Thursday, 14 September 2017

Visit to Duchy College with Michael Gove


Last Friday I welcomed Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to Cornwall. It was a busy and varied day, and one of the highlights was a visit to Duchy College at Rosewarne. A variety of topics were discussed, including protection for Cornish foods, such as the pasty, post-Brexit.

The college is situated on a working farm, and is something of a horticultural treasure with national plant collections on campus. It has a working nursery, engineering workshops, specialist veterinary nursing facilities and an animal management centre. Duchy College is part of Cornwall College.

I am a former student of Cornwall College and did one of the courses on agriculture.  The visit reminded me of my own days at agricultural college.  Many young people are seeing the opportunities in land based industries and for others a career in animal care or veterinary science is incredibly fulfilling.  While there, we met a group of students who had chosen a course in animal care.  Duchy College offers a wide range of courses in these areas.

We also met Raoul Humphreys, CEO and Principal of Cornwall College. Cornwall College has a deep rooted history in our area and has been at the heart of all further and higher education in Cornwall for the last 80 years or so. It was great to see such enthusiasm from staff and students alike.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

EU Withdrawal Bill

After summer recess, Parliament is sitting again. This week looks set to be a busy week here in Westminster, with much of this week being dominated by the EU Withdrawal Bill.

The Bill will formally repeal the European Communities Act which took us into the EU and handed all those powers to EU courts forty five years ago.  It will be a major step towards re-establishing the UK as an independent, self-governing country free to make its own laws again.
The Bill will also place residual regulations onto a legitimate UK legal footing in order to provide clarity and continuity as we leave the EU. This will ensure that the UK has a functioning statute book when it leaves, and will minimise disruption to businesses and individuals. However, Parliament will be free to keep, amend and repeal laws as it sees fit after this date.

There have been tensions in the most recent phase of the negotiations with the EU but David Davis is right to resist demands from the EU for a huge cash gift as we leave.  The UK always fulfils its international obligations but these must be lawful.  The EU has failed to demonstrate any legal basis for its demands to date and its attempt to ignore important discussions on a future partnership until we agree to give them money makes no sense for the EU who depend on the UK market.  At some point, common sense should prevail. 

The Prime Minister has been clear that she wants us to put in place a close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. Our future relationship with the EU will include co-operating with our European partners in the fight against crime and terrorism. We will also collaborate on initiatives in areas such as science, research and technology.  Progress has been made in a lot of areas.  The important thing is that we stay focused on the prize of leaving the EU and becoming independent again but work hard to leave on friendly and amicable terms.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

National Citizenship Service


I have enjoyed spending more time in the constituency this summer once parliament was in recess.  As always, one of the highlights of was a visit to those participating in this year’s National Citizen Programme.

National Citizenship Service (NCS) was set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17 year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence.

As NCS is a residential course, it gives participants the opportunity to leave home behind for a couple of weeks and immerse themselves in a fresh environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence as it means those taking part are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live and it’s a great way of breaking down social barriers.

The team I met had done a wonderful job restoring a memory garden at St Martin’s nursing home in Camborne. Speaking to those taking part, it was clear to me just how much they had benefited from NCS and they deserve a big congratulations for taking on the challenge. 

Another recent highlight was a visit to Wheels to Work at Camborne, and the next door charity Life Cycle. Both do good work in our community. Wheels to Work provides subsidised motorcycle rental to help people in remote areas in Cornwall secure a job and travel to work. Life Cycle takes in unwanted bike donations and reconditions them, providing work experience in the process.

I also spent some time in Redruth, where I held an open surgery. This was incredibly well attended, and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to so many local people and help them with various problems that they have encountered.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Exam Results


The anxious wait that local teenagers have had as they wait for their A Level or GCSE results is now over.  Last week we saw the A Level results come in and this week it is the turn of those who have just completed their GCSEs.  At the time of writing this article I do not yet have the GCSE results for this year but by the time you read this, they will be out.
 
On A Levels, Camborne Science and International Academy performed exceptionally well in the results published last week with a 100% pass rate across twenty-three courses and with some great results in Maths, with 93% scoring A or B grades. 
 
I am really proud of all of our schools locally which are now rated as some of the best schools in Cornwall and in many ways are doing ground breaking work nationally.   They have each made tremendous progress in recent years and it is showing in some of the great results we are seeing.  I have seen each school progress in my seven years as the MP in this area.  Teachers locally show great dedication and have a record they can be proud of.
 
Redruth School has made rapid progress over the last five years or so and is now achieving excellent results and it has also placed an emphasis on sport.  Pool Academy has been singled out nationally for some of their ground breaking work with innovative ways to teach maths.  Hayle School is smaller and has an excellent record in nurturing talent across a range of subjects including languages and humanities, and Camborne has carved out a leading role in science.
 
A few years ago the government placed a renewed emphasis on rigour in the school curriculum and on encouraging schools to focus on the established subjects like maths, science and languages which were valued more by universities.  The result is that there are now almost 2 million more children in good or outstanding schools today than there were in 2010.  
 
We also recognise that schools need adequate funds to be able to maintain the improvements they have been making.  School budgets have continued to grow but so too has the number of pupils with a growing population.  That is why I was pleased to see earlier this summer the government announce an additional £1.3 billion for schools which will ensure that not only does the budget grow but that funding per pupil will be maintained in the years ahead.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Portreath Bakery


The Cornish pasty industry has been one of the great success stories in Cornwall in recent years with many local companies ranging from Cornish Oven, Philp's, Rowe's and Berryman's in Redruth all seeing growth locally.

 Last week, I visited Marion Symonds and her fantastic team at Portreath Bakery’s factory at Pool.  This is a company that was started in a small shop but now, like many others has seen considerable growth.

I learnt a lot during the visit. Marion and her team have recently introduced a gluten-free Cornish pasty. We have seen a sharp rise in food allergies and intolerances in recent years, including allergies and intolerances to wheat.  The reasons for this are complex but some suggest that changes to wheat varieties over the years to give them a higher gluten content to make them easier to bake has had a negative effect for some and created an increase in allergies.  

Marion and I also discussed the annual pasty festival in Redruth which takes place next month and the work that has been done in developing international links between Cornwall and Mexico (which also hosts its own pasty festival). Many years ago, Cornish miners settled at Real Del Monte in Mexico. Cornish miners were responsible for developing silver mining in Real Del Monte during the nineteenth century. They also introduced football and other sports to Mexico. Hundreds of Cornish miners ended their lives in the area and many are to be found in one of the local cemeteries, apparently facing home to Cornwall which was a common request at the time.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

NHS

The NHS is a great British institution.  All of us will rely on it at some point in our lives.  The independent Commonwealth Fund recently looked at health services around the world and considered that what we have in the UK is the best in the world.  The many hard working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of.  Locally we have great work done at St Michael's Hospital, which is a national leader in breast surgery, and Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics.  

Some also like to play politics with our NHS, which I think is wrong.  A few years ago the local Labour Party claimed that St Michael's Hospital in Hayle would have to close.  The story was completely made up but it caused anxiety among staff at the time and we needed to do a lot of work to reassure people that it was only a political story.  

 We have to have honesty about the funding that is going into the NHS, and the reasons that there are still challenges.  I have always been clear that the NHS should be free at the point of need and it is.  In 2010 when Gordon Brown left office, spending on the NHS was £97 billion per year.  It will have gone up by over 25 percent to £123 billion by 2019/2020.  So funding has not been cut, it has increased substantially. 

However, the NHS has also seen a huge increase in demand for its services.  As medical science advances and we live longer, the number of operations and the cost of medication has increased.  While we have over 12,000 more doctors and nurses than we had in 2010, they are being asked to do more. Since 2010, we are seeing 2.4 million more A&E attendances and 5.9 million more diagnostic tests every year. In 2016, the NHS in England performed an average of 4,400 more operations every day compared to 2010.  That is why many sense that there are pressures and why we need to do all we can to make things work more smoothly.

Part of the solution is to get a better join up of services and better linkage between what we do on adult social care through Cornwall Council and what care the NHS provides. If we could get social care in the community working better, we would reduce the number of admissions and return people to their homes more quickly to ease the pressure.

There are no easy answers but a lot of work is being done by local NHS managers to improve the way services work. For its part, government will continue to increase funding and support local staff.  

Thursday, 3 August 2017

South Crofty Mine

Lately, there has been increased interest in South Crofty Mine. It has been nearly twenty years since the mine closed. I have been having discussions with the various owners of the mine since becoming an MP back in 2010. There have been many false starts, but finally progress is being made. Strongbow Exploration, a Canadian listed company, has plans to reopen South Crofty and mine the high-grade tin at its deeper levels.

Having met with Strongbow on several occasions, I am optimistic about their work. The re-opening of South Crofty would be a huge boost for the area, and it would be great to see the mine returned to its former glory. With the £25 million link road in place, the economic potential of Tuckingmill has been unlocked, and the re-opening of South Crofty would create even more new jobs and business opportunities.

In recent days, we have also seen a boost for rural businesses. Funding for rural businesses that will generate thousands of jobs and provide new support to expand and improve their premises has been announced as part of a £200million grant offer. We have so many fantastic rural businesses here in Cornwall, and I am pleased that further support is being made available to help them continue to thrive and grow.

For the first time under the current scheme specific funding will be available to support new rural broadband projects, and provide significant amounts of funding to on-farm businesses to invest in new infrastructure such as new buildings and machinery.
 
I am very encouraged by the announcement of £30m to improve rural broadband. We have seen huge progress in Cornwall in recent years, but I am contacted on a regular basis by constituents who do not have the access to broadband that they need. I am pleased that this announcement will supplement existing investment in rural broadband.