Henry Smith MP – Crawley Bulletin – February 2018
The Representation of the People Act 1918 gave women the right to vote in this country for the first time. The Act widened suffrage by abolishing almost all property qualifications for men and by enfranchising women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. Full parity, however, was not achieved until further legislation in 1928.
It was moving to see this document in Central Lobby on 6th February, the date which marked the centenary of the legislation receiving Royal Assent from King George V, grandfather of our present monarch.
Last year I addressed the Rivers Learning Project Community to mark UK Parliament Week. The group undertake important work empowering disadvantaged women in Crawley, and I talked about my work locally and in the House of Commons for our town and the importance of participation in the democratic process.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has led the way in my own party in ensuring more women run for political office and are elected to serve in the House of Commons; of course building on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, the first British female premier.
I hope that in the very near future, our daughters and sons will see more leaders in Parliament and Downing Street that further reflect the make-up of our country; viewing this as a regular occurrence – not something which seems like an exception.
Welcomed the announcement this month of over £6.4 million in funding for housing at Telford Place in Crawley town centre and in Forge Wood, our Borough’s newest neighbourhood.
£866 million of investment in housing projects has been announced to help get up to 200,000 extra homes built. In Crawley this could deliver 570 homes by 2022, and 720 homes in total.
Freedom of faith: A moving event in the parliamentary calendar each year is the launch of Open Doors’ World Watch List. This is an annual ranking of 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. North Korea remains the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. Believers are forced to worship in secret, and if they are discovered they are taken to labour camps. An estimated 70,000 Christians are believed to be in these camps.
The day before the launch, I praised Open Doors’ work in the House of Commons. The defence of freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression is one of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s four main priorities and is a cause I will continue to pursue.
Backing Crawley-based business: The Manor Royal Business Improvement District (BID) has seen Crawley-based firms work together to create an enhanced working environment for members. Voting is now underway on whether to renew the BID for another five year term to 2023.
If successful, companies across the business district would reap the rewards of around £2.6 million of funds to be reinvested, as well as any additional investment secured by the BID team.
In the five years to 2015 the number of Crawley businesses increased by more than 600 to 3,600, and since 2010 unemployment in Crawley has fallen by 59 per cent. Voting for the BID ends at 5pm on 1st March 2018 and I would welcome a positive result for the renewal of the Business Improvement District. If successful, I look forward to seeing the proposed developments strengthen local businesses for the benefit of the people of Crawley.
Holocaust Memorial Day: One of the most solemn events of the parliamentary year is when the Holocaust Educational Trust visit Westminster and invite MPs to sign the Book of Commitment. When signing the book, I pledged my support for Holocaust Memorial Day, in honour of those who were murdered during this atrocity, and paid tribute to Holocaust survivors who continue to work to educate young people today.
Winter Olympics: Backing Team GB at PyeongChang 2018 and cheering for Crawley’s very own Brad Hall in the Bobsleigh! After finishing 12th in the two-man event, Brad goes again in the four-man event on Saturday 24th February at 12.30am GMT.
I am delighted that the history of Crawley’s participation in the Games is being added to at the 23rd Winter Olympics this month. Good luck, Brad!
Home Secretary: Recently I welcomed the Home Secretary and Minister for Women & Equalities, Amber Rudd, to Crawley to meet with some of the over 400 UK Border Force officers located at Gatwick Airport who help keep our country safe.
Of course, Gatwick Airport is a huge local employer and while unemployment in Crawley has fallen by 59 per cent since 2010, and now stands at 1.5 per cent, we must continue to support firms looking to take on staff, contribute to the economy, and help fund our public services.
Dog welfare: As a dog lover, and Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, an issue I continue to pursue is the mistreatment of puppies bred by unscrupulous breeders who have no regard for their care whatsoever.
This month, the Environment Secretary built on plans announced before Christmas, outlining proposals to ensure that licensed dog breeders must show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made. Reforms include requirements for all licensed dog breeders and licensed sellers of all pet animals (including sellers who are not also breeders) to adhere to enhanced strict statutory minimum welfare standards linked to the animals’ welfare needs.
Cutting down on plastic waste: I recently spoke in the House of Commons about the importance of water refilling points in public places and areas where large numbers of people are likely to assemble to help reduce plastic waste. I’ve received assurances from Gatwick Airport regarding the water fountains they have after security for passengers, and the wider approaches they are taking to be the UK’s most sustainable airport.
Boost for Crawley students: Welcomed the latest UCAS data showing that university application rates for 18 year olds remain at record levels. In Crawley, 35 per cent of 18 year olds applied for university by January 2018, compared with 25 per cent in 2009 – an increase of 40 per cent.
The proportion of disadvantaged students applying for university is also at a record high, with 22.6 per cent of disadvantaged English 18 year olds having applied to university courses by the UCAS deadline in January.
Taking on rogue parking companies: Spoke in the House of Commons in support of the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill which would introduce a statutory Code of Practice for private parking companies to prevent motorists from being unfairly ripped off. This legislation has Government support and seeks to provide motorists with new legal protections from unscrupulous private parking operators and aims to raise standards in the industry.
£20,000 charity funding opportunity: Asking community groups and local charities in Crawley to think about what they could do with a grant of between £500 and £20,000 this year. The money has been raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and organisations are being urged to submit an expression of interest in the funding, which requires basic details about the group, as well as a very short description of the project they are proposing. This process is open until 28th February – good luck!
Ending live animal exports: Joined parliamentary colleagues, animal welfare campaigners and celebrity supporters including Joanna Lumley and Georgia Toffolo to reiterate my call for an end to live animal exports possible when Britain leaves the European Union.
Vote 100: Welcoming the launch of this year-long programme of events organised by Parliament to mark all men and some women being given the right to vote for the first time.
Throughout the year there will be a major exhibition in Parliament – “Voice and Vote” – as well as an exciting programme of talks and tours in Parliament. There will also be a number of UK-wide events, such as EqualiTeas and UK Parliament Week 2018.
Schools and community groups in Crawley are encouraged to get involved in debating and celebrating this important anniversary in our democracy.
The Government have established the Women’s Vote Centenary Grant Scheme of £1.5 million to support projects commemorating this milestone across the country. £60,000 has already been awarded to 35 projects in the first few weeks of the scheme.
Give Up Plastic for Lent: Joining parliamentary colleagues for this challenge during the 40 days before Easter. We can all play a part to help the environment, and I hope people in Crawley will join me in doing their bit to reduce plastic waste. It’s not always easy but I’ll stop using disposable plastic – like coffee cups, water bottles and sandwich packets – for lunch and will try to continue after Easter.
Member of Parliament for Crawley