Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – December 2020
The last twelve months have been the most challenging many of us have ever seen. I want to reiterate my thanks for everyone who has played their part in our community’s response.
These include our NHS and care workers, those who kept the shops stocked up and the transport system running, as well as our school teachers. From our emergency services and utility workers, to our armed forces who supported COVID-19 testing efforts.
There have also been countless people who did the shopping for a neighbour, called to check in on others, and have worked with vulnerable residents to help ensure no one was left behind. Local authority staff have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure those in need of supplies receive these in a timely manner; their work will not be forgotten.
In January, one of the first tasks undertaken by this Government was to enshrine in law for the first time funding increases for the National Health Service. The NHS Funding Act confirms an extra £33.9 billion every year by 2023-24 for the NHS to transform care.
I spoke in the House of Commons to support this legislation; this was also the first time I raised coronavirus in the chamber; a topic which was to dominate parliamentary proceedings for some time to come.
Locally I spent much of the months ahead liaising with local authorities, lobbying Government for further support, and providing assistance to Crawley residents in need of help for their families and their businesses.
In Westminster I set up the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group, in recognition of the importance of this sector for the Crawley economy, including workers at Gatwick Airport and across the supply chain.
2020 has been an unprecedented year – the Government have sought to tackle the two big challenges of COVID-19, ensuring the NHS was able to deliver and our economy was supported – to this end Crawley has received over £100 million in direct support.
As the coronavirus vaccine rollout begins across the United Kingdom – the first nation to do so – we are on the threshold of recovery in 2021.
My very best wishes to all in Crawley this Christmas.
COVID-19 vaccine: Not long after the UK approved use of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Margaret Keenan became the first patient to have the jab in this country, and the largest ever vaccination programme in the UK’s history had commenced.
It is a source of national pride that we are the first western nation to start a mass vaccination programme to beat coronavirus, while recognising the UK’s leading role in defeating this pandemic on a global level as well.
The NHS is working swiftly to put in place new delivery channels, including hospital hubs, which are tailored to the particular logistical requirements of the vaccine. Dozens of NHS trusts are acting as hubs where patients and staff can be vaccinated on site; locations which the NHS know the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be stored safely.
Most vaccinations for high-risk groups will take place between January and April. Among the first to receive the jab are patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay.
People will receive an invitation to come forward to get the jab. For most, this will be a letter, either from their GP or the NHS nationally. This letter will include all the information a person will need to book appointments, including their NHS number.
The NHS are asking people not to contact them to get the coronavirus vaccine until they have received this letter.
The Government has secured access to over 350 million vaccine doses through agreements with seven separate vaccine developers. As well as the 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, this also includes 100 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, 60 million doses of the Valneva vaccine, 60 million doses of the GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine and 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine.
I have been asked by a number of Crawley residents if I would be happy to have this vaccine – the answer is yes. I look forward to having the vaccine as soon as I am eligible to do so.
As we stand on the threshold of protecting people by getting this vaccine, my thanks to the NHS staff in Crawley and throughout the country who are going to make this happen.
Enhancing animal welfare protections upon Brexit: I am often contacted by Crawley residents who want to see our nation provide greater animal welfare protections, particularly given the opportunities in this regard upon exiting the European Union’s single market.
One key area of opportunity is to stop needless suffering of live animals which are being exported for slaughter.
Along with parliamentary colleagues I have campaigned on this issue for some years, with successive UK governments not able to tackle the issue due to the constraints of EU membership.
With the end of the Brexit transition on the horizon, it is right that this Government is looking to the future. The Environment Secretary has launched a consultation aiming to ban live animal exports.
The Government consultation ‘Improvements to animal welfare in transport’ is open until 28th January 2021. Please click here for more information including how to make a submission.
NHS boost: The Government has announced allocations of £600 million to tackle critical maintenance work in hospitals across England, including a total of eight projects in the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and the Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.
The Trusts will receive £1.69 million to carry out the work, which could include building new or refurbishing buildings to deliver key services, upgrades to electrical infrastructure, improvements to ventilation systems, works to improve fire safety and the replacement of hospital lifts.
Last month’s Spending Review announced a dedicated £1.2 billion for NHS new hospitals in 2021-22. Good progress has also been made on the Government’s pledge of 50,000 more nurses by 2025 – with the latest statistics showing there are already 14,800 more nurses in the NHS than a year ago.
Small Business Saturday: There is no doubting just how challenging 2020 has been for small businesses, which are the backbone of communities such as ours in Crawley.
We have seen local businesses step up to help our community time and time again this year, and I pay tribute to all of those who have played their part in getting us through the pandemic.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, the Government has provided more than £280 billion to support lives and livelihoods. This includes the furlough scheme, which has been extended until the end of April and continues to support 9,000 jobs in Crawley.
The BBC and animal safety: I have organised a cross-party letter signed by 50 Members of Parliament urging the BBC to ensure animal welfare practices are taken into account when making decisions on programming.
The intervention follows the announcement that BBC Three has commissioned the programme ‘Will My Puppies Make Me Rich?’, which raises numerous questions over animal welfare and the potential glamorisation of puppy breeding as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.
The BBC should be a trusted source of information and entertainment for many throughout the United Kingdom, and our concern is that this programme has the potential to make the situation for puppies worse. This would set back the work of Government, parliamentarians and animal welfare organisations to address this issue.
Airport support: Welcomed the introduction of COVID-19 air passenger testing, which is vital for the recovery of UK aviation, and I further encourage Government to continue improving customer confidence.
Prime Minister’s Questions: Asked Boris Johnson about the opportunities for the UK upon the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December.
My best wishes to all in Crawley this Christmas.
Member of Parliament for Crawley