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Richmond Park News: Parliament 2019-2024

It has been a privilege to serve as Richmond Park's Member of Parliament over the last 4 and a half years. So much has happened, both in Westminster and across the globe. Looking back to 2019, I do not think anyone could have predicted that we would see a global pandemic, war in Europe, unprecedented economic crises, three prime ministers in Downing Street and two monarchs on the throne.


For my final newsletter of this Parliament, I have been reflecting on the last 4 and half years, my proudest moments, the major events, all the work that has been done, and what we still need to do.


Nationally, much of my work has been focused on ensuring that the Government brings in proper support for residents with the cost of living, taking ministers to task for allowing water companies to pollute our rivers, and shining a light on the critical lack of resources given to our police service.


In Parliament, I've also championed a number of campaigns including efforts to ensure survivors of rape and sexual assault can receive records of their attackers' trials, fighting to improve ethnic minorities' access to life-saving transplants and blood, and protecting our creatives from having their work used to train AIs intended to replace them.


Locally, I've spearhead the campaigns to reopen Hammersmith Bridge, block the Teddington DRA, open a new police station in Richmond Park, and reduce Heathrow's impact on our community. We still have a way to go, but whatever the future may hold, I will always be committed to standing up for the people of Richmond Park.


From 12:01 am tonight, Parliament will dissolve and I will no longer be your MP. You will not be able to reach me through my parliamentary email address. However, should you wish to contact me with a question relating to the General Election or on a matter of policy, you can reach me in my capacity as the Parliamentary Candidate for Richmond Park here: saraholney@rplibdems.org





MY WORK AS YOUR MP AT A GLANCE:


Since 2019, my team and I have:


  • Opened 58,000 cases on behalf of constituents

  • Sent over 184,000 emails to residents

  • Written more than 2,800 letters to ministers and agencies

  • Spoken 395 times in the House of Commons and Westminster Hall

  • Voted on legislation 804 times

  • Submitted 1698 Written Questions to Ministers

  • Supported 401 Early Day Motions to the House on everything ranging from supporting local, independent businesses to bringing in Covid support.


Everything I have done as your MP has been made possible by the wonderful team of staff who have supported me throughout, and to whom I express my immense gratitude for their skill and dedication.


LOOKING BACK:


2019 / 2020:


In the wake of the election, just as the Government began to settle into its new term, the pandemic struck with full force, plunging the country into lockdown and stretching the NHS to its limit. As MPs, we broke with tradition for the first time in Parliament's history, voting remotely and attending committee hearings virtually. While there was less legislation put forward by the Government, far more of my time was spent assisting residents who had been impacted by the pandemic. Tracking down missing furlough payments, getting urgent food packages dispatched, and ensuring small businesses were able to access grants to help them survive through this incredibly trying time was a huge but immensely rewarding task.


The spring saw Hammersmith Bridge close entirely, with residents forced to travel several miles via Chiswick or Putney Bridge if they wanted to make their way to the shops and services just across the river in Hammersmith. During that time, I urged the Government repeatedly to work constructively with the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and TfL to make sure residents were not cut off from the North side of the river.


2020 was also the year that the Appeal Court agreed to block the construction of a 3rd Runway at Heathrow only to have this decision overturned by the Supreme Court. However, working with a cross-party coalition of MPs, I have continued to do everything I can to fight these plans and I am pleased to say the 3rd Runway does not look likely to return to come to fruition in the near future.





2021:


The first months of 2021 were again dominated by the pandemic, but, with vaccines beginning to be rolled out, life began to return to a semblance of normality. By 2021, my inbox started to show a gradual shift, away from those needing emergency support, to supporting those who, due to the pandemic, had not been able to access medical treatment, gain employment, or receive a full education. The long-term implications of COVID-19 on all of our lives are still being felt, but those months revealed the scale of the damage done to our society.


Locally, I spent much of my time campaigning on a variety of transport issues both as MP for Richmond Park and as Transport Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. Alongside working with a cross-party group of MPs to urge the Government to take a more active role in the repair of Hammersmith Bridge, I also worked with the Rail Industry Association to push the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, towards putting our train lines at the heart of the nation's economic recovery.


In Westminster, I was particularly pleased to be able to raise the issue of Maternal Mental Health, considering the impact of the pandemic on new mothers across the country. In preparation for the debate, Parliament gathered more than 11,000 testimonies from women across the country and it was heart-breaking to hear the same stories of mothers left without any form of support and a newly-born child to care for, repeated over and over. During the debate, I urged the Government to bring back in-person health visitors as soon as possible after the pandemic, and it was wonderful to see this service return once the country reopened.


Later in the year, I was very pleased to help launch the campaign to scrap VAT on period products, winning a concession in 2023's Autumn Budget that the Government would finally accept these are not a "luxury" and should not be taxed as such.


The end of 2021 saw, not only the end of the pandemic, but the revelations of the Partygate Scandal, leading to an investigation into Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson which revealed that both figures had broken the law, flaunting the very rules their Government had laid down to protect our most vulnerable.




2022:


On February 24th, 2022, Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, bringing the spectre of war back to Europe for the first time in decades. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I stood, and still stand, in full support of Ukraine, and backed plans to send humanitarian, financial, and military aid to President Zelensky to assist in the nation's defence.


2022 also saw the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles to the throne. It was a privilege to be part of the Proclamations at both Kingston Guildhall and York House in Twickenham as the new reign was pronounced to residents of both boroughs. I was also honoured to pay tribute to the late Queen, on behalf of Richmond Park constituents, in a speech to Parliament.


Domestically, households were hit by the double blow of soaring energy prices and the after-effects of Liz Truss' minibudget. I am proud to say that the Liberal Democrats were the first party to call for a Windfall Tax on energy companies' profits to help households with the cost of living, and while progress is being made, we are still fighting for a genuine tax on these energy giants.


In the constituency, the summer of 2022 saw chaos envelope Heathrow Airport as a lack of staff and waves of holiday-makers finally free to travel after the pandemic combined to cause severe delays which resulted in hundreds of flights taking off well into the night. Upon investigating the mental and physical health impacts of these flights further, I launched my campaign to ban all night flights at Heathrow, winning a concession from the airport that all flying between midnight and 4:30 am would be banned. While this is a good start, I still firmly believe residents deserve 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.


In the wake of the pandemic, I also reached out to local pubs across our community to hear their concerns and understand what the Government needs to do to ensure their survival. As a "Parliamentary Champion" of the Long Live the Local campaign, I have been fighting to cut VAT and Alcohol Duty on pubs across the country to prevent even more of these treasured businesses closing their doors for good.





2023:


January 2023 saw Thames Water propose the construction of the controversial Teddington Direct River Abstraction scheme, which the company hopes will allow them to pump millions of litres of effluent into the river above Teddington Lock every day, even when not fully operational. Since Thames Water's announcement, my Twickenham colleague Munira Wilson, and I, have fought to ensure these misguided plans do not go ahead, debating the issue in Parliament, meeting with Senior Civil Servants, Ministers, and the company's CEO, and bringing together a coalition of river users and residents to oppose the plan.


Elsewhere in the constituency, residents began to witness a rise in car thefts and anti-social behaviour. In the wake of these incidents, I launched a petition to reopen a Police Station in Richmond Park which received over 3000 signatures. As the Met continue to reform their service and begin considering new sites for their operations, I shall continue to push for a new base for the force in our constituency.


In Westminster, I took up the cause of artists and musicians across the UK to defend them from a planned change to copyright laws that would have allowed AI companies to datamine their work and use it to generate their own content. These proposals represent a significant threat to the livelihoods of artists and musicians. It was gratifying to see the Government accept the arguments we put forward and back down on the proposed changes.


In the winter of 2023, I joined my party colleagues in calling for an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Gaza which would see an end to the violence and pave the way for a true two-state solution. As the situation in Gaza deteriorates, a political and diplomatic solution is needed more than ever and I hope that no matter who takes power on July 4th, they will do all they can to prevent further loss of life.





2024


This year, the true scale of Thames Water's mismanagement was revealed in full to the public. After failing to invest in its infrastructure for decades and handing out billions in dividends to its shareholders, the company now seems on the verge of collapse. For this reason, I led my party's calls on the Government to act quickly and place the company into special administration before it requires a taxpayer bailout.


In February, my campaign to make court transcripts free for all victims of sexual assault and other serious crimes came to head when I asked Rishi Sunak if he would change the Government's policy once and for all. While he would not agree to my request, I am pleased to say that, following my campaign, the Government has brought in a pilot scheme which would give survivors access to judge's summaries of their cases free of charge.


I responded to the Spring Budget in my capacity as Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson in March. I challenged the Chancellor on his deceptive claim to be cutting taxes. The announced reductions in National Insurance contributions for workers, are a drop in the ocean compared to the increase in income tax paid by every taxpayer as a result of the Conservatives' freeze in thresholds.


I spoke up in favour of the Pedicabs (London) Bill as it made its way through Parliament. Pedicabs represent a great opportunity to provide an accessible and sustainable form of transport across Hammersmith Bridge, while it continues to be closed to motor traffic. I was very pleased to see that the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham have now agreed to investigate e-mobility options for the bridge once the stabilisation works are completed. This should make it easier for older and less mobile residents to access Hammersmith while the second and final phase of the works are put in place.


I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to contact me, read my newsletters, or share their views with me during my time in Parliament. Looking forward, although we do not know what the future holds, I feel confident our community will rise to the challenge as it always has done.






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