This week in Parliament started with the return of the controversial the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Health Secretary’s announcement to Parliament of the lifting of all Covid restrictions.
Hundreds of local residents have written to me regarding their concerns about this bill and the many amendments to it that have been tabled. The most controversial part of the legislation is the restriction of the right to peaceful assembly and protest.
I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues supported amendments to remove Part 3 of the Bill in order to protect the right to peaceful protest, and we attempted to remove Part 4 of the Bill which creates a new criminal offence of trespass and risks criminalising, ramblers, off-road cyclists, canoeists, wild campers, those forced to live in a vehicle due to homelessness and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, solely on the basis of their nomadic existence.
Whilst I support some measures in the Bill, such as the Police Covenant to ensure officers get the support they deserve, I am extremely concerned that, as drafted, this new criminal justice legislation represents a serious threat to fundamental rights and freedoms.
There are also crimes which seem to have increased during lockdown which I believe need more robust legislation, and I have supported amendments aimed at tackling these. Pet theft is a growing problem and should be a specific offence, taking into account the distress caused to both the animal and the owner when sentencing. I also believe retail workers need greater protection from assault and threatening behaviour.
Lifting of Covid restrictions
Everybody is keen for life to return to normal as soon as possible, given the huge impact of the current social distancing measures on our personal freedoms and millions of jobs across the country, especially in the hospitality and events industries. The success of the vaccination programme which has significantly weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths, resulted in the Prime Minister’s announcement to lift remaining restrictions from 19 July.
With case numbers of the Delta variant spiralling and many people still to have their second jab, I think it would be prudent to strongly encourage the ongoing usage of face coverings in crowded indoor spaces, and keep them mandatory on public transport in particular. I appreciate that many people see masks as an infringement on their liberties. For those who are able to wear them, it is a selfless act to protect others and, I believe, a small price to pay to both reduce transmission and increase confidence to travel and shop. You can read more in a recent article published in the Daily Mirror:
Additionally, we have yet to see any advice for the clinically extremely vulnerable – the vaccines are much less effective on those whose immune systems are compromised. I also called on the Health Secretary to give pregnant women their second jab more quickly, given they are more vulnerable. Watch the exchange here:
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week June 26th – July 2nd, there were 344 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 173.7/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 178.8/100,000 and England-wide rate of 238.3/100,000. These figures represent that cases have more than doubled over a two-week period in our borough across London and across England as a whole.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Covid testing available to all
All residents in the borough are now eligible to book a free rapid COVID-19 test in Twickenham, Hampton & East Sheen. Book now:
In addition, three pharmacies in Twickenham and Teddington are also providing free supervised tests. Full details available online and again, please book in advance.
A free ‘Community Collect’ service – providing take-home testing kits is available at Twickenham Civic Centre and St Mary’s University Broom Road sports campus and selected pharmacies. Find the nearest collection point to you:
Home test kits can also be collected at Hampton, Twickenham, and Whitton libraries. See opening times here:
These tests are for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here:
Do the right thing – have the vaccine
Anyone 18 or over is now eligible for a vaccine and asked to book their jab either online or by calling 119.
People aged 39 and under who are eligible and pregnant women will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in line with updated guidance. Walk-in clinics are also now available at Hampton Wick Surgery and The Stoop, Harlequins Stadium. Check which vaccines are being delivered and your eligibility here:
Across the Twickenham constituency (which includes Teddington, Whitton, the Hamptons, St Margarets, Strawberry Hill), a total of 54,735 people have had two doses of the Covid vaccine and 81,056 first doses have been administered as of 1st July. Date Source
Local meetings, events and news
Visit to West Middlesex University Hospital
I visited West Middlesex University Hospital to get an update on the current situation, and to thank staff for all their hard work, care, and dedication throughout the pandemic. At the time of my visit, there were eight Covid patients in the hospital, seven of whom had not been vaccinated. The eighth patient had only had one jab.
It was humbling to hear directly from staff about their experiences through the height of the pandemic. Doctors, nurses, hospital porters, catering staff, volunteers and many other medical professionals worked through periods of unprecedented demand to keep healthcare services available to all.
Hear what they had to say here:
Visiting the Mulberry Centre
I was fortunate enough to visit the Mulberry Centre which provides therapeutic and counselling services to anyone affected by cancer and bereaved carers.
Their site is located at West Middlesex Hospital, and is accessible to all. It is a tranquil place where people are able to find a moment of peace, as well as a wide range of support. They were recently awarded the The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and deservedly so.
More information on the Mulberry Centre can be found here:
Exploring Twickenham tourist attractions
2021 is going to be the summer of the staycation, but fortunately we in Twickenham are blessed with great tourist attractions, wonderful history, architecture, culture, and green open spaces. I plan to visit as many as I can and share them with you, starting with the hidden gem of Pope’s Grotto.
Famous 18th Century poet Alexander Pope first moved to Twickenham in 1719, when he leased numerous acres of land on the banks of the Thames. In order to connect his two houses, Pope would go on to build an underground tunnel from his basement. This tunnel would eventually become what we know today as ‘Pope’s Grotto’.
More information on Pope’s Grotto can be found here:
Touring Orleans Park School
I was very kindly given a tour of Orleans Park School by a group of sixth form students, many of whom were studying Government and Politics at A-Level.
They were very positive about their experience in school, and told me about their student-led assemblies which had been designed to educate younger pupils about sexual harassment. Beyond this, they had some great questions on how they could pursue a future career in politics, and I am sure that many of them have very bright futures ahead.
Speaking with local residents
On Saturday 3 July, I had the pleasure of joining Teddington councillor Richard Baker and others in Broad Street, Teddington, to meet local residents. There were some great chats about issues both local and national, such as mental health support and support for local businesses.
Other local visits and meetings:
- I had a wonderful visit to St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, where I was given a fantastic tour by students. I met a number of enthusiastic teachers and discussed the history of the school with Principal Richard Burke.
- I was able to enjoy some fabulous foot-tapping music at the Middlesex Yeomanry Concert Band’s summer concert at St. James’s Church in Hampton Hill. It was lovely to take my 6 year-old daughter along too, who rather enjoyed examining some of the musicians’ instruments afterwards.
Standing up for you
Secured social care talks with new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid
I secured a commitment from the new Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, to meet me to discuss social care reforms, as the Liberal Democrats continue to push for full cross-party talks on the issue.
I highlighted the tens of thousands of people who have died from Covid in care homes, as well as the 7 million carers who have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic.
Javid agreed to meet with me and the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey to start cross-party work on social care reform.
Watch the exchange in Parliament here:
I introduced a Bill to improve support for children and young people’s mental health
Too many young people have been waiting far too long to access the mental health support that they need – many over a year – to access vital services. Every week I hear about more children and young people struggling to access mental health support. It’s not clear new money is getting to the frontline.
I presented a Bill in Parliament which would require the Government to report to Parliament annually on spending and waiting times for children and young people’s mental health support services in every local area. This would shed light on how far services are meeting children’s needs in order to understand where improvements are needed.
Read more here:
Urged the Secretary of State for Education to focus on mental health
I pressed the Education Secretary to both increase mental health provision in schools but also provide additional funding and capacity for specialist support beds and services for high risk cases. I am alarmed about the mental health crisis emerging among children and young people. Lockdowns and self-isolation have exacerbated existing problems.
Watch the exchange here:
Lobbied Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, for the creation of climate education subject
Climate change constitutes the biggest issue that the next generation will face in their lifetime. Young people deserve to be fully informed and prepared for how climate change will impact their lives and how to mitigate the consequences. Dedicated hours in school on climate change would be hugely beneficial to equip children and young people for the future.
In the House of Commons I argued for the creation of a standalone subject focusing on climate change, though unfortunately Gavin Williamson chose to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher rather than engage on this important issue.
Watch the exchange here:
If you agree with me that climate change is the most important issue young people face, and they should be taught what causes climate issues, how we can fight back, and how this will impact their lifestyle and livelihood in their futures, then please sign my petition here:
I’m campaigning for climate education to be made an independent subject.