Thursday, 31 March 2022

Opportunity for All

Now that Covid restrictions have gone, I have the chance to resume visits and meetings with our local schools. I will never cease to be impressed by the commitment and dedication of all our schools and the work they do to give the next generation the best possible start in life.  

Last Friday, I visited the Nexus Campus of Camborne Science and International Academy. The ‘Gifted Programme’ is unique in Cornwall and provides state-funded specialist education to young people with a particular talent for science and maths. During my visit, I met a number of students, some who had recently come into the school as well as others in the sixth form who were contemplating their next step to university.  We discussed a wide range of issues including how the Covid lockdown had affected study, sport and friendships.  Schools worked hard during the lockdown to try to offer online study and, while all schools will find there is some catching up to do, the remarkable thing is how resilient young people are and how quickly they have bounced back. 

On Monday this week, Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the ‘Opportunity for All’ Schools White Paper that is setting out how the Government intends to level up education. Literacy and numeracy are the building blocks of world-class education, and the White Paper sets out key targets and pledges that the Government is seeking to achieve. These include having 90% of primary school children being expected to achieve Key Stage 2 reading, writing and maths by 2030 and see the national average grade for GCSE English and Maths rise to 5 by 2030, from 4.5 in 2019.

These targets will be achieved through the introduction of several measures including requiring schools to offer a minimum of a 32.5-hour school week by September 2023 and increasing Ofsted inspections. These ambitious proposals are further expanded by the additional announcement that the Department for Health and the Department for Education will launch a new consultation with a view to developing a stronger national system for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), supporting teachers, parents and most importantly children. This will ensure that no child is left behind in our recovery from the Pandemic and we build back an education system stronger and more resilient than before.

The Opportunity for All White Paper and the new consultation for a stronger national system for children requiring SEND or alternate provision is further building on the announcement from February that Cornwall was one of the 55 areas in England selected as an Education Investment Area. These policies will make a real difference to children across the country.

Since I was first elected, I have made clear that regeneration and job creation have been my top priorities and that includes ensuring that we are opening new routes for people of all ages to learn new skills and enhance their productivity. As such, I look forward to seeing how these new policies will make a tangible difference for all our children in Cornwall, ensuring they have the best start in life.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Spring Conference in Blackpool

Last weekend I was in Blackpool at the Conservative Spring Conference where I gave a speech about the work we are doing to keep international supply chains open, to support the people of Ukraine and secure our food supply. 

In recent weeks, we have all been moved by the incredible courage of Ukraine’s president; by the extraordinary bravery of the Ukrainian army; and by the fortitude and resilience of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian farmers are showing tenacity in another way. Despite everything, they remain determined to get this year’s crops in the ground, particularly in Western Ukraine. Spring is the season of new life and new beginnings. For farmers, the world over it is a time of hope as they sow their crop for the year ahead, with optimism for what it might bring in the future. 

The determination to get this year’s crop on the ground shows that Ukraine is a country that believes in its future and refuses to give up. Of course, Ukraine is a significant global producer of many agricultural commodities such as wheat and sunflower oil. The invasion of Ukraine has obviously caused some turbulence in international commodity markets. Agricultural commodity prices have always been strongly correlated to the price of energy. The turbulence on the market has brought into focus, once again, the importance of a resilient global supply chain. 

The UK is largely self-sufficient in wheat production and imports a small amount predominantly from Canada. But we are working with like-minded countries around the globe to ensure that trade flows continue, and we are working through organisations like the World Food Programme to identify vulnerabilities in other countries and to play our part ensuring that we get food to those nations in need, including those besieged cities in Ukraine.

Recent events and the impact of the Covid pandemic are also a reminder that domestic food production matters. Domestic food production gives us national resilience. Our new farming schemes in England are supporting our farmers to improve their profitability and output. We’ve just increased the Farming Investment Fund for small technology grants from £17 million to more than £48 million supporting thousands of farmers with their investment plans this year.

Of course, food production and environmental protection must go hand in hand. I’ve always maintained that they are two sides of the same coin. Many of the steps we will take to encourage a more sustainable model of agriculture will also help improve the resilience and profitability of farm businesses. Last year, our world-leading Environment Act became law – creating a new domestic framework outside of the EU. Last week, I set out ambitious environmental targets in priority areas from biodiversity to air and water quality. I want us to use our newfound freedom to do better for our environment – where there is more room for science and less obsession with the legal processes.

As the Prime Minister said at COP, we have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead, become its custodian – a mantra that has long been at the core of conservatism. Now is the moment and it is a Conservative Government that is leading the agenda.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Tightening Sanctions on Russia

On Monday this week, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill received Royal Assent and became UK law. This has given the government new powers to act in the public interest and immediately designate individuals and entities under an urgent procedure, while evidence is gathered to sanction them under our own standard procedure.

Denying Russia access to Most Favoured Nation tariff treatment for key imports and applying additional tariffs will restrict Russian exports to the UK. The UK is working with our international partners and is supporting the World Trade Organization to prevent those who fail to respect the rules-based international order from reaping its benefits.

The new law enables the Government to levy an additional 370 more sanctions on Russian and Belarussian assets. This means over 1,000 individuals and entities, including many Russian oligarchs, will now be subject to sanctions since Russia launched the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The Government is clear: we will continue to tighten the screw on the Russian economy in the coming days, as the government makes full use of powers necessary to tackle the biggest security crisis in Europe since World War II.

These sanctions build upon the previous ‘lethal aid’ that the UK has provided to Ukraine with over 3,615 new light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs) along with a range of other defensive weapons and non-lethal aid such as body armour. The Defence Secretary recently informed the House of Commons that the UK will shortly start delivering anti-tank Javelin missiles and that the Government has now confirmed the authorisation of the donation of Starstreak high-velocity, man-portable anti-air missiles, which would allow Ukraine to better defend its skies.

The UK has led the international effort to support Ukraine, cutting off whole sectors of the Russian economy by targeting its defence companies, its trade and transport sector, and working with allies to exclude Russia from the SWIFT financial system. This is having a considerable impact on the Russian economy and the lack of support among many of the Russian people for their government is clear. Just this week, we have seen a Russian News executive bravely risk her own well-being to hold up a sign on Russian-State TV to highlight the frequent lies and falsehoods that a repeated every day by the presenters.

While our actions abroad and on the international stage are vital to ending the horrific conflict, we must also look at what we are doing nationally. I am extremely proud that over 100,000 people have signed up to open their homes to Ukrainian refugees fleeing from their country. 

We have seen exceptional bravery by the Ukrainian people and military in standing up to the bully that is Vladimir Putin and I have no doubt that this will not cease until the country is free once again. 

Thursday, 10 March 2022

St Piran's Day 2022

Last Saturday, towns up and down Cornwall celebrated St Piran’s Day. It was great to be able to celebrate it properly again after two years of Covid restrictions.  St Piran’s day in 2020 came just before we went into the first lockdown. I attended the event in Redruth again last weekend.  Although it wasn’t possible to do the usual parade this year, we still had a good turnout.  person in Redruth this year, particularly after last year’s more muted celebration. It was a beautiful, albeit cool day on Saturday and the choir gave a great rendition of Trelawny.  As we celebrated our own Cornish identity and pride, we all also took a moment to pause and reflect as we prayed for the people of Ukraine at this appalling time for their country as their identity, and existence as a nation is under attack.

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 industrial towns leading the way in promoting our rich and wonderful history. Cornwall has a distinct culture and an industrial heritage to be proud of, with Redruth playing a particularly important role as one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and as the centre of the Cornish diaspora across the world. In its prime, Redruth 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.

Redruth has seen considerable regeneration over the past few years. The Highstreet Heritage Action Zone, centred around Fore Street and the Buttermarket, was awarded £1.68 million by Heritage England last year. This has allowed work on projects like the Buttermarket to proceed swiftly. The current proposals are very exciting, and I am looking forward to seeing how they can play an important role in regenerating the town centre. Furthermore, the Kresen Kernow Cornish Archive, based in Redruth, is an excellent facility to record our history and store important artefacts.  It was a major breakthrough for the town to be designated as the chosen location and has regenerated the old brewery site. Redruth Town Council has shown tremendous enthusiasm for the new archive project and credit should also go to both existing and former local councillors for their support in getting this great project completed.

Cornwall has a unique place within our United Kingdom. It was constitutionally recognised as having its own distinctive character early in our history.  The Stannary Parliament gave Cornwall a veto over certain tax laws recognising that Cornwall contributed so much to the wealth of the nation.  Through the Crown, Cornwall was always recognised as distinct with the Duke of Cornwall going on to become the Monarch.  Cornwall is very committed to the UK union, but we are very proud of our own distinctiveness, and we should find better ways of recognising that within our Constitution.

Click here if you would like to help Ukraine: 

Thursday, 3 March 2022

War in Ukraine

 Last Thursday, the Russian Federation began a horrific, unprovoked attack on Ukraine. This was a premeditated attack against a sovereign, democratic state and the UK government is committed to supporting Ukraine through this dark hour.

We have seen incredible bravery and fortitude from the people of Ukraine.  President Zelensky and the Ukrainian army have shown extraordinary courage in fighting for their country and the invasion has not gone as President Putin planned.  However, we have also seen some harrowing scenes of civilians under attack.

The UK has, for a number of years now, worked to support Ukraine's security and defence. We have trained over 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation ORBITAL and, since 2019, assisted Ukraine to build up and sustaining a naval capability. In the months prior to the invasion, the UK provided extra support in the form of 2000 anti-armour missiles to help defensive operations.

Over the course of the past few days, the world has worked together in establishing a package of sanctions in response to the illegal actions of President Putin. These sanctions include freezing the assets of all Russian banks with immediate effect, including VTB, Russia’s largest bank, sanctioning over 100 companies and oligarchs at the heart of Putin’s regime, including much of the Russian defence sector, preventing Russian companies from borrowing on the UK markets, effectively ending the ability of those companies closest to Putin to raise finance in the UK. This is in addition to banning the Russian state itself from raising funds in the UK, as previously announced. The UK has also banned Russia's national airline (Aeroflot) from UK airspace, and indeed any aircraft which is registered in Russia or owned, chartered, or operated by a person connected with Russia from UK airspace.

It is clear that Putin has totally miscalculated the nature of this conflict and the nature of the people of Ukraine. With every hour, the passionate desire of the people of Ukraine to defend their country has become more apparent and millions of people around the world have been stirred and moved by their courage.   The UK and allies have been clear all along that there would be a severe cost for any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine. This invasion of a free and sovereign country is not only a tragedy, but it is a colossal mistake, and it is essential that Putin ultimately fails.

The Food Strategy

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was at a farm outside Hayle to announce the government’s first-ever food strategy.  SEF is one of a nu...