Spring 2012

Spring 2012

Dear Resident,

It’s time for an update.  Below are some of the main issues and events I have been involved in since January, beginning with Parliamentary issues and moving on to those in Richmond and North Kingston.

As ever, I have tried to keep the details brief, but have included links to most of the stories for anyone wanting to read more. If you would like more information on anything please feel free to email me at

Best wishes,

Zac Goldsmith

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PARLIAMENT

 

NATIONAL PLANNING REFORMS
When the Government released its proposals to reform the nation’s Planning rules, community groups up and down the country, as well as the major conservation organisations like the National Trust and CPRE reacted with alarm. It appeared to be a blank cheque for the developers.  I spoke out against the proposals, asked the Prime Minister to meet with the organisations, which he did, and helped secure an Inquiry into the reforms via the Environment Audit Committee.  Before the final NPPF was released, I arranged for 45 colleagues to co-sign a letter calling for specific changes. I was relieved when they were taken on board: LINK Click here for my article on the Planning reforms: LINK

CAPS TO CHARITABLE GIVING                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am campaigning for the Government to rethink its proposals to introduce a cap on charitable giving. The tough economic situation means that donating to charity has never been more important, and I’m disappointed that the Government appears to have declared war on some of this country’s biggest philanthropists. The Government should certainly work to close the loopholes that allow minority abuse of the current regime, but the current proposals are disastrous, and will pull the rug out from beneath the very champions of the Big Society.  Click HERE to read my article for The Daily Mail.

RECALL BILL
I have long campaigned for the introduction of genuine Recall mechanism where voters can ditch their representatives at any time, if enough people want to. All parties promised before the election to introduce such a scheme in the wake of the expenses scandal. Unfortunately the Government’s first draft falls considerably short.  Please see below for an article I wrote criticising the plans, as well as a note and transcript of evidence I gave to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee. Recall is supposed to empower voters. The Government’s proposals would only empower Parties. My campaign for genuine recall has won support of more than 60 MPs.

See LINK for note on my formal evidence. To read my article on the Recall Bill please click HERE

SCHOOL FOOD MATTERS
For many children, school offers the only chance of a healthy meal. There was progress nationally following Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school food. Locally, I helped establish campaign group School Food Matters (www.schoolfoodmatters.com) to raise standards here. SFM has had tremendous success in both Boroughs. However the Government has decided that the mandatory standards should no longer apply to academies and free schools. I have therefore teamed up with Jamie Oliver and tabled an EDM, currently supported by 55 MPs, which calls on the Secretary of State for Education to reinsert those basic standards. I have also lobbied the Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather MP.

APPRENTICESHIPS
I am a big supporter of Skill’s Minister, John Hayes MP’s, apprenticeships programme which has created more apprenticeships in the UK than ever before. I believe that apprenticeships offer the best possible preparation for young people, particularly at a time where jobs are short and university qualifications have been devalued. More than 50 businesses have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph, to show their support for the Government’s scheme. LINK.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS BILL
Having co-sponsored this Bill, which would have required the Government to look at the pros and cons of advancing the UK’s time by one hour for all or part of each year, I was very disappointed by the actions of some MPs who ‘talked out’ the Bill, preventing Parliament from voting. I will continue to support this campaign as I believe it provides the government with a low cost opportunity to make the UK’s roads safer, cut the UK’s carbon emissions and boost the economy. See LINK for more information

PREDETERMINATION RULES
Since before entering Parliament, I have urged the government to remove the absurd regulations which prevent councillors from having a say in decisions on which they have campaigned or expressed a predisposed view. I am therefore extremely pleased that measures within the Localism Act have repealed these regulations, and that consequently, councillors can campaign more freely in the interests of the people that they were elected to serve. LINK

NEW PRESUMPTION OF DEATH ACT
As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Missing People, I have read the testimonies of families of people who have gone missing, and understand the appalling difficulties they face under the current bureaucratic regime.  A report published by the Justice Select Committee recently recommended that new legislation was needed to make it easier for families to resolve the affairs of missing people. I support the Committee’s findings, and I hope that the government accepts its recommendations. I have arranged numerous meetings with Ministers to push for reform. LINK

CYCLE SAFETY DEBATE
I joined a number of MPs who backed The Times’ Cities Fit for Cycling Campaign, and called on the Government to introduce measures to improve cycling conditions. During a well-attended debate, I asked that greater restrictions be imposed on the use of HGVs in London. I also suggested that the River Thames should be utilised to help reduce the number of HGVs on the capital’s roads. The campaign is steadily growing and 172 MPs have already signed an EDM backing the Time’s cycling campaign. LINK

STALKING REFORMS
I have long supported calls for stronger reforms to tackle stalking, and welcome the Government’s plans to do just that. I remain concerned though, that the principle problem is not lack of legislation, but rather lack of enforcement. See here for a short debate on the issue: LINK

DIGNITY IN DYING
Like countless constituents who wrote to me on the subject, I was pleased when my colleague Richard Ottaway secured an important debate on dignity in dying. Please follow this LINK to see my contribution.

FOOD WASTE BILL
I supported Kerry McCarthy MP’s Food Waste (Ten Minute Rule) Bill. We bin a staggering £12bn worth of food each year, and the Bill proposed to address this by among other things introducing a ‘Good Samaritan’s law, allowing shops to share food without exaggerated fear of litigation. Ultimately the bill ran out of time, but it can be resurrected later in this Parliamentary session. The environmental crisis, combined with growing poverty requires us to address this urgently. LINK

NEW LEARNING TOOL CREATED IN RESPONSE TO COMMUNITY OUTRAGE
I was delighted to host the launch of the One Community DVD which celebrated the positive roles played by the police, senior representatives of the mosque, local councillors, and Kingston’s wider population, in the wake of an extremist group’s attack on Kingston Mosque in 2010. The DVD created by Kingston’s Police Force, its Muslim Community Partners, Kingston’s Council and Kingston University, will act as a ‘best practice’ tool for other police forces, councils and communities who may face issues similar to those experienced by Kingston. LINK

THE PAKISTAN RECOVERY FUND
I was invited to attend a Parliamentary reception in support of an initiative that has seen mosques up and down the country, including in Kingston, raise money for the Pakistan Recovery Fund. The sums raised have allowed the Pakistan Relief Fund to provide support for countless families in Pakistan, whose lives have been devastated by flooding. LINK

THE THAMES TUNNEL
I hosted a Parliamentary reception for Thames Tunnel Now, a broad alliance of organisations supporting the planned ‘Super-sewer’ which we hope will bring the capital’s Victorian sewers back into the 21st century. Thames Water will publish a report on the most recent consultation phase in May 2012.   LINK

WORLD SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS
I introduced a short film at a fundraising event organised by The World Society for the Protection of Animals. The film highlighted the charity’s extraordinarily successful campaign against what would been Europe’s biggest industrial dairy farm in Lincolnshire. Had the campaign failed, the Government would have ushered in US-style agribusiness on a vast scale with devastating affects not only for animals, but also for the 11,000 remaining dairy farmers in the UK who could never compete with these sorts of factories. See this LINK for the transcript of an earlier speech I delivered in Parliament on the same issue:

GREENER UPON THAMES – CAMPAIGN TO BAN THE BAG AT THE OLYMPICS
I continue to support the Greener upon Thames campaign which had fought to secure a plastic bag free Olympics. Despite hard lobbying, a full ban on plastic bags at the Olympics has not been implemented, but Minister for Culture, Jeremy Hunt MP, has confirmed that plastic bags will only be permitted if they are re-useable or made from materials which can be widely recycled.

See here for an EDM I tabled on the issue: LINK. And here for an answer from the Minister to my question:LINK.

LOBBYING GOVERNMENT
I have facilitated correspondence for many hundreds of constituents with Ministers, on a wide range of issues, including on: NHS reforms, Welfare Reforms, Night Flights, the Heathrow Operational Freedom Trials, Airport Expansion, Business Rates, Immigration, Probation/Custody Issues, Pension Reforms, Extradition treaties, The Budget and its impact on Charity, VAT on Listed Buildings, Planning Reforms, Mansion Tax, Immigration, Fuel prices, The ‘Granny’ Tax, Author Copyright fees, Teachers Pension Reforms, Gay Marriage proposals, Tax avoidance Reforms, Legal Aid, Adult Social Care Reforms, and much more.

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DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT

I have taken part in Parliamentary debates for example, on:

  • Anti Stalking Laws: LINK
  • Low Carbon Growth: LINK
  • Rio Earth Summit:LINK
  • Marine Conservation: LINK
  • Media Regulation: LINK
  • Cycle safety: LINK
  • Iran: LINK
  • …and again: LINK
  • Register of Lobbyists interests: LINK
  • Local Democracy: LINK

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EDMS / QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS  

I have proposed, signed and seconded 111 EDMs since becoming an MP.  
To see the full list click HERE

I have put nearly 1,000 written questions to ministers on a wide range of subjects.

For a complete list of the QUESTIONS I have asked in Parliament, click HERE

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RICHMOND AND NORTH KINGSTON ISSUES

 

HEATHROW 3rd RUNWAY
There are endless rumours about U-turns on Heathrow’s 3rd Runway, but the Government’s position remains the same and I don’t believe it can, or will, change. That said, I promised before the last election that I would step down and trigger a by-election in the event that my Party breaks its pledge to scrap plans for the 3rd runway. A betrayal of that magnitude would destroy what little trust there remains in politics, and it goes without saying that my promise stands. Please click HERE
for my take on the issue.

NIGHT FLIGHTS

The current night flight regime has been extended to 2014, which allow time for a consultation on possible alternatives to take place. When the time is right, I will notify residents about how they can take part in this consultation. I will of course continue my campaign to ban night flights between 11pm and 6am, and I am heartened that Frankfurt (Heathrow’s main European Competitor) has just instigated a similar ban. You can stay updated with all the Heathrow news HERE

HEATHROW TRIALS
The second phase of the Heathrow Operational Trials will run from July to September 2012. During this period, BAA will be making use of both runways at times of severe congestion and in ’emergency situations’. I will work with the Richmond Heathrow Campaign and HACAN, as well as neighbouring MP Mary MacLeod to develop an easy-to-use mechanism for all residents to keep a clear ‘noise diary’ for the duration of the trials. It is vital that we keep an accurate record of the effects of the trial, and that as many residents as possible provide feedback. We will make that as easy as possible, and I will be in touch with all residents in due course. Please note that you can participate in a Heathrow Trials Survey run by Richmond Council by clicking HERE

NHS TRUST’S APPLICATION FOR FOUNDATION STATUS
I met the Chairman of Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS to discuss the Trust’s application for Foundation Status. I support the application and believe that it presents an opportunity to improve the quality of the care that the NHS can offer to residents within the constituency. You can read more about the proposals by clickingHERE

LATCHMERE HOUSE
Since the Ministry of Justice’s decision to close and sell HMP Latchmere House, I have organised a number of meetings with MoJ officials and local Councillors from both Kingston and Richmond, to secure the best possible outcome for the community. I will be organising a public meeting in the next few months, at which local residents will have the opportunity to discuss the future of the site. I am pleased that Richmond Council has designated Latchmere House as a Building of Townscape Merit, which will help protect the property from demolition. LINK

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN THE BOROUGH
Ann Radmore, Chief Executive of NHS South West London, has told me that Barnes Hospital will remain open, at least until after a full consultation on Adult Mental Health Services. I will be informing all residents how they can participate in the consultation once it opens. I organised a meeting with Vince Cable MP and senior health care managers and representatives of voluntary organisations to discuss the provision of mental health services in the borough, which is an issue of concern.

NORTH KINGSTON SCHOOL
I continue my campaign for new a school in North Kingston. I have had countless exchanges and meetings with Ministers, Education officials, the Secretary of State for Education, to press for the funds which are required for the school.  One way or another, I am committed to ensuring the new school is built.

TEMPORARY DECANT OF CHRIST CHURCH CE SCHOOL
Despite my strong misgivings about the development of any playing fields, I support a planning application which will allow a temporary decant of Christ Church CE School to the playing fields adjacent to Corpus Christi School. The site will be returned to a playing field after the temporary decant, and is both necessary and unavoidable because of the state of the current facilities.

THE MARY PORTAS HIGH STREETS REVIEW
Following meetings last year with ‘Queen of Shops’, Mary Portas, I met Grant Shapps MP, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, to discuss my concerns about the increasing number of empty shops in the constituency. I was joined by Richmond Council’s Retail Champion, and Barnes’ Town Centre Manager. We asked whether measures to encourage landlords to bring empty properties back into use could be introduced. The Minister has committed to exploring this issue as part of the Government’s response to the Portas Review.


COMMUNITY CENTRE

Last year saw the closure of the Vineyard Project which provided crucial support for homeless people, people with life controlling and Mental Health issues, as well as other who are simply lonely or marginalised. Thanks to a number of church organisations, and community minded residents, the Vineyard Community Centre opened in March, (LINK) and will fill the void left by the closure of the previous project. Along with all the Ward Councillors, this Community Centre has my full support, and I would encourage you to support this vital charity. Please click HERE to learn more about the Vineyard Project.

RESIDENTS CAMPAIGN AGAINST DOG MESS
I have backed a campaign started by Richmond residents that has asked the London Borough of Richmond to take action to tackle the menace of dog fouling. I am a dog lover, but it is horrendously antisocial to leave dog’s mess on pavements, and I support this new campaign to prevent it happening in our community. LINK  You can support the campaign by signing the petition HERE

PLANNING ISSUES
Whilst an MP has little sway in local planning decisions, I have commented on numerous planning applications that I believe are likely to have a significant community impact. I was particularly pleased that the Planning Inspector listened to local concerns and decided not to allow the ToppsTile site at 172-176 Upper Richmond Road to be used as a supermarket.  Residents had strongly objected to another large supermarket on this road, which would critically affect small independent businesses in the area. LINK

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OTHER NEWS IN BRIEF

BIKE HUB FOR RICHMOND
I am thrilled that South West Trains and the Department of Transport are supporting a £220,000 bike hub scheme, which will see 70 bikes installed at Richmond Station in July.  It is hoped that it will encourage visitors to visit the many of the Boroughs beautiful Parks and numerous cycle paths. LINK

KINGSTON ARENA
I welcomed Kingston Council’s decision to reject the alcohol licence application for the ‘Kingston Arena’ last year. Unfortunately the applicant has appealed the council’s decision, and a hearing will be held by the court in October. I will continue to support residents’ efforts to contest this licence, which I believe will have a negative impact on the local community.

NORTH SHEEN FOOTBRIDGE
Residents had their first glimpse of Network Rail’s revised designs for the long awaited railway footbridge at North Sheen Railway Station when images of the footbridge were unveiled to the public in February. The images of the proposed new footbridge have been submitted to the Richmond Council as a revised planning application and we look forward to a final decision soon. LINK

CHANCE TO BE CHANCELLOR
I supported the launch of Chance to be Chancellor 2012, an online tool which challenges young people aged 14-18 to learn about the Budget, and make informed decisions on real taxation & spending policies by creating a Youth Budget. The programme is run by the Citizenship Foundation, in partnership with Aviva. LINK

JDRF’S TYPE 1 DIABETES CAMPAIGN 
I am pleased to support JDRF, the world’s leading Type 1 Diabetes research charity, in their campaign for increased medical research into the condition which affects around 300,000 adults and 26,000 children. I was inspired and hugely impressed when I met a young constituent, Oliver Lack, to hear about his experiences of living with Type 1. You can read more about the JDRF, and how you can support the campaign HERE

BOWEL CANCER AWARENESS WEEK
I marked the end of West Middlesex Hospital’s, Beating Bowel Cancer Awareness Week by joining Cancer Services Usergroup, CUBE, at a cake sale. The event raised awareness and funds for the NHS Campaign, ‘Be Clear on Cancer’. LINK

DISCUSSING THE ECONOMY – IS SMALL STILL BEAUTIFUL?
I joined Rohan Silva (Senior Policy Adviser, 10 Downing Street), Andrew Simms (Fellow, New Economics Foundation) and Jeevika Director, Andrew Redpath in a panel discussion entitled  ‘Is Small still Beautiful?’ chaired by Diana Schumacher. We discussed the world’s economic and environmental crises in the context of the ideas of radical economist E.F Schumacher who called for economies to be decentralized, human-scaled, and based upon appropriate sustainable technologies. LINK

STUDENT ENTERPRISE – GREENY GOODNESS
I attended a business enterprise presentation, masterminded by a group of Year 10 Richmond Park Academy students. The students gave an excellent presentation, which explained their project, ‘Greeny Goodness,’ the fair-trade organic green tea produced in Sri Lanka that they intend to market to shops, cafes and restaurants across the Capital. LINK

ECO DAY AT KING’S HOUSE SCHOOL
I attended  King’s House  School’s Eco Day  at their Sports Ground in Chiswick. Pupils took part in a number of interactive games to encourage and develop a more detailed understanding of their role in promoting sustainability within both the local and global context.  Other activities included the planting saplings, handling animals threatened with extinction, and participating in a number of maths challenges which highlighted the issues associated with food miles. LINK

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AND VERY BRIEFLY…

  • I am supporting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Rowbarge project
  • I hosted a private screening of The Iron Lady at Richmond’s Odeon Cinema with Lord Tebbit, who gave the 150 strong capacity audience an insight into his time at Margaret Thatcher’s side. LINK
  • I supported the Mayor’s Low Carbon Prize which was launched to inspire London’s students to come up with innovative ideas for cutting carbon emissions in the city. I was one of the judges and considered some 100 applications.
  • I visited Newland House School in Twickenham, to hear about pupils’ hugely impressive campaign to increase driver awareness about how drivers can reduce fuel consumption by checking their tyre pressure.. LINK
  • I attended the Mayor’s Civic Service in Richmond.
  • I judged the Harrodian School Speech Competition.
  • I have arranged many Parliamentary tours and Big Ben Clock tower visits for local schools and community groups, and where it has been possible, I have taken part in Q&A’s with pupils. I enjoyed meeting students from Marymount School earlier this spring.
  • I attended a Downing Street event in order to celebrate the success of young people involved in the Mosaic Programme, which links young people with positive role models to boost their confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability. Please click HERE to find out more about Mosaic.
  • On behalf of Sport England, I presented Putney Town Rowing Club with a cheque for £25,000 which will go towards the PTRC ramp fund. LINK

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MY MOST RECENT ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

  • The Guardian: ‘Greenest government ever’ must do be better’: LINK
  • On Rumours of a 3rd Runway: LINK
  • Politics Home: ‘Zac Goldsmith: True Recall’: LINK
  • The Evening Standard: ‘A new runway is the last thing Heathrow needs’: LINK
  • Conservative Home: ‘Planning reform must not be a blank cheque for developers’: LINK
  • New Statesman: ‘Zac on the dysfunction of parliament, political idols’:  LINK
  • The Daily Mail: ‘Zac on proposals to reform charity tax’: LINK
  • The Guardian ‘My job is to hold the Government to account’ – video: LINK
  •  BBC Newsnight: LINK
  • Government & big business: LINK

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MEET ME AT A SURGERY OR COFFEE MORNING

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AND FINALLY… 

Keep updated with all my news on the website: www.zacgoldsmith.com, or follow me on Twitter: @ZacGoldsmith