Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – November 2020
The announcement of a COVID-19 testing regime for international travellers is positive news for Gatwick Airport and wider aviation, travel and tourism sector jobs; it will allow us to restart commercial air travel with confidence once restrictions are lifted.
This is a call I have continued to make; including in a parliamentary debate on the future of the industry earlier this month where I pressed the Aviation Minister on moving on from quarantine and introducing such a testing programme.
UK-wide the pandemic’s impact continues to be devastating on airport communities as well as the aviation, travel and tourism sectors as a whole, but this announcement is a very important step in helping these sectors to recover and to play their full role in our national economic recovery.
This is about more than flights alone. What must also be taken into consideration is the impact on the range of workers at and beyond the airport. Airline employees, security staff and baggage handlers must be remembered as well as workers at the shops and restaurants no longer operating.
As the situation regarding coronavirus continues to change, events mean that the national economic response must alter accordingly.
I welcome the decision of HM Treasury to extend furlough for not only the aviation sector until the end of March 2021, but to extend the programme in its entirety until that date.
This further support builds on the £200 billion package of measures which Government has already committed to tackle COVID-19, which includes loans, grants, tax cuts and deferrals, mortgage holidays as well as increases to the welfare system.
Crawley Borough Council has benefited from an extra £510,000 in funding announced by the Government this November alone.
The money will be used locally to help the council cover coronavirus-related costs and ensure they have the resources needed to keep providing key services as we battle COVID-19. The Government has provided Crawley Borough Council with a total of £5.6 million through the pandemic.
Remembrance through COVID-19: The way that our nation remembered and gave thanks to our Armed Forces felt very different this year. Along with the Mayor of Crawley, military and civilian representatives, I was honoured to lay a wreath at St John’s Church War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday, in memory of all British and Commonwealth personnel since World War I who have served and died for our country’s freedom.
It is important to keep a focus not only on the past, but on how our country actively supports its former and current Armed Forces personnel.
At a national level, cross-government co-operation is vital. The Office for Veterans’ Affairs, a new ministerial unit in the Cabinet Office, was established last year. It holds responsibility for championing the interests of veterans at the very heart of government.
One of the key issues which is a reality for those leaving the Armed Forces is the transition back to civilian life. It is right that the Government and the NHS are working together to deliver tailored support.
Spending Review: The Chancellor’s Spending Review tackles this unprecedented situation head on – ensuring lives and livelihoods are protected and supported in the weeks and months ahead.
This will include a funding boost for the NHS, with the health budget to grow by £6.6 billion next year, allowing Government to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP appointments.
HM Treasury have also confirmed more money for schools, meaning every pupil in the country will see a year-on-year funding increase of at least 2 per cent.
This also includes a pay rise for more than a million nurses, doctors and others working in the NHS, with guaranteed pay rises of at least £250 for the 2.1 million public sector workers who earn below the median UK wage.
It is also important that Government is doing more for the lowest paid in our society, and HM Treasury are accepting the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission to increase the National Living Wage by 2.2 per cent to £8.91, and to extend this rate to those aged 23 or over, as well as increasing the National Minimum Wage. These increases will benefit around 2 million people.
Further support for vulnerable children and families: Those hardest hit by the pandemic and in need of extra support this winter with food and bills will benefit from a new £170 million scheme unveiled by the Government.
The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will see councils across England share £170 million in additional, ring-fenced funding to help vulnerable families and individuals, with West Sussex County Council receiving more than £1.9 million.
I chose to live in Crawley decades ago because of the strong community we are, and I love the generosity of spirit that exists here. Yes, I have previously been unemployed myself and I know the sense of worry that not having a job brings for each family in that situation. I am doing all I can to fight for Crawley right now.
Sussex Police boost: New statistics show that nearly 6,000 extra officers have been recruited in the first year of the Government’s major police recruitment drive across England and Wales, with 129 more in Sussex Police alone.
A further 50 officers will have been recruited by next year as an additional cohort introduced by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne.
The addition of these new officers brings the total number of police across Sussex to over 2,900, meaning there are now more frontline officers on our streets to protect the public, many of them deployed to keep Crawley safe.
These statistics confirm that the Government remains fully on track to meet its manifesto commitment of recruiting 20,000 extra officers by 2023, and is ahead of schedule to have the first 6,000 in place by March 2021.
Support for rough sleepers: Government is providing funding for Crawley Borough Council for new, long-term homes for rough sleepers and other vulnerable people.
In total, projects across England will receive over £150 million to deliver more than 3,300 such secure homes by the end of March 2021, providing long-term accommodation to vulnerable people to keep them safe from coronavirus and rebuild their lives.
Crawley has received over £500,000 for local schemes that provide secure ‘move on’ style accommodation for people at risk of sleeping on the streets. This is an important step towards achieving the Government’s manifesto commitment to end rough sleeping by 2024, alongside investment in new homes for social rent.
China: Sought assurances from the Foreign Secretary that British aid funds, stopped in 2011, would not resume to China given its human rights abuses.
Defence investment: The Prime Minister has announced an additional £24.1 billion in funding for our country’s defence. This is the largest investment in the nation’s defence in the last 30 years. It will allow the Government to invest in cutting-edge technology, positioning the UK as a global leader in domains such as cyber and space, and cement the UK’s position as the largest defence spender in Europe and the second largest in NATO.
I am delighted to see that Manor Royal-based Thales UK stands ready to work with its partners in Government to deliver this modernisation.
Drugs misuse recovery: Asked the Justice Minister about the importance of helping prisoners to permanently recover from drugs misuse for their wellbeing and to reduce future reoffending.
Puppy Smuggling Taskforce: Joining with Dogs Trust to call on the Government to stop the illegal importation of puppies into the UK.
With pet travel currently governed by EU legislation, and as we approach the end of the UK-EU transition period, I am supporting Dogs Trust to help stop puppy smuggling by joining their new parliamentary Puppy Smuggling Taskforce.
Every year thousands of puppies are illegally imported into Great Britain to then be sold via online adverts to unsuspecting dog lovers, having been transported thousands of miles across Europe with little water, no food, exercise or toilet breaks. Many suffer significant health problems and/or lifelong behavioural challenges. Some do not survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley