Henry Smith MP – Crawley Bulletin – July 2017
The Queen’s Speech, which was passed by the House of Commons last month will deliver on a range of issues including our exit from the European Union.
I’m acutely aware of course that the Brexit result was about more than just the EU – it was a clear expression that our country doesn’t work the way it should for millions of people throughout the UK.
One of the salient issues in the debate on the Queen’s Speech was pay for NHS staff. I believe an increase for key public sector workers is well deserved and the time for this to take place would be during the upcoming Budget where all Government costings can properly be taken into account.
In contrast, the proposed last minute amendment to the Queen’s Speech was simply Labour playing a political game. That is, of course, their right as the Opposition but not the best way to make long term policy commitments.
Much has been made of my comments reported in the national press recently regarding school funding; to be clear – they approached me, not the other way round. I stand by my view that it is wholly inappropriate for taxpayer-funded resources being used to influence people’s vote. There is a clear difference between that activity and legitimate lobbying on achieving improved resources for local schools.
An editorial in last week’s Crawley Observer added; “it was not the place of teachers and schools in their professional capacity to move it [the issue of fair school funding] to the party political arena in the approach to a general election. They are public servants funded from the taxes of residents of all party persuasions and none. It is their responsibility to be politically neutral in all their dealings with the children in their charge.”
I continue to work alongside other West Sussex MPs in pushing for the new National Funding Formula which will see Crawley schools receive the second highest increase in England after decades of under-investment. One of the first Parliamentary Questions I tabled in the new parliamentary session was to the Education Secretary on when the Formula will commence and this is a cause I’ll continue to pursue.
Southern Railway: In a recent parliamentary debate I spoke on behalf of Crawley rail passengers regarding Southern services which have simply been unacceptable for well over a year.
There were four key areas I highlighted. Firstly, lessons need to be learned by the Department for Transport over the franchise structure. Questions have to be asked over one company running services spanning from Cambridge to Brighton.
Secondly, the network is by far the busiest in the country and is at capacity, or even over capacity, far too often. To help address this, Network Rail has been allocated £300 million to replace tracks and signalling, renew key junctions, improve security to help deter trespass, address drainage in Victorian era tunnels to prevent electrical equipment water damage and reduce the risk of landslides by shoring-up cuttings and embankments.
Thirdly, the performance of Southern as a company has not been up to an acceptable standard to serve customers.
Fourthly, a recent inquiry called the Gibb Report highlighted how militant trades union leaders continue to prolong the dispute. This was most recently shown from the ASLEF union’s decision for its members to refuse to work overtime after turning down a 23.8 per cent pay rise offer over four years, which would have taken a Southern train driver’s basic pay to £60,683 for a four day, 35 hour week.
Gibb Report: Recently, the Gibb Report into the continued disruption on Southern Railway services was published. It concludes that it’s the RMT and ASLEF union leadership who are at fault for the unacceptable levels of service we’ve endured for well over a year now.
Exiting the European Union: There are a total of eight bills which focus on the UK’s exit from the European Union. The Repeal Bill will provide as much legal certainty as possible for businesses and individuals as we depart the bloc. A Trade Bill and a Customs Bill will help the UK conduct its own independent trade policy – the first time we'll have been able to do this in decades – which will help British businesses trade with thriving markets around the world.
Also included are an Immigration Bill which will give the UK control of the number of people coming to this country from Europe while allowing us to continue attracting the brightest and the best, as well as a Fisheries Bill, an Agriculture Bill, a Nuclear Safeguards Bill and an International Sanctions Bill.
Blood Cancer: Pleased to be re-elected as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer which I helped set up last year. I’m delighted to be joined by Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Democratic Unionist Party colleagues from both the Commons and the Lords as we continue to stand up for blood cancer patients and identify ways where we can do better for patients and their support networks.
This is an important issue and one which has affected my own family and others in Crawley, I remain grateful to those locally who have shared their own family experiences with me.
The Group’s inquiry will gain expert opinion from patients, clinicians, researchers and NHS staff to establish what is currently working well in blood cancer care, where there are gaps in services, and where policy makers and healthcare professionals need to target their efforts to improve the lives of patients. Following a call for evidence, the Group has received written submissions and will be holding oral evidence sessions in the coming months, with the full report published before the end of the year.
Toxic cabin air: Calling for further parliamentary debate on aerotoxic syndrome and the dangers faced by airline staff and others who fly frequently, following the death of former locally-based cabin crew member Matt Bass in 2014, at the age of 34.
Learning Disability Week: Working with Mencap to improve employment opportunities for people with a learning disability. It’s vital that all in our society have the opportunity to gain employment and earn a fair wage.
Gatwick security: Questioned the Security Minister in the House of Commons on the use of drones near to airports following a device in the air near Gatwick Airport forcing a runway closure and diversion of flights.
Gatwick’s runway was closed for two periods, of nine and five minutes, following sightings of the drone and five flights were subsequently diverted. Drones can be of important use but ensuring our security and safety at airports is paramount.
I’m also continuing to pursue the issue of laser pen attacks at airports – there have already been 27 such incidents at Gatwick this year.
Please do not hesitate to let me know if I may be able to assist, either by writing to me at: the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, calling: 01293 934554 or by emailing directly: email@example.com
Member of Parliament for Crawley