Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – April 2023
This month I announced that, after being first elected to the House of Commons in 2010, I will not be seeking re-election as Member of Parliament for Crawley.
I am very grateful for the kind messages I have received in recent weeks in response to this decision, and am fully aware there is lots more work to do.
Until Parliament is dissolved for the General Election I will continue to stand up for Crawley and campaign for lower taxation, secure borders, environmental protection, our security and a dynamic economy.
As ever, my Westminster Report provides a snapshot of my work standing up for our community.
Coronation of HM King Charles III
I had the privilege of meeting the then-Prince of Wales in Crawley at the opening of the L3 Harris training centre in July 2019. The warmth of His Majesty and the interest he took in everyone he met was clear to see.
A more recent memory was how the King led the nation and Commonwealth in mourning the late Queen Elizabeth II, while carrying out his new duties as sovereign with quiet dignity and a sense of duty.
I am looking forward to marking the coronation of King Charles III at events in Crawley. Let us say with pride: God Save the King!
Confirmation of more than £3.4 million in extra funding for schools across Crawley.
Schools will receive their first payment by 10th May and will be able to choose how best to invest this support. This is part of an extra £2 billion for schools this year and next.
13,600 families in Crawley will receive £301 from Government as the latest Cost of Living Payments begin to be sent out.
9,200 eligible individuals in Crawley will also receive the Government’s Disability Cost of Living Payment worth £150 again this year.
Many families in Crawley are struggling with rising prices caused by global economic pressures including Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.
This is why I welcome more than £9.7 million in funding for West Sussex County Council from this month to help vulnerable residents through the Household Support Fund, building on the Government’s record of helping those most in need through challenging times.
The Household Support Fund is a vital scheme helping families that are unable to pay for essentials, extending the fund will help many more families in need this year. It is a discretionary fund provided to local authorities enabling them to provide support to vulnerable families struggling to cover essential costs who may not be eligible for other Government support schemes.
The Government is also delivering further support on top of the £1 billion of funding for the Household Support Fund including;
- means-tested £900 Cost of Living Payments,
- a £150 payment for disabled people, and
- £300 for pensioner households.
The Energy Price Guarantee is also protecting people from rising energy costs this year and will remain in place until the end of March 2024.
Under new plans announced by the Government, perpetrators of anti-social behaviour will face swift and visible justice through the Immediate Justice programme in Sussex.
Dangerous nitrous oxide will be banned under the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan and the police will be equipped with more powers to test criminal offenders for a range of drugs on arrest.
Anti-social behaviour is unacceptable. It prevents people from spending time in their local area, makes women and girls feel unsafe, and erodes a sense of community. Tackling this crime is key to levelling up and restoring pride in local communities.
This is why I welcome the Government’s plan to introduce Immediate Justice into Sussex, cracking down on offenders with swifter and more visible justice.
It is central to our efforts to level up opportunity and grow the economy – it is impossible for people to realise their talents, businesses to succeed, or communities to flourish, if people do not feel safe in the place they call home.
16 areas in England and Wales, including Sussex, will be funded to support either new ‘hotspot’ police and enforcement patrols in areas with the highest rates of anti-social behaviour, or trial a new Immediate Justice scheme to deliver swift and visible punishments.
Earlier this year we saw Cllr Duncan Crow (Furnace Green) and Cllr Brenda Burgess (Three Bridges) put forward a motion calling on Government to ban these canisters.
This motion was passed by councillors, with Crawley believed to be the first council to pass such a motion. Now, we are seeing Government acting on this on a local and national level.
We are all disgusted by sewage in our rivers and I have been clear on this issue: water companies must clean up their act.
If they do not, I urge ministers to use the full force of the law, including unlimited penalties.
In August 2022, the Government set out its plan which requires the largest infrastructure programme in water company history to tackle sewage overflows. The 60 page plan prioritises investments in priority sites including protected habitats and bathing waters. Since then £1.6 billion of investment has been brought forward to speed up vital water infrastructure projects, cutting thousands of overflow spills each year.
Ministers also reconfirmed that they will be unleashing unlimited penalties so that polluters pay for their impact on the environment, with funds now being reinvested into rivers and water bodies. This next step will place the target in the Sewage Overflow Reduction Plan on a statutory footing.
Ahead of this I joined other local parliamentarians to meet the Chief Executives of Southern Water and the Environment Agency to discuss protection of Sussex rivers and seas.
Police officer recruitment: Shortly before Easter, a record-breaking attestation saw 107 new Sussex Police recruits sworn in, pledging to serve in their roles as Police Constables and Detective Constables with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality.
Sussex Police have now reached both the Government’s uplift and the Commissioner’s local recruitment target.
Our local force will have 3,194 officers for the coming year: more than when the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne, was elected to office over a decade ago.
Global Britain’s place as an outward-looking country: As a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and having served previously on the European Scrutiny Committee, I have been able to see at first hand the importance of global Britain’s place as an outward-looking country.
The Secretary of State for Business & Trade has confirmed that, following two years of talks, the Government has substantially concluded negotiations to join the Comprehensive & Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Existing member countries include Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore along with others.
This will ensure Britain is at the heart of a rapidly-growing group of countries as the global economy increasingly focuses on the Indo-Pacific region: expected to account for the majority of global growth in the decades to come.
In Parliament this month I welcomed UK accession to this growing global market.
Enhancing our support for victims of crime: An integral part of the justice system is ensuring that the rights and concerns of victims of crime are heard and acted upon. The new Victims & Prisoners Bill will place victims at the heart of justice and introduce some common sense reforms to the parole system.
This legislation goes to deliver three key manifesto commitments: to pass and implement a Victims’ Law, to reform the parole system, and to establish an Independent Public Advocate to support victims of a major incident.
Principles of the Victims’ Code will be enshrined in law, with a duty placed on criminal justice bodies with PCCs to review their compliance and raise awareness of the Code. It is vital for support to be targeted where victims need it. The Government will secure the introduction of a joint statutory duty on PCCs and health and local authorities to work together when commissioning support services.
Guidance on Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and Independent Domestic Violence Advisors will be introduced, to increase the awareness and consistency of these roles: providing greater support for victims of sexual and domestic abuse.
The Victim Surcharge has been increased by 20 per cent, meaning offenders pay more towards vital victim support services. This increase will generate additional income of up to £20 million per year by 2024-25.
The Victims’ Code will also provide for the Crown Prosecution Service in certain cases to meet victims before a hearing takes place.
Updates to the Bill will see the creation of an Independent Public Advocate.
By fulfilling this longstanding Government commitment, the Advocate will apply to the victims of major incidents. They will provide assistance to bereaved families and the injured in the immediate aftermath of a large-scale disaster such as the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, as well as assisting with any follow-up inquest or inquiry process.
The Bill will also create a power of veto for the Secretary of State to refuse the release of the most dangerous prisoners. It will also prohibit those serving a whole life order from entering into a marriage or civil partnership.
Through these reforms we can enhance our support for victims of crime.
20,000 more police officers: 439 extra police officers have been recruited in Sussex since September 2019 as part of the Government’s uplift, bringing the total number of officers up to 3,194.
These new officers provide a further boost to policing locally in addition to the work of the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, who has recruited an extra 250 officers.
I would like to thank each and every one of these officers who will play an important part in cracking down on crime in Sussex.
Potholes: The Government is investing a further £200 million to fix 4 million potholes across the country, improving road standards for drivers in Crawley.
Locally this will see over £3 million to fix more than 60,000 potholes across West Sussex to improve road standards for drivers, saving on repairs, and making it easier to get to work and see family.
This funding builds on the £2.7 billion of highways maintenance funding, already committed between tax years 2022-25.
State Pension increase: More than 14,600 pensioners in Crawley will receive a 10.1 per cent increase in their Basic State Pension from this month.
This increase is the biggest ever cash increase in the state pension and will automatically be applied to pensioners’ payments: demonstrating Government’s commitment to supporting pensioners in the face of rising prices.
In addition to this uprating, pensioners will benefit from another £300 Pensioner Cost of Living Payment this winter, continuing the Government’s direct support for those groups most vulnerable to the effects of high inflation caused by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine.
I welcomed the uplifting of the State Pension and benefits in Parliament and asked the Pensions Minister about her work to ensure the maximum take-up of Pension Credit.
China’s influence: Highlighting in Parliament the threat to our national security from the communist regime in China.
Energy revolution: The Government have launched an ambitious multi-billion-pound investment plan to scale up affordable, clean, homegrown power in Britain.
The announcement confirms the next generation of British nuclear, a world-leading commitment to Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage and the hydrogen economy and reduction in household bills by increasing energy efficiency.
The plan will create a more secure, cheaper energy system that will grow the economy, bring bills down and create almost 500,000 new green jobs by 2030.
Since 2010, the UK has seen £198 billion of investment into low carbon energy, through a mixture of government funding and private investment. Going forward it is anticipated around £100 billion of private investment will be forthcoming into the UK’s energy revolution.
The UK has also broken numerous records in generating renewable electricity, leading the world in offshore wind – the UK is now in prime position to export its world-leading expertise.
Antimicrobial resistant superbugs: Raised the issue of anti-microbial resistance to superbugs from over-use of antibiotics used in industrial agriculture: a human health risk and detrimental to animal wellbeing.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley