Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – June 2020
Employers and workers throughout Crawley will be preparing this week to reopen their businesses on 4th July, as part of further changes to lockdown measures in England.
The people of this country have risen to the challenge of defeating COVID-19. We must remain vigilant, we must keep being careful, and we must continue to stay alert.
The Prime Minister has outlined changes to lockdown rules. This will mean that people will be able to see more of their friends and family, support local businesses, and return to work.
In Crawley, the reopening of the tourism sector will provide a boost for up to 370 local businesses.
This is, of course, a careful process. Many of us will want to go out, in a socially distanced manner to support some of the local firms which would have undoubtedly found the last few months incredibly difficult.
From this weekend, pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines, and some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen if they can do so safely.
Places of worship, community centres, libraries and social clubs are also able to reopen shortly.
Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also open their doors if they can do so safely; these include outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades.
I fully appreciate that there is more to do; and that there are more businesses which are still to reopen. While ‘close proximity’ venues are remaining closed for now, I welcome the Government continuing to work with these sectors and establishing task forces to help them to become COVID Secure and reopen as soon as possible.
The Culture Secretary has confirmed that the Government’s aspiration, subject to public health, is to reopen gyms and leisure facilities in the coming weeks.
None of this, of course, would be possible without the hard work and dedication of NHS and key workers. We know that while many firms will soon be reopening, NHS and key workers will continue to serve our community. As a town we not only thank them, but for my part as Crawley MP I continue to represent their views to ministers.
While the infection rate is falling, the message is clear that everyone should observe social distancing guidelines to keep COVID-19 under control. We must continue washing our hands and mitigating the risks at 1 metre/3 feet where not – the ‘one metre plus’ rule.
All measures will be kept under review, and will be paused or reversed if this becomes what is needed to defeat coronavirus.
Standing up for the Crawley and Gatwick economy
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: At Prime Minister’s Questions I called on Boris Johnson to extend the Government’s furlough scheme for the aviation sector which was one of the first to be negatively impacted by COVID-19 and will likely be one of the slowest to recover, therefore air industry employees need further protection.
I have also organised a cross-party approach calling for HM Treasury to ensure further support.
The programme has helped keep people throughout our country in employment. The furlough scheme has retained nearly 9 million jobs, at a value of £20 billion, benefitting more than a million businesses. Over 2 million self-employed people are receiving support through the self-employment scheme.
The scheme has protected some 20,000 jobs in Crawley, with the programme continuing as it has been throughout June and July, before employers are asked to make a modest contribution from August.
The Government should be applauded for the swift and bold action it took to protect jobs in Crawley and throughout the country.
Self-employed support: Approximately 4,100 self-employed people in Crawley are receiving grants worth a total of £12.1 million from the Government to help with the impact of coronavirus.
14 day quarantine: I have questioned the Home Secretary over the Government’s 14 day quarantine period upon entry to the UK. Indeed, I first called for coronavirus screening of individuals arriving at Gatwick Airport in January.
If a quarantine period was to have been introduced at all it should have been brought in months ago, rather than starting in the second week of June. It is well intentioned but damaging, contributing little to public health but delaying the ability of the aviation sector to recover.
I have been calling for the early lifting of quarantine and the exploring of air corridors with other countries, also known as air bridges.
As Crawley MP and Chair of the new Future of Aviation Group I am continuing to make representations on behalf of this industry. Support for this sector is about far more than the airlines and the personalities which are household names. It is about the jobs and the people employed through the wider Gatwick family.
Thank you to our armed forces: Saturday 27th June was Armed Forces Day 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of the armed forces at home as well as abroad.
Around the country there are more than 100 mobile testing units which are operated by the armed forces. These provide testing where it is needed, enabling key workers and their households to be tested, with results within 48 hours.
I am particularly grateful to the 7 Rifles Reservist soldiers, who are based at Gatwick Airport and operate testing units around West Sussex. Our town appreciates your work, and the part you are playing in ensuring life can return to a semblance of normality.
It is important, however, that we show our gratitude not only on Armed Forces Day, but all year round.
One of the freedoms which our armed forces stand for is the freedom of protest. This does not, it should be said, extend to having permission to vandalise memorials to the fallen.
I am supporting the Desecration of War Memorials Bill which not only designates a specific offence relating to unlawful damage to a war memorial, but would also see an exemption of damage to war memorials from the existing £5,000 damages threshold, see a maximum fine replaced with an unlimited fine, as well as a maximum custodial sentence of 10 years.
Beating coronavirus: Further developments in treatments for coronavirus will play a vital part in saving lives and taking this country out of the pandemic.
The Government has authorised the NHS to use the world’s first COVID-19 treatment proven to reduce the risk of death, with thousands of lives expected to be saved.
Supply is being protected for UK patients with the drug being added to the list of medicines for patients in this country which companies cannot buy and sell on for a higher price abroad.
Over £80 million in Government funding has been made available to efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine.
Local COVID-19 support: The Government is providing £300 million to local authorities in England to develop plans to keep the spread of coronavirus under control in local areas. West Sussex County Council is to receive over £3.1 million as part of the launch of the wider NHS Test and Trace Service.
Cancer services: As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer I have asked the Prime Minister to support the 12 Point Plan to Recovery to ensure cancer patients receive the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Standing up for passengers: Joining with consumer rights group Which? to call on the Aviation Minister to ensure fair refunds for travel industry customers.
Mental health: Asked the Children & Families Minister about the importance of encouraging young people to connect via web channels with family and friends for mental and social wellbeing.
Global Britain: Questioned the International Trade Secretary on the Government starting trade agreement talks with Australia, New Zealand and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley