Thursday, 21 October 2021

A tribute to Sir David Amess MP

The appalling murder of the Essex MP David Amess has caused great shock and sadness in Westminster and across the country over the past week.  There were some moving tributes in Parliament from some of those closest to him, after which we all attended a memorial service at St Margaret’s Church next to Westminster Abbey.

David had been an MP for many years since 1983 in fact.  I can remember that when I first became an MP in 2010, he was the sort of person who was always there to offer helpful advice and support as we all tried to find our feet and learn the ropes.  He was very approachable and unassuming and he had a sunny optimism and a beaming smile, with constant good humour that could lighten the mood on any occasion.  He was undoubtedly one of the kindest people in politics.

As a Minister in Defra, I got to deal with him quite often because of his lifelong passion for animal welfare issues and we would often discuss policies such as banning live animal exports, tightening the laws around licensing for those who breed and sell puppies and improving slaughterhouse regulations.  Next Monday, I will introduce a new Bill to Parliament that will bring forward the ban on the export of live animals.  He would undoubtedly have been there, in the Chamber, offering support and encouragement from a couple of benches behind me in the normal way and we will all feel his absence.

A few years ago we saw the tragic murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox in very similar circumstances and I attended the memorial event in Camborne Town Square alongside the local Labour Party.  Despite sometimes profound differences in opinion, everyone in politics in this country is united in their unshakeable belief in our democracy and all parties were united in their grief again this week.

David Amess’ murder has inevitably led to discussion around security for MPs and the coarseness and aggression directed to people in social media and online.  My view is that we need to keep these things in perspective.  This was ultimately a senseless murder.   Our focus should be on the violence that we see from a tiny number of individuals and how we address that.  In recent years we have sadly seen a rise in violent incidents against the police, against healthcare workers or those working in other public-facing roles such as job centres.  Sometimes these are linked to mental health problems or to drug or alcohol addiction.

Our democracy is designed to ensure that MPs are grounded by what they see and hear from the constituents in the seat they represent.  Surgeries, which are where an MP hears directly about the trials and tribulations that people are wrestling within their life and then tries to offer a helping hand are crucial to making sure any government is responsive to what is actually happening on the ground.  In the absence of this, things become far more remote and out of touch.  We should make every effort to ensure that we retain that connection. 

RIP Sir David Amess MP – 1952 - 2021 



Thursday, 14 October 2021

GPs and Dentistry in Cornwall

As we emerge from the pandemic and life gets back to normal, there are pressures on multiple fronts to contend with.  The lockdown restrictions around the world have caused significant turbulence in global supply chains from shipping to energy.  Our NHS was on the front line of dealing with the pandemic, however, as that threat recedes, other work that was necessarily affected during the Covid response has returned to the fore.  In addition, months of isolation and staying at home during the pandemic has placed burdens on families and relationships and we are seeing a significant increase in people suffering from anxiety and other mental well-being problems.

As a result, many GP surgeries are struggling to cope with the increase in demand.  Most GP surgeries in the Camborne and Redruth area are reporting an increase in demand for appointments of around 30 percent and, in order to manage, they are having to triage calls so that those who definitely need a face to face appointment can receive one, while others with a query about medication or where a nurse could book tests are being dealt with differently.  Face-to-face appointments are crucial in medicine for many conditions.  For instance, a doctor can only really detect a condition like appendicitis if they are able to physically examine a patient.  That is why the government was so clear that face to face appointments needed to be reinstated as quickly as possible.  However, as doctors surgeries try to get back on an even keel given a big uplift in demand, we also need to work with them to manage this spike in demand.

Another longstanding issue relates to access to NHS dentists.  Ironically, we have a dental school in Truro and train many dentists every year but getting them stay in Cornwall is proving more difficult. Waiting lists for dental treatment are not uncommon in Cornwall. Prior to the Pandemic, 52% of adults in Devon and Cornwall recorded as not seeing an NHS dentist in the previous two years. This means that when patients do visit their dentists, it is often for more complex treatments that take longer to solve. 

Some dentists have pointed to changes made to contracts under the last Labour government that make it less attractive to work in some areas where need is greatest and this needs to be looked at.  It is also the case that recruiting GPs to work in parts of Cornwall has also been a challenge.  In part this is because the traditional route into General Practice, where a qualified GP becomes a partner in a local practice is less attractive to many today.  Doctors often want more flexibility and less commitment to one area or to a single job.  A portfolio career where they have two or more part time jobs suits many better and we need to recognise these social changes and reconsider the way the model operates.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Party Conference

This week saw the political conference season draw to a close with the Prime Ministers speech to the Conservative Party Conference.  It has been good to get back to holding these conferences properly again after eighteen months when we have all had to get used to virtual meetings online and webinars.
During the pandemic we all had to get used to having meetings on Zoom or other teleconferencing systems.  It had some advantages which we are likely to keep and made it easier to get more people on a meeting quickly because they didn’t need to travel, so you could bring people in from around the country.  However, we humans are social creatures and there is no substitute for meeting properly.  At Conference, you have chance encounters, bump into old friends, have conversations and people can exchange their thoughts or ideas.  In meetings, having an audience in a room makes a huge difference.  You can read the room in a way that’s not possible online and discussion and debate flow better.
The big theme of the Conservative Conference has been how we Build Back Better as we emerge from this pandemic.  The phenomenal success of the vaccine rollout means we have been able to emerge more quickly from the restrictions than most other countries and that, in turn, means that we have the fastest economic growth in the developed world.  People have returned to pubs and restaurants with vigour to meet old friends, as normal, which has been a big boost for that sector.  In Cornwall, the tourism sector has had an incredible busy, with a somewhat stressful summer, but the result has been a welcome boost to our local economy.
However, as the world emerges from the pandemic there has been some turbulence in international supply chains.  The surge in demand for gas in Asia has driven up gas and energy prices worldwide, while a disruption to shipping routes over the past year means a shortage of some goods and, finally, labour shortages in many sectors of our economy is causing issues.  
Nine months ago some economists were predicting that there would be 4 million unemployed by now.  Thankfully that never transpired and instead we have 1 million job vacancies.  The high demand for skilled workers is leading to a welcome, overdue correction in the labour market with wages rising for the lowest paid.  However, we will never take risks with the security of our food supply chain and that is why we have also introduced some temporary visas to ensure that the skilled workers are available for the turkey industry and for food lorries in the run up to Christmas.
As I write this, the Prime Minister will be putting the finishing touches to his speech which he is due to deliver in a few hours’ time.   I am expecting a big focus on the need to Build Back Better and greener after the pandemic.  For DEFRA, that means making sure that the important of the environment and nature if factored into all our thinking in future policy. As a Cornish MP, I will also be watching closely to see what he has to say about the “levelling up” agenda so that places like Cornwall get the support they need to attract new industries and better paid jobs and to create opportunities for the next generation. 

Thursday, 30 September 2021

City of Culture Bid

 Cornwall has a significant place in our nation’s cultural history and, as such, we will be submitting a bid for the four-yearly title of UK’s City of Culture for 2025. We have a unique culture and identity, with some six to eight million people making up a worldwide Cornish diaspora and the vast majority of them can trace their family roots back to the Camborne and Redruth area.

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 it’s great to see these great industrial towns leading the way in promoting our rich and wonderful history. Camborne and Redruth play an important role as two of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution. In its prime, Redruth, in particular, was at the heart of the tin mining industry and there were many feats of engineering developed in Cornwall at that time. We exported mining expertise around the globe from Australia and South Africa to California, South America and Mexico. The Redruth-based Kresen Kernow Cornish Archive shows this well, providing an excellent facility to record our history and store important artefacts. 

Ever since I was first elected, I have made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. 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. By hosting events like the G7 and the opening stages of the Tour of Britain, we have confirmed our place as both a cultural and a political force within the United Kingdom, my hope is with the forthcoming submission of the City of Culture Bid this will be recognised.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Geothermal Power in Cornwall

In Cornwall, we are privileged to have access to a beautiful landscape with a wealth of resources and have a rich history of leading the world in new and innovative technologies. At the height of the tin mining era, Camborne and Redruth were once some of the wealthiest towns in the land. However, as the tin mines closed, the fortunes of our local towns fell behind other parts of the country, but this is changing. 


There are several businesses across Cornwall that are working hard to create new, green industries that make use of the natural resources in a sustainable way. Recently, Cornwall hosted world leaders as part of the G7 summit, which gave us a very positive opportunity to promote some of the leading work that Cornwall does on green energy and the environment. Some thirty years ago, Cornwall was home to the first-ever wind farm in the UK, now plans for locating offshore wind in Hayle are swiftly taking shape and we are leading the country in the development of Lithium mining and Geothermal Energy. 


The first deep geothermal power project in the UK is here in Cornwall at United Downs. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) is a small Cornish company which has successfully proved the concept by drilling two deep wells, one to bring the naturally hot water to the surface and the other to deposit the used fluid back underground. Geothermal electricity is known as baseload, because it is generated 24/7 regardless of the weather at the surface, balancing out the peaks and troughs of other renewable energy sources. 


While the geothermal powerplant at United Downs is expected to be supplying electricity for the National Grid by the end of 2022, GEL have just announced that following their initial success, they are looking at opening four new sites. These new prospective sites are located in Tolvaddon, Manhay, Mawla and Penhallow.


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, particularly with the UK hosting the COP-26 summit in Glasgow later this year. Cornwall has led the country on innovative technology in the past, we can be proud that we are continuing this tradition by helping the whole country by cutting emissions, and establishing a pathway to protect our precious environment for future generations.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

The Return of Parliament

This week Parliament has returned with some key arguments on the ongoing difficulties in Afghanistan and a big debate about how we fund adult social care.  It is the return of Parliament in more than one sense because it is also the first time in over a year that Parliament has been sitting properly without social distancing. 

During the lockdown, like every other working environment, there were restrictions with strict limits on how many MPs could be in the chamber at any one time, electronic voting and social distancing measures.  The return of voting in the old fashioned way with MPs passing through voting lobbies to be counted as a reminder of what we lost during the lockdowns.  The ability to bump into people and have open, chance conversations about issues or problems other MPs want to raise; the ability to attend events and proper meetings of the Cabinet around a table rather than on a zoom call.  Our democracy relies on those personal interactions and while we have all made things work as best we can over the last eighteen months, there is no substitute for meeting people in person.

The issue that has dominated debate this week has been the new proposals on how to fund social care in old age.  This has been a growing problem over many years.  Under the current rules, those who end up in residential care homes at the end of their life have to pay the full cost of their care until they are down to their last £23,000.  Many have to sell their home or use all their life savings and it has been seen as unfair for years.  Under the new proposals, any contribution will be capped at £86,000 and there will be a taper so that those with assets worth less than £100,000 will get help with the costs.  To fund the cost of care in old age, there will be a new levy attached to National Insurance Contributions that will be ring-fenced for the NHS.  New taxes or contributions will always cause some controversy but people also recognise that, if we want to tackle difficult issues like social care costs, we need to be realistic about how to fund them.
The return of parliament meetings properly has also created the possibility for events and engagement with external organisations again.  This week I spoke at an event organised by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England on the theme of hedgerows in the farmed landscape and how we can create new ones and better manage the ones we have.  When hedges were torn down in the post-war years, we lost a lot of nature along the way. Hedges are probably the single most important ecological building blocks in our farmed landscape today and if we manage them sensitively and create new ones, the impact on nature could be significant which is why financial support aimed at hedges will be a key feature of our new agriculture policy.

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Tackling Plastic Pollution

Throughout lockdown, our beaches, parks and green spaces have been a source of comfort to so many of us. But all too often we see plastic litter carelessly strewn aside, to the detriment of both wildlife and the natural environment. According to one estimate, approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK. That is why we are going further to tackle the scourge of single-use plastics blighting our countryside and our oceans.

We’ve made progress in recent years. We banned plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, we introduced a 5p plastic carrier bag charge – which cut plastic bag use by 95% in the major supermarkets – and increased it to 10p alongside an extension to all retailers, and we have banned the supply of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.

I am determined to see us go further though. That is why we will consult this autumn to ban further single-use plastic items, including single-use plastic plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups. Every year, it is estimated that each person uses a staggering 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 single-use plastic items of cutlery. Plastic cutlery in particular is devastating for turtles and sea birds, often causing fatal internal injuries. 

Polystyrene is equally damaging. Largely made up of air, expanded polystyrene can travel a long way – blown along by the wind, or floating on water. Its very structure means it breaks up into pieces easily and all too often is eaten by fish, birds and marine mammals who mistake it for food. 

That is why it is so important that we use alternatives, and make good on our commitment to preventing all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. Many businesses are already taking action through the UK Plastics Pact, which is a collaboration between businesses, supported by the Government and coordinated by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). One of the Pact’s targets is to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign and innovation.

Our Environment Bill, which is currently completing its passage through Parliament, gives us a raft of new powers to make it easier to place charges on single-use plastics that threaten our ecosystems, and reform our waste system to ensure that we can step up our war on plastic pollution and litter.  

This year, we have consulted on our proposals for an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging, where companies will be expected to cover the full cost of recycling and disposing of their packaging, incentivising them to meet higher recycling targets, as well as a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and the introduction of consistent collections of household waste in England. We have also published further guidance on the introduction of a plastic packaging tax on the packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled content. All these measures will drive up reuse, refill and recycling rates, reduce the amount of plastic waste created and enable us to manage the waste we do generate more effectively.

The measures that we are outlining today will build on the progress that we have already made, as we up the ante in our fight against plastic pollution.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Supporting the RNLI

A considerable impact of the Pandemic has been the restrictions on people’s ability to go away on holiday this summer. This had led to a dramatic rise in those seeking to holidays in the UK with Cornwall being one of the number one destinations. We have seen perhaps one of the busiest summers on record with thousands of people coming down.  

It has been a demanding time for those working in hotels, pubs and restaurants as a shortage of labour combined with record demand create pressures.  Many restaurants and hotels find themselves fully booked and staff have worked incredibly hard, but it is also an important opportunity to help that sector get back on its feet after the lockdown. 
There have also been added pressures on our roads.  Heavy traffic on the main roads is normal but we have also seen an increase in the number of drivers who are unfamiliar with our narrow country roads and how to navigate them!  The increase in visitor numbers also means pressures on the police and the NHS.  Some major events like Boardmasters have contributed to localised increases in covid infection among the young.
Our beaches have also been extremely busy and very crowded. This has put considerable pressure on those helping ensure holidaymakers and locals alike stay safe and aware of the dangers that the sea can pose. The RNLI has gone above and beyond to protect those who enjoy the Cornish Beaches this summer.
Figures released this week show that RNLI lifeguards in the southwest responded to 163 incidents and aided 208 people over last year’s August Bank Holiday weekend.  While the region’s volunteer lifeboat crew launched 27 times, aiding 40 people and of those saved two lives. As we approach the August bank holiday weekend, this year, the RNLI expect it to be one of their busiest on record.
While the weather is forecast to be pleasant and the surf conditions settled across the coming weekend, it’s important to remember the beach and especially the sea, can be an unpredictable environment. That’s why when you are planning your trip to the coast, the RNLI recommend you should visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.  RNLI lifeguards are operating on over 90 beaches across the south. Locally, these include Godrevy Beach, Gwithian Beach, Porthtowan Beach among others. Locally, Cornish lifeguards will also be following the progress of former Cornish Lifeguard, Melissa Reid, who is competing at the Paralympics this year in the Paratriathlon.  We all wish her the very best of luck!
Despite the pressures that increased visitor numbers have created, it is, of course, also a good problem to have in one sense.  The success of the vaccination programme has meant people can get out again, meet friends and family and get back to life as normal and that is good to see.
If you would like to support the RNLI in their work, The South West Lifeguard Appeal has now been launched and is aimed at raising money to support the training of SW Lifeguards. You may donate by visiting:  https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SW-Lifeguard-Appeal-2021 or scanning a QR code from the lifeguards at the beaches. 

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Afghanistan and Redruth Skate Park

The current events in Afghanistan are deeply distressing.  The decision by the US to fully withdraw its remaining presence earlier this summer left its allies, including the UK, with little option but to do the same.  The speed at which the Afghan government has collapsed has been a surprise.  They were well trained and equipped after many years of support but it is clear that there was a collapse in confidence in their ability to stop the Taliban in the absence of other support.  

The war in Afghanistan was difficult and hard-fought.  In 2006 when I was an adviser to David Cameron I went to Kandahar and Camp Bastion and the professionalism of our troops and the task they were undertaking was extraordinary.  The real focus now must be to do all that we can to help those Afghans who supported us during those difficult years.  We have said we will take 20,000 refugees but much more urgent is to use the next days and weeks to evacuate as many of those people as we can to ensure their safety. 

 

Redruth Skate Park 

For a number of years, town councillors in Redruth have wanted to create better facilities for young people and the idea of a skate park has been frequently mooted.  A few years ago there was an idea of doing something at Gweal-an-Top and interest in the concept was tested by having a temporary mobile skate park set up.  The idea has finally come to fruition as we recently received the welcome news that the Redruth Skate Park project has been awarded an additional £48,000 from the SUEZ Communities Trust.  

Redruth Town Council and Redruth Skatepark Association have been working on the skatepark project at East End playing field for some time and were very pleased by the new allocation of funding which has got the project across the line. Work on the site began on the 2nd of August and is progressing well so far. 

The new facility will mean local people, and in particular young people, will have a great facility within their own town rather than having to travel to Truro as many currently do. The skate park will be accessible and suitable for use by scooters, BMX bikes as well as skateboarders and roller skates. The design that has been created will permit the future addition of a large Skate bowl area once funding has been secured. Meanwhile, through separate funding, pathways will be created to ensure that the playground and new skatepark are fully accessible. Skateboarding is a developing sport that has recently featured at the Olympics that were held in Japan. In particular, Team GB saw success with 13-year old Sky Brown who won a bronze medal in Skateboarding and Charlotte Worthington who won a gold medal in Freestyle BMX, another sport that has quite a strong following in this part of Cornwall.  

It is great to see this new facility progressing in Redruth which I am sure many young people will take advantage of to get outside after spending the last 18 months in lockdown. 

Thursday, 12 August 2021

A-Level and GCSE Results

This week students across the country have received their GCSE and A-Level results. The last 18 months has been particularly difficult for children and young people with them having to adjust and cope with school being shut and working from home. This is why the government took the difficult decision not to hold exams this year and allow teachers to decide the student’s final grades which will allow the strain that has been put on young people to be rewarded fairly.
 
Over the course of the pandemic, our local schools have done an amazing job making sure that they could offer a safe environment when they were open.  Timetables were adjusted to try to reduce the disruption of students moving between classes and ending up in crowded corridors, with some putting more time between lessons so that teachers could move from one class to another more easily to reduce the movements of students. However, this only lessened the impact that the pandemic had on young people and many have still struggled considerably.
 
The decision to close schools earlier this year did not just have the obvious effects around disruption to exams and teaching. It is much more profound than that.  Children in both primary schools and secondary have been separated from friends.  Children’s birthday parties couldn’t happen as they normally would and should.  School sports events did not go forward. We, humans, are social creatures. Friendships and the company of others are important. Forming those bonds and friendships is a crucial part of growing up, whether it is in the formative early years as children start their first years as infants at primary school, or whether it is in those tricky teenage years as young people wrestle with all the insecurities and concerns that accompany that stage of life.
 
Given the impact that the last year has had on many young people in terms of welfare and their education, the Government has made every effort to ensure those who have fallen behind are able to catch up. An important element of this is the Government’s Education Recovery Plan, which is helping schools deliver long-term catch-up support, so every child can reach their full potential.
 
As part of our long-term education recovery plan, we will deliver six million, 15-hour tutoring courses, targeted at pupils most in need, and provide training and development for teachers. In the next stage of our plan, we are reviewing the impact of time spent in school and college on helping students catch up. We will also be investing a total of more than £3 billion in additional catchup support, so we can help every child who has fallen behind. Our new £1.4 billion packages of support builds on the £1 billion Covid Catchup Fund announced last year and the £700 million we are providing for an extensive catch-up programme, which includes a £302 million Recovery Premium to help schools bolster summer provision and support pupils most in need from September.
 
The government is clear that, as we return to normality and learn to live with Covid-19, we are going to have to pay special attention to help all those children and young people who have been affected by the lockdowns to get back on track. They are all going to need support to overcome the trauma of this episode and we will work hard to ensure that this support is there.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Reducing Flooding Risk

In recent weeks, we have seen images of catastrophic flash flooding in Germany, Belgium, China, and India. Closer to home, Storm Evert caused substantial disruption in the Cornwall and the wider South West last week and, earlier this year, Storm Christoph caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and communities across the North of England. My thoughts are with all of those affected by these devastating events.

Climate change means more extreme weather, a higher risk of flooding events and coastal erosion. All too often, we are seeing households suffering repeated flooding – something this government is determined to tackle. Following our recent call for evidence to look at better protecting and better preparing our communities, we will be consulting this autumn on ways to strengthen the assessment of local circumstances when allocating funding. This will include looking at ways to ensure that our flood defence investment programme can further benefit frequently flooded communities. 

We have already made progress. Between 2015 and March this year, the Government invested £2.6 billion into flood defences. This has led more than 300,000 home being better protected. In areas like the Calder Valley, this has made a huge difference. Areas that were damaged by previous bad weather were spared this year, thanks to this investment.  

But there is more to do. Over the next six years, we are doubling the amount of money invested to £5.2 billion. Last week I announced that 1,000 flood schemes across England will receive over £860 million in 2021/22 for building conventional walls and embankments, improving flood water storage, and harnessing the power of nature to slow the flow of water and reduce risk. 

More locally, this new funding includes further funds for both the Portreath Stream Flood Alleviation Scheme and the Copperhouse Gate Refurbishment in Hayle to help deliver each project. Over the years, Portreath has suffered particularly from flooding and storm damage to its sea defences and I welcome the news that the Environment Agency will be commencing work on the new alleviation scheme around September 2022 which aim to offer additional protection the residents impact by this flooding in the past.

Across Cornwall, the aim is to have an additional 275 extra homes given additional protection against flooding and costal erosion. This is all part of the governments wider Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Investment Plan for 2021 to 2027, which sets out how new flood and coastal schemes will better protect 336,000 properties by 2027, helping to avoid £32 billion in wider economic damages and reducing the national flood risk by up to 11 per cent.  At a time when we are seeing more extreme weather both here in the UK and abroad it is vital that we continue to invest in these vital schemes.

These are just some of the steps we are taking in our comprehensive plans, all designed to give us the best chance of adapting to climate change. It is important that we act right across the system.  We will sadly never save every home or business from the effects of flooding, but it is my sincere hope that many more can be protected in the years ahead.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Green Recovery Challenge Fund

This week we have announced the outcome of the 2nd round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The Fund was established late last year to help kickstart our green recovery and increase access to nature by creating and retaining thousands of green jobs in areas including tree planting, environmental education and the restoration of damaged habitats, such as peatlands and wetlands.

This additional funding will help support even more environmental projects to help tackle the nature and climate crisis. There are 90 innovative projects, which will each receive a share of £40 million, spanning over 600 sites from North Northumberland to the tip of Cornwall. The successful projects range from new ‘insect pathways’ in our countryside and towns, to tree planting projects in deprived urban areas – contributing towards the Government’s commitment to treble tree planting rates across England by the end of this Parliament. 


Locally, two projects have been successful in Cornwall. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust is set to receive over £618,000 to support building a greener Cornwall through jobs and nature’s recovery. Furthermore, South West Lakes Trust is using its share of over £160,000 to launch an ‘It’s Your Outdoors’ campaign which will support communities connecting with their blue and green space.


In the first round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, the Cornwall Seals Research Trust received over £75,000 to help support their work protecting seals. Since receiving the funding the trust used the funding to expand their work and hire more staff to grow the size of their operation. The UK is home to 38% of the entire world’s population of grey seals and 30% of the European subspecies of common seals, yet these precious mammals face an extensive list of threats including climate change, toxic pollution, entanglement, collisions with vessels, plastics and other marine debris. Of these threats, disturbance from human interaction is a significant and growing problem. The funding from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund has allowed the trust to expand their ‘give seals space campaign and prevent more decline in the Cornish Grey Seal population through education and conservationism. 


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. Once this pandemic is over, we will have an opportunity through our new policies to protect our wildlife and leave the environment in a better state for future generations - turning the tide on the decline that we have seen in recent decades.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Lockdown, Sport and Mental Health

 On the 19th of July, we reached the 4th step of the Roadmap out of lockdown, which the Prime Minister laid out back in February. This is a cautious, but considerable step forward toward normality. While we may not fully understand both the physical and economic impacts of lockdown for some time, it is clear that spending months locked inside being unable to socialise and relax properly puts an added strain on our mental health.

Young people, in particular, have been severely impacted by the lockdown restrictions since the start of the pandemic. The decision to close schools earlier in the year did not just have the obvious effects around disruption to exams and teaching.  It is much more profound than that.  Children in both primary schools and secondary have been separated from friends.  Children’s birthday parties can’t happen as they normally would and should.  School sports events are not happening.  We humans are social creatures.  Friendships and the company of others are important.  Forming those bonds and friendships is a really important part of growing up, whether it is in the formative early years as children start their first years as infants at primary school, or whether it is in those tricky teenage years as young people wrestle with all the insecurities and concerns that accompany that stage of life.

Recently, the Government’s Mental Health in Education Action Group committed to making mental health and wellbeing a central part of education recovery plans in education settings across England. Since its launch earlier this year, members of the group have taken feedback on areas to improve support for pupils and students as well as staff working in all areas of education, reflecting on the main challenges facing them including the increase in eating disorders and self-harm among young people and how to help staff manage their own mental wellbeing. 

In practice, this means the Government has committed £7 million for the Department for Education’s Wellbeing for Education Recovery programme, to facilitate training and resources for staff in schools and colleges. We have also created resources for students in higher education, collating the guidance, tools, and services available to support their mental health, raising awareness of the support available and empowering individuals to seek help.

In addition to this, I welcome the launch of The Terry Pryor Trust that will be taking place on August 21st. The Trust’s purpose is to provide opportunities for young people in the Redruth community and beyond to participate in and benefit from the social, physical and developmental aspects of rugby union. Terry’s contribution to not only Redruth Rugby club in particular, but also to Cornish rugby, in general, was substantial. He had a career spanning over 50 years as a player and coach making 55 appearances for Cornwall.

Sadly, Terry Pryor passed away in March 2020 leaving a huge hole in our community. However, because of Covid restrictions, it was not possible to properly plan and recognise his achievements in the game, until now. On Saturday, August 21st Redruth RFC will be hosting ‘The Terry Pryor Day’, which will include a Redruth versus Cornish Pirates training game that will get underway at 3pm. Admission to the Recreation Ground will cost £10 and 50% of gate money will go to The Terry Pryor Trust and support young people’s mental health. I am certain it will be a great day and a fitting tribute to a remarkable sportsman. 


Thursday, 15 July 2021

The Fourth Step of the Roadmap: Cautious Reopening

This week the Prime Minister announced that we would move the fourth and final step of the roadmap out of the lockdown restrictions.  It means that from the 19 July, the remaining legal restrictions introduced to help tackle the Covid pandemic will be removed.  This includes legal requirements on social distancing, mask wearing and final legal restrictions on the numbers of people allowed to meet in groups.   
It is important that we exercise caution in order to try to dampen the spread of the virus over the next couple of months.  We know that infection rates are rising sharply at the moment, especially among the young who have not been vaccinated but we also know that they are least affected and rarely develop any serious symptoms.  The confidence to move to this final step comes from the fact that the vaccination programme has been a huge success and this has almost (but not quite) broken the link between infection rates and hospitalisation.  If we can’t remove the legal restrictions now in the summer when the schools are on holiday, it is harder to see when we ever could.  However, not everyone was vaccinated and the vaccine is not 100 percent effective so there will still be an increase in hospital admissions over the next eight weeks. 
The move to Step four was delayed by four weeks to ensure that the maximum possible number of people could be vaccinated.  Nearly 7 million vaccines have already been administered during this delay. By 19th July, over two thirds of adults will have received two doses and every adult will have been offered a first dose. All adults should take up the offer of two vaccine doses, to protect themselves and others against Covid-19. Thanks to the continued success of our historic vaccination programme, the link between infections and hospitalisations has been severely weakened, with an estimated 8.5 million infections and 30,000 deaths prevented in England alone.
Data from Public Health England suggests that one dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 80% effective against hospitalisations with the Delta variant, increasing to 96% after two doses. The vaccination programme will continue, and all adults will be offered two doses by mid-September. Dependent on final JCVI advice the booster programme will begin from September, offering additional protection to the most vulnerable. 
The change next week will be a huge relief to many, particularly those in the hospitality sector who can begin to return to more normal levels of service. From the 19th of July, all remaining closed businesses, and venues such as nightclubs will be able to reopen. All capacity limits at sporting, entertainment, or business events will be lifted.  Venues such as pubs, restaurants and bars will no longer be required to provide table service or follow other social distancing rules.
While there are reasons to be cautious, there are also reasons to be hopeful and optimistic too.  While the Government’s approach will remain vigilant as we seek to control the rate of infection, we will continue to take steps that can help get people back closer to life as normal as swiftly as possible.

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Devon County Show

Normally around this time of year, I and many other local people would be attending the Royal Cornwall Show. Sadly this year, due to the pandemic it has been cancelled. I have many childhood memories of the Royal Cornwall show. When I was growing up my father was one of the many volunteer stewards who gave up his time each year to make the event possible so it was a shame we were all unable to attend this year.

However, while the Royal Cornwall show was sadly cancelled, It was great to return to the Devon County Show last week. We’ve learnt a lot from Zoom, but I’m glad to be rid of it. Farming is real, it happens outdoors, and demonstration projects that you can see in action on the ground are so important. 

It is an exciting time for agriculture here in the South West. We are developing our future agricultural policy and in doing so we want to support the choices that individual farm enterprises make. That is why we have already announced plans for an exit scheme to help farmers who want to leave the industry to do so, and it is why we are developing new grants to support farmers who want to invest in their business, reduce their costs and improve their profitability.  

Last week, we published details of the first options under the Sustainable Farming Incentive, which will open to farmers in spring next year. We’ve decided to start with soil health since that is where everything connected with successful farming starts. Enhancing the natural health and fertility of our soils is one of the most important things we can do to start making our farming more profitable and sustainable. 

In recent years, we’ve seen a renewed interest in ancient knowledge - the knowledge around what makes healthy, fertile soil. Farmers instinctively understand this - we know that soil is more than a growing medium, we know that soils are alive, and farmers know that the extent to which they have humus and organic matters in the soil is key to plant health.

Through our soils standards under the Sustainable Farming Incentive, we could save as much as 60,000 tonnes of CO2 each year from 2023 to 2027, increasing to 800,000 tonnes per year by 2037. Our initial sustainable farming incentive offer will also include a Moorland and Rough Grazing Standard designed to help us assess the condition of the moorlands and work out how best to invest in their restoration through sustainable farming practices.

To incentivise a high take up of the new scheme, we are adopting a new approach to payments that is more generous than the old EU schemes so we can get the levels of uptake we need to achieve our environmental goals. We have also reviewed payments in Countryside Stewardship so that we can increase the number of farmers providing environmental outcomes as we move towards the rollout of our new offers.

I have said many times that we want the move from the old system to the new to be an evolution, not a revolution. We recognise the dependency on area payments that the old EU schemes created and the distortions it caused on land rents and input costs, so we will unwind those distortions with care over seven years. However, it is also my hope that farmers who embrace these new schemes will discover that healthy soils and healthy livestock lead to higher profitability.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Protecting the Our Seals

Recently I visited Mutton Cove at Godrevy to meet with the leaders of the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust- a multi-award winning, marine conservation charity- to hear about their extensive work on seal conservation. The Trust supports a large network of active citizen scientists across South-West communities, who routinely survey seals on their local areas and help conserve local Seal populations. It was great to see them benefit recently from the Government’s Green Challenge Fund that has helped the Trust expand their work and hire more staff to grow the size of their operation. 
Nationally, there has been significant work being undertaken on seal conservation. At many different points around the UK coast, there has been a lot of effort going into reducing the disturbance of seals with new information boards for the public. Earlier this year, The Seal Alliance launched a new government-backed campaign to ‘Give Seals Space’ and reduce the shocking impact that human disturbance can have on these vulnerable marine mammals. 
The UK is home to 38% of the entire world’s population of grey seals and 30% of the European subspecies of common seals, yet these precious mammals face an extensive list of threats including climate change, toxic pollution, entanglement, collisions with vessels, plastics and other marine debris. Of these threats, disturbance from human interaction is a significant and growing problem.
In order to help protect marine mammals, such as seals, Government has ambitious plans for a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine protected areas around the UK’s seas. Following our exit from the European Union, we have new powers to implement evidenced-based marine management measures that will help ensure our seas are managed sustainably, protecting both the long-term future of the fishing industry and our precious wildlife and habitats.
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. Once this pandemic is over, we will have an opportunity through our new policies to protect our wildlife and leave the environment in a better state for future generations - turning the tide on the decline that we have seen in recent decades.

Vaccination Rollout Update:

It is great to see that nearly 80 million Vaccine doses have been given throughout the UK with nearly 85% of all adults having their first dose and 63% getting the protection of the second dose. If you live around Camborne you can protect yourself against COVID-19 by grabbing a jab from a pop-up vaccination clinic this Saturday, 3rd July. Anyone who’s older than 18 and has not yet been vaccinated can get a dose of Pfizer from the Dolcoath Council office car park, from 10am to 6pm. You don’t need to book an appointment – just turn up, get vaccinated, and get back on with your day. Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and are ensuring we are on track to end all restrictions, so if you have not had yours’ yet, I encourage you to come forward and get your vaccine. 


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.