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Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

My office is receiving significant correspondence levels regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), therefore regrettably, it will not be possible to answer every message on this subject, especially with staff absence too.

Please be assured I am continuing to highlight the issues raised by Crawley residents, as well as businesses and other organisations, directly with the Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Chancellor of the Exchequer, plus other senior Government members.

For further information, including links to official advice from HM Government and the National Health Service, please visit: www.henrysmith.info/coronavirus

It was truly moving to hear clapping and cheering for NHS staff last Thursday evening, I think that moment demonstrated our determination to get through the COVID-19 crisis together.

At this time I also wish to pay tribute to those working to ensure the most vulnerable in our town are not left behind. Staff at Crawley Borough and West Sussex County councils, Sussex Police, the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and central Government, in addition to all of those who are volunteering to help – your work is greatly appreciated.

The Government have committed to provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services – starting with an initial £5 billion fund so the NHS can treat Coronavirus patients and local authorities can support vulnerable people, plus ensure funding is available for other public services.

Support for workers and the return of British citizens are just some of the issues I have been pursuing.

I am continuing to highlight with the Government issues being raised with me by Crawley residents, workers and businesses, in addition to continued discussions with Crawley Borough Council about the Community Hub which was established last week: please click here or call 01293 438000 for assistance.

For the latest information on the UK Government response please visit: www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Information from the NHS can be found at: www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

As this is a particularly fast-moving issue you may want to click here to sign up for updates via the Government website.

For the first time in our history, the Government will help pay people’s wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This initiative offers grants to employers who promise to retain their staff, covering most of the cost of paying people’s wages.

Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits are being increased by £1,000 a year for the next 12 months, working out at nearly £7 billion of extra support.

For businesses; the next three months of VAT will be deferred until the end of the financial year; an injection of over £30 billion of cash to firms to help them pay people and keep them in work.

Through the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, the Government will pay self-employed people a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. As someone who was previously self-employed I do appreciate the importance of support for this sector.

For more information on this pandemic, please watch and listen to national and local news bulletins, as well as the Prime Minister’s daily conferences from Downing Street supported by scientific and medical experts.

Announcements from the Government are being made on a daily basis; I urge you to visit the links above for the latest information.

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Budget 2020: In addition to action to tackle COVID-19 I welcomed other measures in the Chancellor’s Budget including a fuel duty freeze along with increased funds to fill highway potholes.

Funding will also be increased for counter-terrorism and intelligence measures, including £83 million for specialist policing and £31 million for our UK intelligence community. An additional £67 million will be provided so British intelligence agencies can build on their world-leading technological capabilities and protect the country’s security.

A £10 million commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust will support veterans with mental health needs.

Now we have left the European Union, this country can reduce the cost of essential sanitary products for women across Britain, abolishing the tampon tax.

Reassessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be reduced to avoid unnecessary anxiety. PIP claimants whose conditions are unlikely to change will have an award period of at least 18 months, reducing assessments for over 100,000 people with disabilities per year.

These are just a few of the actions being taken to support people in Crawley and across the nation. There is more to do – this is the case I will continue to put to ministers.

New officers for Sussex Police: Congratulations to the 36 new Sussex Police officers who have recently joined response teams around the county, including Crawley, recruited as part of the Government’s 20,000 officer recruitment drive.

These new officers are the first of an additional 129 for Sussex by March of next year, funded by the first phase of the Home Office initiative which will employ 20,000 extra police men and women by 2023.

National Living Wage: The NLW will increase by 6.2 per cent to £8.72 from April, with the Budget committing to a new ambitious target for the National Living Wage to end low pay, and extend this to workers aged 21 and over by 2024.

Tasers for Sussex Police: Sussex Police and Surrey Police will receive a £462,000 funding increase to equip 560 more police officers with Tasers this year, ensuring they have the resources they need to tackle crime and keep our streets safe.

This increase is part of a £6.7 million funding boost across the country that will deliver over 8,000 new Tasers to 41 police forces, delivering on the Government’s commitment to put more officers carrying Tasers on our streets, allowing them to better protect themselves and others from harm.

Other news

Air Passenger Duty: Continuing to call on the Government to take action to reduce the Air Passenger Duty burden on the local aviation sector.

Blood cancer support: Honoured to be named Parliamentary Champion by leading blood cancer charity Bloodwise (soon to become Blood Cancer UK) in their 2020 Supporter Awards.

At a recent event in Parliament it was very moving to hear from people with blood cancer and their family members about their experience of diagnosis delays. Many delays can be avoided and it is vital that blood cancer is included in the Government’s plans to diagnose cancer earlier.

Police Covenant: Following my calls for the Government to give Sussex Police officers more protection in and out of the job through a Police Covenant, I welcome the Home Office launching a consultation into this change.

I am delighted officers in Crawley will soon have added protection through the Covenant. Policing is a dangerous job and officers are putting their lives on the line daily to protect our communities and we owe it to them to show we appreciate the risks they take in keeping us safe.

The Home Office launched a consultation on the implementation of a Police Covenant in England and Wales. It’ll focus on physical protection, health and wellbeing, and support for families in addition to considering the scope of the Covenant and who should be covered. Information can be found on the ‘Policy papers and consultations’ section at: www.gov.uk/homeoffice

Royal Navy contract award: Asking the Defence Procurement Minister about the employment possibilities following the awarding of a £330 million contract to equip the Royal Navy Continuous at Sea Deterrent to Crawley-based Thales.

Gatwick Airport: Questioned the Transport Minister regarding the Government's position on Gatwick Airport.

West of Ifield: Questioned the Housing, Communities & Local Government Secretary about environmental sustainability concerns over Homes England plans for the west of Ifield.

To keep up to date with my work standing up for Crawley please visit: www.henrysmith.info/news. Additionally you can follow my daily activities via FacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTube

With my best wishes

Henry Smith
Member of Parliament for Crawley