Henry Smith MP Westminster Report - January 2019

Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – January 2019

This month I paid tribute in the Commons to my caseworker, Susan, who sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer. In the chamber I called on the Health & Social Care Secretary to continue working with voluntary sector organisations such as Pancreatic Cancer UK, who work to support patients.

Columns

Brexit: Having listened carefully to the House of Commons debate regarding the Prime Minister’s UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement, I voted against this deal. That arrangement would actually have ceded sovereignty, particularly through the so-called backstop arrangement, which the UK would not have been able to leave unilaterally. This deal did not deliver the Brexit which a majority of Crawley and national voters wanted in their referendum decision.

This month I questioned the Prime Minister about the backstop and asked the International Trade Secretary about the importance of the result being respected.

Local council funding: £420 million has been committed for highways authorities throughout England this winter to address seasonal repair pressures by the Government. This includes more than £6 million for pot hole repairs in West Sussex, with Crawley’s cyclists and motorists directly benefiting.

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heart & Circulatory Diseases: With an estimated 11,000 people living with cardiovascular disease in Crawley I am pleased to chair this Group, which is currently undertaking an inquiry on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on people with such conditions.

Confidence motion: I voted against the motion of no confidence in the Government which took place in Parliament this month.

I voted in favour of the Government because I will not risk the progress which has taken place since 2010. Locally, the investment in our NHS has seen services return to Crawley Hospital. Only this month the new NHS Long-Term Plan was published, which will see an extra £394 million a week for our health service.

New Year: Looking ahead including greater support for mental health services, supporting cancer patients, and bringing forward legislation which will help those Crawley residents who were forcibly removed from their homeland in Diego Garcia by the Harold Wilson government.

Holocaust Memorial Day: Signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, reaffirming my support for their work and in honour of those who were murdered. Holocaust Memorial Day is marked each year on 27th January; which is the anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It falls to every single person in public life to condemn anti-Semitism, and work to end such hatred.

Tackling homelessness in Crawley: The Government have provided Crawley Borough Council with over £700,000 to tackle homelessness in our town, with this figure to rise to more than £800,000 in 2019-20.

While funding support is welcome, I questioned the Local Government Minister in the House of Commons about ensuring those in need of support receive it.

Figures which show that Crawley Borough Council has more than £21 million of reserves – a sum which sits in the top fifth largest among comparable local authorities – and helps put the complaints from their leadership about a supposed lack of financial support into perspective.

It is up to the leadership of housing authorities such as Crawley Borough Council to work constructively with central government and other local authority colleagues in West Sussex to support some of the most vulnerable locally. They need to stop playing party politics with homelessness and start actually acting to tackle this issue with the significant cash they have effectively sitting in the bank as well as the large grants to address this issue they receive from the Government. 

Hear Our Voice: Launched this report which calls for enhanced improvement and care for people with blood cancer.

Over a third of people with a blood cancer need to visit their GP three or more times with symptoms before being referred to hospital; more than for any other type of cancer. A wider understanding of the symptoms, which include fatigue, night sweats and unexplained weight loss, will see better outcomes and support for patients.

Open Doors: Attended the launch of the 2019 World Watch List, compiled each year by Open Doors, listing the 50 countries in the world where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian.

Around 245 million Christians are at risk of persecution, with Russia entering the list for the first time since 2011.

I raised this in the House of Commons with a call for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help stop such persecution. I remain grateful to the Crawley residents who contact me in support of Open Doors’ efforts; not just coinciding with the launch of their annual World Watch List, but throughout the year.

Review of 2018: A brief round-up of just a snapshot of my work in Crawley and Westminster over the last 12 months.

Other news

NHS Long-Term Plan: This will protect the future of our National Health Service for generations to come by ensuring every penny of the accompanying £20.5 billion of extra funding per year is spent wisely.

I am pleased that it has been developed by the NHS, ensuring it will work for both patients and staff. Workforce is at the heart of the plan, with tens of thousands more doctors, nurses and other health professionals improving access to healthcare for people in Crawley and nationally.

Backing Crawley business: Hailed young local entrepreneur Sam French, the founder of Sam’s Kitchen. It is vital that we get the balance right between necessary regulation and not imposing too much of a burden on growing businesses.

Rail fare discounts: Welcomed the news that the Government are introducing a new railcard which will halve all rail fares for 16 and 17 year olds. A 26-30 year old railcard was launched this month, giving this age group in Crawley a fairer deal in the commute to work by cutting a third off rail fares.

Ministers are launching a review to transform Britain’s railways, improve services and provide better value for money for passengers – I will continue to hold the Department for Transport to account.

With the Government freezing rail fares in line with inflation for the sixth year in a row, it is a contrast to the previous Labour government which increased rail fares above inflation by 7.5 per cent in 2009.

Violent crime: Questioned the Home Office minister over support for Crawley in combatting serious offences.

Crawley’s employment record: Asked the Work & Pensions Minister what further action can be taken to support more people into work to reach their potential.

Taxpayers’ money: Questioning Crawley Borough Council spending.

Guide Dogs: Met the charity to raise awareness of discrimination against guide dog owners. It is wrong that guide dog owners are turned away by businesses. This is not just poor customer service; it is discrimination and is unacceptable. Disabled people have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local pub.

Car parking protections: Reiterating my support for the Government-backed Parking (Code of Practice) Bill which will provide motorists with new legal protections from unscrupulous private parking operators, as well as raising standards in the industry.

Animal welfare: Asked the Environment Secretary about the importance of post-Brexit protections.

Business rates retention: I have been working alongside other county MPs, as well as the leadership of West Sussex County Council, to ensure greater retention of business rates (rather than this local corporate tax going centrally to HM Treasury as it does now); a cause I have raised with the Housing, Communities & Local Government Secretary and in the House of Commons.

Last month’s local government finance settlement confirmed our work had paid off, with West Sussex being included in the Government’s pilot programme of 75 per cent business rates retention in 2019-20.

The existing business rates retention scheme taking place around the country is already yielding strong results, with councils estimating that in 2018-19 they will keep around £2.4 billion in business rates growth.

Drone disruption: Thanked those involved in mitigating the effects of disruption caused by a drone at Gatwick Airport before Christmas, and pressed for swifter deployment of technology during any such incident in the future.

Industrial Strategy: Since 2010, there are now 198,900 more people with the security of a job in the south east of England. The modern Industrial Strategy, through the biggest transformation to technical education in a generation, ensures that people can boost their skills to take on the challenges and jobs of the future.

We are seeing record levels of public investment in R&D, the signing of new sector deals to transform key industries and the highest growth in infrastructure spending in the G7.

First class delivery: Met with postal workers at the Crawley Royal Mail Delivery Office to thank them for their efforts sorting and delivering mail during the busy Christmas period.

To keep up to date with my work standing up for Crawley please visit: www.henrysmith.info/news. Additionally you can follow my daily activities via FacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTube

With my best wishes

Henry Smith
Member of Parliament for Crawley