Thursday, 31 May 2018

Mental Health Hub at Treliske


Last week, the Government announced that the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust is being awarded almost £1.5M for a new mental health hub which aims to bring together a range of services supporting mental health, from psychiatric services in the NHS, through to the police and social services and also groups dealing with drug and alcohol dependency.  The idea is that bringing all these services together in one location will help ensure we can get the right support to people quickly.

This is really good news for Cornwall. Of all the successful bids for this funding, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been awarded the largest sum of money. This new investment is in addition to that previously announced for a young people’s mental health unit in Bodmin.
Everyone suffers setbacks in life and for many, the pressures of modern living can cause mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. In recent years, the number of young people affected by mental health problems has increased markedly. 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 cruel and offensive.

Some good work is done by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) service, which helps children and young people deal with emotional, behavioural or mental health issues, but demand for these services has risen exponentially.  There are also some good charities out there which help provide the support needed. A great example is the Invictus Trust.
At the end of last year, the Government published proposals to improve mental health support for children and young people in England. Over £300 million has been made available and planned measures include encouraging every school and college to have a ‘designated senior mental health lead’, setting up mental health support teams working with schools to give children and young people earlier access to services, and piloting a 4-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services.

There is a growing realisation that mental health is complex and we must be careful not to assume that medical professionals can provide all the answers.  They can treat the symptoms to varying degrees of success but we need to think more as a society about how we live our lives and take care to pay attention to our own wellbeing and that of those around us.  Of course, there will always be a need for medical interventions on the most serious mental health conditions.  However, when it comes to milder and more common conditions such as depression, there have been a number of highly successful projects that show that getting people out into the countryside where they can connect with nature can help.  Others have discovered that finding a connection with the soil through gardening or the companionship of pets and the responsibility of caring for animals can help.  

We do not yet have all the answers to this growing problem in the modern world, but it is clear that part of the solution lies in the way we all live our lives to try to reduce the number of people needing support in the first place.  


Thursday, 24 May 2018

Plastic

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet opened people’s eyes to the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and marine environment catapulted the issue up the agenda, locally and nationally.
 
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming pupils from Portreath School to parliament. They addressed a parliamentary committee on the work they have done to tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans. They have persuaded suppliers to change from plastic to cardboard packaging, their milk now arrives in glass bottles, and they help with beach cleans at Portreath. I also received letters from a number of students at Mount Hawke Academy, all of whom are campaigning for Parliament to do more to tackle the problem. Last week, I responded to a debate about plastic bottles and coffee cups in the House of Commons on behalf of the Government. I was pleased to be able to pay tribute to the work done by these local children to make sure that more is being done to look after our environment.
 
Cornwall is also home to Surfers Against Sewage, which has done great work in campaigning nationally against marine pollution. It has been at the forefront of a campaign to reduce the use of plastics on the parliamentary estate. That campaign has been a success, and parliamentary authorities have announced a series of steps to reduce plastic waste.
 
Plastic has always been a particular concern; it takes hundreds of years to break down and has been the subject of high profile debate recently.  The problem is compounded year after year as new plastics find their way into the oceans while those that have already been there for decades remain and break down into smaller particles.  
 
The government has pledged to crack down on plastics by eliminating all avoidable plastic waste through extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers, removing consumer single use plastics from the government estate, supporting the water industry to significantly increase water fountains and working with retailers on introducing plastic-free supermarket aisles.

The result of the 5p plastic bag charge introduced two years ago has been amazing with a drop in carrier bag use of about 80 percent.  We have also banned microbeads in cosmetics. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles used to give a gritty texture to some soaps but which sewage systems are incapable of filtering so they end up in the sea.   
 
A recent call for evidence is clear that we will consider a levy on disposable cups. We also have consultations coming up on banning plastic straws, plastic stirrers and cotton buds, and on introducing a deposit return scheme.
 
Our successes show us that we can all make a difference if we act. I could not be more proud of the leading role that Cornwall is taking in tackling plastic, and helping ensure that the UK is a world leader in environmental protection.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

South Crofty

There has been much talk about South Crofty in recent weeks, both locally and nationally. March 2018 marked 20 years since South Crofty sadly closed its gates for the last time. This week, South Crofty has been in the national spotlight again. Strongbow Exploration, the Canadian company which bought South Crofty in July 2016, has announced plans to float on the Alternative Investment Market next month. This is great news for us here in Cornwall. Strongbow is looking to raise £25m during the next 18 months to progress to a production decision.
 
It is estimated that production could begin in 2021. I am in regular contact with Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Strongbow, and there is every reason to be optimistic.
 
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. Global demand for tin is predicted to remain stable, but supply is likely to decline over the next few years due to a fall in production in China, Malaysia and Peru.
 
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.
 
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.
 
Since being elected, I have prioritised economic regeneration. The East-West link road has played a crucial part in unlocking the potential of the derelict land around South Crofty.  We have seen Pool transformed over the last four years with new businesses setting up at the Pool Innovation Centre, a makeover for the college and, of course, the completion of Heartlands.  We are seeing new employment space opened up to attract new industries and better paid jobs. This latest news about the mine is good news for our area, and we have much to look forward to as we move forwards.
 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Kresen Kernow

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.

 
Last week, I visited the Kresen Kernow Cornish Archive. It has undergone quite a transformation since my last visit. Huge progress has been made. The roof is now being put on, and it was great to see the purpose built rooms that will house thousands of manuscripts, maps and photographs as well as other documents relating to Cornwall.

Redruth beat competition from other towns to win designation by Cornwall Council as the preferred site for the project and saw off fierce competition from dozens of other bids nationally to successfully land funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

I argued Redruth was the natural home for this archive project. Redruth is the most international of Cornish towns. Redruth Town Council has shown tremendous enthusiasm for the new archive project and credit should also go to both existing and former local councillors for their support.


I have met Horace Yao, the Honk Kong based owner of the brewery site in Redruth, on many occasions now to try to help progress plans. Mr Yao bought the brewery site some twenty years ago and ran the famous Cornish Rebellion and Newquay Steam beer brands for several years. Since then there have been a couple of schemes to try to find a future for the site which didn't work out in the end and he has shown tremendous patience in being prepared to go through another process which has succeeded. The most sought after residential address in Hong Kong is actually along Cornwall Street which shows how far our international connections spread and it is fitting that there should be a Hong Kong connection in creating the most sought after venue in Cornwall.


It is this history that makes Redruth the ideal place to host the new Kresen Kernow archive project and that is why I have supported this initiative from the start.

 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill

In the last week, I have been contacted by many constituents about the Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill. Last Friday, I was one of the MPs that stayed in London to vote for the Bill to protect emergency workers. In the end, there was a consensus on all sides of parliament and a vote was not required, meaning that the Bill has now passed all its Commons stages and will now be considered by the House of Lords.
 
I think that strengthening the law to protect staff in our emergency services who are just doing their job is now needed.  In the current internet age, there has been a coarsening of our society with more people showing aggression and intolerance and more people finding themselves on the receiving end of abuse.  We see it in the nature of some of our political debate with intolerant attitudes which can undermine freedom of speech.   
 
We have also sadly seen an increase in abuse and physical attacks aimed at front line staff in our emergency services.  This is totally unacceptable. The great strength of our emergency services stems from the men and women who work in them and the commitment they bring. We owe emergency service workers a debt of gratitude for the courage, commitment and dedication they demonstrate in keeping us safe and this needs to be reflected in the law.

The Bill would create a statutory aggravating factor. This means that when a person is convicted of a specific offence, the judge would have to consider the fact it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence. It will also create a new aggravated version of the offences of common assault and battery when committed against an emergency worker, for which the maximum allowed for common assault will be increased from six months to twelve months.
 
The Government has made clear that it supports the amendment which will see sexual assault added to the list of offences to which the Bill’s statutory aggravating factor will apply.

The Bill covers all emergency workers, including police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel and it sends a very clear message that our society will not tolerate assault on the emergency services.  Sometimes, despite the nature of politics at the moment, parliament is capable of coming together in unity to deliver changes that matter.
 
Portreath School
 
Congratulations to pupils from Portreath School were in parliament last week to address a parliamentary committee on the work they have done to tackle the scourge of plastic waste. They have persuaded suppliers to change from plastic to cardboard packaging, their milk now arrives in glass bottles, and they help with beach cleans at Portreath. It is great to see a Cornish school teaming up with Surfers Against Sewage to take part in this campaign.