Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – October 2022
I congratulate the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, on his appointment.
Our country can be proud of this historic moment, the first UK Prime Minister of Asian heritage. There is immediate work to be done and I am making robust representations to the new Prime Minister on behalf of the people of Crawley, just as I did when he held his previous role as Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Already I welcome House of Commons commitments from the new Prime Minister of the ‘brownfield first’ strategy for building new homes, on simplifying registration for dentists who have not trained here so that they can practise here, and reassurances of continued investment in public services such as the NHS. There are over 3,700 more doctors and 9,100 more nurses in the NHS since August 2021.
While the national and international press have been encamped outside Number 10 over the last few days, my focus has remained on my work locally and in Parliament, including meeting with Help for Heroes and the Dogs Trust, and tabling an amendment to legislation.
Duty-free stores on arrival: As Crawley MP and Chair of the Future of Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group, which I initially established in 2020 to counter the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, I continue to stand up for the Gatwick and UK aviation industry which is responsible for so many jobs in our area.
While the sector recovers its way back from the pandemic we need to be innovative in how we search for new ways for the industry to prosper further.
One such way is the introduction of duty-free shopping for passengers arriving at airports, as well as at international rail and ferry terminals in this country.
I have put together a joint approach between more than 40 parliamentarians urging the new Chancellor to introduce arrivals duty-free stores, which would see the UK join 65 nations around the world including many in Asia and the Middle East.
This move would see an increase in passenger spending by 20-30 per cent and would lead to the creation of new jobs.
Repealing the Health & Social Care Levy: The House of Commons voted to repeal the Health & Social Care Levy. This is a welcome step to support hard-working taxpayers, indeed I did not support the introduction of this Levy in the first place.
Crucially, this is being done without compromising the record funding of £39 billion for our NHS and social care system.
I welcome confirmation from Government that it intends to drastically increase fines one thousand-fold for water companies in breach of the law to £250 million. This will crack down on water companies illegally breaching permit conditions and releasing wastewater and sewage into our rivers and seas.
Such action will help protect water quality and deliver cleaner rivers, lakes and seas.
Also of importance to many of us in Crawley will be the confirmation of new legislation that is to be introduced to ensure Minimum Service Levels for important public services to mitigate the impact of militant trade union bosses on hard-working commuters.
No one disputes the right to strike. No one disputes that people need to get to work, attend medical appointments, and arrive at Gatwick Airport for that well-deserved holiday. Minimum Service Levels will be developed through negotiation between employers and trade unions, overseen by Government.
With the economy urgently in need of growth and businesses calling for support, the last thing we need is disruption on our railways and in public services.
The Home Secretary also reiterated her commitment to deport those who have entered our country illegally via people smugglers to cross the English Channel.
The cost of illegal immigration to hard-working and law-abiding British taxpayers is unacceptable, and a point I continue to pursue with the Home Office and indeed right across the Government.
The Home Secretary confirmed that she wants to legislate to make it clear that the only routes to this country are legal ones and I look forward to ensuring with colleagues that such plans become law at the earliest opportunity.
We can only have a sustainable economy with a strong environment: Preserving and enhancing our natural environment is incumbent on all of us, not just here in Britain but throughout the Commonwealth and around the world.
I was pleased to support the progress of the Environment Act 2021 into law; the most significant legislation yet on such protections. Alongside the measures announced in the recent Growth Plan, the Government have reiterated its commitment to our environment.
A strong environment and a strong economy are, of course, not necessarily mutually exclusive. Following the passing of the Environment Act, this country will continue to improve regulations and wildlife laws in line with the ambitious vision this law holds.
Bureaucratic processes in the planning system often do not necessarily protect the environment: such regulations need to be fit for purpose. Frameworks for regulation, innovation and investment that impact farmers and land managers will be looked at. It is important to ensure that policies can not only boost food production (helping keep costs down for consumers, and for food security) but to additionally help protect our environment.
These measures will include focusing on how best to deliver Environmental Land Management schemes to see where and how improvements can be made.
We need to protect and enhance our natural environment alongside boosting food production and strengthening resilience and sustainability; we should not see these as mutually exclusive goals.
In the coming months, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is to publish additional details of its plans to not only increase food security, but to do so at the same time as enhancing the role and resilience of British farmers as stewards of our nation’s countryside.
The Government’s world-leading agenda for nature recovery is backed up by plans for a legally-binding target to halt nature’s decline by 2030. The ambitious 25-Year Environment Plan sets out this country’s move for a growing and resilient network of land, water and sea that is richer in plants and wildlife. Three quarters of our two and a half million acres of protected sites will be restored to favourable condition, securing their wildlife value for the long-term.
Indeed, ensuring protections for our environment is a concern I will continue to pursue with Government, as Crawley MP and also a member of the Conservative Environment Network.
Bursaries for trainee teachers: The Government is boosting bursaries and scholarships for teachers in science, maths, and other priority subjects, with trainee teachers receiving bursaries of as much as £27,000.
This builds on the Levelling Up Premium worth up to £3,000 for teachers moving to disadvantaged schools.
More police on our streets: One of the Government’s key pledges was to get 20,000 more police officers on the street by next March, with new figures confirming over 15,000 new officers throughout the 43 police forces across England and Wales.
Locally, more than 300 officers have been recruited by Sussex Police as part of this drive to keep people safe.
Stamp duty: No stamp duty will be paid on the first £250,000 of a property, up from the previous £125,000 threshold. First-time homebuyers will not have to pay any stamp duty on property up to £425,000, up from £300,000.
Evusheld: Taken part in a Westminster Hall debate about access to the preventative Covid-19 treatment Evusheld for immunocompromised people, and lessons the UK can learn from nations where it is used.
The economy: In the Commons I welcomed low unemployment and forecasts of growth.
Animal welfare: During last week’s debate on the Retained EU Law (Revocation & Reform) Bill I called for assurances on animal welfare measures.
Safer Gambling Week: Gave my support in Parliament to this week-long campaign to start a national conversation about safer betting and gaming.
The key themes for Safer Gambling Week 2022 are: only spend what you can afford; set your limits for time and money; gambling is not the answer to any problem; gambling should not interfere with your personal relationships.
Support for former offenders: In the House of Commons I questioned the Justice Minister about Government support to help former offenders into work, and urging ministers to continue this collaborative initiative.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley