classic. Tickets are available here.
And if you want to see world class ballet here in Richmond Park Royal Ballet, you can watch a stream of the Royal Ballet's Christmas classic The Nutcracker at the Curzon cinema in Richmond this Sunday at 2pm. Book your tickets here.
One of my constituents, Mary, is a medic with British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), working to save wildlife in the Thames. Mary has written to me to tell me the sad news that the local BDMLR Thames Area Coordinator, Sam Lipman, passed away recently. Sam was in charge of the Minke whale rescue in Richmond, which many my constituents may remember. You can see a memorial fundraiser for her and more information about her life here. And you can see more info about BDMLR here.
Mary also let me know that her daughter has started a drive for Centerpointe, to help homeless youth in London. Thomson House School, and both Mary Magdalene's School and Church are participating in the drive. You can see what they are collecting in the poster at the bottom of the page, or learn more about Centrepoint here.
NEW UKRAINE HOSTS NEEDED
Richmond Council has contacted me to say that replacement hosts are urgently needed for a small number of displaced Ukrainians. Over 600 refugees have found sanctuary in the borough under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme thanks to the goodwill and compassion of local hosts. They are accessing healthcare, schooling, language tuition, applicable benefits and seeking work. A range of support and welcoming activities has been put in place by the Council and voluntary groups across the borough.
Six months on, there are now 30 cases where refugees need to move on due to illness or unforeseen changes in circumstances in their host’s household.
Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, hosts receive a monthly payment of £350 for the remainder of their guests’ first year in the UK. If you know anyone who could offer one or more spare rooms under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, please urge them to contact Refugees Welcome in Richmond or the Council. If you would like to know more about hosting, you can see me talking about my own experiences in this video for Richmond Council.
HAM CLOSE REDEVELOPMENT
Richmond Council has confirmed that the planning application for the redevelopment of Ham Close will be heard at a special Planning Committee next Wednesday, 14 December. You can click here to view the agenda and officers report. The developers also wanted to share with interested constituents an illustrative flythrough video of the proposed development, as well as a summary booklet of the regeneration benefits. You can click here to view the video and the summary booklet is here.
COLOURSTRINGS MUSIC SCHOOL CONCERT
I met Rachel from Colourstrings in north Kingston last Saturday, and was very interested to hear about what's going on at her music school. Colourstrings Music School began in 1994 at Roehampton University and is part of the charity the Szilvay Foundation. The charity was founded to train teachers in a particular way of teaching music, based on the approach of the composer and pedagogue Kodály. The philosophy is that music is for everyone and that they aim to nurture the inherent musicality of every child so they experience the joy of making music in a community.
They currently have 250 local children coming to the school every Saturday. There will be a Colourstrings Music School concert at the Town House, Kingston University (Penrhyn Road, Surrey KT1 2EE) at 3pm this Saturday, December 10th. If you think your child might be interested the concert is a chance to check out their work.