Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – May 2020
I have launched a new cross-party group of MPs to campaign for the future of UK aviation after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, vital for the recovery of Crawley’s economy.
As Chair of the Future of Aviation Group I will continue to highlight the importance of a vibrant aviation sector to consumers, businesses and the overall UK economy. The Group is urging further support measures for the recovery of the UK’s aviation sector, particularly as an island, global trading nation.
This month I have continued to pursue the importance of support for this industry, including through representations made jointly with other West Sussex MPs, the Gatwick Co-ordination Group and with Crawley Borough Council.
It is an issue I am taking to the very heart of the Government including questioning Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions.
This is also about far more than those airlines which are household names. It is the people who work for those airlines, as well as other airport staff such as security workers and baggage handlers.
Crawley COVID-19 support
I am having continued briefings with Crawley and Sussex NHS management and welcome the news that since March, Crawley Hospital has been upgraded with 28 extra beds that are now operational for patient care. In addition, the number of 999/111 call staff locally has been significantly increased.
If you require assistance from the Crawley Community Hub please click here or call: 01293 438000.
Employers can find details of support available at: www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder
As this is a particularly fast-moving issue you may want to click here to sign up for updates via the Government website.
Standing up for families affected by COVID-19: The effect of COVID-19 on family finances cannot be underestimated. The Government is right to step in to support those who have been working hard all their life, including through help with mortgages.
Families now struggling to pay the mortgage because of COVID-19 will be able to extend their mortgage payment holiday for a further three months, or start making reduced payments, in proposals published by HM Treasury.
This application period for a mortgage holiday is to be extended until 31st October to allow people who have not yet had a payment holiday, and are experiencing financial difficulties, to request one. Additionally, the current ban on repossessions of homes will continue to the end of October.
A plan for reopening society: To chart progress, a new COVID Alert System is being set up, to be run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre. The COVID Alert Level will be determined primarily by R (the reproduction rate of the disease) and the number of coronavirus cases.
The Alert Level will tell us just how tough social distancing measures need to remain, ranging from Level One, which would mean the disease is no longer present in the UK, to Level Five, which is the most critical and the kind of situation the UK would have found itself in had the NHS been overwhelmed.
During the lockdown period our country has been in Level Four, but we are now in a position to move to Level Three. This does not mean that life can return to normal – far from it. If we are complacent, the virus will spread and more stringent lockdown measures will be necessary.
75th anniversary of VE Day: Honoured to be asked by St John’s Church to take part in their service to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day. While this commemoration was not how we originally envisaged, our nation was still able to mark the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and in honour of all those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Government support for West Sussex: Communities and businesses across West Sussex have benefited from £382 million in government funding since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to support some of the most vulnerable people, alongside the sectors that have been hardest hit.
Police officer boost: Welcomed the announcement that police ranks in Sussex have been bolstered with an additional 88 officers since the Government launched its major recruitment drive last autumn.
Care homes: The Government has announced that West Sussex is to receive a share of a £600 million Infection Control Fund, launched to reduce the transmission of coronavirus in care homes.
Local business support: Over 660 business properties in Crawley have already received grants as part of the Government’s Small Business Grants Scheme. In total, more than £9.7 million has made its way to small businesses in the area. Crawley has been provided with over £12.1 million which could help as many as 870 businesses in the local area.
National Cancer Recovery Plans: As Chair of the Blood Cancer All-Party Parliamentary Group I have joined together with other APPG chairs to call on the Health & Social Care Secretary to ensure greater support for cancer patients at this time.
Professional football in England: Written to the Culture Secretary over support for clubs in the English Football League.
Action on China: As a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, which scrutinises UK foreign policy, I urge the Government to take up the suggestion of a new world health order, as set out by the Committee’s recent report.
COVID-19 does not discriminate against individuals or countries. China could have helped other nations prepare a swift response, but instead manipulated vital information about the virus in order to protect their regime’s image.
As well as a new relationship with the Chinese government, the UK must be at the forefront of a reformed, science-led and transparent global health alliance – which puts patients and the people first.
This week I have also signed a joint statement alongside more than 650 parliamentarians and policymakers from over 30 countries condemning the Chinese government’s unilateral introduction of national security legislation in Hong Kong and calling for the international community to unite against this flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Support for local authorities: Welcomed news that Crawley Borough Council and West Sussex County Council will receive a share of an extra £1.6 billion in funding to make sure councils can continue to support their communities and deliver vital services through this challenging time. This extra £1.6 billion takes the total additional funding to councils through this crisis to over £3.2 billion, an unprecedented level of extra financial support.
The additional support will mean councils can continue to provide essential services, such as adult social care and children’s services, while also providing support to people impacted by the coronavirus. This includes protecting rough sleepers, with 90 per cent of rough sleepers offered safe accommodation so far, establishing shielding programmes for clinically extremely vulnerable people and ensuring there is additional support available across a range of other vital council services.
This announcement builds on other government measures, including allowing councils to defer the payment of business rates to central government and providing them with a combined £850 million in up front social care grants, that will help with their cash flows so they can continue to deliver vital services.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley