Friday, 19 December 2014

EU Fishing Negotiations



As I write this article I am about to start day two of intense negotiations in Brussels over next year’s fishing quotas in my role as Fisheries Minister. There has been concern from Newlyn and other parts of the West Country fleet this year because some of the science on the state of certain fish stocks has been challenging and the European Commission’s original proposals contained some significant cuts. I have been working hard with my negotiating team to get the right outcome and by the time you read this, the final deal will have been done.


If we want a future for our fishing industry then we need to fish sustainably. If we hammer vulnerable stocks today then there will be no fish and no fishermen tomorrow. It is not always easy for people to think about the long term when they are considering fishing opportunities for next year but we must. Some have urged me to forget the scientific advice and just argue against all cuts in quota but I will not ditch the science.  


However, we must ensure we are using the most up to date scientific evidence and also take account of the realities of the marine environment to ensure we do not end up with unintended consequences. That is why I have brought new scientific evidence to the table which demonstrates cod stocks in around Cornwall have recovered since the last evidence was published. 


It is also why our scientists are carrying out what we term "mixed fishery analysis" to model the interactions between different fish species. There is no point having a dramatic cut in the quota for haddock if it is in a mixed fishery with cod and cannot be avoided. Otherwise all that happens is that perfectly good haddock ends up being discarded dead back into the sea because fishermen have no quota for them. That is an appalling waste.


Finally, I have been arguing we should make the most informed judgement we can even where there are gaps in the evidence. The two most important fish species landed in Newlyn are monkfish and megrim. Both are what are termed "data limited stocks" which means there are gaps in the scientific evidence. In the past the Commission has argued for a precautionary approach with automatic cuts to quotas. However, I think we should use the evidence we have of the improving trends in the health of some of these stocks and have been pressing the case for lower reductions than those proposed.


The marine environment is incredibly complex and no man made system to manage it will ever be perfect. From 2016 we will implement the new CFP with a discard ban and new flexibilities to make fisheries management more sensible. It won't be perfect but it does represent a major step forward.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

St Michael's Hospital


Last week I met the Friends of St Michael's Hospital to discuss their plans for the future. There have been rumours circulating for some months now that the hospital is going to be closed which has been unsettling and unfair to the dedicated staff working there.  As the Cornishman reported last week, this has spilled over into concern among local residents.

When the rumours first surfaced this summer I met with Lezli Boswell, the then Chief Executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust which runs St Michael’s, to discuss these rumours and ask if there was anything I could do to help.  She made clear there are no plans whatsoever to close the hospital and that they would actually like to do more work there.

I have also had discussions with the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group which is the body that commissions local NHS services.  They explained that when deciding how to configure NHS services, one of their criteria is to make things more local and encourage joint working within the NHS. I think that's important for Cornwall because we are on a peninsula and have always had a culture of working together. The NHS is no different.

An election is just a few months away and the political atmosphere is charged, but I strongly disagree with those people who keep saying St Michael's will have to be closed down.  We should not undermine confidence in our local NHS.  Instead we should support and strengthen it. According to the Friends of St Michael’s, the hospital delivers over 95 percent of all breast cancer operations in Cornwall, about 1200 operations a year which is an extraordinary feat.  St Michael's is the only hospital in Cornwall where there is the capacity to do this work and it's the reason why it should have confidence in its future.

The Friends team are also looking at the area of orthopaedic surgery which is the other key area covered by St Michael's.  They tell me all three orthopaedic operating theatres are working fully during the five day working week and are aiming to secure additional operations.

Some people have said St Michael's will need to close because there are often empty beds but this is a very old fashioned way to measure performance in the NHS.  As the Friends explained to me, modern surgery means patients are kept in hospital for far shorter periods and that some of the procedures at St Michael’s now require a two-night stay rather than six-day stay. In fact some operations have now become day cases.

Like any big organisation, the NHS will always have challenges to deal with but I think we should help them deal with those challenges, not talk them down.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Autumn Statement


This week George Osborne delivered his last Autumn Statement before the General Election and promised a big boost in funding for both the NHS and transport infrastructure across the South West. Cornwall in particular will benefit from these changes and while the Autumn Statement can be thought of as a mini budget, what is clear is that we could not afford these new investments if we hadn't taken the difficult decisions a few years ago to get the country's economy back on its feet.

The first bit of good news for Cornwall is the announcement the Government has promised to invest £180 million to upgrade the A30 over the next five years. Because we are on a peninsula at the far west of the country, good roads are vital to our economy. The single stretch of carriageway at Temple is a notorious bottleneck and I am really pleased at the news that work to dual this section of the A30 will begin as early as March 2015.

The Government has also announced plans to begin drawing up proposals to improve the A30 between Carland and Chiverton Cross, with the aim to have it opened to traffic by 2020. This is a big step forward in developing our local transport infrastructure as many constituents have contacted me over the years expressing their concerns about how congested the road can become over the summer and I know the announced work will make a huge difference to the area.

Alongside transport spending, the Government has also protected the NHS. Over the life of this parliament, the NHS budget has been increased by £12.5 billion and the Chancellor has just announced a further £2 billion in healthcare funding for frontline NHS services every year. The news will be especially welcome as we go in to winter, a time of year when the NHS comes under maximum pressure.

Across the South West there are now 500 more doctors looking after patients than there were five years ago. In Cornwall, funding for the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, which commissions health services in Camborne and Redruth, has increased by more than £14.3 million this year alone with an additional £11.6 million again next year. There are also plans to increase provision at the Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital at Barncoose to include a minor injuries unit and a doctor led urgent care centre.

We have some exceptionally dedicated people working in our NHS. However, as medical science advances and people live longer, the pressures on the health service and the cost of providing it increase accordingly. Those working in the NHS still have their work cut out, so it is good to see this additional money to support the great work they do.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Heartlands

When it was opened a couple of years ago the Heartlands project at Pool symbolised the start of regeneration in the Camborne Redruth area. Like all new projects it has suffered from its share of teething problems but I think there are now some positive signs that it's turned the corner and we need the community to get behind it.

A couple of weeks ago over 14,000 people attended their bonfire night celebration which must have been the biggest bonfire party in Cornwall. Earlier this autumn the first ‘Live at Heartlands’ concert was held which attracted leading bands such as UB40, The Happy Mondays, The Boom Town Rats and many others. It was a really successful festival and several people have told me how much they enjoyed it.

The new housing development on the edge of Heartlands is also almost complete. It is designed to respect the industrial heritage of the site with saw tooth roofs and will bring a larger community to the site. Later this year another part of the site will become home to a ground breaking new project run by Carillion Igloo homes which will pioneer a new national scheme to sell plots with outlining planning and an option for people to custom build their dream home.

I think one of the problems Heartlands encountered early on was that some of the decisions made were driven by the criteria required to secure successful grant applications rather than focusing solely on what would work. There had also been legal hiccups in the way lawyers had set up the deeds which caused huge problems when trying to sell the first phase of flats to local residents. It was unbelievable that lawyers were unable to resolve what should have been quite simple land deals. There were also too many prescriptions and conditions attached to the occupants of the business and retail units which made it hard for some of them to survive. Finally, there has been too much reliance on the car park as an income stream.

However, the amazing play area has been a big draw from the start and the Red River feature has always been a hit with young children and families. The diaspora gardens are also starting to establish. What the bonfire night party and Live at Heartlands proved is that this project can become a great community asset which celebrates our industrial heritage but is very much for the local community. It has huge potential and I believe we will see Heartlands grow from strength to strength.

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, 17 November 2014

REMEMBRANCE

This year Remembrance services across the country carried particular significance marking both the centenary of the start of the First World War and also coming weeks after the last British troops finally withdrew from Camp Bastion and the mission in Afghanistan ended.

I attended services in Hayle and Illogan and there was a strong turnout at each. As usual the various Cadet groups, Scouts, Brownies and other youth groups were out in force. It is great to see these movements going from strength to strength and the young people representing them this year did us all proud. Two pupils from Hayle school read out the names of all those who died in the two world wars which really drove home the scale of the loss.

Last Friday, as part of the Cornwall Remember commemorations, I read a poem at Truro Cathedral which was written by Siegfried Sassoon. He was one of a number of famous poets who brought home the horrors of the Great War. It was the first industrial war and battleground tactics had not evolved to deal with advances of military technology. There were attempts to break the battleground deadlock and early attempts to develop the use of armoured tanks and aircraft but none of these were entirely successful so the horrors continued. It is right that we remember a generation of young men who carried such an extraordinary burden.

The recent wars that we have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have undoubtedly increased attendance at remembrance services in recent years. The operation in Afghanistan has been long and hard lasting thirteen years, more than three times as long as the Great War and there have been many casualties and soldiers suffering life changing injuries. It is a relief that the mission is finally over.

In 2006 when I was an adviser to David Cameron, I visited our troops at Camp Bastion and Kandahar in Afghanistan. I was struck by the incredible professionalism and can-do attitude of our armed forces. The troops were casually running sweep stakes on where in the camp the next Taliban missile might land and a "rapid response force", made up of young men often not even in their twenties, was permanently on call to scramble out into the dessert to pursue the Taliban after each missile was fired. They didn't want to make it easy for them. It was a reminder that the reputation this country has as having the best armed forces in the world is very well deserved.

We have had more than a decade of engagement in very difficult conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the problems of the Middle East seem as intractable as ever. When I visited Afghanistan, there was a real respect and gratitude for what Britain's forces were doing to try to help them and we should remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and the families they left behind.

Monday, 10 November 2014

NHS Pledge

Early last month David Cameron made an important pledge that by 2020 a Conservative government would deliver access to a family doctor seven days a week, and that surgeries would be open for twelve hours each day to relieve pressure on our hospitals. I think this is really good news and will especially help those who cannot get out of work on a week day to go and see their GP. The details need to be worked out and lessons learnt from a recent trial but it is clearly a project that holds huge potential.

The announcement builds on what is already being done by the Government to protect funding for the NHS and make sure that despite difficult economic circumstances it remains free at the point of need. Whilst difficult spending cuts have had to be made in other areas over the course of this Parliament not only has spending been protected for the NHS it has also been increased by £12.7 billion.

This is a huge increase that has allowed the hiring of thousands more doctors, nurses and midwives to look after patients and has also been helped by reforms to cut the numbers of managers and bureaucracy we saw under the last government. There have also been other successful initiatives, like the £1.16 billion Cancer Drugs Fund now administered by the NHS helping over fifty thousand cancer patients since it was set up four years ago.

There has also been some important extra money that has been awarded for new NHS services in Cornwall. In our area this is being spent on a much needed expansion to include a minor injuries unit at the Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital and the creation of doctor-led urgent care centres at the same hospital.

Of course more needs to be done and we especially need to make sure we help those who work tirelessly in our hospitals and surgeries. I recently raised the issue of new staff parking charges at Treliske Hospital with the Chief Executive following changes that are seeing some staff with an increase of almost 300% in what they are paying to park at work. Discussions are still ongoing but we need to find a sensible solution.

There has also been a lot of speculation over the future of St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle with rumours of its imminent closure. St Michael’s is a much valued and popular hospital and when I discussed these concerns with the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust it was clear they plan to invest more into it and make it better still, not close it. We should not allow rumours to undermine morale at such a community institution and instead we should support plans to improve the services they offer.

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, 3 November 2014

TRANSPORT LINKS IMPROVEMENT


The beginning of this week saw a crucial deal struck by the Government that will maintain an air link between Newquay and London Gatwick for the next four years. The Department for Transport signed what is known as a Public Service Obligation, or PSO, to subsidise the important weekday and weekend flights to and from Cornwall and Flybe will operate the flights with timings convenient to those wanting to travel for a full working day at either destination.

I think the deal is really important and part of a wider package of transport measures announced this year that makes sure Cornwall is better connected to London but also other regions of the UK. The air link alone contributes a huge amount to the Cornish economy, with Cornwall Council estimating £54.5 million contributed to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly through it. It serves as a lifeline for businessmen and women who use the service regularly and I was happy to help Cornwall Council press the case for it to be retained. Recently the Government announced a doubling of the money available to projects like this through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund which is a real boost for the regions.

The news has come not long after David Cameron’s recent announcement of a range of measures to improve Cornwall’s rail links which I and others had pressed for in Westminster. There are three main elements: a new train care centre in Penzance which will create much needed local jobs, a sleeper upgrade to help business users and holiday makers and the bringing forward of plans to upgrade and improve our outdated signalling system so that we can run more frequent local services.

I am often contacted by local residents regarding the speed of the train and whilst we have to accept the realities of living so far away the improvements to our signalling system will go a long way in tackling this problem. Not only will it allow a half hourly service from Penzance to Plymouth, but it will also allow a much faster service further up the line with increased reliability. The improvements will also create better capacity and tie in with plans for more modern diesel trains and rolling stock.

Finally, there has been progress on our road infrastructure. The majority of people living in Cornwall still have to rely on their car to get around. There are important plans to dual the A30 in the pipeline. The government has made funding available for the section at Temple and I know Cornwall Council are working hard to progress this. The Transport Minister also recently announced that there would be a feasibility study to progress the duelling of the section at Carland Cross.

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, 27 October 2014

END TO FARMING SUBSIDY FOR SOLAR

I have always said we need to be careful about losing good agricultural land to solar farms and earlier this week, as Farming Minister, I announced our plan to end the payment of farm subsidies on land occupied by solar farms. The new rules, which will come into force from January next year, mean that farmers who choose to use fields for solar panels will not be eligible for any of their "single farm payment" available through the Common Agricultural Policy on that particular piece of land.

I think this is good news for the country but particularly for Cornwall, where we have been especially blighted by these ugly solar developments. Last year alone, 67% of new solar developments could be found in the West Country and Cornwall planners have been inundated with applications from developers hoping to take advantage of energy subsidies. During my time as MP I have been contacted numerous times by residents opposed to these developments and I have supported their cases all the way to the Planning Inspectorate.

In the next few decades food security is going to become an increasingly important issue with a growing world population and demand for food growing. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful but crucially it produces the food we need. It makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels here in Cornwall where once there were fields of crops or grassland for livestock to graze.

Some developers have attempted to claim that farming can continue underneath solar panels but I think these are sham arguments which developers just advance to try to get around planning guidance. There is no doubt that land covered in solar panels is, for all intents and purposes, lost to agriculture. Crops need sunlight to grow and if fields are smothered in solar panels, there is no light left for crop production and it is not possible to get tractor access to manage the soil. In addition, when it comes to the idea of grazing sheep or other livestock, while developers talk this up, in reality they are concerned that livestock will damage their expensive panels. Many write into their agreements that farmers can't use the land themselves but that only the energy company's sheep can occupy the land. I don't know whether they think they have specially trained solar friendly sheep or something but none of it sounds very plausible.
We do need to diversify our energy supply and there could be a role for some solar panels, but on roofs not on prime agricultural land. Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry and I hope that a more innovative approach along those lines could remove the threat to our Cornish landscape.

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.

CORNWALL'S FISHING INDUSTRY

Cornwall's fishing industry has always played an important part in our local economy and it has been great to have the opportunity as fisheries minister to try to secure a better and more secure future for our industry.

Earlier this week I attended the October EU fisheries Council which marked the start of a series of important negotiations culminating in the setting of annual quotas for fish stocks in December. The Common Fisheries Policy has long been regarded as synonymous with EU failure but last year we made an important breakthrough with a radical transformation in approach. Significant powers over fisheries management are to be returned to the national governments who have a shared interest in each individual fishery and there is a new discard ban to end the shameful practice of throwing perfectly good fish dead back into the water.

The UK led the way in securing the radical reform. The problem with the old CFP is that there were centralised quotas set by the EU for each species. But fish don't swim neatly apart from one another so fishermen targeting one fish could inadvertently catch another species for which they had no quota and the only option open to them at that point was to dump the fish back into the water.

Under the new system, the management plans for an individual water are developed multilaterally between the nations who have a shared interest in the water. There is a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably and to follow the scientific advice about the health of fish stocks. This is important for the future of the industry because if we hammer fish stocks that are in decline or over exploit our fish recourses we are only robbing fishermen of their future. Sometimes we do need to hold back and show restraint in order to safeguard the future of the industry.

Another feature of the reform is that there will be a ban on discarding healthy fish back into the sea. Instead, we will help Fishermen manage the realities of the marine environment allowing flexibilities between the quotas they have. So if a fisherman catches more haddock than he expected then rather than having to throw it overboard he can count it against quotas he has for other species like whiting or cod so that he can land the fish he has caught. He will also be able to borrow some quota from the following year if needed and there will be an uplift in the amount that he can catch to take account of the fact that fish are no longer being discarded.

The marine environment is incredibly complex and no man made system to manage it is ever going to be perfect. There are also still issues we need to resolve in terms of how we implement the new system. However, the new agreement on fisheries represents a major leap forward from what has gone before.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

KEY NEW POLICIES

As growth returns to the economy one of the main priorities must be to ensure that we make work pay by helping those in work and on low incomes. Last week's announcement by the Prime Minister that tax thresholds will be raised so that those on minimum wage will be taken out of tax altogether will be particularly welcome here in Cornwall.

At the moment almost one and a half million people receive the minimum wage in the country which is set at £6.50 per hour and in our area a high proportion of working people receive it. We want to make sure work pays and that it is always better to be in work then on benefits. This policy does exactly that and is a real boost to help the lowest paid and encourage people into work.

By raising the threshold to £12,500, over one million extra of the lowest paid people will be taken out of tax and thirty million more given a tax cut. This tax cut builds on an earlier announcement by George Osborne to look at raising the minimum wage to £7 per hour. Whilst a balance has to be struck and small businesses also need help in order to take on more people, this could be a welcome boost to get wages more in line with inflation and help people struggling with costs in Cornwall.

I was also pleased to see a clear commitment by the Prime Minister to scrap the Human Rights Act. While I agree with Human Rights I have long argued that the European Court is having unintended consequences and needs to be sorted out. As part of the coalition agreement, the Lib Dems insisted that British courts should play second fiddle to the European Court but after the election, a Conservative government would now sort the issue out.

The ECHR was established after the last war with the aim of getting internationally agreed principles and it is a list of perfectly laudable but broad aims which most people would support. The trouble is that since then a succession of clever barristers have made ever more creative arguments citing human rights that has made a mockery of the original idea. I think we need a British Bill of Rights which explains to the Courts what the ECHR means within Britain. This is what will happen with a Conservative government elected next year and it will make clear when human rights laws should apply, that rights should be balanced with responsibilities and it will stop terrorists and other serious foreign criminals using human rights to prevent deportation.

With the party conference season now over, the battle lines for the next General Election are drawn. It is certainly going to be close.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Starting gun fired on the next General Election

The last party conference season before a General Election always sees the temperature of debate rise and the parties start to set out their main objectives which will define the key message they seek to deliver the electorate over the next nine months. What everyone can agree is that we are heading towards a very close election where the result is very uncertain.

Every party has its work cut out over the next eight months. Ed Miliband has to try to persuade people that he would be able to do the job of Prime Minister. We Conservatives need to persuade people that they should stick with our long term plan to get the country back on its feet and see through what has already been started. The Liberal Democrats need to persuade voters that there is still a role for a third party and a need for coalition politics.

The week in Birmingham started with the announcement that one of our MPs had decided to defect to UKIP. I used to be a member of UKIP in 1999 but came the other way to join the Conservatives. One of the reasons I left UKIP is that I thought they always undermined the causes they claimed to believe in. Ten years ago they were a hindrance to those of us who wanted to bring together a broad coalition of people who wanted to Keep the pound but stay in the single market for trade. Today, the only way to get a referendum on our future in the EU is to have a majority Conservative government but UKIP increase the chances of Ed Miliband winning the election.

However, as the week progressed there were some important new announcements around cutting taxes on pensions and lowering the cap on benefits for those who could work so that work always pays. I think this is important because if we want to help people out of poverty we need to help them into work and it can never be right that some people living on benefits can have more income that those who work hard and do the right thing. A lot has been achieved in terms of sorting out the benefits system over the last few years and, as the economy has recovered and grown, many people who had been left on the scrap heap for years have now had the support they need to get a job.

As with every summer, I have spent the last few months out on the door step meeting local residents to discuss their concerns and understand their priorities. We have made some important progress in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle with some major projects to rejuvenate our towns underway and new industries starting to set up. My priority now is to make sure that young people locally have the skills and the confidence to take up these new opportunities.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Personal Debt Conference

Earlier this week I organised a mini conference in Redruth with local charities and other groups to discuss proposals to tackle the problems caused by personal debt. We had a number of key speakers from successful projects to discuss the scale of the problem and also outline solutions.

There is now good news on the economy with unemployment falling rapidly and we now have the fastest rate of growth in any major industrialised country. But one of the challenges is making sure everyone benefits. It is why the reforms to the benefits system so that work pays are so important and also why we need intensive support to help those who have been out of work for a long time get their confidence back.

We also need to recognise the demoralising affect that personal debt can have on those on the bottom rung and it isn’t just those on benefits. Many people who work hard also have debt problems and shouldn't be overlooked. It can start with a one off bill like a repair to the car, a bill from the Child Support Agency or an unexpected tax demand but it can all end up with court costs and thuggish bailiffs at the door adding huge cost and stress. Some people turn to loan sharks or payday loan companies who seem to offer a quick fix but actually end up compounding the problem. People feel despair and can't see light at the end of the tunnel because the fees and financial demands on them completely outstrip their income.

There is good work being done to help. The Citizens Advice Bureau regularly offers debt advice to those at their wits end. In extreme cases they can help people apply to the court for a Debt Relief Order to remove some of the burden. Earlier this summer I met the local organiser for Christians Against Poverty to discuss their work locally. CAP was founded by someone who had worked in finance but then suffered his own debt problems. Volunteers with experience visit families at home and help them put together a budget.

In 2012 the Government set up the Money Advice Service with the key objective to encourage people to better manage their money and prevent them from getting into unmanageable levels of debt. The MAS offers free and impartial information on money matters and they can be contacted online, by telephone or even face-to-face.

Finally, I think we need to develop a more enlightened approach to credit control when it comes to utility companies and local authorities. Rather than sending reminder letters and then instructing a bailiff to chase the debt, it would be better by far to spend money on debt advisers instead so that we help people get out of the hole they are in rather than hit them when they are down.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

GOOSEBERRY BUSH NURSERY

Last week I attended the formal opening of a new extension at the Gooseberry Bush Nursery at Rosemellin. It has enabled them to expand their provision for two year old toddlers, open a cafe for young parents to meet and support one another, create more room for their breakfast club for children at both the nursery and Rosemellin School as well as provide additional space for the Children's Centre. They also had some new gardens and outdoor adventure play space.

I first met Gill Smith, the founder of the nursery, about three years ago and became persuaded of the overwhelming importance of early years support along the lines provided by Gooseberry Bush and others like it. We know that the first three years of a child's life are the most formative. Unless they learn to communicate, to share, to explore and to socialise with other children then they will often start school behind their peers and struggle to catch up for their rest of their childhood.

We have some amazing primary and secondary schools in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle areas but there has been a worrying trend. Virtually all head teachers in primary schools tell me that over the last twenty years or so they have seen a persistent rise in the number of children in need of speech and language therapy or other forms of intervention when they start in reception class.

The reasons for this growing problem are no doubt varied, but those like Gill Smith who understand these things point to problems caused by modern technology as being at least one of the contributing factors because it has changed the way some parents engage with their babies. In the past, prams would face back towards the mother so that a toddler had visual contact with their parents and there could be eye contact and plenty of verbal engagement. Now, it is most common for prams to face forwards so there is less such contact and parents are often on their mobile phones. These days, when a baby smiles for the first time, rather than see that engagement reciprocated, he or she is just as likely to see a camera phone put in front of them so parents can capture the moment.

The government has recently extended free childcare for low income families with two year old children in recognition of the fact the younger we offer support, the greater the impact. We also need to do more to help parents before children reach two and consider extending the support for toddlers beyond fifteen hours per week. Things like breakfast clubs also have a role to play by making sure children are eating well and teaching them to sit around a table and socialise and, yes, hold a knife and fork properly

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.

Scottish Independence

I think it would be an absolute tragedy if Scotland were to leave the UK and break up our country but the referendum which will decide the future of our nation is now looking closer than ever with just a week to go. I have been to Scotland several times in recent months in my role as farming and fisheries minister to make the case that we are stronger together.

The United Kingdom is one of the most successful political and economic unions in history. We have so much rich diversity on our islands but a shared purpose which is what makes Britain great. Here in Cornwall, many of us would probably describe ourselves as Cornish before English but first and foremost, we regard ourselves as British.

It is not the first time Scotland has taken us all to the brink. In 1979, there was a referendum that was close. In 1997, Tony Blair thought that by having a new parliament in Scotland with new powers, there could be a new settlement that would put the debate to rest. However, as it turns out, Alex Salmond and the SNP used the new settlement as a means to an end and to foster new grievances and try to drive a wedge through society and divide our community of nations. But once the separatists won 70 percent of seats in the last Scottish election, there was little choice but to settle the argument through yet another referendum.

There is now one week to go to win that argument that we are better together. For those who want to divorce Scotland from the rest of the UK, there are so many questions they have not answered. What currency will they have? One thing we have learned from the euro fiasco is that you cannot have a single currency without a single government and a single tax system. Scotland does well financially by being part of the UK and it would have to slash public spending if it had to pay its own way. Finally, Scottish industry benefits from being part of the UK with a comprehensive network of international embassies to support exporters. For instance, Scotch whisky is one of the country's greatest export success stories but it is heavily dependent on all the help is receives in hundreds of countries across the world from British embassies and consular staff.

If we can get a no vote and keep the country together, it will be important to review the way the union works. It is not just about so called "devo-max" where new powers are given to the Scottish parliament. It would be an opportunity to think about governance of the whole United Kingdom so that we can get the balance right between having a national parliament that has the power to act decisively where required but with other powers and responsibilities moved locally. But if Scotland votes for outright divorce, it would be an incredibly sad moment in our island history.

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 September 2014

Lanyon Farm

The recent planning approval on appeal for a massive 70 acre solar farm at Gwinear near Hayle has once again highlighted the need to strengthen the position of local communities against inappropriate development.

I am a realist and understand that 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. When it comes to solar panels, I have always supported their use on the roofs of buildings. Last year I visited a project in Pool where a whole estate have installed solar panels on their roofs and the residents are benefiting from free energy and some income from their investment.

However, I think we are now seeing far too many field scale solar farms being built. Not only are they often a serious blight on the countryside but they also take important agricultural land out of production. In the next few decades food security is going to become an increasingly important issue with a growing world population and demand for food growing. That is why we should protect the best agricultural land. The parish of Gwinear has some of the best land in Cornwall and the farm where the giant solar farm development is planned is rated as grade 3a - which means it is some of the best arable land in the county.

In the context of Cornwall, a third concern with field scale solar farms is that they undermine the potential for other more promising renewable sources of energy like wave power. Wave Hub at Hayle is really taking shape with many developers now showing interest. However, one of the main reasons they are choosing Cornwall over Scotland is that we currently have surplus capacity on our electricity grid which means they do not have to wait and hope for hugely expensive new investment in the grid infrastructure to come along. However, every time a solar farm is built, we not only sacrifice land but we remove surplus capacity from the grid.

Last year the government set out new guidance which sought to increase the weighting given to the loss of agricultural land and also to strengthen the consideration given to heritage assets. To be fair to Cornwall Council, they have abided by the new practice guidance and have used it as a basis to refuse permission in a number of cases. However, some developers have sought to get around the new rules by advancing sham arguments that suggest they might still be able to farm the land. Any farmer knows that such suggestions are pie in the sky. Crops need sunlight to grow and if fields are smothered in solar panels, there is no light left for crop production.

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, 21 August 2014

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

One of my priorities since being elected has been to bring new industry to Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and to get unemployment down. Last week I met local staff at the Job Centre in Redruth for one of my regular meetings to discuss progress.

The news is really encouraging. Over the last twelve months the job market has been transformed with strong growth now returning. The fall in unemployment has accelerated and this year has seen the biggest drop in unemployment since records began. The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Camborne and Redruth, once running into thousands, is now down to the hundreds and has fallen by a third since the same time last year. Nationally, there are now 1.8 million more people in work than there were when Labour left office.

The most encouraging thing is that youth unemployment has fallen dramatically. One of the most depressing things about the first decade of this century is that, even though there was growth in the economy, young people struggled to get work and, all too often, we're left languishing on benefits. Youth unemployment was actually going up under the last Labour government even when unemployment in the wider economy was going down. Work is learnt at a young age and a major priority for this government was to create opportunities for young people.

When the various work experience schemes were introduced a couple of years ago to tackle youth unemployment, there were some who denounced them but they have been a huge success. In hundreds of cases, when young people have been given the chance to have a few weeks work experience, they have learnt new skills. They have also often been so impressive that employers have gone out of their way to find paid positions for them. In addition to the work experience schemes, the government has also had grant schemes in place to encourage employers to offer apprenticeships and other paid work to young people.

The focus now is on wage progression. Now that we have managed to get so many people back to work, often for the first time in their lives, we want to see them progress to higher pay initially and ultimately move on to develop a pathway to a career.

Worklessness is at the root of poverty which is why it had to be tackled. It is not just about the money because those who work have to live to a tight budget too. It is about self-respect, a sense of purpose and being part of a team. For all these reasons, work can be the cure to many other social problems and it is why shaking up the benefits system so that work always pays was the right thing to do.


Thursday, 14 August 2014

WAVE POWER

Last week I had two visits to discuss progress for the wave energy industry here in West Cornwall. I made reference to the potential for wave energy in my first ever Parliamentary Question and progress, although sometimes slow, is definitely being made.

In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle we have a great industrial heritage and even after the final mines closed, we kept the Camborne School of Mines. Now there are also a number of world class engineering firms here who have carved out a niche in the oil and gas exploration industry with their drilling technological knowhow.

Last week I visited Severn Sub Sea at Cardrew Industrial Estate in Redruth. The firm took over Calidus Engineering last year and has been continuing their world leading work developing a number of new technologies for the oil and gas industry with specialist instruments and drilling equipment. It is just one of a cohort of new businesses alongside Large Diameter Drilling who are currently building a new site at Tolvaddon and Fugro Seacore based near Falmouth.

Just as some of our world class engineers diversified away from mining towards oil and gas exploration, many are now looking at the potential to expand into the market for wave energy. This part of Cornwall has a wave resource because the powerful Atlantic swell contains huge amounts of energy that is not so powerful that it cannot be harnessed. Hayle is home to Wave Hub, the first commercial test facility for wave power in the world and four separate developers have now signed agreements to take a berth on the device. The technologies they are using are still quite varied but in the last twelve months Cornwall has become far more interesting to developers.

Unlike Scotland, we have spare capacity in our grid infrastructure which means we could develop commercial wave energy without having to spend billions. Last year the government announced a new "strike price" for wave energy which is attractive and has spurred renewed interest in its prospects. Hayle is also the central asset in a new South West Marine Energy Park, the first Marine Energy Park designated by the government. In addition we have the back up of leading academic centres such as Exeter University based at Tremough near Falmouth and also Plymouth University and their wave tank testing facilities.

All of this adds up to real potential for Cornwall. Last week I also visited the Offshore Renewables Development Project which was put in place by the Cornwall Development Company to help sustain momentum and remove any remaining barriers such as planning and licensing duplication. One of the lesser known asks in Cornwall's recently published "growth deal" was for more leeway when it came to licensing and consenting on the use of the seabed so that we can really maximise our advantages.

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.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

SUMMER IN THE CONSTITUENCY

With parliament now on summer recess, it is a great opportunity to spend August meeting people around the constituency and I have a packed and varied diary over the coming weeks. In the last week I have opened the newly refurbished club house at Camborne Rugby Club where they now have a new roof and refurbished changing rooms thanks to work by volunteers and some hard work to get successful grant applications approved.

I also attended the re-opening of the Angarrack Inn which had been closed for six months but has been bought from St Austell Brewery and reopened by a local group. Other events included the opening of a new memorial garden at Tregenna Care Home in Camborne and the new business premises at Pool for Charlie's Angels which is a successful and growing cleaning company set up by Charlotte Parker four years ago with some help from the Prince's Trust. Finally and most important of all, last Monday evening, along with dozens of others, I attended a service at Stithians to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. We lit candles for each of the local men who lost their lives in that appalling conflict.

I have also followed the debate, covered on the front page of the West Briton last week, about two new Facebook campaigns regarding Camborne. I hate it when people talk down our towns and it’s clear others do too. What's interesting is that the initial Facebook campaign was so negative about our town that there was a backlash from the community and those who were genuinely interested in improving our town rather than just denigrating it broke away and set up a rival Facebook page. Things may not be perfect in Camborne but no town ever is perfect. What I do know is that Camborne stands head and shoulders above many other towns in the country and it's time we started to get our confidence back and recognise the good work going on.

So let's recognise what local businesses are doing to improve the town centre. Let's welcome the major construction and regeneration work underway and the new jobs that will bring. We should be proud of the work being done by local schools like Camborne Science and International Academy and the pupils they are turning out. Finally, let's be proud of the fact that the brass band chosen to take a lead role in proceedings at the WW1 commemorative service at the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium is none other than our very own Camborne Youth Band.

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 August 2014

The Cornish Sardine

The Cornish sardine industry has a long history and is one of the recent success stories of the Cornish fishing fleet. Pilchards, as they were always known in Cornwall, were a staple part of the diet and a large industry grew up around them in the 19th century. The "huers" used to be scouts who looked out for the best schools of fish before setting out to sea and casting nets.

Like many other fish species, the pilchard was first over fished and then later fell out of fashion leading a decline in the industry. However, in the last decade or so a number of enterprising fishermen have revived the industry and the pilchard, now rebranded the "Cornish sardine", has been going from strength to strength.

At the end of last year we secured an important reform to the discredited Common Fisheries Policy. There is now a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably and we will be phasing in a ban on the wasteful practice of discarding perfectly good fish dead back into the sea from next year.

In order to make this new ban on discards work will be much more flexibility in the way quotas operate. Fishermen will be able to count surplus stocks on one fish species as another where they have spare quota. There will also be exemptions for fish that usually survive if returned to the water.

There had been concerns about the possible impact of the discard ban on our sardine industry. Cornish sardines are not restricted by quotas but while targeting schools of sardines, fishermen will sometimes unintentionally land other species such as herring and mackerel which are subject to quotas.

There has been a practice of occasionally releasing nets at sea before the school is drawn out of the water when it is clear that they are mainly juvenile fish. Some say that these juvenile sardines have high survivability rates and we need more time to look into these issues. I was keen to ensure that common sense prevailed on this issue and we managed to get agreement from the European Commission that the sardine industry can continue as now giving us several years more time to assess the issue of by catch species and to identify a solution.

If we want a future for our fishing industry then we must start by fishing sustainably and, for once, we have managed to get a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy that has a real chance of delivering a result.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

THE GREAT WAR

Next week marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and this Sunday I will be attending a memorial service in Redruth to recognise the sacrifices made by all those who came from the town. There will be many other commemorative events during the course of this year and Remembrance Sunday will have particular poignancy.

The period during the First World War was the bleakest period in European history. The scale of killing was horrific. Technology had advanced to make this perhaps the first "industrial war" with the use of chemical weapons, machine guns and powerful artillery but battleground tactics had not evolved to deal with the new realities that modern warfare had brought and there was perhaps a different attitude to human life.

Britain's Generals are often singled out for criticism although, to be fair, they did try to find new approaches to end the war earlier, from the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli to the invention of a primitive tank. Nevertheless, the scale of sacrifice is apparent through the names listed on memorial stones up and down the land and the war touched every community and virtually every family. I take one of my Christian names from Charles Botterell, my Great Grandfather who fought in the war and suffered ill health as a result of his shrapnel wounds.

It was hoped in the immediate aftermath that it would be the war to end all wars so that at least the huge sacrifice would have achieved something lasting. We know now that it wasn't. However, so traumatic was the war that it changed society forever. Huge social changes followed. The anachronistic class structure started to fall apart, women got the vote and society became more equal. The pain of the war drove political changes too with the advent of communism and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia while at home the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party as the main opposition party.

I have always argued that after any painful conflict, we are in danger of learning the wrong lessons so that the agony of one conflict leads us to make different mistakes which cause a new conflict. That was as true then as it is now. After the Great War there was an entirely understandable resistance to war or spending on military hardware. As a result, Britain was ill prepared to deal with Hitler and he interpreted the strong reluctance for war among Britain's political class as weakness.

But next week, we should quietly remember the extraordinary bravery and the tremendous burden carried by a generation of young men a hundred years ago and the loved ones who grieved their loss.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

LOCAL GROWTH DEAL

Last week the Government announced the new Local Growth Deal for Cornwall, which will see an investment of almost £200 million to support the local economy and promote new businesses. The Deal comprises a variety of important projects around Cornwall that will help attract businesses to our area. It is very much a local plan drawn together by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and backed by government. It is hoped that over the next five years the deal will create at least 4,000 jobs.

I think there are some important projects which have been given the go ahead that will have a real impact on our area. £8 million of funds will contribute to a package of improvements on our key bus services that serve as a real lifeline to many in our part of the world. I have always argued for the right funding for our bus network and this new package shows a real commitment to keep these services operating.

Different development schemes will also start to get to grips with pinch points on our roads where traffic is currently bad enough to frustrate businesses looking to invest in our area or indeed just transporting their own goods. The crucial sleeper service, which brings untold investment to Cornwall, is also increasing capacity with a much needed upgrade as announced a couple of weeks ago by the Prime Minister.

Money will also be made available for a scheme known as the West Cornwall Transport Interchange that will deliver some necessary improvements along the often pressured A30. Whilst more and more people use public transport, it is still the case that the majority of people who work in our area have no option but to use their car and the A30 is a crucial artery for drivers. It needs to be able to deal with a high volume of traffic and this scheme builds on others in the last couple of years such as the duelling at Temple.

Securing Government funding can often provide that final boost to projects and make sure they are able to get off the ground. I pushed for Government funding for the new link road at Camborne which is now well underway and crucial funding was also secured for the Cornwall Archive Centre in Redruth, with the first phase of the scheme to prepare the site with flood defences now scheduled to start in the summer. Whilst negotiations can often be long and difficult, securing funding for the right projects makes a real difference. The Local Enterprise Partnership should be congratulated for all the hard work they did to secure such an encouraging Local Growth Deal for Cornwall.

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 July 2014

SOCIAL MEDIA

The growth of "social media" such at Twitter and Facebook has had many positive impacts. People are able to relocate long lost childhood friends. Events are easy to organise. Photos are shared and people are kept in contact through an instant medium that can link whole networks of friends. Comment is available to all and no longer confined to professional journalists.

But with any new phenomenon comes problems too. Five years ago I remember meeting an organisation called Beat Bullying who described the growing problem of "cyber-bullying" among school age children. That problem has got worse. Peer pressure has always been a powerful force among teenagers but the prevalence of social media has exacerbated that pressure.

I don't know why, but there is something about social media that all too often causes common courtesy and good manners to go out the window. All the more so when vicious and thoughtless comments can be posted behind the protective veneer of anonymity. People say things in online posts that they would never say to someone's face. It's as if the basic rules of human social interaction don't apply.

We bring children up to say please and thank you and to be kind and considerate to one another. Every primary school I have ever visited places great store on such human virtues. But for whatever reason, these values don't always spill over into online social media in the way you might expect them to. Schools find themselves increasingly in situations where they are having to arbitrate in such situations and teachers will sometimes find themselves the target for online abuse from both children and even parents.

Last week Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, said that the government was considering legislation later this year to deal with the growing problem of so called "sexting" or “revenge porn” where intimate photos which might have been shared with a former partner then end up being circulated more widely when relationships go wrong. This can have an especially acute impact on teenagers who have enough insecurities to cope with as it is and some of the proposals could act as a real deterrent to stop potential offenders.

It's just one of the new challenges created by technology that presents new problems for policymakers and needs to be looked at closely. There are already powers in legislation for teachers to deal with suspected cases of cyber-bullying by searching and deleting images on a pupil’s phone. However with cyber bullying extending beyond the classroom and beyond students it is clear there will be louder calls for a more legal definition of the issue and more powers to deal with 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.

Monday, 7 July 2014

WAVE HUB

Last weekend saw the first energy device connected to the giant socket at Wave Hub in Hayle, a real step forward in making Hayle the leading marine energy park in the country and capping off a great few months for the scheme. I have always said that the potential of this industry is massive, because of the amount of energy we could produce and the amount of jobs that could be created in our area. Wave Hub is the first of its kind in the world and is on the way to delivering both these aims.

Seatricity, the renewable resource company involved, actually towed their device all the way from Falmouth before plugging it in to the site. The plan is to eventually have sixty of their devices connected to the hub which will then feedback power to the national grid. For the time being, sea tests need to take place on the first device to make sure it can do the job properly.

The potential of wave has led to hundreds of competing device designs put forward by different companies with the aim of being the most efficient at capturing the most energy from the sea. It is a very different process to traditional fossil fuels or wind turbines and Seatricity's device uses octagonal aluminium floats to capture the energy by pressuring seawater. This in turn drives a turbine to produce electricity and this is channelled back to the coast by Wave Hub's giant "socket" on the sea bed.

Progress at Wave Hub has been really great over the last few months but this follows some criticism that the project was slow to get off the ground. Wave power does carry risk because it is difficult to develop and test out in difficult conditions. That said, the huge potential and the need for a range of sustainable energy sources in the future outweighs those risks. That is why the Government did get behind the project and I pushed for less onerous regulations in Parliament to get things moving.

Now, all three berths for developers have been filled with the most recent by an Australian firm called Carnegie Wave Energy who will start deploying their technology in the coming years. Millions of pounds of funding were also secured last month for the Hayle Marine Business Park, which will become the gateway for the Wave Hub site. The development has the potential to create over one hundred jobs and will further make sure Hayle is established as a world leader in wave technology.

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.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

RAIL IMPROVEMENT

Last weekend I met Sarah Newton MP and Derek Thomas, the prospective Conservative candidate for the St Ives constituency, to discuss the potential of a new train care centre in Penzance. If we could persuade First Great Western to move their facilities to Cornwall, the centre would employ up to sixty people and provide a real boost to the local economy, bringing new skills to our area and meaning long term jobs.

It is just one part of an exciting but realistic package of rail improvements that Cornwall Council has been building up and I have been pushing for in Westminster since last October.

There are three main elements, the train care centre, a sleeper upgrade and a bringing forward of the plans to renovate our ancient signalling system. Different groups have got together to deliver some of the funding but they are also asking the Government to chip in to get the project off the ground. The scheme would revitalise our current rail service and make sure we can deal with the growing number of passengers on our trains.

By improving the signalling facilities and adding new signalling sections between Penzance and Plymouth, we could not only deliver a half local hourly service between the towns all the way to Plymouth but also allow a much faster service with increased reliability. The improvements would also create better capacity and this would tie in with plans for the delivery of additional carriages and more modern diesel trains and rolling stock which will become available as other parts of the country switch to electrification.

An upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service would also be a crucial development. I am a regular and devoted user of the sleeper service using it every weekend to get down to Camborne. I know how important the service can be for businesses and visitors alike but it needs to be able to provide more capacity and better facilities to compete with other forms of transport. Cornwall Council's plans would see a renovated lounge, modern berths and seating and space for a lot more luggage. It would secure the service for the foreseeable future and maintain a vital lifeline. The local economy would also benefit.

The problems at Dawlish due to the storms earlier this year focused minds on our rail infrastructure and what could be done to improve things. The government commissioned a report to study options for the rail link which is due to report later this summer. But Cornwall Council's transport team deserve credit for the cogency of the plans they have put together.

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 June 2014

Development for Redruth

Last weekend it was Murdoch Day, an important yearly event in Redruth's calendar that celebrates the life and contribution of the inventor and engineer William Murdoch. Murdoch was one of the pioneers of steam power development in Cornwall and also famously invented the first ever gas light using piped gas. Murdoch day itself includes an exciting program of events with processions, music and a variety of exhibitions throughout the town.

These are also exciting times for Redruth and there are a number of projects underway that will bring new investment into the town and also contribute to the town's unique heritage. One of these developments is taking place at the Krowji Arts Centre at the old grammar school buildings near West Park and recently I caught up with the director of the Centre, Ross Williams, to get an update on progress. The Krowji Arts Centre is actually Cornwall's largest creative services workplace and they are home to a huge array of creative businesses and agencies, from furniture makers to the Cornwall Film Festival organisers.

Krowji recently began a £3.7 million re-development project that will see new offices and a doubling of capacity at the arts hub. The centre won European and private funding and I supported them in getting the Department of Education to recognise the value of the project and release some old school land that was needed for the development. Work is now truly underway at the site and they are hoping for the offices to be ready for occupation by early next year. I have always said Cornwall is a creative county and our heritage proves that but it is great to see such a modern creative project growing from strength to strength.

Kresen Kernow, the Cornwall Archive Centre at the old brewery site is also making real progress and the first phase of the scheme to prepare the site with flood defences is now scheduled to start in the summer. I was heavily involved in negotiations with the Hong Kong based owner of the site, Mr Horace Yao, to get the project started and met him again two weeks ago for an update.

Two weeks ago Cornwall Council announced that they had appointed specialist architects for the project with over six decades of experience brining historic buildings back to life. I think this appointment is great news because we need a design which celebrates the heritage of the site but is also fit for purpose for modern uses. I remember the old Devenish Brewery and their distinctive green branding when I was growing up and I know I am not the only one looking forward to bringing this derelict site back to 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.



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Queen’s Speech

Last week saw the traditional State Opening of Parliament and the final Queens's speech for this current parliament. The immaculate ceremony is always a reminder that this country does such events better than any other. There is now just nine months of parliamentary time left before we begin the formal election so this year's Queen's speech was shorter than those earlier in the parliament. It is entirely normal for governments to have longer sessions earlier where they get the major pieces of legislation in place but shorter sessions later.

However, there were still some important reforms outlined last week. There was the Modern Slavery Bill to tackle the appalling crime of people trafficking and new measures to introduce some common sense when it comes to the health and safety culture. No one disagrees with the objective of health and safety legislation but we have all seen examples where it is cited in a completely disproportionate way, demoralising those trying to do a good turn for others.

The Government is also planning on bringing in two new Pensions Bills to help widen people’s choices and deliver greater financial security. As pensioners now live longer, we need to make sure savings go that extra mile. The first Bill will allow businesses greater choice in the private pensions they can offer and it will also encourage more collective pension schemes. These will allow employees to get together and pool their collective risk, having the potential to give much greater stability in their returns. Many pensioners today have found that the returns on their savings they put aside are not as high as they anticipated so encouraging a new model of pension that enables people to pool risk and have more predictable returns is a good option.

The second Bill will deliver the most fundamental reforms to pensions for almost a century, ending the system where people can be forced to buy an annuity. From April 2015 those retiring with a defined contribution pension will have total freedom over how they access their pension. I think this is important because a number of constituents highlight the problem that they feel unable to access the pension they put aside when they need it.

Some have said that it's wrong to introduce these freedoms because pensioners might go and spend all their money in one go but I think that's nonsense. Those who have been diligent and responsible enough to save for their old age should be trusted to manage their own finances. The real problem has been that a fear that their pension may not be worth what they expect or that they may not be able to access it prevents people from saving in the first place. There will also be free, independent advice to retirees to help them make their decision, with those wishing to purchase an annuity still able to do so.

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 June 2014

Royal Cornwall Show

Today marks the beginning of the Royal Cornwall Show. Perhaps more than any other county in Britain, the Royal Cornwall Show is the annual event that brings the whole community together. "See you at Royal Cornwall, if not before" is a much used phrase in the six months leading up to the event.

Some agricultural shows have had mixed fortunes in recent years but the Royal Cornwall Show has managed to strike the right balance. Farming is still very much at the heart of events with strong entries in the livestock classes but it has managed to develop a broader appeal.

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

This year I will also be attending in my capacity as farming minister and it comes at a time when we have some major challenges ahead in terms of implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy. The government has long argued for a CAP that was simpler. Despite the best endeavours of my predecessors the CAP changes feel like a backwards step in some ways and will be very complicated to implement. In recent months I have been trying to work out how we can implement the changes in a way that creates minimum disruption for farmers but can also be delivered administratively.

Under the new rules, any farm over 30 hectares will need to grow at least three crops in order to qualify for 30 percent of their subsidy payment. Winter barley and spring barley will be treated as different crops for the purposes of the EU rules but cabbages and cauliflowers will be regarded as the same crop. In addition to the many "cross compliance" rules, farmers will now have to set aside around 5 percent of their land to an "Environment Focus Area" If we could map eery hedge in the country they could count for more towards the 5 percent than their actual area. Confused? I could go on.

One good thing is that we have a new CAP IT system that could make it easier for farmers to make mapping changes to their holding records via an iPad and we are trying to remove the paperwork from the system. However, there is no getting away from the fact that the CAP has just become more complex.

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 June 2014

HAYLE’S HERITAGE

A couple of weeks ago the Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, visited our area to track the progress being made with delivering superfast broadband for Cornwall and also to see the Heartlands project in Pool.
Whilst he was here I took the opportunity to show him the work underway on Hayle's South Quay and also to discuss Hayle's position as part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site. This has recently become a subject of a lot of debate between Cornwall Council, the UK government and UNECSO, a committee of the UN based in Paris which deals with world culture and designates "world heritage" status. It was great to get the Minister to Hayle to see what all the fuss is about.

The problem has come about because of a report written last year by UNESCO following the decision by the Government and the Council to allow the crucial redevelopment of South Quay to begin. People have talked about regenerating Hayle all my life time and it is great to see work underway. Cornwall Council and ING worked hard to use the development to enhance Hayle's heritage. However, an ill-judged intervention by English Heritage sparked irrational concern at UNESCO, setting in train a totally unnecessary sequence of events.

Later this month, at their annual meeting thousands of miles away in Doha, UNESCO will decide whether to place the Heritage site on an 'In Danger' list because of the building works. One of the weaknesses of the way UNESCO is structured is that decisions are made by committees of people from all sorts of different countries and the local people who do understand Hayle are not allowed a voice.

The suggestion that Hayle should have its heritage status qualified couldn't be more wrong. I am supporting the Government and Council officers fighting Cornwall's corner. Far from damaging the site, the works on South Quay are actually enhancing the historical value of the old port, repairing the harbour walls and old sluice gates as a starting point before beginning to build on the Quay. The owners of the site, ING, have worked with architects specialising in historical renovation and they are bringing the Quay back to its former glory.

I have long argued that Cornwall could make more of its industrial heritage to promote a new dimension to tourism and a few years ago I organised a conference in Redruth to promote the idea further. It culminated in the decision last year to build the Cornwall Archive in Redruth. I have also always maintained that World Heritage Site designation is a welcome additional string to our bow which can help support our local efforts and it would be bizarre if some far away committee decided that all this positive work should be penalised.

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 May 2014

CHANCELLOR IN CORNWALL

Last week the Chancellor George Osborne came to Redruth to meet some of our area’s businesses and to look round the Teagle machinery factory at Blackwater. His visit coincided with new figures that put unemployment in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle at its lowest level for years. George Osborne took tough decisions early in this Parliament and those difficult decisions are now bringing results with growth back in the economy. Whilst there is still a long way to go I know that some of our leading businesses were interested to hear his plans for the future and ask their own questions.

Decisions on a national level directly influence the regeneration of our area and nationally the economy has turned a corner. The deficit has been reduced by a third and income tax has been cut by approximately seven hundred pounds for over twenty five million people. Employment at its highest level since records began, with 1.6 million new jobs created since the general election. Welfare is also being reformed so no working family can be earning less than those on benefits. Considering the problems we were facing only a few years ago, this is quite an achievement and something to build on.

I want to make sure local firms are taking advantage of the recovery, employing new people and expanding their businesses because we actually have some fantastic innovation in our area that we should be proud of. I have always said this is the part of Cornwall where good ideas are made and the work gets done and a stronger local economy will deliver important social change.

We have businesses which are at the cutting edge of a modern economy despite our remote location. Large Diameter Drilling, Fugro Seacore and Severn Subsea all manufacture complex parts for the oil and gas industry, whilst other precision engineering firms such as DP Engineering in Redruth and Rigibore in Hayle work in aerospace and hydraulics. We have other success stories in many different industries, whether it be food processors such as Roddas Creamery or Falfish in Redruth or housing specialists such as Frame UK.

New sectors in IT and clean energy have also based themselves here, making good use of the superfast broadband now on offer. The Pool Innovation Centre has accommodated many of these, and it is now home to 48 companies employing 250 people. WaveHub in Hayle has also recently found its final investor and will soon be at the forefront of testing capabilities for wave energy.

I am not saying everything in the garden is rosy, but we are getting there and with forward-thinking business we can secure a strong and diverse local economy. We should be proud of our achievements on that front.

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


Thursday, 15 May 2014

European Elections

With euro elections just around the corner, debate has once again returned to the EU and Britain's role in Europe. If the pollsters are to be believed, UKIP will do well. It is a debate I have always followed closely. I first got involved in politics campaigning for James Goldsmith's Referendum Party in 1997. I then stood as a UKIP candidate in the 1999 euro elections and, after leaving them, went on to spend four years campaigning for the anti-euro No Campaign which de-railed Tony Blair's ambitions to force Britain into the euro.

I left UKIP after about six months because I actually thought they were too defeatist about the prospects of changing our relationship with Europe and because their activity often undermined the very cause they claimed to believe in. For instance, in the euro debate, they insisted on claiming that it was impossible to keep the pound but stay in the EU. It was exactly the same argument that was being used by the campaign to abolish the pound and, after ten years being in the EU while happily maintaining our own currency, we now know that UKIP were wrong. Ironically, UKIP still have the pound sign as part of their logo even though they were a counter-productive liability to the anti-euro campaign.

Today, the same sorts of people who said we couldn't keep the pound and stay in the EU are saying that it is impossible to renegotiate our relationship with the EU. I disagree. Britain was one of the early members of the EU and is still one of its largest. It's our EU too and if we want to change it then it can be changed. We have global reach when it comes to diplomatic ties and we are an important market for Europe just as they are for us. They wants us to stay and will accommodate our needs because the rest of Europe would be hugely diminished without the power and influence that Britain brings to the table.

Two years ago I founded the Fresh Start Group of MPs which argued for a renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU and the return of some powers. It is a view shared by David Cameron who took up the idea in a landmark speech at the beginning of last year. In it he pledged to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and then have a referendum so that the people could decide whether to stay in or not. It was the most important speech any Prime Minister has given on Europe since we joined. But once again, the party most likely to deny David Cameron a majority and therefore scupper a referendum is UKIP.

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 May 2014

New boat shuttle connects Hayle and St Ives

These are exciting times for Hayle with work now well underway to regenerate South Quay and the Foundry end of town. All my lifetime and even further back, people have talked about rejuvenation. Some years ago a local resident drew my attention to a book written around the time of the First World War. In it he said was a prescient sentence, "work to regenerate Hayle harbour has been delayed until after the war." We would hear that many more times in the decades that followed and one of my objectives on becoming an MP was to break this endless cycle of failure and make it happen.

We got there in the end and, now that the work is underway, it's time to think about how we can make the most of our town's new offer. Two years ago I called for a new shuttle boat link between Hayle and St Ives. In future, many people on holiday in St Ives will want to come to Hayle for a day out on one of the best beaches in the country or to visit attractions like Paradise Park. Likewise, those in the holiday parks in Hayle need an easier way to spend an evening out in St Ives. Parking in St Ives has always been a nightmare and there is often congestion in the summer. It’s crazy that people have to drive all the way around the bay when a boat service could easily hop across the water.

I am thrilled that local entrepreneur John Johnson and his family have taken up the challenge and last Saturday I had the privilege to experience the new service myself. The boat used is a high speed rib which departs from North Quay. Although at full pelt the boats can make the journey in less than five minutes, they have decided to make it less of a white knuckle ride although we still completed the trip in a little over ten minutes. We travelled out into the heart of the bay and cut back in towards the beautiful coast around Carbis Bay. You get a different perspective of the bay shared by our two towns and it's a great reminder that St Ives boasts one of the most beautiful bays in the country, framed by St Ives point at one end and Godrevy Light House at the other.

The tides around Hayle are a limiting factor on the hours the service can run but there will typically be two periods of 3-4 hours each day when the tides will be right. My wife has always liked to visit St Ives during summer and in future it will be made a whole lot easier and enjoyable. I will definitely be using the service again. Why not give it a go yourself? It's best to book in advance and details can be found at www.stivesboatrides.co.uk or telephone 07786782352.

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

Thursday, 1 May 2014

CORNISH STATUS

Cornwall has always held a special place within the UK. We are proud of our culture and history and in recent years there has been a strong revival of interest in both the Cornish language and a growing number of people celebrating St Piran's day in March.

Last week, the government added another string to our bow when the Prime Minister announced that Cornwall would now be added to the list of national minorities alongside Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on the Framework Convention submitted to the Council for Europe. Although we shouldn't get carried away by the implications of this decision, it is recognition of Cornwall's historic, special status inside the UK.

Never before has this country had a Prime Minister with such a strong affinity for Cornwall. When asked about British cuisine last week, David Cameron cited the Cornish pasty. He has been to Cornwall every single year since becoming Prime Minister which must be a first for any Prime Minister. Last year he visited Frame Homes in Redruth to see some of the world class manufacturing in this part of the world. He has not always been lucky with the weather but has promised to return again this year. However, most of all, he has a Cornish daughter, Florence Endellion, which just might have been a decisive factor behind his decision last week.

There will now be debate about what happens next. I hope we will use this new designation to celebrate Cornwall's self confidence and distinctive identity within the UK. There will be those who seek to use it as a means to encourage separation and division but we should not allow our pride in our Cornish identity to be used to fuel negative and antagonistic attitudes towards the English. After all, we are all British and we all form part of the same British nation. There will also be those who will now call for a new Cornish Assembly to be built but I do not think it is right to have the cost of another tier of politicians in yet another parliament.

Last weekend we all celebrated Trevithick Day, despite the rain. Richard Trevithick was Cornwall's greatest inventor but he also looked out to the rest of the world. He spent much of his career working around the country bouncing ideas off other leading engineers and he worked abroad for many years. He was Cornish but took huge pride in what he contributed to the industrial revolution in Britain. As we consider what this new recognition means, we could learn from Richard Trevithick.

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 April 2014

The importance of sport

Last week I visited RedYouth, a really successful dance group which has gone from strength to strength in recent years. The current trend for talent shows on TV has inspired a number of such groups to set up, including the ‘TR14-ers’ in Camborne but RedYouth actually has its origins in the negative public perceptions about Redruth caused by the media portrayal of the pilot "curfew" project about 5 or 6 years ago. A group of volunteers came together to create a community group that could promote the talents of young people in the town.

Today, the group engages over 400 children and young people ranging from under the age of five to teenagers and even some family groups to get parents involved as well. Their activities have also moved beyond just dance and during the summer they run other activities and visits, promoting interests and hobbies as diverse as cooking, photography and jewellery making as well as community days at the beach. RedYouth also offers days to introduce children and young people to a range of alternative sports. The group employs Jen, a trained instructor, but it is then supported by a number of truly dedicated volunteers who liaise closely with schools in the area. They are also supported by a qualified SEN assistant, which ensures that no child is left out or feels excluded.

The development of groups like RedYouth has been really positive. Meeting the young people involved last week it was clear that many had developed self confidence from their involvement in the group and had also made new friends. With debate this week about sport in schools, it is also important to remember the role of alternatives like dance to conventional sports. Sport has an incredibly important role in developing confidence in young people and establishing a healthy lifestyle with exercise from a young age. However, competitive sport is not for everyone. In particular, too many teenage girls drift away from sport later in school, but dance groups like RedYouth can provide a really inspiring alternative.

RedYouth is just one of the many great sports clubs and community groups that offer opportunities to young people. I will never forget the support that I had from volunteers at Cornwall Athletic Club when I was growing up, and I fought hard to make sure the new running track will be located in the CPR area because in doing so it offers the most to all of our community athletics groups. Above all it is volunteers today who keep all of our sports clubs going from rugby and football to cricket, swimming and dance.

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.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

BETTER TRAINING, MORE JOBS

A couple of weeks ago I visited the new premises of Questions and Answers, a Community Interest Company who have recently moved to Station Road in Redruth. Questions and Answers offer specialist adult training and apprenticeships across Devon and Cornwall either through individual tuition tailored to the needs of the client or through a variety of established courses focusing on employability. A lot of the courses on offer are free and they will also work with companies to help them further develop employees.

I was really impressed by Q & A’s new offices, complete with public access PCs, a young enterprise zone and dedicated training rooms for a wide variety of courses. It is clear that adult training is a growing market, and as the workplace becomes increasingly IT dominated many adults want to take advantage of courses helping their computer literacy. There are also young adults who really want to get to grips with a subject before embarking on a career or who feel they need that little bit extra training after leaving school or college.

Training and improved skills offer the best route to new job opportunities. I have always been clear that delivering economic regeneration and creating more and better paid jobs is the number one priority for this part of Cornwall. We are making progress and in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle recent published figures show that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has fallen by 500 since the beginning of last year. Despite perceptions to the contrary, we actually have a level of unemployment that is about average for the UK at 3.4 percent.

Whilst better training is one way to find a job, we also need to make sure young people or those who have been out of work for a while can find the right experience to make them more employable. The work experience scheme has been a real success nationally and overall has helped over half a million 18 to 24 year olds find placements in the past couple of years. In plenty of cases employers have been so impressed with the young people involved they have gone out of their way to find them paid employment. There is also the Work Programme, administered by Working Links and Prospects in our area which helps the long-term unemployed find lasting jobs and gets them off benefits.

We need to do more and as the economy turns a corner we need to make sure we create better paid jobs for this part of Cornwall. As new companies arrive I want to see them become successful and profitable enough to offer higher wages so that we encourage people to stay in work.

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, 14 April 2014

DAWLISH

Last weekend saw the reopening of the railway line at Dawlish in time for the Easter holidays and the reconnection of Cornwall to the rest of the country by rail. Credit where credit is due it has been a huge effort by First Great Western and Network Rail and it is a great achievement to have the line up and running two weeks ahead of schedule. Every weekend I travel down from London to Camborne on the sleeper and I will be just one of many in our area who are welcoming this news.

The last few weeks at Dawlish have seen a large team of engineers, known as the 'Orange Army' for their fluorescent vests, work around the clock to get the line restored. It has been a massive job because overall around eighty meters of the track was deemed unusable and the logistics of working so near the sea made it even more difficult. There was also further bad weather to deal with and a landslide had to be forced just south of Dawlish when a large chunk of earth became dangerously exposed at Teignmouth. Overall it is estimated that the initial costs are around £35 million, although the costs to our local economy meant we needed to see the line restored as soon as possible.

We now need to look at what can we can do to further improve our rail link and to make sure that this kind of thing never happens again. There has been a lot of talk around developing an existing line via Okehampton as an additional emergency line in case of further damage, or as an alternative main line in the future. There are also other ideas around further tunnelling on the existing route. Network Rail has commissioned a report to look at these and I think that is a good first step. No one doubts that more should be done but we need to make sure change is sensitive to the places like Dawlish whose economy has grown up around the railway.

We also need to make sure we get a better deal for Cornwall and I have always pushed for fairer funding to allow this to happen. Finally we are making some progress and there are discussions taking place that could see an extensive sleeper upgrade as well as a huge improvement to signalling on the tracks. This in turn could see far more frequent services from Penzance to Plymouth and with more rolling stock becoming available in the next couple of years it would also mean more capacity.

I think this is encouraging news because these targets are achievable in a short timeframe and will make a real difference. As we are on a Peninsula the journey to London is always going to be a long one, but we need to keep prices down and offer more flexibility.

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.