Thursday, 24 June 2021

The Fibre Park

Last week I met Toby Parkins, Chief Executive of Headforwards Software in Pool, to discuss the quickly developing plans of a new Fibre Park in the area. It was welcome to see this proposal was included in the recent Camborne Town Board submission, which has just been granted by the government meaning the project will receive nearly £3.9 million to help get it across the line.
In recent years we have seen an embryonic but vibrant computer software industry taking root in this part of Cornwall. The big leap forwards came with the introduction of superfast broadband.  It means that software companies can now compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall.  Previously, people often had to choose between a high-flying job in London or the lifestyle choice of Cornwall.  That's changing. Today, new industries like software producers can run world-beating operations from Camborne and Redruth offering people the best of both worlds.
The concept behind the fibre park proposal is to bring the right kind of business space within the footprint of the Cornwall College campus so that there can be work experience and training opportunities for young people.  The project will create almost 7,000m2 of additional high-quality workspace at the college. This new facility will have the world-class digital connectivity required to meet the needs of one of the fastest-growing tech clusters in the UK. This will also be coupled with school outreach activities, inspiring young people to develop the digital software skills that will enable them to progress into a wide range of tech industries. Young people taking computer courses at Cornwall College will be able to develop their talents within real working environments rather than in a classroom detached from front line innovation.
The progress on the Fibre Park has been further supported by the announcement that Cornwall will be one of the first areas in the UK to receive funding from ‘Project Gigabit’ to deliver a super-fast, reliable internet connection. This new scheme will allow homes and business all over Cornwall to benefit from a super-fast internet connection, helping encourage growth and creating new jobs which will, in turn, boost regeneration.
Throughout our area, local computer software companies are now employing hundreds of people and are paying good salaries.  I want to see them grow and prosper and I also want to ensure that young people taking their GCSEs are having the opportunity to learn to write computer code so that they can take up these new opportunities. The last year has seen considerable disruption for many young people and it is important that we do all we can to get their education back on track.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Reflection on the G7

Last week the G7 was held in Carbis Bay.  Despite the concerns about congestion, in the end the area affected was largely limited to Carbis Bay itself.  There had also been concerns about violent protest but, in the end, while there were plenty of activists making their point it was generally done in a good-natured Cornish way. In closing the summit the Prime Minister gave a statement outlining achievements of the Summit, including important work on preventing a global pandemic happening again, addressing climate change, and supporting education around the world – working together to build back better, creating jobs and ensuring long-term economic growth.

Many of the biggest issues we face as a nation are faced internationally and the G7 Summit, provided world leaders with the opportunity to act together. Some of the landmark agreements include: pledging more than one billion coronavirus vaccine doses – including 100 million from the UK, to the world’s poorest countries; agreeing to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more reading by the end of primary school in the next five years; and agreeing a shared global agenda for tackling issues such as climate change and pollution.

For Cornwall, it was a great opportunity to raise our profile on the world stage, to showcase some of the world leading work we do on renewable energy as well as great assets like the Eden project. There were lots of other local initiatives taking place alongside the main summit.  On Thursday, I visited Gwinear Primary school where I met with the owners of the Redruth-based Mitchell & Webber Oil Company. Michell & Webber are working to on a new trailing a new renewable liquid fuel, known as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). As part of this process they have trialled the system with Gwinear Primary School by replacing their old fossil fuel system to help demonstrate the viability of the new, renewable biofuel. It is vital that we look to new, greener technologies to heat our homes if we are going to be able to stay on track to hit net-zero by 2050 but this is a challenge in rural areas which often rely on oil boilers.  Finding a way to allow them to convert their boilers at reasonable cost to a fuel with a lower carbon footprint may well be part of the solution in the medium term.

I also opened the Global Offshore Wind (FLOW) Conference in Falmouth on Friday. From this it became apparent that there are at least 5 offshore wind project developers now active in our region. What was also encouraging, in the Conference run up, is the turn round of the Wave Hub project in my constituency.  There have been some challenges trying to deploy wave power in recent years but it is now set to become the Celtic Sea’s first floating offshore wind (FLOW) array after the project diversified in recent years utilising its existing infrastructure for the deployment of FLOW.

Finally, I visited Mutton Cove at Godrevy to meet some of the volunteers involved in some nationally significant work being done on seal conservation.   There has been a lot of effort going in to reducing disturbance of seals with new information boards for the public.  I also visited the World Parrot Trust at Paradise Park to hear more about some of the policy ideas they have on tackling the illegal trade in endangered species of parrot and some of the problems associated with social media which makes it easier for illegal traders to find buyers.

Overall, for me the G7 represented a powerful opportunity for the UK to show the world what we can do but it was only a three day event and, of course, the important work that everyone is doing to address the challenges the world faces must continue and the things that were pledged must now be delivered.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Camborne Town Deal

Since first being elected in 2010, I have made a commitment that the economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Over the last 11 years, I have worked hard to deliver on that promise. Today, I am pleased to report the welcome news that the Prime Minister has announced Camborne has been awarded £23.7 Million from the Town’s Fund, the highest of any town in Cornwall.
 
The new funding will support projects like the possible acquisition and refurbishment of Camborne bus station to create the ‘Buzz Station’ complex, the creation of a ‘Fibre Park’ tech hub and the renovation of Camborne Rugby Club’s facilities. 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 and companies like Holmans, our fortunes waned and all too often the political attention was on big cities. Now, that is changing and we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
 
In recent years, we have made progress in regenerating our towns with the Kresen Kernow archive centre at the old brewery in Redruth, with the new link road and developments around Heartlands and Tuckingmill, the prospect of South Crofty reopening and new jobs in industries like computer software. But there is more to do to maintain momentum.
 
The traditional, 20th century model of retail taking over the town centre and residential being primarily on estates around the outskirts of town may have run its course.  We need to rethink the purpose of our town centres and more and more retail goes online and goods are delivered directly to the home.  We need to get better at making our town centres more of a mixed space for living and working and improving the public realm and streetscape. As more people opt to be self-employed and often make use of digital media to work from home, there is likely to be a change in what our towns are for in the decades ahead. This new funding for Camborne will give us the finance to promote some of the changes that can secure our future prosperity.  

Later this week, world leaders will gather in Carbis Bay in Cornwall for crucial discussions on world issues at the G7 Summit. Against the backdrop of the Cornish coast, they are expected to agree on action to tackle climate change, protect nature and lead a recovery from coronavirus that works for everyone across the length and breadth of our countries. The announcement of this new funding will play an important role in the shaping of the legacy of the G7 Summit, with Cornwall benefiting from new investment in its town centres and natural landscape under these plans.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

G7: Cornwall 2021

Next week the G7 will be taking place in Carbis Bay.  For Cornwall, it will be a great opportunity to raise our profile internationally and promote our beautiful landscapes and excellent food and drink.  In terms of a legacy for the Duchy, a lot of emphasis has been going on ensuring that any bounce in tourism happens next year and in the future since Covid travel restrictions mean that local businesses have no shortage of customers in this current season. 

It will also be a good opportunity to promote some of the leading work that Cornwall does on green energy and the environment.  Cornwall was home to the first-ever wind farm in the UK some thirty years ago.  We are also at the forefront of plans for locating offshore wind in Hayle and a number of projects to take forward geothermal energy.  At this summit, the environment and climate change will be one of the key issues on the agenda since it is seen as an important staging post along the way to COP 26 later this year, also being held in the UK, where we will be seeking to get greater commitments from the rest of the world on carbon emissions.

In the run-up to the leaders’ summit next week, there was also an Environment Ministers track for G7 which I chaired a couple of weeks ago and where we made some important progress.  In particular, this G7 became the first where all member countries had committed to achieve net-zero by 2050.  Secondly, member countries committed to halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity by 2030. These are major steps forward and a sign of the dedication G7 countries have to tackle the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

All G7 members have also now committed to supporting the global “30by30“ target to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of global land, and at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030 and an agreement to phase out international fossil fuel finance starting with coal.  There were measures to tackle global deforestation with all members committing to increase support for sustainable supply chains that decouple agricultural production from deforestation and forest degradation and there were new pledges covering the illegal wildlife trade, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

Any G7 event brings a degree of disruption locally and the logistical challenges and security arrangements can be complex, but a warm Cornish welcome awaits world leaders next week and I have no doubt that the beauty of St Ives Bay will leave a lasting impression.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Protecting Redruth’s Heritage

Since I was first elected, I have always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. However, with economic regeneration, it is important that we maintain our fantastic cultural heritage.

At the height of the tin mining era, Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the land. As the tin mines closed, the fortunes of our local towns like Redruth fell behind other parts of the country but today there remains a legacy of that era with some fabulous and unique architecture in the town. 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.

Last week we received news that Redruth had obtained another £80,000 from Historic England to help with commissioning community-led cultural activities in the town centre over the next three years. Redruth Cultural Consortium is launching ‘Redruth Unlimited’, a programme of cultural commissions that will enhance Redruth’s established festivals and events, make inventive use of spaces and venues in the town, celebrate the town’s heritage and creativity, support local businesses and entrepreneurs, develop the evening economy and encourage more people to explore and enjoy Redruth. The ambition for Redruth Unlimited is that it will inject new energy and optimism into the town and for young people to be key players in the design and delivery of the programme.

While the traditional, 20th century model of retail taking over the town centre and residential being primarily on estates around the outskirts of town may have been the primary approach in the past, it now seems to have run its course. We need to get better at making our town centres more of a mixed space for living and working and improving the public realm and streetscape. As more people opt to be self-employed and often make use of digital media to work from home, there is likely to be a change in what our towns are for in the decades ahead.

To support this transition, I have recently written in support of the Redruth’s bid for further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund that will hopefully further the restoration of the Buttermarket. The workaround for the Buttermarket to create a modern, vibrant space for both residents and businesses alike is a real demonstration of what can be achieved when we have some imagination, passion, and local leadership and I am hopeful we can use this project to kickstart the transformation of Redruth Town Centre.

 The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many high streets all over the country suffer from a lack of footfall. When we turn the page on this terrible setback we need to think creatively about how to build back better and allow our town centres to find new purpose.

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Our Plan for Nature

This week I delivered a speech setting out a raft of new government policies for the environment.  One of the things that we have valued more during this pandemic is the ability to have access to the natural world and outdoor spaces. With all of the restrictions in place and three lockdowns which have required us to stay at home, the ability to get out and exercise, and form a connection with the natural world has been important.
Many people have had increased awareness of the link between our own health, and economic prosperity, and that of the planet, and there are a number of projects that aim to help those suffering from some mental health conditions to get out and others that use outdoor spaces and nature as a teaching resource for children.
The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Over the last 50 years, much of the UK’s wildlife-rich habitat has been lost, degraded, and many of our once common species are in long-term decline. Between 1932 and 1984, we lost 97% of our species-rich grassland. Five species of butterfly have disappeared from England in the last 150 years. And our farmland bird indicator stands at less than half its value of 1970 – following a precipitous decline during the 1980s and 90s, and further losses since.
Our new policies aim to move the emphasis away from just slowing the pace of nature’s decline towards nature’s recovery. One of the things we have announced is a new target to reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030 and we are the first country in the world to set such a target.  We have also set out plans to treble the rate of tree planting in this country over the next few years and to treble the rate of peatland restoration.  If we can restore peat habitats to their natural condition, then these landscapes become an important carbon store.  We also plan to introduce a new designation to improve protections for long-established woodland and set out plans to support the reintroduction of species like the Golden Eagle that once existed on our island but became extinct.
One of the tools to help deliver our new ambitions will be our new agricultural policies. Our environmental land management schemes - the Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery – will pay farmers for environmentally sustainable actions, support local nature recovery, and deliver landscape and ecosystem recovery.
This is also a big year for the environment internationally.  We will continue to explore opportunities to build and strengthen our approach to climate change and to reverse biodiversity loss in line with our new leading target. We will be at the forefront of driving international ambition and action on nature at the CBD COP15 and the G7 in Carbis Bay in June, and on nature-based solutions at COP26.
Once this pandemic is over, we will have an opportunity through our new policies to do more both to increase and improve the number of people who access our beautiful countryside and to do more for nature’s recovery within these designated areas. With our near nature plan, we will leave the environment in a better state for future generations - and turn the tide on the decline that we have seen in recent decades.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

A New Direction for Cornwall Council

Last week local elections were held in much of the UK. Nationally, the country voted to confirm confidence in the government and the direction this country is going. The Conservatives took the seat of Hartlepool, which has had a Labour MP for over 47 years, and held important mayoralties in the West Midlands and Tees Valley, while preventing an SNP majority in Scotland and gaining control of councils across the country. 
More locally in Cornwall, there was a change in administration with Cornwall returning a majority Conservative administration of 47 out of 87 seats, for the first time since Cornwall Council was established in 2009. 
For nearly 8 years, Cornwall has been run by a Lib Dem/Independent administration who have consistently failed to exercise judgement and to make decisions even though they might sometimes involve difficult choices. The last 12 months have certainly been difficult for many people and the support offered by local government organisations has been vital to many individuals and businesses alike all over the county. Recognising that different areas had different challenges, one of the things the government did was give local councils a discretionary grant fund which they were free to distribute to local businesses in a way that suited their locality.  Some councils in other parts of the country gave a larger number of awards in smaller grants to ensure that the money they had gone as far as possible and really targeted support to those who had fallen between other schemes and therefore needed it most.
In recent years, Cornwall has suffered by having a Lib Dem administration that called for more decision making power but lacked the courage to take decisions.  They were too preoccupied with their latest press release, or their latest leaflet to actually think about their responsibilities as an elected administration.
However, we now have a majority administration with a positive and transformational agenda planned which will keep the interests of the Cornish people at its core. The ability to enact change without having to negotiate with other parties or rely on the votes of independents, means the new administration can really deliver the change at County Hall that local people want to see.
There is no doubt that the faith that the Cornish people have placed in the Conservatives is a huge responsibility. It is important that we all come together to tackle the many difficult challenges that Cornwall faces, but I have faith that this administration will work hard to represents the desires of local, Cornish people whether you voted for them or not. The new administration has the opportunity to build upon the governments national agenda of building back better, greener and stronger than before as we recover from the pandemic.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Pet Theft and Animal Welfare

When it comes to animal welfare, we have a record that we can be proud of. We were the first country in the world to pass legislation to protect animals. Since 2010, we have banned the use of battery cages for laying hens, made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses in England, made microchipping mandatory for dogs, modernised our licensing regime for dog breeding and pet sales, and banned commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens.
Our 2019 manifesto committed to going further, and we have just delivered on one of our flagship commitments. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has achieved Royal Assent and become law. This means that the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty will be raised from six months to five years from 29 June.
We are a nation of animal lovers, and a 2017 public consultation on this issue attracted over 9,000 responses with a clear majority supporting tougher sentences. Locally in Cornwall, we have some exceptional charities that help keep elderly or vulnerable people united with their pets. The Cinnamon Trust in Hayle runs a nationwide network of volunteers who visit elderly people and take their dogs out for a walk. As well as providing their pets with exercise the volunteers also provide much needed social contact for people ask risk of loneliness and, should the pet’s owner sadly pass away before their pet, the dog has a social bond with their walker and this can help resettle them.
There is absolutely no place in this country for animal cruelty of any kind, and we must make sure that those who abuse animals are met with the full force of the law. The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases including dogfighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals.
These sentences will be amongst the toughest in Europe and will help ensure that courts are able to enforce extended penalties for those who cruelly mistreat any animal, sending a clear message that animal cruelty will never be tolerated.
In 2019, we passed Finn’s Law. Finn was a police dog who was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell. Finn sustained serious stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker. This Act, coupled with Finn’s Law, ensures that those who harm either service or any other animals are punished properly. PC Wardell has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, as have various animal welfare organisations including the RSPCA and Battersea Cats and Dogs Home.
There is more to do though. In recent months, there have been alarming reports of an increase in pet theft. I know just how important a much-loved pet is, and in recent weeks I have met both the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor to discuss the matter. We are all determined to crack down on pet theft and will say more about our plans to do so in the weeks ahead.
We will continue to work to cement our position as a world leader in animal welfare, and we will continue to pursue our ambitious commitments in this space. I am determined that, in addition to treating our own animals well, we will tackle some of the unacceptable practices that take place abroad and set a clear sense of direction on animal welfare issues.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Climate Change, the G7 and COP-26

This year important steps are being taken to establish the UK’s leading role on the issue of climate change, with Cornwall hosting the G7 in June and the COP26 Summit taking place in Glasgow later in the year.

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. The UK has made significant progress over the last decade and is the best performing G20 country. We have reduced carbon emissions by about 44% 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.

Last week, the Government announced that we would adopt the recommendation of the Climate Change Committee and set the world’s most ambitious climate change target, cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. The is also the first time that the UK’s Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions, which is an important step in truly tackling our global emissions. This announcement and the recent changes will bring the UK to more than three-quarters of the way to achieving net-zero ahead of our final target of being carbon-neutral by 2050.

In addition to this, earlier this week I hosted a Sustainable Agriculture round-table discussion. The discussion included representatives from Costa Rica, Vietnam, Morocco, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Germany, the EU, Italy, the US and Brazil. The discussion explored some of the issues around sustainable agriculture and soil health which are increasingly on the agenda around the world. Furthermore, our new Agriculture Act sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in the future with payments directed to enhance environmental assets like soils or hedgerows.

All of this forms the backdrop to the UK hosting the G7 summit in Carbis Bay in June of this year. Climate Change will certainly represent an important part of the summit's agenda. It is vital that as we build back better from the huge impact of the pandemic that we also build back greener. As we are the hosts for both COP26 in Glasgow and the G7 in Cornwall, is important that we set a high standard for our international partners. From changing the way business operates, reforming our key industries like agriculture and setting ambitious, yet achievable targets for cutting emissions, we are on a pathway to protect our precious environment for future generations.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Trevithick Day 2021

This year we are celebrating the 250th anniversary of the life of Richard Trevithick. Sadly, this year will be a more muted celebration, given the pandemic, with regular events such as the parade with the engine and other celebrations being unable to take place. Instead, the festival will be taking place mostly virtually with some elements such as a window-shopping competition taking place in-person. While we may not be able to enjoy the full day of celebrations, it is still an important opportunity to celebrate the achievements of one of Camborne’s favourite sons. 

Back in 2010, when I was first elected to Parliament, I made Richard Trevithick the focus of my maiden speech.  I found a wonderful statement from him saying that, although he had been criticised for trying new principles and was left in severe financial hardship as a result of his pioneering endeavours, he knew in his own heart that he had brought forward new ideas that would be of boundless value to his country.  For many years, Trevithick's achievements were not really recognised which makes it all the more important we celebrate them now even if we can’t do so in person.

As a pioneer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive and epitomised the contribution made by Cornwall to the Industrial Revolution. It was the efforts of pioneers like Trevithick that put Cornwall on the map as a leading centre for industry and innovation. Whilst towns like Camborne and Redruth experienced some decline after the closure of the tin mines and Holman’s, new industries and technologies are beginning to establish themselves into our communities which offers the prospect of higher-paid employment in the future.

In the past, people had to choose between leaving Cornwall and taking a well-paid career upcountry or taking the lifestyle choice to live in the most beautiful part of the country but accepting a lower salary. That is starting to change.

Ever since I was first elected, I have made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. In Camborne, plans to revitalise the town have been stepping up with the Towns Fund Board formally submitting a proposal to the government in January.

While we may not be able to celebrate Trevithick Day in the usual manner this year, but we can still all take a moment to be proud of our local heritage and the significant leading role that this part of Cornwall played in the industrial revolution.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh 1921-2021

On Friday morning we all received the sad news that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Consort to Her Majesty the Queen, had died peacefully while at home at the age of 99.  While in some ways it was not unexpected, many of us were moved by it.  He has been such a central part of the Royal Family and our national story for so many years.  Having been married to the Queen for 73 years, he was the longest-serving Royal consort in history.
We all understood that he had offered huge support to the Queen throughout her reign.  However, like many others, through the many tributes and obituaries, I actually found that I learned new things about his life story that I hadn’t realised before. In particular his early childhood and how he and his family had to leave Corfu and how, as a baby, he made the journey in a crib made from an orange box.  He fought in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was mentioned in dispatches for his part in the Battle of Cape Matapan in the Mediterranean in 1941.
Reflecting on his life is also a reminder that he was a forward-thinking man who embraced new ideas and was ahead of his time in many areas.  He was fascinated by engineering and technology and championed these industries all his life and embraced new ideas on the Royal estates and new technology within the Palace.  He was instrumental in the decision to open the Royal Family up to make them more accessible, persuading the Queen to participate in a televised documentary during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  He was also passionate about environmental issues long before they became fashionable.  He had spotted in the 1960s that the way we were living posed a threat to nature and that we had to change our ways.  He was the first president and a co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund which has championed nature across the world ever since.
He was famous for straight-talking and we will all recall moments where reports of his latest colourful intervention have raised a smile.  Those who knew him well say that this was more often than not his way of breaking through stilted formality, of breaking the ice to put people at ease or to put things in perspective and challenge people to recognise what mattered in life and not to stand on ceremony too much - although he did his share of that too.
He was also someone who believed passionately in the potential of the next generation and the importance of supporting young people to find their vocation and develop the confidence to thrive.  A large part of his legacy will be the long-running Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. Many will have memories of taking part in the D of E Scheme while at school or college; discovering an opportunity to build confidence, work with others and grow and learn vital life skills. The scheme has allowed many over the last 60 years, particularly from poorer backgrounds, to support their local community and improve their chances in life. 
This Saturday we will all pause to reflect on his huge contribution to British National life throughout his 99 years.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

The Second Step on the Roadmap: The Opening of Shops and Pubs

This week the Prime Minister confirmed that the second step on the roadmap would be going ahead; this will begin on April 12th, which is this coming Monday. The first step of reopening schools and the continued success of our vaccine rollout have allowed us to meet the four tests that the Prime Minister previously outlined. 

Throughout the last five weeks, the government has made every effort to offer schools support in the form of tests and PPE to prevent infection and monitor the situation. There was some concern that the reopening of schools would lead to a rise in cases and would force us to delay this second step. However, thanks to a brilliant effort by teachers, students, and parents this has been avoided and numbers have continued to fall or remain stable at a low level across the country.

As I write this, we have now vaccinated over 31 million people, with an additional 5.5 million have had their second dose. The roll-out of the vaccine is a key route for us out of lockdown and the pandemic. The first priority was getting our young people back to school and help get their education back on track. However, now we have achieved this, we can begin to reopen parts of our retail and hospitality sectors and begin the process of undoing the untold damage caused by this pandemic.

The change next week will be a huge relief to many, who have been longing for the chance to see friends and family again for a drink in the pub or to go out to the shops. However, it is vital that we do not let ourselves get complacent and allow ourselves to let our guard down. The progress we have made up to this point has been brilliant, but costly, so we must all try to ensure that we preserve the benefits. 

From drawing examples of other countries around the world, we can see that the progress of an effective vaccine rollout can be undone by outside factors. For example, Dr Chris Witty, the Chief Medical Officer, gave the example of Chile to show this. While Chile have managed to vaccinate a large proportion of their population, they have not managed to see as significant a drop as other countries. While it is speculation at this point, this may be due to the impact of cases coming in from Brazil or other areas. As a result, it is vital we all work hard to protect the progress we have made so far. 

Nonetheless, while there are plenty of reasons to be cautious, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful too. The progress we have made up to this point should be celebrated. I am sure many, myself included, will be looking forward to a pint of beer or glass of wine in a Cornish pub garden over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Tackling Littering

One of the things that we have valued more during this pandemic is the ability to have access to the natural world and outdoor spaces. With all of the restrictions in place and three lockdowns which have required us to stay at home, the ability to get out and exercise, and form a connection with the natural world has been important.

However, the blight of litter on our environment has come into sharp focus over the last year in Cornwall. We have all seen our favourite walks, beauty spots and green spaces suffer from dropped masks, plastic bottles or food wrappers. 

Last week the government launched two consultations that aim to strengthen some of the laws around the way we manage waste and to encourage companies to use less packaging and take more responsibility for recycling the packaging they do use.

It is vital that we stop the millions of tonnes of plastic that are being dumped every year. In the UK alone, we go through an estimated 28 billion drinks bottles and cans a year, with nearly 12 million tonnes of packaging placed on the market in 2019. As we strive to tackle climate change and build back greener from the pandemic, we need to come together for our planet across all of society to make a lasting difference.  

We have already made huge strides to tackle plastic pollution, including banning microbeads in rinse-off products, announcing a plastic packaging tax and prohibiting the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. But there is still a lot more to do to turn the tide on plastic. 

Our 5p plastic bag charge has shown just how effective small financial incentives can be in encouraging far-reaching behaviour change, with a 95% drop in supermarket sales and billions of harmful bags taken out of circulation.  

Through new powers in the new Environment Bill, manufacturers will take more responsibility for the packaging they produce, with the levying of fees not only encouraging more recycling but also greater recyclability. Much of our packaging is too difficult to recycle and we must ensure that more is captured and turned back into new products. 

We are also developing plans for a new deposit return scheme.  Many of us remember the old glass Corona bottles where you could return them and receive a 10 pence deposit.  The idea is to do something similar with plastic bottles which will attract a surcharge and people will be able to return them to collection machines or retailers to get a refund.

We want to bear down on the waste and carelessness that destroys our natural environment and kills marine life. With the G7 in Cornwall this year, it is important that we set a high standard for our international partners who will be visiting our region in June. From changing the way business works to increase recycling and helping households, we are on a pathway to protect our precious environment for future generations.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Cornwall’s 2021 Council Election

In a few weeks, it will be polling day on Thursday, May 6th when people right across Cornwall will be able to exercise their democratic right to elect their local representatives to Cornwall Council.  Last year elections had to be delayed in parts of the country due to the Coronavirus but the progress made on vaccination means we can now allow elections to take place as we emerge from the pandemic.  Here in Cornwall,  there has been a Lib Dem led coalition that has been running the council for the last four years, and the May 6th elections are an important opportunity to hold them to account.

The last 12 months have certainly been difficult for many people and the support offered by local government organisations has been vital to many individuals and businesses alike all over the county. Recognising that different areas had different challenges, one of the things the government did was give local councils a discretionary grant fund which they were free to distribute to local businesses in a way that suited their locality.  Some councils in other parts of the country gave a larger number of awards in smaller grants to ensure that the money they had gone as far as possible and really targeted support to those who had fallen between other schemes and therefore needed it most. 

Cornwall Council chose not to exercise the discretion they had been given nor to be creative about the design of the support they gave.  Instead, they just doled out the money along the formula is was allocated to them and then said they wanted more. The result of this is that many businesses received £10,000 when they did not really require it, and some are now actually better off through being closed than open and trading. It also meant that some businesses that needed support received nothing at all.  Had the Lib Dem/Independent administration used their discretion and exercised judgement then more businesses would have been able to benefit from this Government funding.

We desperately need an administration in County Hall that has the courage to exercise judgement and to make decisions even though they might sometimes involve difficult choices. In recent years Cornwall has suffered by having a Lib Dem administration that calls for more decision making power but lacks the courage to take decisions.  They have been too preoccupied with their latest press release, or their latest leaflet to actually think about their responsibilities as an elected administration.

In addition, this year the Lib Dem’s will be increasing Council Tax by almost 5% with some households seeing their bills go up by around 7-8%. This would be particularly concerning in normal times and I have opposed these rises in the past. However, we are currently living through one of the most substantial economic downturns since the Second World War with many businesses being forced to close and many people losing their jobs.

This is why the forthcoming elections are so important. It is a vital opportunity for residents to make clear that they are unsatisfied with the council's performance and that the rise in council tax is unacceptable, particularly while Cornwall Council is spending £80,000 a year on rent an office in Brussels despite Cornwall overwhelmingly voting to leave the EU. 

Over the next few weeks, the Conservatives will be fielding candidates in every ward in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and I invite you to contact them to discuss any concerns that you might have or to discuss their plans for your area.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Tackling Fraud

The last 12 months have been difficult for many people; isolation and loneliness have proved one of the biggest challenges many people have faced while the country has been in lockdown. Social distancing has made people value friendships and family connections as many had perhaps started to under-appreciate them, given the frantic pace of life in the modern world. However, we have also seen a worrying increase in unscrupulous crime, with online fraud and scams seeing a big increase.

Fraud is one of the fast-growing crimes in the UK and the last 12 months have offered a perfect opportunity for these ruthless criminals to expand their reach. Action Fraud- the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime- recently reported that an email attempting to trick people into handing over bank details was reported to it more than 1,000 times in a single 24 hour period. Over the last few months, my office has heard of a number of tragic cases of people in Cornwall losing houses, cars and other valued possession as a consequence of falling victim to this horrific crime.

As we are approaching the end of the third lockdown, we are all well aware of the impact of having to learn new technology and the challenges being unable to work from an office have brought. This has hit older people particularly hard. Many of these people are using some online sites for the first time and are less aware of the dangers that the internet can pose.

These scams come in many forms and are often very sophisticated.  Often these emails can be purporting to come from the NHS, various banks, parcel delivery firms including Royal Mail or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, telling people they are eligible for a tax rebate because of coronavirus. These criminals will use any opportunity to exploit their victims but they generally have the same thing in common: they are after your bank or credit card details so they can take your money.  Once they have taken your money it is juggled to foreign bank accounts which can make it a crime that is very hard to pursue.  That is why the single most important thing anyone can do is be incredibly cautious about which websites they use their bank cards and not give details to unsolicited emails.  

If you believe that you have been a victim of one of these scams you can report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. If you or a loved one has been impacted by fraud, you may also wish to contact the Devon and Cornwall Victim Care Unit on 01392 475900 as they can offer comprehensive support. Additionally, the National Cyber Security Centre offer advice including the 7726 text service that enables you to report spam texts for free.

My office is always happy to help constituents who are unsure or in need of support. 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 and we will do our best to help.