Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – July 2020
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the Government has sought to support people and businesses with the largest and most comprehensive packages of assistance anywhere in the world.
The Chancellor has now set out the second phase of the Government’s response, focusing on jobs: supporting people to find the jobs that are out there, creating new jobs through investing in infrastructure, and protecting jobs by revitalising the hard-hit sectors upon which many jobs depend.
As part of this, employers will be encouraged to retain staff who have been on the furlough scheme, with the Government paying a one-off bonus of £1,000 for every employee who was furloughed and who is kept on until January.
Also included in the Government’s £30 billion Plan for Jobs:
- A six month cut in VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for the tourism and hospitality sectors, to give a much-needed boost to some of the industries hardest hit by coronavirus.
- A new Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, giving people up to 50 per cent off meals out at restaurants, pubs and cafes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.
- The temporary removal of stamp duty on all homes under £500,000 until the end of March 2021, to catalyse the housing market.
- A new Kickstart Scheme, which will create hundreds of thousands of new, fully-subsidised jobs for young people.
Britain’s responsibilities on the global stage: Earlier this year Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, published a report about how the Chinese communist dictatorship’s disinformation has cost lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is far from the extent of Beijing’s actions which must be called out.
The erosion of free speech in Hong Kong and the oppression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang are not just issues on which we disagree with the Chinese government; we must also act to address them.
I am supporting efforts in Parliament which call on the Foreign Secretary to ensure those responsible for these actions in China’s ruling Communist Party face UK sanctions.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary telling the Commons last week that the next wave of Magnitsky designations are already being worked on and I look forward to these being announced at the earliest opportunity.
NHS 72nd anniversary: This month sees the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service. Unquestionably an important moment in the story of our country; the people who work in our health and care system are some of the very best our nation has to offer.
It is with this in mind that I welcome the news that there are over 820 more doctors and over 2,200 more nurses in the south east of England compared to last year, with some 6,000 more doctors and 12,000 more nurses nationally.
Whether you are one of these new members of staff, you have worked in the sector for some time previously, or if you are one of the healthcare professionals who returned as part of the response to COVID-19; we appreciate your dedication and we thank you.
Across England there are now over 23,100 more doctors, and over 22,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors working in the NHS than May 2010.
NHS Scaremongering Trade Bill Cynical Tactics: This week the House of Commons voted on the Trade Bill. This legislation is a continuity Bill, and cannot be used to implement new free trade agreements. Indeed, it is designed to enable those free trade agreements that the EU had signed with other countries before the UK left to be transitioned.
Our NHS is already protected by specific exceptions and reservations in these trade agreements. Some 20 continuity agreements have already been signed, retaining all of these protections for the NHS.
Count Them In: Next year’s Census will be the first to ask a specific question on service in the Armed Forces.
This follows the success of the Count Them In campaign led by the Royal British Legion which I was proud to support.
In Great Britain it is estimated that there are around 2.4 million veterans who form part of a wider community of former members of the Armed Forces, including their spouses, partners, dependent children, widows and widowers.
This information will help us gain a far greater understanding of the location, profile and needs of our veterans. It is one thing to talk about supporting our nation’s service personnel. Actions such as this will enable public bodies, local authorities and charities to make it happen.
Government is clear about its ambition to make the UK the best country anywhere to be a military veteran and in this endeavour they have my full support.
Cancer support: The number of people urgently referred for suspected cancer dropped at the worst of the coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19 does not change the importance of needing to diagnose cancers early, and I will continue to call on the Government for this to remain a priority.
Tourism and hospitality support: VAT is to be cut for six months for all businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and attractions industries, including up to 370 firms in Crawley.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme will entitle everyone to a discount of up to 50 per cent on their meal, up to a maximum of £10 per person, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August. Businesses can claim the money back from the Government, which will be paid in five working days. Up to 165 businesses in Crawley could benefit from the move.
A New Deal for Britain: The Government is to kickstart the economic recovery from coronavirus with £5 billion of infrastructure projects. 101 places are to receive at least an additional £500,000 to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets or transport links, including Crawley.
Government COVID-19 support for Crawley: 830 business properties in Crawley have received grants as part of the Small Business Grants Scheme. In total, more than £12.1 million has made its way to small businesses in the area.
Crawley Borough Council will receive a further £206,929 and West Sussex County Council a further £4,977,559 from the Government to help pay for their response to coronavirus, as part of a £500 million package of additional support.
Justice system: In the House of Commons I hailed the Attorney General’s reporting of record high Crown Prosecution Service recruitment so those who break the law receive timely justice.
Parliamentary democracy: Urging the swift return of Westminster Hall debates, which were stopped due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Chagos islanders: Seeking assurances from the Home Secretary that a review of UK nationality law with reference to Chagos islanders, exiled from their British Indian Ocean Territory homeland by Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s administration, will be carried out.
Post-shielding support: As Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about post-shielding financial support for people with blood cancer who are unable to return to work.
Operation Venetic: Praised the efforts of the National Crime Agency and police officers from the south east of England in taking criminals, weapons and drugs off our streets.
Arts and culture: £1.57 billion has been announced by the Government to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions, including £900 million in grants and £270 million in repayable loans.
Sustainable aviation: Called on the Transport Secretary to support the aviation industry to become more sustainable. The Government's recently announced Jet Zero Council will help achieve these ambitions.
SME support: Questioning the Cabinet Office over difficulties experienced by SMEs in achieving public procurement contracts.
Sussex kelp forest protections: Calling for the introduction of a protection bye-law for the Sussex coast kelp forest.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley