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.

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...