Every week is busy in the life of an MP, but last week felt particularly busy – in a good way!

Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about the urgent need to make sure that NO child goes hungry at school. Specifically, I’ve been campaigning to expand Free School Meals to ALL children whose families are eligible for Universal Credit.

Sometimes I feel frustrated that no one is listening to my shouting, so I was pleased when Free School Meals made the front page of The Guardian last Friday. The more this crucial issue is talked about, the more pressure there is on the Government to act.

The stories I hear from headteachers and families who are worried about children going hungry are absolutely harrowing. As I told The Guardian, “The government is snatching school lunches away from children by stealth.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has said parents will have to wait until the Autumn Budget to find out if eligibility criteria for free school meals will be extended, so I will keep up the fight.

The Government’s appalling record on Free School Meals is part of a broader crisis in shrinking school budgets, something I challenged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on in Prime Minister’s Questions.

I also spoke in a debate on Heathrow night flights, and planted a tribute to Prosperity Café in Constituency Garden of Remembrance on behalf of the people of Twickenham.Finally, as a big football fan myself, I was incredibly excited to lead a Westminster Hall debate on women and girls’ participation in sport, following the Lionesses’ stunning win at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022. Hampton Rangers and Thamesians RFC are just two of the wonderful groups doing their bit locally. Read more below!

In the media

You can read my comments on Free School Meals in The Guardian here.

At the end of last month, I joined thousands of parents in central London at the March of the Mummies to demand more affordable childcare and better rights for working parents. The march, organised by Pregnant Then Screwed, was covered by The Guardian and Grazia. I also spoke to Andrew Castle on LBC about the need for more comprehensive support for parents, so they can raise a family without having to give up work.

Local meetings, events and news

Tribute to Prosperity Café in Constituency Garden of Remembrance

It was my honour to plant a tribute in the House of Commons Constituency Garden of Remembrance to Twickenham’s Prosperity Café, on behalf of the people of Twickenham. To Galyna, Alex and all of the volunteers, thank you for all you do to help the people of Ukraine.

A vibrant community space for Hampton residents

It was great to meet Susan, who joined forces with musician Chris to open Hampton’s Inspired Hub four years ago. They’ve created a wonderfully vibrant community space, with something for everyone to enjoy – music, kids’ activities, exercise classes, tutoring, toy swaps, a surplus food initiative and more. I spoke about the Inspired Hub’s work at the Centre for London Conference.

Meeting volunteers at Whitton Community Centre’s food bank

As the cost-of-living crisis squeezes people’s budgets, more families need a little extra help stocking the fridge with healthy food. Huge thanks to Brenda, Keith, and all of the volunteers who manage the food bank at Whitton Community Centre. It’s one of three local food banks (along with those in Hampton and Richmond) run by Richmond Food Bank. Find out how to donate food or make financial contributions here

Enjoying photography at Down’s Syndrome Association event

Thank you to the Down’s Syndrome Association for inviting me to the ‘My Perspective’ annual photography competition, showcasing work by talented photographers with Down’s Syndrome. It was a pleasure to meet Chief Executive Carol Boys and actor Sally Phillips to see the wonderful artwork on display.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Twickenham’s True Medispa

Congratulations to Francesca and the whole team at Twickenham’s True Medispa for 20 years of making Twickenham more beautiful! I had a wonderful evening at the charity event to celebrate the anniversary and raise funds for the Mulberry Centre.

Boundary changes affecting Whitton constituents

Under planned boundary changes to parliamentary constituencies that have been ordered by the Government, it is proposed that part of Whitton be transferred to the Brentford and Isleworth constituency. Whitton will remain in the London Borough of Richmond. I’ve opposed the boundary changes since they were first announced – voting against the legislation that forced the changes, and submitting a formal objection in the initial consultation. Read more in Nub News.

Steps to prevent catalytic converter theft

Catalytic converter theft is an issue that comes up time and again with constituents. You can take your vehicle to any local Kwik-Fit Centre and have your catalytic converter security marked, free of charge (there is one at 353 Richmond Road in East Twickenham). The Richmond & Twickenham Safer Neighbourhoods team have also shared crime prevention leaflets on catalytic converter theftstaying street safeburglary prevention, and safety for women and girls.

Cost of living public Q&A 

If you’re worried about the rising cost of living, join senior councillors, officers and representatives from Achieving for Children, Citizens Advice Richmond, Richmond AID and South West London Energy Advice Partnership at an online event on Monday 12 December at 6:30pm on Zoom. Find out more here. You can also visit my website for where to find cost of living help, support and advice.

A spirit of giving for Christmas

Cocoon – Care After Care are fundraising for their 2022 Christmas Day Dinner for young adults who have been in care in Richmond, Kingston and Hounslow. If you’d like to help, you can donate to their fundraising page or directly to their Amazon wishlist.

Honoured to receive the Public Service or Campaigner of the Year prize at the Ethnicity Awards

I was incredibly honoured to have been given the Public Service or Campaigner of the Year prize at the Ethnicity Awards, where fellow attendees and honourees included Sir Mo Farah, Sir Lenny Henry, Paul Sinha from the Chase, Johannes from Strictly, and Angelica Bell too!  I was humbled to have been part of an event that celebrates so much important work. 

Standing up for you in Parliament

Questioned Prime Minister at PMQs on school budgets cuts

Rishi Sunak claims our children’s education is a priority for his government. At this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, I asked him for a simple guarantee: that there would be no real-terms cuts to schools and colleges in the Autumn Statement next week. The lack of a simple YES from the PM was deafening. Read the full article here.

Ramped up campaign to expand access to Free School Meals 

In addition to commenting in the media, I joined a #FeedTheFuture cross-party panel on Free School Meals hosted by the Food Foundation. I told the panel that a nutritious lunch at school is not just a welfare measure; it also keeps pupils healthy and ready to learn. It was great meeting chef Tom Kerridge, who is involved with the campaign.

Instagram: @willhearlephoto

This followed a debate at the end of October on the Government’s National Food Strategy, where I called for free school meals to be extended to all families eligible for Universal Credit. You can watch all the videos and read the full article here.

Led debate on women and girls’ participation in sport

I was incredibly excited to lead a Westminster Hall debate on women and girls’ participation in sport, following the Lionesses’ stunning win at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022. Like the Lionesses, the Liberal Democrats firmly believe that every girl should have the chance to play football at school.
I shared moving stories from Twickenham constituents about the impact sport has had on their lives, and took the opportunity to recognise some of the many wonderful grassroots sports organisations in Twickenham. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he “will absolutely commit” to making it his priority, and that he will personally engage with colleagues in the Department of Education to ensure every child has access to two hours of PE at school.
You can read the full article and watch all of the videos here.

Called on the Government to restrict Heathrow night flights

Late night flights from Heathrow blight the sleep of many local people in Twickenham, causing health risks, lost productivity and distress. If the Government will not introduce an all-out ban, as Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney and I are calling for, they must ensure flights are restricted from 10 p.m. Click here for an Evening Standard article covering Sarah’s and my interventions in Parliament.

Spoke about poverty-related issues at Centre for London Conference

The theme of this year’s conference was the question: Does London work? I spoke about Free School Meals, as well as much-needed reforms of the welfare system to help families make ends meet. I also talked about how we can help create more affordable housing by ensuring public assets, like Teddington Police Station, can be sold for community benefit.

Succeeded in securing support for people on heat networks

I’m pleased to say that, following campaigning by myself and Liberal Democrat colleagues, regulations supporting customers on heat networks with their energy bills became law. I have been campaigning on this on behalf of Teddington residents on communal heat networks, so am very gratified to see this result.

Joined Crane Valley MPs to discuss River Crane transformation

Thank you to Rob Gray from Crane Valley Partnership for coming into Westminster to brief MPs on the Crane Valley Smarter Water Catchment Programme. It was great to hear about all the valuable work so many community groups are already doing along the Crane, as well as the opportunities for funding.

Hosted a reception for kinship carers in Parliament

162,000 children are raised by friends or family in England and Wales, including around 191 in Twickenham. I met Kim, a local kinship carer, who attended a parliamentary reception I hosted for kinship carers, and told me about the lack of government support for her family. You can read more about my campaign to support kinship carers here.

Supported school football programmes at Fun Football event

As a football fan myself, it was great to meet World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst and legendary Lioness Karen Carney for the McDonald’s Fun Football programme. The programme is giving kids, including local children, the chance to get involved with the beautiful game!

Spoke with Twickenham students about democracy

It was wonderful to meet students from Orleans Park School in Twickenham at the Parliamentary Education Centre. Great to see young people so full of questions about our democracy and my work as their local MP!

Joined Young Minds activists campaigning for better mental health support

It was lovely to meet Young Minds UK activists outside the Department of Health and Social Care to hear about their campaigning for better mental health support for children and young people. I will keep using my voice in Parliament to call for urgent action on CAMHS waiting times, protecting children in crisis.

Cycled for soldiers

I got my heart rate up, and worked off a few calories, for the Poppy Ride in Parliament – racing fellow MPs to raise money and awareness for The Royal British Legion. The Poppy Appeal helps ensure that the Royal British Legion can continue providing lifelong support to our Armed Forces community.

Showed my support for the clinically vulnerable

At the end of October, I attended the Forgotten 500,000 vigil, in support of those with serious clinical vulnerabilities. It’s vital they receive more support so their lives can finally get back to normal.

Met with Mo Farah

This one is purely for fun, but I was thrilled to bump into the legend that is Sir Mo Farah in Parliament. We’re so proud to have one of his gold post boxes in Teddington!