BACK TO SCHOOL
I was delighted to see all the children going back to school yesterday - it is most heartening to see restrictions on children being reduced. I hope that their return inspires adults to adhere closely to all of the Covid-19 guidance currently in place. No one wants to see children sent home from school again because we lifted our measures too soon.
If you are a parent whose child went back to school yesterday, I would ask you to consider whether you can walk or cycle them to school. This will help keep traffic and pollution to a minimum while we try to stay off public transport for a few more months to keep infections from rising again.
Children are being tested for Covid-19 at school this week and next week, and will then be tested at home. Some of our community testing centres are located in secondary schools and may be unavailable this week while the schools manage this transition. I would ask constituents to be patient and use alternative community testing sites, such as Kingston University, Civic Centre in Twickenham or Sheen Lane Centre.
With studies showing that mothers have done more than their share of extra childcare during lockdown, it seems fitting that children went back to school on International Women's Day, providing much-needed relief to those who were trying to home school their children while working from home. But we must address the causes of the childcare disparity itself, both cultural and institutional, to say nothing of all the other areas of inequity for women.
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE: ENVIRONMENTAL TAXES
One area of inequity I am determined to put right is the VAT on reusable period products. The Government recently acknowledged that sanitary goods are a necessity rather than a luxury and removed tax from disposable products. But they have left in place the VAT on the most sustainable option - washable period pants. These are currently taxed as if they were clothing, which raises their price and discourages women from switching to the more eco-friendly product.
I will continue challenging this until the Government fixes this anomaly, as part of my commitment to reducing plastic waste and landfill with effective policy-making. The Government urgently needs to review how all sustainable products are treated in the tax system. You can see my remarks about this in the Public Account Committee yesterday here.
JOIN ME FOR A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORT IN LONDON
On Wednesday 24 March, at 7:00pm I will be hosting a Zoom panel discussion about what transport in the capital might look like in the future. I will be joined by Caroline Pidgeon AM and Peter Morris, Chief Economist for Ascend/Flightglobal.
Peter advises the aviation industry on trends and analysis and is a regular media commentator on issues connected with aviation policy and industry trends. Caroline is the Deputy Chair of Transport for the Greater London Authority, in which capacity she studies the long term changes in travel patterns and needs that will exist in a post Covid world. Together we will discuss transport in London post-Covid, asking what it might look like, and considering how Londoners might use it.
To see more information about this event or to book a place for yourself, please click here.
In my Community Spotlight this week, I would like to highlight one of my constituents, Lynn McAllister, who has published a book for 9-13 year olds on the pitfalls of safeguarding children when it comes to technology. The book is called ‘Pixie Van Dimple and The Wrong Kind of Artificial Intelligence’.
In Lynn’s own words, “The character experiences a cyberbug infiltration after spending too much time online.. a cautionary tale, but a topic that is serious from the perspective of online safety and screen time & safeguarding - the 'danger' could be from many sources." If you would like to learn more about the book you can do so here.
Digital citizenship is essential for our children in the future - they need to be empowered, familiar and competent in the ever developing digital environment, which includes online safety and harms. The impact of technology on our children and teenagers is an important ongoing discussion, and with the Online Harms Bill currently making its way through Parliament, I look forward to further public debate on this issue.
As always, I have enjoyed reading your nominations for the community spotlight, and look forward to reading more. If there is an individual, business or organisation you would like to spotlight, please send details to Charlotte.Weir@Parliament.uk
Please note - last week's spotlight on Sheen Primary included a copy of their fundraising flyer, which contained a faulty QR code. You can see a corrected version here.
SPRING IN RICHMOND PARK