January 2023 Update
I am pleased to bring you my January 2023 Update. As ever, if you would like to sign up to my mailing list, you can do so on this page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope that 2023 has had a positive start for you.
While the new year brings renewed opportunity, I also see it as a time of reflection. It has now been just over three years since I was elected as your Member of Parliament, and if a week is a long time in politics, the eventfulness of the years since has been exceptional. It was my first duty to vote through Brexit legislation, which brought a degree of closure after the political challenges of the previous years, but with Covid and then Russia's invasion of Ukraine, there has been a relentless stream of events requiring a political response from Parliament. Throughout, I have worked to maintain progress on the delivery of the manifesto I was elected on and it has been rewarding to be able to contribute, on behalf of constituents, to improved legislation on issues as varied as planning reform, asylum, financial services and markets regulation, and policing.
Throughout this period, constituency work has continued and is the bedrock of my role as MP. It has been a pleasure to engage with residents at weekly surgeries held in locations across Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, as well as to maintain a regular programme of visits to schools, community organisations, and to accept invitations to all kind of local events.
I am delighted to share with you the work I have carried out both locally and in Westminster over the past month. As ever, if you would like to keep up to date, I encourage you to visit my website here, or my Facebook page here.
It has been a productive start to the new year, with busy weekly surgeries that have been hosted by the brilliant teams at Al Forno Caffe in Ruislip, Maison du Soleil in Ickenham and We Love Coffee in Harefield, as well as telephone surgery for those who were not able to meet with me in person. I have been pleased to support residents in relation to their personal circumstances, as well as to discuss policy areas of interest, such as the Minimum Service Levels Bill and the ULEZ expansion.
If you are a local business who would be interested in hosting one of my surgeries, please do get in contact with my office. Residents who would like to make an appointment to speak with me should also get in contact with my office via the usual channels.
With local author Ig Oliver at We Love Coffee in Harefield; discussing the Minimum Service Levels Bill with resident Nicky at Maison du Soleil in Ickenham
Ultra-Low Emission Zone Expansion
Readers will know that Mayor Khan has decided to proceed with his decision to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Since I last updated you, we have seen developments on this issue, both due to work being done in Parliament and in City Hall, as well as work being undertaken by Hillingdon and Harrow Council.
Earlier this month, I wrote to the Mayor asking for clarification regarding the proposed boundaries of the expanded zone. Discrepancies will mean that roads in the constituency which fall outside ULEZ will not be chargeable, while others will. I am concerned that this will cause confusion for residents on the boundaries of the zone and will create highly pollutant rat runs around Ickenham and Harefield. While I understand from the Mayor’s office that this in line with current Low Emission Zone (LEZ) boundaries for heavy vehicles, I remain concerned that more must be done to alert constituents of the changes.
More recently, I had the privilege of raising constituents' concerns directly with the Prime Minister during a recent session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). I asked the Prime Minister about revelations made by members of the GLA concerning the consultation process undertaken by the Mayor. I am glad that the Prime Minister agrees that the Mayor should reconsider his plan and like many of my constituents, is disappointed with the Mayor’s decision to progress with them. You can watch me question the Prime Minister here.
This has been echoed at a local level with both Hillingdon and Harrow opposed to the move. I recently had the opportunity to discuss this with members of Hillingdon Council. In this productive meeting, it was stressed that there must be a united approach that brings in residents and businesses to oppose the move. While the Council is considering what steps to take next, I continue to encourage all of my constituents to make their objections known.
With Councillor Douglas Mills, following our discussion about ULEZ at the Civic Centre
Supporting Dogs Trust in Harefield
It was a pleasure to visit Dogs Trust in Harefield once again this month and to meet not only the lovely dogs, but also the dedicated staff who take care of them and work incredibly hard to find them new homes.
It was great to hear more about how staff support dogs that have been handed over to the centre, and the work they do locally to support dog owners facing cost-of-living pressures, particularly through the foodbank that has been set up at the Harefield Centre. I would encourage any dog owners who may be struggling to visit the Dogs Trust’s website to learn more about the services they provide.
Being shown the dog foodbank by Jo Lloyd, External Affairs Manager at Dogs Trust Harefield
In terms of national work, it was also useful to receive an update on the Dogs Trust’s campaign to stop the Puppy Smuggling trade, including hearing more about the concerning trend of smugglers illegally importing heavily pregnant dogs in cruel conditions.
I know that Puppy Smuggling is an issue that constituents regularly contact me about, and as a member of the Dogs Trust’s Puppy Smuggling Taskforce in Parliament, I share these concerns. In December of last year, I signed an open letter to the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare, alongside 64 of my Parliamentary colleagues, calling for the Kept Animals Bill to return to Parliament as soon as time allows. I will continue this work and my support of Dogs Trust in their campaign to end this abhorrent trade.
To end my visit, it was an absolute delight to meet Atticus and Atlas, two German Shepherd puppies who have recently been handed over to the centre. It was great to hear about the care in place for them and all the dogs cared for at Harefield, and I applaud all staff and volunteers for their dedication. I encourage anyone looking to welcome a dog into their lives to consider adoption or fostering a rescue dog.
Meeting Atticus and Atlas, who have recently been handed over to the Harefield Rehoming Centre
Boost for the New Hillingdon Hospital
Residents will recall that in my Christmas newsletter I wrote about plans for the new Hillingdon Hospital, following a meeting with members of the Hillingdon Hospital Redevelopment Programme.
By way of an update, I am pleased to share that proposals for the new hospital were given a boost at Hillingdon Council's Major Planning Committee on 18 January when they resolved to grant approval for the plans. The planning application will now be referred to the Mayor of London for final sign-off, which is standard practice for a project of this size.
Further information can be found on the Hillingdon Hospital Trust's new website here.
Discussing plans with the Hillingdon Hospital Redevelopment Programme team last year
Mental Health Funding Increase for Local Services
Ensuring that mental health support services are properly funded is a really important issue that has been raised with me by residents. I therefore welcome that the Government is taking steps to improve access to NHS mental health urgent and emergency care services by committing to a £150 million investment in mental health support.
I am delighted by the news that investment has been allocated to local projects, which means that residents will see a direct benefit. I am pleased to share that Northwick Park will receive £170,000 to upgrade the mental health crisis hub, £625,000 will be used to improve mental health facilities in the emergency department at Hillingdon Hospital, and the Riverside Centre in Uxbridge will receive £661,000 to increase health-based place of safety capacity.
This funding will help ease pressures on the NHS emergency care, particularly during challenging winters ahead, which is very welcome news for residents.
Pinner Business Meeting
Last week, I joined local ward councillors Norman Stevenson, Paul Osborne and Kuha Kumaran to meet with Pinner business owners, kindly hosted by the Queen’s Head.
The meeting was a useful opportunity to discuss concerns relating to both local and national policies, and I was grateful to be able to address some of these from a government perspective. For example, converting office blocks as a way of meeting housing targets runs the risk of driving away regular key contributors to the local economy. I have long been an advocate for greater powers to be awarded to local authorities on planning decisions; they know these areas best and have direct insight into what is needed. I am pleased that movement was made by the Government during the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which now sits with the Lords.
Something else that is regularly raised by businesses, both with myself and council colleagues, is business rates. By way of an update, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has recently updated the rateable values for the 2023 tax year and from April, business rate bills in England will be updated to reflect changes in property values since the last re-evaluation in 2017. A package of targeted support worth £13.6 billion over the next 5 years will support businesses as they transition to their new bills, protect businesses from the full impact of inflation, and support our high streets. Furthermore, support for eligible retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses is being extended and increased from 50 per cent to 75 per cent business rates relief up to £110,000 per business in 2023-24.
Speaking with business owners at the Queen's Head in Pinner
Concerning broadband, another ongoing issue frequently raised with my office, I asked businesses to reflect on their experiences with individual companies and to get in touch with their feedback. I know that while improvements have been made, challenges remain. As such, the issue continues to be on my radar, following conversations with a number of business owners, and open dialogue with the Chief of Executive of Openreach.
Lastly, lots of interesting ideas for improvements to both Bridge Street and the High Street were raised and were taken onboard by council colleagues. I know that, at a local level, a lot of work has already gone in to support businesses, including the fantastic ‘Visit Pinner’ initiative led by Cllr Norman Stevenson, and that efforts will continue where possible. I will, of course, be pleased to offer my support where I can.
I am grateful to Sean and the team at the Queen’s Head for hosting and to all the business owners for their time.
With Pinner Councillors Norman Stevenson, Paul Osborne and Kuha Kumaran, and Sean from the Queen's Head
Safer Parking Campaign at Pinner Wood School
I was pleased to join local ward Councillor Noman Stevenson at Pinner Wood School, along with parents, to hear from pupils about their campaign for safe driving and parking around the school.
The students had put together a fantastic presentation, which clearly illustrated the challenges faced during peak drop-off and pick-up times. Examples of these included parking on the roundabout, double yellow lines and pavements, as well as stopping in the middle of the road and vehicle idling. Not only is much of this illegal, but it is also poses a danger to pedestrians, whether pupils, parents, staff or residents.
Clearly a lot of effort has gone into this campaign and the voices of pupils have been heard. I know that Cllr Stevenson will be raising this with colleagues at Harrow Council, and I will give my support to any changes that can be made to make the journey to school safer for everyone.
With Cllr Norman Stevenson and pupils at Pinner Wood School following their brilliant presentation on safer parking
Raising Small Businesses' Concerns in BEIS Questions
Before Christmas, I hosted a surgery with local hospitality businesses in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. I am grateful to the owners of these important local businesses for taking the time to talk to me about the challenges they face and what I can do to support them.
A range of issues were raised from the lingering impacts of the pandemic, the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and the concerns businesses have over the rising cost of living. During the meeting it was relayed to me that a number of local hospitality businesses have not been receiving the support offered by the Government.
Following this discussion, I took the opportunity to raise this issue in the House of Commons with Ministers at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who are responsible for this matter. I cited the specific case of the Hop and Vine in Ruislip who have not received a discount on their energy bills.
In the Minister’s response, he assured me that the £18 billion energy relief scheme should be applied in a universal manner to all those eligible. He went on to stress the robust enforcement regime already in place to ensure compliance with the legislation passed in Parliament. My question to the Minister can be viewed here.
Raising the concerns of small businesses in my constituency in BEIS Questions this month
Meetings in Westminster
It has been a busy start to the year for meetings with Ministerial colleagues to discuss issues of importance for my constituents.
One of the main concerns I have heard from local parents is the availability and cost of childcare. We are fortunate to have many fantastic nurseries and childminders in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, but it should be a priority for the Government to build on existing tax-free childcare and free hours to enable every local child access these facilities.
Following the visit of the Children’s Minister, Claire Coutinho to Harefield Infant School in December, I was pleased to meet with her at Downing Street to continue this discussion and to highlight the importance of improving this policy and addressing these challenges, and how the Government can support this.
With Cllr Jane Palmer, Children's Minister Claire Coutinho and Head of School Mr Downs at Harefield Infant School in December
Ahead of the Spring Budget in March, I joined London MPs in a meeting with the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt for the opportunity to raise the key concerns of constituents. Many important issues were raised by colleagues, and my particular focus was on the impact of the ULEZ expansion on the London economy and car-dependent older and disabled residents, which the Chancellor fully understood.
I will continue to engage with Ministerial colleagues on these issues ahead of the Spring Budget in March.
With London colleagues at a meeting with the Chancellor to discuss priorities for the Spring Budget
I also attended a meeting in Downing Street with a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister this month. We spoke about the Government's upcoming proposals on stopping Channel crossings and people smugglers. I emphasised that we need a system that works for the residents of Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, which must include safe and legal routes for genuine refugees combined with a tough response against those who seek abuse and undermine our asylum system. I await any further announcements on this policy.
Minimum Service Levels Bill
I am deeply sympathetic to constituents who have faced major disruption over recent weeks and months due to industrial action being undertaken at present. I have heard about the worries that many have about their ability to access health services and to go about their lives. Fundamentally, I support the ability of workers to take such action, however, it is right that we follow the example set by international counterparts and legislate for minimum service levels in crucial sectors. The Minimum Service Levels Bill is designed for vital public services including health, education, fire and rescue, transport, nuclear decommissioning, and border security to maintain critical and in many cases life-saving services.
Economic Crime Bill
Since I was elected, I have met with residents at surgeries who have been affected by online fraud and financial scams. In the past, I have spoken at length of the need to ensure that legislation reflects changes that we see outside of Westminster. To that end, I am glad the Government has introduced the Economic Crime Bill, which I am pleased to support as it will enable our authorities to deal more effectively with these types of crimes.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2023
This month in Parliament, I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust, as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.
In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events are arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Locally, a Holocaust Memorial Day Event is held each year at the Harrow Arts Centre, along with events at our local synagogues, temples, churches, schools and libraries.
The theme for this year's commemoration is ‘Ordinary People’. I feel deeply moved by the reminder that victims of the Holocaust, and subsequent genocides, were and are ordinary people, like us, simply living their lives – mothers, fathers, neighbours, friends – before having it so barbarically and needlessly taken away. It is an important opportunity to hear from the survivors, those ordinary people, who can share their story and give a voice to those who are not able to tell their own.
Holocaust Memorial Day is also a time to reflect on the darkest times of European history, to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, and to pay tribute to the incredible survivors who, by sharing their testimony, ensure that future generations never forget the horrors of the past. We also remember that antisemitism did not start or end with the Holocaust, we must all be vigilant, and speak out whenever it is found.
It is important to use Holocaust Memorial Day to pay tribute to the victims and the survivors of genocide across the world, reflect on the persecution that continues to this day, and come together so that we can work towards a better future.
Signing the Holocaust Educational Trust's Book of Commitment in Parliament to pledge my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day
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