While it was the final month of 2018 in Parliament, it was extremely busy, not least as Parliament began, and then had curtailed, the crucial debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement. As the clock ticks down on Brexit and people and businesses need to know what will be happening, I've urged the Government and Prime Minister to get on with the debate and votes. We won't have any route forward until that happens. You can read more about what's going on below.
However, there's also lots going on aside from Brexit, and I've been raising concerns about South Western Railways service over the past month which has been very unreliable for everyone depending on it. It's been great to see so many residents and community groups at their annual end of year and Christmas events and also helpful to catch up on other issues that matter to our community as well. December is always my busiest month on correspondence and I've responded to over 1400 letters and emails to constituents this month.
Parliament returns in early January and I will be sure to keep you updated as we go forward. In the meantime, I hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and I wish you a very Happy New Year in 2019.
I'm currently doing a residents' survey to make sure I am continuing to focus on our priorities as a community. It's very straightforward to complete, so it'd be great if you could take a minute and fill out the survey on my website so I can make sure I keep working hard on the issues that matter to us.
Working in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields
In December, I had a busy month getting out and about, and working on the local and national issues raised with me by residents. I:
- Wrote over 1400 letters or emails to constituents about their concerns.
- Had over 50 meetings in my role as MP.
- Joined local Putney Councillors and Wandsworth Economic Development Cabinet Member, Cllr Rory O'Broin, to visit local shops and hear from small business owners on Small Business Saturday.
- Celebrated the season at the St Barnabas Christmas Fair.
- Met with Wimbledon and Putney Common Conservators to discuss plans for the commons in 2019 and how we can get more people (and children) from across the community able to enjoy this amazing open space on our doorstep.
- Met with Paul Chadwick, the Director of Environment and Community Services at Wandsworth Council, about the Roehampton Playing Fields and how they will take a fresh look at the best way to get the investment we all want to see.
- Held a meeting to hear from local residents and discuss the Prime Minister's proposed Brexit deal.
- Visited Regenerate RISE and the Platt Centre in Putney to discuss their plans for a new reablement centre they are planning for older people on discharge from hospital.
- Saw first hand the hard work that goes into delivering our post during the Christmas season with a visit to our local Royal Mail delivery depot.
- Met with local volunteers to support the fantastic Breast Cancer Now fundraiser in East Putney which has so far raised over £30k.
- Joined Friends of Wandsworth Park at their annual Christmas meeting and party after a busy year with residents doing lots of great events in the Park, planting trees and working with the council to protect the park's environment.
Working in Westminster
As your local Member of Parliament, this month in Westminster I have:
- Spoke in debates and asked Parliamentary questions on:
- Legal advice on the EU Withdrawal Agreement
- The European Union Withdrawal Act
- Date for a meaningful vote on the European Union Withdrawal Act
- Police Funding Settlement
- European Council
- ONS Decision on Student Loans
- Future immigration policy after Brexit
- You can see all my contributions here.
- Met with the Police Minister, Nick Hurd on local police funding
- Met with campaigners to discuss next steps forward for my Creditworthiness Assessment Bill that I am taking through Parliament with Lord John Bird. We have set up a round table meeting in January for charities to enable the Bill to be a drive for a broader strategy for more groups on affordable credit and problem debt. We'll then feed that into a follow up meeting with Treasury Minister John Glenn to discuss taking this forward further and getting government support for our Bill.
- Handed in a petition of over a million signatures to 10 Downing Street asking for a People's Vote on the proposed route forward on Brexit.
- On social mobility, met with IPSA Chief Executive to discuss a possible expansion of support for more young people on the Speaker's Placement Scheme, which gives paid internship opportunities to young people who don't have the traditional background or connections to get them opportunities in Parliament.
- Hosted the Cats Protection Christmas Reception in Parliament, also raising awareness on their campaign "Purrfect Landlords" which is about removing standard "no pets" terms in rent agreements and having landlords allow pets where it's reasonable for the property being rented out.
- Met with Generation Rent to discuss how they are supporting my Creditworthiness Assessment Bill and to hear about the projects they are working on to improve renting and rights for renters.
- Met with the British Youth Council, of which I've been made an honourary president, to run through the work they have underway and how we can work together more on their campaigns.
- On social mobility, I attended the Patchwork MP of the Year Awards where my Patchwork intern I have on my team gave a fantastic speech in support of the work of the Patchwork Foundation, an organisation which encourages young people from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds to get involved in politics.
- Met with a group of students from Southfields Academy following their tour of Parliament to talk with them about how our democracy and Parliament works.
- Following up on my blindfolded walk with Guide Dogs UK around the centre of Putney last month, I attended the guide dogs reception in Parliament which was a good chance to hear more about the sorts of day to day issues visually impaired people face on access with dogs.
- Hosted the Association of Colleges London reception at the House of Commons which was attended by our local South Thames College and was chance to celebrate the work that colleges in London for for around 350,000 students across our city.
- Joined fellow female politicians, candidates and supporters at the Vote 100 Women's Organisation's Christmas reception. It's been an amazing year of events to mark 100 years since women first got the vote and we had lots to celebrate.
An update on Brexit
As you know, this month has been key for ongoing Brexit negotiations and debates in Parliament.
Like many people, I am deeply frustrated that the debate on Brexit seems to be the only issue that gets any "airtime" - there are many other challenges our country faces, whether day to day local issues such as South Western Trains, or longer term national issues like social mobility or social care, and we must find the political space for them. However, as the last two and a half years has shown, Brexit seems to take all the time there is.
We started five days of debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement that were meant to lead up to a meaningful vote on the deal on Tuesday 11th December. However, a day before the vote was due to take place, the Government announced it would no longer take place, and the Prime Minister acknowledged it would have led to the Deal being voted against in Parliament.
Lots of people have emailed me about their concerns on the deal and I share those concerns. I believe what's currently being proposed isn't in the best interests of the country. If Parliament just nodded it through, its huge flaws for the UK would simply become apparent later and people would then question why we allowed it to pass, plus we'd have all the problems to still sort out. I've been through the 585 page Withdrawal Agreement very carefully and also the accompanying 26 page Political Declaration because it's so crucial to understand the actual terms being proposed for MPs to vote on.
A major problem is that the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed by Government ties Britain into complying with EU rules over which we will have no say, and for many years (whilst a free trade agreement is reached, which we have not begun negotiation on in detail yet). Consequently, as a deal, it does not ‘take back control’’, it actually gives away huge amounts of control and sovereignty over the rules that we have to follow back to the EU, which is not only wrong but will also prove to be unworkable. I see no prospect for any Parliament in the future simply accepting new EU rules if they are against the UK’s interests, and when we have had no role in shaping them. At that point we'd just be back to square one again with no agreed deal.
In terms of what the Withdrawal Agreement signs up to, on state aid rules (as an example) which may change in the future in a way that is not in our interest, we can be judged as in breach by the EU, and fined with as little as 30 days notice by the EU if we are "anti-competitive". They judge if we then have complied. Any EU business rules that change may very much affect UK business but we will have to follow them even though the UK will have had no input into their design. In addition, the deal also signs us up to agreeing that the EU will represent us at many international meetings to the exclusion of the UK attending separately - should it be at any such meeting, on an exceptional basis agreed by the EU, the UK has agreed to not take a position that is contradictory to the EU line, even though we will have had no voice around the table that decided it.
The deal is also not good for the political stability of the UK. It has proposals that mean that Northern Ireland will likely end up increasingly aligned to EU regulations rather than the rest of the UK, which will have a corrosive effect on our United Kingdom both in Northern Ireland and in Scotland. I am also very concerned it will also in practice undermine the Good Friday agreement which has helped bring peace and security for people in Northern Ireland and our country more broadly.
In addition, the so-called Political Agreement that is intended to set out the longer term relationship between the UK and the EU gives very little meaningful level of detail as to our future relationship, has no timescales, no guarantees and is not binding on either party. In other words, we will be legally leaving the EU but with no agreed or detailed relationship set out. Again this seems to be wholly inadvisable and unacceptable as an approach for the UK.
I think it's been clear for months that Parliament is in gridlock. That's why I’m campaigning very strongly with MPs from across Parliament for a second referendum to let the public have the final say, especially given that no-one seems happy with the deal as proposed. I trust my constituents to be able to make an informed decision choosing between the practical routes forward on Brexit compared to the existing deal with have with the EU, and this is a momentous step for Britain.
South Western Railway Update
As a local train commuter myself, I know how frustrated residents are about ongoing delays and disruptions, particularly on South Western Railways, including planned strike action over the Christmas and New Year period. It's been a massively unreliable service and badly handled aswell when the disruption has occurred.
I have already written to the Transport Secretary and to South Western Railway to press them to ensure that services are improved and also disruption from strikes is kept to a minimum. The strikes seem deliberately timed to have the maximum negative impact on passengers which is unacceptable.
I'm still waiting on an update from the Transport Secretary, but South Western Railways have responded to the concerns I've raised and you can see it here: South Western Railway Strike Response.
Aviation Strategy Green Paper and Consultation
The Department for Transport has launched it's Aviation 2050 Green Paper to consult on future proposals for aviation including proposals to better manage the environmental impacts of aviation growth, including carbon, air quality and noise.
The Green Paper proposes to put in place a stronger and clearer framework which addresses the limitations in current noise policy and ensures industry is properly incentivised to reduce noise, or to put mitigation measures in place if reductions aren’t possible. As our community is already very effected due to the noise of the Heathrow flightpath and the resulting pollution this causes, do have a read of these future proposals and have your say on the consultation until the 11th of April. I'll certainly be putting in a submission on behalf of our community. I am also continuing to campaign with other local MPs against the third runway proposal, and the legal case that Wandsworth Council is bringing with other Councils is proceeding through the courts.
In the meantime, you can read the Green Paper proposals and respond here.
Many constituents will have seen the huge disruption to Gatwick airport from the drones flown overhead and seen the obvious issues for Heathrow too, not only in relation to travel but also safety issues for planes arriving and landing. This is a concern I've raised in with the DfT in the past year already - it seems a clear risk that has not been properly dealt with, as the Gatwick experience shows. I am following this up with the DfT and it is clear that action needs to be taken not only to stop disruption but more importantly to ensure passenger and community safety.
I hope that this update gives you a brief snapshot of some of the things I am working on as our local Member of Parliament - it was certainly a very hectic year in 2018 and I'm sure 2019 will continue to be the same. However, as ever, if you would like to contact me or raise an issue, then please get in touch and I will do the best I can to help. You can email me on email@example.com , write to me at 3 Summerstown, SW17 0BQ or call my office on 0208 946 4557. You can also follow me on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook to see all my latest updates.