Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – December 2021
Christmas is always a time to reflect on the year which is almost at an end.
Of course, one issue I have continued to pursue this year has been the effect of Covid-19 on our local community. As Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation which I established last year I have continued lobbying to ensure sector recovery which so many Crawley jobs rely on.
At the start of 2021 I led a cross-party approach of more than 80 MPs and Peers to the Prime Minister urging for additional support for the aviation, travel and tourism industries. Some months later I secured and led a debate calling on Government to back this sector, with Crawley and Gatwick workers at the very forefront of my thoughts.
One of the reasons international travel has been able to open up has been the success of the UK’s vaccination programme. My thanks go to all involved in this ongoing effort including those preparing to step up again as we deal with the Omicron variant this winter. It was my privilege to open the purpose-built vaccination unit at Saxonbrook Medical in March.
Our nation marked the passing of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh in April and gave thanks for his many decades of service. As then-Leader of West Sussex County Council I had the honour of meeting him in 2006 when HM The Queen visited Crawley to open the new Thomas Bennett Community College in Tilgate.
The final of Euro 2020 in July was the first time many of us had ever seen the England men’s football team compete in a major final. Integral to this achievement was former Pound Hill Junior and Hazelwick School pupil Gareth Southgate, now of course the England manager.
Congratulations to Crawley-born cyclist Katie-George Dunlevy on winning two golds and a silver for Ireland at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and my best wishes to Crawley’s Brad Hall in the bobsleigh at next year’s Winter Olympics.
In October we lost my colleague, Sir David Amess MP, who was murdered as he undertook a surgery in his Southend West constituency. In what was Sir David’s untimely final contribution in the House of Commons, he spoke to support my Hen Caging (Prohibition) Bill.
This Bill seeks to stop egg-laying hens being placed in so-called enriched cages, and I was delighted when Sir David became a formal sponsor of this legislation. As I continue my representations on this issue the dedication, enthusiasm and commitment of Sir David will remain at the forefront of my mind.
I welcome confirmation that a Crawley College-led Institute of Technology proposal, which will include a new state-of-the-heart hub at the town centre site, has been successful in its bid for £10 million of Government funding.
The consortium including the Chichester College Group, the University of Sussex, the University of Brighton and North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) have secured this funding from Government to enhance higher level skills training across the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership region, of which Crawley sits at its heart.
The investment is to create new cutting-edge facilities for higher level technical training with a focus on digital and sustainable technologies across a number of sectors including engineering and construction.
Earlier this month I spoke in the House of Commons to welcome Crawley College’s delivery of T-Levels and to invite the Skills Minister to come and visit.
Boosting our protection against Covid-19: The Covid-19 booster vaccine programme recently jabbed its 28 millionth arm, as our protection against coronavirus continues with millions more receiving doses since the Prime Minister’s call for the nation to get boosted.
Including first and second doses, some 100 million vaccines have been administered, in just a year since the programme began. This is a remarkable achievement and shows what can happen when we have the UK Government and the private sector, the NHS and local volunteers all working together.
Of course, this is no time to look back and feel content. The first anniversary at the start of this month of the vaccine programme commencing was marked by an announcement that booster jabs can be booked just three months after a second dose.
I continue to encourage people to get their Covid-19 vaccines to protect themselves, their family, and help our society return to a sense of normality. I had my booster jab this month at the Apple Tree Centre in Ifield.
To book your Covid-19 vaccine please visit: www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine
Rights of the Chagossian community: This month I led the call in Parliament to amend the Government’s Nationality & Borders Bill to enable those descended from individuals born in the British Indian Ocean Territory to be allowed to register as British citizens, through simplifying nationality law so that anyone who can prove that they are of Chagossian descent becomes eligible to register as a British Overseas Territories citizen.
Crawley is home to potentially the largest Chagossian population in the world. The Chagos islanders were, shamefully, forcibly removed from their homeland under Harold Wilson’s late 1960s premiership to make way for a military base.
Boeing’s confidence in Crawley: I was pleased to welcome confirmation from Boeing that its new London Gatwick Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul facility will see significant extra activity and jobs. This is not only a result of the cargo demand the company is seeing globally but also the importance of aviation in the UK.
This facility at Gatwick Airport was a £100 million investment which was completed shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Such a vote of confidence for British aviation is not only welcome on a national level, but I also welcome confirmation that this will mean Boeing will increase employment in Crawley to 230 jobs.
The Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul facility will stand close to the company’s Gatwick Training Campus, where resources including its nine full flight simulators make it their largest combined training centre outside the United States.
Government support for airports: Welcoming the extension of Government support for airports and calling for action to cut the costs of PCR testing in light of the Omicron variant.
Aviation, travel and tourism have been among the worst hit parts of the economy over the last two years, and this month in Parliament I have called for further sector assistance in light of new Covid-19 measures.
Small Business Saturday: Hailed the contribution of small businesses in Crawley and the role they have played serving our local community during the Covid-19 pandemic, to mark Small Business Saturday on 4th December. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, our high streets and an integral part of our recovery from the pandemic in Crawley.
Union Connectivity Review: I welcome the publication of the Union Connectivity Review, a major new report looking at how improving transport links between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would support economic growth and quality of life.
As Gatwick Airport and the Crawley economy recovers from the effects of Covid-19 I also welcome measures to cut Air Passenger Duty which will enhance UK air connectivity. The announcement in the recent Budget of a 50 per cent cut in APD for flights between airports in the UK is welcome and is set to benefit around 9 million passengers in 2023-24.
Amusements industry: Visited Admiral high street adult gaming centre in Crawley to discuss how the sector is recovering from the pandemic.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Member of Parliament for Crawley