Thursday, 30 March 2017

Westminster Attack

The best answer to those who seek to undermine our way of life with acts of terror is to simply carry on.  The appalling murders that took place in Westminster last Wednesday were a reminder that every country can be affected by acts of violence: the attack in London was similar to the devastating attacks in Nice last year.  However, the very next day, Parliament was back to business and the streets of London were once again packed with tourists who have come to visit the greatest city on earth. 

Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.  Keith Palmer, the Police Officer who lost his life trying to stop the attacker, showed extraordinary bravery.  As details emerged of the other victims murdered on Westminster Bridge, it was clear that many families are suffering tragic bereavement this week. By the end of last week, the area was adorned with flowers from those who had come to pay their respects and books of condolence had been opened throughout Westminster.

One of the warped objectives of those who commit crimes like this is to try to sow division in our society and to turn one faith against another.  It is important that we do not allow them to succeed.  The murders last week were committed by a sad and deranged individual acting alone.  It was striking how quickly Muslim communities condemned the acts and made clear it was not in their name. 

Our security services work around the clock to monitor extremism and to try to keep us safe and they have successfully foiled dozens of planned attacks in recent years.  Sadly, everyone suspected that it would only be a matter of time before one got through.  Managing murders by lone extremists poses a challenge for our security forces because such events are not even coordinated by an organisation.  In fact, the term "terrorist attack" probably overstates what we are dealing with because there is no organised movement.  Rather, we are dealing with lone murderers who have been radicalised which is no less a challenge. 

We can but hope that, over time, this phenomena of radical extremism will recede and disappear.  But in the meantime, we must remain vigilant, support the work of our security services and carry on with our lives.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Article 50

The Prime Minister has announced that she will trigger Article 50 on 29th March. This will formally start the process of the UK leaving the European Union, and the most important negotiation for the UK for a generation.

The Prime Minister is clear that she wants us to put in place a close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. Our future relationship with the EU will include co-operating with our European partners in the fight against crime and terrorism. We will also collaborate on initiatives in areas such as science, research and technology.

I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. Here in Cornwall, we are already starting to see such opportunities. Redruth based manufacturing company European Springs and Pressings has seen a post-referendum surge which has led to increased orders with future growth very much on the cards. Based at Treleigh Industrial site, the company has seen its turnover up by 15% on the previous year.

I recently attended Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food trade show in Dubai. The show brings together more than 100,000 buyers, investors and producers from around the world. I was proud to champion the UK’s world-class offer. We have ambitions plans to further our export success in the coming years, and we are strengthening our global reputation for good quality produce. It was great to see some of our local Cornish companies, including Rodda’s at the show, and to hear about their plans for continued growth in the years that lie ahead. This week, I attended an international food event in London and met local Redruth firm, CocoNuts.

In terms of funding and regional grant aid, we have the opportunity to put in place a national policy which will allow us to better run regional policy and support new businesses here in Cornwall. This will allow us to invest in projects that really deliver for the local area.

I said during the campaign that I wanted to be the first Farming Minister in 40 years to be able to design policies from first principles. I am optimistic about what lies ahead, and I think that 29th March will be a defining moment for our country.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Adult Social Care

I recently enjoyed visiting a Shared Lives South West family in Portreath, to find out more about the work done by Shared Lives and the services offered. Shared Lives South West is an independent charity and provides a range of services for people with additional needs. It is a way of providing care and support for vulnerable adults in ordinary family homes of Shared Lives carers.

It was great to meet people who use the Shared Lives services as well the Just Next Door service, which is a half-way stage between living with a family and living independently. The service is provided by Shared Lives carers who have an annexe or flat that is linked to the family home. It allows people to increase independent living skills whilst being able to access family based support when needed.  It is also a more cost effective model than some other approaches to social care.

How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.  As more people live longer, more need help as they get older.  Finding the right solutions is also key to easing pressure on the NHS.

This week, the Chancellor delivered the Spring Budget. I am particularly pleased that the Government will provide an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services. £1 billion of this will be provided in 2017-18, ensuring that councils can take immediate action to fund care packages for more people, support social care providers, and relieve pressure on the NHS.

I also welcome the provision of an additional £100 million for capital investment in A&E departments, which will help to ensure that patients are able to access the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

The NHS is incredibly important to everyone in Cornwall. I admire the work done by our local hospitals. I am a firm believer in helping the NHS deal with the challenges it inevitably faces, rather than talking it down.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

St Piran's Day

Last Saturday, I attended the St Piran’s Day celebrations at Heartlands. Despite the blustery weather, it was a well-attended event and a true celebration of our Cornish culture and identity. Heartlands had a difficult start, but has very much found its feet at the very heart of our community. Other local events were also very well attended, including the annual St Piran’s Day Parade in Redruth.

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. The new Cornish archive, Kresen Kernow, is really taking shape on the site of the old brewery. I lobbied hard to ensure that Redruth, home to most of the world-wide Cornish diaspora, was chosen as the location for this project, which will create new jobs, housing and continue the wider regeneration of the area.

I am pleased that the Government has committed £100,000 to a Cornish Culture Fund. This will be used to fund culture and heritage projects across Cornwall. I am hopeful that some of this money will be spent on the Cornish language.

Before 1996, students taking their GCSEs used to have the option of studying Cornish, but it was discontinued due to a lack of participation. I now think the time is right to reintroduce the Cornish language as a course. The evidence shows that there are benefits to learning a second language which go beyond the learning of the language itself, and while some students may feel uninspired by French or Spanish, they may feel more enthusiastic about studying their native language.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Marine Hub Cornwall

Last week, I announced the launch of Marine Hub Cornwall during Renewable UK’s Wave and Tidal Conference. I have always thought there was potential for wave power in Cornwall.  The Atlantic swell gives us a wave resource that is second to none and if we could get the technology right then it could offer consistent energy generation that is sustainable.  We also have great skills and expertise in precision engineering and marine science.

Marine Hub Cornwall seeks to bring together world class assets like Wave Hub and our universities and research and development programmes to provide a seamless co-ordinated offer to the marine renewable energy sector in Cornwall. The aim is to strengthen our position as the global leader in research and technology development.

Cornwall is already recognised as providing marine renewable developers a unique prospect within which they can test technology from prototype to fully operational systems. The Cornish coast provides optimal conditions for early-stage trials at FaB Test, while Wave Hub at Hayle, the world’s largest and most technologically advanced demonstration site, allows for more advanced testing.  Wave Hub boasts one of the best wave resources in Europe and has really put Cornwall on the map in this sector.  

The launch of Marine Hub comes just a few weeks after American wave energy developer GWave announced its plans for a 9MW project to be deployed at Wave Hub. GWave, based in Portland, Maine, USA has spent the past decade developing its Power Generation Vessel (PGV) technology, an innovative wave energy device of a scale that is unprecedented, and is preparing to bring the first full-scale vessel across the Atlantic for installation right here in Hayle. GWave chose Wave Hub in recognition of the strong wave resource, infrastructure, and industry experience available there.

There are still challenges to overcome.  We need a clear path to move from wave energy being an interesting idea, to being deployed at scale and generating electricity in a low cost and effective way.  But Marine Hub is a statement of Cornwall's commitment to the idea and if anyone in the world can make this work, Cornwall can.

Digital Skills and Connectivity

One of the ways we can raise wages and incomes in the area is by promoting more apprenticeships and locally Cornwall College which I attende...