Thursday, 6 December 2018

Brexit

The next week will be an incredibly difficult but important time for Parliament. We have a huge decision to take about what we do next as a country. There are great divisions over how or, for some people, whether we should carry out the democratic decision to leave the EU. 
Although we are in the eye of the storm right now and it seems impossible to see a way through, it is just possible that there could soon be an outbreak of consensus. I have always said that we needed to read the referendum result as we designed our future partnership. It was a clear vote to leave but 48% voted to remain. The country voted for a cautious and slightly apprehensive Brexit. 
The Prime Minister has had a difficult task trying to reconcile a divided parliament. There are elements of the withdrawal agreement that reflect what people voted for. In the so called "backstop" arrangement we would have tariff free access to the EU, would have ended free movement and we would not have to pay any contributions. However, there are undoubtedly elements that are uncomfortable too. For many, the absence of a unilateral exit clause means that there are risks we get stuck in a rut and many issues in the negotiations have been postponed to a future date. 
There are multiple amendments that have been tabled to the motion and things could happen quite quickly. There is a group of people who think we should ignore the last referendum result and hold another referendum until people learn to do as they are told. Then, they intend to go back on their hands and knees and beg the European Commission to let them back in. I think that is a ridiculous idea. 
A separate group think that we should face down the EU, hit the accelerator and head for the exit without any agreement in place. I have some sympathy for that but there would be turbulence at borders which is difficult to predict. More importantly, governments can only really do what they can muster consent for in parliament and many MPs who agree we should respect the decision to leave, would balk at the idea of coming out with no agreement at all. 
In recent weeks, there has been growing momentum behind a possible alternative. If the Prime Minister's deal fails to command a majority, we could opt for a model similar to Norway and Iceland. Under this option we would leave the EU but remain a signatory to the EEA or re-join the looser EFTA group. We would have full control of our farming and our fisheries, free trade with Europe, and our own trade policy with the rest of the world. We would have to align some of our laws with the EU, but we would be an independent country again. 
It was actually Britain that created EFTA in the late 1950's as a rival idea to the EU. Initially we had an alliance of seven countries, including Sweden, Norway, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The EU only had six members. We made a terrible mistake in 1972 by abandoning what we had created and surrendering our independence to the EU. It was a foreign policy blunder caused by the collapse of national confidence in the aftermath of the empire. Maybe, in the end, we will put right that historic error and pick up where we left off. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Cornwall College

It was recently announced that Raoul Humphreys, CEO and Principal of Cornwall College would be stepping down from his role. I have always had great respect for Raoul. He has been with the college for many years and always had a forward-thinking outlook. 
The college had a set back and some financial difficulties a couple of years ago after expansion and competition from Truro College. However, Raoul stepped in to take over the top job to shore things up. He had to take some difficult decisions, shedding a lot of staff and dropping courses. What is striking is that despite these tough decisions, he was highly regarded among staff. The way events unfolded, and the intervention of Whitehall officials has been unfair, but the important thing now is to help support the college getting back on its feet and facing the future. 
Cornwall College has a deep-rooted history in our area and has been at the heart of all further and higher education in Cornwall for the last 80 years or so. I was a student at Cornwall College where I learnt how to weld and went on to study for a BTEC in Business and then farm management. It was great to return there again two weeks ago on a Saturday to attend one of their careers sessions. 
The College is a vital local asset delivering work-based learning in our area. There are around 800 apprentices currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering. 
Proposals for a new fibre park in Pool to bring together software companies and training from Cornwall College to create opportunities for local school leavers could take things to the next level. We have the chance to really put Cornwall on the map in this sector. There is a very successful cluster of software companies employing around 500 people in the Pool area. Some are based at the Pool Innovation Centre and some at Barncoose Gateway. Headforwards Software have recently taken some space at Cornwall College which is potentially the first step along the road to developing the fibre park idea. 
The concept behind the fibre park idea is a simple but really effective one. Up and coming enterprises who have outgrown the innovation centre can move to larger premises and they can also establish an academy in computer software co-located on the same site so that you can have a partnership between, say, Cornwall College and local businesses. Young people taking computer courses at Cornwall College will be able to develop their talents within real working environments rather than in a classroom detached from front line innovation. It will take a lot of work to move the idea from being an interesting concept to a real venture, but I think we should give it a shot. 
Despite the recent difficulties and sadness over the departure of Raoul, the staff from Cornwall College who I met two weeks ago remained totally passionate and committed to the work they do to prepare the next generation for the world of work.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Parliament Week

This week marks the beginning of UK Parliament Week, an annual festival that seeks to engage people, from different backgrounds and communities, with the UK Parliament and encourage them to get involved in politics. 
The festival was first started in 2011 with a week-long programme of events and activities organised by the House of Commons and House of Lords in collaboration with organisations including charities, schools, museums and community groups. It was such a success that the organisers decided to continue the festival encouraging more people to become involved in our democracy and politics. 
In 2017, UK Parliament Week reached more than 360,000 people, with over 4,500 events. This year’s UK Parliament Week festival is set to be the largest ever and will see more than 7,000 registered events with over 500,000 people taking part. Participating organisations include Scouts, Girlguiding, and the British Youth Council. There are a number of events taking part across the country with 1056 events planned for the South West of England. 
For this year’s festival, there is also a particular focus on the centenary of the 1918 Representation of The People Act which gave woman the right to vote. Events have taken place in Parliament across the year to commemorate this important act where some women and all men were given the right to vote and which began a greater process of giving more people the right to vote. This is part of the Vote 100 campaign which has done some fantastic work over the year to really celebrate this historic milestone in our country’s history. 
UK Parliament Week is an also a great way of engaging with younger people who often feel that they have little say in the events that transpire around them. Last week the UK Youth Parliament came to Parliament and debated a variety of issues from mental health, to knife crime. It was impressive to see so many young people passionately debate issues that really matter to them. On a personal level, these events bring back memories of the first time I spoke in public. I had just turned 16 and had been bounced into representing Praze Young Farmers in a speaking competition at Lostwithiel. I can remember wondering what I had let myself in for, but I had some excellent coaching from Beatrice Dyer of Camborne School and never looked back. Recently I took the opportunity to answer questions from students covering a number of topics such as school funding. They were challenging questions, but it was great to see young people engaging with these important issues and engaging with democracy. 
Often at times, politics can be challenging, divisive and rather remote from our local communities. UK Parliament Week gives us that opportunity to reset these views and help restore the links between parliament and the people. It is important that people understand how vital their participation is in our democracy, whether that be voting at elections, becoming a councillor or an MP, campaigning on an important issue, or even writing to your MP. Contributions like these are valuable to our democracy and help deliver real change to our local communities. We all have a role in making a democracy successful and I want to congratulate all those who have organised events for this year’s festival and encourage as many people as possible to participate. 
You can find more information about UK Parliament Week at: https://www.ukparliamentweek.org/

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Remembrance Day

This Sunday, 11th November 2018, marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and I will be attending a memorial service in Camborne 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. Remembrance Sunday is always supported by the various Cadet groups, Scouts and Brownies. It is great to see these movements going from strength to strength. 
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. 
In recent days, 10,000 flames have filled the moat encircling the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. The flames are lit in the moat as a way of remembering those that have gone before us, it’s a powerful and poignant display. Closer to home there has also been a Ribbon of Poppies project set up by the Memorial Mob. As a result of their hard work, Poppies and wildflowers line the route along the A30, to London creating a living, breathing memorial. 
This years’ Remembrance service will be particularly special as in the early morning of 11th November, more than 3,000 bell towers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will ring out with the sound of “half-muffled” bells, like a slow march, in solemn memory of those who lost their lives. Then, at midday, bellringers at each tower across the UK will remove the muffles from the clappers and at about 12.30 they will ring open. Before 1914 the vast majority of bellringers in the UK were male, but the loss of so many men to war meant many more women took up the role. Today there are between 30,000 and 35,000 men and women bellringers in the UK, and still more are being sought for Armistice Day. The aim is that bells sound not just in the UK but across the world. 
The British and German governments are encouraging other countries to ring bells at the same times in the same way, expressing the reconciliation of former enemies in sound. The bells will ring out across the world to replicate the outpouring of relief that took place in 1918, and to mark the peace and friendship that we now enjoy between nations 100 years on from the end of the First World War. 

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Taking back control of our waters: A brighter future for the 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 and secure a better future for our industry. 
Last week, I launched the Fisheries bill, a bill that will see the UK regain its sovereignty, reinvigorate our coastal communities and enhance the protection of our marine environment. There has long been an historic injustice in the UK’s relationship with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) with quota allocations, and in recent times tensions have boiled over. However, the Fisheries bill addresses these longstanding grievances and puts the industry and environment first. 
I have always been clear, that the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries regardless of our relationship with the EU. We will not allow a free for all and one of the conditions of any future access we grant will be that all vessels fish sustainably and within limits to protect our marine environment. That is why this bill is so important because it sets out what our future relationship will be whilst still maintaining the highest possible standards for our marine life. 
As a sovereign country, we will control access to our own waters by ending current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. In future, access to fish in UK waters will be a matter for the UK to negotiate. The new legislation will also preserve UK vessels’ right to fish across the four zones of UK waters and create a consistent approach to managing any access for foreign vessels provided for in international agreements. 
The bill proposes new powers that will allow the UK to set its own fishing quota and days at sea which will be negotiated as an independent coastal state, in consultation with the Devolved Administrations. Learning the lessons from the CFP, government will have the ability to amend highly technical legislation and respond to scientific advice and innovation quickly. New schemes will also be introduced to help English fishing fleets seize the opportunities of Brexit such as a scheme to help the fishing industry comply with the landing obligation and creating powers to tender additional English quota. 
Finally, we will protect our marine environment by ensuring that management decisions are taken strategically for the benefit of the whole marine environment protecting our seas for generations to come. 
As ever fisheries policy is as much about international relations as it is anything else and always has been. After we leave the EU, there will still be annual discussions and agreements. The difference is that when we leave the EU we will be an independent state and we will conduct those negotiations on our own behalf rather than having to abide by what the European Commission decides. 
We do not yet know the outcome of the UK’s negotiations to withdraw from the EU or on a future economic partnership, but we have been clear that market access for fisheries products is separate to the quotation of fishing opportunities and access to waters. However, we are delivering a bill that sets us on the path to building a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Brexit and the Agricultural Sector


This week I have spent much of my time on debate and discussion about the Agriculture Bill. Two weeks ago it passed its "Second Reading" stage in parliament and this week we started the "Committee Stage" of the Bill where a small group of MPs drawn from all parties to debate the Bill clause by clause. 
Farming policy has been contracted out to the EU for almost half a century and the new Agriculture Bill represents the first substantive piece of UK legislation on agriculture since 1947. Working on the design of the future framework for farm support, and the new schemes that would flow from it has been a very refreshing and liberating exercise for government and parliament. All too often in the past, any good idea or suggestion for improvement was simply ruled "against EU rules" and nothing could be done. If parliament abdicates responsibility for agriculture policy to an external organisation like the EU, then MPs have no motivation to engage in discussion about how to make things better since they have no power to change anything anyway. That is what has sadly happened to farming and fishing over the last forty years. 
Now, as we prepare to leave the EU and take back control, parliament will regain its voice and farmers, food producers and environmental campaigners have an opportunity to get their point across and argue for improvements and influence the policy that will affect them. MPs from all parties are suddenly showing an interest in farming and the countryside because for the first time in half a century they have the power to shape future policy and make a difference. 
The premise behind the Bill that I have put together with colleagues in Defra, is that we should move away from the system of arbitrary area subsidy payment that the EU has imposed on us to instead reward farmers generously for the things they do for the environment and other public goods. The current subsidy system has become a bureaucratic quagmire for farmers and is difficult to administer for government. There are far too many ludicrous rules and mapping requirements so that we measure every gateway, bush or hedge in the land. The EU penalty regime around it is unfair and unjust. The area based subsidy system also means that the vast majority of the money goes to the largest and wealthiest landowners in the country while smaller farmers get the crumbs from the table, so as a system of income support it is upside down. 
Instead, we want a system that rewards farmers to farm their land in a way that is good for the health of their soils, good for the quality of the water courses flowing through their land, good for farmland birds and pollinators and good for enhanced animal welfare outcomes. We also want to reward farmers based on the value of what they deliver, not, as with some EU schemes, simply compensate them for the money they have lost by acting to try to help the environment. 
We recognise that there is a problem of profitability in farming. However, rather than keeping on putting a sticking plaster over that with clunky subsidy payments, the Bill aims to tackle the causes of poor profitability. There are new powers to award grants or loans to farmers to assist them in investing in their farms to reduce costs and improve their profitability; here are powers to support research and development and improved plant breeding; there are new powers to improve transparency in the supply chain so that farmers don't get ripped off by middle men and processors; and there are powers to create mandatory requirements around contracts so that farmers are not stung by hidden charges or penalties or locked into contracts with no clarity or guarantee about the price they will get for what they produce. 
Farming is also a risky business so there are times of crisis where a government must be able to intervene too stabilise the market so the Bill creates such crisis intervention powers. Finally, if we want to move to a very different and more coherent system of farm support, we have to do so in an orderly and gradual way to give farmers time to adjust. We have therefore set out a seven year transition period from 2021 to 2028 during which the old legacy subsidy will be gradually phased out and replaced with the new policy. This will be a period of change where we will simplify and improve the old scheme, introduce measure to help support farmers who want to retire and also make available grants and support for new entrants so that we help the next generation onto the land. 
There will be weeks of argument ahead, but, despite the uncertainty as we enter the closing stages of our negotiation with the EU, our ability to govern ourselves in areas like farming gets stronger by the week.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Carers

We all know someone who is a carer for a loved one. Whether that someone is caring for their parents in old age or whether it is parents caring for a disabled child or, indeed, a child or young person who helps care for one of their parents in cases where they are struck by serious illness. 
There are an estimated 6.5 million in people in the UK providing unpaid care for a loved one, and in Cornwall it is estimated that this figure could be as high as 64,000 unpaid carers. The care they provide is estimated by some groups to be worth the equivalent of £132 billion per year if it needed to be replaced by formal, paid care. 
Moreover, between 2001 and 2015 while the UK’s population increased by 6%, in the same period there was a 16% rise in the number of people providing unpaid care which shows that as our society ages, more people find themselves in caring roles.
Caring for a loved one in need is the most natural calling of all, but I think it is important to ensure that there is support in place to help carers take care of their own wellbeing too. It can become an isolating and all-consuming role. Sometimes a little bit of support such as respite or a small amount of occasional help from a personal assistant or assistance from a friend can make all the difference. 
A few weeks ago, I met some trustees from the Helford River Children's Sailing Trust to discuss a new project they are working on. The idea is to provide holiday accommodation for families who have a disabled child. It's a point often overlooked that having a disabled sibling can also affect opportunities open to other children in the family unit because it limits the activities a family can consider when choosing a holiday. If that can be tackled with specially designed, inclusive facilities offered here in Cornwall, it's a great step forward. 
Last week I met Promas, a local community run company that provides free courses for unpaid carers in Cornwall. The key focus of their work is on helping train carers to be able to deal with the health conditions they are managing and also, crucially, to teach carers how to have regard for their own wellbeing and make time and space for themselves. If a carer cracks under the strain, then no one benefits. The courses are a great way of offering support to carers who can often feel isolated. 
Promas offers a variety of courses covering things like dementia, mental ill health and managing stress and they do a great job of making people feel welcome, important and understanding the difficulties which people experience. 
Another charity I have visited on several occasions is Shared Lives which is an independent charity that provides a range of services for people with additional needs but in a home environment. The central feature of the model is that adults with some special needs join a family and become lodgers in a carers home, rather than being placed in a more formal care setting. It can be a really powerful approach with a homely ethos. 
They have just begun a recruitment drive for more carers to help vulnerable people in Cornwall. The charity has been running for over 15 years and now with an influx of new people needing care they’re calling for more support. If you can help or even if you just want to find out more then do contact Shared Lives South West and they will be happy to provide you with further information. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Improving accessibility for everyone

Across the UK there are approximately 11 million people with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability. The most commonly-reported impairments are those that affect mobility, lifting or carrying. Understandably the prevalence of disability rises with age. Around 6% of children are disabled, compared to 16% of working age adults and 45% of adults over the State Pension Age. 
Recently I was contacted by a local constituent who was blind and was experiencing difficulty with a particular crossing at Pool because there was not a pelican crossing on a difficult four way junction. I met the constituent and agreed to take part in a sensory walk organised by Guide Dogs for the Blind. This is where a blindfold is placed on you and you try and manoeuvre around busy roads and junctions without your sight but with the help of a local volunteer. It certainly helped to understand how seemingly small obstacles to most of us can be a real barrier to those suffering an impairment like blindness. 
In the past we haven’t always designed our streets and towns to be inclusive and accessible, but in the last few decades this has begun to change. The provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act in the late eighties have been a catalyst for improvement. The Council have worked hard to improve the safety of our roads and pavements especially around crossings with the use of tactile paving. Moreover, in our towns and especially with new developments we have seen accessibility improved. This is particularly the case in places like Heartlands where extra work has been carried out to make the buildings accessible and pavements friendlier for all who use them.
Before the summer recess, the International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt MP, became the first minister to use sign language in the Commons. This was to mark the start of a global disability conference that was taking place in London to discuss the global effort to advance disability inclusion not just for those in the UK but also for some countries’ most vulnerable people. 
However, as always, there is still more to do. Further work is being undertaken to help improve the access that vulnerable people have to Changing Places toilets. Over a ¼ million people with more severe disabilities need access to changing places toilets to enable them to get out and about and enjoy the day-to-day activities many of us take for granted. The Changing Places Campaign which launched in 2006 has done fantastic work raising awareness of this issue in recent years and I know that the Government has worked with Changing Places and other charities, to improve the provision of accessible toilets.
In 2007 when the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government became involved, there were only around 140 Changing Places toilets in the UK. By 2017 this number had risen to just over 1000 and guidance on Changing Places was introduced into the Building Regulations in England in 2013. 
In the last ten years we have made progress in improving accessibility for those with disabilities to improve their lives but there is still a long way to go to make society more inclusive.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Party Conference

This week is the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham which marks the end of the conference season. Much like last year, the issue that is looming large is how best to implement our decision to leave the European Union. 
It remains a divisive issue. We are entering a critical phase of the negotiations and they look set to go close to the wire. My view is that we must implement the decision that was taken to leave the EU and take back control but that we should also leave in an orderly way to avoid unnecessary turbulence. That is why, despite the frustrations that many feel, I think Theresa May is right to persevere with these negotiations. We don't yet know whether the apparent stubbornness of the EU is a negotiating tactic or and the only way to find out is to stick to the discussion but prepare for all eventualities. 
However, there have been other issues discussed at the conference that received less attention. In my time as an MP and particularly as a Minister at DEFRA, I have worked to try to improve environmental and animal welfare standards. Michael Gove, in his speech at Conference on Monday reiterated this commitment by vowing to tackle the scourge of plastic in our oceans. At DEFRA we’ve made great strides in tackling the causes of plastic waste that are clogging up the world’s oceans by eliminating micro beads, introducing a new charge on plastic bags and plastic coffee cups as well as a commitment to call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030. There’s clearly much more to do but we’ve taken some big steps forward. 
Opportunity for the next generation was another important theme this year. In education we have also seen improvements in recent years. There has been a substantial growth in the proportion of good and outstanding schools over the past 8 years with the proportion of outstanding schools increasing from 18% in August 2010 to 21% by March 2018. The proportion of good schools also increased, from 50% to 65%. Our Academies and Free Schools programme has also been a success with 42 out of the 158 free schools inspected to the end of 2014/15 as outstanding. Not only are these improvements testament to the hard work of teachers throughout the education system, they are also illustrative of the fact that more children have access to a good or outstanding school offering a better standard of education than they did 8 years ago. 
One of the biggest successes of the last eight years has been the astonishing turnaround in the job market. Britain is working again. Eight years after Labour left office, the unemployment rate is the lowest since the early 1970s and levels of employment are at an all-time high. In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, unemployment is now significantly below the national average with the total number of unemployed claimants for June 2018 totalling 840. 
With the conference season over, parliament returns next week and the first task on my desk is the introduction of the first major Agriculture Bill since 1947 as we redesign policy on food, farming and the environment.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Scallops

Last week, we finally reached an agreement with the French over the contentious issue of the scallop fishing grounds in the Bay of Seine following weeks of tension and long negotiations.
Scallops are not subject to tonnage quotas in the way that, say, cod and haddock are. Instead there is a limitation on the days at sea that larger vessels over 15 metres long can spend fishing for scallops.  Smaller vessels under 15 metres are not subject to these effort restrictions. There has long been a disparity between the amount of days at sea that the UK and French fleets have access to. The French fleet have access to around double the effort allocation than the UK fleet under the so called "Western Waters Regime" because of the methodology used to distribute allocations when the system was established. It is a familiar story with the Common Fisheries Policy and we see it on many different stocks where we don't really get a fair share of fishing opportunities.
Some years ago, the French authorities put in place a long-closed season on their fleet for fishing for scallops in the Bay of Seine, partly to protect the stock during the spawning season early in the summer but partly to maximise the economic value of scallops since the market in France is much stronger later in the autumn. However, those restrictions are a national measure so do not apply to fleets from other countries like the UK and Ireland. The contested grounds are around 18-20 miles off the French coast, so they are not even in French territorial waters and other countries have a legal right to fish there.
The genesis of the clashes this summer was the collapse of a long standing voluntary agreement between the French and UK fleets. Since 2012, a deal has been in place. The French industry agreed to give 10 percent of their effort allocation to the over 15 metre UK fleet and in return, the over 15 metre UK vessels agreed not to fish in the Bay of Seine area during the closed season that the French observed. It was a sensible and pragmatic agreement. The French fleet have more effort allocation than they need or use and by transferring that to the UK fleet, the closure in their main fishing ground was observed voluntarily.
The deal collapsed this year because the French fleet insisted that the closure also apply to smaller under 15 metre vessels as well as the larger ones. This was not something that the UK industry was able to deliver since the Under 15 metre fleet did not need nor therefore benefit from any transfer.  The small vessels only account for about 6 percent of the catch. As a result of this impasse, the whole agreement fell through and the UK fleet therefore resumed fishing in the contested grounds leading to the skirmishes at the end of August.
There were a number of attempts to get the negotiations back on track. I had numerous discussions with Stephane Travert, my French counterpart to try to identify a way forward. We then hosted a round of negotiations in London followed by a second round in Paris. In the end, finding a way to make a deal work that would bind the smaller vessels proved too difficult. It would have required quota on other fish stocks to be swapped and then leased to try to raise a financial compensation package and that is always a harder and less certain deal to bank. By this time of the year, the weather starts to deteriorate so the value of unused quota can become less certain.
However, we got there in the end. An agreement was put back together for the over 15 metre vessels that is similar to the one that has been done in previous years. It means that the larger vessels will abide by the closure and in return will have the transfer of days at sea so that when the fishery does open they have the ability to fish. I always maintained that it was better for all sides to stand back up the conventional agreement that has stood the test of time than to have no agreement at all.
A number of commentators have inevitably attempted to link this dispute to Brexit.  However, it is an entirely unrelated episode. There was a similar dispute six years ago that led to the previous agreement. I have always said that, whether we are in or out of the EU, we will still negotiate with our neighbours and agree shared approaches on shared stocks, just as we do with Norway and the Faroes now. Fisheries policy is as much about international relations as it is anything else and always has been. After we leave the EU, there will still be annual discussions and agreements. The difference is that when we leave the EU we will be an independent state and we will conduct those negotiations on our own behalf rather than having to abide by what the European Commission decides.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Securing a brighter, better, greener future

Last week I introduced a new Agriculture Bill in parliament which will be debated later this autumn. Leaving the EU means that we have the chance to design the first independent agriculture policy for almost half a century. The last time we introduced such a wide-ranging Bill was in 1947. 
The current CAP accounts for almost 40 percent of the EU budget, and its influence is all pervasive. Some 80 percent of legislation affecting DEFRA comes directly from the EU and it is stifling. EU rules frequently make trying to do the simplest of things complicated and often impossible. The UK has argued for change over many years but the system has remained quite dysfunctional. Trying to design a one size fits all policy for twenty-eight different countries all with very different landscapes and agricultural structures has never made much sense. 
For far too long, our farmers have been held back by the stifling rules and often perverse incentives of the CAP. The lion’s share of money has been allocated based on the size of individual land holdings, not the contribution farmers make to society. These payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits. The top 10% of recipients currently receive almost 50% of total payments, while the bottom 20% receive just 2%. 
The new Agriculture Bill which I introduced last week marks a decisive shift in policy. We can now begin to reward farmers properly at last for the work they do to enhance the environment around us. We can now better appreciate the value farmers bring as food producers. It will help grow more high-quality food in a more sustainable way – and it will ensure public money is spent more efficiently and effectively. 
At the centre of the Government’s proposal is a new system that pays public money for public goods – those goods from which we all benefit but the market alone does not provide. The Bill will allow us to devote public money to enriching wildlife habitats, preventing flooding, improving the quality of air, soil and peat, raising standards of animal welfare and planting trees to help manage and mitigate the effects of climate change. 
A new Environmental Land Management system will be developed over the next few months and years and will be rolled out from 2021. The government will work together with farmers to design, develop and trial the new approach. Under the new system, farmers and land managers who provide the greatest environmental benefits will secure the largest rewards. 
We are also introducing new powers to improve fairness and transparency in the supply chain so that farmers can get a fairer share of the value of the food they produce. If farmers received a fairer share of the price their food sells for they wouldn't need subsidy. Finally, we are making provision to award Grant and investment to farms to help them reduce costs and improve their profitability. 
Despite all the arguments about Brexit, working on future policy with the freedom to innovate and think things through from first principles has been incredibly liberating for a department like Defra which had had to shoulder so much of the burden of EU membership over decades.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Cornwall’s Pasty and Mining Heritage

Last weekend I attended the annual Pasty Festival in Redruth, where we celebrated the international home of the Cornish Pasty. Luckily the weather remained warm and sunny and it was great to see a large number of people at the event. 
The Cornish pasty is recognised across the world. When Cornish miners fanned out across the world, they took the pasty with them. I remember a former colleague from Australia telling me about the Cornish festivals that used to take place in the town where he grew up. We have also developed great links with Real Del Monte in Mexico. I have met representatives of the town on several occasions, including local pasty makers. Hundreds of Cornish miners ended their lives in the area and many are to be found in one of the local cemeteries, apparently facing home to Cornwall which was a common request at the time. 
Today the Cornish heritage is evident in some of their architecture and in their love of pasties (or pastes). Last Saturday, like many others, joined in the festivities and made a pasty of my own. Apparently, my attempt was not bad for a beginner and my pasty actually looked like a pasty you would buy from the shop! 
When I first became an MP, the Government announced that it would put VAT on freshly baked pasties. The traditional exemption from VAT was what civil servants described as an “anomaly”. Along with my fellow Cornish MPs, I battled to ensure this didn’t happen. Thankfully, common sense prevailed. It was partly this debacle that led to the idea of a pasty festival in Redruth. 
Last week I also visited Moseley Museum at Tumblydown Farm in redruth. They have a really good museum at the Farm that showcases Cornwall’s mining heritage and has a variety of attractions for both children and grownups alike. From model train layouts, to exhibits about the mining experience, outdoor train rides and even a tea room, there is plenty for all the family to do. 
Cornwall has a unique culture and an industrial heritage to be proud of, with Redruth playing a particularly important role as one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and as the centre of the Cornish diaspora across the world. In its prime, Redruth was at the heart of the tin mining industry and there were many feats of engineering developed in Cornwall at that time. 
After the decline in the fortunes of tin mining in the late nineteenth century, there was a huge exodus to the new world with Cornish tin miners founding the industry in Australia, California, South Africa, South America and Mexico. As a result, today there are some six to eight million people making up a worldwide Cornish diaspora and the vast majority of them can trace their family roots back to Redruth. 
Across Cornwall we are lucky to have a number of reminders that point us back towards our heritage. From our mining heritage commemorated at the new Redruth Town Archives to our pasties and international connections. In such a fast moving world it is often refreshing to be able to pause for a moment and remember all that has gone before us.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

This week

I very rarely use this column to comment on another political party. Generally, I prefer to focus on topical issues whether they be local or national. In addition, there is no doubt that every political party has its share of problems from time to time, I don't pretend otherwise so I tend not to point the finger. 
However, the resignation this week of the respected Labour MP Frank Field is a sad moment for our politics and a poor reflection on current events in the Labour Party. I have known Frank Field for almost twenty years. He was briefly a Minister under Tony Blair but was too independent minded so he got moved out. In the time since, he has carved out a position as a highly respected and, yes, independent minded, MP. While he has always been a passionate Labour politician, he was also always willing to work with MPs from other parties to try to deliver on issues. I first worked with him when he was one of a group of fifty Labour MPs who refused to toe the party line on joining the euro and he campaigned to keep the pound. Years later, he campaigned alongside many of us to leave the EU too. He has also been a passionate campaigner on issues such as poverty and has led some respected work on policies to help food banks. He has met representatives from the local food bank here in Camborne. 
Frank Field cited a culture of "nastiness, bullying and intimidation" that had taken hold in the Labour Party in recent times. He is not the first to raise the alarm at these tribal and aggressive tactics. Earlier this summer, in Cornwall, two leading Labour members, Anna Gillett and Penny West resigned from the party after saying that some activists in the local party had been using bullying tactics. In March, Tim Dwelly, the former Leader of the Labour Party in Cornwall also quit the party over bullying. The same story is being played out across the country. Lifetime Labour supporters and activists who have given years to helping in elections have been forced out and made to feel unwelcome as a new culture of factionalism, intolerance and aggression has taken hold. 
We had a glimpse of this in the 2017 General Election. The local hustings that took place were often hijacked by orchestrated heckling and shouting. Often local residents were made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable at such events and left early. The Labour Party has had to continue wrestling with these factions ever since. 
The tone of the debate in the 2017 election has caused a parliamentary committee to recommend new laws to try to stop bullying and intimidation of candidates. We live in a difficult time when politics is very polarised and divided and when we are trying to unite the country behind the decision to leave the EU, while putting in place a new partnership based on friendship and cooperation. I have always had great respect for the volunteers of all political parties who go out to knock on doors and deliver leaflets during elections to try to advance the cause they believe in. Our democracy could not function without them. However, whatever our political views, whatever party we vote for at elections and whether we voted to leave or voted to remain, we must always cherish free speech and treat one another with respect, even as we disagree and engage in vigorous debate. That applies within parties as well as the debate that takes place between parties. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Regeneration

When I was first elected I always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. This summer I have been working to maintain momentum on some of the key projects I helped get off the ground. 
Firstly, on Hayle Harbour, I did a lot of work early on to help overcome some problems with English Heritage and to try to get the previous owner ING to work in closer partnership with the local community. Now that all the infrastructure has been put in place with a new bridge to North Quay and with the harbour walls repaired and the new ASDA built and trading successfully, we need to progress the other phases of the regeneration, completing the mixed development on the rest of South Quay and building the proposed flats and houses on North Quay. Progress has been complicated by numerous changes of ownership and a slowdown in house building but plans are now progressing for North Quay. Earlier this summer I met the current owners to discuss their plans and to encourage them to move forward now that all the other work has been completed. 
Secondly, the Kresen Kernow Cornwall archive is now really taking shape on the site of the old brewery in Redruth. I pressed hard to get Redruth designated as the venue for the archive project and also to help broker the agreement between the owner of site and Cornwall Council. We have also managed to secure substantial lottery funding. However, we now need to ensure that we get the design of the proposed development on the remainder of the site right. There have been some concerns expressed by councillors about the nature of the development currently proposed so there is more to be done to try to get a final outcome that everyone will be comfortable with. 
At Camborne, I needed to do a lot of work a few years ago to secure the funding needed to build out the east-west link road which has opened up the potential for new development around the old South Crofty mine site and the rest of the derelict land around Tuckingmill. There have been delays in bringing forward the development potential of this huge site because of difficulty in agreeing a joint plan between Cornwall Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and the private company that owns the majority of the site. I had to get involved last year to try to encourage the HCA to work more constructively with the other landowners on the site to try to keep things moving and I think progress has now been made and various plans are starting to come forward for approval. 
Finally, it's not just the regeneration of buildings and the urban environment that we need. We also need enterprise and industry that will create jobs. I am continuing to work with the new owners of South Crofty on their plans to build a new, modern mine targeting tin and lithium and I am also continuing to work on securing support to build a new Fibre Park that can be home to the growing computer software industry we have here in Camborne and Redruth.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

St Michael’s Hospital

This week over the skies of West Cornwall, a new baby was born en-route to Treliske hospital after his mother went into labour while on the Isles of Scilly. There was no midwife on the islands so midwife Linda Benson was picked up and travelled with the coastguard to run a special mission. 
The NHS is a great British institution which all of us will rely on it at some point in our lives. The many hard-working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of. Locally across Cornwall we are fortunate to have a number of excellent hospitals delivering high quality care to those who need it most. From St Michael's Hospital, which is already a national leader in breast surgery, to Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics, residents have access to some of the best care possible. 
Periodically there are scare stories about the future of St Michael's which is unsettling for staff and unfair. The truth is very different. St Michael’s hospital is helping more people than ever. According to the Friends of St Michael’s, the hospital already delivers over 95 percent of all breast cancer operations in Cornwall, about 1200 operations a year which is an extraordinary feat. A few years ago, I met some of the team who lead on this work and they are exceptionally talented, and renowned nationally for the quality of their care and expertise. 
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has also recently announced additional funding at St Michaels to expand the work that it does on orthopaedic care and increase the number of people cared for at hospital in Hayle. For a number of years, it has been clear that there is capacity to do more at St Michael's and there were concerns two years ago that too much orthopaedic work was being centralised at Trelsike which is already under pressure and stretched to capacity. This change of approach with more done in Hayle should help tackle patient delay for operations, reduce cancellations and shorten the average length of stay as well as releasing space at Treliske. 
The improvements will also see the Trust increase the percentage of planned orthopaedic procedures at St Michael’s Hospital from the existing 69% to over 90% - more than 500 cases more per year by 2019. Treliske has had some difficult times in recent years but St Michael’s Hospital has been rated ‘Outstanding’ for caring by the Care Quality Commission and this investment by the Trust will help to build on this reputation and ensure all patients get excellent care. 
The story of investment across the local level is also being matched by that on the national level. Recently the Government announced that it will increase NHS funding by almost £400 million a week - more than £20 billion a year - by 2023/24 as part of a historic long-term funding plan for the NHS. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements and celebrate the good news that. The work done at St Michael's continues to be one of the positive stories about our local NHS.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

'To Hell with the Bank'

My father passed away almost two years ago and this weekend, at Trevaskis Farm, we are reopening the Organic Kitchen Garden in his memory. My father was the founder of Trevaskis Farm way back in 1979 and growing fruit and vegetables was his passion. In later life he created a demonstration garden on the farm and my sister has now restored it.

In the final year of his life he also wrote a book which we have also launched this week. Today Trevakis Farm is a great success but it has not always been plain sailing. Every life has its set backs and share of problems. In the early 1990s our family farming business suffered some serious sets backs with bad weather which culminated in losses and then an acrimonious dispute with Barclays Bank who tried to withdraw their funding. My father's book "To Hell with the Bank", tells the story behind those traumatic events in 1995. 
The business had expanded to try to keep the oldest family farm within family ownership following the retirement of my Great Uncle. A series of set backs meant that things did not go entirely to plan but the risks had always been acknowledged and we just needed a bank that would give us time and space. My father put forward a radical plan to slash debts by a third and consolidate the business which the bank's agricultural advisers supported. However, other parts of the bank wanted to wind the business down. When they attempted to send in the receivers, they got more than they bargained for and there was an extraordinary legal battle that raged for a year before the business was finally free and able to grow again. 
My own experience of that traumatic event is one of the catalysts that got me interested in politics. I saw some things about our law that were not right and I saw things happen which were wrong and totally unfair. When I first became an MP I introduced a Bill to Parliament called the Secured Leding Reform Bill. It sought to rebalance the law away from lenders and in favour of enterprise and the small business people who are the backbone of our economy. Under the current law, if you have a home and you fall behind on your mortgage payments, the lender has to get a "possession order" from the court before they are able to do anything or seize and sell your property. The courts do not grant these orders lightly and will take account of any circumstances an individual might have suffered such as losing their job or having a short term financial crisis in their family. The result is home repossession is usually a final resort. However, when it comes to farm land or any other commercial property, there are no rights at all. A bank can simply walk in and take possession and then auction your property without any recourse to the courts. I think that is totally wrong. 
People who offer banks their property as security for a loan deserve some protection in law. They are trusting that lender to behave responsibly and often the property they have represents their life's work or in some cases the capital that a family might have built up through generations of work. It is completely unjust that anonymous risk management officers working far away from the business currently have the right in law to seize and sell that life's work without first requiring permission from a court. My Bill would have introduced such a right. It didn't make it through on the first attempt but this remains unfinished business. 
"To Hell with the Bank" by Paul Eustice is available to buy online through lulu.com or at Trevaskis Farm.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Help to Buy

I have always believed it is important to help young families fulfil the ambition of owning their own home. Over time, owning an asset like your own home gives you some financial security and allows you to set down roots. Twenty years ago it was possible to get relatively affordable mortgages for 95 percent of the value of a property and this meant that people who were working could generally save a five percent deposit. However, after the banking crisis in 2008 things went into reverse. Banks and mortgage companies now expect a much higher deposit than was the case twenty years ago, typically 25 percent which means that it's much harder for young families to purchase their first home. 
A few years ago the government introduced a new "Help to Buy"scheme where government would help to underwrite the deposit in order to ensure normal families who work hard but don't have large incomes or even large savings, could be supported to purchase their first home. The scheme was available on certain new build properties and it has been a success. There are some good examples of he scheme around Camborne and Redruth for instance at the Heartlands site. In total, in Camborne and Redruth, Help to Buy has supported 212 households buying a new build home.
There is no doubt that nationally we have a housing shortage. A combination of population growth and issues like family breakdown means that many families are struggling to find a home that delivers their needs. In Cornwall, the issue is exacerbated in some areas by second home owners. So, as well as helping first time buyers purchase their first home through schemes like Help to Buy, we do also need to build more homes. 
I have always said that we must protect green spaces and that there should be a principle of building on brownfield sites before greenfield sites, especially around our towns. Developments should also be done with communities, not to them and we should challenge developers to take on difficult sites rather than go for easy development options on greenfield sites and urban extensions. In Cornwall we are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have a beautiful landscape but we are also a narrow peninsula and we must take care to protect the beauty of our countryside. 
In our area we have had some successes with new homes being built on derelict sites that have helped regenerate our urban sites as well as providing new homes. The development at Trevu Road by the train station in Camborne and also at Heartlands are good examples of tastefully done regeneration which celebrates the industrial heritage of our area, tidies up derelict sites and provides new homes. 
We also need to ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place to support new homes. With all of the hot weather and drought conditions we have been experiencing it is easy to forget the threat of floods associated with over-development. Recently DEFRA announced that they would be investing an extra £40million to boost regeneration and better protect homes and businesses against flooding across the UK. Locally in Cornwall many have experienced first-hand the devastation that flooding can cause to homes and properties. As part of the funding boost to flood defences, the Portreath Flood Alleviation Scheme will receive an additional £1.50million funding to help protect homes and businesses in the area. At a time when we are seeing more extreme weather both here in the UK and abroad it is vital that we continue to invest in these vital schemes.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Recess

Parliament has now broken for the summer and it’s been good to get back to the cooler weather in Cornwall. Westminster has been hot and bothered in more ways than one in recent weeks. However, when we all return in the autumn, there will remain some important decisions to make as far as negotiation with the EU is concerned. 
The EU referendum was divisive and parliament sadly remains divided today. The Prime Minister has a difficult task trying to put together a position that can command the support of all sides in parliament. The refusal of some MPs to respect the result of the referendum is undermining our country in these important negotiations with the EU about a future partnership. 
In my view we need to put the arguments of the past behind us, and unite to make a success of Brexit with a new partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. If we get this right we can reassure those who are nervous of change while also implementing the decision taken by our country in 2016. However, it is also important to remember that we do not need permission from the EU to leave. It was a decision to leave, not a negotiation. Parliament has already passed the legislation to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and to end the supremacy of EU law in March next year. All that we are really negotiating at the moment are the terms of any possible future partnership. 
The Prime Minister has been clear that she believes the latest position she has put forward should serve to unblock the negotiations and get the talks moving forward. Her proposal would mean that we would have full control of our own fishing waters, would have full control of our agriculture policy and we would have our own independent immigration policy and trade policy. The supremacy of EU law would end but we would agree to some regulatory alignment with the EU on a narrow set of issues around product standards which affect border checks. The ball is now in the EU's court and we will find out by the autumn whether they are serious. 
As the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, I have been working hard in recent weeks on two important Bills. The first will create the powers for us to design our own independent fisheries policy and to control access to our waters in future. The second is an Agriculture Bill which sets out the powers we need to put in place new schemes that really deliver for farming and our environment once we are free from the EU and can scrap some of the pointless bureaucracy and paperwork that goes with the CAP. 
However, for now, I am focusing on issues closer to home. Last week I attended a roundtable meeting with representatives from voluntary sector organisations in Cornwall. The meeting was a great way to bring together MPs and voluntary sector organisations from across Cornwall to talk about a variety of matters from loneliness, to future funding arrangements for Cornwall, and looking at Social Action Projects. We discussed some of the challenges we have in Cornwall especially when it comes to transport and the importance of the charity and voluntary sector to help address need, especially when it comes to early interventions on issues like mental health. 
I also recently took the time to hold an open surgery in Redruth to meet local people and hear some of their concerns and cases that they might have. One of the things that persuaded me to stand for election in the first place was seeing the work that MPs do in their constituencies to help people deal with specific problems in their daily lives. You can’t always solve the problem, but you can always try, give advice and lend a helping hand. When you do succeed, it makes the job worthwhile. I hold regular surgeries in my office in Camborne and if you have a case that you would like assistance with, then please email my office at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or by phone on 0207 219 7032. 

Friday, 27 July 2018

Universal Credit

Last week I made one of my regular visits to the local Job Centre at Redruth. One of the biggest successes of the last eight years has been the astonishing turnaround in the job market. Britain is working again. When Gordon Brown left office, youth unemployment was a major problem and unemployment was rising. Eight years later, the unemployment rate is the lowest since the early 1970s and level of employment are at an all time high.
In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, unemployment is now significantly below the national average which is quite a change and reflects the fact that we are attracting new industries to the area. The total number of unemployed claimants for June 2018 was 840. This represented a rate of 2.1% of the economically active population aged 16-64, lower than the equivalent UK average claimant rate of 2.8%.
It is also worth noting that since 2010, the majority of employment growth has been in both full-time and permanent roles so the allegation that all jobs today are on so called "zeros hours contracts" is not correct. In addition, this astonishing turnaround has been achieved while there have been major increases in the minimum wage and also the new roll out of the National Living Wage so that those on the lowest incomes have had a significant pay rise. These changes have had particular relevance in Camborne and Redruth.
However, my main reason for wanting to meet the Job Centre this time was to get a view from the coal face about the new Universal Credit which is now being rolled out in earnest. The idea behind the Universal Credit is to simplify the benefits system so that many former types of support are merged into one single benefits payment. Support will be tapered so that it always pays to work more hours or seek higher pay rather than get by on benefits. It also means that the level of benefit support automatically changes month to month based on how much they earn in real time. So, if someone takes more hours during a busy period they will be better off but they will also have the security of knowing that if their hours go back down a few months later then support will automatically kick back in without them having to fill out a load of forms again.
This is vital because for far too long people have been trapped in poverty by the old system because if they worked too many hours or earned too much then they would lose all their benefits and then find it a fight to get back on the system should things change again. Under the old system it literally was not worth working longer hours or in some cases people would be worse off working more hours. Employers used to complain that people told them they were "not allowed" to work more than sixteen hours a week. That is crazy. The old system disincentivised work and change was desperate required.
However, as with any policy, you have to get the delivery right as well as the concept behind the policy right. Critics have recently cast doubt on the new system so I wanted to work out whether anything was going wrong in terms of the delivery that needed addressing. Just over a year ago there had been concerns that making payments monthly rather than weekly would cause problems. So, changes were made to address that. It is now very easy to get an advance payment to help cashflow in the changeover.
Talking to staff who, in some cases, had been with the Job Centre for over twenty years, they were really enthusiastic about the change. They say that they have been really engaged in the design on the new system. Whereas, in the past, everyone had to come in every week to "sign on', now there is much more discretion for an individual "job coach" to decide how frequently a job seeker should attend the office. There is far more done on a simple online portal which is easy to use and can be used to give advice and support. Anyone who needs help in the job centre to use the online system automatically gets it. There is an assigned case officer who looks after a group of job seekers meaning that trust can develop. The system is easier both for those who need to use it an those who are implementing it. The conflict and tension of the old system has been largely removed.
Reforming the welfare system and supporting people back into work go hand in hand. For too long, too many people were left languishing on benefits and trapped in a life of poverty. Helping them go back to work has been one of the primary objectives of the Government in recent years and the results are showing.
As with any new system there will always be problems that come up which require attention, and lessons were learned from some of the pilots. However, I am now very optimistic about the benefits that the new Universal Credit will deliver for people on lower incomes in Camborne and Redruth.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cornwall – The Powerhouse of the South West

After another turbulent week in parliament it was good to get back to Cornwall at the end of last week to focus on some of the local issues where things are more positive and less fraught with argument. Liz Truss, the Treasury Minister was on a visit to Cornwall to meet some of the new entrepreneurs in the computer software industry around Camborne, Pool and Redruth and to hear about their plans to take this sector to the next level.
Over the last two or three years, we have seen growing momentum behind the embryonic computer software industry here in West Cornwall.  A recent national study identified Camborne and Redruth as one of the fastest growing computer software clusters in the country with huge growth in jobs and turnover. Last week saw the annual "Agile on the Beach" conference at Falmouth University which brings together leading computer software experts and designers to address the challenges and developments in the industry. The event was put together by a forward-thinking group of software entrepreneurs from the area and is now judged to be among the top three events in the world for software technologies.
"Agile" is a new management concept which can be applied to many disciplines including even in financial management but is especially used in software development.  It is about removing rigid processes, targets and management plans and replacing them with something more flexible, holistic and iterative so that complex challenges can be overcome by natural adaptation.
I have always said that I wanted to see new industries and higher paid jobs in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. The ingredients of success are the right infrastructure, like Superfast broadband, and the raw talent of bright individuals who can make things happen. Then you need critical mass so here is local resilience which we are now starting to get. Previously, people had to choose between leaving Cornwall and taking a well-paid career up country, or taking the lifestyle choice to live in the most beautiful part of the country but accepting a lower salary. The plans for a new Fibre Park and software academy at Pool continue to develop. It is the brainchild of Toby Parkin from Headforwards Software who we met last week. The concept is that you could have modern workspace perfect for the software industry co-located with a software academy so that you break down the barriers between training and industry. Talented code writers would occasionally take lectures and students would take part in real projects in real businesses to develop their skills.
Last week I also met a group of young people taking part in the annual National Citizenship Service (NCS) programme. Set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17-year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence. The group I met were working on a project to make a film raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse.

Thursday, 12 July 2018


A Brighter Future for Cornwall
Last week I launched our new White Paper on the future of fisheries. It sets out how we will take back control of our waters after we leave the EU and how we will adopt a new methodology for the allocation of fishing quotas internationally so that we get a much fairer settlement for our own industry and can develop sustainable fishing policy for the future. 

There has long been an historical injustice in quota allocations to the UK fleet. In 2015 the UK allocation of Cod was just 834 tonnes compared to 5,500 for France. For Plaice in the Channel it was 1,300 tonnes for the UK, but 2,600 for France.  Many local fishermen feel frustrated that they sometimes have to tie up their boats because they have run out of quota but they see French vessels continuing to fish in Cornish waters.  Taking back control of our fishing grounds will give us the opportunity to revisit quota allocations and make things fairer. 

However, I have always been clear that the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries.   We will not allow a free for all and one of the conditions of any future access we grant will be that all vessels fish sustainably and within limits to protect our marine environment. That is why the White Paper is so important because it sets out what our future relationship will be whilst still maintaining the highest possible standards for our marine life.

This is an exciting time not only for fishermen across Cornwall as we start to take back control of our waters and the fish stocks in them. I am proud that we have a White Paper that clearly sets out how the Government will monitor and maintain our future fishing stocks so that we can pass them onto future generations of fishermen. We will be able to re-establish national control for fisheries management out to 200 nautical miles or the median line as provided for in international law.  We will then negotiate new access and quota sharing arrangements that are fairer to our fishermen. 

Last week was also the NHS’s 70th birthday. The NHS is a great British institution which all of us will rely on it at some point in our lives. That’s one of the reasons why the Government recently announced that it will increase NHS funding by almost £400 million a week - more than £20 billion a year - by 2023/24 as part of a historic long-term funding plan for the NHS. The many hard-working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of.

Locally we have some great health services such as at St Michael's Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements and celebrate the good news. 

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Another busy week


Last week, it was good to catch up with various projects in and around the constituency.
Early Friday morning I met children from Portreath School who were going to clean up litter at Portreath Beach. It was great to be joined by so many enthusiastic children willing to give up their time and help clean up the beach, helping to raise awareness about the threat that rubbish poses to the marine environment.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Council where we talked through the issues affecting people throughout Cornwall. From planning and development to healthcare and funding arrangements, it was good to catch up with Council Officers and raise individual cases and concerns that I had. Following this I attended a Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group meeting. I regularly meet the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, and most recently I asked the KCCG about funding for children and adolescents funding helping to ensure that we have the right provisions in place to care for those who are most vulnerable.
In the afternoon I took time out to visit Mary Anson of Anson Care Services at Tremethick House. Mary has always done great work in helping provide a safe and caring environment for the elderly, and it was great to find out more about the work being done by her company. How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.  As more people live longer, more need help as they get older and we are lucky in Cornwall to have companies like Anson Care Services to step in when families and carers need help.
Shortly afterwards I visited Valued Lives, an innovative charity based in Cornwall offering community based care and support and helping change mental health care. In recent years, the number of people affected by mental health problems has increased. Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.
On Saturday I began the day with my usual weekly advice surgery to meet some of the people who have written to me to ask for help. One of the things that persuaded me to stand for election in the first place was seeing the work that MPs do in their constituencies to help people deal with specific problems in their daily lives. You can’t always solve the problem, but you can always try, give advice and lend a helping hand. When you do succeed, it makes the job worthwhile.
I then popped along to a charity event at Jenn’s Diner where they were raising awareness for Cornwall Blood Bikes. The charity are a group of self-funding volunteers who provide an ‘out of hours’ courier service to our NHS partners throughout Cornwall and beyond. It was great to hear first-hand some of the stories they have as well as the challenges they face. Later in the day I attended the Kehelland Methodist Chapel Tea Treat, meeting constituents and listening to their concerns before heading off to an evening meeting back up in Devon with a group of farmers to discuss future policy.
I was shocked to hear that the recent fire on top of Carn Marth may have been started deliberately. I want to thank the emergency services for their hard work and dedication in putting the fire out and keeping residents safe. I know what a beautiful area Lanner is and I hope it recovers from the fire.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Transport

In a peninsula like Cornwall with many rural areas, there will always be challenges to building a really resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made. We have invested to improve our railways and we have seen the introduction of the new fleet of Tinner buses which has marked a major step forward in the quality of our bus network. Not only is this providing both a cultural and historical link to the constituency, it’s also offering a reliable, comfortable bus service for all users.

This week, the House of Commons took a decision to expand Heathrow Airport with an additional runway. This has been a long running and contentious debate but in the end there was a substantial majority of MPs from all parties supporting the project. There could be opportunities for Cornwall by opening up new routes to and from Newquay,  improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that the new runway at Heathrow could see over 200,000 passengers fly between Newquay and London in the future, helping to secure the future of Newquay Airport which was once in doubt.

We are also making progress improving things on long haul journeys. From the moment I was elected, I fought to get an upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service, which has now been introduced. 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 and I am pleased that it will be able to provide more capacity and better facilities to compete with other forms of transport. 

However, the majority of people in Cornwall use public transport primarily for local journeys and that is where there is more to do. For me, the key to making things work better is to try to integrate or join up the bus network with the rail network more effectively than we have done in the past. This will allow rail and bus timetables to work in tandem to give people more frequent options to get from one destination to another. 

I have long pressed for a regular and routine 30 minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages. If we could join up commercial trunk routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that could really work and you could build more confidence in the public transport network.  This is now being made a reality.

The Department for Transport has also confirmed that from the summer there will be 29 new Intercity Express trains running on the London to Penzance Great Western Route, replacing the aged 40 year-old-stock and providing more than 1,000 extra peak time seats. This is great news for Cornwall.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

NHS Funding

The NHS is a great British institution. All of us will rely on it at some point in our lives.  Last year, the independent Commonwealth Fund looked at health services around the world and considered that what we have in the UK is the best in the world.  The many hard working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of.  Locally we have great work done at St Michael's Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics.  

This week, the Prime Minister has been clear that we cannot continue to put a sticking plaster on the NHS budget each year. She has announced that by 2023/24, the NHS England budget will increase by £20.5 billion in real terms compared with today. That means that our NHS Budget will be £394 million a week higher in real terms.
 
Additionally, the Prime Minister has announced that the Government will be coming forward with proposals to put social care on a more sustainable footing. This is particularly important for us here in Cornwall.
 
I have always been clear that the NHS should be free at the point of need and it is. Spending has continued to rise, but the NHS has also seen a huge increase in demand for its services.  As medical science advances and we live longer, the number of operations and the cost of medication has increased.  While we have over 12,000 more doctors and nurses than we had in 2010, they are being asked to do more. Since 2010, we are seeing 2.4 million more A&E attendances and 5.9 million more diagnostic tests every year. In 2016, the NHS in England performed an average of 4,400 more operations every day compared to 2010.  That is why many sense that there are pressures and why we need to do all we can to make things work more smoothly.
 
Earlier this year, the Government confirmed that NHS staff including nurses, midwives, cleaners and porters will receive a pay rise of between 6.5% and 29%. Additionally, the Health Secretary has announced the largest ever increase in NHS midwives and maternity support staff, with a plan to train more than 3,000 extra midwives over 4 years, starting with 650 more midwives in training next year, and planned increases of 1,000 in the subsequent years as capacity increases.

This will also build on existing, world-leading measures to make the NHS the safest place in the world to give birth. This includes an ambition to halve the rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths, and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 2025.
 
A record number of undergraduates will begin training by 2020 in the biggest NHS medical workforce expansion ever, with five new medical schools opening across the UK.  Peninsula Medical School is one of those which will be expanding. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements celebrate the good news that we have heard this week.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Murdoch Day and Brexit


Murdoch Day
After the success of the Royal Cornwall Show last week, I’m looking forward to attending Murdoch Day in Redruth this Saturday. There is always an excellent procession in the morning, involving many local schools, dance acts and bands.
 
It will be good to have the opportunity to catch up with the team at Murdoch House – the former home of William Murdoch, the inventor and engineer who was one of the pioneers of steam power development in Cornwall and also famously invented the first ever gas light using piped gas. It is great to have such an important heritage asset right in the middle of the town.
 
I remember attending in previous years, and there has been a fascinating exhibition of old photographs and newspaper cuttings on show. It serves as reminder of how much Redruth and the surrounding area gave to the rest of the world. Redruth is not just the industrial heart of Cornwall, it is also the home town for a great many of the seven million people around the world whose ancestors left Cornwall in the late 19th century to build the new world. Around a quarter of all the people who left Cornwall during this period came from the Redruth area and they travelled as far afield as Cape Town, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Wisconsin in the Unites States. Press cuttings from that time underline the human and social cost of this mass migration across the world in search of work, with many instances of families separated for the rest of their lives and with wives and young families often left behind.
 
The new Kresen Kernow archive will celebrate and chronicle some of this extraordinary history.  I campaigned hard to ensure that Redruth was selected as the location for the Archive Centre. Our town is home to the world wide Cornish diaspora because of the deep roots we have in the history of mining around the world.  I visited the project a few weeks ago, and the progress is astonishing. These are exciting times for Redruth as we see the key historic site of the brewery brought back into use to celebrate our history.
 
Getting on with Brexit.
Many people feel that parliament is taking too long getting on with implementing the decision our country took two years ago to leave the EU and restore national democracy.  Despite the frustrations, things are gradually moving forward.  As I write this we are about to face some close and difficult votes on amendments from the House of Lords.  By the time you read this you will know the outcome. In my view we need to put the arguments of the past behind us, and unite to make a success of Brexit with a new partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation.  But as we establish the rule of national law in this country, we must bring to an end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.