Friday, 30 March 2012

Budget

Last week’s budget showed the challenge of coalition government. Both parties need to make space for frank discussion without the contents leaking like a sieve. The widespread leaking of budget measures before the day has not been helpful to building trust within the coalition.

But the budget itself had a great deal of good news for Cornwall. The increase in the tax threshold was a huge boost for the local economy lifting everyone earning under £9200 out of tax altogether and slashing the tax take from everyone else. I have always felt that it is ludicrous the way we take tax off people who are working only to return it to them again in benefits with a whole load of strings attached, so this move to simply things and take the lowest earners out of tax altogether was incredibly welcome.

There has been a lot of controversy over the proposed reforms of the VAT regime for hot takeaway food and there is a great deal of concern over the impact this might have on Cornish pasties. It is another of those issues where all MPs in Cornwall, regardless of party, must work together to try to get common sense to prevail and to prevent any damage being done to this vital Cornish industry. There is a consultation underway and we have to ensure that Cornwall’s voice is heard.

The budget also had some good news for local businesses. If we want to get this country out of the hole it is in, we need to support businesses and encourage them to locate in Cornwall and expand their operations here. The reduction in Corporation Tax will attract outside investment and there were also plans to support lending to small businesses. There was also an expansion in support for those businesses which want to export and find new markets overseas which I was especially pleased to see.

Finally, at a more local level, I want to pay tribute to the fantastic work of CPR Regeneration over the last few years. This has been a great success story locally but their project ends this month. The idea was conceived under the last Conservative government in the late 90’s but it has had cross party support ever since. Over the last three years, I have been incredibly impressed by Nigel Tipple and the rest of his team and their achievements. They have really delivered and a lot of important projects are about to come to fruition, such as the Camborne to Redruth new link road. As an MP, you have to get used to wading through treacle to get anything done, but those long suffering individuals who make economic regeneration their passion, have to wade through concrete to make things happen and we should take our hats off to them.

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, 22 March 2012

Celebrating Cornish Manufacturing

Ever since the banking crisis of 2008, everyone has realised that we need to rebalance our economy away from and over dependence on financial services. Ten years ago, it was fashionable in some circles to say that the British economy no longer needed manufacturing and that service industries were the future. It is now clear that such complacency was completely wrong. We need to make things again in order to generate the wealth for the future. Service industries like banking and the legal professions depend on businesses that actually add value and generate income.

The switch of emphasis towards manufacturing will eventually feed through into an economic revival in those regions of the country, including Camborne and Redruth, which have traditionally been centres of excellence for industry and engineering. That can't come a moment too soon for me because the truth is that this part of Cornwall has struggled to regain its confidence since the loss of major manufacturers like Holman Brothers.

It is worth remembering that, despite being overlooked in recent decades, Britain remains a centre of excellence in many manufacturing sectors. GSK, the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company, is British. In engineering, there are world beating companies like Rolls-Royce and British Aerospace. Although most British car companies have now fallen into foreign ownership, it is a little known fact that Britain manufactures more cars today than at any time in its history. Then there are those companies, like JCB, in more traditional engineering sectors which have bucked the trend and remain international leaders in their field and have become stronger over the last twenty years.

Last week I visited Teagle Farm machinery at Blackwater. This is a great example of a Cornish success story and is our answer to JCB. It, too, is a world leader in its sector. Like JCB, it remains a private company owned by the same Teagle family who founded it. The number of staff employed has more than doubled in the last ten years to 150 people. More than half of everything the company makes is exported as far afield as Japan, the US and eastern Europe. It has achieved success by achieving the highest standards and by constantly reinvesting in research and development to create new designs which offer engineering solutions to the challenges of modem farming.

I would like to see more support for manufacturing businesses. I think there is a danger that all the support goes to business sectors which are fashionable and tick the box for government departments. But we need to be more willing to lend a hand to those companies which have a proven track record and might achieve a lot more with some targeted help on things like developing export markets and research and development.

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, 15 March 2012

The case for Redruth

A few years ago I received an unexpected email addressed to a George Eustice which proceeded to talk as someone who thought they were my daughter and asked about the rest of the family home in South Africa. I should make clear that I do not have a secret daughter and so, in my reply, pointed out that there had obviously been some mistake in the email address but added for good measure that most Eustices (spelt with an ‘i’) originated from Cornwall so we might well be related. “Yes” was the reply, “my grandfather always talked about Redruth.”

I have always argued that we could make more of our amazing history and industrial heritage in this part of Cornwall to promote ourselves around the world. It is estimated that the world wide Cornish diaspora could number as many as seven million people. In the late 19th century, tens of thousands of Cornishmen left their homes to build the new world and today they can be found as far afield as South Africa, Australia, the US and Mexico.

No Cornish town contributed more to the building of the new world than Redruth. Research by the Cornish Migration Project suggests that a quarter of all the Cornishmen to leave came from the Redruth area which, at the time, was the global financial centre for metals trading and was pioneering the mining technologies that would be used throughout the world.

There are currently proposals to establish a new Cornish Archive which would be a centre for many ancient manuscripts and old photographs and a history resource for the whole county. Redruth is the obvious place to locate such a facility. Firstly, the town is already a trail blazer for Cornish culture and history. The Cornish Studies Library based in the town is a fantastic resource for those studying all things Cornish with an amazing library of photographs. Secondly, the town is also home to Murdoch House and the Cornish Migration Project which helps thousands of people trace their roots back to Cornwall. Thirdly, the town is developing a lead within Cornwall for culture and the creative industries. Krowji, Cornwall’s largest creative cluster goes from strength to strength and just outside Redruth, work to develop a huge audio-visual resource of old Cornish photographs made available online is being pioneered by local firm Azook.

I have been impressed by the way the whole town has pulled together to try to bring this project into the area. Redruth has an abundance of potential sites for the new Cornish Archive but I hope it might be possible to use the project as a way of kick starting the wider regeneration of the town by locating it on the old brewery site to get that part of Redruth moving again.

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

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Safer Camborne Project

Last Friday I went out on patrol with the police in Camborne to see first-hand some of the excellent work they have been involved in trying to tackle alcohol abuse in the town. The Safer Camborne Project is a great example of different agencies in the community working together to deal with a common problem. Launched at the beginning of the year to tackle local concerns about anti-social behaviour in the town, it brings together church groups, homelessness charities, the police, the pubs and local retailers to create a joined up approach.

It starts with responsible retailers. The police had started to notice that certain high alcohol ciders and beers were particularly associated with street drinking. For instance Frosty Jack, which has a 7.5 percent alcohol volume and was being sold in three litre bottles, was often the drink of choice for those with alcohol problems because of its very low cost per unit. So retailers in the town, including Tesco, came together and agreed to withdraw this drink from their shelves. Some retailers, such as Costcutter, have gone further and reviewed the whole range of drinks they stock.

Next, the pubs have a role to play. There has been some great progress in this area in Camborne in recent years and the pubs are really doing their bit. It starts with developing a closer relationship between pubs and the police so that landlords don’t fear that if they flag up a problem, it might count against them when their licence is next up for review. Instead, those who work with the police to tackle problem drinking should receive extra credit when it comes to renewing their licence. Initiatives range from barring problem drinkers from all the pubs in Camborne to giving assertiveness training to staff so that they are more willing to refuse to sell alcohol to those who have already had enough.

The Police have done their bit by targeting those who are causing the most problems and are really focusing on preventing street drinking. They are also much more visible around the town earlier in the evening and spend time in the pubs so that they can detect potential problems much earlier. Their very presence earlier in the evening can make people think about their actions, strengthen the authority of staff in pubs and deter problem behaviour later at night.

Finally, it can’t all be about tough crack downs. We have to recognise that associated with severe alcohol abuse is a lot of vulnerability. When people’s lives fall apart, for whatever reason, there need to be groups there ready to lend a hand and help people put things back together again. That is where local churches and homelessness charities are playing their part.

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, 1 March 2012

The confidence to work

Work is learnt at a young age. That is why I am a supporter of the scheme the government has announced to give young people leaving school some experience of a working environment. I think it is a betrayal of the interests of those young people that some hard left pressure groups have sought to intimidate companies who are participating in a scheme that is ultimately about offering a helping hand to the next generation.

The idea is very simple. It’s a voluntary scheme to help teenagers get some experience of work. They would be able to try a placement for a few days and then, if they liked it, commit to doing a further four weeks unpaid work experience there with some training. The allegation by the Socialist Workers Party that this is tantamount “slave labour” is absolute rubbish. The companies involved would actually be spending time and money taking young people under their wing for a few weeks and giving them a break in life. It was a good thing for them to have agreed to do and they should have been commended for it, not vilified.

Some said it was wrong to insist on a commitment for four weeks after the initial trial period of a few days but one of the things about joining a workplace is that it is a commitment. You need people to turn up in the morning, learn to be relied upon and become part of the team. If the idea of the scheme is to prepare young people for work, then commitment is one of the things they should learn.

I think there has been a damaging drift in recent years towards young people starting work too late. It is good that more people stay on in education beyond 16 and I am pleased that more people are going to university. But staying in education should not preclude learning to work. I think it is important for teenagers to get a weekend job at a much younger age.

Having a part time job can help boost the confidence of a young teenager. It can also give them some money of their own so it’s not just those with wealthy parents who have the smart clothes out of school. I left school at 15 and then studied part time while working on the farm but I had worked during school holidays for years before that. But, in the name of “progress”, the law has made it harder for 14 and 15 year olds to take a weekend job by creating bureaucratic obstacles which make it difficult for small businesses who might have previously found some work for teenagers to give them that start in life. That is a backwards step in my view.

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