This bulletin is part of a regular series that updates you on what I am doing as your Member of Parliament.
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- Colne Valley Viaduct
Many of us argued that HS2 should cross the beautiful Colne Valley in a tunnel rather than a viaduct. HS2 persuaded Parliament and the Government that it would be too expensive. I have always felt that decision was taken without sufficient analysis. Wendover tunnel is now being referred to the Infrastructure Projects Authority and our question is whether the government is prepared to do the same for the Colne valley. I have written to the Department for Transport to ask for clarity.
You can read the full text of my letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, here.
One of our biggest local priorities was to preserve the HOAC experience for local youngsters. We got a “win” when HS2 agreed to hand over £26m to Hillingdon Council and asked them to take responsibility for relocating the facility to Denham Quarry. Current plans are for HOAC to open on the new site in Spring 2019: however this timetable is tight and I will be pressing HS2 for an extension on the current site.
- Working with contractors
I always hoped that we would have constructive conversations with the HS2 contractors. It is in their interest to minimise traffic and keep good relations with the community. So I am very pleased to hear that they have agreed with us that it is not necessary to build a concrete segment factory in the fields outside Ickenham. We argued this in Parliament but were ignored by HS2. Common sense has prevailed and the segments will be brought in from outside. I think the traffic impact will be neutral but the overall impact on Ickenham will be reduced.
HS2 continues to attract very negative headlines for budget overruns and a high turnover of senior management. These are sources of real concern but I am continuing to assume that it will go ahead. My priority remains to work with residents and the Council to minimise the impact.
I have opposed further expansion of Heathrow for many years.
As a former Climate Change Minister, I remain very concerned about the implications of airport expansion for our ability to meet our long term and legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On balance, I accept the argument that our economy does require new airport capacity. However, I think there are better options than Heathrow and increasing the volume of flights over a densely populated London. While I recognise that opinion in the constituency is divided, this is a long held personal position.
I did not take part in the recent vote in Parliament, which the Government won with a majority of 296. However my position is unchanged.
As this process grinds on through the law courts, I will continue to press Heathrow very hard as a constituency MP on the issues that will directly affect residents. Top of my list is a clarification on flight paths and the implications for RAF Northolt. I will also be working with Hillingdon Council to press for credible plans for meeting air quality commitments that, quite rightly, are very demanding.
Michael Sobell Hospice
Many constituents will have supported the Michael Sobell Hospice at Mount Vernon and will know how valued it is. It was alarming to hear that structural problems with the main building have required the inpatients to be moved to the cancer wards. I would be very concerned if we lost a much loved hospice, and I am in contact with the trustees of the charity and the management of East Herts NHS Trust to seek reassurances about a long term plan to retain both the inpatient hospice services and the day centre.
You can read a statement on the hospice from Nick Carver, CEO of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, here.
I have also been informed that the Alzheimer’s Society are withdrawing support for the Templeton Centre in Joel Street. I know how important the Day Centre has been, not least for carers, so I am keen to help find a solution. I have written to the Alzheimer’s Society who have explained that not enough people were using the service to justify ongoing donations. However, a local group has come forward who want to try and keep the service going and I will do what I can to support them .
You can read the full response from Jeremy Hughes CBE, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, here.
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer play a crucial role in helping to keep Ruislip High Street vibrant. They draw in customers who then go on to use other shops and restaurants. So their decision to close came as a terrible shock to other traders and was a surprise given that the store appeared to be hitting its targets. I wrote to the Chairman of M&S but their decision seems final. I will now work with the local chambers and the council to try to attract a good name that will keep people coming to the High Street, as well as press for changes that will make the High Street a bigger draw.
You can read the full response from Sacha Berendji, Operations and Property Director at M&S, here.
You may recall that the Mayor wanted to close all the Police stations in Hillingdon and Harrow, except Hayes and South Harrow. Since then, we have made and won the argument that they should keep Ruislip open and re-consult on Pinner. Hillingdon Council made an offer to the Mayor to buy Uxbridge Police Station in a deal that would have allowed the Police to stay there at a fraction of the current cost. This felt like an offer that could not be refused. However seven months later, we still don’t have an answer, which I find extraordinary. I have written to the Deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden, pressing for a decision on Uxbridge and asking for clarity on plans for Pinner and Northwood which remain uncertain.
You can read the full text of my and Boris Johnson MP’s letter to Sophie Linden, here.
We have seen two stabbings recently in the area, and I know that some constituents are concerned about crime and antisocial behaviour. The truth remains that this is a low crime area. However, the police are stretched as demand on them has risen and become more complex. In recognition of this, I took steps last year as Minister for Police that will see an additional £460m of investment in our police system this year. The Met is getting an additional £50m from an increased precept which is being topped up by the Mayor, and the Commissioner has confirmed that she is recruiting an additional 500 officers, which I am sure constituents will welcome.
In this amazing weather, our beautiful Lido has been heaving with people. This causes a number of problems for local residents, not least around parking and antisocial behaviour. I met with community representatives and Cllr Philip Corthorne to discuss what action is being taken, including tow away schemes for illegal parking, to ensure that we get the right balance between welcoming visitors while respecting the rights of residents.
Work as a Minister
In recent months my work as Home Office Minister has focused on our Serious Violence Strategy and urgent work to change the rules around accessing medicinal cannabis.
Everyone is determined to end this terrible cycle of violence, not least in London. Our strategy combines robust law enforcement with more work on community-based initiatives to steer young people away from violence. You can find a link here.
On medicinal cannabis, recent high profile cases have made clear to me and the Home Secretary that too many people are suffering needlessly because of rules and processes that have not changed for 40 years and are out of date. We sought advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs who agreed. So in the autumn we will be changing the rules so that clinicians will be able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines if they believe that is the right thing for their patients.
I continue my work as Minister for Grenfell Victims, leading community engagement on sensitive issues such as the long term future of the site.
Out and About
I do my best to get out and about to visit our schools and local organisations. Thank you to the following for inviting me over the last couple of months:
- Northwick Park Hospital
- Hillingdon Hospital
- Harrow Mencap
- Vyners School
- Glebe Primary School – Green for Grenfell
- The Breakspear School
Pinner Wood School
Hatch End High-school, The Brilliant Club
Thank you also to the staff at Eastcote and Harefield libraries for helping to organise my surgeries.
As ever, if you have any comments, or if I can help you or a family member with an issue, I do hope you won’t hesitate to contact me.