Monday, 16 December 2013

AUTUMN STATEMENT

A lot has been achieved but there is still a lot more to be getting on with. That is the message the Chancellor delivered last week in his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons. I think George Osborne is right to be positive, with original growth figures upgraded to 2.4% for next year it is clear the economy is turning a corner and it is also clear his plan is the right one. We need to continue on the path of cutting our deficit and stimulating growth so that we can balance the books and after five years we could even be running a surplus. I also think that no one is saying this news allows us to rest on our laurels. There is still a long way to go and we still need to provide the right incentives to keep growth going.

There was some good news for Cornwall with the announcement firstly of the fuel price freeze next year. I believe this will be welcomed by many, because people in our part of the world cannot necessarily always use public transport for getting to work and rely on their car which can become really expensive. Cornish Business can also struggle because of their distance from markets and associated transport costs. I have often argued that this needs to be taken into account. The fuel price freeze is important in keeping the costs of living down and I know many families will be pleased with this commitment.

We also need to help our young people find that first job and there was a range of measures announced that will encourage that. When I visit schools in our area and Cornwall College I am always struck by a real culture of striving to achieve excellence and over the past few years I have been really impressed by the young people I meet. They deserve all the help they can get when it comes to moving on and the Government’s move to scrap employers’ National Insurance contributions for under 21’s is a step in the right direction. The Jobcentre will also do more to help sixteen to eighteen year olds find a suitable apprenticeship or traineeship if they are not in work..

There is also some good news for our shops and the High Street with help for those struggling with burdensome business rates. As of next year a business will have up to a one thousand allowance if they have a rateable value of fifty thousand or less and the planned rate rise will be capped and less than originally planned. I often hear of these rates causing concern and this relief is crucial. Overall, we need to make sure that with everyone talking about a recovery this is felt in people’s pockets.

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, 5 December 2013

Cost of Living

There was some great news for hard pressed bill-payers last week when South-West Water announced a price freeze for all households and businesses until April 2015. It will no doubt mean a sigh of relief for all those households in our area concerned about rising utility bills who now have at least some certainty in what to budget for water costs. As winter draws in and energy bills increase, I think this news should be welcomed and especially because it comes with a commitment from the water company to look at keeping prices below inflation all the way through to 2020.

Of course bills are still disproportionately high for households in Cornwall and this historic injustice comes from that fact South West Water looks after water quality over a vast coastline but deals with a relatively small population. That said the £50 rebate that was introduced in April this year has been a very welcome start and for the average Cornish household their bill actually fell this year by 7.3%. The price freeze announced last week is another step in the right direction.

Whilst water is important, we also need to look at other ways to cut the cost of living which everyone agrees is a top priority and when I am out knocking on doors in the constituency the subject is never far away. The scrapping of the fuel duty escalator by the government was vitally important for a county like Cornwall because many people who work cannot rely on public transport and have no option but to use their car and our businesses have to transport their goods hundreds of miles to market which is a major cost. Just filling up can be a worrying cost for families and I have always argued for fuel costs to be as low as possible.

When it comes to the cost of energy the government have also very recently announced a range of measures that will lead to a £50 cut in the average household bill which are coming into effect soon. The recent hikes in energy bills have caused a real shock and this cut is absolutely critical to help people deal with this extra burden. It is difficult because energy prices here are largely controlled by wholesale energy prices around the world but suppliers need to be transparent at how they can keep costs down and the government can work with them on this. Progress has been made but it is clear that for now and in the future new approaches need to be looked at.

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

Monday, 2 December 2013

The future is bright for Hayle


It is great to see that at long last developments on Hayle’s South Quay have finally begun. Residents won’t have failed to notice the site of construction workers and vehicles and their arrival marks a new phase in the revival of the town which promises to transform both the landscape and also the local economy. The project is going to totally redevelop a site which was left derelict for far too long and I know I am not alone in looking forward to watching the progress made and ultimately a new and vibrant harbour.

It has not always been plain sailing for those involved and what has at long last come about began with some considerable objections from English Heritage over the historical nature of the site. They wanted the owners, ING bank, to work more closely with architects specialising in historic renovation and although ING were happy to do this they still objected and referred the decision back up to the government inviting them to block the plans. With both Hayle Town Council and Cornwall Council endorsing the new scheme and a lot of local support, the Secretary of State rightly set aside the objections of English Heritage and did the right thing by giving these plans the green light.

We are now seeing the plans come to life and what makes them so unique is the proposal for a supermarket in the centre at the Foundry end of South Quay with restaurants and other mixed development on the rest of the quay. I think that out of town supermarkets can drain life away from the town centre and the plans for Hayle’s new Asda will bring new life into the town rather than bleed more life away as well as creating over two hundred local jobs. The South Quay proposal will be connected in the most literal sense possible to the rest of the town with a footbridge over the harbour to Biggleston’s, one of Hayle’s oldest shops. When Cornwall Council granted permission to ING, they also included an obligation for the bank to repair the harbour walls and deliver the necessary flood defences which will provide a great foundation for the development.

Looking ahead there are some other brilliant ideas in the pipeline that mean a bright future for the town. There are plans for a redeveloped East Quay to become a new facility that will expand the towns fishing industry. I have argued for a shuttle boat link between St Ives and Hayle and these are starting to move closer to fruition. I think it is clear Hayle is growing from strength to strength and there is every reason to be optimistic for its future.

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.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Europe

Discussion about the EU is never far away in British politics, but over the past few weeks with the EU Referendum Bill currently being debated in Parliament it has found itself right in the political spotlight again. MPs will soon vote on whether we allow the public a say on our membership and it will be the first time the public are permitted a vote on the EU in almost forty years. It is actually a pretty historic moment and one which the Conservatives rightly deserve credit for.

I believe we need a fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU because in certain areas it has become far too powerful and we need to see those powers returned to us. That said, after these negotiations we can also remain an enthusiastic and committed member of the single market which is best outcome for our economy.

There are plenty of naysayers out there who don’t believe the EU can change, and that its tentacles will continue to spread unless we leave outright. I don’t think that is inevitable at all and it is clear that although others countries, such as Germany, want further political and fiscal union they accept that Britain is in a different position and they want to work with us because ultimately they still need our signature on new treaties. To get negotiations right we need to do the right research and William Hague’s competency review into how exactly the EU works and how its laws affect our everyday life in Britain will do just that. It is a huge project that won’t end until next year but it will offer so much useful information at the negotiating table that we must wait for it to be completed.

In the meantime there is also much that can be done now that keeps national powers. Under the Lisbon Treaty, we have a right to opt in or out of EU directives and recently the government decided to opt out of 130 EU directives that Gordon Brown signed up to relating to justice and home affairs and then opted back in to just 35 of them. We have picked and chosen the ones that enhance these areas but left behind needless bureaucracy in others.

My new role in DEFRA also meant I recently announced a vital consultation on how EU agricultural subsidies will be paid from next year onwards which seeks to cut down even further on the red tape from Brussels and which gives our farmers a say in how they work. It is also proof that negotiation works in the EU because the greater flexibility on how we distribute the funds was a key part of the British strategy and we won that right. I believe we should be optimistic when approaching the EU and this bill is a key part of that.

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, 14 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

Last weekend I attended Remembrance services at St Andrews Church in Redruth and also at Illogan in the afternoon. I have noticed in recent years how attendance at Remembrance Sunday services has grown and how there is often standing room only in the church. I am always struck by just how moving the services are and how much respect people rightly show at this time of year.

There was also a great turnout from the various different scout and cadet groups. It is great to see so many of the next generation showing such a commitment and doing their own bit to remember the sacrifices made by our armed forces personnel. The cadet and scout movements have gone from strength to strength in recent years. What they do need are more adult volunteers as they often have a backlog of young applicants but not enough leaders and more needs to be done to encourage adults to join.

We have been through a decade of conflict and there is no doubt in my mind that the difficult operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan have made the public far more conscious of sacrifices made by our armed forces. The wind down of operations in Afghanistan and the handover to the Afghan army is now well underway with a deadline set for the end of next year that will see all but a few of our troops withdrawn. Last year was a terrible one with a very high number of British casualties but the gradual handover of operations to the Afghan army has led to a substantial reduction in the number of servicemen killed in action over the past nine months. However each and every casualty is still a tragedy for the families left behind. After more than a decade, ending the conflict in Afghanistan will be a relief for all.

I think that the legacy of these conflicts will continue for years because of the extremely young and wounded soldiers they have left behind. We owe these people, who have given up so much at such a young age, all the support they need to help them build new, happy and long lives for themselves. Charities such as Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion do just that and they have been integral to helping people recover not just from the physical but also mental difficulties that come from being exposed to war. I think their work is absolutely vital.

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.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Community Spirit

One of the advantages of being MP for Camborne and Redruth is that I am able to visit a huge amount of brilliant and vibrant charities and community groups throughout the constituency whose work is invaluable to so many. There is a diverse and skilled group of charitable organisations in this part of Cornwall who either specialise in certain issues or bring together different community services under one roof and their amazing work often goes unsung.

A few weeks ago I visited All Saints Community Centre is Camborne who do a fantastic job in providing a base for a range of voluntary organisations to operate from. There are groups for the elderly, who provide meals and a social setting which I think is vital and following recent news it is clear more needs to be done to stop the elder generation becoming lonely. There are also youth groups and a host of different activities such as Yoga and Zumba on offer for people of any age which have really taken off in recent years. The Centre provides office space for some important groups such as AA and there are various services on offer to help those who have been unemployed and need some basic literacy and numeracy training. I was lucky enough to attend the tenth anniversary of the Centre a couple of years ago and it was great to catch up with such an asset to the community. The work of its community development co-ordinator, Treve James, should be commended.

There are other community groups that make up a vibrant network throughout the area. This summer I popped in to the Pengegon Community fun day which growths from strength to strength. It is a great example of a local community getting together to change their neighbourhood for the better and the ongoing work at Pengegon has really paid off with local residents now taking great pride in their area. Whilst All Saint’s provides some great utilities in Camborne, the Elms in Redruth offer a similar service and are the base for Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, or CN4C who do some fantastic work fostering social enterprise. There are also more specialist charities that offer a unique service such as Penhaligon’s Friends who offer crucial support to young people dealing with bereavement.

Tackling social breakdown and reviving our sense of community spirit is a difficult task but it is these groups who are at the fore. I believe strongly in the idea of the Big Society, but that also this idea of voluntary help in the community is nothing new and I have seen it all my life in Cornwall. What it does need is a committed group of volunteers and whilst the groups I meet are always on the lookout for more, we are fortunate to have some brilliant ones already.

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.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Revitalising our town centres.

I have always said that economic regeneration was my number one priority as an MP, and it is clear there are some exciting projects on the way that will bring much needed jobs and investments into our towns. Both Hayle Harbour and the Redruth Archive Centre are major schemes that will deliver local employment and transform the area. They will also bring new life into our towns rather than drain activity away to the outskirts.

It cannot be denied that the economic landscape of towns and cities has dramatically changed over the past twenty to thirty years and whilst out of town retail parks often provide an easy retail space for business, I still think our town centres have a vitally important role to play. We firstly need to get more innovative retail projects underway by redeveloping brownfield sites in the centre that can easily be turned into useful spaces for the larger and popular retail chains that will automatically increase footfall. I think that plans for South Quay in Hayle could provide a good example to follow.

We also need to look at the issue of business rates. I visit many small and medium sized businesses who take great pride in what they do and their shops mean so much to their customers but who still struggle to pay when it comes to rates. I think this can be a really difficult burden especially to those starting their own business. It is a brave decision and those who have taken a chance need all the help they can get. There are rate relief schemes offered by the Government which can be a great start and I think that longer term we should see if more can be done.

We also need our shops to work together to deliver a vibrant town centre and promote fresh ideas to get people back into town. In Camborne traders have got together to create a ‘Business Improvement District’, or BID, which does just that and when I have attended their meetings I am always struck by just how much they get done and their innovative ideas for the future. They have only been around for a year but during that time they have organised two months free parking in Trevithick Road car park, produced some really useful promotional guides on Camborne and developed the www.cambornecando.co.uk website alongside a load of other projects. Plans for the future include a music festival in November and some great produce markets on certain Fridays. I think where BID have got it right is looking at a range of options to revitalise the high street and with initiative our town centres will continue to have a bright future ahead.

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, 24 October 2013

Keeping a Running Track in Camborne and Redruth

I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletic Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea. The track means a lot to me, as it does to a lot of people and organisations such as Carn Runners and Hayle Runners.

It is clear from discussion with local councillors that they are considering a few possible sites for a replacement running track with the existing site being sold to fund a major renovation and upgrade of the facilities at Carn Brea Leisure Centre. There a several options for the location of a new track in the Camborne and Redruth area, not least one of the schools or the land next to the all weather football pitches at Cornwall College. However, there are voices claiming that Truro might be a more central location and easier to get to. They couldn't be more wrong.

I have done a bit of basic research into journey times between various towns and Redruth or Truro. Accessibility is not just about distance, it is also about traffic congestion. Any tourist visiting Cornwall could be forgiven for assuming that "Truro" might be Cornish for traffic jam! Redruth is far closer to the main A30 trunk road and is more accessible for the county as a whole.

It is no surprise West Cornwall towns like Falmouth, Helston, Penzance, Hayle and St Ives all find Redruth easier to get to than Truro. However, my research also shows that the vast majority of towns to the north also find Redruth easier to get to. Drivers coming from Newquay, Bodmin and Wadebridge would take exactly the same time to get to the Redruth site as they would to the one in Truro, and this includes at busy times such as the school run and after work when people are visiting the track. Only residents of St Austell could travel to Truro quicker and this would only be by a few minutes, assuming they were lucky with the Truro traffic. Redruth is overall the easiest location to get to when measured in journey times. The new eight lane track also needs to be as central as possible because the one at Par, which is just six lanes, is not suitable for all competitions. We should also look at local populations. A track in Camborne or Redruth would service the local population of around 59,000 people whereas there are just 22,000 people in Truro.

With deliberations in Cornwall Council still ongoing, we can only hope that common sense prevails. It is important to think about the more local benefits as well such as the number of schools in the area and the existence of clubs. The main athletics clubs in Cornwall are Cornwall Athletic Club, Newquay Athletic Club, Carn Runners and Hayle Runners. All of these clubs would be better off with a track located in the Redruth area. Truro is well known for many things but athletics is not one of them, so why build the track up there in the middle of their traffic jam?


Thursday, 17 October 2013

The future of cinema entertainment

The Regal Theatre and Cinema in Redruth has been a vital lynchpin for the community for as long as I can remember. My earliest memory of it is going there with my cousins to watch Star Wars as a boy. It hosts performances by many local drama groups and is currently gearing up for a slate of core Christmas events.

Earlier this year, the Regal completed a £1.5 million investment to upgrade all of its facilities. It is a great vote of confidence in Redruth coming from one of the town's most important businesses and together with the plans to build a new Cornwall Archive Centre at the site of the old brewery, I hope that it can be a catalyst for a lot more investment in Redruth and deliver a revival in the cultural life of the town.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Regal and see for myself the fantastic changes that have been made. As a venue for live performances it now rivals the Hall for Cornwall but it offers something else far more forward thinking called "stage to screen". I have always been very interested in how we can use rapidly advancing digital technology to deal with the fact that Cornwall is a peninsula and a long way from major population centres. The advent of teleconferencing and the fact that it is now available to all through applications like Skype has already done great things for business. It is now less important to travel for meetings.

Now the Regal is doing the same thing for the best live performances London theatre can offer. The idea is simple, there is an agreement between firms like the Regal and the National Ballet, Royal Opera and National Theatre. Stage performances from London are broadcast live to an audience in Redruth as the performance takes place. The atmosphere from the audience at the live theatre immediately spreads to the audience in Redruth. It is just like being there yourself. Furthermore, the upgrade delivered at the Regal means that the seats are better and there are some private boxes which are excellent for private family events or corporate hospitality.

My wife has always loved theatre and last year we went to see War Horse which is probably my favourite ever stage show. In recent months the Regal has screened Swan Lake and The Audience which plots all the Prime Minister the Queen met. Between now and Christmas live shows from London include The Nutcracker, Hamlet, Spartacus. But to anyone who has not seen it, I recommend a visit to the Regal to see War Horse which arrives in the New Year.

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, 10 October 2013

The challenges facing DEFRA

Earlier this week, all three parties had reshuffles of their front bench teams. While there were no big changes to the members of the cabinet, there was quite a lot of change within the other ministerial ranks. I was delighted to be made a minister in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I grew up on the family farm at Trevaskis and spent ten years working in farming before I went into politics so it has always been an issue close to my heart. Cornwall is also affected more than most parts of the country by the decisions taken by DEFRA. Firstly, we have historically always suffered from high water bills. The fact that we have to maintain water quality on such a large coastline but have a small population means that the cost of investment has had a big impact on individual household bills. In my first year as an MP I, and other Cornish MPs, made a really concerted effort to get some redress to help alleviate the problem and since April this year there has been an important first step with a £50 rebate off the bill of every household.

Secondly, Cornwall still has a very important fishing fleet operating mainly out of Newlyn but Hayle also has a small fishing industry. It already houses a distribution centre for most of the lobsters caught off the Isles of Scilly. A couple of weeks ago I met the harbour master to discuss plans to develop mussel beds in Hayle and there are some really interesting plans being put forward by the town to renovate East Quay into a new facility to develop fishing further. In Redruth we also have Falfish, Cornwall’s leading fish processing plant and a well known market leader when it comes to Cornish scallops. For as long as I can remember, the lack of flexibility in the Common Fisheries Policy has been a problem for fishermen but there are some important changes underway which means decision making will start to be returned to national governments.

Agriculture also suffers from its share of problems caused by the Common Agricultural Policy and there are some complicated changes about to be implemented. Cornwall has an important farming industry but there have been huge changes in the fifteen years since I left the industry with a smaller number of large players. This part of Cornwall has the most productive agricultural land in the county and is home to Cornwall’s biggest growers of potatoes, cauliflowers and daffodils. With a growing world population, food security is once again becoming an issue so we will need to have a vibrant farming industry in the future. I have always been keen to explore ways of making it easier for new entrants to get into farming because all successful industries need new people bringing fresh ideas.

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, 3 October 2013

New policies at conference

The month long party conference season has finally drawn to a close. As always, those whose job it is to plan and manage such events have had to battle against the various noises off and awkward questions from the media as they try to get their policy announcements heard.

The Liberal Conservative government has made a number of significant announcements. Firstly, we have announced plans to introduce free school meals for all children of infant school age. When I visit primary schools in this area, one of the issues head teachers raise is that they have many children on their school roll whose families would be eligible to receive free school meals but are either too proud to apply or are unaware they are eligible. Sadly, some children also prefer snack foods to wholesome cooked meals. Making it automatic for all young children to receive free school meals will encourage healthy eating at a young age and there is evidence that this can improve attainment at school.

Next was the decision to accelerate the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme which is helping thousands of first time buyers get on the housing ladder by underwriting some of the lenders exposure to enable mortgage companies to offer 95 percent mortgages on new build houses. Last week I visited a Linden Homes construction site at Pool and it is clear that this policy has enabled them to get on with the work of rebuilding derelict sites in our towns. Margaret Thatcher made home ownership in Britain the norm rather than the exception and it would be a backward step if home ownership became the preserve of a privileged few again. Until the credit crunch, 95 percent mortgages were very common but now first time buyers are being given the impossible task of raising a 30 percent deposit. If we want to help people get on in life, we have to help people buy their first home.

We also saw more proposals to help the long term unemployed back into work. The evidence is overwhelming that experience of work is the single most important thing we can give the long term unemployed to help them regain their confidence, move closer to the job market and find a paid job.

When I worked for David Cameron in opposition, he was always clear that marriage should be recognised in the tax system and this pledge has finally been delivered. Most other countries already do this. In future, all married couples on basic rate tax will be able to transfer up to £1000 of their tax free allowance to their spouse. It will be especially beneficial to those couples who have young children and where one partner juggles working part time with caring for the children. When you are married you share many responsibilities. It is only right and fair that the tax system should reflect the way people live.

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.

Opportunities for the next generation

Earlier this week, I took part in a panel discussion organised by Youth Parliament representatives in Cornwall. Every two years, elections are held to elect six representatives from local schools to represent the views of young people. I have always been supportive of the project because I think it is an excellent way of teaching young people about politics and citizenship and learning to speak in public can be a great confidence boost for those who get involved.

Our most lively discussion concerned the image of young people. By a show of hands every one of the fifty or so young people attending felt there was a problem with the way they were portrayed by the media and that older generations were suspicious, fearful and distrustful of them. There were plenty of anecdotes to reinforce the point. There is not much new about generational conflict. Phrases like, “the youth of today” or “the young ones” are parodied clich├ęs for a reason. However, for some reason the perception of distance between generations seems greater now than it was.

In some ways we have put up new barriers between generations. For instance, changes in the law make it far harder for a small business today to offer a weekend job to a fourteen or fifteen year old than it was just twenty years ago. A few years ago there was controversy about a new electrical device called a “mosquito” which emitted a high pitched noise designed only to be heard by teenagers as an irritating humming sound. It was used by some shops to deter all teenagers from the vicinity. It is difficult to imagine a more anti-social device.

On one level, the commitment by younger people to their community has never been greater. Membership of groups like the cadets is at an all time high and many sports clubs have more interest than they can accommodate. And you only have to look at any mantelpiece to know how much pride parents and grandparents feel for the next generation coming through.

Concerns about opportunities for the next generation are also high on people’s agenda. There is an understanding among many of retirement age that theirs was a generation that had a free university education if they wanted it, found it relatively easy to buy their first home, saw their property go up in value and sometimes enjoyed generous final salary pensions. Meanwhile, the next generation leave university in debt, find it hard to raise the deposit to buy their first house and are soon told they had better start saving for their retirement. However, the unanimous show of hands at last week’s debate showed that the supportive concern many older people feel for the generation leaving school today is clearly not being communicated.

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, 19 September 2013

The bumpy road to recovery

The bad news last week that the Pall plant in Redruth is planning to make over 170 jobs redundant following a decision to transfer their industrial products division to Slovakia is a reminder that the road to recovery is not always going to be smooth.

I spoke to the UK Manager for Pall on the day the news was announced. While it is clear that the US corporation has made a decision which it is unlikely to reverse, it was reassuring that the aerospace division, which represents about half of the production in Redruth, will stay. The company is apparently trying to make each of its plants more specialised. There is a good chance that some of those affected will be found work either in the aerospace division at Redruth or at the Newquay plant where they manufacture specialist filtration systems for the pharmaceutical industry. It is also unlikely that anything will happen for six months or so which at least gives people time to plan their next move, but, conversely, also means a long period of uncertainty.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that the decision is a tragedy for those affected and is incredibly frustrating because the bigger picture is more encouraging than it has been for years. Growth is returning to the economy. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit in Redruth is down from 1500 last year to a little over 1000 now. Across Devon and Cornwall, the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is at the lowest level since 2008. New engineering firms like Large Diameter Drilling have announced plans to move to the area creating new jobs and there have been dozens of successful firms starting up at the Pool Innovation Centre. Construction of the new link road at Camborne is now underway and Redruth has managed to strike a deal that will lead to the new Cornwall Archive Centre being built on the site of the old brewery.

One of the problems with large multinational companies is that they make investment decisions thousands of miles away in some US office block and the people who make those decisions simply don’t share the same commitment to the area that those who work in their plants do. Pall was one of the companies encouraged to locate in Redruth with financial incentives during the 1980’s along with others such as the tractor and loader manufacturer Case. Case left as soon as the government incentives expired. To be fair to Pall, while it has always been a rather aloof corporation that keeps itself to itself, it did seem to put down roots. Last week’s announcement is a deep disappointment but we must not let it get to us. We have to push ahead with the plans we have to bring new industries and better paid jobs to our towns.

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, 12 September 2013

The legacy of the ‘pasty tax’ debacle

Last Saturday I attended the second Pasty and Mining Festival held in Redruth. The idea was conceived last year by the Town Mayor Judy Davidson, the Town Council and Marion Symonds of Portreath Bakery who has done a lot of work developing international links between Cornwall and Mexico which hosts its own pasty festival.

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. I always remember Lynton Crosby, the Australian campaign strategist now advising David Cameron, telling me of the Cornish festivals they used to have in the town where he grew up and of the pasties that Mrs Pengelly (there’s a clue there) used to make which, from memory, were described as savoury at one end and sweet at the other.

Cornish miners also settled at Real Del Monte in Mexico. Earlier this year I met some of the local representatives from the town when they visited the Heartlands project in Pool and there were other Mexican pasty makers in attendance last Saturday. 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.

Today the Cornish heritage is evident in some of their architecture and in their love of pasties (or pastes). Last Saturday, like many others, I tried a Mexican pasty for a change. It is made with potato, beef, leeks, parsley and chillies which gives it an edge but they were delicious. Also, like many others, I tried my hand at making a pasty of my own. Apparently my attempt was not bad for a beginner despite losing the corner momentarily during the crimping operation!

A little over a year 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. It was partly the pasty tax debacle that led to the idea of a pasty festival in Redruth. Last Saturday was really well attended with a buzz about the town. Perhaps it will become one positive and enduring legacy from the pasty tax row.

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.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Why I voted for action in Syria

Wars leave a profound imprint on the public consciousness and we are always at risk of allowing the experience of our most recent conflict to cloud our judgment about the events of the day. The horrors of the First World War led to the policies of appeasement and disarmament which then contributed to the Second World War. The world did too little, too late in Rwanda and in Bosnia but was then too ambitious in its intervention in Iraq.

Tony Blair has a lot to answer for. He did not behave as a British Prime Minister should and poisoned the well of public trust in their leaders over matters of war. The debate last Thursday in Syria was laced with constant references about the need to “learn the lessons of Iraq.” However, having listened to the debate, rather than learn the lessons of Iraq I think Parliament was repeating the mistakes we made in the Balkans and that is why I voted in support of action.

The military intervention proposed by David Cameron did not compare with Iraq. We would neither be trying to change a regime, nor to impose some Western style democracy. There would be no British troops committed to the region. There would be no risks taken with British pilots. Instead, there would be one clear and modest objective: to prevent and deter the use of chemical weapons which have been subject to a worldwide ban since 1925 and the use of which is a war crime. The most likely response would have been delivered through a Cruise missile strike to destroy Syria’s own Scud missile facilities which were being used for the chemical attacks. This would have been a very limited intervention rather like the successful Anglo-French action in Libya two years ago and nothing like our engagements in Iraq which were hugely ambitious.

In the Balkans twenty years ago, the world did too little too late. The diplomatic establishment stood on the sidelines insisting that nothing could be done, reciting the ancient adage that you should not “mess with the Balkans” and fearful that they might upset Russia. As a result around 100,000 people were killed, 8000 men and boys were massacred at Srebrenica in 1995 and an estimated 30,000 women and girls were subjected to systematic rape which was used as a weapon of war. There were lots of “what if?” doubters at the time who cautioned against involvement but when we did finally intervene in Kosovo in 1998, we actually found it was a relatively simple operation that should have been done far sooner.

There are only three countries in the world that have the military capability to stop the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria: Britain, America and France. As Britain votes to sit on its hands, it now falls to France and the United States to do the right thing.

END

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Archive Centre takes major step forward

This week, plans for Kresen Kernow, the new Cornwall Archive Centre to be built at the old brewery site at Redruth took another major step forward as land deals with the owner of the site were finally completed after months of complicated discussions. Late last year Redruth beat competition from other towns to win designation by Cornwall Council as the preferred site for the project and in the spring Redruth saw off fierce competition from dozens of other bids nationally to successfully land funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Things that are worth doing are never easy and this project has been no exception. But Redruth has so far managed to clear each obstacle put before it and there is now a lot of momentum behind this idea with a planning application now imminent. The success so far is a credit to many different people from the enthusiasm of Reduth Town Council to the patience of Horace Yao, the owner of the brewery site and the hard work of regeneration officers at Cornwall Council who have had to hit challenging deadlines for their work.

I have been arguing for the last two years that Redruth was the natural home for this archive project. Redruth is the most international of Cornish towns. Of the 8 million strong world-wide Cornish Diaspora, around a quarter can trace their roots back to Redruth. We exported mining expertise around the globe from Australia and South Africa to California, South America and Mexico. Redruth Town Council has shown tremendous enthusiasm for the new archive project and credit should also go to both existing and former local councillors for their support.

I have met Horace Yao, the Honk Kong based owner of the brewery site in Redruth, on many occasions now to try to help progress plans. Mr Yao bought the brewery site some twenty years ago and ran the famous Cornish Rebellion and Newquay Steam beer brands for several years. Since then there have been a couple of schemes to try to find a future for the site which didn't work out in the end and he has shown tremendous patience in being prepared to go through another process which actually looks set to succeed his time. The most sought after residential address in Hong Kong is actually along Cornwall Street which shows how far our international connections spread and it is fitting that there should be a Hong Kong connection in creating the most sought after venue in Cornwall.

The time scales for submitting various funding bids and plans to make a reality of the project have been very demanding and credit is due to the various regeneration and planning officers involved at Cornwall Council. As well as being an amazing resource celebrating Cornish history and culture, the archive project is the answer to ending the dereliction of the brewery site and will be the catalyst that kick starts the long awaited revival of Redruth.

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 August 2013

Unemployment Down.

Last week saw the latest unemployment figures published which showed a further fall in unemployment in Devon and Cornwall with the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance falling to its lowest level since 2008 going down by 5000 since the same time last year. It's welcome news and is further evidence that the economy is starting to move in the right direction.

I have always been clear that delivering economic regeneration and creating more jobs and better paid jobs is the number on priority for this part of Cornwall. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Camborne, Redruth and Hayle actually have a level of unemployment that is about average for the UK at 3.6 percent.

This is the part of Cornwall where the largest manufacturers are based and where the work gets done. The biggest challenge we have is creating better paid employment because levels of income in Cornwall are stubbornly low. There is no short cut to changing this. In the long term wages will rise only through the creation of new, more profitable businesses and through making sure young people's locally have the standard of education and the skills to win those well paid jobs.

There are lots of reasons why people end up out of work and we need to make sure that the right support is in place to help them. In the case of young people who have just left school or college, it is often the lack of experience that is the only barrier to them finding work. The process of submitting application after application only to be knocked back can be very demoralising. This has been exacerbated by a disturbing feature of modern, supposedly professional "human resources" policies. Often, an employer has already privately decided that they are going to offer a place to an internal candidate but the HR experts will insist on going through the motions of advertising the job and interviewing other candidates so a whole load of people have their time wasted in the name professional practice.

What we really need for our young people is that they have less experience of having to fill out dull application forms but instead are given some experience of actually having a job. That is why the work experience scheme has been such a success because it has given thousands of young people the break they needed and, in lots of cases, employers have been so impressed by the young people who have been seconded to their business that they have gone out of their way to find a paid position for them. That's better for the confidence of young people than requiring them to fill out endless application forms for sham jobs.

But people can also find themselves out of work and suffer a loss of confidence later in life too. There are all sorts of knocks that people have to endure which can lead to a loss of confidence in their ability to work: bereavement, depression, marital breakdown or simply a bad experience with a manager at work leaving them feeling undermined.

Last week I visited a project in Redruth called Active Plus. It is staffed by forces veterans who have suffered problems of their own in life but have come through the other side. They aim to inspire and support older people on the course who have suffered a serious set back in life and to help them get their confidence and sense of purpose back. It's strength is that those who run it know how people feel because they've been there themselves and it was great to see so many people who had clearly enjoyed it and formed new friendships.

The problem of unemployment for those later in life is also exacerbated by a workplace culture that often leaves people in their fifties feeling they are on the scrap heap and are being passed over in favour of younger candidates. It is an attitude that needs to change because older people have so much experience to offer employers which should be recognised. As people live longer and the retirement age rises this will become more important.

George Eustice MP
Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 020 72197032 www.georgeeustice.co.uk

Monday, 19 August 2013

Stronger communities

Last week I attended the annual Pengegon Fun Day in Camborne which goes from strength to strength each year with a growing attendance. It is a great example of how a local community has come together to change their neighbourhood for the better.

Pengegon is often singled out by the local authority for its poverty and deprivation. I have always felt there is a danger of such people sounding patronising by focusing too much on the statistics and not enough on the people who actually make up and take great pride in this community. A couple of years ago a report in the West Briton about Pengegon prompted residents to ask the reporter to come out and meet them to put the record straight and see what was actually happening on the ground.

Crime has fallen dramatically in recent years as people start to look out for one another and the community has come together to campaign for improved facilities. Last week, young people living in Pengegon all aged between 8 and 15 were doing a litter pick to earn rewards. If they put in enough hours helping improve their area, they are all taken on a group day out swimming. If they go to the next level, they earn enough rewards to go to the main trip to BF adventure. It’s a really good way of bringing the next generation in this community closer together as well as teaching them the value of work and giving them a great trip.

Before I am accused of seeing everything through rose tinted glasses, I am under no illusion that we live in difficult times and there is undoubtedly a problem with poverty, debt, worklessness and family breakdown in our towns. These problems are longstanding and difficult to solve. But should we focus our efforts on treating the symptoms or tackling the causes? Is it better to give people a little bit extra in benefits or get them out of the benefits trap altogether and back into work? Should we make allowances for the challenges local schools will face or have even higher expectations of them?

My view is that our priority should be to tackle the root causes of poverty even though it takes longer and sometimes means tougher decisions in the short term. That is why some of the difficult changes the government is implementing to reform the benefits system are right and I welcome the increase to the Pupil Premium so that schools in areas where there is poverty have extra funds to employ the best teachers to give children the best start in life.


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, 8 August 2013

Innovation will raise wages


Camborne, Redruth and Hayle have always been the part of Cornwall where good ideas are made and where the work gets done. The best known Cornish inventors came from here and these towns made a unique contribution to the industrial revolution.

Today, despite being on a remote peninsula, this is still the one part of Cornwall that can hold its own against any other urban centre in the UK. We have the largest urban conurbation in the county with the Camborne Redruth area having double the population of Truro. This constituency is home to both the world renowned Camborne School of Mines and the Tremough University campus which now also hosts Exeter and Falmouth universities. Redruth is home to Cornwall’s largest and most successful manufacturers. Hayle hosts the world’s first commercial scale wave power installation. We are about to build the Cornwall Archive Centre in Redruth and we host two of Cornwall’s three Innovation Centres. I’m not pretending that everything in the garden is rosy – people are struggling with the cost of living so we still need better paid jobs – but we have a lot to be proud of.

Last week I visited the Pool Innovation Centre next to Cornwall College to see a range of new businesses that have chosen to set up here. When I visited last year, there were 150 people working there. Now there are 250 people. The centre has just won national recognition for its success in growing new businesses. They range from firms employing over thirty people to one man bands who are yet to launch. The project is aimed at ‘incubating’ new businesses with high growth potential. People with a bright idea are given support and mentoring and a great environment in which to work for up to a maximum of three years when they are expected to fly the nest, move to larger premises and make way for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The new businesses I saw included PLS, a company supplying major British manufacturers with energy saving lighting solutions; Headforwards, a computer software company that employs some thirty computer programmers writing specialist programmes for the telecommunications industry; Azook which is digitalising thousands of old Cornish photos and film footage; NetBooster which has carved out a position as a world leader in online marketing and Search Engine Optimisation and has chosen Pool as its main UK base; TRAC services which is a national leader advising the pharmaceutical industry on regulatory issues and Shopper Utopia, which is still to launch but has some novel plans to revive the High Street.

People sometimes ask me about opportunities for the next generation. It starts with projects like this and the individuals with the courage and energy to take a risk and have a go at setting up on their own.

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.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Young volunteers show the way

When he became leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron said he wanted to establish some kind of modern day National Service which could, in time, become a universal rite of passage that most young people would participate in. Military National Service was phased out in Britain more than half a century ago but still exists in some countries. What if we could create something new that would replicate some of the good features of National Service but could be broader and something young people would want to do?

In the past few weeks thousands of teenagers have taken part in their National Citizen Service. The aim is simple: to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds in common endeavour. The project is aimed at sixteen and seventeen year olds and runs over the summer holidays. Initially, participants take part in a series of team building activities outdoors. It is a residential course so they leave home behind for a couple of weeks and are immersed in a new environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence. It also means they are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live. It’s a great way of breaking down barriers.

In the final week of the programme, the young participants break up into much smaller groups and decide on a project they want to deliver for their local community. The group in this area took on the challenge of making the skate park at Tuckingmill Valley Park more welcoming. In several question and answer sessions I have done at local primary schools, younger children have told me that they feel intimidated at the skate park, so it was a good choice.

Like anyone trying to do a good turn, they encountered their share of frustrations. Officials at the council initially said they couldn’t do the work because they were not an “approved contractor” and some of the very skaters they were trying to help vandalised some of their work before the paint was dry. But they had many supporters too. Local sponsors like B&Q, Homebase, Warrior, their councillor Paul White and our local Conservative branch helped out with some materials. They had support from their team leaders, Rob and Amber. When they approached Cormac (who were the approved contractors) to get permission, the local rep put all the petty bureaucracy to one side and said, “just do it.” Good for him.

So congratulations to Lamorna, Aidan, Rowan, Tamsyn, Erin, Aphra, Tom, Terry and Tyler for all their hard work. When I asked them what the best part was, they said, “making new friends” and that’s what matters most.

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

Monday, 29 July 2013

Fixing derelict sites

As well as having hot weather recently, the political temperature has also been rising with clashes at Prime Ministers Questions becoming ever more heated. But Parliament has now broken up for summer which is a good opportunity to get around the constituency and find out how people think things are going.

On Monday morning, I attended the opening of the new Coastline development opposite our offices at Trevenson Street in Camborne. I have always said that, when it comes to housing development, we should build on brown field sites before green field sites. Our towns have an extraordinary industrial heritage to be proud of but, in recent decades, they have also become blighted by derelict sites and sorting these out has been my priority, whether getting funding for Hayle Harbour or overcoming the obstacles on the old brewery site in Redruth.

Three years ago, the plans for a new housing development at Trevu Road caused concern among some residents in Camborne. This was the site of the old Holman Brothers factory and is historically significant for many in the town who worked there. But the whole site had been derelict for many years and had sadly become an eye sore right by the train station as people arrived in town.

The beautiful old Public Rooms building was the most important of all the remaining buildings but the most difficult to save. Used originally as a very large meeting hall for the whole town, the building was later bought by Holmans and used both for training apprentices and for housing a small museum. After the demise of Holmans I remember it being used briefly as a snooker hall but it became derelict and unused for many years. Its condition was so poor that it was about to fall down.

Despite local concerns about the plans three years ago, my view has always been that the only way you save old buildings like this is to find a new use for them and Coastline have done a fantastic job at proving my point on this site. As well as preserving and restoring many of the original architectural features, they have also created over 70 beautiful new homes for people who need a roof over their head. The eighteen flats in the Public Rooms building are occupied mainly by people over 50 who are looking to downsize and move closer to town and they are clearly very happy.

One of the residents I met was David who had spent most of his working career at Holmans and had an encyclopedic of knowledge about the site and lots of Holman memorabilia including a much sought after bi-centenary mug produced by the firm. I can't think of a more fitting use for the Public Rooms building today.

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, 18 July 2013

Buy local to avoid problems in the food chain

One of my roles in parliament is on the select committee for the environment, food and rural affairs and this week we published a report into lessons to be learned from the scandal of horse meat being found in beef products.

The staggering thing about the contaminated meat scandal is that with all the "traceability" procedures we have and the "cattle passports" farmers have to fill out, such an audacious fraud was able to be committed.

The first thing we need to ask is why the Food Standards Agency failed to pick this problem up sooner and why, once it had been discovered, their response was slow. The Food Standards Agency was set up in the wake of the BSE scandal twenty years ago and was supposed to focus primarily on the safety of our food. However, over the last decade, there has been a drift in its mission. It has spent too much time acting as a sort of health police, lecturing people on how much salt and sugar is in the products they eat and not enough time dealing with issues around food safety and actual standards.

The large supermarket retailers have also placed far too much faith in the paperwork that comes with consignments of meat. Traders and middle men in the supply chain buy and sell different consignments in a game of pass the parcel which has made the supply chain too long and complicated. As it turned out, some of these supermarkets and food processors were actually buying horse meat from abattoirs in southern Europe that had been fraudulently passed off as beef.

In future, we need the Food Standards Agency to focus on its core task and to start making spot checks on the DNA of meat products to try to protect the system against fraud. Secondly, the big retailers should not rely just on the paperwork. We need to cut some of the middle men out of the food chain and try to get to a situation where the retailer or processor actually knows the farmer where the beef they have bought comes from and we should not allow them to rely on a bit of paperwork in their defence when something goes wrong.

Finally, consumers have a role to play by taking more interest in where their food comes from and buying locally wherever possible. There has already been a significant trend in recent years towards people sourcing their food from local farmers and butchers and it's one that should continue. If we can get to a situation where produce is grown and cattle are reared closer to the communities that consume them, we wouldn't have to have such convoluted but ultimately unreliable bureaucracy in the food chain.

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, 11 July 2013

The importance of science in schools

Today marks the beginning of the International Student Science Fair which, this year is being hosted by Camborne Science and International Academy. Twenty Seven schools from around the world will be taking part in science related competitions for the next four days. There are leading science schools from countries as diverse as Japan, Iran, India, the US, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. The event will be opened by Liz Truss, the Schools Minister.

Camborne is the first school in Britain to host this prestigious event which is quite fitting for a town with such a great heritage in engineering and invention. Their decision to take part in such an international project is a great credit to the school and something Richard Trevithick, one of Britain’s greatest inventors, would have been proud of.

Today also sees Pool Academy host a new initiative run by the Institute of Physics which aims to enthuse students about science with a particular focus on medicine. The UK is a world leader in pharmaceuticals being home to some of the globe’s biggest companies and is also at the forefront of medical technology. This project helps students understand the connections between the science they learn at school and vital medical research.

I have been really encouraged by the energy that our local schools have put in to promoting science as a career choice for their pupils. The future success of our nation will depend on us maintaining a lead in technology. Britain has a lot going for it. Four of the world’s top ten universities are in the UK. Despite the perception that we don’t make anything anymore, we are still among the top ten manufacturing nations in the world and we lead in areas such as cyber technology, satellite communications, aerospace and pharmaceuticals. We manufacture and export more cars today than at any point in my lifetime with firms like Jaguar Land Rover making the best cars in the world.
However, the world is changing rapidly and we are in a global race. Thirty or so years ago, China and India combined accounted for little more that 3 percent of the world’s economic output. In a few years time, these huge countries with 2.5 billion people between them are predicted to account for almost half the world’s economy. According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, about 40 percent of young degree-holders in leading countries will come from China and India by 2020. The United States and some European Union countries will produce about 25 percent.

The evidence is clear that a degree in science is the most valuable degree a student can take and is most likely to lead to a high paid job. We need to ensure that students choosing their GCSE’s today, are inspired by science and also understand its value both to their careers and to the future of our nation.

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, 4 July 2013

Penhaligon’s Friends

Last week I visited Penhaligon’s Friends, a fabulous charity based in Redruth which has been going for about twenty years and has just moved to new offices off Drump Road.

Most of us remember the first time we were bereaved and lost someone close to us. For most it will be a grandparent but for many, it can be a parent or sibling. Bereavement affects different people in different ways. Some experience grief instantly, others seem to cope but are then affected some years later. Some put on a brave face, others pour their heart out. But the first time anyone loses an immediate family member is often the hardest. There is never any shortage of well intentioned advice about the need to 'move on' and 'get on with life' but that’s not always helpful. I remember an experienced volunteer at the Samaritans once telling me that losing someone close to you is a bit like losing a limb. You never really get over it but you do get used to it and can eventually learn to cope quite well.

Learning to cope is every bit harder for teenagers who have a lot of emotional changes in their life as it is, and younger children who often struggle to understand why such a tragedy has happened to them and can often feel it might even be their fault. Penhaligon’s Friends is there for these children and teenagers. It has built up over forty five volunteers across Cornwall and, at any one time, will be helping and supporting around six hundred Cornish children. These volunteers see a lot of tragedy but, over the years, have helped thousands of young people come to terms with what life has dealt them.

Their work varies from home visits and counselling to 'memory days' where children of the same age share their experiences and talk about the loved ones they have lost. The charity also does a lot of work with schools and runs training courses to help other agencies understand how best to support young people.

Last week also saw the launch of a new book which was written by seven teenagers helped by Penhaligon's Friends which offered an insight into their own experiences and some really good advice for teachers and schools. I read it and what it shows is how difficult it can be to strike the balance between supporting grieving young people while not making them feel different or alone by tip-toeing around the issue or making too much of it all. I first heard about this initiative earlier in the year when a volunteering organisation called Fixers alerted me to what these young people had done. So, congratulations to Jasmine, Tony, Shannon, Peter, Philippa, Bradley and Cassie for an excellent piece of work.

If you want to consider volunteering or fundraising for Penhaligon's Friends or if you need their support, call 01209 210624 or visit www.penhaligonsfriends.org.uk

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Water bill relief

Well, credit where credit is due. This week George Osborne found another £40 million from under the Treasury mattress to renew the £50 per year discount on Cornish water bills in his new spending review. Generally, this has been another tough spending round with more savings having to be made to try to get the country living within its means, so the decision to send another £40 million our way is very welcome.

Earlier this year, every household in Cornwall received a £50 rebate on their bill which, for the average household means a cut of around 7.3%. It must be the first time water bills in the westcountry have bucked the trend and actually gone down. Bills are still high but, at a time when everything else seems to be going up, it is good that at least one bill is definitely going down. 700,000 households in Devon and Cornwall benefited from the discount and a further 13,000 customers are expected to see their bills fall dramatically by over £300 as a result of switching to a water meter.

All of this has been a welcome respite for hard pressed Cornish families but, I have always been clear that we needed this support to continue. A clear aim over the last year has been making sure that the government renewed their support for the discount scheme once the new Comprehensive Spending Review was announced this week, so this confirmation is great news.

For years, people had talked about the problem of high water bills but, throughout the first decade of this century, when money was being spent on all sorts of other things like there was no tomorrow, the last government never found it in its heart to help us. Soon after being elected, I put together some detailed proposals to try to find a solution to the historic injustice of high water bills in the south west. It soon became clear that the problems were quite specific to South West Water which has a small population but looks after water quality over a vast coastline. The company also had to make expensive improvements to its water treatment facilities which we have been paying for ever since. So the discount approach seemed the right solution.

I recognise that many people will still struggle with their water bills despite this cut but there are other ways they might be able to get even more savings. As well as considering a switch to a water meter South West Water also offer something called a “WaterSure” tariff which is a special discount for those with 3 or more children who are on low incomes and receiving some benefits. To find out more look at their website or give them a call on 0800 1691133.

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, 20 June 2013

Difficult choices can’t be avoided

One of the challenges facing any political party when it is in opposition is how to resist the temptation to score easy political points by opposing everything the government of the day does only to find that they then have to eat their words the closer they get to an election. Last week these problems started to dawn on Ed Milliband as he started to outline his own plans to cut benefits and pensions.

2010 was not an easy time for David Cameron and the new coalition government to take the reins. The finances were in a mess with the country spending £150 billion per year more than it was receiving in tax revenue. The huge losses accumulated led to large debts. So much so that the country was spending more on interest charges alone than it was on schools.

The biggest area of government spending by a long way is welfare and benefits at around £200 billion per year. That equates to a cost of around £6000 for every household in Britain. It is impossible to tackle the losses the country is making without taking some tough decisions on benefits. Housing Benefit payments rocketed between 2005 and 2010 with some evidence that benefits were driving up rents beyond the reach of working people. There were over 1.5 million people effectively written off and left on various forms of incapacity benefit and even more sensitive areas such as disability allowances had seen an unexplained surge in cost.

When money is tight, you have to target it where need is greatest so last week the government did outline plans to ensure that those who have disabilities get the right level of support. There has been an intensive effort to help the long term unemployed get back to work through schemes like the Work Programme which are starting to get results. There is a new scheme to help improve disability access to the work place so that people with an impairment are not excluded. Housing benefits have also been cut and there is a new cap on the maximum amount of benefit any large family can claim. None of these decisions are easy but they have been necessary and, in the long run, if we can reduce dependency and encourage more people to take work then we will help them escape poverty.

I think the mistake Ed Milliband made was to oppose every one of these changes without thinking about how the country would make ends meet. Over the next couple of years, he is going to have to come clean with people and admit that he would not, as it turns out, reverse these decisions and even plans cuts of his own.

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, 13 June 2013

New rules on wind turbines

Last week the government announced a shake-up of planning laws surrounding wind turbines so that local objections from a planning authority will now be given far greater weight and with a requirement for green energy companies to share their income with local communities rather than just hording all the profits for themselves.

The changes will be welcome here in Cornwall where the sudden proliferation of random, single turbines is starting to blight our countryside. There is no uniformity to their design. Some turbines are tall, some short. Some have two blades, some three. Some are black, some are white. And they are everywhere. I first raised this issue a year ago and, to be fair to Cornwall Council, they did introduce some detailed planning guidance last July and have used this as a basis to refuse permission on a number of applications. In particular, where a planning committee judges that the cumulative impact of lots of turbines on the countryside is too great, they have been able to refuse permission. However, too many applications have then been winning on appeal and that is why the national planning guidance that planning inspectors use as their reference point needs to be changed too so that far greater weight is given to local views.

I remember when one of the first wind farms in Britain was built at Carland Cross some twenty five years ago, there seemed to be potential for proportionate projects of that kind. They were of a uniform design and in one concentrated area. However, over time, a general sense has set in that we have reached saturation point. As little as five years ago, people talked about the potential for so called “micro-generation” projects where small single wind turbines could be attached to farm buildings or small factories to help contribute to their own energy needs. Few people objected to such limited additions to existing buildings and it was an approach that could contribute to our energy needs. However, what has evolved suddenly over the last eighteen months in Cornwall is a completely different sort of industry where “micro-generation” now often means a random, single turbine in the middle of a field on an 80 metre high tower with all of the electricity going into the national grid rather than being used on the buildings in the immediate locality and that unintended consequence of a well intentioned idea has forced a rethink.

There are no easy answers or magic bullets when it comes to our future energy supply. In reality, we are probably going to require a mixture of different sources. Onshore wind is the most mature of all renewable energy technologies and is certainly far cheaper than offshore wind, but developments must be done with local communities, not 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, 6 June 2013

Children need a good start in life

It is that time of year when parents with young children are being allocated places for primary school. A good education is essential to a child's life chances and I have every sympathy with the parents I meet who want the best for their children. We have many good primary schools in this part of Cornwall and, over the last few years, I have visited almost all of them. However, there has been pressure on the school rolls in recent years due to a spike in the number of children of primary school age and this means that, every year, there are some parents who are unable to get their children into their first choice of school. I always think the saddest cases are those where siblings are separated in different schools because brothers and sisters ought to go to school together.

The schools that perform best are the ones that put greatest effort into recruiting, developing and keeping really good teachers. It is one of the reasons that I support changes the government has introduced to make it easier for schools to reward good teachers by paying them more and also making it easier to move on poor performing teachers. While these changes have been unpopular with teaching unions, I think they are right. Children only get one education and we owe it to them to take sometimes tough decisions to ensure they have the best teachers possible.

While everyone understands the need for a good education, one area that is less understood is the very early years of a child’s life and more needs to be done to highlight the significance of this stage in a child’s development. Primary schools report a huge increase in the number of children now starting school with communication problems and needing extra support.


A couple of years ago, and proof that politics is not always partisan, David Cameron commissioned the Labour MP Frank Field to write a report on ending child poverty and helping children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their full potential. The report concluded that a stable and caring environment during a child’s first five years is absolutely vital and that good parenting is rightfully the key to ensuring this. By the age of three a child’s brain is already 80 percent formed and the experiences of the child in those first few years will influence how their brain grows and which parts develop more or less. A healthy pregnancy, a safe bonding between mother and child with a great deal of love at home, clear boundaries and a focus from parents on helping a child’s communication abilities either through reading books or speaking to them are all essential experiences that really influence the future of a child’s life.

I recently visited Homestart Kernow, a charity in Redruth that does some fantastic work in lending a supportive hand to parents with small children. Homestart consists of trained volunteers who visit those parents feeling the stress of parenthood and needing a little extra guidance. It is one of the few charities out there who really appreciate the early years of a child’s life and they do all they can to make sure toddlers get the treatment they need.

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, 30 May 2013

Turning the corner on unemployment

Unemployment has been in the press a great deal recently, with new figures showing a slight rise nationally. However, in Camborne and Redruth, where I'm still often struck by the culture of hard work, we have actually bucked the trend, with an increase in employment over the last couple of months. The most recent statistics also show that fewer people have been claiming jobseeker's benefits, especially younger people where there has been a dramatic reduction and this is encouraging news.

One of the reasons I have always prioritised economic regeneration in this area is that there is nothing more demoralising to a community than worklessness. It undermines people's self confidence and can lead to welfare dependency and a poverty trap. So first we need to create more jobs and better paid jobs but then we need to ensure that people who live in Camborne and Redruth take the jobs that are created.

A few weeks ago I visited the Job Centre at Redruth to discuss their role in this and to try to understand what works and what doesn't because I am of the view that no system can ever be perfect and we must constantly strive to develop and improve things. When it comes to youth unemployment, it is clear that the most powerful tool to help young people get their first job is work experience. Work is learnt young and, in the past, it used to be much easier for teenagers of school age to take weekend jobs on farms or in shops. Changes in the law have now made that much harder which is a backward step. However, the new Work Experience programme which has been introduced allows young people to gain experience of work for around a month which is then an important first step to getting paid employment. There have been many examples of employers being so impressed by the young people doing work experience in their business that they go out of their way to try to find a paid position for them.

However, it does require everyone to have the right attitude. While at the job centre I heard one very depressing story of a young lad who had never had a job and lacked motivation. The one thing he was really passionate about was mountain biking so the Job Centre arranged for him to have work experience at a bike shop so his work could be something he was passionate about. He was really keen on the idea but then, to the surprise of everyone, never turned up for work. When they contacted him to ask why, he revealed that his father had stopped him from going saying, "my son is not going to work for nothing.". It is a missed opportunity and that young man's father has done him no favours at all.

For those who have been unemployed for a long time and who need support that the Job Centres are unable to provide, the government introduced the Work Programme which is an intensive back to work programme to equip people with the skills to find work. One of the key features of the scheme is that the companies who provide the support only get paid if they are successful and actually get people into work. In the past, there was often a problem of firms going through the motions to collect their fee but not really helping at the end of the process. Payment by results focuses minds on getting an outcome.

A couple of months ago, I caught up with Prospects, one of the companies contracted to implement the programme in the South West. The Work Programme was criticised by some when it was first launched but it is now starting to show real results. Since the start of the programme Prospects have helped over 16,000 people and around a third of those have got back into work. We have further to go, but there are signs that we may have turned the corner on unemployment

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.

Friday, 24 May 2013

We must protect our bees.

I recently attended and spoke at an event in Parliament organised by Friends of the Earth after I pledged a couple of months ago to support their campaign on falling bee populations, and I was reminded again of this incredibly important issue. Bee numbers are falling dramatically. Managed honey bee colonies have halved since 1985, whilst wild honey bees are nearly extinct in many parts of the country. Bumblebees have also declined nearly 60% since 1970. Bees are vital to our agricultural economy, and to replace bee services with hand pollination would cost the government close to £2 billion a year, a huge amount of spending that needs to be avoided.

As someone who grew up on a fruit farm, I was always very conscious of the importance of bees to life. We used to keep colonies of honey bees to pollinate the apple orchards but there were also many different types of bumble bees that lived on the farm. I also used to look after commercially cultivated hives of bumble bees on a large heated glass house nursery that I used to run and it was brilliant to watch them work. I learnt that there needs to be a diversity of bee breeds to ensure the best quality crops as well as a consistent yield. Most fruit and vegetables are pollinated by bees, as well as wildflowers enjoyed by many such as bluebells and poppies.

There has been a great deal of publicity surrounding the European Commission’s recent decision to ban Neonicotinoids for the next two years following some scientific recommendation and in response to various campaigns against them. Whilst I appreciate the argument for caution with pesticide use, I also think there are plenty of other reasons for bee decline that need to be addressed and we shouldn’t get too bogged down in one particular area. One problem is the lack of bee keepers, who as a group have declined 80% in the last 60 years. More needs to be done to attract new blood to an enjoyable and important task.

More also needs to be done in creating a better farmland environment for bees, having lost much of their natural environment to intensive agriculture. The Government have made some impressive steps in the Stewardship schemes available to farmers, and new options are available which subsidise land beneficial to pollinators. The Government is also working with beekeepers to provide them with training and the ability to respond to disease threats. They have also taken the lead in researching bumble bee decline and these studies will be extremely useful as most previous research has been solely focused on honey bees. I think these are steps in the right direction, but I also look forward to further schemes to help these great creatures.

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.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Let's celebrate Redruth's international connections


Last week we received the excellent news that Redruth has secured Heritage Lottery Funding to support the first phase of the new Cornwall Archive Centre at the old brewery site. Competition from the rest of country was fierce with projects totalling around £150 million chasing a pot of money of just £50 million but Redruth came out ahead being one of the most competitive bids submitted. Congratulations to all involved.

I have been arguing for the last eighteen months that Redruth was the natural home for this archive project. Initially there had been some discussion about locating it in St Austell but it was always clear that the regeneration benefits of locating the project in Redruth were far greater. Redruth is the most international of Cornish towns. Of the 8 million strong world-wide Cornish Diaspora, around a quarter can trace their roots back to Redruth. We exported mining expertise around the globe from Australia and South Africa to California, South America and Mexico.

The new archive centre will help us rekindle these international links. Last week I met some guests from Mexico who organise a "pasty festival". They had visited Cornwall to discuss links with heritage organisations and the Cornish Pasty Festival in Redruth. Having met them at Heartlands, I invited them back to visit parliament on Wednesday where they managed to see the Queen's state opening of parliament.

Last month I met Horace Yao, the Honk Kong based owner of the brewery site in Redruth who was bringing Chinese investors to see the potential for the Camborne and Redruth area. Mr Yao bought the brewery site some twenty years ago and ran the Cornish Rebellion beer brand for several years. Since then there have been a couple of schemes to try to find a future for the site. It is fair to say that, ten years ago, there were some misunderstandings between the council and the owners of the site. I think that was a great shame so have spent a lot of time over the last year trying to get everyone to work together for a solution and great progress has been made.

The most prestigious and sought after street in Hong Kong is actually called Cornwall Street. This got me thinking and, with the help of the Cornish Migration Project, we were able to research the links between Redruth and Honk Kong. While the numbers leaving for Hong Kong were smaller than, say, Australia, there were definitely important links. There were Cornish people who lived their lives out in Hong Kong. Some had connections with the navy and there were also well known Methodist preachers. This archive project will be a good way to celebrate all of Cornwall’s international links as well as reviving the fortunes of Redruth so we should get behind it.

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, 9 May 2013

The future of the EU


The strong showing for UKIP in the local elections last week has reignited the debate about the future of the EU. I first got involved in politics to campaign for Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party in 1997. My first job in politics was at the anti-euro campaign and, in 1999, I was even a candidate for UKIP myself.

I left UKIP shortly afterwards partly because I was concerned that they had a tendency to undermine the very cause they claim to believe in. At the time, UKIP had started to argue that it was impossible to keep the pound and stay in the EU which is what the majority of the public wanted. UKIP deliberately undermined the case being put forward by leading businesses who wanted to keep the pound but stay in the EU because they thought it would help their own narrow party interests to do so. I thought that was wrong and we now know that their argument was false because, for the last ten years we, and several other EU countries, have been in the EU but outside the euro.

I think we should fundamentally renegotiate our relationship with the EU with the return of powers in some areas and with the role of the European Court of Justice restricted in future. At the end of that renegotiation, we should have a referendum where the British people can decide whether they want to stay in the EU under the revised terms or whether they simply want to leave altogether. This would clear the air and settle the debate. David Cameron’s speech on Europe at the beginning of this year committed a future Conservative government to do just that and was the most important any Prime Minister has given on the issue since the war. It means that if there is a Conservative government after the next election, there will be a referendum where the public will have their say.

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats believe in a referendum so people will only get their say if there is a Conservative government. That is why I think those of us who want change must pull together and work towards getting a majority Conservative government. Ironically, just as in the euro debate a decade ago, UKIP is actually a counter-productive force which undermines the very cause they claim to believe in.

Since David Cameron’s speech in January, there has been a change in sentiment in other countries too. Germany now has a new and growing political movement which is calling for withdrawal from the euro and major changes to the way the EU is structured. The crisis in the eurozone means that change is on the cards like never before and David Cameron has put himself at the head of an agenda to shake up the way the EU works.

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.

Friday, 3 May 2013

How to reinvigorate local democracy

When he was appointed, the acting Chief Executive of Cornwall Council said that he believed we should "take the politics out" of local government and Cornwall Council. In some areas he seems to have got what he wished for because many town and parish councils don't even have enough candidates nominated to fill the vacancies they have and, in the majority of cases, those who put themselves up for their parish council will just be appointed without any contest whatsoever.

I don't think that is a good thing. However unpopular politics might often be, without it there is no democracy. Those who say they want to take politics out of local government are actually saying they want to take the democracy out of local government. Cornwall now has a large unitary council which would function more smoothly if there were a single political party with an overall majority so that it could deliver a clear agenda backed by a mandate from local people.

In his defence, I am sure what the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council was actually complaining about was political point scoring between rivals which is an understandable sentiment coming for an officer in the Council but is also a bit like farmers complaining about the weather.

Many people forget that political parties are voluntary organisations. The leaflets that are pushed through letter boxes are paid for by voluntary donations from local members. They are delivered by unpaid volunteers who go out in all weathers to try to help the candidates they believe in. I have been out with volunteers all week. The candidates who come knocking on doors are also unpaid. In each ward, all but one of them will fail to achieve their aim of being elected and many will feel that their efforts were in vain. I take my hat off to the unpaid volunteers in all our political parties (but especially my own) without whom democracy would not work.

After these elections, we need to have a serious look at what can be done to reinvigorate our town and parish councils. Firstly, in future we should have parish council elections separate from Cornwall Council elections. Let's hold them at the same time as the next Police Commissioner election in three years time to end the confusion voters feel about who is standing for what and to allow over stretched political parties to commit far more time than they currently do to finding and promoting good candidates for parish and town councils. If we want parish councils to develop a stronger sense of purpose then we need proper contests and, yes, political parties.

Secondly, we should give parish and town councils a stronger say on how elements of Cornwall Council's budget is spent in their area so that they have more power and are therefore likely to persuade more people to want to get involved.

George Eustice MP
Member of Parliament for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA 020 72197032 www.georgeeustice.co.uk

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Getting the economy back on its feet

Last Friday I met a group of local business leaders to discuss some of the opportunities in our area. Work is about to begin on some major projects. Hayle harbour is going to be transformed, work is about to commence on the new road at Tuckingmill, and plans to build a new Cornwall Archive Centre at the brewery site in Redruth are set to go to the planning committee for approval. However, once the construction work is done, we need new businesses to start up, employ people and make the profits to generate new wealth in our towns and that is the next priority.

Holman Brothers might have gone some thirty years ago, but their legacy continues to this day. What I find striking as I go around our industrial estates is how much world beating manufacturing still goes on in this part of Cornwall. There are some specialist manufacturers in the oil and gas industry which emerged from our heritage in rock drilling expertise. Fugro Seacore near Falmouth are world leaders in offshore oil platforms, while Calidus at Redruth manufactures high tech electronic devices for use in deep underground oil exploration. A new local firm, Large Diameter Drilling which is also a leading player in oil exploration, is planning to open a new plant at Tolvaddon which will create over a hundred jobs.

There are other businesses that developed a specialism in precision engineering. DP Engineering at Redruth produces high quality, precision components for use in the aerospace industry. Pall is a world leader when it comes to air filtration systems for helicopters. Meanwhile Rigibore in Hayle makes specialist components for the manufacturers of hydraulic systems and Teagle is a specialist in farm machinery.

That’s just a handful of the success stories in engineering. We then have national leaders in other sectors like Frame UK which makes timber frame homes, OMC which develops fibre optics and LED lighting, Contico which is a leading plastics moulding business and then leading food processors like Falfish in Redruth, Roddas Cream at Scorrier and Tulip and Furniss at Pool.

Together all these manufacturing businesses already employ thousands of local people so we have the foundations to build on. Their diversity proves that we shouldn’t be prescriptive about which business sectors we support. Economic planners in the Council should not devise strategies that are biased in favour of fashionable sectors. Instead, they ought to back talented people with a winning idea, whatever their line of business. At a time when the Council needs to find back office savings in order to protect front line services they should also be reducing duplication and it’s time to review the approach to economic development. We have a Local Enterprise Partnership, a Cornwall Development Company and an Economic Development Department. There could be greater clarity of purpose if roles were simplified.

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.