Friday, 22 July 2016

Government reshuffle


I am delighted that I have been re-appointed as Minster of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I said during the EU referendum campaign that I hoped to be the first Farming Minister in over 40 years with the power to design a new national agriculture policy starting from first principles, so I am delighted to be offered this opportunity.
 
We have an enormous task ahead of us. I do think it is important now to bring the country together, put the campaign behind us and all work together to implement the collective will of the nation.  I am pleased that a government has now been formed, giving us the certainty to move forwards and put in place new agriculture, fisheries and environment policies.
 
Rather than having lawyers coming in to my ministerial office to tell me that nothing can be done because of EU law, instead my office can now become a vibrant hub of discussion with farmers, fishermen, scientists, ecologists and volunteers talking about how we can try new things and do better for our agriculture, fisheries and environment.
 
I want us to put in place a very close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation and I want the UK to be a generous and outward looking country that is a good global citizen.  I will strive in the months ahead to ensure that we get our approach right.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Development


When it comes to development around our towns I have always been clear that we should prioritise building on brown field sites over green field sites.  The industrial legacy that we have around Camborne, Redruth and Hayle means that we have a large number of heritage buildings but many of them are falling down.  If we spend the time and effort getting things right, we can save these buildings and the unique features that make them special while providing new homes and employment for families who grew up in the area.

There are always complications to developing brown field sites with the extra costs of thinking about unique designs as well as the costs of remediation and land decontamination.  To make things more complicated still, we are never far from a mine shaft in this part of the world and that can add to the cost in unexpected ways.  But the prize is worth the extra effort.  Consider how the old Holman's site around Camborne Train Station has been transformed or how Heartlands in Pool has really started to take shape. Consider the transformation of Hayle Harbour and the major changes taking shape at the old derelict Redruth Brewery with the new archive project.  We have made great progress but there is further to go.

In recent weeks I have had meetings with several of the key developers who own remaining difficult sites at Tuckingmill, South Crofty and the old Avers garage site.  I want to get things moving at Tuckingmill.  I have also met local planners to ensure that the latest version of the Cornwall Council local plan will retain a strong preference for brownfield development in the existing footprint of our urban area.   We need to keep up the momentum and focus on solutions to these difficult, derelict sites so we can make Camborne, Redruth and Hayle the place of choice to live and set up a business in Cornwall. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Leadership


I have never known a more turbulent time in politics.  Scarcely a day goes by without another resignation of some sort.  We are in the eye of the storm.  However, it will settle down in time and clarity will eventually prevail.  By the time you read this article the first two rounds of the Conservative leadership contest will have been completed.
 
I wish that David Cameron hadn’t resigned.  He did not need to in my view.  It was quite possible for him to put together a negotiating team to manage the outcome of the EU referendum while staying on to provide some continuity and to help with relations with other EU countries.  However, he didn't want to carry on so now we must calmly choose a new leader.

I worked for David Cameron for almost three years including during his own campaign for the Conservative leadership. From the very beginning I could see that he had the judgement and temperament to become a really great Prime Minister.  It has been fascinating to see him catapulted from an unknown MP twelve years ago to become leader of the party and then leader of our country.  I have seen him grow at each stage and as each challenge presented itself.  No one is born to be Prime Minister and there is no special training.  You have to learn it from trial and error on the job.  You either have the aptitude to do it, and manage to overcome obstacles and become stronger after each and every setback or, rather like Gordon Brown, the job overwhelms you and you get gradually eroded by it.

While David Cameron will be disappointed at the way things have ended, I think that history will judge him well. He took the helm in desperate times and steered the country back to economic recovery. He was the only Prime Minister I can think of who had the temperament to make coalition government really work for a full five years.  I am very sad to see him go but it has been a real privilege to have worked with him.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

EU Referendum


Our decision to leave the European Union last week was a big decision but the right decision for our country.  I am very proud of the courage shown by so many people in Cornwall.  They overcame the natural apprehension people often feel when facing really big decisions in life and they weighed up all the facts carefully.

Now that the campaign is over it is essential that we reconcile our country and bring people back together.  As we negotiate a new partnership with the EU it is essential we reassure voters and demonstrate to them that, while we have decided to re-establish democratic self-government in the UK, we will still be a generous, cooperative and outward looking nation. 

I think there is scope for widespread cooperation in a new partnership between the UK and the EU.  We can cooperate on the mutual recognition of technical standards to ensure that trade continues to work freely.  We can cooperate on measures to protect the environment.  We can support cooperation between our universities to promote science and technology and we can cooperate in the field of international security and fighting terrorism. 

However, in my view, there is one red line: we would no longer accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice which has undermined our democracy and which second guesses the decisions of elected governments.  We would no longer accept EU auditors coming here and overturning decisions we have made and arbitrarily fining the tax payer. We would no longer accept the European Court overturning ministerial decisions to deport dangerous criminals or terrorists and we would no longer abdicate responsibility for our trade policy to the EU.  The future will be based on willing cooperation not reluctant subjugation.

I believe that in a few years’ time, once a new partnership is concluded and we see the benefits of regaining control, the only question people will ask is why we didn't do it sooner.  As it turns out, membership of the EU was just a passing phase in our nation's long history.  Its time has come and gone.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Jo Cox


The appalling murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox has caused shock and revulsion throughout the country and the fact that over £600,000 was raised for her designated charities literally overnight shows how people have been moved by these tragic events.

There are lots of things that divide the different political parties but there is one thing that unites us all and that is a passionate belief in democracy.  One of the things that makes our democracy so special is the fact that local MPs are accessible.

Every MP holds regular surgeries in their constituency to try to help people with problems in their lives.  From people who have had their quality of life blighted by intractable planning disputes with their neighbours, through to those having difficulty getting sense out of the system to gain the care support they need for a disabled loved one.  From really difficult issues involving social services and child custody, right through to the most terrible of tragedies where constituents have lost children in road accidents or loved ones in hospital operations that went wrong.  Wherever you might have come from in life, the experience of being a constituency MP is a leveller.

Making sure that MPs are exposed to and empathise with all of these problems is what keeps the system on its toes.  MPs return to parliament and can table difficult questions to any Minister.  Ministers, in turn, know that local MPs can alert them to problems on the ground. Sometimes new problems are discovered and put right.  The way our system works enables a small injustice or failure locally to be translated all the way to the top.

That is why, despite discussion about the security around MPs, it is essential that things carry on as before and that MPs remain accessible.  Jo Cox was clearly a talented MP with a great future ahead of her. She had great experience of the charity sector and expertise in international development which she brought to the House of Commons and she earned respect across the House.  Her murder is a loss for parliament and a tragedy for her family, especially her two young children.  Our best answer to this senseless murder is to ensure that we carry on.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

EU Referendum Campaign


We are in the final week of the EU referendum campaign and it will shortly be time to decide. Referendums can be really refreshing for our politics because they bring together coalitions of people from all parties who share the same view on a single issue. A referendum is the one time when the tables are turned and the people get to tell the politicians what to do.  It is not a time for big politicians like Obama or overpaid, self-appointed "experts" to dictate what should happen.  Although the national discussion has been fractious at times, I am detecting that the public are really engaged in the detail.  They recognise that leaving the EU is a big decision but one they should not duck or avoid. Here in Cornwall, it feels like there is a very solid majority for leaving the EU and taking back control.
If we vote to leave on 23rd June some things will change immediately. The very next day, it will become the official policy of the British Government to withdraw from the EU. The Prime Minister will accept the verdict and commit himself to delivering what the country wants and the entire civil service machine will become dedicated to delivering an orderly transition to independence.   Things that have been described as impossibilities during the campaign will suddenly be revealed as eminently doable after all.

Our European partners will want to build a close working partnership based on friendship and cooperation. It will be very easy to agree a Free Trade Agreement between the UK and EU.  Our starting point is that we are in the single market, and there is a high degree of equivalence and compatibility in our approaches to issues like product specification, food safety and labelling etc.  

There is no one in government today who has ever known anything other than being told what to do by the EU.  It's the only reason we have put up with it for so long.  If we decide to leave, we will stop sending £350 million a week to Brussels and end the supremacy of EU law. We will be able to deliver the change that is so desperately needed.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Royal Cornwall Show


This week is Royal Cornwall Show week and, like most of the shows, one issue is dominating discussion: the referendum.  I will be attending on Friday and taking part in several debates to explain why I believe that Cornish agriculture and the wider food industry in Cornwall will be better off if we vote to leave the EU on 23rd June.

The UK government will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support - or perhaps even more- as they get now. The Prime Minister has made this clear and I agree with him. After all, non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Norway actually give more support to their farmers than we do. In the scheme of things, the amount of money spent on our countryside and wildlife is very modest when compared with spending on other departments.  But we could spend our money more effectively if we had control.

We will also maintain a free trade agreement.  Last year, we exported £7.5 billion worth of food to the EU but we imported food worth £18 billion.  We have an annual trade deficit with the EU in food alone of £10 billion, meaning that EU member states need a free trade deal as much as or more than we do.

In Cornwall, companies like Lynher Dairies have created new markets with their highly acclaimed Cornish Yarg. Rodda’s Cream are creating new export markets, and Falfish have ensured that Cornwall is the market leader for many fish species. These great companies will continue to do well because they have strong brands and fantastic high quality products that the rest of the world wants to buy.

I have fond memories of the Royal Cornwall Show, and my family used to show our South Devon Cattle there. My brother and father will be there this year, showing the family’s rare breed Lop Eared Pigs. I am very much looking forward to it.