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.