Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – July 2023
I welcome an agreement between the UK Government and BioNTech to bring ground-breaking cancer treatments a step closer.
The new agreement is aimed at providing up to 10,000 patients with cancer vaccines by 2030. The partnership will provide cancer patients with improved access to the latest cancer trials and therapies currently being developed.
The partnership with BioNTech – which previously developed a world-leading cancer vaccine with Pfizer – includes UK-based clinical trials intended to help treat patients through the use of precision immunotherapies which work by stimulating the immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells.
It is right that the NHS, with a new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, is at the forefront of this important work on cancer vaccines alongside Genomics England and BioNTech.
It will create a database of suitable NHS cancer patients and they will be offered the chance to take part in personalised cancer vaccine trials. Such access to ground-breaking personalised cancer therapies has the potential to help save many lives in the years ahead.
I recently welcomed the Roads & Local Transport Minister to the Crawley bus depot at Wheatstone Close for the launch of a new fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses which will be in operation in Crawley and the wider local area.
At first, a fleet of 20 new buses will be operational. Further vehicles will be delivered over the next 18 months with the total number of buses in the fleet to reach 54: one of the biggest hydrogen bus fleets in the country.
The station is not only the first liquid hydrogen refuelling station for buses in Europe; once it reaches full capacity it will be the largest of its kind continent-wide as well.
The Zero Emission Buses will be able to cover long ranges and carry heavy loads and mark the first hydrogen-powered vehicles in the Go-Ahead fleet of more than 6,000 buses which includes Metrobus.
Almost 3,400 Zero Emission Buses have been funded across the country in a little over three years, with this new fleet marking further progress to reaching the Government’s target of 4,000 such vehicles.
More than £1.1 million is being provided for bus companies and West Sussex County Council to extend the £2 bus fare cap locally as part of £500 million of investment to freeze bus fares nationally and improve routes.
Ensuring support for mortgage holders: The largest purchase most of us will ever make is to buy our own home. I am acutely aware of the pressures on mortgage holders over recent months due to inflation and interest rates rising to levels not seen since the 2000s as a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine and recovery spending from Covid.
Recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer met with leaders of Britain’s major mortgage lenders, the Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert. They discussed how lenders can provide further support for those who encounter problems paying their mortgage. Since then, we have seen Government make Support for Mortgage Interest easier to access, as well as record levels of funding for the Money & Pensions Service.
A new Mortgage Charter has now been agreed to give borrowers reassurance and support at this time.
Included in this package of measures is the ability for anyone worried about mortgage repayments to contact their lender for help and guidance, without any impact on their credit score.
There is also support for those customers who are up-to-date with payments to switch to a new mortgage deal at the end of their existing fixed rate deal without another affordability check. Lenders will also provide well-timed information to help customers plan ahead should their current rate be due to end, as well as offering tailored support for anyone struggling with highly-trained staff on hand to help.
Additionally, a new deal between lenders, the FCA and Government permits customers who are up-to-date with their payments to switch to interest-only payments for six months, or extend their mortgage term to reduce monthly payments and give customers the option to revert to their original term within six months by contacting their lender.
In Parliament I will continue to hold the Government to account to ensure support gets to where it is needed most.
Duty-free shopping to support the Crawley and Gatwick aviation sector: As we reach the start of August, I know the thoughts of many people in Crawley will be turning to an upcoming week or two’s holiday.
It is both as Crawley MP, and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation which I established during the Covid-19 pandemic, that this month I organised and sent an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for the introduction of duty-free shopping on arrival at airports, international rail and ferry terminals in Great Britain.
This is an issue of improving British competitiveness. Some 65 countries already have duty-free stores, including in Asia, the Middle East and Oceania, in addition to non-EU European nations such as Norway and Switzerland.
I have also secured a debate in the House of Commons, scheduled for Wednesday 6th September, where I will reiterate the importance of bolstering Britain’s position globally.
The 75th anniversary of the NHS: This month marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service. It rightly remains a defining principle of the social contract in our country between the people and the state.
The health service continues to receive support as we recover from Covid and record high levels of funding now that what the UK used to pay to the EU has been deployed to our NHS.
The Primary Care Plan will see a range of reforms including changes to how GP appointments are booked to avoid the ‘8am rush’ which is all-too familiar. The plan will also see pharmacies given more responsibility as well as further expansion of services available on the NHS app.
Extra capacity will be ensured so more appointments from more staff can be offered. Work continues on the commitment of 26,000 more primary care professionals and 50 million more appointments. This is being supported by additional investment with actions including expansion of GP specialty training also taking place.
The opportunities of new technology are vastly different now compared to a decade or so ago, let alone three quarters of a century previously. I have been clear that we need transparency to ensure that patients are kept fully abreast of the developments of artificial intelligence (AI) in the NHS. Government has invested in 86 AI technologies to help patients by supporting stroke diagnosis, screening, cardiovascular monitoring and managing conditions at home.
By utilising such opportunities we can ensure the NHS is able to offer the best possible service over the next 75 years. My thanks to all in Crawley working in our health and care system.
Childcare providers: In the Commons I highlighted the importance of the £204 million boost for local authorities to be distributed through a new grant to childcare providers. My thanks to the Education Secretary for coming to Crawley to see how hard staff work.
Community defibrillators: Government is inviting community organisations to bid for funding for a defibrillator in their area; this comes on top of a roll-out to all secondary schools in England to have a defibrillator installed by the new academic year.
Automated External Defibrillators are extremely important and can help save lives in an emergency. It is right that the Government are ensuring wider access to these vital pieces of equipment and I hope community groups throughout Crawley will consider making an application.
Organisations can submit an expression of interest here.
NHS Long Term Workforce Plan: Record numbers of doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare staff will be trained in England as part of the first ever Long Term Workforce Plan published by the NHS – helping to deliver one of the Government’s key priorities to cut waiting lists.
It will have three main areas of focus: to train significantly more members of staff, to retain the existing NHS workforce by providing enhanced flexibility and career progression, and to reform the way the NHS works to enable an even greater focus on patient care.
Illegal immigration: Government is right to legislate to stop illegal immigration and our elected Parliament must be sovereign. This month I also questioned the Home Secretary about the work of the security services with Border Force regarding those entering Britain illegally.
Online protections: I questioned the Justice Minister on how the Government are protecting children and young people from vile online trolls who seek to encourage them to self-harm.
Digital health checks to tackle cardiovascular disease: Commending NHS and Government for confirming that Digital NHS Health Checks will be rolled out throughout England next spring with an additional one million checks in the first four years delivered.
It is expected that tens of thousands of cases of hypertension will be identified and hundreds of strokes and heart attacks could be prevented.
The current NHS Health Check has helped to prevent heart attacks and strokes and is currently a face-to-face check-up for adults in England age 40 to 74. Commissioned by local authorities and largely delivered through GP surgeries, it can help spot stroke, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes.
Around 1.3 million health checks are delivered each year, identifying 315,000 people living with obesity and 33,000 cases of hypertension, and preventing over 400 heart attacks and strokes.
From spring 2024 the new digital check will operate alongside the existing in-person NHS Health Check.
CPTPP: Welcomed the UK signing the Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and I questioned the Minister of State for Development & Africa about the benefits this will bring in the years ahead.
Gibraltar: Sought assurances from the Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, that the UK Government will continue to stand up for the people of Gibraltar and their clear choice to remain British.
Serving up an ace: Three sites across Crawley have now been refurbished thanks to investment from the Government and the Lawn Tennis Association, ensuring more people across Crawley have access to high-quality grassroots sports facilities.
Facilities at Southgate Park, Maidenbower Park and West Green Park have been upgraded with refurbishment, gate and online booking improvements at each location.
This programme will deliver vital improvements to the condition of over 3,000 park tennis courts across Great Britain between 2022 and 2024, with the target of attracting 500,000 more players every year.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley