I wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to the thousands of local residents who put their faith in the local Liberal Democrats in the recent local elections, re-electing the party to run Richmond Council with an increased majority. The local Lib Dem team and I were truly humbled by the results, and I’m looking forward to working with new and returning councillors to make our borough an even more wonderful place to live.
After what had been a very busy final few days of the last parliamentary session – with controversial legislation on asylum, protesting and elections pinging back and forth between the House of Commons and the House of Lords – it was a joy to be out and about meeting local residents during the election campaign. Thank you for taking the time to chat on the doorstep.
The Lib Dems achieved a fantastic set of results right across the country, reflecting the hard work and dedication of Lib Dems as champions for their local communities. It was clear from many conversations on the doorstep that some people were also using this opportunity at the ballot box to send a message to the Government – not only on their lack of action on the cost of living emergency, but also on the loss of integrity among many of those in public office, and the sense that the British public are being taken for granted.
Parliament returned last week with the Queen’s Speech, which set out the Government’s plans for the next year. The speech was underwhelming and failed to address the cost of living emergency and the significant challenges facing the NHS, especially ambulance and GP waiting times. As Lib Dem Education Spokesperson, I was particularly disappointed to see only one sentence in the speech on children or education. Unfortunately, children and young people are not a priority for this Government, and I will continue using my voice in Parliament to make sure that their voices are heard.
In this edition:
- In the media
- Local meetings, events and news
- Positive news on SWR services on the Shepperton line
- Holidaymakers urged to renew passports well in advance due to Home Office backlogs
- Community policing: update from my meeting with Richmond Police
- Call for publication of fresh legal advice on sale of Teddington Police Station
- Action on inadequate bus services to Turing House School
- Nominations for Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2022
- Register for my next Business Forum on 20 May
- 24 May event – Living with Long Covid
- Standing up for you in Parliament
- Demanded clarity on gaps in the Online Safety Bill
- Supported Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
- Met the next generation of scientists and engineers at The Big Bang Competition event
- Learned about the latest breakthroughs and innovations at Cancer Research UK event
In the media
I didn’t get any sleep on the night of the local elections on 5 May – but it was all for a good cause, as I joined panels on various media outlets to provide commentary as events unfolded throughout the night. During the course of the evening, I spoke with Sky News, LBC, Times Radio, Radio 4, BBC Radio London and BBC News.
The previous week, in an article in The Guardian, I shared my reactions to the claim by the Government’s own social mobility commissioner that girls don’t choose physics A-level because they dislike “hard maths”. As Education Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, I find this view extremely disturbing. In response, I told The Guardian that we need new measures to challenge these biases, backed up by legislation, and called on Katharine Birbalsingh to apologise for her remarks.
Local meetings, events and news
Positive news on SWR services on the Shepperton line
In train news, I’m pleased to say that Southwestern Railway’s 07:00 weekday peak service from Shepperton to Waterloo via Twickenham will be reinstated as of Monday 16 May.
I’ve been pressing Southwestern Railway on reduced services on the Shepperton line and the Hounslow Loop since the temporary Omicron timetables were introduced in January. At the time, I had obtained assurances that SWR would reinstate services as soon as staff absences due to Omicron were reduced – so it’s great to have some good news for Hampton and Fulwell commuters.
I was disappointed, however, that the 08:15 Waterloo to Waterloo via Hounslow, which had also been cut as part of the same timetable changes, will not be restored in this round. SWR tells me they’ll continue to review the timetables based on demand – and I’ll continue to press them on it.
More generally, I’ll continue to push for regular, reliable services that commuters can depend on. If, like me, you believe in a fair deal for London transport, you can sign my petition, “Stop Levelling Down London’s Transport”, here.
Holidaymakers urged to renew passports well in advance due to Home Office backlogs
Travellers planning trips overseas have been urged to renew their passports well in advance of their passport expiry dates due to long delays at the Passport Office. With a reported backlog of around 500,000 passport applications, holidaymakers are urged to apply for their new passports at least 10 weeks before their departure date. Many constituents have written to me in despair at having missed out on trips, and lost money, as a result of not receiving their passports in time for travel. While the Passport Office says it will increase staffing by 700 people by the summer to deal with the backlogs, anyone planning overseas trips should plan well in advance. If you have fewer than 10 weeks left before your travel date, it is recommended that you apply using fast-track or premium services.
Travellers to the European Union have also been urged to check passport rules for trips to the EU, as many people have been caught out by confusing passport issue date and expiry rules. Currently, if you are a non-EU national wishing to visit or travel within the EU, you will need a passport that is: 1) valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave the EU country you are visiting; and 2) that those three months are not more than 10 years from the date your passport was issued. Please be sure to consult the official guidance.
Community policing: update from my meeting with Richmond Police
I recently had my regular update with Richmond Police, where I met with the borough inspector and commander. One of the topics we discussed was their summer spaces strategy, and how our local police will be working to ensure the safe enjoyment of public spaces (including Bushy Park, Teddington Lock and Twickenham Green) during the summer months.
More generally, I’m aware that there is concern from many constituents about rising crime, including burglaries, and car and catalytic converter theft. While there is anecdotal evidence that many people are reluctant to report crimes for a variety of reasons (including not wanting to bother the police, or concerns about whether their case will be investigated if reported) the strong message I received from the police in our meeting was that residents should absolutely report, as soon as possible, any suspected or actual crimes taking place.
At the national level, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will continue to push for more investment in community policing, to make sure that the Government gives police forces the resources they need to ensure that every crime is investigated.
Call for publication of fresh legal advice on sale of Teddington Police Station
It’s been almost two months since Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, told us that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is seeking fresh legal advice on whether social value can be considered in sale of Teddington Police Station. That was in response to London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon’s question at the Police and Crime Committee meeting on 23 March, following the debate I held in Parliament on the issue.
Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, and I wrote to Sophie Linden to ask when the legal advice is expected, and for her commitment to publishing it once received. You can read the letter here.
Action on inadequate bus services to Turing House School
I completely understand the frustration of parents from Turing House School, whose students have been suffering from inadequate bus service provision from Teddington and Fulwell to the school’s new site in Whitton. This is unacceptable, given that local councillors and the school have been engaging with TfL on the school’s move for the last two years. To address this, I’ve been liaising with the council and the school, and have contacted the TfL commissioner to demand urgent action. I also contacted TfL’s bus planning lead for London, who advised that they will make revisions to the bus schedule. You can read more in the letter I wrote to parents here.
Nominations for Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2022
I’ve been invited to nominate a local business as my Constituency Responsible Business Champion 2022. The winner will be celebrated at a reception in Parliament this summer, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group (APCRG).
Every company that’s nominated will also be considered for the National Responsible Business Champion award 2022. So, if you know a local company whose work benefits the local community, please email me at email@example.com. It could be a company that supports local schools, clubs or charities; works to minimise its impact on the environment; offers great apprenticeships; or simply treats its staff and customers well. The deadline for me to submit nominations is 31 May 2022. You can find more details on the website.
Register for my next Business Forum on 20 May
Are you a local small business owner? I’d like to learn more about your business and any challenges you’re facing in the current climate. Please sign up here if you’d like to attend my next Business Forum on 20 May from 1-2pm.
24 May event – Living with Long Covid
On 24 May, you can join a panel of healthcare professionals at The Exchange in Twickenham to find out more about Long Covid, from self-management to mental health. The event is for anyone wanting to find out more about Long Covid – whether you live with it yourself, care for someone who does, or work in healthcare or a related field. Click here to register.
Standing up for you in Parliament
Demanded clarity on gaps in the Online Safety Bill
Last month, I participated in the debate on the Online Safety Bill, and asked the Minister to accept that there are still major gaps in the bill. While the bill is a welcome step forward, gaming and some new technologies are not included – something I believe is crucial. In addition, the Codes of Practice – which are currently only recommended guidance for companies, rather than mandatory regulation – lack clarity. I believe that industry regulation needs to be more stringent so that children are both empowered and protected online.
Supported Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer – but it doesn’t have to be, as it’s treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. We desperately need more staff to tackle the backlog in patients, and more awareness so that people recognise the symptoms. Thanks to Bowel Cancer UK for inviting me to their Bowel Cancer Awareness Month briefing in Parliament – and for the incredible work they do.
Met the next generation of scientists and engineers at The Big Bang Competition event
It’s so important to encourage more young people to study STEM subjects – which is why it was so inspiring to meet the next generation of scientists and engineers in Parliament recently.
Secondary school students told me about their submissions for The Big Bang Competition, which showcases projects that use science and engineering to benefit society. The finalists will be announced at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham in June.
Learned about the latest breakthroughs and innovations at Cancer Research UK event
All of us have known, or will know, someone touched by cancer. It was so humbling to meet some of the researchers working on the latest breakthroughs and life-saving discoveries that Cancer Research UK has supported over the last 20 years.