Like many others, I’ve been deeply distressed to watch the ongoing scenes unfolding in Afghanistan. The botched withdrawal represents an abject failure of the government’s foreign policy. I commend the efforts of British troops on the ground, who have done amazing work to evacuate as many people as possible, but they should never have been put in such a desperate situation.
Along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I attended a debate in Parliament regarding the horrific situation in Afghanistan. During the debate I heard the moving testimonies from several MPs who served in Afghanistan and spoke of the shame they felt, watching our Government fail those Afghans who have worked with us, supported us, or were looking to us for security. Like many MPs, my office has been inundated with requests for help from constituents who have family members and colleagues stuck in Afghanistan. My small team has been working flat out to provide information to the Foreign Office and the Home Office regarding the plight of UK nationals and Afghan nationals at high risk still in Afghanistan. With the airlift now over, those left behind are being advised to make their own way to an external border. I will continue to do everything in my power to support constituents who need help.
As the initial phase of the evacuation has come to a close, focus is needed on how we can support people as they arrive in our country. Many constituents have contacted me, asking how they can help. Locally, Richmond Council has pledged to support those fleeing their homes and seeking safety in the UK. Any private landlords who could offer their property for rent by refugees should get in touch. You can find out more here.
The Friends of Twickenham Green and the United Reform Church on the Green are collecting donations with a focus on toiletries and hygiene products. Please check the latest updates on their Afghan Appeal page before donating. West Mid is the nominated hospital to receive pregnant women who have been evacuated, however, they have requested people hold off from donating until a clear list of needs and a collection point is established. Please check their news page before attempting to donate.
There are also numerous charities working in Afghanistan that would welcome donations. The International Rescue Committee have an Afghanistan crisis appeal and aim to continue delivering lifesaving aid in-country. The British Red Cross is also raising funds to support their work, and money donated will provide Afghans with basic medical supplies. Similarly, Afghanaid provides kitchen kits that allow people who have lost their homes to cook and safely store food.
I recognise that many people will not be in a position to donate in these difficult times, however, I thank those that can for any help they can provide.
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week August 23rd – 29th there were 431 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 217.5/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 208.5/100,000 and England-wide rate of 271.0/100,000. These figures show that case numbers are roughly flat in our borough and slightly down across London and across England as a whole compared with two weeks earlier.
Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/
Covid testing available to all
To book your free rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test or find your nearest take-home testing kits collection point, visit: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/
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.
Walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics
The walk-in clinic at Harlequins Stoop Stadium has now closed. There is a walk-in clinic at Teddington Health and Social Care Centre which will be open from Wednesday 1st until Saturday 4th September. Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.
Anyone 16 or over who is eligible for a vaccine can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.
Young people invited to grab the jab
Since the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued new advice that all 16-and 17-year-olds should receive the Pfizer vaccine, GPs around the borough have been inviting their younger patients in for their jabs.
Self-isolation changes for double vaccinated people
The Government has announced changes to COVID-19 self-isolation rules. Anyone who has received both vaccinations will no longer have to isolate if identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive. This applies to adults who have had both jabs at least 14 days before the contact, and to under 18-year-olds.
Local meetings, events and news
Praise for students in their A-Level and GCSE achievements
Last week, students from across the borough received their A-Level and GCSE results and did fantastically. I would like to offer my congratulations to all students and wish everyone the best for the future in these uncertain times.
Our young people have been through a uniquely difficult period for their education. As well as education challenges, many have struggled with their mental wellbeing too. In spite of this, they all rose to the occasion, resulting in top grades reaching a record high. Regardless of which grades you received, all students should be very proud of what they have accomplished.
Teddington Police Station
In a letter I received last week, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime gave formal notice that the Met Police are planning to close Teddington Police Station.
Now is not the time to fully close Teddington Police Station and sell it to the highest bidder. Once a public building is lost to the community, it is almost impossible to replace. There is real concern from local residents about crime in the Teddington area. I recently contacted the Borough Commander to request additional police patrols of the area during peak times. With police numbers finally rising again, I urge the Mayor to pause this decision and re-assess the needs of Teddington.
Find out more here.
Twickenham vinyl shop launches fundraising campaign for community music festival
Eel Pie Records on Church Street is hoping to run its second High Tide festival this September, and have launched a fundraising campaign in order to hold it. It will include nationally known artists like The Desmond Dekker Band feat. Delroy Williams, Binker Golding, Stick In The Wheel, Deschanel Gordon and Salad as well showcasing young artists curated by The Basement Door youth charity.
The campaign has already raised over £5,000 of their £8,000 target. If you would like to support the High Tide Festival, you can donate here.
Harlequins prepare to welcome back crowds to Twickenham Stoop
It was recently announced that the Harlequins will return to the Stoop on Saturday 25th September, where they will play against Worcester Warriors. The latest guidance from the government permits the full opening of sports stadiums for supporters, though there will still be precautions in place.
There will be additional cleaning and hand sanitiser stations at the Stoop, and face masks will be advised though not obligatory. The team have also been trialling a new nasal spray to protect them against Covid.
Find out more about the Harlequins’ return here.
Udney Park update
It was recently announced that the community bid for Udney Park has been rejected by the current owners of the land. This is incredibly disappointing news and a blow for local grassroots sports and clubs that desperately need a base.
I would like to thank Jonathan Dunn for his vision and energy in working with so many to pull together an inspirational bid. I will be following developments very closely.
In the last of my visits to local tourist attractions, I was given a fascinating tour through the town’s history at the Twickenham Museum. As Whitton’s woman in Westminster, I was particularly interested in the old photos and maps of my hometown. An interesting and educational day out.
Standing up for you
Twickenham trains set to be cut by South Western Railway
South Western Railway (SWR) has launched a consultation on a proposed new timetable which will reduce the number of services from several local stations. I have written to the Managing Director of SWR to highlight the shortcomings of the consultation timing and the poor quality of the information provided. I have urged SWR to extend the consultation period and promote it more widely.
Read my response here:
I believe the changes will be detrimental to the borough, increasing overcrowding on trains and at stations. Whitton and St Margarets will be particularly badly impacted with a 50% reduction in services for large parts of the day. These changes are also in direct conflict with my commitment to encourage the use of public transport and alternatives to driving.
I will be meeting SWR Regional Development Manager David Wilby this week. If you would like me to raise any of your specific concerns please let me know via this link.
Supporting Afghan evacuees
My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I called for an immediate commitment to resettle at least 20,000 Afghan refugees in the UK. We argued that priority status must be awarded to those most at risk through an emergency Women & Girls Resettlement Scheme.
The Government must step up and support local authorities with proper funding to house, support and integrate Afghans without placing even more strain on already overstretched budgets. I attend the regular MP briefing calls on Afghanistan and will continue to champion the cause of the evacuees.
Emergency Westminster debate on Afghanistan
Following the recall of Parliament, I attended the Afghanistan debate in the House of Commons, during which the Prime Minister was challenged by MPs on all sides for his complete and utter foreign policy catastrophe. Unfortunately, I was unable to speak as the debate was heavily oversubscribed.
I was particularly impressed by the outstanding and exceptionally moving speech by Tom Tugendhat, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. The Commons sat and listened in complete silence as Tugendhat described the devastating impact UK policy will have on Afghan citizens.
Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, challenged the Prime Minister to explain how he had so misjudged the situation and failed to plan for an orderly withdrawal. Listen here:
Pledged support for Afgahn women MPs
Alongside my fellow female MPs, I pledged support for the 69 Afghan women currently serving in the National Assembly. These brave women are standing their ground and fighting for both girls and democracy.
For the first time, women in Westminster have united to speak with one voice across party lines in order to send their support for women MPs in Afghanistan. 174 women MPs from all parties across the political spectrum have signed the letter.
Sign my petition: Green Education for a Brighter Future
Climate change affects us all. This is especially true for the younger generations, who are inheriting a climate crisis. Sea ice is melting, permafrost defrosting, and global temperatures are rising. We must equip young people with the tools they need to combat and cope with the climate emergency.
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. Yet there is no established educational pathway to inform children about climate issues, with the quality of climate education differing from school to school.
That is why I’m campaigning for climate education to be made an independent subject. Sign my petition here: