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Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – January 2020

Queen’s Speech

One week after the General Election in December, the Queen’s Speech took place in the House of Lords chamber. While read out by Her Majesty, the document is of course written by the government of the day, and outlines the legislation it wants to put to Parliament in the coming year or two.

This last month has seen the Queen’s Speech debated by MPs. With priorities including delivery of Brexit, enshrining in law the largest ever NHS funding settlement and making sure serious offenders serve proper custodial sentences, I support the agenda and voted in favour of it.

I spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, about Britain’s role in the post-Brexit world. Decisions taken at home can support Global Britain abroad and so in turn help our nation be more prosperous and secure.

In my speech I reiterated Crawley’s consistent position on this issue, and the wider sense of British fair play and democracy. For the full text and video, please click here.

NHS Funding Bill

One of the first pieces of legislation in the Queen’s Speech to be debated in the House of Commons is the Government’s NHS Funding Bill. This enshrines in law an extra £33.9 billion every year by 2023-24 for the NHS to transform care.

This Bill includes a ‘double-lock’ commitment that places a legal duty on both the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care and the Treasury to uphold this minimum level of NHS revenue funding over the next four years.

In Crawley, we need to see this funding going towards the issue of GP capacity. This is an issue which many local residents have raised with me and ensuring more GPs are recruited is an important part of the answer.

While the new Urgent Care Centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; as the natural population centre for the area, Crawley needs a new hospital – in no small part due to the time it can take to get to East Surrey. This is my call to the Government front bench.

For the full text and video of my speech, please click here.

Getting Brexit Done

After one referendum, two Prime Ministers, three parliaments and four years, the repeated decision of the people of Crawley will be realised at 11pm this Friday, 31st January.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 is now law. We can look out towards the rest of the world – not little England, but Global Britain. That is where we are at our strongest, and is how we can find where the great strength of our history has been and where our strength and future prosperity lie.

As a key player in the Commonwealth and NATO, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and through continuing to work closely with our European friends and partners, the United Kingdom has an important role on the international stage.

In future, however, we will not be tied to the political institution of the EU. We will have control of our laws, money and borders, we can work and trade globally, and we will be able to use our unique international links to act as a conduit to continental Europe.

Columns

Tackling the cost of living: The Government’s triple tax lock will mean that:

  • the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance will not be raised during this parliament;
  • the National Insurance threshold will be released to £9,500 next year meaning people will save around £100;
  • the establishing of a £1 billion Flexible Childcare Fund will help hard-working parents manage their work and family commitments.

Trust in our politics: One of the reasons our politics has been so divisive in recent years has been the attitude of many in Parliament seeking to block the decision taken in 2016 to leave the European Union. If trust in politics is to be regained, the instructions of the people must be carried out.

Various avenues of parliamentary scrutiny for the Government are also being re-established. Select Committees for each Government department and All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), set up by MPs on a whole range of areas, are being formally re-constituted. In particular, I look forward to continuing my work as part of the respective APPGs on Southern Rail, Blood Cancer and Animal Welfare.

Government investment in Crawley: In recent days it was confirmed that the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership’s investment for the Crawley Growth Programme has increased to £15.4 million.

The project is seeing improvements to Crawley town centre as well as Manor Royal through new office space, more homes, as well as improved transport infrastructure. The Government’s £820,000 of Local Growth Funding recently announced follows the previous allocation of £14.6 million.

Looking ahead: At the start of the year I looked ahead to what will be happening in Parliament throughout 2020. On issues such as Brexit and increased funding for the NHS we have already seen action taken since the General Election last month, with work on other issues such as enhancing workers’ rights, criminal justice and our environment also to be done.

Freedom of religion or belief: In Parliament this month I attended the launch of the Open Doors World Watch List; a powerful report published each year highlighting the countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

The Government remains committed to implementing the recommendations put forward by the Bishop of Truro on the persecution of Christians. These include ensuring British embassies and high commissions in relevant countries should deliver tailored responses to any violations of freedom of religion or belief, and consideration of sanctions on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against religious minorities including Christians.

I remain grateful to the Crawley residents who have contacted me with regard to this important issue. Our country must not shy away from standing up for such freedoms.

Other news

Holocaust Memorial Day: As we mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people in Crawley to reflect on the darkest times of European history. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the 6 million Jewish victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.

School support: Asking the School Standards Minister about the Gatwick School's plans to expand and provide much needed extra educational facilities.

Sussex Police: Through enabling an increase in funding for the policing system of up to £1.1 billion, the biggest increase in a decade; I welcome an extra £22.2 million of support for Sussex Police – an increase of 7.7 per cent from last year.

Support for Australia: Pleased to receive assurances that as a result of the terrible ongoing bush fires, the UK will provide whatever assistance Australia requests.

Towns Fund: Questioning the Local Growth Minister about the £3.6 billion Government support for towns such as Crawley.

A pay rise for Crawley workers: Local families will receive a well-earned pay rise with a new National Living Wage (NLW) of £8.72 per hour from 1st April 2020, its biggest cash increase ever – and a rise from the current value of £8.21.

Nearly 3 million people across the country will benefit from a pay rise of 6.2 per cent in April 2020 – an increase of £930 over the year for a full-time worker on the NLW, and of £3,600 since the Government introduced the NLW in 2016.

The rise means the Government is on track to meet its current target and previous manifesto commitment for the NLW to reach 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020. There is more to do, which is why the NLW will increase further to £10.50 by 2024 on current forecasts.

The Chancellor has also announced his plans to expand the reach of the NLW to cover workers aged 21 and over within five years, benefitting around 4 million people.

This People’s Government will start repaying the trust placed in it and delivering on people’s priorities, building a better Britain for everyone in this country, regardless of how they voted.

Rail services: Calling for the Transport Secretary to update MPs on the importance of improving rail network functionality. The service is vital to commuters and occasional travellers from Three Bridges, Crawley and Ifield stations and recent disruptions cannot continue.

Blood cancer support: Asking the Health & Social Care Secretary to ensure that support for patients with blood cancer – the UK's 5th most common cancer and 3rd biggest cancer killer – remains a priority in the new government.

Earlier this week I reconstituted the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer. I’m looking forward to continuing to chair the Group as I have done since its formation in 2016. We’ll be resuming work on our genomics inquiry as we discover how this new technology can deliver fascinating benefits to patients.

Global security: Asked the Defence Secretary about Royal Navy support to protect British interests in the Gulf.

5G network: Questioning the Digital & Broadband Minister regarding future UK 5G network security in relation to our Five Eyes alliance with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.

Record high employment: The employment rate is at a record high – and more people are in work than ever before – while unemployment is at its lowest since 1974. This is good news for families, who are also benefiting from another month of rising wages.

In Crawley, the actions of the Government mean that people can have a job rather than being trapped on benefits, with the number of people who are claiming key out-of-work benefits falling by 788 since 2010.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has already announced the largest ever cash boost to the National Living Wage, which will rise to £8.72 in April – providing a well-deserved pay rise to 3 million people, as part of the Government’s ambition to end low pay altogether.

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

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Exiting the EU

In 2016 Crawley voted to Leave the European Union. I was honoured to lead the local Leave campaign. Since that remarkable Brexit victory I have voted and voiced in the House of Commons to deliver the UK’s true EU exit, and without delay.