Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – March 2023
As we continue to feel the effects of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget this month had a focus on supporting people throughout the nation with the cost of living.
This continued support will total £94 billion in taxpayer backing: £3,300 per household on average through 2022-23 and 2023-24.
Key to this has been confirmation that the Energy Price Guarantee will remain at £2,500 for another three months. This will save the typical family £160 on their energy bill, with the extension meaning an average household will have saved some £1,500 on energy bills since 2022.
I welcome action being taken to help ensure fairness for all energy bill payers: the premium currently paid by over 4 million households using prepayment meters will end. This will be achieved through adjusting the Energy Price Guarantee from 1st July, and will save customers £45 a year on energy bills.
The new Universal Support programme will offer help for disabled people and the long-term sick who want to work. It will match people wanting to work with existing job vacancies.
Having called for further action on fuel duty it is good news for Crawley motorists that the 5 pence cut in fuel duty per litre (over 22 pence per gallon) will be extended for twelve months, and HM Treasury will not proceed with the planned inflation increase. I questioned the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Parliament last week over the impact this will have on Crawley families.
This £5 billion initiative will save the average driver around £100 over the next year and marks the 13th consecutive year which fuel duty has been frozen.
The announcements made build on support confirmed at the Autumn Statement last year. This includes up to £1,350 of support for households in 2023-24: with £900 for households on means-tested benefits; £300 for pensioner households and £150 for disability benefit claimants.
The measures announced must deliver three of the Prime Minister’s five key priorities of halving inflation, growing the economy and reducing the national debt.
At the last General Election I stood on a manifesto commitment to ban imports of hunting trophies of endangered animals.
I am delighted that the House of Commons this month passed my Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, which would ban British hunters from bringing body part ‘trophies’ of endangered and vulnerable animals into Great Britain.
The legislation being passed by the Commons marks an important moment in ensuring that this pledge to support conservation becomes a reality.
The Government are supporting my Bill and I look forward to it now progressing through the House of Lords.
Our country does not want to be part of a trade in the body parts of endangered species. The Commons sent this message loud and clear.
My thoughts are very much with the family and friends of my late colleague, Sir David Amess, who was taken from us far too soon. Sir David was a tireless campaigner for the banning of trophy hunting imports. I hope that he would have been proud of this legislation being passed by the Commons.
Change is needed for the immigration system: The situation where people are crossing the English Channel to arrive in Britain illegally is wrong. It undermines national security, puts those undertaking such crossings in danger, and detracts efforts from providing support to those in genuine need of our help.
The Prime Minister has been right to take action since taking office. This work has included further co-operation with France, a new agreement with Albania, a unified Small Boats Operational Command, tougher immigration enforcement, and a plan to clear the asylum backlog.
This is not enough on its own. More needs to be done to address this issue and ensure the immigration system is fit for purpose, which is why the Home Secretary has introduced the Illegal Migration Bill.
This Bill goes further than any previous immigration bill, addressing five key issues;
- anyone entering the UK illegally will be detained immediately and removed to a safe country within weeks.
- those arriving illegally will not be able to claim asylum in the UK, with claims to be heard in Rwanda or another safe third country. This would mean the 90 per cent of arrivals who claimed asylum in 2022 would no longer be able to stay in the UK.
- people entering the UK illegally will not be able to access the modern slavery system in the UK: they will only be able to delay removal if they are required by UK law enforcement to co-operate with an investigation or prosecution. This will mean this country’s modern slavery regime will no longer be open to abuse.
- anyone entering Britain illegally will have no ability to make spurious and late claims to frustrate removal.
- human rights claims will be heard after removal, with exceptions being an extremely small number of claimants able to show ‘compelling’ evidence they face a ‘real risk’ of ‘serious and irreversible harm’ in the specific safe country they are being sent to.
The vast majority of those arriving on small boats, as high as 74 per cent in 2021, were adult males under the age of 40 with the means to pay criminal gangs thousands of pounds.
The UK is and always will be a generous and compassionate country. Since 2015 we have welcomed some 480,000 people, including those from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Hong Kong.
Indeed, as the level of illegal migration reduces, new safe and legal routes will be created so that the UK can continue to offer support and protection to those genuinely in need of our help.
Every soul that has perished in the Channel is a reminder that change is needed. There is no compassion in supporting illegal small boat crossings. We must break the evil people-smuggling gangs.
Manor Royal BID: Earlier this month the Manor Royal Business Improve District voted to renew the BID for further five years.
Ahead of the vote I was pleased to write in support of this outcome. As Crawley continues to bounce back from the effects of the global pandemic it is more important than ever that our businesses succeed and flourish. Manor Royal provides more than 30,000 jobs: some 40 per cent of total employment in Crawley.
Protecting our football clubs: The Government has announced the introduction of a new Regulator, which will be empowered to safeguard interests of fans and local football communities, and will apply to the top five tiers of English football.
This Regulator will set out, and operate, a licencing system to ensure that all clubs operating professionally are licenced, and therefore meeting the relevant requirements for appropriate financial resources, management, conduct and fan engagement.
As part of this system, the Regulator will properly scrutinise the ownership, management and wider corporate governance of professional clubs, ensuring that any changes to these are in the best interests of the club as a whole.
Through these reforms the Regulator would conduct fitness and propriety tests for owners and directors, and potentially for other individuals at a club deemed to exercise significant decision-making influence. Clubs would be required to declare their Ultimate Beneficial Owner.
The Regulator will also put fans at the heart of football. This will include implementing minimum standards for fan engagement, reinforced protection of club heritage, and fan consultation and approval for any sales or relocations of the club. It will also ensure that clubs are only able to compete in approved competitions, preventing future ‘super league’ attempts.
Support for school pupils with Dyslexia: Welcoming record Department for Education funding for Crawley schools at £100 million this coming year and I have called for further support for pupils with Dyslexia.
Heating efficiency and energy bills: Welcoming a share of £2.5 billion of funding to boost heating efficiency and cut heating costs in homes for Crawley.
Across Crawley, £6.8 million will be provided through the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund. This funding will increase the efficiency of heating systems and vitally cut costs for hundreds of families for the long-term.
West Sussex County Council will also receive more than £2.3 million, improving their energy efficiency and cutting their bills.
Long Live the Local: Ahead of the Budget I was pleased to reiterate my support for the Long Live the Local campaign in Parliament, standing up for pubs and breweries in Crawley recovering and thriving: and joining over 170,000 members of the public who have signed the petition so far including 250 in Crawley.
In the recent Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a freeze on Draught Relief from 1st August to freeze the duty charged on a typical pint of beer in the pub.
The Chancellor also confirmed a Brexit Pub Guarantee so draught duty will always be less than duty in supermarkets.
Protect children from child marriage: Delighted that the Marriage & Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 is now law. This Act raises the age of marriage and civil partnership to 18 in England and Wales: introducing important protections for children from the scourge of forced marriage.
Now, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to marry or enter a civil partnership under any circumstances – even if they have parental or judicial consent. I was pleased to meet with brave survivors of child marriage in Parliament: it is an important step forward that this law has now come into effect.
Chagos islanders: Questioning the Foreign Secretary over the importance of self-determination for the Chagos islanders.
Earth Hour 2023: Ahead of Earth Hour I was delighted to host the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Parliament to engage with MPs and see how we can continue to protect our planet.
Integrated Review Refresh: As Global Britain it is inherent that we stand up for British values on the global stage – values of freedom and democracy which are shared by our allies in Australia, the United States, and throughout the world.
Key to this is ensuring that UK defence and foreign policy interests are absolutely aligned and to see that our efforts have a key focus on these goals: a point I questioned the Foreign Secretary on.
The Crate Escape: Supporting this campaign led by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF), Humane Society International/UK and Compassion in World Farming, which calls on Government to end the use of farrowing crates.
We must act now and end the suffering of the 200,000 sows forced to spend much of their breeding lives behind bars. Farrowing crates are one of the most severe forms of confinement experienced by farmed animals in any system.
Every year over 200,000 mother pigs are kept in these small cages on UK farms, where they are confined for up to five weeks at a time.
Thales Alenia Space MARSBalloon project: Encouraging Crawley schools to take part in a programme carrying out science experiments about conditions on Mars.
The Thales Alenia Space MARSBalloon project encourages pupils to gain practical experience of designing and testing experiments into space, and offers a unique opportunity to find out about the conditions on Mars.
Farmed fish: Attended an event hosted by The Humane League UK, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Compassion in World Farming, RSPCA and Soil Association to highlight a lack of legal protection for farmed fish at the time of their slaughter in this country.
R&D support: As part of its mission to cement the UK’s place as a science superpower, the Government is investing £40 million to 32 institutions through the Impact Acceleration Accounts awards to boost the impact of their social and economic research. This includes 10 institutions across London and south east England which will receive funding to boost the impact of their social and economic research.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley