Friday, 21 October 2016

Camborne Rec

I am delighted that Camborne Recreation Ground has been preserved as a community facility following a major campaign and a petition by 5000 local people.  There is now an agreement between Cornwall Council and the Town Council to a 99 year lease which also secures the home of Camborne Rugby Club and the best rugby ground in the county for decades to come.

Camborne RFC has less than twenty years to run on their current lease. This has made it difficult for the club to acquire grant funding to improve the current facilities. The certainty that this agreement secures means the Club can now plan its future with confidence.

Two weeks ago I watched Camborne beat Salisbury 56-19 and the ground looked perfect: almost like a cricket pitch.  My father used to play for Camborne and a couple of years ago he deployed his farming knowledge to improve the ground.  He would be proud to see how well the team is performing this year.

Camborne Rugby Club has really been on the up in recent years.  They have recently been promoted from Tribute South West 1 West to National League 3 South West. They have also won all six of their first games this year in the higher league.  

The club also have teams for each year age group, and are also good at playing younger players in the main team so that they gain valuable experience. There has been a strong team spirit because the players quickly progress through the Colts and into the Chiefs and get used to playing rugby together.

I think that amateur sports clubs like this have a crucial role to play in our community. We need to have the club structures there to support and encourage children into the sport they love. Groups like this are the bedrock of our society and we need to support them.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Cornwall Athletic Club

Last week I rejoined Cornwall Athletic Club after a gap of some twenty years.  I have been meaning to get back into running for several years and, this year, finally made use of the summer months to actively find the time to do it and to make going for a short run part of my daily routine.  Athletics and cross country running was my childhood passion and I continued to compete as part of the Cornwall county cross country team until my late twenties.  Work ended up crowding out the time I had for running and, with the exception of a brief period when I trained for a marathon about six years ago, I struggled to keep it up and my fitness ebbed away.

The great thing about running as a sport is that everyone can find their own level and compete against the time they themselves got the previous week or month.  It is also open to all ages with many races now offering results for age groups in five yearly bands from junior categories right up to over seventy fives - I have just tipped into the 45-50 age group.  It is also a great way to keep fit.  A growing number of primary schools in the area are signing up to the national campaign to run a "mile a day" which is a brilliant way for children to start their school day.   

The sport has seen a transformation in the last fifteen years.  The number of members of Cornwall Athletic Club has grown exponentially.  In addition, locally we have new road running clubs like Carn Runners and Hayle Runners who also boast large and growing memberships.  We have also seen developments like the "Park Run" movement which now stages 5k fun runs nationally every Saturday.  I recently went to the 10th anniversary of the original Park Run in Bushy Park which attracted over 1200 runners.  It was my first race for years and I had to buy a new Cornwall AC vest having "outgrown" the last one.  I managed to get around in 21.05.  Not bad for a start after such a long break, even if it's five minutes slower than I would have done twenty years ago!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Conservative Party Conference 2016

This week marks the end of the party conference season as Theresa May delivered her first speech as Prime Minister.  As always, each of the parties has their own issues to contend with. 

For the Liberal Democrats it was to try to make their party relevant again.  The election last year brought an abrupt end to the three party structure that had characterised our national politics for almost forty years with the Lib Dems losing all but eight of their MPs.  They are hoping that the decision by Jeremy Corbyn to lurch to the left will create space for them to recover.

For the Labour Party, the big question was how they can try to heal the scars of bitter infighting and try to put together an effective official opposition in parliament when nearly all Labour MPs think that Jeremy Corbyn should go.  I worked for David Cameron and Michael Howard when they were Leaders of the official Opposition.  The role has an important formal function in our democracy to help scrutinise law so it's important that Labour get their act together.

For we Conservatives, the issue that loomed large throughout the conference was how we maximise the opportunities created by our decision to leave the European Union.  I took part in several fringe events to discuss how we could dramatically improve policies on agriculture and fisheries once we escape the dead weight of the EU and are free to innovate, try new policies and make our own laws again.  Theresa May has revealed the huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to prepare for Brexit with a Repeal Bill being drafted which will replace EU law with regulations we want to keep on a legitimate UK legal basis.

I have known Theresa May for over twelve years.  She was on the front bench for the Conservatives when I worked for Michael Howard.  She was always solid and dependable, never ducked a difficult fight and played as a trusted part of a team.  What strikes me most so far is that she doesn't mess about but takes clear decisions in a timely way and seems determined to get things done.  That is what we need right now.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean

This week I took part in the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean at Porthtowan, joining volunteers to clean up litter and record what we found. I have taken part in the event for several years and, as a Minister in Defra, the evidence collected across the country helps inform policy on reducing litter.

Plastic is a particular concern; it takes hundreds of years to break down and has been the subject of high profile debate recently.  The problem is compounded year after year as new plastics find their way into the oceans while those that have already been there for decades remain and break down into smaller particles.  While the precise impact of plastics in the marine environment is difficult to quantify, I have always taken the view that we should be on the side of caution. 

We know that ghost nets lost from fishing vessels can have considerable impact on marine life.  Each year, the Cornwall Seals Group based near Hayle find seals that have been entangled in nets or caught in discarded sections of net.  We know that tiny particles of plastic attract toxins in the marine environment and when ingested by fish and marine mammals, those toxins can enter the body. With other marine species like molluscs and shell fish, plastics can block their digestive systems or affect their ability to function normally.

 Last year the government introduced a 5p plastic bag charge. The result has been amazing with a drop in carrier bag use of about 80 percent.  This year there has been debate about the use of microbeads in cosmetics. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used to give a gritty texture to some soaps but which sewage systems are incapable of filtering so they end up in the sea.  Earlier this year I told the House of Commons that we were considering implementing a ban on the use of such plastics in the manufacture and sale of cosmetics and this was adopted as policy a few weeks ago.  

 We also need to tackle littering onshore. Last year 5,500 people were taken to court for littering offences and 30,000 on the spot fines were introduced.  There is more to do, but we are making progress in tackling the challenge.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Hayle Harbour and Foundry Day

Last week, I had the pleasure of formally opening Hayle’s first Harbour Festival. Hayle Harbour and Foundry Day is a celebration of local business, local talent, Hayle heritage and our community. The organisers deserve huge credit. There was great entertainment throughout the day, and it showed that Hayle really is on the up.

There has been an event in Foundry for several years, but this was the first year it has been broadened to cover the harbour. The day aimed to bring Hayle Harbour back to the forefront of the community, and to bring different businesses, charities and clubs together to show off what Hayle has to offer.

When I became an MP I said I wanted to see Hayle Harbour regenerated. It had been left derelict for too long and plans had been talked about all my life time. It was time for action.  While a lot of work needed to go into planning something that local people could get behind, and we needed government grants to put infrastructure in place, like the new bridge into North quay, great progress has been made.  As well as the new harbour walls, we now have a marine energy park on North Quay.

The next stage is to complete sensitive development at the end of South Quay, put in place the footbridge to link the quay to Penpol Terrace and get things moving on North Quay.  There are now two new developers who have bought the harbour from the Dutch bank, ING, and I will be working with them to ensure we get the rest of the development right.

Hayle is going from strength to strength and there is a new confidence in the town but we have to see through what has been started.
On a less optimistic note, this week saw a reminder of the threat of flash floods in Cornwall. Homes, businesses and schools have been affected. We can't legislate for the weather but we can prepare. In the last parliament, the Government spent over £1.5 billion on investment in flood defences. During the current parliament we plan to invest an additional £2.3 billion, supporting around 1500 schemes that will help protect some 300,000 homes.  

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Annual Pasty Festival

Last Saturday I attended the annual Pasty Festival in Redruth, where we celebrate the international home of the Cornish pasty. The weather was glorious, and I even tried my hand at making my own pasty!

When we think of the mass Cornish migrations of the late nineteenth century, we tend to think of the moves to Australia, South Africa or the US but Cornish miners fanned out across the world taking their mining and engineering expertise to new countries. Wherever the Cornish miners from Redruth went, they took the Cornish pasty with them.

Cornish miners also settled at Real Del Monte in Mexico. I have previously met local representatives from the town when they visited the Heartlands project in Pool and there were other Mexican pasty makers in attendance last Saturday and there was a Mexican band.

Cornish miners were responsible for developing silver mining in Real Del Monte during the nineteenth century. They also introduced football and other sports to Mexico. Hundreds of Cornish miners ended their lives in the area and many are to be found in one of the local cemeteries, apparently facing home to Cornwall which was a common request at the time.  This cemetery was damaged by storms earlier this year and credit is due to Mike Kiernan from the Cornish Global Migration Programme who helped raise funds to repair it.

Today the Cornish heritage is evident in some of their architecture and in their love of pasties.  

Four years ago, I and Cornwall’s other MPs, were in the middle of a battle to reverse the government’s decision to put VAT on freshly baked pasties. The traditional exemption from VAT was what civil servants described as an “anomaly”. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and George Osborne intervened to reverse the measure and ensure that the Cornish Pasty continued to be given the special treatment it deserves. Last Saturday was really well attended with a buzz about the town.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

National Citizenship Service

During the Summer Recess, I have enjoyed spending time in the constituency. A particular highlight was a visit to a group of young people taking part in the National Citizenship Service (NCS). NCS was set up in 2011, and is open to all 16-17 year olds in England. It aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence. 

Programmes like this have a crucial role to play in giving opportunities to young people when they are on the cusp of adulthood but will be finding their feet socially and emotionally. 

This year, the group I visited were taking part in a variety of community projects: contributing to the development of a sensory area at BF Adventure, participating in a project at the Dreadnought Centre (which provides a range of support programmes for children and young people who are facing emotional and behavioural problems) and a beach litter clean.

NCS is a residential course, so it gives participants the opportunity to leave home behind for a couple of weeks and immerse themselves in a fresh environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence as it means those taking part are all in the same boat.

I have met groups participating in NCS previously, and it has always been clear to me just how beneficial the scheme is. I was working for David Cameron when he first came up with the idea over a decade ago and it is good to see the scheme growing. Huge congratulations to all those young people who took on the challenge and for delivering something in their community.  It was clear from speaking to them that they enjoyed it and made new friends.