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.