Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – August 2021
The fall of Kabul and the scenes of desperation as Afghans sought to flee Taliban rule will stay with many of us for a long time.
This essentially unilateral decision by US President Biden to leave Afghanistan does not, however, reduce the importance of the work of British armed forces in that country over the last two decades.
The UK armed forces represent the very best of our countrymen and women. They ensured development which has improved the lives of millions of people, and helped to keep the UK safe from the threat of terrorism.
My thoughts in recent days have been with the families of the 457 British service personnel who lost their lives in the Afghanistan conflict and those who bear mental and physical injuries to this day, including those from Crawley who served our country with distinction.
As Crawley MP and a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee I have met with the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary regarding the implications of events in Afghanistan and ensuring the concerns raised with me by Crawley residents are fully followed-up.
Making Crawley an even better place to live, work and visit: As the nation continues to unlock from Covid-19 restrictions while remaining mindful of the need to behave carefully, there is an opportunity to transform our communities which can be taken.
Consumer confidence in international travel: The thoughts of many families in August turned to summer holidays and getting away.
Passengers should be helped to do so with confidence. A safe return to international travel, one which utilises the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine dividend, will support the over 10,000 Crawley aviation related jobs and wider Gatwick economy.
This is a point I continue to pursue as Crawley’s MP and Chair of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group.
Figures from the ONS show that 57 per cent of employees in passenger air transport and 51 per cent of those employed by travel agency and tour operators remain on furlough. It cannot be forgotten that these industries are major economic enablers locally, regionally and nationally. If jobs are not protected it will affect Crawley families as well as impacting on our national recovery.
Already we have seen the effect of the pandemic on airport communities such as our own. It is this that is at the heart of my representations on behalf of this sector and those who work in it.
Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: The Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy will build on work already being undertaken to improve the criminal justice response to rape, toughen sentences and protection for victims through the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, as well as the recruitment of 20,000 more police officers.
Immediate steps will include a new policing lead on VAWG who will report to the National Policing Board, as well as the appointment of two new VAWG Transport Champions looking at issues faced on public transport, in addition to a £5 million Safety of Women at Night fund.
In the longer-term, the strategy includes preventative measures to stop violence from happening in the first place, £3 million will go towards evidence-informed projects which will help understand what works in terms of preventing violence towards women and girls.
Helping Crawley students catch up: The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the education of young people.
Congratulations to all in Crawley who received their GCSE and A-Level results this month. My thanks to teachers and all school staff for their work in ensuring that students could be assessed while exams did not take place, and my gratitude to those involved in delivering additional activities as part of the Government’s summer school catch-up programme.
It is welcome that a number of secondary schools in Crawley are among more than 2,800 which are hosting a summer school over the school holidays as part of this £200 million Department for Education initiative.
Across England and Wales, more than 9,800 police officers have been recruited since the Government’s recruitment drive was launched in September 2019.
The additional police for Sussex builds on the newly announced Beating Crime Plan – aimed at reducing crime, protecting victims and making the country safer.
Swimming success: With success for Team GB and Paralympics GB in Tokyo, I am supporting Swim England’s #InspiredToTry campaign. We are fortunate in Crawley to have fantastic facilities and I hope the excitement of the Olympics and the Paralympics will provide the motivation for many people to try swimming, para swimming, diving, water polo, open water swimming or artistic swimming.
High Street Strategy: The Government’s new Build Back Better High Streets Strategy sets out how high streets will be transformed into thriving places to live, work and visit after the pandemic.
Flood protection: Crawley is set to benefit from more than £480,000 of investment to help protect against flooding.
National Lottery: Thanks to National Lottery players for their role in raising funding for charities and community groups. Local groups in Crawley received more than £690,000 of National Lottery funding, supporting them as they seek to overcome social and economic challenges caused by the pandemic and build back stronger.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley