Friday, 24 April 2015

Public Services

A recent report by comparing health systems concluded we have the best NHS in the world.  Its central value is that it is free at the point of need and it is the dedicated staff that makes it such a great institution. We have increased NHS spending by over £12 billion since 2010 and will increase it by another £8 billion if re-elected.

While it is free at the point of need our NHS has always involved some private practices most notably GPs surgeries. Tony Blair extended the use of private providers in the NHS and Gordon Brown introduced PFI contracts which left many schools and hospitals lumbered with appalling contracts where they were routinely ripped off for basic property maintenance.

The use of private providers in the NHS encompasses only six percent of the total NHS budget, an increase of only one percent since 2010. I think the key thing is not to be dogmatic about these issues. Where private providers can help our schools and hospitals cope we shouldn't rule them out.  But the agreements need to be negotiated properly so that our NHS is not ripped off in the way it was under Gordon Brown's PFI deals.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Farming and Fishing

I grew up at Trevaskis Farm near Connor Downs, studied at agricultural college and worked in the family business for over nine years.  Over the last eighteen months I have been the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food.  I think it makes sense in politics to bring to the table knowledge you gained in an earlier career and for me that was farming.  

I want to see a vibrant farming industry and my priorities if returned would be to shake up the Common Agricultural Policy and make it easier for new entrants to get into the industry. I also think we should have a much looser CAP with common European objectives, but where national governments legislate to deliver these objectives in their own way.  

All new industries need new talent and farming is no exception. The high cost of land is a real barrier to new entrants so I want to do more to encourage alternative routes in, such as contract farming agreements where a young farmer might manage the crops or livestock on behalf of the landowner for a fee that is linked to outcomes.

Better progress has been made improving the Common Fisheries Policy and we have now banned the shameful practice of discarding perfectly good fish back into the sea which takes effect next January.  

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Superfast Broadband

In order to raise standards of living and wages in Cornwall we need to attract new industries and better paid jobs. The Superfast Cornwall programme has been very successful in getting homes and businesses connected to fibre optic broadband and when the programme ends in 2015, it will have connected 95% of premises in the county.

Improving connectivity is a great way of attracting new businesses to the area and we are now beginning to feel the benefits. I recently visited the Barncoose Gateway Centre where they have opened a new office block with space for twenty companies. Once occupied there will be 500 skilled jobs on offer and already NetBooster have chosen to base their European headquarters there. Elsewhere, the innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups, with Tremough specialising in digital media and green technology.

These are all positive steps forward. However to build on this, we also need to take advantage of our industrial heritage and wave resources. In Redruth, Severn Subsea is a world leader in the development of equipment for the oil and gas industry while in Hayle, Wave Hub has harnessed the powerful Atlantic swell to create the first commercial test facility for wave power in the world. We need to encourage more of this kind of innovation to attract new opportunities to the area.