Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – April 2021
Remembering HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
We give thanks to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh for his many decades of service to our United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, from distinguished World War II Royal Navy duty to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards which my children have enjoyed. As the then-Leader of West Sussex County Council I first had the honour to meet him in 2006 when HM The Queen visited Crawley to open the new Thomas Bennett Community College in Tilgate.
A combination of action from national Government and the work of Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne are seeing more police on our streets, and greater resources and protections for those who keep us safe.
The Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner is responsible for setting the £310 million budget for policing in our county.
An issue of great importance is seeing more police officers on the street. Sussex is recruiting 379 police officers which includes 129 from the first phase of the Government’s uplift.
Throughout England and Wales, Government remains on track to deliver on its manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023. The first target of 6,000 new officers by March of this year was exceeded some time ago.
Listening to local residents: Reiterating the opposition of myself and residents across town at Homes England proposals for the west of Ifield. This month I also questioned the Environment Minister about the importance of not building new homes on such flood risk areas.
Reopening the Crawley economy: An important part of the roadmap to recovery took place this month, with the reopening of industries including non-essential shops, gyms and hair salons, with pubs and restaurants able to reopen with outdoor seating. This unlocking will provide a timely boost for the Crawley economy, with many looking forward to that first haircut or pint.
Local authorities are being allocated a total of £56 million through the Government’s Welcome Back Fund to help councils prepare for the end of lockdown when it is safe to do so.
Crawley Borough Council is being provided with over £100,000 to help the high street reopen and attract shoppers and tourists, in addition to three and a half million pounds in direct Government aid to help fund its services.
This is part of plans to bring people back to the high street by making it easier for hospitality businesses to operate as takeaways as well as hosting markets and stalls, enabling pubs and restaurants to use their land more flexibly including by setting up a marquee, and extending pavement licenses for another 12 months so venues can continue serving customers ‘al fresco’ for longer without red tape getting in the way.
Other measures include further action by Government to tackle cowboy private parking firms; I have continued to campaign against these rogue practices which can keep visitors away from town.
An important part of this has been the national vaccination effort. The UK reached the target of vaccinating the most vulnerable ahead of schedule, meaning this country is now starting to vaccinate people aged 42 and over, continuing the progress towards offering all adults in the UK a vaccine by the end of July.
The Moderna vaccine is now being rolled out, meaning the UK has three safe and effective vaccines being administered across the country.
Over 33 million people have been vaccinated throughout the UK, including more than 50,000 in Crawley.
A pay rise for Crawley workers: The last year has been a time of uncertainty for many and it is welcome that around two million of the UK’s lowest-paid workers are benefiting from the Government’s increase to the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.
The National Living Wage has risen by 2.2 per cent to £8.91 per hour this year, and has been expanded to cover 23 and 24-year-olds for the first time since it came into effect in 2016.
The rise means someone working full-time on the National Living Wage from April 2021 will be taking home £5,400 more annually than they were in 2010. Rate increases are not limited to these age groups, the National Minimum Wage and Apprenticeship Wage are also going up from the start of this month.
Restart of international travel: Leading the call for Government to introduce a risk-based approach to the restart of international travel. This would allow for travel to low-risk nations with minimal or no restrictions whilst providing flexibility for restrictions on those nations where there remains a high risk, including those with Covid-19 variants of concern.
Railway station investment: Projects which will benefit local rail passengers at Three Bridges, Crawley and Ifield stations have been allocated a total of £210,000 through the Govia Thameslink Railway Passenger Benefit Fund. My thanks to all who are working on getting these projects in place particularly during the pandemic restrictions.
New Plan for Immigration: Backed the Government’s overhaul of the UK’s approach to asylum, which will deter illegal entry and break the business model of people smugglers. For the first time, how people enter the UK will directly impact the status of their asylum claim and right to stay.
The current system is collapsing under the pressures of illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminals smuggling people into the UK and too often resulting in the loss of life. At the heart of the New Plan for Immigration is a simple principle: fairness. Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.
The New Plan for Immigration has three main objectives:
- To increase the fairness and efficacy of our system so that we can better protect and support those in genuine need of refuge.
- To deter illegal entry into the UK, thereby breaking the business model of people smuggling networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger.
- To remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be here.
The proposals are currently under consultation and submissions can be made via: www.newplanforimmigration.com
Cultural and heritage organisations: Crawley will receive more than £370,000 to support iconic cultural and heritage organisations as they reopen and recover from the pandemic.
Nearly all of the original £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund has now been allocated, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a further £300 million boost for the Fund at last month’s Budget, taking direct government investment in the sector since the start of the pandemic to almost £2 billion.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley