Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – January 2022
This month marked the 75th anniversary of the official designation of Crawley as a post-war New Town, on 9th January 1947.
As the country recovered from war, the villages of Three Bridges and Ifield and the small market town of Crawley were brought together as one new town, under the auspices of the 1946 New Towns Act.
The neighbourhood principle remains an important part of the character of Crawley. Every neighbourhood, old and new, is unique and holds its own distinctive features. The common thread throughout the town is how each community demonstrates its civic pride for the local area; respecting the past while making improvements for our future.
One way in which the Platinum Jubilee is being commemorated is through the Civic Honours Competition. This is where local authorities are able to apply for city status for their local area and I am proud to back Crawley’s bid.
Our borough’s coat of arms includes the motto “I Grow and I Rejoice” – an appropriate message and one which the granting of city status will only help us continue to fulfil.
On 6th February, HM the Queen will become the first monarch ever to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne. This will be marked by events throughout the year, but it is this coming date which is the moment which will go down in history as we thank Her Majesty for her service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
HM the Queen has visited Crawley many times during her reign and indeed before her ascension, with our town continuing to go from strength to strength throughout Her Majesty’s time on the throne.
In 2006, as then-Leader of West Sussex County Council, I was honoured to meet the Queen at the opening of the new Thomas Bennett Community College.
Celebrations this year will include Trooping the Colour, the lighting of beacons throughout the UK including the Millennium Beacon at Tilgate Park, and a special service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
An important constant of these events will be the crowds that will be there to enjoy them. As we emerge from the darkness of coronavirus and with the restrictions on gatherings in this country lifting, we can come together to thank Her Majesty for all she continues to do for the nation.
Taking action to protect our planet: On a national and international level we are seeing the UK leading the way, with British leadership at the COP26 summit last November ensuring almost 200 countries agreeing the Glasgow Climate Pact to ‘keep 1.5C alive’ which provides a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with Britain securing historic commitments from countries to act on coal, cars, cash and trees.
At home, the landmark Environment Act is now law. This legislation will clean up our air, restore natural habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste and make better use of our resources.
Reform of Tony Blair’s Human Rights Act 1998: The Government is seeking to restore common sense to the application of human rights in Britain. These improvements remain faithful to the basic principles of human rights. The modern Bill of Rights will protect essential rights, such as the right to a fair trial and the right to life, which are unquestionable parts of a democratic society such as ours.
What will be reversed is the ‘mission creep’ that has meant human rights law is being used for more and more purposes, often with little regard for the rights of society as a whole.
Winter Olympics: The Winter Olympics start this week and Team GB will be continuing its record of competing at every Games since they first took place in France almost a century ago. I look forward to cheering on Crawley’s own Brad Hall in the bobsleigh!
While the athletes of the world will be travelling to Beijing for the Games, including a squad of around 50 competitors from Britain, a conspicuous and deliberate absence will be world leaders from the UK and a growing number of other like-minded democracies.
It is important to consider the reasons for what is known as a diplomatic boycott. It is not merely down to a simple political disagreement. It is in response to the flagrant and continued human rights abuses carried out by the Chinese communist dictatorship.
In Parliament I am a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which holds the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office to account. Last summer we published our report ‘Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond’ which highlighted the extent of atrocities being carried out there.
The Chinese regime is responsible for mass detention of more than a million Uyghurs, forcing them into industrial-scale forced labour programmes and also trying to wipe out Uyghur culture in the region.
Our Committee wrote about how through greater support and safeguards for the Uyghur people as well as the preservation of their culture, we can protect them against acts which have been stated by the House of Commons as constituting crimes against humanity and genocide. It is not enough just to say ‘never again’.
When the Winter Olympics start the leaders of Britain and several other free nations will be cheering on our team from home, rather than in a way which would lend international credibility to the regime in Beijing, which also threatens Hong Kong’s and Taiwan’s freedoms too.
Aviation, travel and tourism: As Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Future of Aviation I am leading cross-party representations calling for greater support for the aviation, travel and tourism industries.
A failure to protect the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism sectors risks leaving these vital industries a shadow of their former selves and will set back our national recovery.
We are also calling on Government to get control of testing, ensure that its costs are made free or at least capped, set out how and when travel restrictions will be lifted and to bring forward a package of financial support to protect businesses, jobs and the communities who depend on aviation.
I have spoken publicly on this issue and will continue to stand up for Crawley workers and businesses.
UK support for Ukraine: This month I asked the Defence Secretary about UK support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. I have recently returned from a Foreign Affairs Committee visit to the country where I met senior ministers in Kyiv and visited military commanders on the line of contact with Russian forces in Donetsk oblast.
Following this visit, in Parliament I questioned a Foreign Office Minister about the threats currently being faced by this sovereign country.
School funding boost: Schools in West Sussex will receive £682 million in funding next year, a boost of £47 million as part of the Government’s £4 billion increase in spending for schools across the country.
The total extra funding for schools means mainstream schools will receive £41.7 billion in 2022-23, an increase of 5.8 per cent per pupil. Every primary school will receive at least £4,362 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £5,669 per pupil.
I welcome confirmation that a record £1 billion extra will be spent to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, so that all young people can reach their full potential.
Holocaust Memorial Day: Signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, pledging my commitment to and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.
International travel: Welcomed the Government making international travel easier for fully Covid-19 vaccinated passengers. In the House of Commons I called on the Transport Secretary to ensure more is done against testing companies ripping people off.
Security briefings: Asked the Security Minister about the confidential briefings being provided to opposition MPs following reports over the influence of China.
MARSBalloon project: Encouraging Crawley schools to take part in a programme carrying out science experiments about the conditions on Mars.
Covid-19 support: Questioning the Vaccines & Public Health Minister in Parliament about support for immunocompromised and immunosuppressed people.
As Blood Cancer All-Party Parliamentary Group Chair I am preparing for the upcoming launch of our new report on the impact of Covid-19 on blood cancer services.
Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill: Tabled an amendment to Government legislation which seeks to improve the handling and transport of laying hens prior to slaughter.
Sussex Police: Funding for police in Sussex will be boosted by up to £18.5 million in 2022-23, as part of the Government’s Beating Crime Plan to make our streets safer.
This will make a difference in Crawley and brings the total funding for our local police force up to £346.2 million for 2022-23, supporting our police and Police & Crime Commissioner as they work to make our streets safer.
This funding will support our police as they build on the fantastic work carried out so far – removing dangerous weapons from our streets and ending the scourge of drugs in our communities.
The increase will help to deliver on the Government’s Beating Crime Plan, which focuses on ending neighbourhood crime, making our streets safer, and driving down homicide rates.
Recent figures show that the Beating Crime Plan is already having a significant effect in taking dangerous offenders off our streets. Over 1,500 county drugs lines have been closed since 2019, with over 7,400 arrests and £4.3 million in drugs seized. Almost 16,000 knives and dangerous weapons have also been removed, while 300,000 at risk young people have been supported through Violence Reduction Units.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley