Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – November 2021
In this centenary year of the Royal British Legion I wore my red poppy with pride to highlight the organisation’s two roles; to remember the fallen and care for the living. The money we give to the Royal British Legion supports their work to care for service personnel who need support after serving the nation.
Ahead of Armistice Day I planted a wooden Remembrance tribute in commemoration of Crawley residents who serve and have served in HM Armed Forces. This starting of a new act of Remembrance on Parliament’s grounds reminds me of a tradition nearby, outside Westminster Abbey, which started in 1928. Walking around the Field of Remembrance there, reading the messages and seeing the vast array of tributes, provides a visual reminder of how many people lost their lives in efforts to secure our freedoms.
In Crawley, it is right that a new housing development will be named after Royal Marine Scott Summers, who died in 2007 at the age of just 23 while on tour in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Scott Summers Court is located close to another development which is named after a Crawley soldier who lost his life in Afghanistan, Private John Brackpool.
On Remembrance Sunday I was honoured to lay a wreath at St John’s Church, where I was in September to attend a moving ceremony for the addition of two names to the War Memorial.
The names of Craftsman Christopher Edgar, killed in 1969 in Northern Ireland, and Sgt Paul Justin Connolly, who died in 2004 in Iraq, are now listed on the memorial for our town to remember and reflect.
COP26: Over the last month the UK welcomed the world to Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
The summit was asked to ‘keep 1.5 alive’ and this was met with the Glasgow Climate Pact agreeing to phase down coal and providing a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
UK leadership has been clear to see not only at this conference but throughout the UK’s presidency of COP. Now, at least 90 per cent of the global economy is covered by net zero commitments, an increase from the 30 per cent when the UK started the COP presidency in 2019. The UK will retain the presidency of COP for a further year and will use this time to push for further action on reducing emissions and supporting developing countries with access to new green technology.
City status bid: Earlier this month I wrote to the Chief Executive of Crawley Borough Council to officially register my support for our community’s bid for city status in next year’s Civic Honours Competition, which is being held to mark HM the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
City status would be a fine way to mark the 75th anniversary of Crawley as a post-war New Town, which is now less than two months away. The importance of Crawley is felt way beyond the boundaries of our borough. Our economic reach is felt throughout the south east with Crawley proudly at the heart of the Gatwick Diamond.
Crawley has been a business, travel and cultural hub for the south east for some time now. Our Borough’s motto of “I Grow and I Rejoice” can continue to be fulfilled with the granting of city status.
Indeed, this is a subject I highlighted in Parliament in 2017 and I raised the bid at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
What may not have been picked up on following my question was that an opposition MP heckled the Prime Minister while he gave his answer. Such comments may be a regular occurrence from those benches but I cannot allow their negativity to get in the way of my standing up for Crawley in Parliament.
Budget 2021: Tax is being cut for low-income families by reducing the Universal Credit taper rate by 8 pence, taking it down from the current 63p to 55p. The Work Allowance is also being increased by £500. Taken together, this is a tax cut for some 2 million low-income families worth £2.2 billion next year, or over an extra £1,000 in their pocket.
Action is also being taken to address fuel duty. Indeed, the average cost of filling up the family car has gone up by £3.40 in recent weeks as a result of rising global oil prices. The Chancellor is right to freeze fuel duty for the twelfth year in a row, a £1.5 billion tax cut, meaning the average driver has saved more than £1,900 since 2010.
I have campaigned for reform of Air Passenger Duty for some years now with Gatwick Airport in Crawley being at the heart of my representations. The 50 per cent cut in APD for flights between airports in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is welcome and is set to benefit around 9 million passengers in 2023-24. Additional airport support comes from the extension of England’s Airport & Ground Operations Support Scheme for a further six months.
Too many adults are held back by their numeracy skills, costing individuals up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings while meaning they are twice as likely to be unemployed. A new national numeracy programme, Multiply, will see £560 million invested to enhance the basic maths skills of more than half a million adults.
Booster jabs: Calling for vulnerable people in Crawley who have not yet come forward for their vaccines to do so as soon as possible to help build our wall of defence and keep people safe over the winter months.
The latest figures show that more than 15 million people across the UK have received their Covid-19 booster or third jabs, ensuring the vital protection they have secured from their first two doses is maintained over the winter months.
English Channel migrant crossings: Earlier this week I raised with the Home Secretary the issue of English Channel migrant crossings which are not only illegal and inhumane, but a security risk to our country.
My thoughts are with those who drowned in the Channel in recent days, who did not deserve to see their lives end due to the actions of callous and evil people smugglers who are solely responsible for this needless loss of life.
The New Plan for Immigration will overhaul what I have described for some time as our broken asylum system, and address many of the long-standing pull factors which encourage migrants to make this perilous journey from France to the UK. I support the Government’s commitment to doing everything possible to stop the criminal gangs responsible for putting people’s lives at risk without delay.
The Circuit: Urging defibrillator owners in Crawley to register their devices on a new national database – The Circuit – which could help save thousands of lives from cardiac arrests in the coming years.
There are more than 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, but less than one in ten people survive. Every minute that passes without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chances of survival by up to 10 per cent, but immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double the chances of survival.
In a life-or-death situation it could be vital that a 999 call handler knows exactly where the nearest defibrillator is. Registering a defibrillator with The Circuit could help someone get life-saving treatment sooner when every minute counts. Last month I was at Three Bridges Station which has seen two new defibrillators installed. Such facilities are incredibly important; it is vital that all of these life-saving devices are registered for the fastest possible use in an emergency.
Levelling up: Asking HM Treasury about levelling up support for Crawley.
Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card: Encouraging local jobseekers to take advantage of this free initiative which offers half-price rail journeys.
Recovery premium support: I welcome the Government’s £1 billion recovery premium to support disadvantaged pupils and this month I asked the Education Secretary how this will be used to help disabled children to access services impacted by Covid-19.
Keeping Crawley safe: 182 police officers have been recruited in Sussex since September 2019, bringing the total number of officers up to almost 3,000. The latest figures are part of the Government’s drive to get 20,000 more police officers on the street by 2023, and puts Government on track to fulfil its manifesto commitment.
Kickstart Scheme: New figures show that the Government’s Kickstart Scheme has helped 170 young people in Crawley into work. The scheme – aimed at delivering more job opportunities for 16- to 24-year-olds – has in total got over 100,000 young people across the country into work since its launch in September 2020.
Fines for animal health and welfare offences: I welcome proposals for fines of up to £5,000 for animal health and welfare offences. The Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill is backed by the Government and will create a system of on-the-spot financial penalties of up to £5,000.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley