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. 
 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Royal Cornwall Show

This week is the Royal Cornwall Show. I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall Show. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible, with an early start at 5 am for days in a row to get to the show and manage the gates before any of the traffic started to arrive. For many years we used to show our South Devon Cattle there. My brother will be there again this year with the family's prize winning Lop Eared Pigs, which is a rare breed native to Cornwall.

After a difficult winter and a very late spring, I know farmers have been running to catch up in recent weeks. Arable farmers have been working around the clock drilling crops. Livestock farmers have been working to finally turn their cattle out to grass, which will come as a relief to those who struggled with shortages of fodder at the end of winter.
 
On top of all of this, the deadline for submitting applications for this year’s Basic Payment Scheme passed in the middle of May with the customary good timing required under EU law. With all of these pressures on time, it is therefore impressive so many individual farmers found the time to make their own submission to our recent consultation on the future of agriculture policy in the UK. In total, more than 44,000 responses were received in just 10 weeks.

When you have an opportunity for great change, it is always important to receive lots of individual perspectives, because it is often where the most innovative ideas are to be found. A number of farmers have told me in recent weeks they thought the paper focused too much on the environment and not enough on food production.
 
I was concerned I might have missed something about the document I had signed off earlier this year, so I have read it again.
 
There is a chapter on a ‘successful future for farming’ and another on risk management and resilience. There is one on fairness in the supply chain, one on regulation and another on protecting remote farming.

Then there are subsections on research and development, labour availability and on maintaining standards in future trade deals. So, I do not agree the consultation did not address farming and food production. 

However, we also need to recognise the current Common Agricultural Policy is not about food production. In fact, the current area-based payment regime is explicitly not about food production. Instead, it is an upside-down system of subsidies which pays based on how much land someone owns or controls, regardless of what they do with it.
 
It is a system which encourages people to occupy land, but take few risks with it. With hindsight, the system for decoupling of farm payments 15 years ago was a mistake which created the bureaucratic quagmire we have today.

However, from where we are, moving over time to a system of payment for the delivery of public goods, such as high animal welfare standards, improved soil husbandry and more sustainable farming, must make more sense.