2016 has been a busy and turbulent year – I hope that you and your family are able to enjoy a quiet and relaxing Christmas, and I wish you all the best for the festive season and the New Year.
As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to take the opportunity to update you on my work in the Twickenham constituency and in Parliament.
The Government’s support for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow is bad news for our local area, but I’m not giving up the fight. Heathrow faces insurmountable legal and environmental challenges, and I remain confident that expansion will not go ahead. I am working with MPs, peers, council leaders and assembly members of all parties to lead the case against expansion, and I am indebted to local residents and local campaign groups like Teddington Action Group for the work that they do too.
Noise and air pollution from Heathrow is already unacceptably bad. I challenged the Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister on this in Parliament, and I have presented draft legislation that would make aircraft noise a “statutory nuisance” – this would give residents affected by plane noise a formal means of redress. I was encouraged to see so many people join my public meeting against Heathrow expansion that I held in Teddington in November, and I would encourage all residents to share their views in the consultations on night ﬂights, airspace and the third runway proposal which will be published soon. A summary of the meeting is on my website.
Making Brexit Work
I voted “Remain” in the referendum and I know that most people in our constituency did too. Whilst this is not the result I wanted, I believe it is the duty of all MPs on all sides of the debate to do what we can to make it work for the whole country. The “Leave” side won the referendum, but it didn’t win the right to do whatever it likes afterwards. We need an approach that works for the 48% who voted to remain as well as the 52% who voted to leave. Although we will be outside of the European Union, we need a deal that maintains the strongest possible trading relationship with Europe for British businesses, close co-operation on climate change and security, and an immigration system that is fair but remains welcoming to those who need our help and to those whose skills we need.
I will be inviting local business owners to meet with me and share their views on what they need from the Government’s negotiations with the EU. I will always stand up for a UK that is open and tolerant. I have twice voted in Parliament to protect the rights of all EU nationals living in the UK, and I am confident that the Government will deliver on this. My message to European residents is clear: you continue to be very welcome here. I will be organising a meeting in the New Year for any EU residents who have concerns – please get in touch with my office to register your interest.
Improving Rail Services
Rail services to stations in our constituency still aren’t good enough, but improvements should be on the way. The Department for Transport will announce the new South Western rail franchise operator in February, and this is a chance to have more reliable services, with longer trains and more frequent journeys into and out of London. Crossrail 2 is also an important part of this in the longer term, and the Government remains committed to this important project.
The Mayor of London is looking to take forward plans for Transport for London to take over the running of suburban services to areas like ours. I support this as means of better integrating constituencies on the periphery of Greater London with the rest of the capital, and I will be working with Deputy Mayor, Val Shawcross, on ensuring that our local services are included.
Standing up for Science
I was proud to have had the opportunity to stand in as chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee for four months, and led reports on forensics, smart meters and artifcial intelligence (details of which can be found on my website).
Our constituency is at the forefront of the UK’s world-leading science base, with the National Physical Laboratory and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist in Teddington, and many smaller businesses too. I was pleased to be able to invite them to share their views, hopes and concerns with Brexit Minister Robin Walker in November. Leaving the EU presents challenges for science, but I am determined to do what I can to maintain our place as the best place in the world to do science and research.
Supporting Our Schools
Our constituency is lucky to have so many good schools and such a wide choice of primaries and secondaries, faith schools, academies, free schools and independent schools. I am excited by the new multi-academy trust, which sees Hampton High and Twickenham Academies sharing best practice with Teddington School and Waldegrave School.
I am also delighted to see Richmond upon Thames College going from strength to strength. As you may be aware, the Government is consulting on expanding the role of selective and faith schools. Whilst I am sceptical about some of the plans, I am glad that we are having this debate and I am grateful to everyone who has shared their views with myself and on the government's consultation.
Defending Human Rights
I am working with the charity Freedom from Torture to push for better support for torture victims. I was proud to host a reception in Parliament where we lobbied ministers to make better use of medical evidence in assessing asylum claims from victims of torture.
Dr. Tania Mathias, MP for Twickenham