Thursday, 27 February 2014

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

This weekend I will be visiting fishermen in Newlyn to discuss the problems they have had over the last six weeks as a result of the stormy weather which has severely restricted the number of days they have been able to spend at sea as well as causing considerable damage to boats and fishing equipment.

While it has undoubtedly been a very difficult start to the year for Cornish fishermen, I think the longer term outlook gives some grounds for optimism because, at the beginning of January, the EU finally put into law a new reform of the Common Fisheries Policy which has the potential to deliver radical change as well as become a potential model for further reform in other areas of European policy.

There are a number of really important aspects to the new CFP deal. Firstly, there is a commitment to ban the discard of good fish. It has always been a disgraceful practice that perfectly healthy fish are thrown dead back into the sea simply because the fisherman who landed them did not happen to have the right quota. That will now end.

Secondly, to help make the discard ban work in practice, fishermen will receive a quota uplift so they can land more. They will also be granted much greater flexibility so that if they unexpectedly land more of one species for which they have no quota, then they will be allowed to count it against quota for another species instead rather than be forced to throw it dead back into the sea. If they happen to do better than expected at the end of the year, then they will also be allowed to borrow some quota from the following year.

The third key aspect of the new policy is that there is now a legally binding commitment to fish sustainably or at what scientists call Maximum Sustainable Yield. This means that we have a policy that focuses on the outcome rather than getting too bogged down in process and all member states in the EU have accepted this approach.

Finally, the new CFP has moved away from a centralised model where the entire EU sets out prescriptive policies. In future small groups of member states who have a shared interest in a particular fishery will decide on the management measures that will deliver sustainable fishing. Because they all have an interest in the future of the fishery, they are more likely to put thought into getting things right.

Taken together, these reforms have the potential to be a radical reform. I really hope both the industry and all EU governments will roll their sleeves up to make this a success.

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, 24 February 2014

Children’s Literacy

A couple of weeks ago it was National Libraries Day, which has been set up to promote and celebrate the role of libraries up and down the country. As the Camborne Library is just moments away from my constituency office I was able to pop in after I had finished my weekly surgeries. Despite the terrible weather some people had managed to make it over there and during my visit it wasn’t difficult to see just how important the library is to the community and how dedicated the small team of staff are to running a really useful service. I even signed up myself.

Jim Walters, the senior Librarian, took me through the users of the service and what books people are reading at the moment. Those above sixty probably form the most regular customers and especially utilise the internet facilities, whilst I was also interested to learn that crime and detective authors remain the most sought after.

However I was also really heartened to hear that primary school children are amongst the highest users. This is because various schools are involved in a government led reading competition which encourages students between the ages of seven and twelve to read a book a week. The schools work with county libraries on this and in Cornwall the scheme is flourishing. It is a great idea because alongside getting children reading it introduces them to the library. We have some fantastic libraries in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and we need to make sure they are supported with the right funding but also that they are used regularly.

Reading is a vital part of a child’s education and in our area it is clear that schools and academies know this. Trevithick Primary School, which educates most of the children who live in Pengegon, places a strong emphasis on reading and literacy with one to one tuition outside the classroom where teachers develop the reading skills of individual pupils. I think this is so important because unless children learn to read and write at primary school and develop basic numeracy skills, then they will struggle to keep up at secondary school and before you know it, their morale suffers and they start to conclude that school is not for them. I have also seen some good work in our secondary schools including a project at Pool Academy where year 7 and 8 children new to the school help mentor children from local primary schools who are about to start secondary school.

Although I don’t have much time anymore to sit down and read a good book I want to make sure our libraries and our education system allow children to do just that. Developing an ability to read well is a crucial stepping stone in a child's education and libraries have a vital role to play.

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

Thursday, 13 February 2014

DAWLISH

The huge storms that have battered the South West over the past couple of weeks have dominated our area and it is clear that the damage being left behind is going to take quite an operation to sort out. The exceptional weather has been relentless and first and foremost my sympathy goes out to all those affected. People have lost their homes and livelihoods and we need to make sure they can get their lives back on track as quickly as possible. Nowhere is the evidence of the scale of the destruction more obvious than the images of the hanging railway at Dawlish which has cut off Cornwall and much of Devon from any train route to London.

The facts at Dawlish make stark reading. To repair the damage along the 80 metre stretch of sea wall will cost an estimated £30 million. Not only is it a huge expense but Council Workers and the Environment Agency are giving estimates of at least six weeks for the line to be up and running again. This is so frustrating for all rail passengers and especially commuters who are now having to change the way they are getting in and out of work. It is an absolutely vital link for our overall economy and every day the line is down loses money for Cornwall.

The main question is what now needs to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again and what should we expect in the future. In the short term we need to repair the line as it now stands and the immediate wall. This is difficult because of the ongoing weather but repairs have already started and it will at the very least mean services can start running again.

We then need to look into what else we can do. I think a defensive wall further out could help break the waves and act as an important initial check in future bad weather. We should also look at the possibility of a diversionary route in case of further bad weather. Network Rail is already looking into this option via Okehampton and I will be interested to read their conclusions.

These are good ideas but we also need to make sure that whatever is done is not a knee-jerk reaction despite the current situation. I want to make journey times to Cornwall shorter and any changes further up the line need to make sure that happens. As a regular on the sleeper myself I also know how important that service is and current plans for its upgrade, including two new carriages, should still go-ahead. I will be doing my best to make sure that our railway also gets the investment it needs.

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, 10 February 2014

Shuttle Service

Last week brought the welcome news that a new shuttle boat service will be opening up for people wishing to travel between Hayle and St Ives. It will be running from April this year and throughout the summer it will be operating on a trial basis to gauge the feasibility of the project for the long term. I have been really pushing for such a scheme for the last couple of years and the organisers have kindly offered me a place on the first ride. I am really looking forward to it.

A new shuttle boat is a great idea because it will boost tourism and trade in both towns and provide a really unique and exciting way to travel between them. St Ives Rib Rides, who will be providing the service have worked together with the harbour authorities to get the project off the ground and whilst there are still the finer details to work out they have really shown some fantastic initiative. When I first looked into this I mentioned the potential of a Hovercraft, inspired by the Portsmouth hover-link to the Isle of Wight. Although the ribs that will be used may not be quite of the same scale they are far more manageable and already proven to be hugely popular. The holiday camps in Hayle have also been very supportive of the scheme and the availability of a shuttle service will add another attraction to their business.

Overall the shuttle boat is another step in the right direction of regenerating the area. The idea has already been floated that once construction on South Quay is complete the shuttle boat can operate from there. Plans for South Quay are already coming to life and construction is well underway. The shuttle boat could one day moor near the new supermarket that will create hundreds of local jobs but crucially not drag customers away from the town centre. It could also drop diners off near the new restaurant or indeed homeowners who have taken advantage of the affordable housing being planned. If visitors from St Ives then want to visit the many independent and older shops Hayle has to offer, they could use the planned footbridge between the Quay and the town and be there in less than five minutes.
The next couple of years will see many changes in Hayle.

It is not just in Hayle where major projects are underway. The new Camborne link road that will regenerate derelict land at Tuckingmill and boost business is making good progress. The Cornish Archive Centre at the site of the old brewery in Redruth will also deliver important local jobs and transform the area. These are the big projects that will kick start the revival of our towns but the many smaller initiatives like the shuttle boat service have a role to play too

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.