Thursday, 17 September 2020

Protecting the Integrity of the United Kingdom

Seven months ago, on 31st January the UK left the European Union. In the time since, the Government have been working hard to get a future free trade agreement that builds on what has already been agreed and delivers a future trading relationship that is in the interest of both the UK and the European Union.
The Withdrawal Agreement itself recognised that there were a few loose ends and points of detail relating to how the agreed arrangements in Northern Ireland would work in practice. To work through these a Joint Committee was established so that UK and EU officials could work through these points of detail and that work is ongoing. It looks at minor technical details such as how the agreed approach to tariff procedures would work and what sorts of checks would be required for different goods. However, in the event that there remain some unresolved issues at the end of that process, it may well be necessary for Parliament to legislative to provide the necessary legal certainty and clarity that business needs and that is one of the issues debated this week through a new Internal Market Bill. I think it is essential that Parliament has the necessary powers to act where necessary to give legal effect to the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and therefore fully back the measures brought forward.
Discussions on a future trade agreement are continuing but there are several important sticking points which require the EU to become more realistic if a trade agreement is to be concluded. Firstly, the EU have been making unrealistic asks regarding the future of fishing access which is of great importance to the west country. We are not requesting anything extraordinary. The UK simply wants to be like Norway and to control access to its own waters as provided for in international law and as every other independent country does. Secondly, the EU are requesting that we continue to follow their laws in some areas like the approach to subsidies and state aid. Obviously neither of the positions currently held by the EU are acceptable given that we are leaving the EU and re-establishing our independence.
The reason we need the Bill is that the EU have begun to say that unless we agree to their terms, they may attempt to use an extreme interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol to impose a full-scale trade border down the Irish sea. Moreover, EU negotiators have said that they might not only impose tariffs on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but that they might actually stop the transport of food products from GB to NI essentially blockading one part of the UK to cut it off and destroy the economic and territorial integrity of the UK. It is possible that if and when the moment comes, the EU would think better of such a course but a responsible government must ensure it has the necessary powers to protect the integrity of the UK and to stand behind the Belfast agreement that we are a party to. Only the UK has the ability to legislate to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland and that is why this Bill is important.
We have left the EU, and although the EU may not have reconciled itself with that, they should be aware that the UK is serious about its new found sovereignty. As the world’s fifth largest economy with world leading expertise in science, finance and industry, we have an incredibly strong hand of cards to play as we go out into the world as a sovereign, independent nation.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Helping others during difficult times

Throughout the last few months, on every front, we have all had to try to work out how to return to something closer to normal life while recognising that we have to live alongside the virus for some time to come. Measures we have put in place have evolved from a full lockdown to steps that reduce the transmission of the disease through observing social distancing, wearing face masks and having localised restrictions where there are flare ups.
In the search for normality, many of us have taken up the opportunity to support local businesses which are so vital to our local economy here in Cornwall. Part of this has seen people partake in the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme which throughout August, saw more than 100 million meals eaten, helping to protect the livelihoods of 1.8million people in the hospitality industry. On a local level we saw more than 128,000 meals claimed with 119 restaurants and hospitality businesses signed up to the scheme across the constituency.
The scheme has been a fantastic success and nationally has been credited with protecting 1.8million jobs across the country with restaurant bookings significantly up on the previous year. The Government recognises that the hospitality industry may continue to experience further difficulties in the months ahead and will continue to provide support with a temporary discount to VAT, from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, until 12 January 2021.
Across the South West, this message of the Government working to support businesses and the self-employed, has been clear for many to see with over £2billion in government grants being provided. The data confirms that Cornwall has received £246million in grants for businesses and highlights the unprecedented package of support to protect lives and livelihoods as we continue to work hard to protect, support and create jobs to ensure we come back stronger.
I know that in the weeks and months ahead, many will be apprehensive as schools return and many return to offices. It is also the case that the infection rate is starting to rise again and this is causing concern and means we now need to strengthen some of the rules around meetings in groups. A particular concern is younger people aged 18-24 who have been gathering in larger groups again and this is where the infection rate is starting to increase.
The new measures introduced this week are a reminder that we are far from being out of the woods. There is lots that we can do as individuals to protect ourselves, from regularly washing our hands, to wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and businesses are doing all that they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
My office remains open if you have a problem that you need help solving. I can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk, by telephone on 0207 219 7032.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Parliament returns

Earlier this week, Parliament returned from the summer recess, with a number of important issues and debates to be had. For many, Monday also marked the point in which schools and offices began to return in a safe way. Understandably people will continue to have concerns about COVID-19, but I know that the government is working with businesses, schools and local communities to help further reduce the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
One of the questions that is often asked to MPs when they return from the summer recess, is what their priorities are for the term ahead. Locally there are a number of important projects that I have been working on for some time and which are moving forward. In Hayle some years after the first phase of the harbour regeneration, and the marine business park, we are now seeing the new housing development that was always planned along North Quay. In Camborne and Redruth, we have also seen discussions continue about how best to utilise the funds that have been provided to them to aid in their economic regeneration. There is an opportunity to do something different with the bus station area in Camborne which could change the town centre and a number of candidate projects to help restore historic buildings in Redruth.
In parliament and in my role as Environment Secretary, there are also a number of priorities that we are working on. On Tuesday, the Fisheries Bill returned to the House of Commons for its Second Reading. As we leave the EU we have a great opportunity to chart a new course for our fishing industry. The current quota sharing arrangement within the EU is profoundly unfair to the UK fleet. Here in Cornwall French Fishermen receive about five times as much haddock quota as local Cornish Fishermen’s which can’t be right. The Common Fisheries Policy also guaranteed access to EU vessels in UK waters. The Bill gives us the powers to control access to our waters in future with all foreign vessels requiring a licence stating where they can fish and what they can catch and it gives new powers to improve the marine environment and a requirement for objectives and plans to deliver sustainable fishing in line with the science.
In the months ahead, I know that families and people across the constituency will have concerns about what may happen with their jobs, or whether there will be a second COVID spike in cases. My office remains open if you have a problem that you need help solving or advice on difficult matters. I and my team can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or by telephone on 0207 219 7032.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Return of schools

Throughout the last few months, on every front, we have all had to try to work out how to return to something closer to normal life while recognising that we have to live alongside the virus for some time to come. measures we have put in place have evolved from a full lockdown to steps that reduce the transmission of the disease through observing social distancing, wearing face masks and having localised restrictions where there are flare ups.
In recent weeks schools have been doing a lot of work to identify steps that will enable all children and young people to resume their education. For many pupils, next week will be the first time that they have returned to school since the beginning of lockdown in March.
During lockdown, parents quickly adapted to the situation educating their children at home and teachers found innovative ways to teach through the internet and other programmes. It was a national challenge but one in which parents and teachers alike played their part and helped to ensure that children kept learning through difficult circumstances.
However, we now need to ensure that children can resume their education in school safely. Time spent out of class means lower average academic attainment and its vital that we ensure that the Coronavirus pandemic does not have a lasting impact on their future. Moreover, the return to the classroom is also crucial for the welfare and health of children. Socialising with friends, playing sports, and exploring creative subjects are all important parts of how children grow up and learn.
I understand that many will have concerns about COVID-19 in schools. The country’s Chief Medical Officer has said that there is only an exceptionally small risk from COVID-19 in the classroom, and I know that headteachers, governors and all who work in our schools are working hard to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible. Guidance published by the government will be closely adhered although different schools will have different settings and different issues to resolve but everyone will be working hard to keep our children safe.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Supporting our students

When the country entered the lockdown phase some time ago now, one of the decisions initially taken to protect people and stop the spread of the virus was for schools to only remain open for parents of key workers. A consequence of this was that children across the country partook in online learning with many teachers coming up with innovative methods of teaching. At the same time the Secretary of State for Education confirmed that assessments and exams would not be taking place this year and that work was underway with the sector and Ofqual to ensure that young people would receive the qualifications they need.
Whilst it was not possible for exams to go ahead the Department for Education worked with Ofqual to identify a way of awarding grades in conjunction with schools and assessment centres. Undoubtedly there would be limitations to such an approach, however an appeals system was quickly implemented to help with any schools or colleges that had experienced a process or data error. 
On Thursday last week when A level and AS level grades were awarded, there was an overall increase in the top grades. At A level, 2.5% more students received an A* or an A, attainment was broadly in line with previous years, and more students got into university than ever before, including more from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Unfortunately, it also became clear that the algorithm used to help calculate the grades revealed a number of anomalies that had not been anticipated by Ofqual which undermined confidence in the system. On Friday I spoke to the head teacher at Camborne School of Science and International Academy who subsequently raised some of the concerns that they had over the process. Over the weekend I also received representations from concerned parents and students who had been affected by the lower grades that they had received. I subsequently raised these concerns with officials and it was clear that nationally the system had resulted in too many inconsistent and unfair outcomes.
As a result, earlier this week, the Education Secretary has confirmed that GCSE students will therefore receive their centre assessment grades on Thursday, or their calculated grade if it was higher. A level students will be reissued with their centre assessment grades – any who received a calculated grade higher than their centre assessment grade will still receive the higher.
Understandably this move will create different pressures for universities, but the Department for Education are working closely with the sector to create additional capacity and ensure that they are as flexible as possible and that they honour all offers made and met. Students who previously missed their offer and will now meet it on the basis of their centre assessment grade should get in contact with the university. Those who have accepted another offer will be able to release themselves if they have a preferred offer reinstated. I hope that in the weeks ahead, many more local students can now pursue their ambition and take the next step in their careers.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Planning for the future

Whilst much of the country continues to endure a heat wave, it has been nice to be back home in Cornwall where it has been much cooler and fresher with the Cornish mist that is a regular feature at this time of year. Over the past week I have been visiting some of my favourite spots in Cornwall such as Godrevy, Zennor, Mounts Bay and the gardens at Trebah, Trelisick and Heligan. Many of these areas are part of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are part of what makes Cornwall such a special place to live and work.
Last year the government commissioned a review into National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The conclusion was that more should be done to strengthen them and improve cohesion between them. Cornwall has a rather unique AONB in that it is a composite site with multiple areas predominantly around our beautiful coastline. At the time of designation there was serious consideration to designating it a National Park but in the end they settled for the AONB. Later this year I will be giving a response to that review and will be looking at how we can strengthen the AONBs.
Ever since I was elected in 2010, I have always maintained that developments should be done with local communities not to them, and that there should always be developments on brownfield sites rather than greenfield. Last week, the Government released its White Paper on its reforms of the planning system. As things stand our planning system is complex and slow. It is a barrier to building homes which are affordable, where families want to raise children and build their lives. It takes an average of seven years to make a housing plan for an area and five years to get permission to build, often followed by the slow delivery of homes and the roads, schools, hospitals and other community infrastructure needed to support them.
The White Paper will consult on a number of proposals ranging from new roles for local authorities with more accessible map-based local plans and quicker timetables in the development of these plans. Crucially, there will also be a new emphasis on building beautiful architecture that is in keeping with the surroundings. Too often in the past here in Cornwall we have seen large scale developments that are not consistent with our historic built environment and which end up looking tired. We need to put more emphasis on the quality of what we allow to be built. If we protect our most beautiful and unique areas and then when we do build, build things that look the part, we can deliver the homes we need and protect the natural beauty of Cornwall.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

A new beginning for Wave Hub?

The Wave Hub Project in Hayle was the first commercial scale demonstration project for wave power in the world and when it was originally being developed some ten to fifteen years ago, there was a lot of potential. I always got behind the idea of wave power as part of our renewables energy mix. Here in the far south west we have enormous energy contained within the Atlantic swell. There have been a number of tentative developers who have been close to deploying at wave hub and one that actually did. However, a decade on, it is important to take stock. Some of the technical challenges around harnessing the power of waves have been harder to crack than hoped and, at the same time, offshore wind technology has progressed in leaps and bounds and now makes a major contribution to our national energy needs.
Recognising these developments, Wave Hub is now diversifying its approach and utilising the Wave Hub infrastructure for the deployment of Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW). A floating offshore wind turbine is an offshore wind turbine that allows a turbine to generate electricity in water depths where fixed -foundation turbines are not possible but they make use of what is now a mature technology using wind turbines. They are usually placed in shallow waters and are able to reach stronger and more consistent winds than onshore wind turbines. The Celtic Sea is a unique area containing the required depths to build the offshore wind towers required to generate the renewable wind. Moreover placing them out at sea helps to reduce the effect that such an installation would have were it to be inshore.
Floating offshore wind is at a unique point in its development and the opportunity for the Wave Hub site to be used as a base to implement this renewable technology is exciting. In recent months I have been working with the team at Wave Hub to help overcome some of the issues that need to be resolved so that the plan can be progressed. We have made some good progress, but there is still a bit more to be settled.
Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are towns that have always had a rich industrial heritage leading to some of the most important inventions and discoveries that this country has made. Much of the expertise developed here in drilling technology for mining was transferred to drilling for offshore oil and gas with companies like Seacore and LDD at Tolvaddon and these companies are now applying their expertise to offshore renewables. We have the skills locally to make this project succeed, even if by a different route than originally intended.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Great British holiday

Parliament has now broken for the summer and I am looking forward to August back in Cornwall to catch up with family and friends. When the lockdown occurred I was in London and needed to stay at that end to deal with the Coronavirus response and some of the daily press conferences.
After months of lockdown it is entirely understandable that many people took the chance to go to Spain for their annual holiday. For a lot of families, they would have booked their holiday at the beginning of the year and won’t get a chance again to take time off year with their children. To try to help these families, the government cautiously lifted the quarantine requirements for some countries where the risk was judged low but we have had to keep the issue under close review. The decision this week to put back quarantine requirements for those returning from Spain shows that we still have to be cautious as we try to live our lives alongside the virus.
For those, however, who do not want to risk travelling abroad, there is of course the great British holiday. Across the country from our golden sandy beaches and beautiful gardens and landscapes in Cornwall, to the rolling hills of the north, Britain has restful landscapes if not always the perfect beach weather! Many of these areas are heavily dependent on tourists who typically visit from Easter until the early autumn, but because of Coronavirus have experienced financial problems. By holidaying here in the UK we can give something back to communities across the country and truly make a difference to their businesses.
My daughter is now coming up to three years old and associates Cornwall with the seaside so I am sure we will be spending some time at Gwithian. Paradise Park is another must visit attraction. They are also home to the World Parrot Trust which does some much conservation work internationally to rescue birds from the illegal trade in endangered birds captured from the wild. Along the Helford we also have some stunning gardens like Trebah and Glendurgan which I hope to get to in the next few weeks and we may venture further afield to the Eden Project.
I hope that in the weeks ahead, many of you will get a chance to have a break. My office remains open if you have a problem that you need help solving. I can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk, by telephone on 0207 219 7032

Thursday, 23 July 2020

My vision for a green recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic

Earlier this week, I gave a speech setting out my vision for how we can recover from the Coronavirus Pandemic. There is no doubt that the impacts of this pandemic will be felt deeply for many years, but the experiences that many have had, have led us to appreciate the difference that nature makes to our lives in a new way. Now more than ever we are reminded that it is in our best interests to look after nature.
When we destroy nature, we undermine our very foundations. Every country faces a choice as they map out their recovery - store up problems by sticking with the status quo, or get back on our feet by building back better and greener. We require a long term approach and political commitment to tackling the environmental challenges, and so we will be publishing a paper that sets out our approach to setting long-term targets on biodiversity, waste, water, and air quality through the new Environment Bill, so they are established in time by October 2022.
Long before the EU, the UK was a driving force in establishing other international conventions to help our natural environment, and now that we are leaving the EU, an opportunity awaits to adapt our approach to the environment. We can borrow approaches that worked in the EU in the past, but we must challenge ourselves to think creatively, to innovate and to consciously avoid clinging to processes and procedures just because they are familiar.
So, as we chart a new course for our approach to protecting the environment, we should recognise that the environment and our ecosystems are a complex web of interactions that mankind will never fully understand let alone manage. We should re-balance the way we approach policy development with more focus on science and technical knowledge and less time fretting about legal risks of doing something new or innovative. We should have fewer reports that say nothing new – but more new ideas that we should actually try. If we are to protect species and habitats and also deliver biodiversity net gain, we need to properly understand the science to inform these crucial decisions. And we should ask ourselves whether the current processes are as effective or efficient as they could be.
At the heart of our approach is a simple premise. If we can improve the baseline understanding of habitats and species abundance across the country in every planning authority, then we can make better decisions towards achieving our vision to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. We can reduce process while simultaneously improving the quality of the data that informs our decisions. We can move quickly to rule out issues that we know don’t exist leaving us time to focus on the protections that matter most for the species and habitats most affected – so we ensure that new developments really do mean a net gain for people and for nature.
In recent decades, our approach to environmental regulation , has been to protect what is left and to stem the tide of decline. However, if we really want to realise the aspirations that the public have for nature then we need policies that will not only protect but that will build back – with more diverse habitats that lead to a greater abundance of those species currently in decline.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Supporting Cornwall’s businesses

In the past few weeks, businesses and workspaces across the country have begun to reopen following their closures as a consequence of the Coronavirus. For many, the past few months have been an extremely challenging time with problems relating to a loss of income and the various other challenges associated with this.
On the 4th July many of these businesses had the opportunity to re-open and I spent the weekend in the constituency meeting people and visiting some of the businesses that were getting ready to start again. All of the businesses had implemented the guidance and social distancing measures required to make their premises COVID-19 secure maintaining the safety of staff and visitors alike.
There have been some great examples of local Cornish businesses stepping in to help during the Coronavirus episode. The Penventon Hotel offered up its rooms for key NHS staff working at Treliske and also set aside a part of the hotel to be a temporary nursing home so that patients could be discharged from hospital earlier and cared for from the hotel. As things start to get back to normal they are now open to the public again and taking bookings for the remainder of the summer.
My visit to Hayle also showed some of the difficulties businesses have as we adjust to reopen again and the different needs of different types of shop. Cornwall Council have been trying to support local town councils with any measures to assist in making social distancing work. On Penpol Terrace a decision had been taken to cone off the roadside parking. The cafes welcomed the move because they wanted to put tables outside on the pavement, however, the other retailers relied on customers being able to pull in and park to go into their shop. In the end, a decision was taken to remove the cones and allow cars to park there again. All of this shows the trial and error nature of the situation we all find ourselves in.
I know that in the weeks and months ahead, many will be apprehensive about the continued re-opening of Cornwall. However, it may take some time to finally see the virus disappear altogether and for the time being, we will all need to learn to live our lives alongside it and that includes finding ways to enable people to safely visit beautiful Cornwall and spend their money here so that our many fabulous restaurants, camp sites and hotels are given a future. There is lots that we can do as individuals to protect ourselves, from regularly washing our hands, to wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and businesses are doing all that they can to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
The next few months are critical to our local economy here in Cornwall. It is vital that we do what we can to support our local shops and high streets whilst also remaining safe.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

A New Deal for Britain and Cornwall

Early last week, the Prime Minister travelled to Dudley and outlined his vision for a “New Deal” that will see an ambitious strategy to rebuild the country, placing jobs, skills and infrastructure investment at the heart of the country’s recovery from Coronavirus.
The past few months have seen many of us contend with the effects of Coronavirus. However, it was good to get out and meet businesses and people on Saturday as many re-opened their doors for the first time since the virus forced them to close. There was good will from everyone, and lots of people venturing out to shop local and support local businesses and our great Cornish economy.
In his speech, the Prime Minister committed to using the coronavirus pandemic to tackle the country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades which successive governments have ducked: to build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, and to unite and level up.
This is a commitment that I have also worked hard to deliver on since first being elected in 2010. From that first moment, I made clear that the 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. In Hayle we have the new development at the Harbour attracting jobs and inward development, and in Camborne and Redruth we have seen both towns qualify for huge sums of money to aid in their economic regeneration.
Following the Prime Minister’s speech, there were a number of key announcements, illustrating the Government’s commitment to levelling up Camborne, Redruth and Hayle. As part of a programme to expand classrooms, upgrade facilities and improve the education of children, six schools across the constituency were selected for funding and will see improvements carried out. There was also a further commitment to continue the work of the Camborne Town Board, with an additional £500,000 to spend on projects that will see improvements to the public realm, the high street and other key areas of Camborne. It was also confirmed that the town of Hayle, would also receive funding to help fund projects that will increase the sale and consumption of locally caught seafood.
These were all positive projects and once more showed the government’s promise of delivering for our towns. Too many parts of this country including here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, and its welcome to see a government committed to levelling up our great towns, providing, jobs, growth and opportunities.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Climate Change

Last week the Climate Change Committee published its report into the progress that the UK is making in reducing carbon emissions and contributing to tackling climate change. As the Secretary of State in Defra I attended their virtual meeting to participate in the discussion about progress to date. Earlier this week, the Council for Sustainable Business also met. This is a new organisation that brings together some of Britain’s largest companies and which coordinates action by individual businesses to play their part for the environment.
Climate change and environmental concerns more widely have risen up the agenda in recent years. Fifteen years ago, David Cameron made it a central part of his agenda. When the Conservatives came to power we brought our environmental agenda with us. As the Committee of Climate Change report acknowledged, a great deal has been achieved. The UK has made significant progress over the last decade and is the best performing G20 country. We have reduced carbon emissions by about forty percent so far and we have ambitious policies that will achieve more in the years ahead. We were the first country to introduce a Climate Change Act which sets targets for emission reduction. We have met the first two carbon budget targets and we are on course to meet the third in a couple of years time. However, everyone recognises that there is more to do to achieve our targets later this decade.
Over the last ten years, the huge strides we have made have been achieved principally through the huge growth of renewable energy. Major technological breakthroughs in offshore wind generation have been a game changer. Here in Cornwall, work is taking place to deploy the next generation of offshore wind in deeper water with floating offshore wind likely to be piloted at Wave Hub.
However, in the years ahead other changes will be made by the government to ensure we remain the global leader in carbon emissions reduction. The technology around electric vehicles is advancing very quickly which means we are on course to phase out the use of petrol and diesel cars. We also have huge ambitions to dramatically increase tree planting and to restore some of our peatland areas to their natural state. Helping nature recover is going to be an incredibly important part of future phases to address climate change.
Next year, the UK will host COP 26, which is the next global meeting of nations to discuss climate change. One of our key objectives from this conference will be to secure greater recognition and more commitments from every country towards nature based solutions to contribute to tackling climate change. I will be working with colleagues in government as we develop this ambitious agenda for the future.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Cornwall is re-opening for business

Over the last twenty years Cornwall has developed a really powerful and unrivalled brand for tourism. The essential ingredients are our beautiful coast and striking landscapes, a warm welcome and our cultural distinctiveness and a fantastic reputation for great food. It has become a vitally important industry for our communities and the drastic measures that have had to be taken to control the Coronavirus have had a terrible impact.
Hospitality businesses always see the Easter break as a turnaround point when they emerge from the winter and start to turn the corner and get positive cash flow again. This Easter, we entered lockdown and they have lost half the season. The government opened some unprecedented support schemes, suspending business rates, issuing grants to small businesses and covering payroll costs for furloughed staff to prevent unnecessary redundancies. However, these could only ever offer temporary respite. Now that we have the virus under control, we need to take further steps to getting back to life closer to normal albeit with vitally important steps to prevent the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
The last few weeks have already brought a reduction in the restrictions with public gardens, parks and zoos tentatively reopening to the public with the evidence detailing that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low. This gradual easing of restrictions has so far been done while the infection rate of the virus has been held stable so far.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced the next stage. From Saturday 4th July, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines. From the same date, he has set out that two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures, and that people can now enjoy staycations in England and Cornwall with the reopening of accommodation sites such as campsites and B&Bs that make up many of the unique tourism businesses across Cornwall.
In order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
Of course, in the weeks ahead we all have a role to play to ensure that the virus does not re-emerge stronger and effecting more people. The Government’s approach will remain cautious as we seek to control the rate of infection but we are continuing to take steps that can help get people back closer to life as normal. A crucial part to controlling the virus in future will be to closely monitor local outbreaks through testing and tracing the virus and to have very targeted local approaches to asking people to self isolate if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone else who has.
I understand that there will be a degree of apprehension among some about whether Cornwall in particular would become exposed through an influx of visitors. However, it may take some time to finally see the virus disappear altogether and for the the time being, we will all need to learn to live our lives alongside it and that includes finding ways to enable people to safely visit beautiful Cornwall and spend their money here so that our many fabulous restaurants, camp sites and hotels are given a future.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Think Local, Shop Local

Earlier this week, all non-essential retail shops were allowed to re-open and once more commence trading. For many businesses, this was the first time in months that they could open to the public. Businesses up and down the country have been preparing for this moment and precautions have been put in place with extensive guidance from the Government and Public Health England.
Many of these non-essential retail shops are integral to the fabric of our local communities, especially across Cornwall where there is a strong local community. As we emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, I and my Conservative colleagues across Cornwall launched the Think Local, Shop Local campaign to encourage people to shop locally and help local shops get back on their feet. From our local pasty shops, to fashion and hardware, our highstreets are full of opportunities and bargains.

An update on the Brexit negotiations
Whilst COVID-19 has dominated much of the political and media discourse in recent months, the Government has been actively going about its negotiations with the EU on a future free trade agreement. After years of wrangling we finally left the EU at the end of January and the Transition Period will expire at the end of December. Last week, Michael Gove led a meeting between UK and EU officials where he formally confirmed that there would be no extension to the transition period and that on January 1, 2021, the UK will take back control and regain our political & economic independence.
There have been a couple of sticking points in the discussion about a future trade agreement. Firstly, the EU are making unrealistic asks regarding the future of fishing access which is of great importance to the west country. The second sticking point is that the EU are requesting that we continue to follow their laws in some areas. Obviously neither of these requests are reasonable nor acceptable. We have left the EU so that we can control our own laws again and it is what every other independent country does. Likewise, on fisheries, we are just asking for what every other country has which is to be an independent coastal state like Norway and to control access to our waters and reach sensible annual agreements with our neighbours on the management of shared stocks.
There is now going to be an intensive approach to try to secure a breakthrough in the discussions over the next few weeks but if that does not occur then we will still have the agreement that was signed late last year and which provides a basis on which to proceed after the end of the transition period.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

A light at the end of the Covid tunnel?

Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Health announced in the Government’s Daily briefing the country’s lowest recorded rate of deaths from COVID-19. Every life that has been lost to COVID-19 is one too many, and many of us will know of someone who has been affected by the virus. Inevitably there will be lessons learnt from how the state has reacted to the virus, but it is reassuring to hear that after all the sacrifices that many people have made, that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, in the weeks ahead we all have a role to play to ensure that the virus does not re-emerge stronger and effecting more people. The Government’s approach will remain cautious as we seek to control the rate of infection but we are continuing to take steps that can help get people back closer to life as normal. A couple of weeks ago public gardens and parks were told that they could start to tentatively re-open. The evidence is that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low. This week a further step has been taken to allow the partial opening of zoos in outdoor areas provided numbers are controlled. Caution has been needed because a spike in the rate of infection will see the measures once more tightened and a need for a lockdown to be re-imposed. The Government’s guidance on the plan for the months ahead can be found on the www.gov.uk website.
However with more shops and non-essential businesses re-opening in the weeks to come, it is important that we all do as much as we can to support our local Cornish businesses. Throughout the lockdown, there were stories of people increasingly shopping locally, supporting local businesses. In recent years we have seen a number of movements to support small businesses such as Small Business Saturday, and as we emerge from this lockdown, I would encourage as many people as possible to support our local stores. From our local bakeries serving fantastic pasties, to fruit and veg shops, our great Cornish economy can provide everything we need, right on our doorsteps. If we all buy something locally when retail reopens, we will all be able to make a difference to these businesses.
During these difficult times we have all looked out for each other and pulled together to support one another. Our unique Cornish spirit has shone through, however in the weeks and months ahead we all need to continue to do as much as we can and support these businesses that make up the fabric of our communities.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A new vision for Camborne

This week, plans to revitalise Camborne stepped up a notch as the Towns Fund Board appointed a local project manager to help craft the vision for the improvements to our towns. With a local project manager in place, work will now continue to help revitalise our town centre with business and leisure opportunities to be enjoyed for current and future generations.
The towns fund was initially launched back in November 2019 by the Housing Secretary focusing on areas with proud industrial and economic growth but which had been less fortunate in years gone by. However, with the government firmly committed to levelling up our towns and cities and unleashing the country’s potential this funding was most welcome.
Our local towns were once 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, but now we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
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.
Here in Camborne there are already a number of exciting and innovative ideas that are being talked about including the potential to redevelop the old bus station, and breathe new life into the high street but I want to ensure that the community is fully involved in discussions about priorities.
In addition to this, the Government also recently announced that Cornwall Council would be receiving £759,000 to kickstart an expansion of cycling and walking in Cornwall. The funding comes as part of a government initiative to encourage more people to take up walking and cycling in an effort to ensure that public transport and our roads do not become overcrowded.
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis many of us have been walking and cycling more than ever, and not only has this helped to contribute to healthier lifestyles, we’re also seeing cleaner air. Whilst we know that cars will continue to remain vital for many, we must continue to build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Pick for Britain

As our country has faced massive challenges in recent months, it’s been inspiring to see the people of Britain come together. From supporting neighbours with their food shop to volunteering for the NHS – our fighting spirit makes me proud to be British.
And we’re once again calling on everyone to play their part by helping our farmers to feed the nation.I spent ten years working in the farming industry, and at the peak of the strawberry season we used to employ 300 people from over a dozen different countries.
I know it can be a challenge to recruit, train, and retain people to pick fruit and veg and stay with the work over the harvest months. Over the past twenty years most of our summer fruit pickers have travelled over from places like Romania and Bulgaria for the spring and summer months. But this year, the unique challenge of the coronavirus means we need to think differently about how our homegrown produce gets to our plates.
That’s why there is an opportunity for people who are already here in the UK to play their part and lend our farmers a helping hand. We’ve already seen people signing up in their thousands to take on seasonal agricultural work this spring and summer.
In April, we launched our ‘Pick for Britain’ website to bring all the jobs in one place and confirmed furloughed workers could take up seasonal work to top up their incomes. But the growing season is only just getting started. From June through to September, bringing in the harvest requires a mammoth effort from farmers and growers across the country.
We’ve been working with industry, from the National Farmers Union’ to Waitrose, to make sure our farmers and growers have support they need in the months ahead. The Prince of Wales has also issued a message today calling on people to pick for Britain, with workers who can really stick at the job needed in the months ahead.
For university students with the summer months stretching ahead of them, this is also an opportunity to gain work experience while earning money and meeting new people. Those who are able and willing to pitch in this year can help to feed the nation in these tough times and do an invaluable service to their country.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Delivering a new Agriculture Policy fit for the 21st Century

Whilst COVID-19 continues to dominate our politics, many government departments have also been working on different bills and legislation as we continue to fulfil the Government’s promises that were made in our manifesto to the country late December last year. In my own department of DEFRA we have been working hard on two of the most important bills to come before Parliament for over half a century, the Agriculture Bill, and the Fisheries Bill.
Last week Parliament reached an important milestone in the progression of the Agriculture Bill with its passing of the Third Reading Stage meaning that it has now gone to the House of Lords for its consideration before a final vote is held. Leaving the EU on 31st December 2019 gave us the freedom to press ahead with our plans to develop this new policy creating one that was fit fir purpose in the 21st century and delivering British farmers and the environment.
Rather than arbitrary area-based payments, where land ownership and tenure is subsidised, we will instead direct future funding to support activities and interventions that deliver for our environment and enhance animal welfare.
We want a package of incentives to support sustainable farming practices and the bill creates the powers to do this. We recognise that Basic Payment Scheme payments currently make up a significant proportion of net farm income. However, rather than maintain a system that just masks poor profitability, the ambition behind our Agriculture Bill is to tackle the causes of that poor profitability.
So, the bill creates the power to make grants available to deliver a prosperous future for farming by helping farmers invest in new technology and equipment to reduce costs. There is a section in the bill to improve transparency and fairness in the supply chain, so that farmers stop being price takers and start getting a fairer share of the cake. Also, we want to make it easier for farmers to retire with dignity and simultaneously help new entrants get access to land.
I grew up on a farm and spent a decade working in the industry. Domestic food production is crucial and plays a vital role in contributing to our nation’s food security. The Coronavirus Pandemic has reinforced this message, and the government takes this very seriously. The revised bill therefore creates a duty to review food security every five years and a duty to consider the production of food when devising policy.
I also know that farming is a risky business and there will always be circumstances where the government must act and intervene in a crisis to support farmers or stabilise markets. The bill makes provisions for that too.
Whilst any change want take place over night, a decade from now, I want the rest of the world to be coming to the UK to see how it is done, and I know we have some of the best farmers in the world.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives

On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister delivered a televised broadcast to the country as we move towards the next stage of our response to the virus. Whilst the messaging has changed to Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives the guidance for now remains similar with a loosening in some areas and a provisional plan to chart a course out of this lockdown.
People should continue to work from home where possible, however if this is not possible then they should return to work and socially distance in a responsible manner. Workplaces will be required to follow Public Health guidelines on social distancing and work together with their employees to help those who cannot return to work due to childcare commitments. Where people are returning to work, they should use public transport as sparingly as possible and either drive to work by car or even better cycle or walk.
We are now also in a position whereby there is not a limit to the number of times that individuals can leave their homes. Therefore, people can go to the park with members of their households and even sit in the park or play tennis with each other whilst respecting social distancing rules. When we do leave our homes and social distancing is not possible then it is advisable that people wear cloth made face masks that will help try and slow the spread of the virus.
In the weeks and months ahead, there may yet be further loosening to the lockdown that we have all have experienced for the last 7 weeks, but the Government’s approach will remain cautious as we seek to control the rate of infection. This is important because a spike in the rate of infection will see the measures once more tightened and lockdown re-imposed on individual regions and the country. The Government’s guidance on the plan for the months ahead can be found on the www.gov.uk website.
Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic continuing to dominate our politics, the Government is also working hard on other legislation. One of the bills that was debated this week was the Agriculture Bill which I have been working on for some time now. The bill is a crucial part of the country’s framework now that we leave the EU as we continue to press ahead with plans to develop a new policy to replace the bureaucratic shambles that was the Common Agricultural Policy.
Whilst much attention has been fixed to the amendments relating to future trade deals, the ambition of the Bill remains that we should use our new-found freedom to embark on a journey to a better future for farming, innovating and developing the policies of the future. Improving transparency and fairness in the supply chain and providing a more prosperous future for farming are key principles and I look forward to work with colleagues to deliver a coherent future policy for our agricultural sector.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

VE Day

This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of VE day. It was the moment that started the end of the Second World War when fighting against Nazi Germany finally came to an end in Europe. There were more battles to come in Asia and the Pacific against Japan but the surrender of Germany was a crucial milestone bringing to an end a terrible struggle.
The conflict had claimed the lives of millions worldwide and change internal and international politics for decades to come. VE day marked the point in which people came together and celebrated the end of the fighting with street parties, and all manner of festivities. It was the point in time that many had longed for.
This year, it is the first year that the traditional May Day Bank Holiday Monday has been moved to the Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Of course, the rather unusual circumstances we are under means that the scope to properly mark this occasion is more constrained than it might have been but it is important that we take this moment to pause and remember all those who sacrificed so much in that great struggle.
Of course, in this current epidemic it is also not unusual for there to be military analogies made, although the context is very different. However, in recent months many have made sacrifices, some have lost loved ones, and many more have played their part in the national effort to beat this virus.
At times like this it remains important that we all look out for one another. Cornwall has always had a great ability to pull together as a community so play your part. Remember to pick up the phone to family and friends and offer to help elderly neighbours who may want you to assist with their shopping. Whilst as a country we may have passed the peak, there is still a long way to go, we can be inspired by what has come before and know that we will beat this virus and return to the lives that we once led. 
This Sunday the Prime Minister will set out the plan for the next phase of our response to the Coronavirus. The emergence from the lockdown conditions we have all been under will no doubt be gradual since we need to follow the science and guard against a resurgence of the virus, but I hope that we can soon see a route to gradually return life to something closer to normality in the months ahead.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

A Cornishman and true

Earlier this week David Mudd, the former MP for Falmouth and Camborne passed away at the age of eighty six. He was a huge figure in Cornish politics during the 1970s and 1980s, won six consecutive elections and represented the Camborne area for twenty two years and in that time he saw no less than five different Prime Ministers.
David Mudd left a lasting impression on those he represented. Even in recent elections, nearly thirty years after he retired I still find constituents who mention him fondly. My first agent when I stood for this seat in 2010 was John Herd who had previously worked as an agent for David Mudd. I am told that David had an exceptional memory especially when it came to remembering names. It is said that he could walk down the street and know the names of almost everyone he encountered. That is quite a talent which I envy. I have always had a memory for facts and information but confess that I frequently struggle with remembering names.
Some years ago while on holiday in Devon, I ventured into a book shop and came across one of the books that had been written by David Mudd, "Cornishmen and true". It was an account of the lives of a selection of Cornishmen from history, some famous, some less so who had done some remarkable things. David was passionate about Cornwall and for a period of time was said to have been a member of Mebyon Kernow while also being a Conservative MP. I am not sure modern politics would be able to accommodate dual membership of this sort but things were perhaps more laid back in the 70s. David was also a lay preacher for the Methodist church and a Cornish Bard.
Like me, he was a pupil at Truro Cathedral School before he went for a career in journalism. He did national service on merchant ships and then ventured into radio and broadcast journalism. Before becoming the MP for Falmouth and Camborne he was also a presenter for Westward TV News.
At every election, much is made of the fact that the Camborne and Redruth seat is a marginal seat that changes hands often and, as I know from experience, journalists very much enjoy asking the incumbent MP how they feel as the count is about to begin. David Mudd managed to get through six such occasions and in there had some quite remarkable majorities. Whatever different political persuasions people might have had, no one could doubt that he was a Cornishman and true.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Pulling together to get through this crisis

Like many of you I am writing this article from home as the Coronavirus continues to restrict our day to day lives. We have made very good progress in controlling the virus with new hospital emissions having peaked last weekend and with things now on a downward trajectory and with the first tentative signs that the death rate is starting to follow.
The steps that everyone took to observe social distancing and stay at home where possible has taken the pressure of the NHS and new capacity created through the Nightingale Hosptials has meant that there was never a shortage of intensive care beds and ventilators. However, it is too early to make any changes and last week the government took the decision to extend the current restrictions for another three weeks and to review again at that point.
Modern technology allows a large number of us to continue in our day to day roles, even Parliament has managed to find a way of coping with the situation with the evolution of a hybrid parliament using video conferencing meaning that MPs can continue to carry out their duties and take part in debates via video rather than having to be physically in Parliament.
In my role as Environment Secretary I have been working hard to address the challenges that the virus has posed to the country. From working together with major food retailers to ensuring that supermarkets have the stock to meet demand, supporting vulnerable people and those who are self-isolating, and working with farmers and the agricultural industry continue to be supported during these difficult times.
Earlier this week, Captain Tom Moore completed his aim to walk 100 laps of his garden before he reached the age of 100. As a former soldier during the Second World War, Captain Moore had already given much to his country, but felt compelled to continue to devote himself to his country during these difficult times. At the time of writing this article Captain Moor had raised over £27million for health charities and his efforts have become something of a symbol for the public’s support for nurses and doctors during this difficult period.
Now more than ever during these difficult times it is important that we all continue to look out for one another, helping elderly neighbours by doing a shopping run for them, or walking their dog if they are staying at home and keeping in touch with family and friends by phone. Everyone has made sacrifices in the weeks that have gone by and it is right that we thank all those who have given so much to help others, however in the weeks ahead we all need to continue to pull together to get through this Coronavirus crisis.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Helping others during these difficult times

Earlier this week the Prime Minister was released from hospital to continue his recovery at home following his battle against the Coronavirus. It is great to see him making a recovery after having such a difficult encounter with the virus and we all wish him well and a continued recovery.
His message of thanks to the NHS and the nurses who helped him during his time in intensive care will have struck a chord with many. In recent weeks millions have turned out in their gardens or doorsteps every Thursday evening at 8pm to clap for the NHS and show their appreciation. We also recognise all of the key workers who are helping the country through this crisis including those working in supermarkets, in the food industry, in public transport or the police as well as the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who are working for charity groups and food banks to help get food to those in need.
Here in Cornwall, many businesses such as hotels and restaurants have suffered a severe blow with the tourism industry placed on hold. Although they are suffering financial distress some hotels are offering accommodation for NHS workers and many other businesses have rapidly adapted to a new delivery to home model. There have no doubt been a lot of pasty sales in recent weeks and businesses like Baker Toms have started a mobile bread van focusing on delivering fresh bread to rural communities and my own family and their team at Trevaskis Farm have turned to home delivery of shopping from the farm shop with all the restaurant staff re-deployed to this new and unexpected task.
In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and across the country, smaller charities, community groups, neighbourhood associations and friendly social media apps and groups are all connecting with a core purpose of helping the vulnerable and those who most require it. They are doing extraordinary work and without them many may have faced real hardship.
This week the Government will review the social distancing measures that are in place. It is now clear that they are having an impact with the number of hospital admissions stabilising or starting to dip but it is probably too early to relax things very far, so we are likely to have several more weeks before we start to see light at the end of the tunnel. We may not be able to meet one another but we can all still speak so remember to pick up the phone to family and friends and offer to help elderly neighbours who may want you to assist with their shopping.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

We'll meet again

The very sad news that the Prime Minister has been admitted to hospital this week to support him in his fight against the Coronavirus has brought home to many the seriousness of this virus and the reason why such drastic steps have been necessary to bring it under control. The virus is indiscriminate, and the conditions can be quite variable. While the vast majority of people will usually experience symptoms similar to flu and come through within a week, in some cases there are more complications. The Prime Minister is a fighter and I am sure he will pull through this with the fabulous support of our NHS and we all wish him a speedy recovery so that he can take the helm again.
The better news is that the measures that have been taken are starting to have an impact. The numbers of people using public transport and in public places has fallen sharply and people are needing advice not to travel unnecessarily. As a result, while there is still a tragic daily rise in both new cases and, sadly, deaths, the growth in the number of cases is moving in a more linear way rather than the exponential growth that is a normal in an epidemic like this where there is no immunity in the population. This is important because the concern all along had been that an exponential growth in cases would lead to very high numbers of hospital admissions and overwhelm our NHS. At the moment, the growth in the number of cases, while placing a pressure on our hospitals is within the levels that have been comprehensively planned for in recent weeks and months.
Last Sunday the Queen also addressed the nation as the country continues to grapple with the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic. The Queen acknowledged the challenging time that many are experiencing and paid tribute to all those who are working on the front line, giving themselves selflessly as we work to return to more normal times.
The social distancing measures put in place are obviously very difficult for everyone. It has had a severe impact in many sectors of the economy that have had to close and with some beautiful weather last weekend it is hard for people to be staying at home. However, it is important that we all try to limit our social interaction, maintain distance wherever possible and go out for exercise but limit the time we spend away from home. This will remain important as we approach the Easter weekend in order to ensure we continue to suppress the spread of the virus. Easter is traditionally a time when families come together or even travel away for a nice break and it will be difficult for many to be separated from their family and relatives this year. We have all had to get much more used to using digital technology to keep in touch or even the old fashioned phone and that will remain the case for now.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Working together to beat the virus

Over the last week the Coronavirus pandemic has developed at pace with the numbers of those who have contracted the virus and died from it sadly rising. The epicentre of the outbreak remains London and other major urban centres like Birmingham. Currently, the number of cases in Cornwall remains lower but the numbers will continue to rise over the next few weeks. The NHS have been planning and preparing for the challenge ahead. We each have a part to play by staying at home where possible and reducing our contact with others to protect the NHS and help to save lives.
Last weekend, the Government announced the establishment of strategic coordination centres across the whole country which will bring together senior members of the emergency services with local authorities and the NHS to lead communities through this period. This will help to coordinate a local response.
From Cornwall to Cumbria they are ensuring that frontline people have the right protective equipment. As hospitals prepare their response across the country there has been a huge surge in demand for masks and other protective equipment. The National Supply Distribution Response Team have now delivered 170million masks, 42.8million gloves, 13.7million aprons, 182,000 gowns, almost 10million items of cleaning equipment, and 2.3million pairs of eye protectors, all to 58,000 NHS Trusts including GP surgeries and pharmacies. Every single GP practice, dental practice and community pharmacy has had a PPE delivery. All care homes, hospices and home care providers have or will shortly receive a delivery, and the Government will not stop until it has got people the equipment they need.
There has also been an amazing response in other ways and this crisis has shown our country at its best as it responds quickly. British manufacturers like Dyson and JCB are working together to develop and manufacture a big increase in the number of ventilators. We have built several huge new Nightingale Hospitals at places like the Excel exhibition centre in London to increase our hospital bed capacity. Food producers have pulled out all the stops to help good food to people’s homes and help those who are vulnerable top and unable to go out and there has been an explosion of offers from volunteers with a government call for volunteers leading to 750,000 people stepping forward to help.
Locally I wanted to assure you that I and my team have been working hard to answer all your questions and concerns that you may have amid the ongoing pandemic. Whilst we are receiving a large volume of correspondence we will always help you the best that we can.
At times like this it is important that we all look out for one another. Cornwall has always had a great ability to pull together as a community so play your part. Remember to pick up the phone to family and friends and offer to help elderly neighbours who may want you to assist with their shopping. We have some very difficult weeks ahead but it can also bring our the best in our communities.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Stay at Home, Protect Lives, Save the NHS

Over the last week the Coronavirus pandemic has continued to develop at pace and there have been major effects for us all with the decision to close all restaurants, pubs and non-food shops and strong advice to everyone to stay at home wherever possible and to take care to distance themselves from others when they do need to go out or go to work.
These quite extraordinary measures have had to be taken in order to protect lives and try to reduce the pressure on our NHS which is going to have a huge task trying to deal with those more serious cases that lead to people being hospitalised. While the vast majority of us can fight off the Coronavirus, all of us contribute to spreading it around and therefore passing it on to those more vulnerable people who might not be able to fight it off.
The steps taken will have huge impacts on the economy and it is a worrying time for many with businesses forced to close and many losing their jobs. It has also been an incredibly volatile time with public anxiety driving behaviours that are not helpful. Cornwall and many other parts of the country initially saw an influx of people fleeing to the countryside thinking that it helped them to isolate but the danger is that they carry the virus with them and out vulnerable local residents at greater risk. There have also been difficult situations in the food supply chain with panic buying in some areas meaning that Supermarkets struggled to keep food on their shelves.
The government has taken steps to give tougher guidance to people only to travel if absolutely essential, to stay at home and work from home if at all possible and when going out to do essential shopping to do all they can to keep their distance from others maintaining a 2 metre separation wherever practical.
In Defra my main focus has been on trying keep the food supply chain moving. In the last three weeks shops have put an additional £1 billion of extra food into people’s homes. We have a resilient food supply chain which is able to respond to increases in demand as it does every Christmas. Food manufacturers have increased their production by about 50% to meet the surge in demand. We removed time restrictions on lorry movements at stores and relaxed restrictions on drivers’ hours to keep the lorries moving more food to every store.
At times like this we discover as a country the jobs that are really valued. Those who work in the food supply chain whether on farms, in food processing factories, delivery drivers and staff in supermarkets have done a fantastic job keeping the nation fed and their jobs are of crucial importance. Some of them have faced anger and abuse from a tiny minority of the public but the rest of us are grateful for all that they are doing to keep us fed at a difficult time.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

COVID-19 - Coronavirus

In the past week public awareness and concern around the Coronavirus has risen sharply as governments around the world including the UK have taken some dramatic steps to dampen the spread of the disease in order to reduce the peak of infection and ensure that our NHS is able to cope with an expected increase in cases.
This disease has been monitored closely since the first outbreaks in China towards the end of last year and the Government has been working for months to put in place plans first to contain the disease and then to delay it and mitigate the effects. It has now become a global pandemic.
In most cases the symptoms are similar to flu with a fever and cough which lasts for up to a week and, like flu, in the overwhelming majority of cases people are able to fight it off. The reason there has been so much concern about it is because it is a new virus and, unlike most flu outbreaks, there is therefore no natural immunity within the population so nothing to check its spread. Unless steps are taken now to delay the transmission of the disease there is a risk that the NHS will be placed under considerable pressure.
So in the last week we have issued guidance to everyone that if they show symptoms of fever and a cough, even if those symptoms are mild, that they should stay at home. We have also said that where a member of a household shows symptoms of the disease then the whole family should try to self-isolate and stay at home to avoid the risk of onward transmission and there is wider advice to the whole population to try to reduce social contact by avoiding large gatherings, by working from home where that is possible and avoiding too much social contact for the time being. People should also wash their hands longer and more frequently which can have a significant impact if we all do it.
There will be significant impacts on the global economy from this pandemic and the Chancellor has stepped in this week with a package of emergency measures to support businesses facing severe disruption. The tourism industry will see severe disruption over Easter.
The most important thing is for people to remain calm and work together as we tackle this disease. Last weekend there were a few isolated cases around London of individuals being inconsiderate and aggressive to staff at supermarkets who were working to try to restock shelves following an increase in demand. The food supply chain is resilient and able to cope with sharp increases in demand as it does every Christmas and there is plenty of food for everyone if people are considerate.
It will also be important in the weeks and months ahead that we all look out for one another, helping elderly neighbours by doing a shopping run for them, or walking their dog if they are staying at home and keeping in touch with family and friends by phone. Once the initial shock over the Coronavirus has settled we all need to pull together to get through it.

Monday, 16 March 2020

St Piran’s Day

Last Saturday I attended the St Piran’s Day celebrations in Redruth. This event goes from strength to strength every year and it was good to see the town centre packed and many local schools and groups taking part in the parade.
Redruth has really led the way in using civic events and celebrations of this sort to bring people into the town and to bring the community together. Together with the pasty festival, the Christmas lights procession and, of course, Murdoch Day, there is something every few months. It is really heartening to see so much support from the local schools and it's a vote of confidence in the future of the town.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing interest in Cornwall’s history and culture. Camborne, Redruth and Hayle are at the very heart of this revival, and its great to see these great industrial towns leading the way in promoting our rich and wonderful history. From the regeneration of Heartlands at Pool, the new Kresen Kernow Archive, and the redevelopment of Hayle Harbour, we are seeing a lot of regeneration done in a way that not only respects but celebrates our proud industrial past. With the added investment of the Historic Towns Fund in Redruth which will help spread the regeneration of the town that started at Krowji and the butter market, and the Towns fund which will support the further revival of Camborne town centre, there is potential to do much more in the years ahead.
Cornwall has a unique constitutional place within our United Kingdom which is recognised. Many of us consider ourselves as Cornish before English and there has been growing interest in the Cornish language in recent years.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - The Coronovirus situation continues to develop globally. The symptoms are similar to flu but the reason it is attracting so much attention is that it is a new virus and there is no natural immunity. As with flu, the overwhelming majority of people make a full recovery typically after a few days. The Government, supported by the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England, the Department for Health and other government organisations are working hard to manage the outbreak. We have well established and rehearsed plans and approaches to deal with such situations. The most up to date advice can be found on the gov.uk website.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Constituency catchup

Its good to get out of Westminster at the end of each week and get back home to visit some of the many amazing charities, local schools and innovative businesses in Camborne Redruth and Hayle.
First on the agenda last Friday were meetings with representatives from ththe Council to discuss the progress it has made on its plans for the Towns Fund. Last autumn, the Government announced that Camborne was selected to receive funding from the new Towns Fund which focuses on areas with a proud industrial heritage that are in need of economic growth. There were some interesting discussions, particularly centring around the use of the bus station in the town, but there is still more to be done.
Following this I met the Mayor for Redruth who provided me with an update that the Council were doing especially with regards to the future of the Passmore Edwards library building, whilst also focusing on plans as to how the Council will implement the Historic Towns Fund which will help spread the regeneration that has been started with the opening of Kresen Kernow, Krowji and the Butter Market.
Next up on the agenda was a meeting with Portreath Parish Council and the Environment Agency to discuss their work in delivering a flood alleviation scheme for the town. Over the years Portreath has suffered particularly from flooding and storm damage to its sea defences. The meeting was very encouraging and shows the positive work that can be done when government and organisations come together to tackle issues such as flooding. This is also an area that I have been working on in my role as Secretary of State for the Environment as we support communities that have been affected by flooding and invest more in defences to prevent future flooding from taking place.
I also met with members from the local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Over the years, we have built up good links with the local team and often work together to help constituents who require assistance. The CAB do a lot of good work locally and we’re fortunate to have a strong team that are easily contactable and that work hard for everyone.
Finally, on Saturday morning I held my regular advice surgery. 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, I can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk, by telephone on 0207 219 7032 or by appointment in our Camborne Office at 13 Commercial Street, Camborne, TR14 8JZ.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Building the right homes for Cornwall

I have always believed it is important to help young families fulfill the ambition of owning their own home. Over time, owning an asset like your own home gives you some financial security and allows you to set down roots. Twenty years ago it was possible to get relatively affordable mortgages for 95 percent of the value of a property and this meant that people who were working could generally save a five percent deposit. However, after the banking crisis in 2008 things went into reverse. Banks and mortgage companies now expect a much higher deposit than was the case twenty years ago, typically 25 percent which means that it's much harder for young families to purchase their first home.
A few years ago the government introduced a new "Help to Buy" scheme where government would help to underwrite the deposit in order to ensure normal families who work hard but don't have large incomes or even large savings, could be supported to purchase their first home. The scheme was available on certain new build properties and it has been a success with some good examples across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.
Building on this success, the Government this week announced further details on the new Help to Buy scheme that will run from 2021 to 2023. The scheme will be targeted and continue to help more people onto the property ladder including regional property price caps based on average first time buyer prices. Such caps will take average first time buyer prices for the region and add a further 50% to ensure there is good availability of the scheme. This is a positive step forward and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to building at least one million new homes over the course of this parliament.
There is no doubt that nationally we have a housing shortage. A combination of population growth and issues like family breakdown means that many families are struggling to find a home that delivers their needs. In Cornwall, the issue is exacerbated in some areas by second homeowners. So, as well as helping first time buyers purchase their first home through schemes like Help to Buy, we do also need to build more homes.
However, the homes that we do build should be built to the highest quality. Every year, I have a number of constituents contact my office citing defects to their newly built home that they have just moved into. No one should expect to purchase a poor-quality home or receive poor customer service, but far too many do. That’s why this week the Government announced that it will be establishing a New Homes Ombudsman to protect the rights of homebuyers, holding developers to account when things go wrong, and including legislation to require all developers of new build homes to belong to this Ombudsman. Not only will this ensure a constant access to redress for all buyers of new build homes, it will also help to drive up standards across the country.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Winter storms

Last Thursday I was asked by the Prime Minister to join his Cabinet as the Environment Secretary. It is a huge honour and I am looking forward to the task ahead with many important Bills to get right as we leave the EU and chart a new course for vital industries like farming and fishing.
However, my very first task within hours of being appointed was to take charge of our plans to manage the impacts of storm Dennis. The last two weekends have seen Britain battered by two storms, and once again, many communities are experiencing the distressing effects of floods. In Cornwall we have had plenty of gale force winds and lots of rainfall but, unlike a few years ago when the tidal surges damaged sea defences at Portreath.
This time the worst of the damage has been seen in Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and South Wales but there have also been widespread effects across the country. Part of the problem is that following a very wet winter land is already very waterlogged, the water table is very high and rivers are already brim full. That means that there is nowhere for additional rainfall to go. In recent years we have spent billions of pounds on over 600 flood defences which has protected over 200,000 homes and there are more under development that will protect a further 100,000 homes. In this last episode, although over 500 homes were flooded, the defences we had in place protected about 20,000 homes. A further £4 billion has been allocated for the next five years to build more still and the Met Office also recently announced that it was investing £1.2 billion into a new supercomputer to help predict future weather conditions and foresee extreme weather events.
The success of our flood defences in protecting many homes is, of course, no consolation to those who were affected and had their home flooded this week. Suffering flood damage is an incredibly traumatic event for people and that is why we have also announced a package of measures to help people get back on their feet with reliefs on Council Tax, payments to those affected to help them manage the short time crisis and grants to help them repair their homes in a way that will make them more resilient to future flooding events.
Around the world we seem to be seeing an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. It is not just here in the UK. Over the Christmas period we saw massive bushfires across Australia fuelled by hot and windy conditions with more than 11 million hectares of bush, forest and parks across Australia burned. There were also higher-than-average rainfall and floods in Eastern Africa and droughts in south-east Asia.
One factor driving the increased frequency of extreme weather events is climate change and that is why we must continue to make progress to reduce carbon emissions and that is a key objective in both the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill that are going through parliament at the moment.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Investing in local transport

In a peninsula like Cornwall, there will always be challenges to building a resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made in the last few years. We have invested to improve our railways and there is now a regular half hourly service running through Cornwall which has led to a significant increase in passenger numbers.
However, for most people in Cornwall, it is the local service that matters most and the key to making things work better is to try to integrate or join up the bus network with the rail network more effectively than we have done in the past. This will allow rail and bus timetables to work in tandem to give people more frequent options to get from one destination to another.
I have long pressed for a regular and routine 30-minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages and this is now starting to come together. By joining up commercial routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that could really work, and you could build more confidence in the public transport network.
Following the General Election result, there are now however some really interesting and important things happening in line with the Government’s commitment to levelling up our towns and ensuring that regions like Cornwall outside of London receive improved connectivity. Earlier in the autumn, I wrote about the plans to introduce Britain’s first Superbus network here in Cornwall. The network was part of the government’s plans to reverse the impacts of dwindling services in local towns and drive forward a bus revolution that will improve access for everyone.
The pioneering investment would direct investment towards more frequent public transport in the countryside, introducing new apps that will improve the information available to commuters whilst also ensuring that the bus fleets will be cleaner, greener and more environmentally friendly.
Earlier this week the Government further committed to improving bus and cycle links announcing a significant £5 billion package of funding to drive forward the reforms needed. The new funding, delivered over the next five years, will see the introduction of more regular and faster bus services while providing cycle routes with a major boost - funding more than 250 miles of new cycleways and introducing at least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses.
Creating an integrated public transport system for Cornwall is an important step forward in ensuring that our local communities are supported. Investments like those announced this week and earlier in the autumn will help to improve the affordability of transport for local people, improving our regional links and ensuring that we have a more environmentally friendly transport service.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Unleashing the potential of our towns

The result of the recent General Election has transformed British politics and given way to a sense of energy and optimism. Much of this is because the government now has a stable majority providing the ability to get on with the job of governing. However, there is also another factor that is proving decisive, namely that the government is committed to delivering on its promises, levelling up our towns and cities and unleashing Britain’s potential.
For towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle this is welcome news. Our local towns were once 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, but now we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
In Hayle there is already some exciting work taking place to transform the harbour into a new coastal quarter. We have already repaired the harbour walls, started to develop South Quay and built a new marine business park on North Quay. Now further construction is under way at North Quay with the first phase of the scheme delivering homes, new shops and open spaces just yards from the beach at Gwithian Towans. There will also be considerable investment into the roundabout at Loggans Moor roundabout helping to improve the flow of traffic and improve the infrastructure.
The Historic Towns Fund is also set to help with the regeneration of Redruth, one of just 69 in the country. It recognises the amazing architecture that we have in Redruth and will help restore it. The fund can help spread the regeneration that has been started with the opening of Kresen Kernow. Projects like Krowji and the work around the Butter Market shows just what is possible with some imagination, passion and local leadership and we now have funds to help facilitate further work.
In the weeks ahead I will also be meeting community leaders in Camborne to explore plans to help transform Camborne’s growth prospects. Camborne will be receiving funds from the new Towns Fund which focuses on areas with a proud industrial heritage that are in need of economic growth, with up to £25 million being designated for Camborne. There are already a number of exciting and innovative ideas being talked about including the potential to redevelop the old bus station, and breathe new life into the high street but I want to ensure that the community is fully involved in discussions about priorities.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

We've got Brexit done, now lets move on

By the time that many of you read this article, there will be less than 24 hours until the UK has formally left the European Union. This is a momentous occasion and there are many exciting opportunities open to the UK as we chart a new course and enter a new chapter in our history. From my perspective, the chance to be at the heart of designing an independent agriculture and fisheries policy for the first time in half a century is something I relish.
Over the course of the last three years, there were times when both I and many others who had voted to leave the European Union feared that Brexit would never happen and that for the first time in this country’s history we would not have respected a democratic vote. As someone who campaigned to leave and sought to compromise in order to achieve Brexit, it’s been a deeply frustrating time.
With Brexit now done, the time has come to move on, to bring this country back together and get on with delivering on the people’s priorities. I think there are signs that we may have turned a corner with the aggressive tone of debate changing and a calmness descending on Westminster and the general political debate. Much of this has been helped by the fact that the government is getting on with the job and doing what it said it would do in its manifesto during the recent election campaign.
From investing in our NHS, levelling up our schools funding and improving the vital infrastructure on which we all depend, there is much going on within Westminster and at a local level. Already the Prime Minister has indicated his support for regions like the South West and others outside of London to help reduce the inequalities that exist in our communities. In our NHS, we have seen commitments to build a new hospital, a new maternity and children unit at RCHT Treliske whilst also nationally increasing spending on the NHS by almost £34 billion per year.
On schools, the Prime Minister has confirmed his commitment to improving standards and ensuring that every child has access to a world class education. Last week statistics for schools across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle revealed that many had seen an increase in the proportion of pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics last year. With some schools experiencing a jump of over 40%, it is clear that children are already benefiting from the excellent standards of teaching that they are receiving.
The last three years have been a turbulent year in British Politics, however it is my hope that with a majority government, we can continue to put the turmoil and divisiveness of the past behind us and all move on. Events to date have shown a promising start for the year.