Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – February 2020
The first duty of any Government is to keep its people safe. The London incidents at Fishmongers’ Hall last November and in Streatham earlier this month only go to highlight the risk to public safety from released terrorist prisoners, which is why the Government is right to bring forward the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill.
This legislation will ensure that half-way release for terrorist offenders will end, meaning that these offenders cannot be released without serving a minimum of two-thirds of their sentence and facing a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board.
These measures will mean around 50 terrorist prisoners already serving affected sentences will see their automatic release halted.
New rules will apply to offenders sentenced for crimes including training for terrorism, membership of a proscribed organisation, and the dissemination of terrorist publications.
Other work being done will include stepping-up deradicalisation measures in our prisons. Further action through a new Counter-Terrorism Bill will enhance our country’s response to terrorism by keeping terrorists behind bars for longer and strengthening licence supervision.
This will introduce a minimum sentence of 14 years for the worst terrorist offenders and will stop the release of anyone given an Extended Determinate Sentence, meaning they will serve their whole sentence in prison.
World Cancer Day: This month I proudly wore my Unity Band in support of World Cancer Day on 4th February.
We all know someone who has had cancer, and I welcome the commitments in the NHS Long-Term Plan to increase the number of people diagnosed with cancer at stage 1 or 2 to 75 per cent by 2028, ensure 55,000 more people each year survive cancer for at least five years after diagnosis, and the launch of Rapid Diagnostic Centres across the country to transform diagnostic services and improve patient pathways.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer I recently restarted our inquiry into genomic medicine in blood cancer. We’ve put out a call for evidence which is open until 16th March. Genomics is the study of the genome; all 3.2 billion letters (or ‘bases’) of a person’s DNA. There are around 20,000 genes within a person’s genome, these are akin to the instructions for making the proteins our bodies are built from.
Genomic medicine will provide benefits to both the biomedical research community and individual patients; potentially offering a more accurate diagnosis, and in turn, appropriate treatments and access to clinical trials. The NHS will be the first healthcare system in the world to systematically introduce whole genome sequencing into routine healthcare.
Support for new mums: Welcoming a funding boost which means that every new mum in Crawley will be able to get a full postnatal check-up after having a baby.
NHS England has announced that all GP practices will get funding so that mothers get a dedicated six week postnatal check-up to discuss their health with a GP or healthcare practitioner. Up until now only the baby check has been funded.
For too long the mental health of mothers after giving birth has been overlooked. This is why I’ve been supporting the National Childbirth Trust’s (NCT) #HiddenHalf campaign for a number of years and it’s right that funding will go to GP practices so that mums get a six week postnatal check-up.
During last month’s House of Commons debate on the NHS Funding Bill I spoke about the Government’s commitment to ensure that mental health is treated on a par with physical health. The six week postnatal mental health check is just one area where this objective turns into a real difference for people using our NHS.
Commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day: On 8th May 2020, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, events will take place across the UK to commemorate the Allied Victory in Europe and give thanks to the Second World War generation and the sacrifices they made securing peace across the continent.
I join the Prime Minister in backing the Royal British Legion’s search for people from this generation who will rightly take centre stage at the commemorations in London, which will culminate in a procession down the Mall.
Applications are open until 2nd March via the Royal British Legion’s website. I urge veterans in Crawley to look into signing up, as our nation says thank you, three quarters of a century after the end of the war.
Stronger sentences for cruelty to animals: One issue which tends to unite those usually on differing sides of the political spectrum is the necessity to increase the punishment for those who hurt animals needlessly.
Recently in Westminster I was pleased to meet with Battersea – the dog and cat rescue centre – to reiterate my support for Government proposals to extend the current maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences, specified under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, tenfold from six months imprisonment to five years.
UK leadership on environmental protections: As a world leader in environmental protections, it is important that the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) will be held in Great Britain. Earlier this month in Parliament I received assurances from the Foreign Office over the importance of UK diplomatic efforts focusing on a successful summit.
The UK continues to lead by example in this area. The landmark Environment Bill has been introduced to the new session of Parliament, and the need to leave our planet in a better condition for future generations is at the heart of the Government’s priorities.
Moving forward together after Brexit: The new GREAT ‘Ready to Trade’ campaign has launched in 17 cities across 13 countries outside the EU, as the UK seeks to strengthen relationships with future global partners.
In the recent debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons I spoke about our deep links to the rest of the world. From the strength of the English language, our common law system, and the respect in which this country is held, we are in a great position to succeed in the future.
We can use our unique global connections to be a conduit to continental Europe. Let us move forward in an increasingly small world as one United Kingdom.
Improving our NHS: Spoke in the House of Commons debate on the NHS Funding Bill in support of the Government’s plans to enshrine in law its commitment to increase funding for the National Health Service.
The NHS Funding Bill will guarantee the £33.9 billion annual boost for the NHS by 2023-24. This Bill includes a ‘double-lock’ commitment that places a legal duty on both the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care and the Treasury to uphold this minimum level of NHS revenue funding over the next four years.
In Crawley, we need to see this funding going towards the issue of GP capacity. This is an issue which many local residents have raised with me and ensuring more GPs are recruited is an important part of the answer.
While the new Urgent Care Centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; as the natural population centre for the area, Crawley needs a new hospital – in no small part due to the time it can take to get to East Surrey. This is my call to the Government front bench.
The Government have confirmed that by 2024-25 6,000 more GPs and 6,000 more primary care professionals will be delivered, allowing 50 million more GP appointments to take place and therefore reducing the time that patients are left waiting. This needs to result in benefits for Crawley residents.
School funding boost: Confirmation that secondary schools in West Sussex are guaranteed at least £5,000 in per pupil funding, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil, thanks to new legislation introduced by the Government.
Local authorities will now be required by law to make sure every school receives these minimum levels of funding for each pupil – a commitment which the Prime Minister pledged to deliver during his first 100 days in office.
This forms part of the Government’s £14 billion funding boost for schools over the next three years – ensuring that all young people receive an excellent education, regardless of where they grow up or go to school.
This legislation guarantees that funding per pupil in West Sussex will increase by 5.55 per cent in 2020-21 to an average of £4,516.94 per pupil.
Standing up for victims of crime: Questioning the Home Office Minister to ensure that victims of crime are taken into account in our criminal justice system and its operation.
Funding boost: Welcoming the Government’s confirmation that Crawley Borough Council will see its budget increased by 6.1 per cent this year and West Sussex County Council will see its budget increased by 7 per cent this year, as part of the Government’s commitment to level up local services across the country.
Rough sleeping support: Crawley will receive an extra £300,750 to tackle rough sleeping this year to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Councils will receive a share of an additional £112 million through the Rough Sleeping Initiative to help get people off the streets and in to safe and secure accommodation.
This builds on the Prime Minister’s drive to end homelessness and the announcement before Christmas of £260 million for local authorities to help people who are homeless or at risk of losing their homes get back on their feet.
Generation Kind: Met with the RSPCA in the House of Commons to hear about their Generation Kind initiative which helps teach compassion to new generations and the organisation’s work to protect animals in Crawley.
Immigration system: Welcoming the Home Secretary’s announcement of a skilled, points-based UK visa system from 2021 and calling for increased resources to address illegal immigration.
M23 smart motorway works: Calling for a Statement from the Transport Secretary on M23 smart motorway construction.
Tackling coronavirus: Asking the Health & Social Care Secretary over UK work to tackle coronavirus, following the Government granting £20 million to seek a vaccine. I additionally questioned the Secretary of State over the potential use of an isolation facility at Gatwick Airport.
Increased sentences: During the debate on the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill I asked the Justice Secretary about the accountability of the Parole Board.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley