Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – September 2022
Crawley, our United Kingdom and the Commonwealth were in mourning this month upon the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
I was grateful to have the opportunity to pay respects in the House of Commons, not just from myself but on behalf of all Crawley residents.
Her Majesty visited Crawley on six occasions in an official capacity. These included her first in 1950, when as Princess Elizabeth she officially opened Manor Royal, after the Princess herself had chosen the name. The Queen’s last official visit to Crawley came in 2006 and is one which is very special in my mind as I had the honour of meeting the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the opening of the new Thomas Bennett Community College.
I also remembered when, as a young child, my late mum took my brother and I to the Derby at Epsom. After the race, we waited where we knew her official car would be leaving. As I waved my Union Jack with excitement, I still recall my amazement and joy when Her Majesty waved back.
Before I went back to Westminster I had the privilege of signing the book of commemoration at Crawley Town Hall.
I was also honoured to stand alongside the Mayor of Crawley as she formally proclaimed the new sovereign. While a monarch becomes the head of state immediately upon the passing of their predecessor, the ceremony of proclamation dates back to a time when towns and cities would need to proclaim the new monarch in order to ensure the people were aware that the sovereign had changed.
Of course, such news is communicated far more swiftly these days, however the crowds of people at the Town Hall reflect the vast support for King Charles III and the appreciation for the life and service of Queen Elizabeth II.
The words of Her Majesty are appropriate for how many people have been feeling: “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
The quiet dignity of the King, who is undertaking his duties as sovereign, while grieving for his mother not only privately but also on behalf of the nation, shows a dedication to service reminiscent of the Queen we have lost.
When the period of national mourning had concluded I swore the oath of allegiance in Parliament to HM King Charles III.
May God rest the soul of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. May God give wisdom to His Majesty King Charles III. God save the King.
Support for Crawley households and our town's economy: The Government’s Growth Plan will take action on five key points which will benefit people in Crawley in the short- and long-term: energy, growth, public finances, supply side reform, and personal taxation.
To address the issues which are causing financial hardship for so many, namely the consequences of Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this Government is taking action by cutting people’s energy bills by £1,400 this year.
Energy bills are no longer due to rise by £6,500, as a result of the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee. This will limit the unit price that consumers pay for electricity and gas, consequently for the next two years the typical annual household bill will be £2,500.
The Energy Bill Support Scheme, which gives households £400 off their bills this winter, will be kept.
Non-domestic energy users will receive support through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme. This initiative will discount wholesale gas and electricity prices for all businesses, charities, schools and hospitals, providing a price guarantee equivalent to what has been offered to households.
The Growth Plan will ensure that every Government department is an economic growth department, with each policy initiative being measured against a defining test of whether it helps or hinders growth, to support our country to achieve a sustainable trend growth rate of 2.5 per cent.
As the Chancellor said in the House of Commons, fiscal responsibility remains essential for economic confidence. To this end, the costings of the measures in the Government’s Growth Plan will be included in the next Office for Budget Responsibility forecast.
Wider reforms to support our economy are also needed. It is wrong for trade union bosses to hold our country to ransom, Minimum Service Levels for transport services will be introduced, ensuring militant strike action cannot derail economic growth.
Government is also bringing forward legislation to implement new obligations on energy suppliers to help hundreds of thousands of people take action to reduce energy bills. This work will deliver an average saving of around £200 per year.
The Chancellor also confirmed people in Crawley will benefit from personal tax cuts – cutting National Insurance contributions by 1.25 per cent, putting an extra £330 a year in people’s pockets and helping them with cost-of-living pressures.
The basic rate of Income Tax will be cut, to 19 pence, for 31 million people. This tax cut is being brought forward by one year to April 2023.
Corporation Tax will also be kept at 19 per cent, with the planned increase being scrapped, meaning the UK can maintain a competitive business tax regime; delivering an effective tax cut that puts almost £70 billion into the economy, giving businesses the freedom to reinvest, boost wages and create jobs.
Through securing economic growth we ensure we have the resources to fund our important public services.
Boosting funding support for our schools: At the end of the last school year, the Department for Education confirmed that funding for schools in Crawley is set to increase in 2023-24 by 4.5 per cent, to almost £100 million.
This record funding for Crawley schools will provide vital resources to raise attainment, provide support to pupils and students, increase teacher pay, and continue to address the important challenges of Covid pandemic response and recovery.
All our young people should be able to receive a top-class education, wherever they grow up in the country; central to this is ensuring that schools are given the support they need.
By giving schools full resources and backing needed they can continue to educate and support our young people.
As the school year commences there is also great news for Holy Trinity in Gossops Green who have been successful in the Government’s School Rebuilding Programme.
Aviation, travel and tourism: As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation I organised a letter of 55 parliamentarians, calling on the new Prime Minister to put in place support for the aviation, travel and tourism sectors to help them tackle post-Covid challenges and boost their recovery.
We are calling on Government to:
- Give specific responsibility for overseeing the cross-government approach to international travel policy to an individual Minister
- Introduce minimum staffing levels for Border Force at UK airports
- Confirm commitment to the Jet Zero Strategy and put in place levels of price stability to attract investment and new entrants to the market
- Work with partners to create an international travel toolkit to be prepared for future crises
- Work with industry to put in place a long-term skills strategy to support jobs in aviation, travel, tourism and sustainable aviation
Our aviation, travel and tourism industries were amongst the worst affected and the last to see Covid restrictions removed. We must build on the progress made over the summer and support these industries in the months and years ahead as a part of a vision for a truly global Britain.
With so many Crawley workers depending on the continued success of Gatwick Airport this is a cause I look forward to pursuing.
Illegal English Channel small boat migrant crossings: Holding the Home Office to account over these crossings which undermine national security and put lives in danger.
English Channel small boat migrant crossings are a potential UK security risk, place unsustainable pressures on housing and are expensive for hard-working taxpayers.
In Parliament I encouraged and welcomed Government acting on a push-back policy. Any system which sees such illegal and dangerous crossings undertaken needs reform.
Government support for buses: Received confirmation of support being provided from Government to the bus sector, including the plan to introduce a £2 bus fare cap in England, outside of London.
Project Gigabit: As a result of the Government’s £5 billion Project Gigabit, coverage of gigabit-capable broadband has increased from seven per cent to 70 per cent in three years, with more than 20 million households and businesses now able to tap into rapid and reliable internet.
It has been confirmed that 70 per cent of homes and businesses across the south east of England will now have access to rapid and reliable internet.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley