Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – June 2018
This week during Prime Minister’s Questions I made clear to Theresa May that Crawley rail passengers want the trains to arrive without delay and urged her to ensure delivery.
I have also pressed the Transport Secretary as well as Southern and Thameslink management not only about the disruption which comes as a result of the network-wide timetable changes last month, but to seek assurances on mitigating the disruption to services during the significant upgrade work in the October 2018 and February 2019 half-terms.
Just like other commuters from Three Bridges, Crawley and Ifield stations, I have been made late for work in London on a number of occasions and have missed out on precious family time as a result of continued delays and cancellations.
It is right that the Govia Thameslink Railway (Southern and Thameslink) franchise will be broken up in 2021, however we must see an improvement of services now or it will need to be removed sooner.
As a founding member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Southern Rail I continue to lobby for improvements. The cross-party Commons Transport Select Committee will be launching an inquiry into rail timetable changes, which will provide important parliamentary scrutiny of the process.
When England’s World Cup campaign begins in just over a week’s time, the eyes of the world will be on one of Crawley’s own in the England dug-out. My best wishes to Gareth Southgate – who grew up in our town, attended Pound Hill Junior and Hazelwick Schools, and married at Worth Church – and his team. Come on England!
Before the tournament starts, the biennial Soccer Aid game takes place on Sunday (10th June) at Old Trafford, where a team of England celebrities and football legends take on a side from the Rest of the World. This is all in aid of UNICEF, who supply vaccines reaching 40 per cent of the world’s children, deliver 80 per cent of the world’s life-saving food, and have provided cleaner water and sanitation for families in more than 107 countries.
Donations to UNICEF as part of this year’s Soccer Aid will be matched by the UK Government (up to the value of £5 million) to support UNICEF’s work for children in Swaziland and Lesotho.
In Parliament I continue to call for greater transparency in the international aid system, and recently questioned the International Development Secretary in the House of Commons over the action of the UK Government to ensure that other countries pay their fair share towards international development.
Securing parliamentary time to highlight animal welfare
I have secured a House of Commons debate next week on the issue of foie gras imports. Foie gras is made from diseased livers of ducks or geese which are force-fed maize repeatedly by having a metal tube inserted down their throats two or three times a day. While production of this ‘delicacy’ in the UK is banned, I am calling for an end to imports of it to this country; only possible once the UK has left the EU’s single market.
My debate will take place on Wednesday, 13th June. It is estimated that this will begin no earlier than 6.45pm. This will be the final debate taking place in the House of Commons on that day, with a response guaranteed from a Government minister. The debate will likely be broadcast live on BBC Parliament, and will be streamed live on: www.parliamentlive.tv
Taking action against nuisance phone calls: We’ve all received nuisance calls from somebody trying to sell us something we do not want. While in isolation we can just hang up and carry on with the rest of our lives, in cases where calls are received by vulnerable people, either on a one off basis or continually, they can place a real strain.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport have announced plans to close a loophole so that the bosses of companies responsible for these nuisance calls could be fined up to £500,000 as part of proposals to make them personally liable if their company breaks the law.
Our environment: I welcomed proposals for legislation to secure a Green Brexit after this country leaves the European Union. The Environmental Principles & Governance Bill will ensure protections for our environment and create a dedicated organisation to hold government to account for environmental outcomes.
Protecting air passengers from reckless drone operators: Last week I welcomed the introduction of new laws on drones to help ensure air passenger safety, by restricting all drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1 kilometre of airport boundaries. A draft Drones Bill is to be published later in the year, which would give police more tailored powers to intervene on the spot if a drone is being used inappropriately.
World Oceans Day: Wrote in support of the Prime Minister’s plan to introduce more than 40 new Marine Conservation Zones around the UK – the most significant expansion of our ‘Blue Belt’ of protected marine areas to date.
The security of work: Welcomed new figures showing that there are over 71,000 fewer workless households in south east England since 2010. Across Britain the number of workless households has fallen by around 970,000 since 2010, with the proportion of workless households now at its lowest level since records began in 1996. The fall over the last year was approximately 99,000.
Ivory Bill: Supporting Government action to help protect the 20,000 African elephants which are poached every year.
Support for construction: Recent figures show the latest wages in the construction industry are £92 a week higher than they were in May 2010. This is a welcome boost for the over 2,500 plumbers, joiners and builders across Crawley. Weekly earnings went up by 4.5 per cent over the last year – nearly double the rate prices are increasing.
Gatwick Airport: Calling for investment in rail links connecting Gatwick Airport to the wider local area.
More people in employment: The number of people in Crawley claiming the key out of work benefits has fallen by over 1,600 – a 61 per cent drop – since 2010. More people are in work than ever before, with over 4.5 million people in work in south east England – an increase of over 360,000 more people in work since 2010.
Fur trade: Speaking in Parliament against the sale of cheap and unethical fur products labelled incorrectly.
Vision Aid Overseas: Received backing from the International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, for the work of Crawley-based Vision Aid Overseas, which help provide sight support for people in the developing world. Funds raised go towards eye care programmes in the charity’s partner countries, making a real difference to those less fortunate than ourselves.
It was a pleasure to host this organisation in Parliament earlier in the year, where MPs, Commonwealth High Commissioners and charities came together to call for better access to affordable eye care in developing countries. Measures which would help include eye exams and appropriate treatment such as glasses, particularly for poorer communities and children.
Our town can be proud that a charity based here, which recycles around 3.5 million pairs of second-hand glasses annually, is having such an impact around the world.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley