It’s time for an end of summer update. Below are some of the main issues and events I have been involved in since May, beginning with Parliamentary issues and moving on to those in Richmond and North Kingston.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston
CAPS TO CHARITABLE GIVING
When the Government announced its intention to reduce incentives on charitable giving, I was deeply concerned that the proposals would lead to a collapse in support for charities at a time when charity has never been more important. I campaigned hard on the issue, and was very pleased when the Government agreed, finally, to rethink its position. See here for an article I wrote on the subject at the time: LINK
HOUSE OF LORDS REFORM
I opposed the Government’s Lords Reform Bill when it came to the vote. I strongly believe that the House of Lords needs to be reformed, but the proposals made no sense at all.LINK
I continue to campaign to hold the Government to its clear promise to introduce powers for voters to ‘recall’ their representatives if they lose confidence in them. Both Parties in the Coalition made the promise before the election, and must now honour their commitment. I have raised the issue with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and have tabled a Bill which I will do all I can to advance. I have also sponsored an Early Day Motion, signed by 56 cross party MPs, which supports the Bill, and I’m pleased that campaign group Unlock Democracy is also supporting the Bill LINK Here’s an article I wrote on the subject: LINK
SCHOOL FOOD MATTERS
I have campaigned for some time to improve the quality of food given to children in schools, and to place a greater emphasis on growing and cooking food. Locally, I helped establish campaign group School Food Matters LINK, which has had enormous success in Richmond and Kingston. However the Government has decided that improved mandatory standards should no longer apply to academies and free schools. I teamed up with Jamie Oliver and tabled an EDM, which calls on the Secretary of State for Education to reinsert those basic standards, currently 107 MPs support this EDM: LINK
PROTECTION OF STRAY ANIMALS
I have lobbied Lynne Feathersone MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Home Office, to ensure that a new European Directive will not permit stray animals/pets to be used in laboratory experiments. She assured me that when the new directive is implemented, it will not alter the status quo, which means that stray animals will continue to be protected.
I hosted the Westminster launch of a new report published by the Campaign for Better Transport which calls for the introduction of a ‘Feebate’ scheme for cars. It would reduce the purchase cost of efficient cars and pay for it by adding a new tax to the cost of purchasing the dirtiest cars. It would be revenue neutral for the Government, and if fairly introduced, could rapidly shift the market so that we are less dependent on imported fuel and people are better able to afford cars that cost less to run. LINK
A pilot scheme that was created to examine health problems the victims of Thalidomide is coming to an end. Along with 178 other MPs, I have signed an EDM calling on the government to commit new funds to this hugely important scheme.
SOLAR FEED-IN TARIFFS
Having lobbied the Government to review its cuts to the solar feed-in-tariffs, I was pleased that Greg Barker MP, the Energy Minister, announced that the government’s proposals would be delayed. LINK
I have been urging the Health Department to get to grips with the growing problem of superbugs and antibiotic resistance, and its likely link to the industrial scale use of antibiotics on intensive farms. Many other countries are waking up to the possibility that we risk entering a post-antibiotic age as a result of reckless use of antibiotics, but the UK lags behind. I have tabled a number of questions and asked this question to Andrew Lansley MP: LINK
THINK TANK CONTRIBUTION
I contributed a chapter to a new publication by think tank, POLITEIA, called Freedom, Responsibility and the State: Curbing Over-Mighty Government. You can read the full report HERE. I spoke at the launch event, and you can read about it HERE
MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
I have been working with Pew Environment Group and other organisations to lobby the Government to establish further Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the UK Overseas Territories. Building on the establishment of MPAs in the British Indian Ocean Territory and the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, there is a real opportunity for us to create a network of vast nature reserves in the marine rich territories of Bermuda, Tristan da Cunha and Pitcairn Island that will benefit not only biodiversity but also coastal fishing communities. In addition, I continue to question the Government on its work to press for a new international agreement for marine protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction (High Seas). For example, see my question to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg after the Rio+20 Summit. LINK
WORK WITH THE ENVIRONMENT AUDIT COMMITTEE
I continue to serve as an active member of the Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee. Recent inquiries have been on protecting the Arctic as the retreating ice opens the region up to oil drilling, new shipping routes and new fishing grounds; the scale of wildlife crime in the UK, including damage and destruction to species and habitats; and the Rio +20 Summit. The EAC also published its reports on the Green Economy and Sustainable Food, the latter included a recommendation for the Government Buying Standards for food to be extended to require local authorities to adopt them across schools and hospitals. LINK
CONSERVATIVE FRIENDS OF PAKISTAN
I attended the launch, hosted by Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi, of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan, a new and exciting initiative that aims to build relations between the Conservative Party, Pakistan and the British Pakistani population. The guest of honour was Prime Minister David Cameron.
Click HERE for the Conservative Friends of Pakistan website
BRIGHT BLUE EVENT
I attended a Bright Blue event on democratic reform, which gave me the opportunity to speak to young individuals about a number of political issues, including direct democracy. LINK
SEEDS OF FREEDOM FILM SCREENING
I introduced a premier screening of ‘Seeds of Freedom’, a new film on the global food system by Gaia. LINK
AUNG SAN SUU KYI
I had the enormous privilege of hearing an address by world-renowned democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall on 21st June. Having endured 21 years in captivity; in jail and under house arrest, at the hands of Burma’s Military junta, she has finally been released and continues her work as a Member of Parliament.
CHARITY PLANT SALE TO SUPPORT HOSPITALS
My parliamentary office had a charity plant sale in Parliament of home-grown office spider plants which were sold to various MP’s offices, including the Prime Minister’s, raising funds for the Imperial College Health Charity.
AIR PASSENGER SAFETY
I have corresponded and met with representatives from the British Airline Pilots Association and also pilots from Richmond and Kingston who are worried about the effects of proposed changes to Flights Time Limitations - which could affect air safety. We have one of the best air safety records in the world, but the government has released a set of proposals which may reduce standards by allowing airline operators to make pilots fly longer hours. I strongly oppose the plans and have committed to doing all I can to prevent them being introduced.
‘AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME’
I co-hosted ‘And Then They Came For Me’, a play about Nazi Germany, in Parliament, and then interviewed Holocaust survivors Rene Salt and Harry Olmert in front of invited guests and MPs. LINK
BITE THE BALLOT
Bite the Ballot is a grass-roots campaign created by and for young people, aiming to inspire and encourage others to engage and be part of the democratic system. I was invited by the team to take part in an interview on Direct Democracy. You can view the footage here: LINK & LINK
PARLIAMENTARY EVENT ON EXTRADITION
In June, I met MPs, human rights organisations, and the families and friends of Syed Talha Ahsan, Gary McKinnon, Richard O’Dwyer and Babar Ahmad in Parliament, at a meeting arranged by Mike Hemming MP to call for reform of our extradition arrangements with the United States. You can view my speech HERE
I have facilitated correspondence for thousands of constituents with Ministers, on a wide range of issues, including: NHS reforms, Welfare Reforms, Night Flights, the Heathrow Operational Freedom Trials, Airport Expansion, Business Rates, Immigration, Probation/Custody Issues, Pension Reforms, Extradition treaties, Teachers Pension Reforms, Gay Marriage proposals, Tax avoidance Reforms, Legal Aid, Adult Social Care Reforms, and much more.
DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT
I have taken part in Parliamentary debates for example, on:
The Future Aviation of Policy – LINK
Parliamentary Recall LINK
Energy and the Green Economy LINK
Use of Antibiotics in farming LINK
Defamation Bill LINK
3rd Runway at Heathrow LINK
Fish Stocks LINK
EDMS / QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
I have proposed, signed and seconded 121 EDMs since becoming an MP. To see the full list click HERE
I have put nearly 1,021 written questions to ministers on a wide range of subjects.
For a complete list of the questions I have asked in Parliament, click HERE
RICHMOND AND NORTH KINGSTON ISSUES
HEATHROW’S 3rd RUNWAY
Early on, the Coalition Government cancelled plans for a third runway at Heathrow. There have been endless rumours about U-turns, but the Government’s position has not changed, and I don’t believe it will. The recently published consultation on the Government’s Draft Aviation Policy Framework reiterates the fact that it is not Government policy to expand Heathrow. I promised before the election that if the Government broke its promise, I would trigger a by-election. I have met Mayor Boris Johnson to discuss the issue, and his opposition to the 3rd runway remains absolute. Click HERE to learn more about the Draft Aviation Policy Framework, or click HERE to respond to the consultation before its 31st October deadline.
HEATHROW’S OPERATIONAL FREEDOM TRIAL
The second phase of Heathrow’s Operational Freedom Trials began in July, and will continue to run until the end of March 2013. I recently sent a flyer to all residents living in Richmond explaining the purpose of trial, and indicating how they can register any noise disturbances with BAA during the course of the trial. Please click HERE for a link to the leaflet if you didn’t receive a copy.
The trial effectively relaxes restrictions on BAA so that if there is a blockage of flights, planes are allowed to use both runways temporarily. These operational freedoms already exist, but the trial will allows the rules governing the freedoms to be loosened. At the end of the trials, the Government will assess the data and decide if the trials are of benefit to the community by relieving congestion and reducing stacking time. It is therefore hugely important that as many residents as possible take the time to respond to the consultation.
HEATHROW NIGHT FLIGHTS
The current restrictions on night flights at Heathrow have been extended until October 2014. As a first step to replacing this regime in 2014, the Department of Transport will launch a first stage consultation later this year, which will seek detailed evidence of the effectiveness of the current regime. I will let all residents know how to get involved as soon as the consultation is open for submissions. I have arranged for a cross party group of MPs to meet with the Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers on 3 September 2012.
NORTH KINGSTON SCHOOL
I arranged for Kingston Councillors and education officers to meet to Sam Freedman, the Secretary of State for Education’s Senior Policy Advisor, to discuss alternative funding mechanisms for a much-needed new secondary school, including the free school option, which the Council has now selected as its preferred route. Following this meeting, I organised and chaired a public meeting to discuss the free school option. A clear majority of residents who attended the meeting were receptive to the idea, and a further meeting will be held in September LINK. I am confident that if we submit a strong application for a free school, and if it is supported by parents, we will secure the funding we need to help address the lack of secondary school places in the Borough.
CHRIST CHURCH NEW MALDEN CE PRIMARY SCHOOL
I applied pressure on the government to ensure that it provided emergency funds needed to rebuild Christ Church New Malden Primary CE School, which is in a clear state of disrepair. I am very pleased that the Education Funding Agency agreed to provide £2.1 million to go towards rebuilding this school. LINK
A&E & MATERNITY WARD AT KINGSTON HOSPITAL
I strongly welcomed the news that the NHS Better Services Better Value Review Panel recommended Kingston Hospital should retain its Accident and Emergency, and Maternity Wards.
The panel of sixty participants, including members of the public, patients, doctors, nurses, and directors of public health, were asked to determine a blueprint for the future shape of services provided by Kingston, St Helier and Croydon University Hospitals. Panelists overwhelmingly recommended that Kingston Hospital and Croydon University Hospital should retain their A&E and maternity wards. LINK
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN THE BOROUGH
I invited Vince Cable MP, senior health care managers and representatives of voluntary organisations to discuss improvements to provision of mental health services in Richmond Borough. I have been concerned that people are unaware of the services available, and find it difficult to access support. I’ve since attended meetings with the Interim Service Director at SWL & St Georges NHS Mental Health Trust, and have toured an inpatient mental health ward in the Borough which has improved significantly over the past 6 months.
THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN’S SERVICES IN THE BOROUGH
I have requested more information about The Better Services Better Value Commission’s blueprint for the future of Children’s Health Services in South West London. Under new proposals, Kingston Hospital would retain services to assess and treat children, but pediatric patients needing more than 24 hours of inpatient care would be transferred to St George’s Hospital. LINK. I’ve been assured that these proposals will provide higher standards of care for critical cases, but before I can support the proposals I’ve asked for more information about exactly what provision will remain in Kingston and how many local patients are likely to be transferred from Kingston Hospital.
RFU’s DECISION ON LONDON WELSH
London Welsh has won the RFU Championship and on merit should have been promoted to the Aviva Premiership, however the RFU initially decided that the club could not be promoted because its arrangement to share a stadium with Oxford United FC failed to meet the required standards. London Welsh disputed this, and I lobbied the Rugby Football Union to review its decision. I was delighted when the RFU announced that the club would be promoted. LINK
Following a further period of targeted consultation, the final plans for the Thames Tunnel were published by Thames Water in July. Residents have until the 5th October to comment on these proposals. Please click HERE
if you would like more information about the ecological arguments for the Tunnel.
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 also discussed the issue with Crispin Blunt, the Minister for Justice, who agreed to allow the Councils an opportunity to create a ‘development plan’ which will control the scale of the site’s development. I am working with the Councils to ensure that residents are able to have maximum input into this process – please click HERE to learn more about the how you can become involved.
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 once again decided not to allow a completely unsuitable garden grabbing development to go ahead at Ullswater Close.
I have had a number of meetings to discuss the problem of empty high street shops with government ministers. Although this issue is very difficult to resolve, I am hopeful that the StartUp High Street Campaign, backed by the government, will allow small businesses to utilise empty premises and help revitalise our high streets.Please click HERE to read more about the PopUp Shop which is currently being piloted in Richmond., You can read more about the campaign HERE
NORTH SHEEN FOOTBRIDGE
Whilst the principle of a footbridge at the North Sheen level crossing was agreed at a planning committee in 2011, the final finish of the bridge has been a subject of debate. The latest application, based upon (newly elected Councillor) Stephen Speak’s Tree Top design, has been lodged with the Council and it is hoped that the council will decide whether this is appropriate in early September.
RICHMOND’S BUSINESS AND RETAIL ASSOCIATION
I attended a Richmond Business and Retail Association meeting, which gave me the opportunity to hear the concerns of local businesses and to understand what support they expect from the Government. We need to do everything we can to support small and medium sized businesses, and as an MP, I will continue to relay their concerns to Government Ministers. LINK
SHOPPING UPON THAMES
I attended the launch of Community Upon Thames’ online shop in North Kingston. The new initiative launched as ‘Shopping upon Thames’ will enable Richmond and Kingston’s businesses to showcase their products to the wider marketplace, and will provide Richmond and Kingston’s small businesses with a much-needed boost. I hope it will be taken up with real enthusiasm. LINK
I attended the opening of a new independent artisan retailer, Cook & Garcia, on Richmond High Street. I will do all that I can to help small businesses and independent retailers retake control of Richmond and help the town to shake off its ‘Clone Town Britain’ label. LINK
I joined Sir Trevor McDonald and John Bird MBE, the founder of the Big Issue, to judge the final of Richmond’s Den. The competition, a joint venture by Richmond Council and the Richmond Social Enterprise Partnership, was designed to encourage new social enterprises in the Borough. The wining finalist, Jigsaw Care Services, will receive invaluable one-to-one mentoring advice from the Chamber of Commerce and £10,000 to help launch their idea. The event was a phenomenal success, and congratulations are due to (among many others) Councillor Pamela Fleming. LINK
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.
NORTH RICHMOND COMMUNITY PROJECT
I hosted a public meeting in North Richmond for residents to discuss community initiatives to improve their area. Ideas ranged from introducing volunteer tree wardens, and the creation of flower beds, to the formation of a Neighbourhood Plan for the area. Local Councillors and residents are now considering how best to take the ideas forward. LINK
HER MAJESTY’S JUBILEE VISIT TO RICHMOND PARK
Richmond was honoured to host The Queen and Prince Philip on their first official visit to the Borough for 23 years. The Royal party saw performances and exhibitions by school pupils, community groups, and environmental organisations which represented the wide range of culture, sport and nature that the Borough has to offer to visitors and residents. LINK
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 area.
CHARITY CRICKET MATCH WITH SIR TIM RICE AND SHANE WARNE
I am hugely grateful to cricket legend Shane Warne and celebrated lyricist Sir Tim Rice for agreeing to captain sides in a charity cricket match on Ham Common. Besides everyone thoroughly enjoying themselves, we managed to raise significant funds for two wonderful local charities, The Vineyard, which provides shelter, food and support to Richmond’s homeless, and Momentum, which supports families of children suffering from cancer. We were also able to contribute funds for the local cricket club.
APPEAL FOR 4-YEAR OLD CONNOR WHIPP
Connor Whipp is a 4-year old with Neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. He is fighting for his life, and his family badly need funds. His grandmother, Mary Mogg, has set up a text giving service, so all you need to do to help Connor is text CONN95 £1 (or £10) to 70070. The treatment he needs is available only in the US, and is expensive: LINK
Richmond Parish Lands Charity have announced that the Cambrian Community Centre and Gym will remain open. The welcome news was announced by the charity after many residents raised concerns about its possible closures. Councillors and the RPLC have worked together to develop a formula which will see services continue well into next year. You can read the full press release HERE
I met members of the Muslim community at Kingston mosque to talk about Syria and other issues affecting the Middle East.
I visited the brilliant Poppy factory in Richmond, which continues to provide direct employment for disabled servicemen, and also seeks to secure jobs for many others throughout the UK. LINK
I helped kick off St Mary’s College Sports Day in Twickenham: LINK, where I met Christine Brett, Head teacher at St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School.
I have arranged more than 200 Parliamentary tours and Big Ben Clock tower visits for local residents, local schools and community groups. Where it has been possible, I have enjoyed taking part in Q&A’s with pupils from local schools, such as the, Unicorn, Barnes Primary, and Kingston University.
I helped unveil the Dickerage Play area on Friday 3 August: LINK
I have continued to hold regular Coffee mornings across the Borough to give residents a chance to question me about local and national issues over coffee.
I became a member of the London Wildlife Trust at the Richmond Park Wild London Jubilee event LINK
I visited Weight Medics’ clinic in Richmond and met a number of obesity patients. LINK
I had the pleasure of being asked to ‘throw in the ball’ at a charity polo match in Ham to raise funds for the Charity Support Trust. The event raised in excess of £20,000, which will help Pakistani families who are in dire need following a series of natural disasters. LINK
I welcomed 2-time Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell OBE to Richmond, where he addressed guests at the Association Summer party at Trumpeters’ House.
I joined Ed Davey MP at Fern Hill School on 25 May, to mark the first anniversary of, the Smart Communities project. The project, which I helped launch in May last year, educates and encourages residents and school pupils to develop green habits and reduce their energy consumption. LINK
I joined Pensford Field Environmental Trust at a coffee morning in June, and was shown around their unique nature reserve, Pensford Field, which has just been awarded, The Green Flat Award for 2012-2013: LINK. The Trust, a small independent charity in Kew, teaches school pupils and members of the community about their local environment, and follows a programme of active and sustainable management to promote nature conservation, and to enhance the biodiversity value of Pensford Field for future generations
I spoke to local businesses at a Networking Breakfast meeting organised by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce in East Sheen on 14 June. Sponsors, Greencap Energy, and Robert Hokin of EcoDesk joined me on stage, to talk about the benefits of greening businesses.
I organised and hosted a Q&A for members of Richmond’s Rotary club in the House of Commons in July. After the group’s tour of the Parliamentary Estate, I answered questions from the Turkish students about the workings of UK Parliament, and my job as an MP.
SOME RECENT ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS
The Evening Standard: ‘Heathrow, the Conservative Party and green politics’ LINK
Surrey Comet: ‘Bee Keeping’ LINK
On rumours of a 3rd Runway LINK
Politics Home: ‘Zac Goldsmith: True Recall’ LINK
Interview with The Guardian’s John Vidal LINK
Interview in support of Greenpeace’s Be a Fisherman’s Friend Campaign LINK
New Statesman: ‘Zac on the dysfunction of Parliament, political idols’ LINK
The Guardian ‘My job is to hold the Government to account’ – video LINK
BBC Newsnight LINK
My contribution to, ‘Seeds of Freedom film’ LINK
MEET ME AT A SURGERY OR COFFEE MORNING
In addition to my thrice-weekly surgeries where I try to resolve individual problems, I have held more than 150 public meetings, resident gatherings and coffee mornings throughout the constituency since the election. If you would like to meet me for a surgery or organise a wider gathering, please contact me at, email@example.com
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Public meeting on October 11th to discuss the new Secondary School in Kingston.
Public meeting on November 21st with BAA at Duke Street Church. More details to follow
Screening of Economics of Happiness film followed by a Q+A between me and the film’s director. LINK
Macmillan coffee mornings around the constituency: Friday: 28th September. Find one near you HERE
Richmond Council has followed up on its ‘All in One’ consultation, by developing Village Plans for each area. If you would like to find out more about your village plan, you can do so by viewing the plan for your area online HERE and emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
RPNK Association Annual Dinner at 7pm, on Thursday 22nd November, at Richmond Hill Hotel. Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Olympics and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP is confirmed as guest speaker. Tickets can be bought from the RPNK Association office, at the address below.
Address: 372 Upper Richmond Road West, London, SW14 7JU
Phone: 020 8878 7866