Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Brexit finishing line is in sight

For over three years, politicians in Westminster have been arguing about how to deliver on the referendum result. We’ve been able to say what we don’t want and even voted against a deal three times. As someone who campaigned to leave and sought to compromise in order to achieve Brexit, it’s been a frustrating time. But the finishing line is now in sight, and it’s time to finally get Brexit done.
Despite his detractors and attempts by those who have sought to frustrate and cancel Brexit, the Prime Minister last week delivered a workable proposal that both delivers on the referendum and takes into account the concerns around making the Irish border.
It removes the so-called “backstop” which was anti-democratic and would have left the UK trapped in EU law with no way of getting out. It also disregarded the importance of political consent in Northern Ireland so it compromised one of the key aspects of the Belfast Agreement. That is why Parliament rejected the last Withdrawal Agreement three times.
The proposal was a revised offer that would have passed parliament. The UK would leave the Custom Union and Single Market whilst also restore the supremacy of British law over EU law and freeing the country from the European Court of Justice. It would ensure that British taxpayers’ money remains in Britain and spent on priorities that matter to the public but it would have addressed all the issues that were of concern to Ireland.
There would be a regulatory zone on the island of Ireland covering all goods but eliminating the need for all regulatory checks for trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and any customs checks would take place either electronically or, where necessary for physical checks, at traders’ premises or other points in the supply chain. Northern Ireland would remain completely part of the UK customs territory and not the EU customs union.
It was well thought through and made a lot of sense but sadly, as usual, the EU have refused to engage in it. The problem all along in this process has been that the EU have adopted a stance that says they want us to stay fully in the EU so that we will still pay them large amounts of money and so they can still have control of our laws and a free run of our market. Getting them to accept that we have voted to become an independent country making our own laws has been a struggle, not least because they see a faction in Parliament including Labour and the Lib Dems who want to ignore the referendum result. If the EU senses that Britain no longer values it's democracy and us willing to simply ignore election results, then why should they have any qualms about demanding they maintain direct control of our laws?
This situation cannot continue. We need a General Election to settle this stagnant argument but first we must get out of the EU at the end of this month with or without an agreement. The vote to leave the European Union was a momentous decision in this country’s history and we need to embrace democracy.
As the world’s fifth largest economy with world leading expertise in science, finance and industry, we have an incredibly strong hand of cards to play as we leave the EU and we should not fear leaving without an agreement.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Party Conference

This week is Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, which marks the end of the conference season for MPs. However, in this world of upside down politics that we appear to be living in, I am writing this article not from Manchester but from Westminster as a result of cynical attempts by opposition MPs to wreck our conference.
Last week the Supreme Court entered the realm of political judgements and stated that the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue parliament was unlawful. I fundamentally disagreed with the Court’s decision and it was clear that those who brought this particular challenge before the court did so for the sole objective of frustrating Brexit and cancelling the result of the referendum. The events that followed this decision led to opposition MPs voting against the usual practice of a parliamentary recess to cover the conference season.
Westminster politics has become quite feral at the moment and only a General Election can settle things. However, in the meantime Boris Johnson is undeterred by these attempts to undermine him. The Conservative Conference went ahead as planned and was a great success with many exciting proposals on schools, police and the NHS once we get Brexit done.
Locally there have been significant announcements for Cornwall with the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock announcing that Cornwall will receive up to £450 million for a new hospital. This is great news for everyone in Cornwall and will be a significant boost to the many staff and patients who have come to give so much to our NHS. The plans are part of a new strategic Health Investment Programme of £13billion to upgrade hospitals across the country. This will include funds for the NHS in Cornwall to begin work, with local decision makers, to consider options and work up the business case, which could include a brand new acute hospital on a new site, upgrading of existing Community Hospitals as well as redevelopment of existing facilities at Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske. This truly is welcome news and once more demonstrates the government’s commitment to delivering first class public services for everyone.
There was also an announcement that the National Living Wage, which was introduced by George Osborne a few years ago, would be increased to £10.50 meaning that the lowest paid will receive a substantial pay rise. Unemployment is at a record low but there are too many people who work hard but still struggle financially. This will be a boost for them.
There have of course been other issues discussed at the conference that received less attention. In my time as an MP and particularly as a Minister at DEFRA, I have worked to try to improve environmental and animal welfare standards. This week plans to restrict the export of live animals and to ban the keeping of primates as pets was announced. At DEFRA we’ve made great strides in improving animal welfare from installing CCTV in slaughter houses to improving the legislation around the breeding of puppies and we want to continue to improve the law.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Improving our transport links

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.
We have also seen the introduction of the new fleet of Tinner buses marking a major step forward in the quality of our bus network. It’s good to see some local branding on the buses with a nod to the industrial history of the area but, more importantly, the quality of the service has improved.
The Government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport with will also see opportunities for Cornwall, opening up new routes, improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that a new runway could see over 200,000 passengers fly between Newquay and London in the future, helping to secure the future of Newquay Airport which was once in doubt.
We are also making progress improving things on long haul journeys. From the moment I was elected, I fought to get an upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service, which has now been introduced. I am a regular and devoted user of the sleeper service, using it every weekend to get down to Camborne. I know how important the service can be for businesses and visitors alike and I am pleased that it will be able to provide more capacity and better facilities to compete with other forms of transport.
But when we need to travel, the journey will usually be long and we must make the journey as comfortable as possible. Great Western’s decision to remove the buffet carriage from its services to and from Cornwall has been a terrible mistake. The trolley service marks a major backward step in the quality of the service. On a busy train the trolley can’t even move and it is not fair on staff who have to try to make the best of a bad job. I will continue to press for the buffet carriage to be reinstated as part of the next franchise negotiation.
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. If we could join 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. We now have the more regular train service and the next step is to increase the use of buses in conjunction with the rail service.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Growing our towns - Redruth

At the height of the tin mining era, Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the land. After the loss of tin mining our fortunes fell behind other parts of the country but today there remains a legacy of that era with some fabulous and quite unique architecture in the town.
We have made good progress getting Redruth back on its feet. The town council now organises four events a year starting with St Piran’s Day, then Murdock day, the pasty festival and finishing with the Christmas lights parade. The support that these now receive from both local schools and local residents shows that the community is strong.
We have also seen numerous projects that have brought revival to the town. Krowji turned the old redundant grammar school building into a hub for creative arts and small businesses. A couple of years ago it completed a significant expansion and is now home to many new enterprises. The Kresen Kernow Archive project is now complete and opened s couple of weeks ago. It is a fantastic resource for the whole county and has led to the regeneration of the old brewery site. I worked with both Cornwall Council, the town council and the owner of the old brewery site to get this project in Redruth and secure the funds needed to complete it and it is great to see that work now complete. A committed team locally have also achieved a huge amount to bring the former butter market back into use as a public realm with a growing number of successful, often specialist shops, opening in recent years.
This week the government announced a new Historic Towns Fund to support regeneration of historic towns like Redruth. I am delighted that Redruth is one of just sixty nine towns nationally to be selected for access to this fund. It is designed to help regenerate old historic building and bring them back into use to help revive towns. Almost £14 million has been set aside for towns in the South West. Access to this fund will help us to build on what we have started with projects like Kernow by spreading the revival up into the town.
I want to work with the local community to identify which projects we should prioritise. There have already been a number of successful projects to bring shops back into use and to restore some of the traditional architecture. There is more work to be done around the butter market. There are also tentative plans to take over the Methodist Chapel by the railway station and bring it back into use as a community asset as a centre for performing arts. It is one of the largest chapels in Cornwall and is an important asset for the town.
The progress we have made to date shows that it is possible to turn the corner with some imagination and support. I am looking forward to building on what we have started with the local community.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Growing our towns

As I write this article, much of the attention in the media has focused on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the parliamentary processes that those who have failed to accept the referendum result have deployed to stop Brexit. Whilst the saga continues to rumble on, the Prime Minister has rightly continued to focus on the priorities that are important to the public.
In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new maternity unit and main entrance. We’ve also seen plans to increase the number of police on our streets, 10,000 new prison places, more funding for mental health services, and just last week a record £14billion cash boost for schools, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education.
In another sign that the Prime Minister is committed to delivering on his promises, the Government has announced plans to level up 100 towns across the country helping to correct the historic imbalances in local funding that some towns have experienced.
When I was first elected, I always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Over the last 9 years, I have worked hard to achieve this and in recent years we have made progress in regenerating our towns with the new link road, developments around Tuckingmill, the prospect of South Crofty reopening and new jobs in industries like computer software. But there has always been more to do to help level up our towns.
Towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle were 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.
It is therefore very welcome to hear the news this week that Camborne had been selected as one of 100 pioneer towns selected to receive up to £25 million in funding for economic regeneration. The funding is part of a wider £3.6 billion Towns Fund separate from other funding pots which are focusing on areas with proud industrial and economic growth. This is fantastic news for residents in Camborne who have long been calling out for more funding for our towns, higher living standards and improved local facilities.
In the weeks ahead I will be working with local communities, businesses and local leaders to join forced and draw up ambitious plans to help transform Camborne’s growth prospects with a particular focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. This is an exciting time for Camborne, however I will continue to work with all our local communities to ensure that our towns continue to receive the support they need to ensure that our towns can look to the future with a new optimism.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Parliament returns

Now that Parliament has returned from the summer recess, much of the focus and attention in Westminster has shifted back to the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Last week the Queen approved the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament, bringing about an end to the longest parliamentary session since the Civil War and beginning the process for a Queen’s Speech. Many have characterised this action as a threat to democracy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The facts remain that prorogation before a Queen’s Speech is normal constitutional procedure, and that often when a new Prime Minister is appointed, they often have their own agenda and priorities which require them to be presented in the format of a Queen’s Speech.
The decision to end the current parliamentary session will enable the Prime Minister to put a fresh domestic programme in front of MPs for debate and scrutiny while also ensuring that there is good time before and after the European Council for Parliament to further consider Brexit issues.
However, whilst Brexit remains an important issue, it is right that we continue to focus on the crucial public priorities. In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new Maternity Unit and main entrance. The Prime Minister has also announced plans to increase the number of police on our streets whilst also delivering 10,000 new prison places. Locally in Cornwall we have also seen more money delivered for mental health services and young people in Cornwall ensuring that people get the support they need.
Earlier this week it was also announced that schools across the country will be boosted by a record £14 billion cash boost, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education. I regularly meet with teachers and headteachers across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and one of their biggest campaigns has always been fairer funding for our schools.
The Prime Minister’s announcement means that every school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year and every primary school will get a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22, rising at least in line with inflation. The cash boost will also help children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) with £700 million extra being attributed to these funds so that every pupil can access the education that is right for them and none are held back from reaching their potential.
No one can know for sure how events will develop over the next week, and by the time many of you read this column we could be in a clearer position. However, at times of uncertainty what people need from their government most of all is a determined clarity of purpose and with the election of Boris Johnson we now have it.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The growth of St Michael’s hospital

Last weekend I visited St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle to see the recent investment in new facilities that is now allowing the majority of orthopaedic work in Cornwall to be transferred from Treliske to Hayle. St Michael’s has always had an exceptional reputation for its role as a centre of excellence on breast cancer with new investment made about eight years ago and the leading reputation of some of the surgeons who work there. In recent years there have periodically been scare stories that the future of the hospital is in doubt. However, far from losing services, more are being transferred there.
There has always been some orthopaedic work done at St Michael’s but the lack of adequate isolation units for patients who develop infections or complications meant that patients who were judged to be higher risk tended to be operated on at Treliske. The new investment made last year with the building work completed at the beginning of this year means there are now three isolation rooms which have enabled far more hip replacements and other similar operations to move to St Michael’s from Treliske.
One of the key ways to stabilise Treliske Hospital is to take some of the unnecessary burdens off it. It has been under intense pressure with an exponential rise in demand. Steps can include reducing the pressure on A&E by introducing additional critical care units at other sites so that people with minor injuries can be treated without creating a burden on the main A&E service. There are also many routine operations that are far better managed at satellite sites run by the RCHT, like St Michael’s, leaving Treliske to focus its energies on its core function as an acute hospital for the more risky operations and emergencies.
The NHS is a great British institution and the dedicated staff who work in it show tremendous commitment and this was evident as always at St Michael’s last week. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was in Cornwall to visit Treliske and meet staff there to talk about some of the issues they have faced. Boris Johnson recently announced some major new investments in Treliske to upgrade facilities such as the maternity services. The hospital has had its share of problems in the past but is starting to turn the corner and it was good that Boris Johnson took the opportunity of a visit to Cornwall to meet NHS staff.
I hold advice surgeries most weeks and have a dedicated team who are here to help unblock problems. If you have a problem that you need help solving, why not email us or drop into our Camborne office to arrange to meet one of our team. I can be contacted at, by telephone on 0207 219 7032 or by appointment in our Camborne Office at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.