Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – April 2022
Around the world we are seeing record high gas prices. Britain needs to protect itself from future price spikes by speeding up our move towards cleaner, cheaper and home-generated energy.
The new British Energy Security Strategy will see the scaling up of cheap renewables and new nuclear, while maximising North Sea oil and gas production, using our energy independence to bring down costs for families and households.
UK energy supply is being supported by expanding this country’s nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen programmes. These plans include pushing ahead with the equivalent of one new nuclear reactor a year over this decade.
An unprecedented £100 billion of private sector investment is being driven into new British industries, including offshore wind and supporting 480,000 new clean jobs by the end of the decade.
A vast expansion in nuclear projects comes with a new ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from this source of power, representing around 25 per cent of our projected electricity demand. Great British Nuclear will be set up to lead these efforts. It will bring forward new projects, secure access to the sites needed and facilitate work.
The annual renewable energy auction scheme will continue to support solar and onshore wind nationwide. The flagship Contracts for Difference auction includes both solar and onshore wind.
Renewables made up just 7 per cent of our electricity generation in 2010. Under successive governments since then, this figure has increased dramatically to around 40 per cent in 2020.
To allow families to cut energy bills, VAT on energy efficiency projects is being slashed.
At the Spring Statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a VAT cut on the installation of energy efficiency projects such as solar panels, insulation and heat pumps, saving up to £2,000 on the cost of a heat pump. This will be in place for the next five years. The £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme will also help move families off expensive gas and onto cheaper electricity.
We are seeing support with energy costs in the short-term as well. The Government has introduced a non-repayable £150 cash rebate for homes in council tax bands A to D to help with the cost of energy bills, with local authorities such as Crawley Borough Council provided with £144 million of discretionary funding to support households not eligible for the rebate.
The Government has also confirmed a £200 ‘smoothing’ rebate on energy bills for all households, to be paid back over the next five years.
As Crawley MP and a member of the Conservative Environment Network parliamentary caucus, the issue of our energy security is a cause I will continue to pursue on behalf of local residents.
On the ground at the Poland-Ukraine border: The continued atrocities we are seeing committed against the civilian population of Ukraine go to strengthen our resolve that Vladimir Putin must fail in his attempts to supress a free and democratic nation.
This month I visited the Poland-Ukraine border, as part of a visit through my work on the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee. It was moving to witness for myself the situation on the ground, and to speak to some of the people affected by Russia’s illegal war.
In the time we were there we met with Ukrainian MPs, Polish ministers as well as NATO intelligence. We discussed the situation with the governor of Subcarpathian Voivodeship province in Poland, which is immediately west of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian people I listened to were extremely grateful for the support which is being provided by the UK; in terms of weapons, humanitarian aid, as well as assistance in bringing refugees to Britain.
This country is providing an additional 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons to Ukraine. Such help more than doubles the defensive lethal aid Britain has provided, alongside £25 million in support for the Ukrainian military.
The UK remains Ukraine’s largest European bilateral humanitarian donor, with British aid support totalling more than £400 million.
The scenes broadcast on the news each evening are harrowing to watch but the world needs to witness what Putin is doing. The savagery in Bucha and Mariupol demonstrates the evil intentions of the Kremlin.
In recent weeks, Britain has announced further sanctions on Russia to starve Putin’s war machine.
The UK’s fifth package of measures sees a full asset freeze on the largest Russian bank and an end to all new UK outward investment into Russia. Even though now we import less than 3 per cent, Britain will end all imports of Russian coal and oil by end of 2022 and further action is being taken to hit key strategic industries and a further eight oligarchs active in these areas.
NHS Parliamentary Awards 2022: The past two years have seen our country tested in a way which many of us had never seen before in our lifetime. The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic are a set of circumstances which none of us want to see ever again.
It is right that we recognise the importance of their work, and I am pleased that this can be undertaken through the NHS Parliamentary Awards.
In this year’s NHS Parliamentary Awards I have nominated our local GP federation, the Alliance for Better Care, for their work in delivering Covid vaccines in our area.
P&O Ferries: Many of us have strongly felt that the recent behaviour of P&O Ferries in how they have treated some 800 loyal and hard-working members of staff is appalling. Such circumstances require swift action and I am grateful to the Transport Secretary for getting on and standing up for British workers.
Beatrice’s Bill: In Parliament I have tabled the Hen Caging (Prohibition) Bill, commonly known as ‘Beatrice’s Bill’ after a rescue hen, which would ban cages for laying hens for good.
In recent weeks I have hosted an event in the House of Commons welcoming parliamentarians and animal welfare campaigners in support of this legislation.
Level up Crawley: Crawley Borough Council is to receive £1 million and West Sussex County Council is to receive more than £3.6 million from the Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to help level up the community – from regeneration to fighting anti-social behaviour.
£2.6 billion of levelling up funding will be awarded to communities across the UK through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The funding also includes free tutoring, digital training and flexible courses to help adults with low-level maths skills get back into work, as well as measures to get more young people into high-skilled jobs.
The investment will deliver on the Government’s mission to level up the United Kingdom – regenerating communities, tackling economic decline, and reversing geographical inequalities to ensure that everyone can fulfil their potential.
Police funding boost: Sussex will benefit from more than £1.9 million of investment as part of the Government’s £130 million boost to tackle the most devastating types of crime – including knife crime, gun crime and homicide.
Government has also confirmed that Violence Reduction Units and ‘hotspot policing’ initiatives prevented 49,000 violent offences across England and Wales, setting out an ambitious funding programme to build on these efforts to tackle serious violence.
Migration & Economic Development Partnership: Welcoming action announced by the Government to address illegal immigration and people smuggling.
Cheaper and better bus services: West Sussex is one of 31 places across the country chosen to receive new funding to level up local bus services through the Government’s £1.2 billion bus transformation programme.
Over £17 million of new funding for West Sussex will help deliver vital improvements and level up local bus networks – delivering cheaper, more frequent, and more reliable journeys for passengers.
Changing Places: £97,000 of funding has been made available for new Changing Places toilets in Crawley, as part of the first round of the Changing Places Fund.
Local authorities will receive over £23 million to boost the provision of Changing Places toilets in existing buildings, which are larger and more accessible toilets for those who cannot use standard facilities. There are currently 1,300 Changing Places toilets in England, but this announcement provides funding for an additional 500 rooms.
Flood protection: Crawley has received more than £10 million in investment to help protect against flooding as part of the Government’s investment of £2.6 billion over six years for improving flood and coastal defences.
Flooding can devastate communities and we must put in place protections to protect our homes and livelihoods from the impact of extreme weather.
Animal welfare: Questioning the Government on protections for Asian elephants in India.
Great British Rail Sale: To help families with the cost of living, the Government are offering one million half price train tickets in the nation’s biggest ever rail sale.
This is a valuable opportunity for people across Crawley and helps to give more people a chance to catch up with friends and family or take a well-deserved break. The discount will be available on selected Advance tickets from participating train companies, or Off-Peak tickets as an alternative on some routes.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley