Well December was certainly dramatic! With the Government being held in contempt of Parliament, Theresa May bottling the vote on the Withdrawal deal while just about avoiding a leadership battle, and a day of really important news being (conveniently?) overshadowed by an overblown row as to what Jeremy Corbyn may or may not have muttered under his breath.
I’m not alone in feeling our country is crawling towards a crisis of the Prime Minister’s making. She has known that the deal she has negotiated with the EU will get defeated in Parliament, but has pushed the inevitable vote a whole month nearer the crunch date of 29 March leaving less and less time for our economy and our infrastructure to plan for whatever kind of Brexit we end up with; unless Article 50 can be shelved or extended and we can enable people to vote again, given what is now known about the implications of Brexit.
I challenged the Home Secretary twice on how the Immigration service will cope after Brexit when it cannot even run an effective, efficient and fair immigration service at the moment. I took part in a debate on South West Railway raising my concern that removing the guarantee of a second person on trains means wheelchair users cannot be confident of getting on, or off, their chosen train service. I asked the Health Secretary to commit to implementing the recommendations of the independent Mental Health Act review to reform mental health tribunals and commits adequate funding to this.
I made my speech on the Withdrawal deal before we knew we weren’t going to be voting on it before Christmas. I focused on the lack of information available on the details of Withdrawal, the loss of hope for UK young people and the many EU workers in the UK. On the economic impact I focused on the Broadcasting sector that employs many thousands of people, based in West London but which is having to shift investment and people to Europe due the need for EU broadcasters to be based in an EU country. I concluded by saying that with no majority in this House for the Prime Minister’s deal, or for no deal, the only option is to put the vote back to the people with all the implications of each option clearly set out.
I met students at West Thames College – they are full of praise at the opportunities the courses are giving them for their futures. But also concerned at the cuts the college is facing, something the whole further education sector is facing.
In Chiswick I attended a community meeting organised following a series of knife and other violent attacks locally. Residents expressed concern about the closure of the police station, longer response times and reductions to the neighbourhood teams. The police explained how they were responding and how the new 3-borough structure meant they could get to incidents more quickly. However, the overall issue is the £1bn cuts to the £3.27bn annual budget the Met Police has had to absorb since 2010 –something I pointed out, to much heckling from Tory Councillors and party members present!
I thanked the Royal Mail staff at Chiswick Sorting and Delivery office for the work they do delivering our mail day in, day out and looking out for the community. This could be their last Christmas at Chiswick, unless our campaign with their union, CWU, to save it is successful. At some point in 2019, the Royal Mail plan to move the W4 team out of Chiswick and into the Acton office along with the W3 team. This will mean 15 more vans on the road each morning, delays due to the level crossing on Bollo Lane, further for residents go to collect their parcels on a route with no buses, and worse working conditions for staff.
My highlights and lowlights of 2018
In Hounslow, Labour had an excellent result in the Council elections, holding all our seats, gaining two more in Osterley & Spring Grove and only missing winning any seats in Chiswick by 140 votes. In Parliament we celebrated 100 years of women being elected to Parliament and (some) women being able to vote. Celebrating 70 years of the NHS, with local 70 year-olds and with NHS staff who look after us all. I achieved a personal dream by running the London marathon and raised over £7,000 for charity. I joined the Transport Select Committee investigating Cycling & Walking, bus services, rail chaos. My hard-working team received our 30,000th approach for help or support since I was elected in 2015.
I see and hear daily of the terrible impact of Government Austerity policies on incomes, housing and public services during local visits and at my surgery, and use the experience to challenge the Government in Parliament. Heathrow’s expansion continues to loom; Parliament agreed the Government could proceed with the third Runway – not that that means delivering will be easy! For example the World Health Organisation tightened up aircraft noise standards, and still there’s been no serious thought of rail links nor adequate mitigation for the hundreds of thousands to be affected.
At least the issue of Air Quality is now seen as a national emergency (by everyone apart from by the Government) and it’s been a pleasure to work with the Chiswick parents who have got so much news coverage and raised over £70,000 for a green wall along the A4 in Chiswick to protect children from the effects of air pollution in the playground.
Visiting India to see the UK from the eyes of a growing economy that is focused elsewhere for future trading deals.
I’m hoping for a better time in the London Marathon, will do what I can to defer Brexit and get a People’s vote with Remain being on the ballot paper. We can expect two more consultation rounds from Heathrow; firstly on noise routes and then on the specific airport proposals –but don’t expect to see proposals for a new rail line or other infrastructure to cut the inevitable growth in road traffic that expansion means. A general election could be on the cards, but whether or not it is, I plan to be on the doorstep around the constituency with local teams every weekend.
Ruth Cadbury MP