Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – September 2023
The recent announcement of a £250 million boost to deliver 900 new hospital beds across England will have a direct impact on services used by Crawley residents.
This investment includes £6 million for 64 new beds at East Surrey Hospital.
The two new modular wards will increase capacity by 32 beds and reprovide a further 32.
Some 30 NHS organisations across the country are to benefit from such investment to help ease pressure in urgent and emergency care services.
This work includes developing or expanding five urgent treatment centres and four same-day emergency care services; helping patients be seen more quickly without being admitted to hospital.
Indeed, the NHS expects that the majority of the schemes will be completed by January to help deal with winter pressures.
This boost forms part of the NHS Urgent & Emergency Care Recovery Plan which was published earlier this year. The Plan sets out to provide more than 5,000 additional permanent, fully staffed hospital beds in total, with the NHS on track to deliver this by winter.
As the NHS recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic I have continued to pursue the point of Government’s record investment getting to the places where it is required. These new measures will help ensure patients receive the care they need, when they need it. The NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan will go to put the NHS on a sustainable footing by delivering the biggest training expansion in the history of our NHS, and recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more staff over the next decade and a half.
We are already seeing the effects of the Urgent & Emergency Care Recovery Plan and the funding which backs it. Average Category 2 ambulance response times are down by 27 minutes on July 2022, and down by 60 minutes on the peak of winter pressures in December.
The NHS has been clear that its plans aim to reduce waiting times and transform services with an expansion of same-day care and virtual wards, helping patients to be cared for in their own home where possible.
With close to 100 more doctors, nurses and other patient care staff working in primary healthcare general practice across Crawley this year compared to 2019, it is right we see investment in the NHS workforce across the health service. I am grateful for the public service of all health and care workers supporting Crawley patients.
This year the NHS marked its 75th anniversary. Through continued record high investment we can ensure the health service gives the best possible treatment and care over the next three quarters of a century.
Remembering Queen Elizabeth II: This month I have been thinking about the life and service of Her late Majesty.
We can all remember where we were, on that September afternoon, when the announcement came that the Queen had passed away.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet the Queen in an official capacity in Crawley in 2006, at the opening of the new Thomas Bennett Community College.
The State Opening of Parliament, which marks the start of a new parliamentary session, will take place in November. While written by the government of the day, the speech is delivered by the monarch. This is a duty fulfilled by Queen Elizabeth II on all but three occasions during her 70 year reign. In 2022 this was given by the then-Prince of Wales; this year will mark King Charles III delivering the Gracious Speech as monarch for the first time.
The speech will outline what ministers seek to achieve in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in what is expected to be the final session of this parliament.
There still remains, of course, much legislative work to undertake until this point.
Duty on shopping at UK entry points: Led an adjournment debate in the House of Commons calling for the Government to provide a boost for the aviation, travel and tourism sectors by introducing duty-free shopping on arrivals at airports, international rail and ferry terminals in Great Britain.
The introduction of arrivals duty-free stores would offer a significant boost for British competitiveness with a direct benefit for airports including Gatwick.
These are sales currently taking place abroad on departure – we can act to ensure they happen instead on arrival in Britain, boosting our economy rather than those of global competitors.
As Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation this is a cause I will continue to pursue.
I am grateful to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Victoria Atkins, confirming that she is happy to meet myself and colleagues to discuss this issue further and I look forward to making further representations going forward.
Standing up for the pilots of tomorrow: Earlier this month in Westminster Hall I raised the issue of flying schools which have closed. Many students have lost significant amounts of money after paying fees up-front for training in advance.
It is an issue the Department for Transport needs to address, particularly as the aviation industry continues its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. A potential pilot shortage for the UK aviation industry must be averted.
In recent weeks I had the opportunity to host and speak at the launch of Hydrogen in Aviation, a new industry alliance which aims to ensure UK innovation and leadership in decarbonising the aviation sector.
The group will work with Government and industry on three key areas: supporting delivery of the infrastructure for Britain to be a global leader, ensuring the aviation regulatory regime is hydrogen-ready, and transforming the funding for hydrogen aviation research and development. I have also been pleased to highlight the importance of this work in the House of Commons.
Protecting our DNA from hostile state actors: After a tireless campaign by human rights advocates and colleagues across Parliament, the Procurement Bill, currently finishing its progress through Parliament, will mandate the removal of surveillance equipment made by Chinese companies from sensitive government sites.
A new Cabinet Office unit will also investigate suppliers bidding for public contracts who pose a risk to national security.
The move signals a more responsible approach to security and data privacy, which I have been calling for with colleagues on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Surveillance equipment made by companies subject to Article 7 of Beijing’s National Intelligence Law – which compels it to assist the Chinese government’s data collection activities and which is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s all-encompassing surveillance project – has no place in our sensitive sectors.
It also invites the question of whether the Government will now investigate surveillance in sectors that are equally important – such as our health and genetic data.
Just as our sensitive departments, civil servants, and information should be shielded from the prying eyes of Chinese-made CCTV, British citizens must also not be left exposed to Chinese companies providing the tools for genetic surveillance.
Cost of Living Payments: The next Cost of Living Payment, worth £300 for 13,600 vulnerable and low-income households in Crawley, will be made between 31st October and 19th November 2023.
We must continue to do everything we can to support households across Crawley with global inflation caused by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The record levels of financial support over the past year and a half have already supported families across Crawley, and this latest £300 Cost of Living Payment for 13,600 eligible households will make a huge difference to the most vulnerable and those on the lowest incomes this autumn.
The Government rightly remains committed to halving inflation, which is the best way to help everyone across Crawley with the cost of living.
This is the second of three payments totalling up to £900 for those eligible and on means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit, or tax credits, in 2023-24, and will help families affected by global inflation caused by Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Buy British: It is often the case in the supermarket that we are drawn to the products which are made in Britain. Not only out of a sense of wanting to support domestic producers, but in the knowledge that such a label is a mark of home-grown quality.
Such products are often labelled in store but not so easily accessible if ordering online.
It is for this reason that, alongside more than 100 other Members of Parliament, I have been calling for the introduction of a ‘Buy British’ tab on supermarket online stores.
In a letter to supermarket chief executives over the summer, we highlighted how many shops physically sell and label British produce, including fruit and vegetables, as well as grains, dairy items, potatoes, fish and meat.
By ensuring these are marked online as well as in store, it will help people in supporting British farmers, producers and suppliers while doing the weekly shop.
Indeed, eating food from Britain helps to cut down on carbon produced when importing goods from elsewhere.
In recognition of these points and more, I am pleased that the Government has now backed this measure as part of wider support for UK producers.
The Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Secretary has confirmed she is supporting our calls for industry-led action to signpost customers to ‘Buy British’ when shopping online, and will give her backing to campaigns to endorse the taste and quality of home-grown meat and dairy products.
Such a push builds on the commitment to keep producing 60 per cent of the food that this country consumes right here in the UK.
This simple change will assist customers in finding which products are produced in Britain.
UK Parliament Week 2023: As Member of Parliament for Crawley I am encouraging people to sign up for UK Parliament Week 2023.
UK Parliament Week is taking place from 6th to 12th November 2023. This annual event spreads the word about what Parliament is, what it does and how you can get involved.
Youth groups, community organisations and schools in constituencies across the United Kingdom have already signed up to join in this year. Last year over one million people took part in every nation and region of the UK, and many countries all over the world.
I am pleased to see so many groups have already signed up and look forward to seeing more organisations get involved in the weeks ahead to find out about Parliament.
Everyone who signs up for UK Parliament Week will be posted a free kit packed with resources, including a booklet (with information and activity ideas tailored for youth groups, primary and secondary schools, or adults), a ballot box, bunting, stickers and a unique ‘The Ayes Have It’ board game.
As well as exploring Parliament and ways to get involved, this year’s UK Parliament Week throws a spotlight on the various roles and people who help to keep our Parliament running.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley