Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – May 2021
The State Opening of Parliament, where the Queen comes to the House of Lords to announce her Government’s legislative agenda, took place this month. I spoke in the House about the speech and what it means for people in Crawley. That particular day’s debate was on the subject of a brighter future for the next generation, and there can be few greater challenges for any government than the importance of getting this right.
The Government’s Skills & Post-16 Education Bill will transform access to skills across the country. It will ensure that people are able to train and retrain at any stage in their lives and careers, helping them move into higher quality and higher skilled jobs.
In recent weeks Crawley College, working alongside the University of Sussex and the University of Brighton, progressed to the final stage of bidding for funding which would see investment in a new Institute of Technology on the campus.
Also announced was the Health & Care Bill, laying foundations for a more integrated and efficient health and care system. This legislation will help staff delivering the best possible treatment and care for their patients. This follows on from providing the biggest cash boost in history for the NHS, which has seen over 11,200 more nurses in the last year.
Keeping on the theme of the next generation, on far too many occasions it is our young people who get caught up in a cycle of crime. I reiterated my support for our police and the work of Government in ensuring they have the resources they need.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill will ensure new powers for the police to cut crime, as well as reforms to the justice system to make sure criminals spend longer in jail.
Please click here for the full text and video of my speech.
Getting the job done for the people of Crawley: The Queen’s Speech for the new parliamentary session took place after the conclusion of the 2019-21 session which commenced following the last General Election.
In spite of the pandemic both Government and Parliament have been busy, passing new bills on issues which are often raised with me including the UK’s future outside of the EU, guaranteed record NHS funding, and tougher sentences for the most serious crimes.
At the 2019 General Election I was elected by the people of Crawley to deliver on the people’s priorities – and that is exactly what this Government has done.
Since the election, 44 new laws have been delivered that will help to unite and level up the country – including enshrining our record NHS funding boost into law, toughening up sentences for the most serious offenders, and laws that will allow us to take advantage of the new opportunities we have as an independent free trading sovereign nation.
Supporting our police: Alongside the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, I have been active in the introduction of a Police Covenant. This will specifically address the needs of those currently and previously working in policing, and their families.
The Police Covenant recognises the dangerous and varied responsibilities of those who work in the police force. I welcome the Government accelerating work to introduce this by enshrining it in law through the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill. I have voted in Parliament in favour of this legislation which will enhance support and protection not only for people working in the police, but those retired from policing roles too, with eligibility to cover paid and volunteer work.
It is to be based on the principle that people currently or previously in such roles do not suffer any detriment as a result of their service. The Police Covenant will also seek to ensure that every officer can access the same standard of Occupational Health support in every force.
Working in Parliament to protect our planet: An issue which affects all of us is the importance of making sure we leave our planet in a better condition than we found it. From our own household to governments working together, we can all play our part.
The last decade has seen the UK acting to tackle this issue on a practical level. A timely example is the single-use carrier bag charge which has seen a 95 per cent cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015. The average customer now buys four single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets; this figure was as high as 140 issued to customers the year before the charge came in.
The Environment Bill will put our natural world at the heart of policy making, ensuring that current and future governments are held accountable for making progress on environmental issues.
A framework for legally-binding environmental targets and a new Office for Environmental Protection will be introduced, as will measures protecting nature, improving biodiversity and revolutionising how we recycle.
I am also supporting amendments to the Bill, put down by the Chair of the House of Commons Environment Committee, seeking to address the issue of deforestation. These amendments aim to bar financial institutions from providing financial services to commercial enterprises that illegally deforest land, as well as ensuring that lands of indigenous communities are protected.
Backing the Great British local: This month I called on Crawley publicans and customers to take part in a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into the future of pubs.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs wants to know what the Government should be doing to protect the future of pubs as the heart of their communities, and what support they will need to thrive as they emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.
Support for aviation communities: As Crawley MP and Chair of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group I asked the Department for Work & Pensions about support for people who have lost their jobs in aviation communities such as Crawley and Gatwick.
Sussex Police boost: 155 police officers have been recruited in Sussex in the first year of the Prime Minister’s campaign to recruit 20,000 new officers by March 2023, as part of the 8,771 additional officers that have been recruited across England and Wales.
This means the Government’s target of recruiting 6,000 officers by March 2021 in the first year of the programme has been dramatically exceeded, with the halfway milestone likely to be reached soon.
The addition of these new officers brings the total number of police across Sussex up to 2,942, meaning there are now more frontline officers on our streets to keep the public safe.
Ending aid to China: Questioning the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office about ending UK aid to China in favour of more open and democratic parts of the world.
Turn On The Subtitles: Supporting the Turn On The Subtitles campaign which seeks to improve literacy in young people.
Especially in the 21st century, improving literacy rates is one of the best ways to help children get ahead in life. The campaign has two main aims; to raise awareness amongst parents that turning on the subtitles for their children will improve their literacy, in many cases dramatically, and to encourage broadcasters and content providers to turn on the subtitles by default for TV programmes aimed exclusively at the 6-10 age bracket.
The campaign has garnered much attention nationwide with celebrity backers including Stephen Fry, Sir Lenny Henry, Sandi Toksvig, Phillip Schofield and Rachel Riley amongst those joining the call for more parents to embrace this idea.
Justice for animals: I welcome the passing of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act through Parliament and onto the statue book, which raises the maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years. By backing this legislation, the Government have delivered for animals by rightly updating the law to provide a proper deterrent to cruelty.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley