Thursday, 3 October 2019

Party Conference

This week is Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, which marks the end of the conference season for MPs. However, in this world of upside down politics that we appear to be living in, I am writing this article not from Manchester but from Westminster as a result of cynical attempts by opposition MPs to wreck our conference.
Last week the Supreme Court entered the realm of political judgements and stated that the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue parliament was unlawful. I fundamentally disagreed with the Court’s decision and it was clear that those who brought this particular challenge before the court did so for the sole objective of frustrating Brexit and cancelling the result of the referendum. The events that followed this decision led to opposition MPs voting against the usual practice of a parliamentary recess to cover the conference season.
Westminster politics has become quite feral at the moment and only a General Election can settle things. However, in the meantime Boris Johnson is undeterred by these attempts to undermine him. The Conservative Conference went ahead as planned and was a great success with many exciting proposals on schools, police and the NHS once we get Brexit done.
Locally there have been significant announcements for Cornwall with the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock announcing that Cornwall will receive up to £450 million for a new hospital. This is great news for everyone in Cornwall and will be a significant boost to the many staff and patients who have come to give so much to our NHS. The plans are part of a new strategic Health Investment Programme of £13billion to upgrade hospitals across the country. This will include funds for the NHS in Cornwall to begin work, with local decision makers, to consider options and work up the business case, which could include a brand new acute hospital on a new site, upgrading of existing Community Hospitals as well as redevelopment of existing facilities at Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske. This truly is welcome news and once more demonstrates the government’s commitment to delivering first class public services for everyone.
There was also an announcement that the National Living Wage, which was introduced by George Osborne a few years ago, would be increased to £10.50 meaning that the lowest paid will receive a substantial pay rise. Unemployment is at a record low but there are too many people who work hard but still struggle financially. This will be a boost for them.
There have of course been other issues discussed at the conference that received less attention. In my time as an MP and particularly as a Minister at DEFRA, I have worked to try to improve environmental and animal welfare standards. This week plans to restrict the export of live animals and to ban the keeping of primates as pets was announced. At DEFRA we’ve made great strides in improving animal welfare from installing CCTV in slaughter houses to improving the legislation around the breeding of puppies and we want to continue to improve the law.

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