Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – October 2023
Wear your Poppy with pride
In the days ahead I look forward to purchasing my Poppy and planting a Remembrance tribute on behalf of Crawley in the Constituency Garden of Remembrance outside the Palace of Westminster.
While many of us will notice a change in how the Royal British Legion have produced the Poppy this year, its message and importance remain the same.
Please support our service personnel and the Royal British Legion, and wear your Poppy with pride.
A successful outcome for our campaign to save the Day Travelcard.
The Mayor of London has confirmed that he will not go ahead with his earlier proposals to scrap the Day Travelcard, which allows passengers to take journeys across overground and underground trains as well as buses into and around London on one ticket.
Indeed, the Mayor of London has spent months arguing with himself while I have been galvanising the views of Crawley residents to stop damaging proposals to scrap the Day Travelcard.
In July the Mayor was made aware of the views which had been raised with me by concerned Crawley rail passengers after I wrote to him. The following month I launched a petition calling on him to scrap these damaging plans, for which I’m grateful to the hundreds of Crawley residents who signed and gave their support.
The Mayor of London has taken months to come to the conclusion which hard-working Crawley residents reached on day one of his proposals being announced.
I was pleased to speak to BBC Sussex when I launched my petition earlier in the year and was on air last week to talk about the importance of keeping the Day Travelcard.
Going forward I continue the call for the Oyster zone, which currently only goes as far south as Gatwick Airport, to be extended south to include Three Bridges, Crawley and Ifield train stations.
It has been made clear at the despatch box in the House of Commons that banning trophy hunting imports is Government policy and I encourage the Prime Minister to take action to ensure that this pledge, which we both stood on at the last General Election, becomes a reality.
My Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill was approved by the House of Commons earlier this year. It was not in fact defeated in the House of Lords – rather it fell as a result of parliamentary procedure following the use of delaying tactics.
I have led a group of more than 60 parliamentarians in urging the Prime Minister to introduce Government legislation to ensure this pledge is kept.
Improving the technical skills system locally: It is through enhancing the abilities of our young people that we can ensure they can go on to fulfil their potential. A crucial part of securing this future is determined by what happens on a local level.
This is why I welcome the Secretary of State for Education designating the Sussex Chamber of Commerce to deliver the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) across our county. They have been tasked with leading the development and delivery of the LSIP covering West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton & Hove.
Cost of Living Payments: Tackling the scourge of high inflation is key to restoring prosperity and addressing the effects of issues including Putin’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the pandemic.
While our country is on track to see inflation halved it is right that action is being taken to provide support to people across the nation at this time.
Indeed, the record levels of financial support for households has reached £94 billion.
This includes three payments totalling up to £900 for those eligible and on means-tested benefits. Details of the second of these Cost of Living Payments in 2023-24 have recently been confirmed by the Department for Work & Pensions.
The payments will be made between 31st October and 19th November 2023, with 13,600 households in Crawley to receive support.
These build on Cost of Living Payments made last year worth up to £1,200, and form part of Government’s record financial support for the most vulnerable, worth an average of £3,300 per household.
There is no need to apply for the £300 Cost of Living Payments: they will be sent out automatically and directly to eligible households.
Additionally, eligible pensioner households will also receive a further £300 payment later this year as an addition to the Winter Fuel Payment.
Recycling: There is a clear ambition of Crawley residents to do their bit for the planet through regular recycling.
In order to secure this progress it requires joined up working from central government and local authorities at all levels.
It is with this clear view that I welcome the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Secretary launching new waste reforms to make it easier for households and businesses to recycle by bringing a simpler approach to recycling.
This common-sense approach – Simpler Recycling – will mean an end to the postcode lottery: for the first time, throughout England we will be able to recycle the same materials, in addition to having weekly food waste collections.
Products bought with the recycling logo and all the food which is not used will be able to be recycled at home.
With weekly collections of food waste also being introduced for most households in England by 2026, this will put an end to the threat of odorous waste waiting weeks for collection, as well as cutting food waste heading to landfill.
Already, Crawley is part of a West Sussex County Council ‘food rescue’ pilot programme which helps people to reduce their food waste and provide assistance with the cost of the weekly shop.
This initiative encourages people to take advantage of surplus food rescue services and learn how to reduce the amount of edible food which currently ends up in household rubbish bins.
The pilot started as a six month scheme in October 2022, and has been extended all the way to April 2024. In Crawley, the next session is scheduled for Wednesday 15th November (10am to 11am) at Broadfield Community Centre.
I am grateful for the efforts of all who work both for central government and local councils who ensure that recycling and waste prevention efforts can take place.
We know, however, that the leadership of Crawley Borough Council have questions to answer on levels of recycling in our town, from the latest available data covering the seven district and borough councils throughout West Sussex from 2019-20.
I commend Conservative Group Leader Cllr Duncan Crow and Cllr Hazel Hellier for their motion highlighting that Crawley has the lowest household waste percentage in West Sussex that is sent for recycling, and being one of only two local authorities to go backwards in 2021-22.
We deserve better and can get there by working together: the motion also called on the Borough Council to set up a cross-party working group to focus on improving household waste recycling rates in Crawley.
Let us hope the leadership of Crawley Borough Council take a more pro-active approach to recycling in line with not only central government but our county council as well.
Israel/Gaza: One of the issues I have raised with Government was the policing of protests on our streets following concerns highlighted over the scenes we have recently witnessed in central London.
The Israel/Gaza conflict has been viewed with alarm around the world.
As the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs Secretary eruditely put: cool heads must prevail.
What needs to happen immediately is for Hamas to return all hostages safely. We know that the Palestinian people, too, are victims of Hamas’ reign of terror and the British Government has pledged further humanitarian assistance to help civilians.
It was at the United Nations that the British Ambassador reiterated that Israel has the right, under the UN Charter, to defend itself against Hamas’ appalling terror attacks, with Britain’s position clear that every feasible precaution must be taken to minimise harm to civilians. The UK continues to call for immediate unimpeded humanitarian access to enable essential aid, water, food and medicines to reach civilians.
As Crawley MP and a member of the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee I am in regular contact with the Secretary of State and the Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia & United Nations.
Increasing participation in sport and physical activity: At present, one in four adults do less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, with half of our nation’s children doing under 60 minutes of exercise a day.
Increasing opportunity to improve these numbers will help people live happier and healthier lives.
The new Physical Activity Taskforce has been brought together to champion physical and mental health benefits of sport and physical activity, as well as driving up participation more widely, with its members including double Olympic champion and former Crawley College student Daley Thompson.
More widely, almost £400 million is being invested in grassroots facilities, including in multi-sport facilities, swimming pools and tennis courts.
Throughout Great Britain some 1,000 public tennis courts have been refurbished in the first phase of the Government and Lawn Tennis Association programme, backed by a £30 million programme of investment.
We have seen the results of this work in Crawley. Earlier this year I was pleased to welcome investment for tennis courts at Southgate Park, Maidenbower Park and West Green Park, which have been upgraded with refurbishment, gate and online booking improvements.
Additionally, over the next two years more than £600 million will go towards school sport and PE, including a focus on ensuring girls have the same access as boys.
Protecting our oceans: Somewhere on the seabed off the coast of Land’s End lies a boulder with my name spray-painted on it in chalk. While submarine graffiti is not my regular hobby, this particular boulder is one of dozens that were dropped there to form a physical barrier against bottom trawlers ploughing up the seafloor in one of our Marine Protected Areas.
That is why the UK signing the Global Ocean Treaty at the United Nations last month was such a momentous event. It marks a critical milestone on the path towards creating protected areas in at least 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030 - a global ‘30x30’ target that the UK was instrumental in getting over the line.
Additional investment in local bus services: Further Government investment has been confirmed of more than £1.1 million for bus services across West Sussex, supporting passengers in Crawley.
This funding means our county has benefitted from a total of over £19.6 million to support bus services since 2022.
Single bus tickets are capped at £2 outside London. This had been due to end at the end of this month.
However, the Prime Minister has recently announced that the £2 bus fare cap will now be extended further until the end of December 2024, instead of rising to £2.50 as planned.
West of Ifield: Raised the Government’s ‘brownfield first’ policy for housebuilding with the Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary with particular reference to opposition to Homes England proposals for some 10,000 new homes to the west of Ifield.
Household Support Fund Awareness Week: This month marked Household Support Fund Awareness Week - encouraging vulnerable families in Crawley to check with West Sussex County Council what support is available to local people.
Since the Household Support Fund launched in October 2021, more than £2 billion has been invested to ease cost of living pressures, including over £9.7 million for West Sussex County Council as part of the fourth round of funding between April 2023 and March 2024.
This brings the total funding available to residents through the fund in West Sussex to more than £24.3 million.
Government is taking the long-term decisions to halve inflation for a brighter economic future, and will continue to provide support to those who need it in the meantime.
Councils in England can use the Government’s Household Support Fund to help those most in need by drawing from local knowledge and directly reaching people in the community. Support is available to help with covering the costs of essentials like groceries, toiletries, warm clothes and energy bills.
Ban Live Exports and stop illegal puppy and kitten smuggling: The introduction of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill would have added weight to the Government’s argument that the UK is a global leader in animal welfare. But, with the Bill having been dropped, we are in danger of rapidly falling behind other countries.
The Government must quickly legislate to ensure animals will not suffer as a result. I am delighted to support calls to ban live exports and end puppy and kitten smuggling, which already have such widespread public support.
It is time for the Government to continue delivering on its pledges to improve animal welfare.
Iran: Asking the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs Secretary about the destabilising role of Iran in the Middle East and the work of the British Government to protect and enhance the Abraham Accords.
Foie gras: In Westminster Hall I reiterated how if foie gras is too cruel to produce in this country, we should not be able to import it either.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley