Thursday, 21 August 2014

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

One of my priorities since being elected has been to bring new industry to Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and to get unemployment down. Last week I met local staff at the Job Centre in Redruth for one of my regular meetings to discuss progress.

The news is really encouraging. Over the last twelve months the job market has been transformed with strong growth now returning. The fall in unemployment has accelerated and this year has seen the biggest drop in unemployment since records began. The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Camborne and Redruth, once running into thousands, is now down to the hundreds and has fallen by a third since the same time last year. Nationally, there are now 1.8 million more people in work than there were when Labour left office.

The most encouraging thing is that youth unemployment has fallen dramatically. One of the most depressing things about the first decade of this century is that, even though there was growth in the economy, young people struggled to get work and, all too often, we're left languishing on benefits. Youth unemployment was actually going up under the last Labour government even when unemployment in the wider economy was going down. Work is learnt at a young age and a major priority for this government was to create opportunities for young people.

When the various work experience schemes were introduced a couple of years ago to tackle youth unemployment, there were some who denounced them but they have been a huge success. In hundreds of cases, when young people have been given the chance to have a few weeks work experience, they have learnt new skills. They have also often been so impressive that employers have gone out of their way to find paid positions for them. In addition to the work experience schemes, the government has also had grant schemes in place to encourage employers to offer apprenticeships and other paid work to young people.

The focus now is on wage progression. Now that we have managed to get so many people back to work, often for the first time in their lives, we want to see them progress to higher pay initially and ultimately move on to develop a pathway to a career.

Worklessness is at the root of poverty which is why it had to be tackled. It is not just about the money because those who work have to live to a tight budget too. It is about self-respect, a sense of purpose and being part of a team. For all these reasons, work can be the cure to many other social problems and it is why shaking up the benefits system so that work always pays was the right thing to do.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

WAVE POWER

Last week I had two visits to discuss progress for the wave energy industry here in West Cornwall. I made reference to the potential for wave energy in my first ever Parliamentary Question and progress, although sometimes slow, is definitely being made.

In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle we have a great industrial heritage and even after the final mines closed, we kept the Camborne School of Mines. Now there are also a number of world class engineering firms here who have carved out a niche in the oil and gas exploration industry with their drilling technological knowhow.

Last week I visited Severn Sub Sea at Cardrew Industrial Estate in Redruth. The firm took over Calidus Engineering last year and has been continuing their world leading work developing a number of new technologies for the oil and gas industry with specialist instruments and drilling equipment. It is just one of a cohort of new businesses alongside Large Diameter Drilling who are currently building a new site at Tolvaddon and Fugro Seacore based near Falmouth.

Just as some of our world class engineers diversified away from mining towards oil and gas exploration, many are now looking at the potential to expand into the market for wave energy. This part of Cornwall has a wave resource because the powerful Atlantic swell contains huge amounts of energy that is not so powerful that it cannot be harnessed. Hayle is home to Wave Hub, the first commercial test facility for wave power in the world and four separate developers have now signed agreements to take a berth on the device. The technologies they are using are still quite varied but in the last twelve months Cornwall has become far more interesting to developers.

Unlike Scotland, we have spare capacity in our grid infrastructure which means we could develop commercial wave energy without having to spend billions. Last year the government announced a new "strike price" for wave energy which is attractive and has spurred renewed interest in its prospects. Hayle is also the central asset in a new South West Marine Energy Park, the first Marine Energy Park designated by the government. In addition we have the back up of leading academic centres such as Exeter University based at Tremough near Falmouth and also Plymouth University and their wave tank testing facilities.

All of this adds up to real potential for Cornwall. Last week I also visited the Offshore Renewables Development Project which was put in place by the Cornwall Development Company to help sustain momentum and remove any remaining barriers such as planning and licensing duplication. One of the lesser known asks in Cornwall's recently published "growth deal" was for more leeway when it came to licensing and consenting on the use of the seabed so that we can really maximise our advantages.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

SUMMER IN THE CONSTITUENCY

With parliament now on summer recess, it is a great opportunity to spend August meeting people around the constituency and I have a packed and varied diary over the coming weeks. In the last week I have opened the newly refurbished club house at Camborne Rugby Club where they now have a new roof and refurbished changing rooms thanks to work by volunteers and some hard work to get successful grant applications approved.

I also attended the re-opening of the Angarrack Inn which had been closed for six months but has been bought from St Austell Brewery and reopened by a local group. Other events included the opening of a new memorial garden at Tregenna Care Home in Camborne and the new business premises at Pool for Charlie's Angels which is a successful and growing cleaning company set up by Charlotte Parker four years ago with some help from the Prince's Trust. Finally and most important of all, last Monday evening, along with dozens of others, I attended a service at Stithians to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. We lit candles for each of the local men who lost their lives in that appalling conflict.

I have also followed the debate, covered on the front page of the West Briton last week, about two new Facebook campaigns regarding Camborne. I hate it when people talk down our towns and it’s clear others do too. What's interesting is that the initial Facebook campaign was so negative about our town that there was a backlash from the community and those who were genuinely interested in improving our town rather than just denigrating it broke away and set up a rival Facebook page. Things may not be perfect in Camborne but no town ever is perfect. What I do know is that Camborne stands head and shoulders above many other towns in the country and it's time we started to get our confidence back and recognise the good work going on.

So let's recognise what local businesses are doing to improve the town centre. Let's welcome the major construction and regeneration work underway and the new jobs that will bring. We should be proud of the work being done by local schools like Camborne Science and International Academy and the pupils they are turning out. Finally, let's be proud of the fact that the brass band chosen to take a lead role in proceedings at the WW1 commemorative service at the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium is none other than our very own Camborne Youth Band.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Cornish Sardine

The Cornish sardine industry has a long history and is one of the recent success stories of the Cornish fishing fleet. Pilchards, as they were always known in Cornwall, were a staple part of the diet and a large industry grew up around them in the 19th century. The "huers" used to be scouts who looked out for the best schools of fish before setting out to sea and casting nets.

Like many other fish species, the pilchard was first over fished and then later fell out of fashion leading a decline in the industry. However, in the last decade or so a number of enterprising fishermen have revived the industry and the pilchard, now rebranded the "Cornish sardine", has been going from strength to strength.

At the end of last year we secured an important reform to the discredited Common Fisheries Policy. There is now a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably and we will be phasing in a ban on the wasteful practice of discarding perfectly good fish dead back into the sea from next year.

In order to make this new ban on discards work will be much more flexibility in the way quotas operate. Fishermen will be able to count surplus stocks on one fish species as another where they have spare quota. There will also be exemptions for fish that usually survive if returned to the water.

There had been concerns about the possible impact of the discard ban on our sardine industry. Cornish sardines are not restricted by quotas but while targeting schools of sardines, fishermen will sometimes unintentionally land other species such as herring and mackerel which are subject to quotas.

There has been a practice of occasionally releasing nets at sea before the school is drawn out of the water when it is clear that they are mainly juvenile fish. Some say that these juvenile sardines have high survivability rates and we need more time to look into these issues. I was keen to ensure that common sense prevailed on this issue and we managed to get agreement from the European Commission that the sardine industry can continue as now giving us several years more time to assess the issue of by catch species and to identify a solution.

If we want a future for our fishing industry then we must start by fishing sustainably and, for once, we have managed to get a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy that has a real chance of delivering a result.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

THE GREAT WAR

Next week marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and this Sunday I will be attending a memorial service in Redruth to recognise the sacrifices made by all those who came from the town. There will be many other commemorative events during the course of this year and Remembrance Sunday will have particular poignancy.

The period during the First World War was the bleakest period in European history. The scale of killing was horrific. Technology had advanced to make this perhaps the first "industrial war" with the use of chemical weapons, machine guns and powerful artillery but battleground tactics had not evolved to deal with the new realities that modern warfare had brought and there was perhaps a different attitude to human life.

Britain's Generals are often singled out for criticism although, to be fair, they did try to find new approaches to end the war earlier, from the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli to the invention of a primitive tank. Nevertheless, the scale of sacrifice is apparent through the names listed on memorial stones up and down the land and the war touched every community and virtually every family. I take one of my Christian names from Charles Botterell, my Great Grandfather who fought in the war and suffered ill health as a result of his shrapnel wounds.

It was hoped in the immediate aftermath that it would be the war to end all wars so that at least the huge sacrifice would have achieved something lasting. We know now that it wasn't. However, so traumatic was the war that it changed society forever. Huge social changes followed. The anachronistic class structure started to fall apart, women got the vote and society became more equal. The pain of the war drove political changes too with the advent of communism and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia while at home the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party as the main opposition party.

I have always argued that after any painful conflict, we are in danger of learning the wrong lessons so that the agony of one conflict leads us to make different mistakes which cause a new conflict. That was as true then as it is now. After the Great War there was an entirely understandable resistance to war or spending on military hardware. As a result, Britain was ill prepared to deal with Hitler and he interpreted the strong reluctance for war among Britain's political class as weakness.

But next week, we should quietly remember the extraordinary bravery and the tremendous burden carried by a generation of young men a hundred years ago and the loved ones who grieved their loss.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

LOCAL GROWTH DEAL

Last week the Government announced the new Local Growth Deal for Cornwall, which will see an investment of almost £200 million to support the local economy and promote new businesses. The Deal comprises a variety of important projects around Cornwall that will help attract businesses to our area. It is very much a local plan drawn together by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and backed by government. It is hoped that over the next five years the deal will create at least 4,000 jobs.

I think there are some important projects which have been given the go ahead that will have a real impact on our area. £8 million of funds will contribute to a package of improvements on our key bus services that serve as a real lifeline to many in our part of the world. I have always argued for the right funding for our bus network and this new package shows a real commitment to keep these services operating.

Different development schemes will also start to get to grips with pinch points on our roads where traffic is currently bad enough to frustrate businesses looking to invest in our area or indeed just transporting their own goods. The crucial sleeper service, which brings untold investment to Cornwall, is also increasing capacity with a much needed upgrade as announced a couple of weeks ago by the Prime Minister.

Money will also be made available for a scheme known as the West Cornwall Transport Interchange that will deliver some necessary improvements along the often pressured A30. Whilst more and more people use public transport, it is still the case that the majority of people who work in our area have no option but to use their car and the A30 is a crucial artery for drivers. It needs to be able to deal with a high volume of traffic and this scheme builds on others in the last couple of years such as the duelling at Temple.

Securing Government funding can often provide that final boost to projects and make sure they are able to get off the ground. I pushed for Government funding for the new link road at Camborne which is now well underway and crucial funding was also secured for the Cornwall Archive Centre in Redruth, with the first phase of the scheme to prepare the site with flood defences now scheduled to start in the summer. Whilst negotiations can often be long and difficult, securing funding for the right projects makes a real difference. The Local Enterprise Partnership should be congratulated for all the hard work they did to secure such an encouraging Local Growth Deal for Cornwall.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

SOCIAL MEDIA

The growth of "social media" such at Twitter and Facebook has had many positive impacts. People are able to relocate long lost childhood friends. Events are easy to organise. Photos are shared and people are kept in contact through an instant medium that can link whole networks of friends. Comment is available to all and no longer confined to professional journalists.

But with any new phenomenon comes problems too. Five years ago I remember meeting an organisation called Beat Bullying who described the growing problem of "cyber-bullying" among school age children. That problem has got worse. Peer pressure has always been a powerful force among teenagers but the prevalence of social media has exacerbated that pressure.

I don't know why, but there is something about social media that all too often causes common courtesy and good manners to go out the window. All the more so when vicious and thoughtless comments can be posted behind the protective veneer of anonymity. People say things in online posts that they would never say to someone's face. It's as if the basic rules of human social interaction don't apply.

We bring children up to say please and thank you and to be kind and considerate to one another. Every primary school I have ever visited places great store on such human virtues. But for whatever reason, these values don't always spill over into online social media in the way you might expect them to. Schools find themselves increasingly in situations where they are having to arbitrate in such situations and teachers will sometimes find themselves the target for online abuse from both children and even parents.

Last week Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, said that the government was considering legislation later this year to deal with the growing problem of so called "sexting" or “revenge porn” where intimate photos which might have been shared with a former partner then end up being circulated more widely when relationships go wrong. This can have an especially acute impact on teenagers who have enough insecurities to cope with as it is and some of the proposals could act as a real deterrent to stop potential offenders.

It's just one of the new challenges created by technology that presents new problems for policymakers and needs to be looked at closely. There are already powers in legislation for teachers to deal with suspected cases of cyber-bullying by searching and deleting images on a pupil’s phone. However with cyber bullying extending beyond the classroom and beyond students it is clear there will be louder calls for a more legal definition of the issue and more powers to deal with it.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.