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.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Summer Recess


Parliament has now dissolved for the summer recess. After a gruelling general election campaign, I am looking forward to taking the opportunity to spend more time in the constituency and catch up on some of the exciting projects that are happening locally.
 
I am particularly looking forward to meeting with a group of young people who are taking part in the National Citizenship Service (NCS). 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. NCS is a residential course, and I try to meet participants every year. I am always interested to hear about the projects that they are planning to help the community. I remember one group helping to put the final touches to a children’s play area at the BMX track at Parc Erissey.
 
I am also looking forward to catching up with Cornwall Befriending Service, who do a great job in helping people manage their money and financial hardship as well as stress and debt problems exacerbated by mental health.
 
I will be holding an open surgery, when I will meet with constituents that need help with various problems in their lives. I also hold a regular advice surgery at my office in Camborne.
 
I hope to catch up with lots of our wonderful local companies, and some of our local projects such as the Kresen Kernow Archive Centre at Redruth. The archive is coming on very well, and is on track to open in 2018. Another plan is to spend some time training for a sponsored half marathon, which I intend to run to help Carn Brea Leisure Centre in their quest to raise money for the work needed on the swimming pool. Carn Brea has been awarded a grant by Sport England, but now needs to raise the remaining money required for the work to be completed.
 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Product of Cornwall Scheme


There has been growing interest in recent years in how our food is produced and where it comes from.  The growth of local farm shops and the plethora of new businesses making everything from jams to speciality drinks underlines the role that this revival of interest in food can play in helping our local economy.  The trend has been especially strong here in Cornwall where we have developed a great brand for quality food and speciality recipes.  
 
We have so many fantastic companies locally that are blazing a trail.  Companies like Lynher Dairies have created new markets with their highly acclaimed Cornish Yarg. Furniss Biscuits have started to take their famous Cornish fairings to a national market.  Rodda’s Cream are creating new export markets, and Falfish have ensured that Cornwall is the market leader for freshly caught local fish. 
 
Last week, I met Cornwall Council to discuss their new "Product of Cornwall" scheme.  It seeks to build and extend the long running "Made in Cornwall" scheme which recognises local Cornish manufacturers. The new scheme is an origin assurance scheme, focused around primary produce and minimally processed products.  It will help to develop a brand for local Cornish produce and meats in particular.  
 
In recent years, there have been arguments about supermarkets using made up farm names to try to suggest produce is British when it sometimes is not.  We have also seen similar disputes around the use of the term “Cornish”. In 2015 there were complaints made about caterers using the term “Cornish Beef” when the beef had not been reared in Cornwall.  The Product of Cornwall scheme means that beef will only be accredited as “Cornish” if the animal was born, reared and slaughtered within Cornwall.
 
Schemes like this can help to develop a local brand and strengthen consumer confidence in the food they eat. At Defra as Farming and Food Minister I have been looking at other opportunities to recognise local speciality foods that help celebrate and promote the diversity of food that we have across the country.  One of the things we are looking at is how we might be able to use certification schemes and trade mark regulations to help recognise such produce.  The Product of Cornwall scheme is a good local example of how such ideas can work.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme


One of the most frustrating things about modern life is how trying to do certain things that ought to be simple often seems to become curiously complicated.   Whether its waiting on hold in an automated call and being relentlessly told "your call is important" or being told you have filled out the wrong form and need to start again or being "signposted" to someone else who might be able to help.  We have all experienced it.

This frustration is especially familiar among parents who have children with special needs. They sometimes feel that every part of the system seems to be involved but no one seems able to take proper ownership of their case. In some instances, a school will express concerns about a child and report this to a parent. A parent takes the child to a GP, who suggests a referral. An assessment is carried out, and this results in no further action. The parent is signposted to another service. The school reports their concerns again. The cycle continues.

This week, the Minister for Children and Families announced that Cornwall has been awarded £1.9M by the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme. It is one of 24 projects across the country which has been awarded such funding.

Cornwall Council’s bid for funding was submitted with the aim of building on its One Vision plan, which sets the foundation for shaping future integration of education, health and social care services for children, young people and their families here in Cornwall. 

Some progress has been made. The Early Help Hub provides a pathway for help across education, health and social care. Early help is about identifying problems at an early stage and intervening as soon as possible. The Early Help Hub is the single point of contact for these services. For example, if a parent or a school is worried about a child displaying signs of autism, the Early Health Hub comprises services including the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Assessment Team, targeted youth support, family support and Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Learning Disability Service. This means that a case is looked after as a whole, rather than being dealt with by different parties, in different places, with different procedures.  At a time when these services are facing increased demand, this project is needed and I hope it will make a difference. 

 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Opportunities for the Fishing Industry


The UK Government has just announced its intention to withdraw from the outdated London Fisheries Convention. The UK became a signatory to the London Convention in 1964, giving French, German, Dutch, Irish and Belgian vessels access to our 6-12 mile zone. As Fisheries Minister, I am pleased that we are taking this important step towards building our own domestic fishing policy as we leave the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy.

Here in Cornwall, leaving the EU creates opportunities for our fishermen. We will be able to re-establish national control for fisheries management out to 200 nautical miles or the median line as provided for in international law.  We will then negotiate new access and quota sharing arrangements that are fairer to our fishermen. 

There has long been an historical injustice in quota allocations to the UK fleet. In 2015 the UK allocation of Cod was just 834 tonnes compared to 5,500 for France. For Plaice in the Channel it was 1,300 tonnes for the UK, but 2,600 for France.  Many local fishermen feel frustrated that they sometimes have to tie up their boats because they have run out of quota but they see French vessels continuing to fish in Cornish waters.  Taking back control of our fishing grounds will give us the opportunity to revisit quota allocations and make things fairer.

However, I have also always been clear that the UK will continue to be a world leader in promoting sustainable fisheries and we will continue to cooperate with all our neighbours.   We will not allow a free for all and one of the conditions of any future access we grant will be that all vessels fish sustainably and within limits to protect our marine environment.

Last week my article on parking fines sparked a debate especially about the approach taken by Veor Surgery. Since then my office has been contacted by several other individuals, all of whom have reported attending a late running doctors’ appointment before being stung with huge fines that no one would discuss with them.  I hope Veor change the way they operate in future so that their patients will no longer have to endure the stress of being hounded by these parking companies.