Thursday, 19 September 2019

Growing our towns - Redruth

At the height of the tin mining era, Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the land. After the loss of tin mining our fortunes fell behind other parts of the country but today there remains a legacy of that era with some fabulous and quite unique architecture in the town.
We have made good progress getting Redruth back on its feet. The town council now organises four events a year starting with St Piran’s Day, then Murdock day, the pasty festival and finishing with the Christmas lights parade. The support that these now receive from both local schools and local residents shows that the community is strong.
We have also seen numerous projects that have brought revival to the town. Krowji turned the old redundant grammar school building into a hub for creative arts and small businesses. A couple of years ago it completed a significant expansion and is now home to many new enterprises. The Kresen Kernow Archive project is now complete and opened s couple of weeks ago. It is a fantastic resource for the whole county and has led to the regeneration of the old brewery site. I worked with both Cornwall Council, the town council and the owner of the old brewery site to get this project in Redruth and secure the funds needed to complete it and it is great to see that work now complete. A committed team locally have also achieved a huge amount to bring the former butter market back into use as a public realm with a growing number of successful, often specialist shops, opening in recent years.
This week the government announced a new Historic Towns Fund to support regeneration of historic towns like Redruth. I am delighted that Redruth is one of just sixty nine towns nationally to be selected for access to this fund. It is designed to help regenerate old historic building and bring them back into use to help revive towns. Almost £14 million has been set aside for towns in the South West. Access to this fund will help us to build on what we have started with projects like Kernow by spreading the revival up into the town.
I want to work with the local community to identify which projects we should prioritise. There have already been a number of successful projects to bring shops back into use and to restore some of the traditional architecture. There is more work to be done around the butter market. There are also tentative plans to take over the Methodist Chapel by the railway station and bring it back into use as a community asset as a centre for performing arts. It is one of the largest chapels in Cornwall and is an important asset for the town.
The progress we have made to date shows that it is possible to turn the corner with some imagination and support. I am looking forward to building on what we have started with the local community.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Growing our towns

As I write this article, much of the attention in the media has focused on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the parliamentary processes that those who have failed to accept the referendum result have deployed to stop Brexit. Whilst the saga continues to rumble on, the Prime Minister has rightly continued to focus on the priorities that are important to the public.
In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new maternity unit and main entrance. We’ve also seen plans to increase the number of police on our streets, 10,000 new prison places, more funding for mental health services, and just last week a record £14billion cash boost for schools, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education.
In another sign that the Prime Minister is committed to delivering on his promises, the Government has announced plans to level up 100 towns across the country helping to correct the historic imbalances in local funding that some towns have experienced.
When I was first elected, I always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Over the last 9 years, I have worked hard to achieve this and in recent years we have made progress in regenerating our towns with the new link road, developments around Tuckingmill, the prospect of South Crofty reopening and new jobs in industries like computer software. But there has always been more to do to help level up our towns.
Towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle were at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. Over the years, with the loss of mining our fortunes waned and all too often the political attention was on big northern cities.
It is therefore very welcome to hear the news this week that Camborne had been selected as one of 100 pioneer towns selected to receive up to £25 million in funding for economic regeneration. The funding is part of a wider £3.6 billion Towns Fund separate from other funding pots which are focusing on areas with proud industrial and economic growth. This is fantastic news for residents in Camborne who have long been calling out for more funding for our towns, higher living standards and improved local facilities.
In the weeks ahead I will be working with local communities, businesses and local leaders to join forced and draw up ambitious plans to help transform Camborne’s growth prospects with a particular focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. This is an exciting time for Camborne, however I will continue to work with all our local communities to ensure that our towns continue to receive the support they need to ensure that our towns can look to the future with a new optimism.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Parliament returns

Now that Parliament has returned from the summer recess, much of the focus and attention in Westminster has shifted back to the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Last week the Queen approved the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament, bringing about an end to the longest parliamentary session since the Civil War and beginning the process for a Queen’s Speech. Many have characterised this action as a threat to democracy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The facts remain that prorogation before a Queen’s Speech is normal constitutional procedure, and that often when a new Prime Minister is appointed, they often have their own agenda and priorities which require them to be presented in the format of a Queen’s Speech.
The decision to end the current parliamentary session will enable the Prime Minister to put a fresh domestic programme in front of MPs for debate and scrutiny while also ensuring that there is good time before and after the European Council for Parliament to further consider Brexit issues.
However, whilst Brexit remains an important issue, it is right that we continue to focus on the crucial public priorities. In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new Maternity Unit and main entrance. The Prime Minister has also announced plans to increase the number of police on our streets whilst also delivering 10,000 new prison places. Locally in Cornwall we have also seen more money delivered for mental health services and young people in Cornwall ensuring that people get the support they need.
Earlier this week it was also announced that schools across the country will be boosted by a record £14 billion cash boost, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education. I regularly meet with teachers and headteachers across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and one of their biggest campaigns has always been fairer funding for our schools.
The Prime Minister’s announcement means that every school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year and every primary school will get a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22, rising at least in line with inflation. The cash boost will also help children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) with £700 million extra being attributed to these funds so that every pupil can access the education that is right for them and none are held back from reaching their potential.
No one can know for sure how events will develop over the next week, and by the time many of you read this column we could be in a clearer position. However, at times of uncertainty what people need from their government most of all is a determined clarity of purpose and with the election of Boris Johnson we now have it.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The growth of St Michael’s hospital

Last weekend I visited St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle to see the recent investment in new facilities that is now allowing the majority of orthopaedic work in Cornwall to be transferred from Treliske to Hayle. St Michael’s has always had an exceptional reputation for its role as a centre of excellence on breast cancer with new investment made about eight years ago and the leading reputation of some of the surgeons who work there. In recent years there have periodically been scare stories that the future of the hospital is in doubt. However, far from losing services, more are being transferred there.
There has always been some orthopaedic work done at St Michael’s but the lack of adequate isolation units for patients who develop infections or complications meant that patients who were judged to be higher risk tended to be operated on at Treliske. The new investment made last year with the building work completed at the beginning of this year means there are now three isolation rooms which have enabled far more hip replacements and other similar operations to move to St Michael’s from Treliske.
One of the key ways to stabilise Treliske Hospital is to take some of the unnecessary burdens off it. It has been under intense pressure with an exponential rise in demand. Steps can include reducing the pressure on A&E by introducing additional critical care units at other sites so that people with minor injuries can be treated without creating a burden on the main A&E service. There are also many routine operations that are far better managed at satellite sites run by the RCHT, like St Michael’s, leaving Treliske to focus its energies on its core function as an acute hospital for the more risky operations and emergencies.
The NHS is a great British institution and the dedicated staff who work in it show tremendous commitment and this was evident as always at St Michael’s last week. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was in Cornwall to visit Treliske and meet staff there to talk about some of the issues they have faced. Boris Johnson recently announced some major new investments in Treliske to upgrade facilities such as the maternity services. The hospital has had its share of problems in the past but is starting to turn the corner and it was good that Boris Johnson took the opportunity of a visit to Cornwall to meet NHS staff.
I hold advice surgeries most weeks and have a dedicated team who are here to help unblock problems. If you have a problem that you need help solving, why not email us or drop into our Camborne office to arrange to meet one of our team. I can be contacted at, by telephone on 0207 219 7032 or by appointment in our Camborne Office at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A tougher approach to policing

The election of Boris Johnson has reinvigorated Government in his first few weeks setting a clear and determined course. Since his election, the Prime Minister has announced a relaxation of migration rules for scientists, £1.8 billion for the NHS including a new maternity and children’s unit for Treliske and a raft of other commitments to address the concerns that many have had.
Over the weekend, it was also announced that the Government would be delivering 10,000 new prison places, as well as a number of tougher anti-crime policies not to mention a larger rollout of stop and search. These measures are in addition to the 20,000 extra police officers that were announced during the Prime Minister’s Conservative leadership election campaign. The Prime Minister has a plan and it is refreshing to see Government delivering on the issues that matter most to people.
Recently I took part in walk around with police officers in Camborne to understand the challenges that the police face, as well as talking to local residents and business owners about their concerns. Over the last few weeks I have received reports that some businesses have experienced problems with antisocial behaviour and I wanted to get a better understanding of the concerns of local businesses and shop-goers. It was also a good way for me to speak to local residents and tell them about some of the great work that is going on across Cornwall to deliver what our communities want and expect.
In Cornwall, the local police have piloted successfully the Tri-Service Safety Officer role. It’s the embodiment of the blue light services in one role, combining the skills of a trained firefighter, a co-responder paramedic for the ambulance service and having community safety accreditation from the police. The individuals (and there are ten now) are highly skilled, highly trained, highly professional and are there to respond to community need and based in our more rural and remote areas. Its been an innovative way of providing good neighbourhood policing whilst not losing police officers.
Here in Cornwall it is right that we continue to look at what more we can do to improve neighbourhood policing to ensure that people feel safe in their homes and local communities. As a rural peninsula the challenges that we face in Cornwall are often more difficult to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that local communities should be abandoned. That is why the Prime Minister’s recent announcements are a welcome return to a strong team in government working with police and crime commissioners and local authorities to cut crime and ensure that law and order remains a priority.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The single largest investment in Cornwall’s health services

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 in Hayle which is a national leader in breast surgery, to Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics.
However, in recent years there have been intense pressures on Treliske. As life expectancy has risen and medical science has advanced, the demands on our NHS have grown. Even though the national budget has been significantly increased by almost 20 percent since 2010, pressures remain and the demand continues to grow. In recent months, the Department for Health has announced increased funding for mental health and other support. This week the Secretary of State for Health announced that the Government would be delivering on its pledge for a hospital upgrade programme. This was part of a series of pledges that the Boris Johnson announced last week on the steps of Downing Street in his first speech as Prime Minister. The good news for Cornwall came in the announcement that the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust site at Treliske would be receiving an investment of up to £100 million to deliver a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital at Treliske.
The investment will see the construction of a new building between the existing tower block and Trelawny Wing which will house women’s and children’s services including maternity, neonatal care and gynaecology. The new building will also become the main entrance for the hospital with plans for changes to the layout of roads and a pedestrian zone to improve the environment and accessibility of the hospital.
The announcement is excellent news for all those who use the services in Cornwall and has been acknowledged by Managers at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust as the biggest ever single investment that Cornwall has seen in local health services and that the biggest for more than 20 years in children’s services.
The construction of a new co-located maternity and neonatal services will provide doctors and nurses with the ability to work more closely and effectively together to deliver safer care to expectant mothers and new born babies. Whilst the current maternity services have provided a high level of care for patients, it was clear that there was a limited lifespan and that an upgrade would have been needed sooner rather than later.
The story of investment across the local level is also being matched by that on the national level. New Health Infrastructure Plan’s are being developed in coordination with local authorities and healthcare providers to help deliver a strategic major hospital rebuilding programme so that we have the necessary health infrastructure across the country for years to come. All of this also comes on top of the extra £33.9 billion a year that the Government has committed to provide to the NHS to secure its long term future. This is great news for Cornwall and plans will now proceed to the next stage for the hospital.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Getting on with Brexit

This week I returned to government, picking up where I left off as the Minister of State for agriculture and fisheries. It is a policy area that I have always been passionate about having studied horticulture and worked in the family farming business for ten years. Fishing is also an important industry in Cornwall and in the five and a half years that I did the job previously I led our annual negotiations on quotas at the EU. It is good to be back and part of a new Government that is now pursuing the more assertive approach I advocated in February.
The next few months will be crucial to restore the credibility of our democracy, implement the decision taken in the 2016 referendum and to restore self government in this country as we come out of the European Union. Boris Johnson has reinvigorated Government in his first week and set a clear and determined course. I resigned from Theresa May’s Government in the spring because I disagreed with her decision to dither and delay our exit date. I felt that it signalled weakness and undermined our negotiations. With the election of Boris Johnson there is now a renewed sense of purpose and a fresh mandate for a new Prime Minister to deliver what we said we would in our manifesto. We will use whatever means are necessary to ensure that the UK leaves the European Union by the end of October and we will leave with or without an agreement.
Of course, there will still be obstacles to overcome, not least those MPs and political parties who have set themselves against the referendum result and have made clear that they will force people to vote again until they give a different answer. The EU, who have not really acted in good faith in their negotiations with Theresa May, will also have to decide whether they want to make the sensible changes requested by Boris Johnson and remove the so called “backstop” or whether they will remain obstinate. There will be many arguments over the next three months but this long running saga must now be brought to a head and be resolved once and for all.
Boris Johnson has appointed a new Cabinet that shares his determination to deliver Brexit. He has also appointed a number of new advisers to support him in the task ahead. A number of them worked on the successful Vote Leave campaign which inspired people to vote for a better future and to take back control of our own laws. It is important to have the right advice and support of people who believe in the objective because one of the main weaknesses that Theresa May faced is that too many people around her didn’t really agree with government policy or understand that leaving the EU really is in the national interest. In politics, if you embark on major change, you have to have a team that understands and believes in what we are delivering as a country.
In Defra we have many issues to address. Firstly we need to consider what tariffs we would apply to imports once we leave. Measured by import value, the UK is the third largest market for food in the world after China and Japan and probably the most sophisticated. We have discerning consumers with an interest in food provenance and very high standards of animal welfare and food safety. Everyone wants access to our market but we must do nothing that jeopardises what we have built. We are also designing a major shift in the way we support farmers away from arbitrary payments based on land area where most of the money goes to very large and wealthy landowners and instead focusing funds on delivering enhanced animal welfare and environmental improvements. On fisheries, if we leave without an agreement, then as early as this November this year, we will be negotiating new arrangements and setting new conditions on any access to our waters and we will begin to rebalance the unfair sharing arrangements imposed on us by the EU.
No one can know for sure how events will develop over the next few months. However, at times of uncertainty what people need from their government most of all is a determined clarity of purpose and with the election of Boris Johnson we now have it.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Post 16-Link Transport Services

In a peninsula like Cornwall with many rural and remote areas, there will always be challenges to building a really resilient public transport structure. The majority of people in Cornwall continue to use public transport primarily for local journeys including school students who depend on these services to travel freely to school and college.
In recent weeks, however, I have been contacted by a number of concerned parents about the Council’s decision to end the link transport services from the villages of Mawnan Smith and Constantine. For many students, the bus service is a vital link from their villages transporting them safely to Mabe whereby they can join the main transport service to Truro college. The Council have stated that their decision to suspend the link transport services is merely an application of an existing policy and that there is no national statutory legal obligation for them to provide the link transport services. However, because Cornwall is unique we should expect our Council to tailor policies that are right for Cornwall. We want to support young people further their careers and their skills and what is set as a national set of minimum criteria should not be what guides the policy actually adopted here in Cornwall.
Currently there are no alternative public transport options available to the families and students affected by the Council’s decision. Moreover, it appears that little thought has been given as to how students will make the journey to Mabe, with the Council stating that students and families are expected to make their own travel arrangements despite the only options available being to travel by car or walk.
For many families this decision will have an economic impact with extra money likely to be required for fuel or a taxi service. Money that some families just don’t have. Equally there is also an environmental impact to be considered at a time when the Council have committed to promoting greener and more sustainable public transport. Moreover, there will also be an unavoidable pressure of extra vehicles on the routes to Mabe.
In a bid to resolve the situation, I have been working closely with Cllr John Bastin, the local Councillor for the area to achieve a sensible outcome. Recently there was a public meeting in which Council officers, Cllr Bastin, a representative from my office met with students and parents affected by this issue. From the feedback that I have had it appears that this was a largely positive meeting, and I would like to take the time to thank all of the students who attended and raised their concerns on an issue that will affect them.
Following on from this meeting there has been some speculation that the Council might be considering reviewing their decision to end the link transport service. Whilst this is positive news, there remains a long way to go before the link transport is reinstated. I will continue to work closely with Cllr Bastin and Cornwall Council to find a solution that works for everyone. If you have been effected by the plans to suspend this service then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Cllr Bastin at: or with my office via email at: and I will endeavour keep you updated with developments.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Respecting Devolution and votes of conscience

From time to time, Parliament has to wrestle with Bills or motions which are a cocktail of competing constitutional principles, policy issues and matters of conscience. It can leave MPs in a difficult position trying to balance conflicts between different principles they might hold.
Last week was one of those occasions. A Bill was laid before Parliament to legislate to allow a simple extension of the constitutional settlement in Northern Ireland, to avoid the need for direct rule from Westminster for a little longer and to try to provide some additional space and time for delicate talks on re-establishing a power sharing executive. Two years ago there was a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein and the latter have so far refused to rejoin an executive meaning everything is suspended. No one wants a reversion back to the tension and violence that existed in Northern Ireland before so, difficult and frustrating though it is, it was right to give some more time to allow these delicate talks to continue.
When the government presented their simple Bill, they suddenly found that it was assailed with amendments from multiple directions by MPs pushing different agendas. Firstly, there were a group of MPs who wanted to hijack the Bill to insert new clauses that would try to frustrate Brexit and block the referendum result from three years ago. Secondly, there were others who put in amendments regarding abortion and also same sex marriage which would have driven a coach and horses through our constitutional settlement and imposed a Westminster view in Northern Ireland when these have always been free vote issues of consciousness for devolved assemblies in Scotland and Northern Ireland to decide.
I took the view that we should first and foremost uphold our constitutional settlement so opposed the attempts to impose a Westminster view on Northern Ireland. If we wanted to take the position that the lack of an executive in Northern Ireland meant important issues were not being addressed and this was intolerable, well then the correct course of action would be to be upfront about that, impose direct rule and then legislate for Northern Ireland on everything. However, this Bill was about doing the reverse. Bolting on all sorts of impositions on contentious issues that are a matter of conscience make the fragile talks more difficult than they already are.
I would not change the current settlement we have on same sex marriage in England and Wales but I was not willing to impose our view on Northern Ireland. On abortion, I think there are some changes that Northern Ireland could make but I would also support changes in England and Wales. I take the view that when it comes to an unwanted pregnancy, we ought to be requiring a decision to be made much earlier in a pregnancy and probably within twelve weeks. However, there are also tragic cases where a foetus is diagnosed with a rare condition meaning they would never survive but could suffer pain. It is an agonising decision for parents in such a situation and, in those sorts of cases, which are limited in number, I would always allow a termination at the current maximum of 24 weeks. Abortion is a very difficult ethical issue and I don’t agree with the way it is sometimes presented as a “women’s rights” issue. It is actually about balancing very difficult moral dilemmas.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Tin Mining Subsidence Bill 2019

This part of Cornwall has a unique mining heritage. Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the country and we exported mining expertise across the globe with our ancestors travelling as far afield as Cape Town, Real Del Monte in Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and Wisconsin in the United States. Inventors such as Richard Trevithick and William Murdoch put Cornwall on the map as a leading centre for industry and innovation and we are lucky to have such a rich legacy that has been left to us.
Today that legacy means that we have World Heritage Site status and the many old engine houses around our towns are iconic. However, there is another legacy which periodically causes major problems to some residents. The ground beneath the whole Camborne, Pool and Redruth area is like a Swiss cheese with mine workings going back centuries. Many of the more recent features were mapped and are known about but others that go back further are sometimes not mapped. 
Over time, I have had a steady stream of constituents contact me with problems of unexpected subsidence that leaves them with huge personal costs.  Sometimes people have had a mining survey completed when they purchased their house which gives a clean bill of health but when they come to sell and move on, they find that potential purchases using a different mining security company offer a different, adverse opinion which leaves them stuck. 
For many property owners, they are also hamstrung by the fact that many insurers will not include mining subsidence in their cover unless it actually threatens the house itself. On other occasions certain sites have experienced local subsidence which upon investigation have identified untreated old workings. For instance, at Clijah Croft in Redruth, localised depressions have led to the identification of 17 areas on the site which require attention due to old mine workings being present. Whilst at Grenville Gardens in Camborne, untreated old mine works have led to the council having to excavate the area to stabilise the ground before relaying it all.
In a bid to tackle the problems presented by these legacies, this week I presented a Bill to Parliament that would introduce new financial assistance to help home owners in Cornwall whose properties are affected by subsidence damage as a result of historic tin mining features. My Bill would amend the Coal Mining Subsidence Act of1991 in order to create an additional obligation on the Coal Authority to offer financial and other assistance to help home owners whose property has been affected by subsidence damage due to tin mining. Currently, those living in former coal mining areas whose properties are affected by subsidence damage are entitled to financial support to put right any damage. Due to an oversight in the drafting of the original legislation, similarly affected communities in former tin mining areas like Camborne and Redruth are denied the same sort of compensation or assistance.
Cornwall’s tin mining industry left an enormous legacy to the world in terms of the wealth it created for our country during the industrial revolution, the spirit of invention and innovation that went with it and the mining expertise that was subsequently taken around the world. But for many, the threat of subsidence damage to their property from historic mining features is a constant worry and it is time to finally address this gap in the law so that Cornwall is treated equally and receives the support it requires. 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Religious Slaughter

This week I led a debate in parliament about reforming the law around the non-stun slaughter of farm animals. The way we treat animals raised in captivity for food is a hallmark of a civilised society. We have a special responsibility to spare farm animals any unnecessary stress or suffering. Since 1875, we have used technology to ensure that animals are stunned prior to slaughter. Using either a captive bolt in cattle or electric stunning, it is possible to render the animal immediately unconscious and insensible to pain prior to slaughter. However, there has also always been what supposed to be a very narrow exemption for Muslims or Jews with an orthodox view who feel they need meat from animals that were not stunned.
Our laws have evolved over the years but have not changed substantively since 1995. We have always allowed a conditional derogation for Jewish and Muslim communities. The key feature is a so called stand still time of 20 seconds on sheep and 30 seconds on cattle during which the animal should not be moved to reduce stress. Non-stun slaughter is only supposed to be allowed on the basis of religious need but this requirement is not enforceable in practice. The FSA have published alarming statistics showing that 25% of all sheep are now slaughtered without prior stunning representing a drift back towards more conservative cultural interpretations of religious faith. We are being left behind by other developed nations on this matter. In Australia and New Zealand, non-stun slaughter is not permitted. In many European countries there is either a requirement that there should be an immediate post cut stun where a derogation is used or in some cases a prohibition on non-stun slaughter.
Free votes in parliament are a wonderful thing. When political parties step back from taking a position and allow their own members to form their own opinion on an issue of conscience, it can be liberating for both the party and their representatives. In my view it is time for every political party to agree that the issue of religious slaughter should also become a free vote issue so that progress can be made.
When considering reform, we should first ask whether the derogations we currently allow are strictly religious or whether they actually represent an accommodation of a cultural interpretation of religious need? Both the Muslim and Jewish faiths have a clear religious conviction against the consumption of pork, which should obviously be respected. However, when it comes to the issue of stunning, the religious need is less clear.
In the case of Halal production, the important feature is that there is a Muslim blessing at the point of slaughter. Many communities in the UK are content with the use of stunning and until a few years ago, we had got to a position where around 75% of Halal meat was stunned. Most Muslim countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are more concerned about the contamination of porcine DNA through shared use of machinery than they are about whether an animal was stunned.
If we want modernise the regulations, we could consider an immediate post cut stun on cattle to recognise their unique physiology. Secondly, we could increase the minimum stand still time on sheep to, say, 45 seconds to remove the incentive to mainstream the non-stun slaughter of sheep. We could also strengthen the requirements on chickens to purposefully check birds for signs of consciousness before the next stage of production. Finally, we could introduce strict quotas setting out the number of animals permitted to be slaughtered without stunning thereby giving effect to this longstanding requirement in UK law.
Not everyone will agree with the ideas that I have set out, but I would love to have the debate in Parliament under refreshing, free vote conditions where government would be liberated of the task and Parliament could chart a course forward.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Native and Rare British Breeds

My family have farmed in the Gwinear area for over 150 years and this week Trevaskis Farm hosted the launch of a new project to help better understand the genetics behind one of our country’s rarest breeds of pig, the British Lop, which is native to Cornwall.
We have records that show that my Great, Great Great Grandfather first kept this pig and the breed was formally recognised in 1920. The family have maintained a herd of British Lops ever since and they can still be found at Trevaskis Farm today. In fact, the pig is so rare that about a third of the total national population are to be found at Trevaskis.
Genetic diversity has always been the key that enables life on earth to adapt to new challenges. When any species in its natural environment faces a threat through disease pressure, the solution is always to be found through a gene that had been tucked away somewhere but which has particular traits that suddenly come into their own and spread. This, in turn, creates the resilience on which life depends. It is because of this quite fundamental rule of life that protecting and maintaining biodiversity is of such great importance to the planet and why we should also strive to preserve the genetic diversity that is held within the many rare breeds and native breeds of farm animal. Once a particular gene or line becomes extinct, it is gone for good.
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is a national charity that leads the work to preserve and rekindle some of our rarest breeds of farm animal and, with the support of a grant from the Gerald Fallowes Trust, it has teamed up with my brother and the British Lop Pig Society to support a new initiative that will improve understanding of the breed. There will be steps to better understand the unique DNA behind the British Lop pig and which genes truly differentiate it from the rest. There will then be a number of initiatives to try to establish a gene bank to protect this crucial genetics.
The new Agriculture Bill that will replace the Common Agricultural policy (once we finally get free of the EU) has set out the idea of financial support and incentives for the delivery of “public goods” like genetic diversity. I have been pressing the government to develop its approach to supporting rare breeds and native breeds in more detail. This week I have tabled amendments to the Bill to make clear that supporting genetic diversity is one of the purposes of the Bill and I have also secured a meeting at Defra with representatives of our native breeds and rare breeds so that this vital area of work can be discussed.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

The Conservative Party Leadership Election – An Update

By the time you read this we will know who the final two candidates are for the position of Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister as various voting rounds progress in Westminster. Leadership elections can be volatile and unpredictable. Front runners often lose momentum or come unstuck at later stages as doubts set in and others can come from nowhere. The parliamentary stage of the contest is run under the system called “exhaustive ballot” where you keep voting and eliminate one candidate from the bottom at each round until there are only two left standing who then go out to campaign amongst the membership. As I write this, there are still five candidates left in the race but by the end of Thursday there will be two. 
Boris Johnson has a clear lead but has avoided public appearances as much as he can. His managers are worried that if he does interviews or appears in public he may make a gaffe or say something wrong so they are playing it safe and sitting tight while back room operators twist people’s arms to try to get their support. Although playing it safe is a natural human reaction when you are in the lead, it’s an approach that can sometimes store up future problems because if things do unravel they can unravel quickly. 
Rory Stewart has been the candidate in this contest who has surprised people and gained more support than expected. However, at the BBC hustings this week, it was clear that he was simply going to persevere with the same identical plan that Theresa May has flogged to death over the last nine months, so there will be scepticism that he has properly thought through a way forward and he would probably become a divisive figure if he failed to commit to delivering Brexit properly and honouring the referendum result. 
I am supporting and campaigning for Michael Gove because these are serious times and we need a serious Prime Minister who can get things done. Our next Prime Minister must deliver the biggest and most complex peacetime negotiation our country has every faced and must do that against the backdrop of a hung parliament and a divided country. They must immediately reverse the low morale and division in the Conservative Party caused by two years of drift. They must grab this sorry situation by the scruff of the neck and fix it. Time will be an enemy. There will be no summer break for whoever takes over, just hard graft. 
It is not enough for the next leader to “respect” the 2016 referendum result - we have tried that and it didn’t work. The next leader must respect it, believe in it and, crucially, have the wherewithal to deliver it. I am backing Michael Gove because I think he is ready to lead, ready to unite our party and ready to deliver for the British people.
Michael Gove exercises judgement, has an eye for detail and he has the conviction to deliver Brexit. He led the Leave Campaign which was one of the most successful campaigns in recent history. Working alongside him in Defra I saw how hard he applied himself to ensure that the opportunities opened up by the leave vote were not squandered. He energised the department on his arrival injecting momentum and pace in everything he did. 
This is a very close contest and by the time you read this you will know whether he has made it to the final run off. 

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Murdoch Day

After the success of the Royal Cornwall Show last week, despite the rain on Friday, I’m looking forward to attending Murdoch Day in Redruth this Weekend. 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.
Works at the new Kresen Kernow archive are almost complete and the building looks fantastic. There have been occasional setbacks because it is a difficult site but this project is a great boost for our town. Recently I have been working with local councillors and also the owner of the remainder of the site to ensure that the we get the further development due to take place around the archive centre right. There had been some concerns about some of the proposed flats and the possible impact of this on Kresen Kernow so it’s important that all sides involved work together to get the details right. 
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. These are exciting times for Redruth as we see the key historic site of the brewery brought back into use to celebrate our history. 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.
William Murdoch was a pioneer and like many of the other great inventors that have graced Cornwall, it is important that we take the time to celebrate their achievements. We should always try and make more of our heritage. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle together make up the heart of Cornwall’s industrial heritage with most of the key attractions and old engine houses based here. It is days like this where we can take a step back and truly appreciate their greatness.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

D-Day Landings 75th Anniversary

This week, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, visited the UK on an official state visit. Not everyone agrees with Donald Trump’s politics but people like Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, were wrong to boycott the state banquet hosted by the Queen. These occasions go way beyond the politics of the day. The United States is our closest ally and the main reasons that the visit is taking place is to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings where Britain, America and Canada stood together to liberate Europe. 
D-Day was and still remains the largest combined land, air and naval operation in history. The invasion was conducted in two main phases – an airborne assault and amphibious landings. Shortly after midnight on 6th June, over 18,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped into the invasion area to provide tactical support for infantry divisions on the beaches. Following this, on the morning of June 6th some 156,000 British, American and Canadian troops launched from the sea and air on to French soil across 50 miles of Normandy coastline. The force included 5,300 ships and craft, 1,500 tanks and 12,000 planes. 
The D-Day landings were the first essential step for the Allied forces to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation. By sunset there were an estimated 10,000 casualties and more than 4,400 confirmed dead. The success of the D-Day landings lay in the fact that in the three months after the landings, the northern part of France would be freed, and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet forces moving in from the East. 
We owe so much to the many men who gave their lives so that we may enjoy all that we do today. In recognition of their sacrifice, there will be an official service in Portsmouth which the Prime Minister and Donald Trump will attend jointly to mark the 75th anniversary. There will also be other services in Normandy and across France, in which veterans from the D-Day landings will return to the beaches that they fought on, on that fateful day. 
As part of the events to mark this anniversary, the Culture Secretary also recently announced that a number of WW2 landmarks have been officially listed as protected as a memorial for future generations. Six replica landing craft, nine sunken tanks, two armoured bulldozers and parts of Mulberry harbours in Dorset, Devon and West Sussex will be listed. These structures were integral to the largescale preparations that took place along the coastline of Devon and Dorset. 
This year’s anniversary serves as a reminder of the bonds and special relationship that we have with our allies like the United States. As we face the new challenges of the 21st century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us all of all that our countries have achieved together, and whilst the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the sacrifices of those who gave so much for peace.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Why I’m backing Michael Gove

Like many people, I felt sympathy for Theresa May when she stood down. She was a decent and hardworking individual and her heart was in the right place but she was simply overwhelmed by the task before her, had lost her authority, couldn’t get things done so there was no alternative but for her to stand down. In politics, life goes on and Conservative MPs must now turn their attention to selecting a new leader and Prime Minister.
The European Elections were not even supposed to be happening and when the results came through last weekend they were a reminder, just in case we needed it, that the Conservative Party faces annihilation in any future General Election unless we have first delivered the decision to leave the European Union. Anything that precipitates an early General Election, before Brexit is delivered would leave our Party in tatters, Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and our country facing a bleak future.
So, as we face this leadership election, we need someone with the resolve and the ability to unite our party and our country and get Brexit delivered. That leader must deliver the biggest and most complex peacetime negotiation our country has every faced and must do that against the backdrop of a hung parliament and a divided country. They must immediately reverse the low morale and division in the Conservative Party caused by two years of drift. They must grab this sorry situation by the scruff of the neck and fix it. Time will be an enemy. There will be no summer break for whoever takes over, just hard graft.
It is not enough for the next leader to “respect” the 2016 referendum result - we have tried that in Theresa May and it didn’t work. Nor is it enough for them to just believe in Brexit. The next leader must respect it, believe in it and, crucially, have the wherewithal to deliver it. I am backing Michael Gove because I think he is ready to lead, ready to unite our party and ready to deliver for the British people.
He exercises judgement, he has an eye for detail and he has the conviction to deliver Brexit. Michael Gove led the Leave Campaign which was one of the most successful campaigns in recent history. Working alongside him in Defra I saw how hard he applied himself to ensure that the opportunities opened up by the leave vote were not squandered. He energised the department on his arrival injecting momentum and pace in everything he did. He weighed up arguments carefully but always made decisions in a timely way.
Michael Gove has always been passionate about the Union of British nations and in my time working with him has shown a particular interest in ensuring that every part of the UK gets the support they need. I think that for those of us representing constituencies in places like Cornwall, Scotland or Wales, of all the candidates standing he is the most supportive of an agenda to help address regional disadvantage. As we confront this most serious of challenges as a country, I believe Michael Gove has what it takes to lead us out of the EU successfully and the future of both our country and our party depends on that happening.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Openness and transparency in our planning system

As an MP, one of the main issues that I’m frequently contacted about is that of local planning applications and enforcement cases. These can often be simple matters pertaining to a constituent’s property or larger more controversial planning applications for major new housing developments. 
I have always argued that we should prioritise brown field development before greenfield so that we can protect our green spaces and countryside but also force developers and planners to apply themselves to thinking about to how regenerate our urban environment and reduce dereliction. Because Cornwall is a narrow peninsula, our landscape, beautiful though it is, is also particularly vulnerable to being blighted by inappropriate development so we need to tread with caution. 
For the majority of cases I encounter, the matter falls outside of my remit as an MP since it is a matter for the Council, however we will always try and help wherever possible and often advise them to contact the Council’s planning department for further information. 
I have always been of the opinion that developments should also be done with communities, not to them. Planning decisions will often be contentious but by working together with residents and local councillors we can sometimes identify a way through. It needs people to be open and engaging to work. 
I was therefore surprised to hear that there has been a move by the Council to reduce the openness and transparency that our planning system requires. Until recently members of the public were automatically informed when a planning application they had commented on is ‘called in’ for a decision before a planning committee. This provided members of the public with the chance to attend the meeting and make representations to committee members in advance if so desired. Now the Council has stated that they will no longer inform people automatically when a case is called in for decision. The result is likely to be that more people who have expressed a concern about an application will feel bounced and ignored. 
The Council have claimed that this measure has been introduced to save costs, but this reasoning does not look very convincing since the council are still prepared to produce hard copies of agendas for cabinet members and it ought to be possible to use email where possible but letter where necessary. That way people would still be informed but there would be a gradual transition to a paperless model. 
At a time when trust in our democratic institution both local and national is being questioned by so many, we should be trying to increase engagement and transparency. 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Creating a new shared prosperity fund

Last week I took up a position on a newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group for the South West. Supported by the Local Enterprise Partnership in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly as well as Devon, Somerset and Dorset, the aim is to promote coordination for the economic benefit of the westcountry. 
Being a peninsula like Cornwall creates unique economic challenges. Our industries have to transport their goods further to market which adds costs. Recruiting staff can be more of a challenge for business. A lack of profitability means that average wages can be lower. When it comes to further transport infrastructure, the further west you go the fewer MPs there are left making the case for investment, and government departments like the Treasury often fail to understand the dynamics of local economies. For all of these reasons, the case for Cornwall and economic investment in Cornwall has to be made repeatedly and consistently and the new Parliamentary Group we have established will help to do so in a sustained. 
One of the most important emerging policy areas that we need to get right is in the sphere of the new Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU structural funds when we leave the EU. I campaigned to leave the EU and I want us to decide our own regional policy and have the freedom to design our own grant schemes that really work for places like Cornwall. However, with the power to set our own policies of economic regeneration comes the responsibility to get it right. Whitehall has largely abdicated responsibility for economic development in poorer areas in recent years and there is a danger that it will fail to step in and occupy the space left through a lack of knowledge and experience. 
This government has a clear priority to develop more balanced growth across our country and that is why there will be a new Shared Prosperity Fund. The whole purpose of the new fund is to support industry in poorer parts of the country and to ensure that we see new industries and better paid jobs in places like Cornwall, rather than just seeing prosperity collect around the Home Counties. That requires a culture change in some Whitehall departments like the Treasury. They should not just favour the financial services industry in London at the expense of the rest of us. As a country we need to learn to value industries that make things and produce balanced growth across our nation. 
As the new fund is developed, I want to ensure that it is directed to areas based on their needs rather than administered as a centralised pot in London and directed to projects in already wealthy areas that are sometimes deemed to give a higher return on the Treasury’s economic models. The EU funds were welcome but were also cumbersome and overly restrictive. They did not allow support for industries like tourism which were seen as out of fashion and they did not generally support harbour infrastructure. Applicants often contorted their bid in order to fit arbitrary EU criteria rather than do what they knew would work and be able to feel confident that they could access the support they needed. We can do better if we design our own schemes but only if we force Whitehall departments to take their new role seriously.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Recognising the importance of Climate Change

In recent weeks there has been much coverage of the climate change protests led by various groups across the country. We’ve all seen the rise of extreme weather events that have at times had a devastating impact on communities not just in Cornwall but also across the country, and we have to work hard to ensure that we have a world to pass onto our children and grandchildren. 
Much of the work that we have been undertaking to climate change has been going on for some time now. Last year the government published a new 25 year environment plan which set out ambitious plans to tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans and a new way of supporting our countryside and environment so that we help habitats recover and see more farmland birds and other wildlife in the future. Since then we’ve become a world leader in banning single use plastics and microbeads, extending the 5p plastic bag charge, tackling the illegal wildlife trade and committing overseas aid to help developing nations combat plastic waste. 
As a country we have also worked hard to reduce emissions on our roads and are becoming less reliant on fossil fuels for our energy supply, instead turning to renewable energy sources. Recently it was announced that we’ve now gone a record 139 continuous hours without coal. Now 40% of all electricity is generated by renewable sources. But there is clearly more that can be done to help better protect our country and environment and that is why the government is bringing forward its Environment Bill. 
At its heart the Bill will create a new framework for environmental governance, demonstrating our commitment to maintain environmental protections as we leave the EU. A world leading governance body will be established – the Office for Environmental Protection – which will have powers to hold government and public bodies to account on environmental standards. The bill will also implement the 25 year environment plan into legislation setting out how we will recover nature, replenish depleted soils, rid seas and rivers of the rubbish damaging our planet, cut greenhouse gas emissions, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants, and develop cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. 
In the other bills that I worked on such as the Agriculture bill and the Fisheries bill we also worked hard to include a number of environmental protections in them that will preserve our sectors for years to come. Clearly, we have made progress over the last few years to tackle this important issue, and we can be proud of the work that we have done. But there is still more to be done to tackle the challenges that we face and that is why I and colleagues from, across the house will continue to work hard to deliver on climate change.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Trevithick Day

On Saturday I attended the annual Trevithick Day celebrations in Camborne. It was a cold and blustery start but by lunch time the sun was up, and the crowds came out to celebrate the achievements of Richard Trevithick.
Outside my office this year was the engine that has travelled all the way down from Staffordshire as part of the True 600 Challenge which is raising money for mental health charities including the local Invictus Trust. The challenge is being organised by Martin True in memory of his son Ben. So far, they have raised close to £20,000 and donations can be made via the Facebook page for the True 600 Challenge. 
As a pioneer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive and epitomised the contribution made by Cornwall to the Industrial Revolution. Back in 2010, when I was first elected to Parliament, I made Richard Trevithick the main focus of my maiden speech. I found a wonderful statement from him saying that, although he had been criticised for trying new principles and was left in severe financial hardship as a result of his pioneering endeavours, he knew in his own heart that he had brought forward new ideas that would be of boundless value to his country. Despite all the setbacks he had in life he never stopped inventing. For many years, Trevithick's achievements were not really recognised which makes it all the more important we celebrate them now. 
It was the efforts of pioneers like Trevithick that put Cornwall on the map as a leading centre for industry and innovation. Whilst towns like Camborne and Redruth experienced some decline after the closure of the tin mines and Holmans, new industries and technologies are beginning to establish themselves into our communities which offers the prospect of higher paid employment in the future.
Work to reopen South Crofty mine continues and Cornwall has some of the largest deposits of lithium in Europe. The metal is extremely important in the production of batteries for emerging technologies like electric vehicles. We also have a growing computer software industry clustered around Pool and the historic expertise in drilling continues through a number of companies specialising in oil and gas exploration. 
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. That is starting to change.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The quest for a Brexit settlement

Until we finally achieve a settlement to the current political crisis regarding our exit from the European Union, it is impossible for politics to fully move on and address the many other issues which are in need of attention. So, however much everyone is weary from the argument, it must continue until a conclusion is reached and the reconciliation of our divided country can be secured.
My view has long been that we must deliver the referendum result, but that the type of partnership we put in place after we have left should also address the concerns and anxieties of those who fear change and voted to remain. The 2016 referendum result was clear but, at 48 to 52 percent it was also close. People collectively voted for a clear but slightly cautious and apprehensive step away from the EU. We should recognise that Greenland voted to leave the EU in the early eighties by exactly the same margin and they managed to do it, so why are we finding it so hard? We should also recognise that in the 2016 referendum, millions of people voted for the first time in their lives. 
Since resigning from the government two months ago, I have been arguing strongly that we must be willing to walk away from the EU without an agreement in the first instance if necessary. You cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless you have the courage to walk through the door. There is a strong case for taking our freedom first and talking afterwards. If the EU knew that we were serious about leaving, then it would change the nature of the discussion. 
There were two legitimate courses of action that the Government could have taken after the 2016 referendum. The first was to decide to plan from the very beginning on the basis that we would likely leave the EU without an agreement as a “third country” and then allow a new partnership to evolve after that point. However, if the Government was unwilling to leave without an agreement because it feared for the implications for Northern Ireland or the possible risks to the economy, then they needed to recognise from the beginning that we would have to make significant compromise with the EU and that in turn would have required the government to seek a cross party consensus. The problems we have at the moment are largely because the current Prime Minister has failed to choose either course with clarity. 
In the next two weeks we must redouble our efforts to identify where that consensus lies and get a cross party settlement within parliament about the type of approach we want and then we will have the mandate needed to nail down a final agreement with the EU. If it turns out that the PM cannot command a consensus for her own Withdrawal Agreement or a variant of it, then I have been pushing an alternative plan b, namely that we simply rejoin the European Free Trade Associating which we founded in 1960 as an alternative to political integration in the EU. It could be delivered in a matter of months, would give us control of agriculture and fisheries and an independent trade policy but we would agree to align some of our technical standards to reduce problems at border crossings. I have been making the case for this alternative in recent weeks, and it’s time may yet come.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

A new Bill to protect Hares

As we approach Easter, there is still precious little change in the ongoing Brexit saga. However, since it is Easter, I have been working on a new Bill to be put before Parliament that would help to protect hares during their breeding season and prevent so many baby hares from being orphaned and left to perish. 
My forthcoming Hares Preservation Bill aims is to introduce a close season on the killing and taking of hares during the breeding season. This is predominantly an animal welfare issue in that dependent baby hares (leverets) are left to starve if their mother is shot. However, there are also some concerns about our Brown Hare population which is coming under pressure from disease at the moment. 
The need for a close season was actually recognised by our Victorian forebears. In 1892 they introduced the Hares Preservation Act which established a close season but did so by having a prohibition on the sale of hares. In those days a ban on sale was seen as the most enforceable option since there was no wildlife licensing regime nor licencing authority in the way we have today through Natural England. Also, there was no refrigeration nor freezer technology and most hares were in fact killed to be eaten in an era when food was less plentiful. However, the 1892 Act no longer works to deliver its intended purpose since hares are not typically to be found hanging in markets these days and are shot for sport rather than food. 
My new Hares Preservation Bill would provide a long overdue update to this 127 year old law. It would simply introduce a modern close season consistent with that which we already have on other mammals and birds in legislation like the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. There would be a prohibition on the killing and taking of hares during the breeding season. The breeding season in the 1892 Act was deemed to be from the 1st March to the end of August, however, there is some evidence that a February to August period might be more appropriate and we will consider this during the passage of the Bill. 
The Bill would recognise that there could be some circumstances where, in very local situations in parts of East Anglia, hares could cause damage to crops so it would also make provision for Natural England to be able to licence localised culling within the breeding season if the hare population were judged to be a serious threat agricultural crops or land. However I would envisage this power being used very sparingly. 
Finally, the Bill would also repeal the outdated 1892 Act since a ban on selling hare meat when it may, for instance, have been in a frozen game pie, no longer makes sense in the modern age especially once it has been replaced with a modern close season that delivers the original purpose more effectively. 
Our Brown Hare population has been placed under pressure from many threats including diseases and the switch to earlier mowing of grass to make silage rather than traditional hay meadows. There is also an animal welfare issue since orphaned leverets are abandoned to starve when their mother is killed. As long ago as 1892, the Victorians recognised that it was essential to protect hares during their breeding season but and an update in the law is long overdue. It is shameful that we do not currently have anything effective in place when even the Victorians took this seriously. 

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Post-Brexit immigration plans will leave us short of key workers

Before going into politics I worked in the farming industry growing vegetables and strawberries. I therefore fully understand the challenges facing farmers at a time when we have record low unemployment and labour shortages. This week I tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the government to immediately convert its planned pilot scheme into a fully operational Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme by 2020. Not only would this address the urgent nature of the current labour shortage facing the agriculture sector, it would show that we are willing to be open to non EU countries and allow people to come here on short stay working visas.
I campaigned to leave the EU and I want us to have an independent immigration policy but with our new freedom comes the responsibility to get it right. We should think of the cleaners working late tonight, the care worker who will help your grandmother start the day tomorrow or the farm workers who have been out in the rain to put fresh vegetables on our tables. Do we value these people and the work they do? 
We should, but sadly the message from the Home Office is they don't. They envisage a post Brexit immigration policy where so called "low skilled" people, who have fewer formal qualifications and are on lower incomes will not be allowed into our country. Instead they only want what they term the "brightest and the best", people like them who went to university and are on a big salary. Under the approach, Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s own father would have been denied entry to our country. That's indefensible. 
One of the achievements of the Conservative led government after 2010 was its success in creating jobs. Levels of employment are at record levels but businesses across many sectors report real challenges recruiting staff. We have no shortage of under-employed graduates. What we lack is enough people willing to do hard graft and any coherent policy must recognise this. 
The Home Secretary has been badly advised by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). It is a panel of narrow minded economists. Not one of them has ever run a business nor created any wealth. Therefore to turn things around, the first thing we need to do is shut down the current MAC and replace it with a new advisory council made up of serious people in business with real experience of employment. 
Secondly, the government should convert the planned pilot on a seasonal agriculture workers scheme into a fully-fledged one. We successfully ran a scheme from 1945 to 2013 so what's the point of a pilot? Finally, the government must make clear that when we leave the EU and free movement ends, we will open up an appropriate provision for Tier 3 work permits for lower skilled and lower income occupations since this is where there is a shortage that needs to be addressed. 
People voted to take back control of immigration but they didn't vote to pull up the draw bridge and they certainly did not vote to give preferential access to the wealthy or those on big salaries so it is time for a rethink about immigration policy. 

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The UK can’t accept backward US food standards – or chlorinated chicken

Measured by import value, the UK market for food is the third largest in the world. Everyone seeks access to it, including the US. I believe in open markets and want us to have an independent trade policy. However, if the Americans want to be granted privileged access to the UK market, they will have to learn to abide by British law and British standards. 
In the UK, we have built one of the most sophisticated and discerning markets for food in the world. Consumers have become more informed and show more interest in the provenance of their food and how it is produced. The British retail sector has contributed to building a strong brand around provenance and standards. Regulators have also made sure that we strive for the highest standards of animal welfare and food safety in the world. 
However, agriculture in the US remains backward in many respects. It retains a position of resisting more information on labels to limit consumer knowledge and engagement. Its livestock sectors often suffer from poor husbandry leading to the prevalence of disease and a greater reliance on antibiotics. Whereas the UK looks to manage disease and contamination risk throughout the supply chain, the US is more inclined to simply treat contamination of its meat at the end with a chlorine or similar wash. 
However, the greatest difference between the British and US farming systems is their attitudes to animal welfare. The UK has legally recognised the sentience of farm animals since 1875 and since then has introduced various acts in 1911 and 1933 to improve animal welfare culminating in the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Put simply, we have some of the highest standards of animal welfare in the world. 
In the US, legislation on animal welfare is woefully deficient. There are some regulations governing slaughterhouses but they are not as comprehensive, and there is a general resistance to even acknowledge the existence of sentience in farm animals which is quite extraordinary. 
US consumers have started to drive a change. There has been a growing demand for “natural” beef that has not been treated with hormones. There has also been a growing organic sector. The most important change has been delivered by emerging policies from large companies such as McDonald’s. Steve Easterbrook, a British citizen and the former head of McDonald’s in the UK has developed a suite of policies to promote higher animal welfare on farms supplying McDonald’s. He has since become the global CEO of McDonald’s based in the US and has taken British values of compassion with him helping to drive improvement in welfare on some US farms. 
A modern trade deal is not simply about commerce, it is also about values. One option might be to suggest that the US introduce a similar piece of legislation at federal level to drive the modernisation of its own laws. We could even send British advisers to Washington to help them do it as part of our trade negotiations. 
The international trade secretary understandably wants to talk about opportunities for new industries such as services or digital but, in the court of public opinion, if the choice is between the commercial interests of banks or the welfare of chickens, the chickens will win every time. The sound of clucking chickens will never be far from the negotiating table, tugging at our consciences so we might as well get used to it. We should use the power of the UK to project British values of kindness and compassion in any future trade deals.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Learn to Play

The Brexit saga continues but, as I write this, there is sadly nothing new to report, so I am going to give this column a welcome break from the EU debate and touch on something lighter. 
Last Saturday was “Learn to Play” day run by the Music for All charity which encourages people up and down the country to try a musical instrument and take a taster lesson. I was never much good at music at school but have always somewhat regretted not learning to play an instrument. Last week I visited Pool Academy and one of their students was playing a piece of music on the piano. She was incredibly talented and clearly had a natural vocation for music. I am always impressed by those who can play instruments as if it were a second nature. 
I think that learning to play the piano or another instrument is similar to learning a language. It can develop parts of the mind and is therefore an important element of a child’s learning and this fact is often overlooked in education. There is a problem that music departments in schools are often quite variable and usually depend on there being one individual who has a passion and is able to share that passion. I also think that the focus on academic subjects can sometimes squeeze out time for pursuits such as music. It is not just something that can be of benefit to young people. Although learning anything is obviously easier at a young age, for those in later life who have spare time and want to keep their brain active, learning to play an instrument can be a worthwhile and enjoyable new challenge. 
In our area, we are of course blessed with many talented town bands. The Camborne Youth Band under the leadership of Alan Pope have done incredibly well in recent years and have been invited to play at events in Belgium to commemorate the First World War. We also have many others who are regularly seen at events around our towns, especially at Christmas or the annual Remembrance Sunday parades. We have a wealth of choirs too which is another deep part of our Cornish heritage.
For those with an interest in Music, we are lucky in Camborne to have Trevada Music on Chapel Street which is the leading music store in Cornwall. I visited in Saturday and met Dan Higgins, their manager, who had a passion for his work. The range of music instruments they had on offer was extraordinary and I was surprised to hear that they also run regular lessons in a range of instruments. They had a busy day with many taster lessons offered on the piano, the guitar, trumpet and drums. While I was there one seven year old boy had decided to try every instrument he could to see what he liked the most. I think the drums won. 

Thursday, 21 March 2019

It’s time to deliver Brexit

The actions of Parliament last week were a blow to the credibility of our democracy. We have signalled to the world that we are too scared to leave the EU without its permission, and we are about to send our Prime Minister to Brussels on her hands and knees to beg for an extension. 
For those like me who voted to leave without a deal if necessary, it is no good sobbing over the fact that we lost a line-out and that those who want to thwart the referendum result are running away with the ball. We need to regroup and get back in the game.
We have been arguing about Brexit solidly for over three years now and our system cannot take another two years of this, especially if there is a long extension to article 50. What is needed now is a way to secure early closure on this debate and to expedite our departure from the EU. 
There is a simpler and swifter way to leave the EU. We should rely on our existing legal rights and obligations as a signatory to the European Economic Area (EEA) and switch to a relationship similar to Norway. The UK is a party to that agreement, and the Government took a conscious decision last year not to give twelve months notice to leave the EEA, as is required under article 127 of that agreement. 
First, we would agree to a stand-still arrangement with the EU for a transitional period of nine months, during which we would dynamically align all of our regulations, so that there would be no need for the EU to put in place border checks. 
We would then immediately apply to join the so called EFTA pillar of the EEA agreement. The UK invented the idea of EDTA in 1959 as an alternative to the EU. We could have friendship and cooperation but not get subsumed into the political structures of the EU. Initially we built an alliance of seven countries including Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Austria but we abandoned them and caved in to those who thought we should join the EU. 
Returning to full EFTA membership would take six-nine months to complete but joining the necessary surveillance and court agreements to make the EEA operable could be agreed within three months. The standstill agreement on regulatory alignment would become a bridge to somewhere (i.e: EFTA) rather than an open-ended continuation of this exhausting debate. 
Under the EFTA approach we can settle this debate now rather than condemn our country to years more argument about Brexit. It removes the backstop, since article 127 of the EEA means we already have an existing legal right to terminate our membership of it with 12 months notice. We would avoid having to negotiate a “future partnership” with the EU, and fall back on the provisions of an existing treaty to which we are already a party. We would be out of the Customs Union and have an independent trade policy, but part of a ready-made comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU. We would have an independent agriculture and fisheries policy. There would be no need for a two year “implementation period”. Finally, it delivers on the referendum result, since the 1972 European Communities Act would be repealed on time. 
As parliament wrestles in these desperate last days for a way out of this maze, the so called Norway option looks increasingly attractive as a way to solve the political crisis quickly and deliver Brexit on time.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

If MPs vote down the Brexit deal, the only option for a serious country is to leave without an agreement

EU institutions are designed to be insulated from democratic forces. They take the view that nothing that a national democracy might do can change the Treaty obligations that all member states are under. It is what makes them such a lumbering and inflexible organisation and one of the reasons why this negotiation has been so difficult. 
When any referendum in a Member State comes up with an inconvenient answer, the EU has a long history of expecting people to vote again until they give them the right answer. They have no qualms about humiliating a national government, as Greece learnt, even if in doing so they store up even bigger political problems for the future. 
This week Parliament will have an important decision to take. As I write this article we don’t know whether the Prime Minister agreement will pass. However, if it fails to get through, are we going to roll over like Greece did? Will we go back, cap in hand to ask for an extension, and then meekly accept whatever terms they attach to that extension, if it’s allowed at all? Or are we going to face them down, calmly get our coat and walk out the door? 
This is a deeply uncomfortable decision for Parliament to be confronted with, but there is only one viable option if we regard ourselves as a serious country. In the absence of an agreement, we have no alternative but to muster the courage to leave without one and then do all we can to mitigate any impacts of a departure without an agreement. Unless we are psychologically prepared to leave with no deal, we can never expect to get a good deal. In any event, “no deal” is a bit of a misnomer. A more accurate description would be “no deal, yet.” In many ways, the idea that you can get anywhere by negotiating with the EU while still a member has been tested to destruction. If it turns out that approach has now failed, then we should try a different one, get out first and talk afterwards. 
There is an approach that would mitigate the effects of any departure without a deal and provide time and space for talks to continue after we have left. We should unilaterally commit to dynamically align with all EU regulations across the piece, as if we were still a member of the EU, for a transitional period of nine months. That way, the EU would have no real reason to put up full border infrastructure or checks. We already know that they are not ready for us to leave. 
To leave the EU without an agreement would cause some short-term challenges but in all of the scenario planning I was involved in as a minister, the difference between a reasonable best-case scenario and a reasonable worse-case scenario really came down to one thing: how will the EU behave. If they act in a proportionate and pragmatic way, then the situation can be managed to mitigate the effects for both parties. 
I have always supported compromise to achieve reconciliation in our country over this issue, including being open to using our existing EEA membership as an exit mechanism. But if we fail to leave at all, we will be completely humiliated.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

How the Foreign Office kept open an EEA parachute

On the 22nd of March last year, I was in Oslo Meeting Norwegian Ministers about fisheries. Our then Ambassador to Norway explained to me that she had had a busy week. The Foreign Office had placed her on stand-by to hand deliver a letter to the Norwegiangovernment giving 12 months notice of our intention to leave the EEA, as required under article 127 of that agreement. In the event, the so called "implementation period" was agreed on the 19th of March so she was stood down. The letter was never delivered and the UK government took a conscious decision not to leave the EEA.
This made me curious. From the very beginning, the official line from the government had been that "it believed" we did not need to give notice to leave the EEA. It was argued that, although the UK was a direct signatory to the EEA agreement, it was essentially an agreement between the EU and the EFTA states. The most fashionable legal interpretation had been that our membership of the EEA automatically fell away once we left the EU. However, if that were really true and if that were the only possible legal interpretation, why was our Ambassador armed with a letter and on stand-by to hand deliver it to the Norwegian government.
After much probing of government lawyers, what I finally established is that there is more than one possible interpretation as to whether we need to give notice to leave the EEA. In fact, a more accurate interpretation is that we remain bound by the EEA agreement as a signatory to it but that if we leave the EU but don't simultaneously join the EFTA pillar, the agreement would become inoperable. 
Foreign Office lawyers thought that, if no "implementation period" was agreed, the Cabinet might quickly resolve to leave with no deal at all. If that happened, they had established that we should give notice under article 127 before the 29th March, otherwise we would be exposed to a potential challenge from other parties under the Vienna Convention. Someone in the Foreign Office, probably at official level, also had the foresight to recognise that a future government might want to retain the option of adopting a different legal interpretation should the political facts require it. So a decision was taken not to give notice and the letter was scrapped, using the advent of an "implementation period" as the excuse.
If the PM's agreement fails, I am personally for no deal. However, as we stare into the abyss of this current political crisis, we need to be ready to make a political choice about the legal interpretation we choose to adopt. It is not just about lawyers with their lever arch files. What if an alternative arrangement simply consisted of asserting our existing rights as an EEA member and agreeing with the other parties that we will transfer from the EU to the EFTA pillar? We would leave on time, there would be no backstop, no customs union, no problems at the border and no more Groundhog Day of Brexit debate.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

George Eustice resigns from the government

Last week, it was with tremendous sadness that I resigned from the government following the decision by Parliament to allow the postponement of our exit from the EU. Since Parliament is now in direct control of events, I wanted to be free to participate in the critical debate that will take place in the weeks ahead and I feel that the only place to do so is on the backbenches. 
I have worked in Defra for over 5 years, and I can truly say that it has been an honour to work alongside so many talented individuals. Defra has phenomenal expertise and, more than any other government department, has embraced the opportunities posed by our exit from the EU. I have particularly welcomed the chance to craft two new Bills on farming and fisheries, which are the first for half a century, as we have prepared the ground to restore self-government in this country. 
Whilst I have resigned from the government, I will be voting for the Withdrawal Agreement when it returns to the House. Although I campaigned to leave, I have always supported compromise to achieve a reconciliation in our country, and that is why I very much hope that the Attorney General succeeds in securing final changes to the deal. Leaving the EU would represent an historic change and it is natural that some people will feel apprehensive. I have made clear in this column before that there is an opportunity to use our existing membership of the EEA as an exit mechanism for a smoother exit. 
I supported the Prime Minister’s approach outlined at Chequers when others did not, and I stuck with the government through a series of rather undignified retreats. However, the developments of the past few weeks will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country. Evidently the Prime Minister has been terribly undermined by those in Parliament who refuse to respect the referendum result. She has shown great tenacity and resilience over the past year, but what our country needs from all its political leaders at this critical juncture is courage, and we are about to find out whether Parliament has it. 
In my role as a Defra Minister, I have enjoyed good relations with the European Commission and with Ministers from other member states. However, I do not believe that the Commission has behaved honourably during these negotiations.  They have deliberately made progress slow and difficult. They have stated in terms that they will refuse to even hold substantive negotiations on a future partnership until after we leave. If the position of Parliament is now that we will refuse to leave without an agreement, then we are somewhat stuck. This is uncomfortable for everyone, but we cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless we are prepared to walk out the door. 
We must therefore have the courage, if necessary, to reclaim our freedom first and talk afterwards.  We must be ready to face down the European Union here and now.  The absence of an agreement poses risks and costs for them too. We already know that in the event of "no deal" the EU will seek an informal transition period for nine months in many areas and settlement talks could continue within this window. 
I will continue to do what I can from the back benches to try to salvage this sorry situation and I hope that, when the moment comes, Parliament will not let our country down.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Improving access to Dental care

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. 
The NHS also provides access to local dental practices across the country. We all know the importance of looking after our teeth and ensuring good dental hygiene with regular check-ups. It can be an important way of identifying other conditions early such as mouth cancers. Unfortunately for many across Cornwall, gaining access to an NHS dentist is not as easy as it should be. I have had a growing number of constituents reporting problems getting access to a local dentist and part of the problem is the fact that we are on a peninsula and staff retention is harder. 
Ironically, we have a dental school in Truro and train many dentists every year but getting them stay in Cornwall is proving more difficult. Waiting lists for dental treatment are not uncommon in Cornwall, with 52% of adults in Devon and Cornwall recorded as not seeing an NHS dentist in the past two years. This means that when patients do visit their dentists, it is often for more complex treatments that take longer to solve. 
NHS England, who are largely responsible for administering dental services across the country are working hard to commission new services and reduce waiting lists, but the problem is exacerbated in the way that dentists are paid. Previously, dentists used to gain money based on a set payment tariff for “units of work” that they complete. Under the previous Labour government, these tariffs were simplified about twelve years ago to one basic tariff for most work. Although there were good intentions behind that change to simplify things, it does mean that dentists now do not receive a higher payment that would cover complex cases and parts of the country are more prone to having patients presenting with complex problems than others. 
If we want to reduce the numbers of patients on waiting lists, then we must pursue a range of options that will start to improve local services. From working with local providers to ensure that existing contacts are delivering to their maximum potential to commissioning additional NHS work from practices that have capacity available across Cornwall. In recent weeks I have also met with the Minister for Public Health and Primary Care to discuss the issue in greater detail and have also spoken to the Director of Commissioning Operations at NHS England in the South West. 
Despite the difficulties that many are experiencing, there are arrangements in place to ensure that those without a dentist requiring treatment, can access an urgent dental appointment as a priority. Patients who are waiting for a place at an NHS dentist can access emergency treatment by contacting Westcountry Dental in Truro on 03334050290.