Thursday, 29 March 2018

Good news for our NHS this week

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.  
 
Despite all these achievements, I understand that there are some pressures on the NHS today, particularly during the winter months. I have always been clear that the NHS should be free at the point of need and it is. Spending has also continued to rise. In 2010 when Gordon Brown left office, spending on the NHS was £97 billion per year.  It will have gone up by over 25 percent by 2019/2020.   However, 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.
 

In recent days, there has been good news for our NHS. The Government has been able to confirm 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.
 
We have also heard this week that 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 and the good news that we have heard this week.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Employment

Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. In Camborne and Redruth, the number of claimants has nearly halved since 2010. We have a great deal to celebrate, but there is still more to do. I am clear that we must strive to continue to improve the support we offer to local people to help them back into work.
 
We must not underestimate the significance of apprenticeships and training. Cornwall College is the most successful provider of work based learning in the South West. Over a thousand apprentices are currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering. Last year, Ofsted praised the college as a catalyst for improving skills in Cornwall.
 
Just last week, I visited Focus Training. Focus Training is an independent training provider offering apprenticeships in specialist high skilled subjects in Cornwall and across the south west. It specialises in delivering electrical training and also gas, heating, plumbing and ventilation. It is just completing the doubling in size of its training facilities and workshops at its Redruth site. This is good news for our local area.
 
For too long, many of our brightest young people would leave Cornwall in search of new work opportunities. Now, as we continue to attract new industries and skilled jobs to Cornwall, it is vital that we continue to develop skills so that young people can take advantage of the new opportunities being created. As new companies arrive I want to see them become successful and profitable enough to offer higher wages so that we encourage people to take work and stay in work.

Superfast broadband brings a lot of opportunities. We are already beginning to feel the benefits, with software companies like Headforwards, Blue Fruit and LumiraDx growing in our area. Innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups.  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.
 
Economic regeneration and job creation have always been two of my top priorities. The Kresen Kernow archive project is progressing, the development of South Quay signals good news for the local economy, the East-West link road is unlocking Tuckingmill for development and facilities like the Pool Innovation Centre and Barncoose Gateway have attracted new businesses and start-ups to the area.

Also this week, I read that the President of the Camborne and Redruth District Lions Club, Paul Bray, announced that the club had raised over £10,000 for charity in the last year. I would like to pass on my warmest congratulations to all of those involved. The Lions Club is one of a number of local community groups that do a huge amount for our local area. It is important that we recognise their role.

 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A busy week!

Last week, it was good to catch up with various projects in and around the constituency.
 
On Friday, I visited Trevithick Learning Academy. I heard about the school’s Politics Day, which took place in February to celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, and women first being able to vote. It was good to hear that the students had become so engaged in the concept of democracy, and learning more about the way that our democracy works. I then went on to hear from four students who had stood to be “Prime Minister” for the day. The winning candidate implemented some very popular policies, including pancakes and Haribo for his fellow students!
 
Next on the agenda was a visit to SPARC at Redruth Rugby Club. SPARC has just begun a rugby based project for 14-16 year olds who have been, or are at risk of, being excluded from mainstream education. It was fantastic to see the increasing motivation and participation throughout the session, and I am confident that the project is going to be a huge success.
 
Later in the day, I met with Raoul Humphreys, Cornwall College, to catch up about everything that is going on there. I also met with a group of our fantastic local businesses and then I went on to Focus Training. Focus Training is an independent training provider offering apprenticeships in specialist high skilled subjects in Cornwall and across the south west. It specialises in delivering electrical training and also gas, heating, plumbing and ventilation. It is just completing the doubling in size of its training facilities and workshops at its Redruth site.

Next up was a meeting with Toby Parkins at Headforwards, where we discussed ongoing plans for a fibre park in Pool. Superfast broadband brings a lot of opportunities. We are already beginning to feel the benefits, with software companies like Headforwards, Blue Fruit and LumiraDx growing in our area. Innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups.  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.

Later in the day, I caught up with some of our local councillors to discuss some of the issues that local people have been bringing to their attention. The day ended with a meeting with the Penwith Beef Group and Praze Young Farmers.
 
Saturday was another busy day. I had a packed constituency surgery in the morning followed  by a visit to Maenporth and the Helford Passage, which were both affected by the damage done by Storm Emma. At Maenporth, things are almost back to normal. At Helford, funding has been confirmed to repair the road at the Ferry Boat Inn. I will be writing to the Environment Agency about flood defences at Maenporth, and I will be speaking to Cornwall Council about the urgent road repairs to make sure they are carried our in a timely fashion.
 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

South Crofty

It is 20 years ago this week that South Crofty sadly closed its gates for the last time. When I got elected, I said that my number one priority was economic regeneration. One of my hopes, which has remained a little elusive, is that South Crofty might re-open. But this week, fittingly, things took a step forward as Strongbow Exploration, the current owners of the mine, confirmed that they have raised the funds required to de-water the mine.
 
South Crofty’s headgear is iconic and known across the world as Cornwall’s last standing tin mine. I have been working with various stakeholders on plans to secure its future.
 
One of the challenges we face is ensuring that the “Red River” does not run red again. In the mining days of the past, various pollutants entered the water and gave it a red appearance (hence the name). We have to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and that we protect the ecology in and around the river. I worked with the Environment Agency and Strongbow, the owners of the mine, to find the right kind of filtration and water purification processes and permits were then issued late last year.
 
As always with mining, there have been many false starts. Tin prices vary, but have rallied of late. Demand for tin has increased dramatically. It is the main element used in solder, which joins up electronic circuit boards on mobile phones, tablets and TVs. These changes mean world tin prices are currently at around 20,000 dollars per tonne – an 8-10 fold increase on 1998. Strongbow believes that it could be in commercial production by as early as 2020, if things go to plan. They plan to build a new mine in the valley on the edge of the old site.
 
We have also learnt that Cornwall has considerable lithium reserves, including in South Crofty. Cornish Lithium is exploring for lithium within the hot springs that naturally occur beneath the surface in and around Cornish granites. The government as earmarked lithium as a metal of strategic importance to the country, and its use in electric cars makes it an important asset. So, the presence of metals in South Crofty that are in the vanguard of modern electronic technology creates a good chance that mining will resume.
 
Winter storms
 
On a less positive note, I was sorry to learn about the damage done by Storm Emma in recent days. At Maenporth, there has been considerable devastation to local businesses. The car park was seriously damaged and the road was littered with debris and large quantities of sand.
 
At the Helford, there has been extensive damage to the road by the Ferryboat Inn. The road has been all but lost to the sea in the bad weather. I will be visiting both sites this weekend. I have also spoken to local councillor John Bastin who has been in touch with local businesses. I am seeking to speak to Highways to ensure that repairs are carried out quickly. I would also like to thank all of those who have turned out to help clear up in the aftermath of the storm. 

Friday, 2 March 2018

Cornish Pasty Week

This week, I welcomed a delegation from the Cornish Pasty Association to Parliament. Association members and pasty producers were able to discuss the importance of the Cornish pasty industry to our local economy. I am clear that the Cornish Pasty will retain its protected status when we leave the EU.
 
This week marks the start of the very first Cornish Pasty Week. A delegation, including a giant Mr and Mrs Pasty, took over the sleeper train service from Cornwall to London on Sunday night. They visited landmarks including Buckingham Palace and the London Eye, before coming to parliament. The week will end with the World Pasty Championships taking place at the Eden Project. Pasty makers will descend from around Cornwall, the UK and the world to take part.

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.
 
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.
 
Cornish Pasty Week is a great celebration, and everyone can get involved. Brian Etherington’s in Redruth will be producing the largest pasty for the #pastysmile. Proper Cornish are giving away pasties on certain train services, whilst Warren’s Bakery are promoting their ‘pasty passport’ and a school competition to design a new pasty flavour.

These celebrations are taking place in the run up to St Piran’s Day. Over the past few years, we have seen a growing interest in Cornwall’s history and culture. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are at the very heart of this revival. The new Cornish archive, Kresen Kernow, is really taking shape on the site of the old brewery. I lobbied hard to ensure that Redruth, home to most of the world-wide Cornish diaspora, was chosen as the location for this project, which will create new jobs, housing and continue the wider regeneration of the area.

This weekend, I am looking forward to attending the St Piran’s Day Procession in Redruth. I will also be going to the St Piran’s Day festivities at the Buttermarket. This will include craft activities, food stalls and entertainment by Raise the Ruth singers.