Thursday, 20 February 2020

Winter storms

Last Thursday I was asked by the Prime Minister to join his Cabinet as the Environment Secretary. It is a huge honour and I am looking forward to the task ahead with many important Bills to get right as we leave the EU and chart a new course for vital industries like farming and fishing.
However, my very first task within hours of being appointed was to take charge of our plans to manage the impacts of storm Dennis. The last two weekends have seen Britain battered by two storms, and once again, many communities are experiencing the distressing effects of floods. In Cornwall we have had plenty of gale force winds and lots of rainfall but, unlike a few years ago when the tidal surges damaged sea defences at Portreath.
This time the worst of the damage has been seen in Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and South Wales but there have also been widespread effects across the country. Part of the problem is that following a very wet winter land is already very waterlogged, the water table is very high and rivers are already brim full. That means that there is nowhere for additional rainfall to go. In recent years we have spent billions of pounds on over 600 flood defences which has protected over 200,000 homes and there are more under development that will protect a further 100,000 homes. In this last episode, although over 500 homes were flooded, the defences we had in place protected about 20,000 homes. A further £4 billion has been allocated for the next five years to build more still and the Met Office also recently announced that it was investing £1.2 billion into a new supercomputer to help predict future weather conditions and foresee extreme weather events.
The success of our flood defences in protecting many homes is, of course, no consolation to those who were affected and had their home flooded this week. Suffering flood damage is an incredibly traumatic event for people and that is why we have also announced a package of measures to help people get back on their feet with reliefs on Council Tax, payments to those affected to help them manage the short time crisis and grants to help them repair their homes in a way that will make them more resilient to future flooding events.
Around the world we seem to be seeing an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. It is not just here in the UK. Over the Christmas period we saw massive bushfires across Australia fuelled by hot and windy conditions with more than 11 million hectares of bush, forest and parks across Australia burned. There were also higher-than-average rainfall and floods in Eastern Africa and droughts in south-east Asia.
One factor driving the increased frequency of extreme weather events is climate change and that is why we must continue to make progress to reduce carbon emissions and that is a key objective in both the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill that are going through parliament at the moment.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Investing in local transport

In a peninsula like Cornwall, there will always be challenges to building a resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made in the last few years. We have invested to improve our railways and there is now a regular half hourly service running through Cornwall which has led to a significant increase in passenger numbers.
However, for most people in Cornwall, it is the local service that matters most and the key to making things work better is to try to integrate or join up the bus network with the rail network more effectively than we have done in the past. This will allow rail and bus timetables to work in tandem to give people more frequent options to get from one destination to another.
I have long pressed for a regular and routine 30-minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages and this is now starting to come together. By joining up commercial routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that could really work, and you could build more confidence in the public transport network.
Following the General Election result, there are now however some really interesting and important things happening in line with the Government’s commitment to levelling up our towns and ensuring that regions like Cornwall outside of London receive improved connectivity. Earlier in the autumn, I wrote about the plans to introduce Britain’s first Superbus network here in Cornwall. The network was part of the government’s plans to reverse the impacts of dwindling services in local towns and drive forward a bus revolution that will improve access for everyone.
The pioneering investment would direct investment towards more frequent public transport in the countryside, introducing new apps that will improve the information available to commuters whilst also ensuring that the bus fleets will be cleaner, greener and more environmentally friendly.
Earlier this week the Government further committed to improving bus and cycle links announcing a significant £5 billion package of funding to drive forward the reforms needed. The new funding, delivered over the next five years, will see the introduction of more regular and faster bus services while providing cycle routes with a major boost - funding more than 250 miles of new cycleways and introducing at least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses.
Creating an integrated public transport system for Cornwall is an important step forward in ensuring that our local communities are supported. Investments like those announced this week and earlier in the autumn will help to improve the affordability of transport for local people, improving our regional links and ensuring that we have a more environmentally friendly transport service.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Unleashing the potential of our towns

The result of the recent General Election has transformed British politics and given way to a sense of energy and optimism. Much of this is because the government now has a stable majority providing the ability to get on with the job of governing. However, there is also another factor that is proving decisive, namely that the government is committed to delivering on its promises, levelling up our towns and cities and unleashing Britain’s potential.
For towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle this is welcome news. Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. Over the years, with the loss of mining our fortunes waned and all too often the political attention was on big northern cities, but now we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
In Hayle there is already some exciting work taking place to transform the harbour into a new coastal quarter. We have already repaired the harbour walls, started to develop South Quay and built a new marine business park on North Quay. Now further construction is under way at North Quay with the first phase of the scheme delivering homes, new shops and open spaces just yards from the beach at Gwithian Towans. There will also be considerable investment into the roundabout at Loggans Moor roundabout helping to improve the flow of traffic and improve the infrastructure.
The Historic Towns Fund is also set to help with the regeneration of Redruth, one of just 69 in the country. It recognises the amazing architecture that we have in Redruth and will help restore it. The fund can help spread the regeneration that has been started with the opening of Kresen Kernow. Projects like Krowji and the work around the Butter Market shows just what is possible with some imagination, passion and local leadership and we now have funds to help facilitate further work.
In the weeks ahead I will also be meeting community leaders in Camborne to explore plans to help transform Camborne’s growth prospects. Camborne will be receiving funds from the new Towns Fund which focuses on areas with a proud industrial heritage that are in need of economic growth, with up to £25 million being designated for Camborne. There are already a number of exciting and innovative ideas being talked about including the potential to redevelop the old bus station, and breathe new life into the high street but I want to ensure that the community is fully involved in discussions about priorities.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

We've got Brexit done, now lets move on

By the time that many of you read this article, there will be less than 24 hours until the UK has formally left the European Union. This is a momentous occasion and there are many exciting opportunities open to the UK as we chart a new course and enter a new chapter in our history. From my perspective, the chance to be at the heart of designing an independent agriculture and fisheries policy for the first time in half a century is something I relish.
Over the course of the last three years, there were times when both I and many others who had voted to leave the European Union feared that Brexit would never happen and that for the first time in this country’s history we would not have respected a democratic vote. As someone who campaigned to leave and sought to compromise in order to achieve Brexit, it’s been a deeply frustrating time.
With Brexit now done, the time has come to move on, to bring this country back together and get on with delivering on the people’s priorities. I think there are signs that we may have turned a corner with the aggressive tone of debate changing and a calmness descending on Westminster and the general political debate. Much of this has been helped by the fact that the government is getting on with the job and doing what it said it would do in its manifesto during the recent election campaign.
From investing in our NHS, levelling up our schools funding and improving the vital infrastructure on which we all depend, there is much going on within Westminster and at a local level. Already the Prime Minister has indicated his support for regions like the South West and others outside of London to help reduce the inequalities that exist in our communities. In our NHS, we have seen commitments to build a new hospital, a new maternity and children unit at RCHT Treliske whilst also nationally increasing spending on the NHS by almost £34 billion per year.
On schools, the Prime Minister has confirmed his commitment to improving standards and ensuring that every child has access to a world class education. Last week statistics for schools across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle revealed that many had seen an increase in the proportion of pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics last year. With some schools experiencing a jump of over 40%, it is clear that children are already benefiting from the excellent standards of teaching that they are receiving.
The last three years have been a turbulent year in British Politics, however it is my hope that with a majority government, we can continue to put the turmoil and divisiveness of the past behind us and all move on. Events to date have shown a promising start for the year.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Developing a new Agriculture Policy fit for the 21st Century

Last month’s general election result has finally brought clarity and direction, following three very difficult years. The UK will leave the EU at the end of this month and there will be an orderly Brexit with an implementation period running until the end of this year. There will be no extension and we will not be part of the customs union, nor the single market, but we will seek a free-trade agreement.
We now have the freedom to press ahead with our plans to develop a new agriculture policy that is fit for purpose in the 21st century and delivers for British farmers and the environment.
The Agriculture Bill has returned this week for the second time. As before, we seek to replace the bureaucratic shambles that is the Common Agricultural Policy with something that has coherence.
Rather than arbitrary area-based payments, where land ownership and tenure is subsidised, we will instead direct future funding to support activities and interventions that deliver for our environment and enhance animal welfare.
We want a package of incentives to support sustainable farming practices and the bill creates the powers to do this.
We recognise that Basic Payment Scheme payments currently make up a significant proportion of net farm income. However, rather than maintain a system that just masks poor profitability, the ambition behind our Agriculture Bill is to tackle the causes of that poor profitability.
So, the bill creates the power to make grants available to deliver a prosperous future for farming by helping farmers invest in new technology and equipment to reduce costs.
There is a section in the bill to improve transparency and fairness in the supply chain, so that farmers stop being price takers and start getting a fairer share of the cake.
Also, we want to make it easier for farmers to retire with dignity and simultaneously help new entrants get access to land.
I grew up on a farm and spent a decade working in the industry. Domestic food production is crucial and plays a vital role in contributing to our nation’s food security.
The government takes this very seriously, so the revised bill creates a duty to review food security every five years and a duty to consider the production of food when devising policy.
I also know that farming is a risky business and there will always be circumstances where the government must act and intervene in a crisis to support farmers or stabilise markets. The bill makes provision for that too.
Finally, I know that change must be delivered in an orderly and progressive way. It won’t happen overnight. Our bill envisages a seven-year transition period from the old legacy system to the future policy, starting next year.
Our ambition is to use our new-found freedom to embark on a journey to a better future for farming. We want to innovate and develop the policies of the future.
A decade from now, I want the rest of the world to be coming to the UK to see how it is done, and I know we have some of the best farmers in the world who can do just that.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Levelling up our schools

A child’s education is one of the most important aspects of their life. The first three years of a child’s life are the most formative and have a crucial impact on a child’s life chances.
Education is also the single most important thing that can increase social mobility and help the next generation to get on in life. We must constantly strive to strengthen primary education, bring rigour to both secondary education and the exams system and also support those who want to go on to university or take on an apprenticeship.
Here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle we are fortunate to have some fantastic local schools delivering an outstanding quality of education. When I am visiting them, I always find that there is a sense of pride from students and teachers alike. It is clear for everyone to see just how hard the staff are working to deliver the highest levels of education for our children. But it is important that we do everything that we can to support our schools so that they can continue to deliver an outstanding education.
Throughout the General Election, the Prime Minister made clear his intention that the Government would invest in schools around the country with £14 billion over the next three years, worth an extra £150 million a week. Because of this major investment, each secondary school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil for the next academic year, and each primary school will receive a minimum of £3,750 rising to £4,000 in 2021-22.
Many in the campaign questioned whether the Government would deliver on these promises but this week the Department for Education released figures which showed that the per pupil funding figures had increased for schools in the constituency, delivering on its pledge and helping to level up education funding for schools in Cornwall. This is a positive step forward and demonstrates that the Government is serious about improving the lives and futures of everyone in this country regardless of whether you’re from Putney or Camborne.
We will also do more to support those who need extra support from schools to help them achieve their full potential by increasing the high needs budget by £780 million in 2020-21. This 12% increase will ensure that every pupil can access the education that is right for them and strengthen the support that they receive in their schools.
I think it is important to create a culture of excellence in the education system where schools are constantly striving to achieve more for all children. You only get one education, so we must do all we can to make it a success.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

A New Year Awaits

The New Year has always been regarded as a time for hope and optimism. For some, it is a chance to turn over a new leaf, stop smoking or start exercising. For others it’s a chance to take up a new hobby.
Our country has had to endure several years of highly divisive argument over Brexit. It has divided communities, political parties and in some cases even families. Following the result of the recent General Election we have a chance to put all the arguments behind us, bring our country back together and start the process of healing. This week the Bill that delivers an orderly exit from the EU concluded all its stages through the House of Commons without incident. Our country has finally turned the corner and is on the way back.
The year ahead represents a fresh start for our politics and a chance to finally turn our attention to other matters. Already the Prime Minister has indicated his support for regions like the South West and others outside of London to help reduce the inequalities that exist in our communities. In the weeks ahead the UK will leave the EU and the Government will get on with delivering on the people’s priorities. From investing in our NHS, levelling up our schools funding and improving the vital infrastructure that we all depend on, there is much to be getting on with.
The year ahead also brings new opportunities for our towns. Since I was first elected in 2010, my number one priority has been to deliver the economic regeneration that our towns require, attracting the jobs and opportunities to level up our towns. Last autumn it was confirmed that all three of the major towns had been selected to receive funding. Hayle will receive funding to improve the flow of traffic at Loggans roundabout, Camborne has access to a new regeneration fund and Redruth will receive funding to help restore and preserve some of the historic buildings in the town. In the months ahead I will be working with local councils and the communities to discuss how best to deploy these new resources.
2019 was a turbulent year in British Politics however it is my hope that with a majority government that we can finally put the turmoil and divisiveness of the past year behind us and all move on. Events this week have been a very promising start.
If you have a problem that you need help solving, why not email us to provide some detail or drop into our Camborne office to arrange to meet one of our team. George can be contacted at, by telephone on 0207 219 7032 or by appointment in our Camborne Office at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.