This month saw the State Opening of Parliament, which officially marks the start of the parliamentary year.
While sadly the Queen was unable to attend, Prince Charles and Prince William attended in her place. For the first time, I was this year privileged to have a seat in the House of Lords Gallery and was pleased to hear his Royal Highness set out the 38 Bills which will help boost economic growth, cut crime, support communities, and clear the Covid backlogs.
For us locally, amongst the most pertinent included:
- The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, will see the planning system reformed to give residents more involvement in local developments - and will hopefully mean here in Sevenoaks & Swanley we can continue to protect our much-loved Green Belt from over development;
- The Schools Bill will build on the work I have been doing locally to provide more school choice and offer better facilities;
- The Energy Security Bill will deliver a more secure and home-grown energy system that is more affordable and cleaner while also cutting costs for families, something that I know is of huge concern to us all;
- The Financial Services and Markets Bill will ensure consumers have a legal right to withdraw and deposit cash within "a reasonable distance" of their home – which is very important following the closure of some local bank branches;
- The Public Order Bill will give the police new powers to deal with highly disruptive protests;
- And finally, The Mental Health Act Reform Bill which make sure the Mental Health Act works better for people by modernising services and ensuring a more personalised level of care.
I know that many of you reading this today will be worried about their energy bills and I was therefore pleased to see the Chancellor this week set out a significant package of support for families in Sevenoaks and Swanley to help with the rising cost of living.
Every household across the country will benefit, with additional help targeted at those most vulnerable households receiving £1,200 each. It included:
- £400 energy rebate for every household in the autumn
- £650 cash payment for households claiming means tested benefits (including Universal Credit) in two instalments from July
- Additional £150 for those on disability benefits
- Extra £300 for pensions eligible for Winter Fuel Payments
- Household Support Fund increased by £500m
- This is on top of the £150 Council Tax rebate for homes in bands A to
I have also this month made a speech in Westminster and wrote a column in the Times, which included a proposal to make it illegal for energy suppliers to cut off supply to households following non-payment. I am having some encouraging conversations to date so will keep you update on its progress.
MP for Sevenoaks and Swanley
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