Last week, I shared the nation’s disgust at the appalling attempt by the Government to rewrite parliamentary procedures for standards in a blatant attempt to protect ex-minister, Owen Paterson, who had broken the rules on lobbying for money.
My Liberal Democrat colleague Wendy Chamberlain MP, secured an emergency debate yesterday on the consequences of the Government’s actions. There is no place in our democracy for corruption, payments for access or conflicts of interest. We have a cross-party Standards Committee in Parliament, with lay representation, to prevent the politicisation of the rules that govern MPs’ conduct. The Government’s behaviour undermined that independent process and has been condemned by politicians and commentators on all sides.
The Owen Paterson affair exemplifies the Prime Minister’s willingness to undermine integrity and trust in our democracy. The vast majority of politicians, in all parties, work extremely hard for the people they represent and play by the rules. This episode must not be allowed to damage the reputation of all.
Local meetings, events and news
Community safety meeting in Twickenham
Following the tragic fatal stabbing of a Richmond College student last month on Craneford Way playing fields, local councillors convened a public meeting for local residents with the police and college leadership which I attended and spoke at. There was very constructive engagement and feedback from residents and I was pleased to hear that the college, police and council are all working together to put additional measures in place to improve community safety. Continued communication and intelligence sharing between the local community and the police is absolutely critical, and I welcome the new community forum being set up with the college.
Visit to St Mary’s School, Hampton
I had the pleasure of visiting St Mary’s School, Hampton. St Mary’s is a wonderful school at the heart of the Hampton community and the Year 6 students gave me an excellent tour. I also enjoyed a Q&A with the pupils, who had some well thought out questions on road safety, cycling and litter.
You can find some photos from the visit here.
Richmond Climate Change Week
COP26 Primary School Summit
I dropped in on the Primary School Summit event organised by Habitats and Heritage focusing on COP26. It was great to meet and speak with pupils from St Mary’s Twickenham, St James’s Hampton Hill and Hampton Hill Juniors. The pupils gave well-informed speeches and furnished me with some questions to pose to the Prime Minister as I headed off to Parliament!
Visit to the Energy Café in Whitton
There was lots of practical and important energy saving advice being provided on how to cut fuel bills and carbon emissions. It was great to be able to stop by and meet the friendly team.
If you would like advice and further information on energy saving, please call 0800 086 2706 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit to Haymarket Media
I visited Haymarket Media in Twickenham. This thriving global business and major local employer provides careers in journalism, video, marketing, sales, product management and more. I was pleased to see an apprenticeship programme, called the Skills Academy, which aims to develop the next generation of media talent and offers support to Richmond upon Thames College students.
See some photos from the morning here.
New SEND provision at Hampton High School
Since my election, I have campaigned and lobbied ministers for more funding and support for children with special educational needs in Twickenham. I am delighted that a new Specialist Resource Provision has been set up, for up to 20 students, with Social Communication Needs including Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and Mild to Moderate Learning Difficulties at Hampton High.
Students can use the Specialist Resource Provision (SRP) in a number of ways: some will access the majority of their learning in the new space, others will primarily learn within the mainstream school and will be able to attend occasional lessons and/or therapy in the space.
2022 Richmond Voluntary Fund
Local voluntary and community organisations providing support for children and young people’s mental health are now invited to apply to be the chosen recipients of the 2022 Charity Appeal for the Richmond Voluntary Fund.
The Richmond Voluntary Fund is a charitable trust, set up in 2019, to receive donations from local residents to fund initiatives that make positive difference to local people living in Richmond upon Thames.
Find out more about the Richmond Voluntary Fund here.
Standing up for you
Fighting police station closures
In a parliament debate, I raised with the Policing Minister the importance of local police stations, which help reduce crime, support neighbourhood policing, and keep people safe. If the Government is to increase police numbers, they need a base.
I have previously written to The Deputy Mayor and met with representatives of the Met Police to fight the closure of Teddington Police Station. In my speech, I illustrated how vital community policing is to ensure safety in local communities. Community policing must be protected, not undermined.
The clips of my speech are available on Twitter here.
Further action to keep Twickenham safe
In light of recent tragic events in Twickenham and other violent incidents in the borough, as well as working with local police and the council on community safety in our area, I wrote to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, asking where the additional police officers for our area, promised at the 2019 General Election, are. My letter to the Home Secretary can be seen here.
I also wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, asking him to keep police officers here, in Twickenham, rather than extracting them to support incidents and events elsewhere in London.
Challenged Ministers in Parliament on failing to support children in the Budget
During the Budget debate, I challenged Ministers on failing to support children and young people through the Covid recovery.
The catch-up funding announced in the Budget amounted to a mere £1 per pupil, per school day. This is in stark contrast to the £6 per day on a tax cut for bankers. This is not fair to parents, children and young people nationwide.
In fact, the Government’s own education recovery adviser recommended £15 billion would be necessary for catch-up funding provision. The Government should honour this. I called for £5 billion of this funding to be given to parents and carers in the form of catch-up vouchers for tutoring, sport/music or wellbeing support.
During the debate, I also spoke about children and young people’s mental health. Referencing Parentkind’s survey, I outlined how mental health is now a top priority for many parents and headteachers. Mental health referrals are increasing, and mental health support services in schools and the NHS are overwhelmed. However, shockingly, mental health was not mentioned once in the Budget.
To read more and see the video clips of my contributions, visit my website here.
Parliamentary Question on catch-up funding
I challenged the Secretary of State to commit to an additional £10 billion of catch-up funding, based on the recommendation from the education recovery adviser. Only one third of the recommended £15 billion has been provided by the Government. This is not sufficient. During local school visits I have been told that parental donations are having to fund pupil catch-up programmes.
See the clip of my question here.
Rail Service Reduction debate in Parliament
I challenged the Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, to justify the planned cuts to South Western Railway services across South West London, which will hit the constituency hard. St Margarets and Whitton stations will be left very poorly served during off peak periods. This is already the case for stations on the Shepperton line (Hampton & Fulwell), which has a notoriously poor service. I raised this with the Minister in both a private meeting before and during the course of the debate.
Rail travel needs to be incentivised, I stressed, to prevent a car-led recovery. The proposed cuts appear to be financially driven. However, there has been no data published on how much SWR and the Treasury hope to save from cutting services. I secured a commitment from the Minister to provide these figures in writing, as well as accurate passenger figures.
The video clips from this can be seen on my website here.
Beer Duty Response received from Chancellor
Many local residents have contacted me regarding beer duty and in support of the Long Live the Local Campaign. The cask beer brewing industry has been hit particularly hard by the Government’s Covid restrictions, as cask beer has a short shelf life. There has been no industry-specific help and no blanket business rates exemptions. To survive, pubs and hospitality need urgent support.
I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of local residents. See the response I received from Helen Whately on my website here.
Continued support for Afghans in Parliament
Last week in Parliament, I called out the Minister on her instructions to MPs not to pursue cases of Afghans in grave danger who have been left behind by the UK and USA. I also asked the Minister if she would extend her 5,000 per year refugee limit to accommodate those who can be sponsored.
I am proud that the Twickenham community, residents, and faith groups stand ready to sponsor and support families.
See the video clip from Parliament here.
Co-sponsorship of Schools and Education Settings Bill
I was pleased to co-sponsor a Bill to ensure that any future school closures in the event of a national crisis are put to a vote of Parliament and, crucially, the Children’s Commissioner’s advice is sought, in addition to other relevant expert advice. The Bill seeks to class schools as “essential infrastructure”.
Children have paid an extremely high price through Covid, with school closures having an adverse impact on health and wellbeing, as well as their learning. The poorest children have been the most disadvantaged by these closures. With virus transmission rates high in schools, I continue to press the Government to make them safer by funding ventilation, mandating masks for adults and teenagers and continuing to drive vaccination uptake among 12 to 16 year-olds. Every effort must be taken to prevent further closures and keep schools open safely.
Westminster Hall Debate on endometriosis and PCOS
Last week, I participated in the endometriosis and PCOS debate in Westminster Hall. Diagnosis times must be reduced, and more research needs to be undertaken to alleviate the suffering that many women experience. Women must be given the right to access treatments, support and education.
The speeches given were very moving, with MPs sharing their personal experiences.
Watch a clip of my contribution here.
Calling for improved climate change education in schools
Last week in Parliament, I called on Ministers to utilise COP26 as an important opportunity to improve climate change education in schools.
My visits to local schools confirm that children are hugely interested in climate change and biodiversity and want to understand these issues in detail. Today’s young people will be the ones to face the impacts of climate change and we must ensure they are ready for this challenge.
The public want to see greater involvement and inclusion of climate change on the national curriculum. Over 300 local residents signed my petition to make climate change education a subject in its own right. I called for a joined- up educational approach alongside long-term commitment and action.
The full video of my contribution in Parliament is available on my website here.
Latest Covid Numbers
In the week October 31st – November 6th, there were 539 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 272.0/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 209.0/100,000 and England-wide rate of 309.1/100,000. These figures show a slight decrease in case numbers in our borough 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 nearest walk-in clinic for vaccinations is at Harlequins Rugby stadium, Twickenham from the 8th to 11th November. Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.
Anyone 16 or over is eligible for a vaccine can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.