March 2023 Update
I am pleased to bring you my March 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 email@example.com.
This month, the Chancellor announced his Spring Budget, or ‘Budget for growth’, in which he outlined a package of measures aimed at delivering sustainable economic growth, halving inflation, and reducing debt. These have also been supported by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) who, according to their forecasts, have said that part of the predicted fall in inflation is because of the additional measures taken by the Chancellor.
Along with colleagues, I met with the Chancellor ahead of the announcement to discuss the key priorities. I was pleased to hear that one of the central components of this Budget is the increase in childcare support, something which I have long been an advocate for. I welcome the extension of free childcare to working parents of children aged 9 months to 4 years, as well as paying the childcare costs of parents on Universal Credit moving into work.
Elsewhere in Westminster, there have been a number of debates on key legislation over the past month, and it has been business as usual in the constituency. I am pleased to share some of the highlights of what I have been up to in this March update.
With colleagues at 11 Downing Street to meet with the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Budget
In the Constituency
Over the past month, I have continued my regular surgeries which have kindly been hosted by businesses across the constituency. I am grateful to Morrison’s Café in Hatch End and We Love Coffee in Harefield, as well as to first time hosts Café Amici in Pinner and Café Hills in Northwood Hills.
I am glad to have been able to provide my support to constituents on a range of different issues and circumstances. One of the appointments this month was with residents Robyn and Laura, creators of Thinking-Together about Parenting Teens, which promotes good mental wellbeing for children and young people. Their work aims to lay the foundations for a healthy relationship between parents and their children as they transition into teenagers.
If you would like to make an appointment to meet with me at a future surgery, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0203 545 2462.
Discussing ‘Thinking-Together about Parenting Teens' with residents Robyn and Laura at my Hatch End surgery
Question Time at Haydon School
One of the things I enjoy most about my role as MP is visiting schools across the constituency to meet with pupils of all ages and backgrounds. It is encouraging to hear how engaged young people are in the political world, and I am always met with a broad range of interesting questions about the issues of today, the challenges of politics, as well as the wider issues surrounding government and democracy.
This month, I was pleased to meet with students at Haydon School in Northwood Hills to take part in a ‘Question Time’ inspired Q&A. A whole variety of topics were covered, including electoral reform, immigration policy and local issues, such as Council Tax.
I’m grateful to Mr Jones, Mr Gosling and Mr Farrow for facilitating this visit, and of course to the students for taking the time to meet with me.
Answering a variety of questions at Haydon School earlier this month
Hatch End Tesco Express
Earlier this month, I was pleased to meet with the team from Tesco Express in Hatch End to discuss a number of issues impacting stores.
I was interested to hear their perspective on the National Planning Policy Framework and in particular the ‘town centre first’ principle, which places town centres at the heart of decisions made by national and local government, businesses and communities. This is a topic that has been on my radar for a while, both as Chair of the APPG for Housing and Planning and from following the Levelling Up Bill on its passage through the Commons and now the Lords.
We also discussed the fruit and vegetable shortages, which were largely caused by the impact of extreme weather in countries where this produce is sourced. Not only did these issues affect the UK, but they were also reflected in the Republic of Ireland and Central Europe. I am pleased that Tesco were able to introduce measures to minimise disruption, and am also assured that, at a national level, the Government will continue to monitor this industry-wide issue in case of any future challenges.
Lastly, it was good to get feedback on the Windsor Framework, as was agreed by the Prime Minister and the European Union last month. At the time of our meeting, implications were being assessed by Tesco but overall it was pleasing to hear that the legislation will be largely beneficial for trading arrangements. Readers will be aware the legislation has recently been voted through Parliament, and I am pleased that this positive step forward has been taken.
With the Team at the Tesco Express store in Hatch End
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
It was a pleasure to meet with Lesley Davies and Tim Hall from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust at Broadwater Lake recently.
Broadwater Lake is the biggest of the four lakes within the Mid Colne Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the largest expanses of water in the area. I was interested to learn how the lake supports an impressive number of waterbirds, including the great crested grebe which we were fortunate enough to spot on the visit. Further support is provided by the many volunteers who work hard to ensure that the environment is well-maintained for wildlife and bird conservation. It is, however, frustrating to see that HS2 works have impacted the nature reserve and means that some parts cannot be preserved as they once were.
On this topic, we also discussed Hillingdon’s plans for the long-awaited new HOAC site (Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre). It is important that the development is sympathetic to the natural environment, and that any further disruption is minimised. With this in mind, I have facilitated a meeting between the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and Hillingdon Council to discuss, and will work to ensure that this impact is fully considered in the proposals.
With Tim Hall and Lesley Davies at Broadwater Lake
There has been ongoing concern about the sustainability of sport and leisure centres, especially in the face of rising energy costs, and so it was useful to be able to meet with the team at Highgrove Pool and Fitness Centre in Eastcote to hear their perspective, as well as to receive a tour of the refurbished facilities.
While the past few months have unquestionably been difficult for households and businesses, I am pleased to hear that Highgrove has remained busy. It is encouraging to see that the centre is also aiming to promote more of a community feel, with a newly installed seating area and plans for a café.
As part of a Hillingdon Council-led programme to reduce leisure centre costs, much investment has gone into upgrading facilities and improving energy efficiency, including a new filtration system which maintains the pool at a steady temperature.
I would like to thank Keely Shelton, Partnership Manager, and Rasila Manji, General Manager, for their time, and look forward to visiting again in the future.
Speaking with Keely Shelton and Rasila Manji at the Highgrove Leisure Centre in Eastcote
Last month, I wrote about my engagement with the residents of Breakspear Road South who have faced flooding and power outages as a result of work being carried out at Copthall Farm. Following the meeting, I wrote to HS2 asking them to investigate the matter and to seek reassurances that steps would be taken to prevent the situation from repeating.
Residents were disappointed with the response that was received from HS2, and I have agreed to support them further. HS2 regularly engage with local residents, but I am keen to convene a meeting specifically with the residents of Breakspear Road South, Hillingdon Council and the Environment Agency to prevent further flooding locally.
If constituents have been affected in a similar manner by the work being undertaken locally, I would encourage them to contact my office to see what can be done to support them.
I continue to hear from many of my constituents about the impact that the Mayor’s proposals to expand the ULEZ will have on them. I remain deeply concerned about this decision and the lack of consideration that has been given to the views of residents and local businesses, which I know is shared by many.
The campaign to stop the Mayor’s plans continues through discussions with Ministers, constituents and members of both Hillingdon and Harrow Councils. In Parliament, I am grateful to the many MPs who have continued to apply pressure so that we do not lose focus of this issue, including my constituency neighbour Bob Blackman.
For updates in between newsletters, please visit the ULEZ campaign section of my website.
Since last month’s newsletter, Parliament has dealt with a variety of topics ranging from the Prime Minister’s deal with the European Union to the new Illegal Migration Bill. As always, Members of Parliament have been providing effective and detailed scrutiny on all issues, while continuing with routine activities, such as oral parliamentary questions.
I had the privilege of contributing in a number of debates on important legislation, and I am glad that this newsletter gives me the opportunity to keep you up-to-date with events in Westminster.
Illegal Migration Bill
Constituents will know that I am particularly interested in matters of migration and in the rights of asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution. I have called for legislation in this field to go further in reforming our immigration system to ensure its fairness, and have long been an advocate for providing asylum seekers with safe and legal routes by which they can enter the UK. At present, many asylum seekers are facing a dangerous journey across the English Channel by small boat, often paying a great sum of money to human traffickers to do so.
The Prime Minister set out his pledge to stop these small boats and recently unveiled the Illegal Migration Bill in order to achieve this. Many constituents have contacted me to share their views on this issue, and continues to be a great source of contention on all sides of the debate.
As I said in Parliament, there is much to welcome in this Bill, and I broadly support the Government’s pledges to protect lives in the Channel and to break the business model of human traffickers operating in Northern France.
The Bill has only recently begun its scrutiny in Westminster, and so I have been eager to address what I consider to be the most pressing issues. As I set out in the Bill’s second reading, I am concerned about provisions relating to unaccompanied migrant children that are outlined in Clauses 15 to 18 of the Bill.
I expect that as it progresses, we will see the legislation refined and Clauses within the Bill scrutinised further. I anticipate that there will be scope to work with Ministers and colleagues to ensure that this legislation is watertight.
My contribution to the Bill’s second reading can be watched here.
Public Order Bill
The Public Order Bill is an important update to existing legislation that protects the rights of constituents. However, it has generated many headlines recently and is often misunderstood.
Readers will know that I have been largely in favour of the Government’s Public Order Bill and support the principles behind it. Throughout the process of scrutiny, this Bill has gone through a refining process that has left us with a more focused and effective piece of legislation that I was happy to support in the Commons.
At its heart, the Bill is designed to protect the rights of people to go about their lives free from disruption and safe from the impact of crime. Representing an outer London constituency, one of the many reasons to support this Bill is the provisions within it to curb disruptive protests seen on our roads.
As I have set out in previous debates, there is an underlying need to strike a balance between protecting the rights to exercise free speech and protest, while preventing disproportionate disruption to peoples’ lives. I recognise that the vast majority of those protesting are doing so in a considerate manner, and I have always been sympathetic to many of their causes, such as those disrupting HS2. However, there has been a recent rise in the number of disruptive protests seeking to block roads and other parts of our national infrastructure. In turn, these protests have disrupted the lives of many of my constituents, particularly those who rely on their vehicles to get to work, attend medical appointments and support dependents.
I welcome amendments tabled by the Government that ensure the law is enforceable and provides greater clarity to the courts who will be tasked with implementing it.
My contribution to this debate can be viewed here.
Members of Parliament regularly consider the matter of public spending by individual Government Departments. In part, this is to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent efficiently and that Government Departments can provide the services they need to. These debates take the form of Estimates days where individual Departments have their budgets scrutinised.
Earlier this month, colleagues had the opportunity to scrutinise spending in the Department for Education at the Estimates Day Debate. I was interested to speak in this debate in particular, as it focused on funding for childcare and early years spending. My constituents will be aware that this is an issue that I have taken a keen interest in both throughout my time in Westminster and in my role at Hillingdon Council prior to my election to Parliament. Having seen first-hand how Departmental money is being spent, it is important to contribute to such debates.
As I have done in the past, I spoke at length on the effectiveness of funding being provided for the provision of early years settings. This is an issue that is close to the heart of many of my constituents. All MPs wish to see these families supported and as such this debate was well intended with excellent contributions made by many.
To watch my contribution, please follow this link to my website.
International Child Abductions
Towards the end of the month, I had the privilege of leading a debate in Westminster Hall on the issue of international child abductions. I was moved to table this debate following my ongoing engagement with a constituent who has had his children kidnapped and moved to Poland, in contempt of a court order that granted him custody.
It is always important that the will of the court is adhered to and that orders handed down are respected by both parties. Despite repeated judgements in his favour both here in the UK and in Poland, my constituent has still yet to see his children returned to him. This comes despite the obligations under international law to see the children reunited with their father.
I know that my constituent is not alone and many families in the UK face a similar challenge. It was therefore encouraging to see a strong turnout in the debate, with MPs from across the country attending to raise their own concerns.
A link to this debate can be found on my website here.
Social Housing Regulation
A number of my constituents have been in contact with my office during the last few years regarding their social housing. They have expressed concerns with me over the state of their housing and the issues that they have faced when engaging with their landlords.
The Social Housing (Regulation) Bill has been receiving scrutiny in Parliament over recent months, and I was privileged to contribute to this process in a recent parliamentary debate following the Bill’s scrutiny in the House of Lords. Once this piece of legislation passes onto the statute book, social housing providers will have to ensure that all their staff are equipped to deliver high-quality services. At its heart, this Bill strengthens the powers of the regulator and in turn protects the rights of tenants; ensuring that social housing is maintained at a high level.
I know from my time in local government, and in my time as a vice-president of the Local Government Association, the importance of this legislation. As it stands, it has my support as it provides clarity for those responsible for enforcing standards, providing clarity and ensuring a greater degree of accountability in the sector.
While I support this Bill, I wanted to focus my speech on issues that remain to be addressed and areas in which I think the Government could provide greater clarity. In particular, I wished to focus on the powers of the regulator as this largely forms the basis of this legislation. I also chose to raise the issue facing constituents of mine, living in social housing, who are facing challenges with their landlords.
This Bill is a much welcome and important step forward for tenants living in social housing. I commend Ministers involved who have always been willing to listen to social housing tenants and the concerns of parliamentarians and amend the legislation as necessary. I expect further amendments to come through as the Bill is scrutinised further, and I look forward to it completing this process in the coming months.
A link to my contribution in this debate can be found here.
Oral Parliamentary Questions and Statements
As ever, Parliamentary questions and statements are a great opportunity to raise constituent cases, probe Government Ministers on issues of policy, and scrutinise legislation. Over the past month, I had the opportunity to ask a number of important questions during regular sessions in Westminster. These questions ranged from support for veterans to plans for Hillingdon Hospital.
Towards the beginning of the month, I was successful in the draw for health questions. I asked about the plans to get Hillingdon Hospital built as part of our new hospital programme, questioning the Minister about when we would see shovels in the ground at the site. While he was unable to provide a firm date as the Mayor of London is still to approve the plans, he was keen to share news that an announcement was imminent. This can be viewed here.
During Defence Questions, I asked about support for veterans who are seeking to enter further education while living abroad. This was on behalf of a constituent who, despite being a UK taxpayer and local homeowner, is facing the financial barrier that many veterans face. The Minister was sympathetic to this case and has agreed that further dialogue is necessary on the matter. This can be viewed here.
I have talked before about the impact of the Mayor’s ULEZ expansion on residents and businesses across the constituency. I raised this with Ministers during Oral Questions to the Treasury this month. It is particular concerning that the Mayor has seemingly neglected to conduct a thorough and robust assessment of the economic impact of the ULEZ expansion. I am keen to see the Government conduct its own assessment on the impact on businesses so that people and business owners can understand its impact. This can be viewed here.
Health and Disability White Paper
Finally, I had the chance to raise the extraordinary work of Community Connex that is based in Harrow. In order for the Government to be successful in improving the lives of disabled people, such charities are vital to the white paper’s success. I was glad to hear this praise repeated by the Minister, who assured me that he is aware of the importance of their work and concurred that working with these charities must be a key part of our future work. This can be viewed here.
World Book Day in Parliament
This month in Westminster, I was delighted to attend World Book Day's Parliamentary drop-in.
Every year, World Book Day creates £1 books for children and young adults to promote the power of imagination and the importance of reading. Through the initiative, every child in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner is given a £1 book token, which they can take to a bookshop or supermarket to get their free World Book Day book.
I have spoken with the World Book Day team recently and know that they are happy to provide additional stock to the constituency. If you are a school or community group who may be interested in receiving some World Book Day books, please contact my office.
I know how important reading is for a child's development, particularly as a father to two young children, and is therefore a cause I am always happy to support.
As we head into the Easter recess, I hope that residents have the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, optimistically under sunnier skies.
My office will continue to operate over the break, so please do get in contact should you require support in this time.
I wish you all a Happy Easter.