Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – February 2021
Roadmap to recovery
With more people being vaccinated every day, we can now begin to gradually replace national lockdown restrictions, but doing so cautiously so that this is the final lockdown and this progress must be irreversible.
The success of our vaccination programme has dramatically changed our odds in defeating this disease. By proceeding through the four phases of the roadmap, freedoms can be restored without undoing the sacrifices that have helped get us to this point
Over 18.2 million people have received a vaccine so far across the United Kingdom. Government’s ambition is now to offer a coronavirus vaccine to every adult in the country by the end of July. More than 18.9 million vaccines have now been administered in the UK; averaging more than 2.5 million doses a week with over 1 in 3 of all adults across the country receiving a jab.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation I continue to call for an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme and for a comprehensive financial support package for the aviation, travel and tourism industries.
It is important that the Chancellor extends furlough and introduces an Airport Communities Resilience Fund to provide further support for those areas most affected by the collapse in UK aviation.
Alongside this the Government must ensure that a full and comprehensive package of financial support is provided to businesses in the aviation, travel and tourism sectors to protect jobs and to help them through the challenging months ahead.
The pandemic has been disastrous for our aviation, travel and tourism communities and the Chancellor needs to use the upcoming Budget to provide support they desperately need.
Gatwick Freeport: One of the ways the Government wants to see post-Brexit trade boosted is the creation of innovative new Freeports around the country with local areas being invited to bid.
I want to see the Crawley area enjoy and utilise these benefits and I am pleased to back the bid submitted by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership which would place the ‘Gatwick Freeport’ in the Manor Royal Business Improvement District in Crawley.
Supporting our police: Almost 18 months ago the Government launched its campaign to recruit 20,000 new police officers.
Recent figures show that the Home Office is on track to deliver this manifesto commitment to recruit 20,000 extra officers by 2023, with the first target of 6,000 new officers by March 2021 already being exceeded.
Locally, Sussex Police has been bolstered by an additional 129 officers as part of the Government recruitment drive. I am also grateful to the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne, whose own initiative has seen a further 50 officers recruited.
Getting more police officers onto the street is a key priority and I am pleased that the work of central government and our local PCC has led to 179 new officers so far in Sussex.
My congratulations and thanks to these new recruits who I know will make an important difference in keeping our community safe.
World Cancer Day: To mark World Cancer Day earlier this month I was pleased to have a virtual meeting with Cancer Research UK. Covid-19 has affected every walk of life, with one of its most devastating effects being the consequences on cancer services.
Cancer Research UK have found that 2020 saw 40,000 fewer people starting cancer treatment across the United Kingdom. This figure looks specifically at treatment and is largely driven by a fall in the number of people who were diagnosed with cancer last year, which is a cause for concern in itself. Diagnosis of cancer at an earlier stage means a greater chance of survival.
Currently, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. I share the ambition of Cancer Research UK to see progress continue so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least a decade.
Protecting our local community: One issue I have continued to speak out on over the last couple of years are the proposals by Homes England to build some 10,000 housing units on green fields to the west of Ifield.
The voice of local residents is clear in opposition to these plans. This is the call I have continued to make in resident meetings, to Homes England, and in Parliament.
While no one can deny the need to build new homes in this country, such a task cannot be done by ignoring the concerns of local communities.
Help the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out: The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine is a feat which our country can be proud of. I am grateful for the dedication of NHS staff and all the workers and volunteers involved in protecting our nation at this time. My thanks as well to everyone who has signed up to be a potential vaccinator or volunteer.
Equality of opportunity: Questioning the Equalities Minister about the Government’s work to ensure equality of opportunity for children with learning disabilities.
Local authority support: New analysis shows that local authorities across West Sussex have so far received an extra £111 million to support vital local services during the Covid-19 pandemic, with further funding confirmed for next year.
Kickstart Scheme: The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme is creating thousands of new employment opportunities for young people across the UK as part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs. Since it launched in September, more than 120,000 Government-funded Kickstart jobs have been created for 16-24-year-olds on Universal Credit. It is now even easier for businesses of all sizes to join, so employers can directly apply for any number of placements.
Support for victims of domestic abuse: Crawley Borough Council is to receive over £35,000 and West Sussex County Council to receive over £1.4 million to help fund a new duty to ensure victims and their children are able to access life-saving support in safe accommodation.
A total of £125 million has been allocated to councils across England to support domestic abuse victims and their children. This new funding is part of Government’s landmark Domestic Abuse Bill and package of comprehensive support for victims.
Covid-19 hotel quarantine: Questioning the Health & Social Care Secretary to ensure that the Government’s additional targeted quarantine measures are reviewed on a regular basis.
Long Live the Local: Calling on the Government to cut beer tax. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on brewers and pubs throughout the UK. In 2020 beer sales in pubs fell by 56 per cent, which amounts to £7.8 billion in lost sales. Brewing and pubs in Crawley support 1,424 jobs and contribute £34.4 million to the local economy.
Violence Reduction Units: A special unit designed to help tackle serious violence and prevent young people in Sussex being drawn into it will receive £880,000.
Airport and Ground Operators Support Scheme: The Government’s multimillion-pound support scheme for airports has now opened – with Gatwick Airport set to receive up to £8 million this year. The scheme reflects the aviation sector’s valuable contribution to the UK economy, and will help to ease pressure on airports hit by the pandemic.
Net zero: Asking the Business, Energy & Clean Growth Minister about Government support for the aviation sector’s pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
UK Covid-19 British Overseas Territories support: Received confirmation from the Minister for the Armed Forces that UK Covid-19 support is being provided to our British Overseas Territories family globally.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley