Henry Smith MP Bulletin - November 2017

Henry Smith MP – Crawley Bulletin – November 2017

Autumn Budget

Wednesday’s Autumn Budget saw the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirm £3.5 billion of investment in upgrading NHS buildings and improving care, and £2.8 billion to go towards improving A&E performance, reducing waiting times for patients, and treating more people this winter. The health budget, which includes NHS spending, already continues to increase: £116.1 billion in 2016-17; £117.6 billion in 2017-18; £120.3 billion in 2018-19; and, £123.2 billion in 2019-20.

The Government have increased the tax-free personal allowance to benefit over 56,000 Crawley residents. The Chancellor announced at the Budget that the amount earned before paying income tax will rise to £11,850 from April 2018.

This means that in 2018-19, a typical taxpayer will pay £1,075 less income tax than in 2010-11.

After listening to representations from Conservative MPs; Philip Hammond confirmed that households which qualify for Universal Credit will be able to access a month’s worth of support within five days, via an interest-free advance, from January 2018. This can be repaid over 12 months.

Claimants will be eligible for Universal Credit from the day they apply, rather than after seven days. Housing Benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks after a Universal Credit claim.

While some might be content with maligning such reforms and ensuring people who are able to work are consigned to a life of benefits, I don’t believe that this attitude comes close to giving Crawley workers the respect which is deserved.

Other measures include an eighth year of frozen fuel duty which will save drivers an average of £160 a year; the introduction of a new railcard for people aged 26 to 30; and the freezing of duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits.

Animals as sentient beings

Earlier this year I was delighted to be re-elected as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare by MPs from across the political spectrum. In that role I work hard to promote the well-being and protection of animals.

A key issue I’ve been pursuing is the recognition of animals as sentient beings. It’s a subject I’ve raised in the House of Commons and have followed up with the Environment Secretary. Please click here to read my letter to him from earlier in the year, and click here for the response from the Rural Affairs & Biosecurity Minister.

This was before elements of the media and other political parties sought to use this important matter as a political football.

A recent vote on this topic was used cynically to try and wreck the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. The fact is EU rules on animals as sentient beings allow bullfighting, veal farming, foie gras ‘production’, live exports for slaughter and cruel fur product imports. British animal welfare laws are the highest globally and on Brexit we’ll be free to strengthen them further still.

Remembering the sacrifices made for our freedom

It was an honour to lay a wreath at the Service of Remembrance outside St John the Baptist’s Church in the town centre. I also walked through the 2017 Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, where small wooden crosses with poppies are planted in memory of the fallen. This tradition started ten years after the end of the First World War, and with this Field being so close to the Palace of Westminster, it’s a timely reminder of the freedom which so many sacrificed their lives for.

Following a Royal British Legion campaign which I was pleased to support, the Office for National Statistics are now intending to recommend inclusion of a question relating to service in the Armed Forces in the 2021 census. With this information we can enhance our understanding of this unique community and ensure public policy reflects their needs.

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

I’m urging Crawley to get on Purple Alert this month in support of Pancreatic Cancer UK. Fundraising support and research is vital to stop this disease which took the lives of 64 people locally in the four years to 2014. To join the campaign, please visit: www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/pcam

Columns

Support for families with young children: Encouraging parents seeking to take up a 30 hours childcare place for their child in the January term to apply now (ideally by 30th November) to ensure an eligibility code is sent in good time. Free childcare provision has been doubled to 30 hours a week for eligible working parents of 3 and 4-year olds, with £6 billion a year being invested in childcare by 2019-20.

Get involved: Every so often I’m asked by charities and community groups, who undertake a range of projects to help people right across Crawley, if I can advise of any potential avenues of funding for them to develop their work and assist more people in our town.

The People’s Health Trust have opened Active Communities in West Sussex using money raised by HealthWish Society through the Health Lottery. Our area is one of just a few around the country where applications can be made currently. The deadline for Stage 1 applications to be submitted is 1pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017 – good luck!

Scrutiny of the Brexit process: This takes place in public but not always in front of a large audience, in fact a fair amount is undertaken in committee rooms in the Palace of Westminster.

These evidence sessions are broadcast live, but obviously don’t attract as much media coverage as the boisterous excerpts of Prime Minister’s Questions each week. While PMQs is an important part of our democracy, where the head of government faces questions from the House of Commons, it’s not particularly reflective of the calmer atmosphere of other parliamentary proceedings.

In addition to PMQs each week; after the Prime Minister takes part in a meeting of the European Council, she follows up by coming to the House of Commons to answer points raised by MPs.

I continue to hold the Government to account while supporting the best possible deal for the UK. It’s the responsibility of all sides in the Commons to do the same.

Breathing space: At the General Election in June I was pleased to stand on a Conservative platform to introduce a ‘breathing space’ scheme to provide support for people struggling financially after getting into debt. Recently, the Treasury published a call for evidence to provide individuals in debt with a ‘breathing space’ of up to six weeks to deal with problem debts.

The consultation will focus on what the scheme should look like to provide people in debt with a period free from further interest, charges and enforcement action. This would give people affected the time to take necessary measures by seeking financial advice about how to manage and relieve their debt burden.

While many people use credit successfully to manage personal finances, further support will be made available for the minority who get into difficulties.

Other news

Policy victory – CCTV in slaughterhouses: Welcomed confirmation from the Environment Secretary that CCTV recording will become mandatory in all slaughterhouses across England next year. This follows a Conservative Party pledge made at the General Election, which followed a campaign I led in Parliament.

The proposals will give the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Official Veterinarians (OVs) unrestricted access to the last 90 days of footage to help them monitor and enforce animal welfare standards.

Parliament Week: Grateful to the Rivers Learning Project Community for inviting me to be part of their special meeting to mark this year’s UK Parliament Week. An important part of my role as Crawley MP is to try and engage local people in our democracy and the political process. Parliament Week is a great time to do this – but it’s a responsibility I take seriously all year round. Just a couple of weeks ago I welcomed a group of local school pupils to the Parliamentary Education Centre.

It was a pleasure to speak about my work as Crawley’s elected representative, which includes providing assistance to residents, questioning the government in the House of Commons, holding ministers to account and helping pass laws.

Red Wednesday: On 22nd November I was pleased to reaffirm my support for the freedom of religion at home and around the world. As buildings throughout the country, including the Houses of Parliament, shine a light on persecution by lighting red, I want to reiterate my support for this important cause and stand up for faith and freedom in Parliament.

Keep up to date on my website, on Facebook, via Twitter, and on YouTube.

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: henry.smith.mp@parliament.uk

Best wishes

Henry Smith
Member of Parliament for Crawley