Thursday, 19 November 2020

Cornwall with Simon Reeve

 The new BBC documentary on Cornwall by Simon Reeve which started this week is a thoughtful project which could bring to life some of the broader challenges and issues that Cornwall faces, but also to show the rest country some of our unique characteristics.  Beautiful though our coastline is, there is more to Cornwall than beaches and the programme has the opportunity to explore these.

Camborne featured quite heavily in the first episode with the charitable work of Don Gardener being rightly recognised and with a tour of South Crofty mine and the potential for it being reopened also explored.  My family have lived in this area for some 400 years and have lived through the changing fortunes of my home towns.  At the peak of the tin mining era, Redruth was one of the wealthiest towns in the country and you can still see today in the beautiful Victorian architecture around the town the legacy of that wealth.  In Camborne, Holmans developed into a world-beating engineering company exporting its technology around the world employing thousands.  It was still a major employer when I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s and when it finally closed it was a blow to the fortunes of our town.  There were other successful local companies like the Tyacks Group, which my grandfather was involved with.  

The loss of Holmans was a bitter blow and did lead to some deprivation and initially high unemployment.  However, there has also been great resilience in our community.  Many of the apprentices who worked at Holmans went on to set up their own businesses.  Today we have some new, world-beating engineering firms like Large Diameter Drilling (LDD) at Tolvaddon and DP Engineering which continue the tradition of precision engineering and drilling technology while great local companies like Teagle continue to do well.  We have also seen a new computer software industry develop in a cluster around Pool with companies like BlueFruit and Headforwards Software growing exponentially and with the computer software sector now employing about 500 people on good salaries in our area.  We have a new Cornwall Archive on the site of the old Redruth Brewery and the regeneration of Hayle Harbour now fully underway and unemployment is actually below the national average.

In common with many other areas around the country, we have pockets of deprivation and we need to address that by continuing to increase the National Living Wage to help those on the lowest incomes, attract new industries and better-paid jobs and also support the excellent schools we have locally who at raising aspirations so that young people growing up in our area today can take those new jobs. 

However, while recognising some of the challenges we must not undermine the self-confidence of our area. Once again, Pengegon was singled out for coverage in the documentary. I remember Claire Arymar, a community co-ordinator in Pengegon, telling me those who lived there often felt patronised by people constantly going there to talk about poverty when actually they were a community who looked out for one another and had resilience; not everyone wanted to go to the beach, and it wasn’t always helpful to tell them they should. We have a history to be proud of and great ability and expertise still to draw upon, and it is very important that we instil the confidence in the next generation to fulfil their potential.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Remembrance Day

The current lockdown meant that we were not able to mark Remembrance Sunday in the way that we normally would.  While wreaths have been laid at memorials across the country, there have not been the usual services or parades.  However, on both Sunday and Wednesday, many people across Cornwall and the country will have paused to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

This year is an important anniversary on multiple fronts.  It is the 75th Anniversary since the end of the Second World War, a conflict that had theatres in almost every continent and saw millions engaged in fighting. This year is also the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain where RAF pilots from all over the world fought to defend our island from an invasion. Many of the men who flew the Spitfires and Hurricanes were as young as 18 or 19 and showed tremendous bravery in such a critical battle that was the first big setback for Hitler and started to turn the tide of events.

The war with Japan is sometimes overlooked when people think of the Second World War but we should also remember all those who served in the Far East during the Second World War.   The jungle terrain meant that different tactics had to be deployed with troops often defending patches of territory in a box formation and supplied by air. The battles saw some of the most bitter, close-quarter fighting of the whole war.  There was also a lot of suffering among those captured and held in prisoner of war camps, particularly after the fall of Singapore.
This year our armed forces have been called on again to play their part helping communities deal with the Coronavirus pandemic.  They have helped run testing centres and have supported the supply of PPE all over Cornwall and the South-West and will be playing their part to support communities again over the winter.
This week there has been some encouraging news regarding the potential for one of the candidate vaccines being developed by Pfizer with another from Astra Zeneca not far behind.  It appears to give 90 percent protection and has been developed using some groundbreaking techniques.  The solution to the problems of this pandemic can only be finally resolved with a successful vaccine and this is showing light at the end of the tunnel.  If we can get the spread of the virus under the control over the next few weeks and then remain cautious over the winter, then as we head into the spring perhaps deep, owing a vaccine more widely we might finally start to see life return to normal.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

The Return of Lockdown

We wanted to avoid a second lockdown and did everything we could to try different approaches with regional and local measures to contour, the spread of the virus.  However, in this country, as across much of Europe, the virus is accelerating.  Crucially, although the prevalence in places like Cornwall has been lower than other parts of the country, the infection rate has been growing exponentially, with new cases doubling within just a week.  The rate of growth in infections in Cornwall was one of the fastest in the country and the projections showed that left unchecked, Cornwall would be in a similar situation to some of the Northern cities by the end of the month.
In Cornwall, we also have an older population and because we are at the end of the line, it is harder to share resources around the NHS so the capacity to deal with a surge in demand is more limited.  If we failed to take action, then there was a real risk of the NHS being overwhelmed and of depriving non-Covid patients of the care that they need from the NHS. As a result, the Prime Minister has announced that we will return to a full national lockdown from Thursday until December.
This lockdown will be similar to the first in many ways, however, schools will remain open. The impact of closing schools on the mental health of young people and on their education and life chances means that we should do all we can to ensure that schools can remain open.  We tend to think about the impact of the virus on the older generation because they are more susceptible but the measures being taken to control it have an impact on younger people too.  It is important that they have access to social contact to develop their confidence.  The economic disruption caused by the last lockdown has affected many who started apprenticeships and left others more doubtful about their future careers.  For all these reasons we need to try to keep schools open.
As of Thursday, 5th November, all pubs, bars, restaurants and caf├ęs will have to close unless for takeaway service. Non-essential shops, leisure, gyms and entertainment venues will also close. In response to the further impact this will have on businesses and livelihoods, the government is extending the furlough scheme until December to protect jobs and there is a further tranche of crisis grants available to help smaller businesses with their fixed costs. However, there is no doubt that a second lockdown will have a cumulative impact on the financial stress facing some businesses.
During the last nine months, we have all looked out for each other and pulled together to support one another as a community. Our unique Cornish spirit has shone through, however, in the weeks ahead we all need to draw on this again and continue to support one another through these difficult times.
My office will still be working hard to support people through this period. I am doing regular telephone surgeries to discuss issues with local residents. If you have an issue that you would like to discuss with myself or the team that supports me then please call 01209 713355 or email george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk.