Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cornwall – The Powerhouse of the South West

After another turbulent week in parliament it was good to get back to Cornwall at the end of last week to focus on some of the local issues where things are more positive and less fraught with argument. Liz Truss, the Treasury Minister was on a visit to Cornwall to meet some of the new entrepreneurs in the computer software industry around Camborne, Pool and Redruth and to hear about their plans to take this sector to the next level.
Over the last two or three years, we have seen growing momentum behind the embryonic computer software industry here in West Cornwall.  A recent national study identified Camborne and Redruth as one of the fastest growing computer software clusters in the country with huge growth in jobs and turnover. Last week saw the annual "Agile on the Beach" conference at Falmouth University which brings together leading computer software experts and designers to address the challenges and developments in the industry. The event was put together by a forward-thinking group of software entrepreneurs from the area and is now judged to be among the top three events in the world for software technologies.
"Agile" is a new management concept which can be applied to many disciplines including even in financial management but is especially used in software development.  It is about removing rigid processes, targets and management plans and replacing them with something more flexible, holistic and iterative so that complex challenges can be overcome by natural adaptation.
I have always said that I wanted to see new industries and higher paid jobs in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. The ingredients of success are the right infrastructure, like Superfast broadband, and the raw talent of bright individuals who can make things happen. Then you need critical mass so here is local resilience which we are now starting to get. Previously, people had to choose between leaving Cornwall and taking a well-paid career up country, or taking the lifestyle choice to live in the most beautiful part of the country but accepting a lower salary. The plans for a new Fibre Park and software academy at Pool continue to develop. It is the brainchild of Toby Parkin from Headforwards Software who we met last week. The concept is that you could have modern workspace perfect for the software industry co-located with a software academy so that you break down the barriers between training and industry. Talented code writers would occasionally take lectures and students would take part in real projects in real businesses to develop their skills.
Last week I also met a group of young people taking part in the annual National Citizenship Service (NCS) programme. Set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17-year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence. The group I met were working on a project to make a film raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

A Brighter Future for Cornwall
Last week I launched our new White Paper on the future of fisheries. It sets out how we will take back control of our waters after we leave the EU and how we will adopt a new methodology for the allocation of fishing quotas internationally so that we get a much fairer settlement for our own industry and can develop sustainable fishing policy for the future. 

There has long been an historical injustice in quota allocations to the UK fleet. In 2015 the UK allocation of Cod was just 834 tonnes compared to 5,500 for France. For Plaice in the Channel it was 1,300 tonnes for the UK, but 2,600 for France.  Many local fishermen feel frustrated that they sometimes have to tie up their boats because they have run out of quota but they see French vessels continuing to fish in Cornish waters.  Taking back control of our fishing grounds will give us the opportunity to revisit quota allocations and make things fairer. 

However, I have always been clear that the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries.   We will not allow a free for all and one of the conditions of any future access we grant will be that all vessels fish sustainably and within limits to protect our marine environment. That is why the White Paper is so important because it sets out what our future relationship will be whilst still maintaining the highest possible standards for our marine life.

This is an exciting time not only for fishermen across Cornwall as we start to take back control of our waters and the fish stocks in them. I am proud that we have a White Paper that clearly sets out how the Government will monitor and maintain our future fishing stocks so that we can pass them onto future generations of fishermen. We will be able to re-establish national control for fisheries management out to 200 nautical miles or the median line as provided for in international law.  We will then negotiate new access and quota sharing arrangements that are fairer to our fishermen. 

Last week was also the NHS’s 70th birthday. The NHS is a great British institution which all of us will rely on it at some point in our lives. That’s one of the reasons why the Government recently announced that it will increase NHS funding by almost £400 million a week - more than £20 billion a year - by 2023/24 as part of a historic long-term funding plan for the NHS. The many hard-working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of.

Locally we have some great health services such as at St Michael's Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements and celebrate the good news. 

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Another busy week

Last week, it was good to catch up with various projects in and around the constituency.
Early Friday morning I met children from Portreath School who were going to clean up litter at Portreath Beach. It was great to be joined by so many enthusiastic children willing to give up their time and help clean up the beach, helping to raise awareness about the threat that rubbish poses to the marine environment.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Council where we talked through the issues affecting people throughout Cornwall. From planning and development to healthcare and funding arrangements, it was good to catch up with Council Officers and raise individual cases and concerns that I had. Following this I attended a Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group meeting. I regularly meet the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, and most recently I asked the KCCG about funding for children and adolescents funding helping to ensure that we have the right provisions in place to care for those who are most vulnerable.
In the afternoon I took time out to visit Mary Anson of Anson Care Services at Tremethick House. Mary has always done great work in helping provide a safe and caring environment for the elderly, and it was great to find out more about the work being done by her company. How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.  As more people live longer, more need help as they get older and we are lucky in Cornwall to have companies like Anson Care Services to step in when families and carers need help.
Shortly afterwards I visited Valued Lives, an innovative charity based in Cornwall offering community based care and support and helping change mental health care. In recent years, the number of people affected by mental health problems has increased. Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.
On Saturday I began the day with my usual weekly advice surgery to meet some of the people who have written to me to ask for help. One of the things that persuaded me to stand for election in the first place was seeing the work that MPs do in their constituencies to help people deal with specific problems in their daily lives. You can’t always solve the problem, but you can always try, give advice and lend a helping hand. When you do succeed, it makes the job worthwhile.
I then popped along to a charity event at Jenn’s Diner where they were raising awareness for Cornwall Blood Bikes. The charity are a group of self-funding volunteers who provide an ‘out of hours’ courier service to our NHS partners throughout Cornwall and beyond. It was great to hear first-hand some of the stories they have as well as the challenges they face. Later in the day I attended the Kehelland Methodist Chapel Tea Treat, meeting constituents and listening to their concerns before heading off to an evening meeting back up in Devon with a group of farmers to discuss future policy.
I was shocked to hear that the recent fire on top of Carn Marth may have been started deliberately. I want to thank the emergency services for their hard work and dedication in putting the fire out and keeping residents safe. I know what a beautiful area Lanner is and I hope it recovers from the fire.

Thursday, 28 June 2018


In a peninsula like Cornwall with many rural areas, there will always be challenges to building a really resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made. We have invested to improve our railways and we have seen the introduction of the new fleet of Tinner buses which has marked a major step forward in the quality of our bus network. Not only is this providing both a cultural and historical link to the constituency, it’s also offering a reliable, comfortable bus service for all users.

This week, the House of Commons took a decision to expand Heathrow Airport with an additional runway. This has been a long running and contentious debate but in the end there was a substantial majority of MPs from all parties supporting the project. There could be opportunities for Cornwall by opening up new routes to and from Newquay,  improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that the new runway at Heathrow 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. 

However, the majority of people in Cornwall use public transport primarily for local journeys and that is where there is more to do. For me, 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. If we could join up commercial trunk 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.  This is now being made a reality.

The Department for Transport has also confirmed that from the summer there will be 29 new Intercity Express trains running on the London to Penzance Great Western Route, replacing the aged 40 year-old-stock and providing more than 1,000 extra peak time seats. This is great news for Cornwall.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

NHS Funding

The NHS is a great British institution. All of us will rely on it at some point in our lives.  Last year, the independent Commonwealth Fund looked at health services around the world and considered that what we have in the UK is the best in the world.  The many hard working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of.  Locally we have great work done at St Michael's Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics.  

This week, the Prime Minister has been clear that we cannot continue to put a sticking plaster on the NHS budget each year. She has announced that by 2023/24, the NHS England budget will increase by £20.5 billion in real terms compared with today. That means that our NHS Budget will be £394 million a week higher in real terms.
Additionally, the Prime Minister has announced that the Government will be coming forward with proposals to put social care on a more sustainable footing. This is particularly important for us here in Cornwall.
I have always been clear that the NHS should be free at the point of need and it is. Spending has continued to rise, but the NHS has also seen a huge increase in demand for its services.  As medical science advances and we live longer, the number of operations and the cost of medication has increased.  While we have over 12,000 more doctors and nurses than we had in 2010, they are being asked to do more. Since 2010, we are seeing 2.4 million more A&E attendances and 5.9 million more diagnostic tests every year. In 2016, the NHS in England performed an average of 4,400 more operations every day compared to 2010.  That is why many sense that there are pressures and why we need to do all we can to make things work more smoothly.
Earlier this year, the Government confirmed that NHS staff including nurses, midwives, cleaners and porters will receive a pay rise of between 6.5% and 29%. Additionally, the Health Secretary has announced the largest ever increase in NHS midwives and maternity support staff, with a plan to train more than 3,000 extra midwives over 4 years, starting with 650 more midwives in training next year, and planned increases of 1,000 in the subsequent years as capacity increases.

This will also build on existing, world-leading measures to make the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth. This includes an ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2025.
A record number of undergraduates will begin training by 2020 in the biggest NHS medical workforce expansion ever, with five new medical schools opening across the UK.  Peninsula Medical School is one of those which will be expanding. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements celebrate the good news that we have heard this week.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Murdoch Day and Brexit

Murdoch Day
After the success of the Royal Cornwall Show last week, I’m looking forward to attending Murdoch Day in Redruth this Saturday. There is always an excellent procession in the morning, involving many local schools, dance acts and bands.
It will be good to have the opportunity to catch up with the team at Murdoch House – the former home of William Murdoch, the inventor and engineer who was one of the pioneers of steam power development in Cornwall and also famously invented the first ever gas light using piped gas. It is great to have such an important heritage asset right in the middle of the town.
I remember attending in previous years, and there has been a fascinating exhibition of old photographs and newspaper cuttings on show. It serves as reminder of how much Redruth and the surrounding area gave to the rest of the world. Redruth is not just the industrial heart of Cornwall, it is also the home town for a great many of the seven million people around the world whose ancestors left Cornwall in the late 19th century to build the new world. Around a quarter of all the people who left Cornwall during this period came from the Redruth area and they travelled as far afield as Cape Town, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Wisconsin in the Unites States. Press cuttings from that time underline the human and social cost of this mass migration across the world in search of work, with many instances of families separated for the rest of their lives and with wives and young families often left behind.
The new Kresen Kernow archive will celebrate and chronicle some of this extraordinary history.  I campaigned hard to ensure that Redruth was selected as the location for the Archive Centre. Our town is home to the world wide Cornish diaspora because of the deep roots we have in the history of mining around the world.  I visited the project a few weeks ago, and the progress is astonishing. These are exciting times for Redruth as we see the key historic site of the brewery brought back into use to celebrate our history.
Getting on with Brexit.
Many people feel that parliament is taking too long getting on with implementing the decision our country took two years ago to leave the EU and restore national democracy.  Despite the frustrations, things are gradually moving forward.  As I write this we are about to face some close and difficult votes on amendments from the House of Lords.  By the time you read this you will know the outcome. In my view we need to put the arguments of the past behind us, and unite to make a success of Brexit with a new partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation.  But as we establish the rule of national law in this country, we must bring to an end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Royal Cornwall Show

This week is the Royal Cornwall Show. I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall Show. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible, with an early start at 5 am for days in a row to get to the show and manage the gates before any of the traffic started to arrive. For many years we used to show our South Devon Cattle there. My brother will be there again this year with the family's prize winning Lop Eared Pigs, which is a rare breed native to Cornwall.

After a difficult winter and a very late spring, I know farmers have been running to catch up in recent weeks. Arable farmers have been working around the clock drilling crops. Livestock farmers have been working to finally turn their cattle out to grass, which will come as a relief to those who struggled with shortages of fodder at the end of winter.
On top of all of this, the deadline for submitting applications for this year’s Basic Payment Scheme passed in the middle of May with the customary good timing required under EU law. With all of these pressures on time, it is therefore impressive so many individual farmers found the time to make their own submission to our recent consultation on the future of agriculture policy in the UK. In total, more than 44,000 responses were received in just 10 weeks.

When you have an opportunity for great change, it is always important to receive lots of individual perspectives, because it is often where the most innovative ideas are to be found. A number of farmers have told me in recent weeks they thought the paper focused too much on the environment and not enough on food production.
I was concerned I might have missed something about the document I had signed off earlier this year, so I have read it again.
There is a chapter on a ‘successful future for farming’ and another on risk management and resilience. There is one on fairness in the supply chain, one on regulation and another on protecting remote farming.

Then there are subsections on research and development, labour availability and on maintaining standards in future trade deals. So, I do not agree the consultation did not address farming and food production. 

However, we also need to recognise the current Common Agricultural Policy is not about food production. In fact, the current area-based payment regime is explicitly not about food production. Instead, it is an upside-down system of subsidies which pays based on how much land someone owns or controls, regardless of what they do with it.
It is a system which encourages people to occupy land, but take few risks with it. With hindsight, the system for decoupling of farm payments 15 years ago was a mistake which created the bureaucratic quagmire we have today.

However, from where we are, moving over time to a system of payment for the delivery of public goods, such as high animal welfare standards, improved soil husbandry and more sustainable farming, must make more sense.