Thursday, 28 December 2017

2018


This last year has been a turbulent time in British politics.  The decision to leave the EU was a big decision but it was also a divisive debate which some have continued.  I think everyone in parliament has an important responsibility to put the arguments of the past behind them and focus instead on getting the best possible Brexit deal. We must create a new partnership with the EU based on friendship that reassures those who are apprehensive about leaving, while respecting the clear decision to take back control and make our own laws again.  
 
However, there are many more issues than leaving the EU and I have worked locally to address problems faced by people here. I hold weekly surgeries and have helped people with issues from benefits, housing and hospital appointments to disputes with neighbours, visa enquiries and school places. I also meet regularly with many of our fantastic local businesses.
 
I am committed to ensuring fairer funding for Cornwall, and I have met with the Schools Minister on several occasions to ensure that our schools here in Hayle, Camborne and Redruth are not losing out.  As a result, the government has confirmed that the schools budget for Cornwall will rise by over 3 percent and they have provided enough cash to ensure that we can progress towards a more consistent national formula while no individual school need lose out. 
 
During the last week, the Home Office has announced a £450 million increase in police funding across England and Wales. This includes up to an additional £270 million in police force budgets, so individual forces have the resources they need to respond to changes in demand. Police funding in Devon and Cornwall could increase by up to £8.5 million in 2018/19 as a result of these changes.
 
The counter terrorism policing budget will rise by 7 per cent, with a £50 million increase taking it to at least £757 million. This means the Government is now spending more on counter terrorism policing than ever before.
 
Over the past seven years, crime has fallen by more than a third across the country, but we have more to do. Since becoming an MP, I have fought to end the historical injustices in the way that services in Cornwall are funded. I am pleased that funding for Devon and Cornwall is increasing, and that the Government is investing to help the police keep people safe in our communities.
 
Locally, 2018 is set to be an exciting year. The Kresen Kernow Archive centre in Redruth is due to open in 2018, which is a key part of the ongoing regeneration work. The swimming pool at Carn Brea Leisure Centre is being refurbished, and in Hayle I hope that we will see the excellent work around the Harbour being continued in 2018.
 

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Christmas

This year, as in previous years, I enlisted the help of local primary schools in the area to design my Christmas card. As always, I was very impressed with the many talented artists we have in this part of Cornwall. The overall winner was 9 year old Harrison Jones, from St Meriadoc C of E Academy. His design features a festive take on Carn Brea castle.
 
At this time of year we should acknowledge the extra work we create for the Royal Mail with many millions of extra items of post to process in just a few short weeks in December and our postmen go out in the worst weather that a Cornish winter can throw at them in order to make sure that families and friends keep in touch and receive their Christmas cards on time.

 Last weekend, I attended Redruth Revival’s Old Tyme Christmas event. It was very well attended. The choir sang, and encouraged everyone to sing along. It was good to see so many market stalls as well, selling local produce.

I always find that the most striking thing about Christmas and Christmas spirit is the generosity of local people. Last week, I visited Don Gardner and his team of dedicated volunteers at the food bank. The food bank offers a range of services, and a representative from my office spends time there every week to help people with any issues that they may want to discuss, including housing, benefits and support getting back into work. Additionally, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Citizens Advice Bureau are both represented at the food bank.

Don and his team are working incredibly hard to ensure that local people who are struggling financially are able to enjoy a family Christmas dinner. Christmas brings our communities together, and demonstrates the strength and resilience of our society.

Elsewhere, I was interested to hear about Pool Academy’s project in which students started their own food bank to help the local community. A Year 9 citizenship group has been learning about local charities during the lead-up to Christmas, and how difficult the festive season can be for some people.
 
I have been concerned in the last few days to hear of proposed cuts to the Citizens Advice Bureau here in Cornwall. In Cornwall Council’s budget, it has proposed to cut funding to the Citizens Advice Bureau service by more than half. I oppose such a move, and agree with my conservative colleagues on the council that the decision should be revised and money should be re-allocated from less essential projects or indeed the reserves that the Council has put aside for a rainy day.

2017 has been a turbulent year in British politics. As Parliament prepares to close for Christmas, it is a chance to take stock.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. 

 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Fisheries Council


This week, I am writing from Brussels. I have been representing the UK in my role as Fisheries Minister, at the annual fisheries negotiation. This is my fifth year leading our negotiating team, and it is a particularly exciting time for our fishermen as we plan our exit from the European Union.

 If we want a future for our fishing industry then we need to fish sustainably. If we hammer vulnerable stocks today then there will be no fish and no fishermen tomorrow. It is not always easy for people to think about the long term when they are considering fishing opportunities for next year but we must. Some have urged me to forget the scientific advice and just argue against all cuts in quota but I will not ditch the science. 
 
However, we must ensure we are using the most up to date scientific evidence and also take account of the realities of the marine environment to ensure we do not end up with unintended consequences.

I have always been clear that on leaving the EU, 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.
 
This year future changes have started to become clearer as we prepare to leave the EU. The UK Government has 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. We catch about 100,000 tonnes of fish in EU waters but other EU countries catch over 700,000 tonnes of fish in our waters.  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.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Mental health support for children and young people


This week, the government has published proposals to improve mental health support for children and young people in England. Over £300 million has been made available. Planned measures include encouraging every school and college to have a ‘designated senior mental health lead’, setting up mental health support teams working with schools to give children and young people earlier access to services, and piloting a 4-week waiting time for NHS children and young people’s mental health services
 
Last year saw the announcement that a new mental health unit will open in Cornwall in the summer of 2019. The purpose-built 12 bed unit will open in Bodmin. This is a much needed facility in Cornwall, that will help young people. All too often, young people have had to travel out of county, as far afield as Cheshire and Norwich, in order to access treatment.
 
In recent years, the number of young people affected by mental health problems has increased. Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.
 
Some good work is done by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) service, which helps children and young people deal with emotional, behavioural or mental health issues. There are also some good charities out there which help provide the support needed. A great example is the Invictus Trust, a small charity which aims to support and offer services to local teenagers who are suffering from mental health problems and associated issues. But all agree that this is a challenge of our age.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Autumn Budget 2017

It’s not an easy time to be Chancellor trying to balance the books but last week’s Autumn Budget brings some good news for Cornwall.
Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, and here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, unemployment has almost halved since 2010. The next step is to get wage rates up and last week, the budget did more to help people on low incomes.  The National Living Wage is up by 4.4 percent, and more people on low incomes have been taken out of tax altogether.
The Government is also abolishing Stamp Duty for first time buyers, and local businesses will benefit from a business rates package.
Meanwhile, on the NHS, the Chancellor has announced £6.3 Billion of additional funding for frontline NHS services and upgrades to NHS buildings and facilities. Elsewhere, the freeze on fuel duty will continue, and the Government has committed to cut down on single-use plastics.
Finally, it is great that the Chancellor announced £36,000 of Libor funding for the Cornwall Air Ambulance. I have been backing this bid.  I can remember when the Cornwall Air Ambulance began in 1987. It was a great example of Cornwall's "one and all" approach because people in Cornwall really rallied behind the idea.  It was the first air ambulance in the UK and now many other parts of the country have followed Cornwall's lead.  Since 1987, it has completed more than 26,000 missions and saved many lives and it’s great that it now has this government support.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Challenges faced by adoptive parents


We recently had an addition to our family with the birth of Alice, my first child.  The last eight weeks have been a wonderful but all consuming experience as we take on the commitment of parenthood.

Over the last few months I have also come across a couple of cases locally regarding the challenges faced by adoptive parents and the children they take under their wing.  For those children who have a difficult start in life, an adoptive home can be a real lifeline.  They benefit from a loving home environment of their own and can achieve great things.  Those who take on the great responsibility to become adoptive parents deserve special recognition for the love and support that they offer.  We should acknowledge the work done by adoptive families here in Cornwall, and by organisations such as Adoption UK.
 
Work has been done in recent years to try to remove some of the barriers that can be placed in the way of would be adoptive parents.  However, there are also concerns around the nature of post adoption support for some families.  Some of the children who have a difficult start in life also have particular challenges to overcome.  Some will have been scarred by chaotic home environments in early life.  Some will have been affected in the womb by drug or alcohol addiction that can have later impacts on mental health.  We need to make sure that we make it easier for adoptive parents who take on these responsibilities to have the support they need.
 
Some can feel that the system spends too much time and effort assessing children which can become a barrier to accessing support rather than the gateway to support that it should be.  Parents complain that they are often referred for generic solutions like "play therapy" when it is clear to them that different interventions are required.  At the other end of the spectrum, simple things like a small amount of respite care to help families with children who develop challenging behaviours can be surprisingly elusive and families feel that they end up being "sign posted" to someone else for more assessment.
 
Money is made available to Local Authorities to provide some support for individual children who are adopted but I think there is a case for reviewing how decisions about such funds are made.  In other areas of social care, we have introduced the concept of personal budgets where the individual has much more say over how the budget allocated for their care is spent.  I think we can learn from that when it comes to directing support around adopted children.  Adoptive parents are often best placed to understand what help or interventions a child needs and what wider support the family needs.  So perhaps we should spend a little less money on relentless assessments to ascertain eligibility and instead allow at least some of the budget to be spent at the discretion of the adoptive parents?  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Accelerated Access Pathway

Last week, the Government announced a new fast-track route into the NHS for breakthrough medicines and technologies. This is good news, and will speed up the time it takes for patients to benefit from ground-breaking products for cancer and dementia among others. Known as the “accelerated access pathway”, it will be introduced in April 2018 and will ensure that products with the greatest potential to change lives could be available up to four years earlier.
 
This is good news for patients. Additionally, it will cement the UK’s position as one of the best places in the world to develop new drugs and medical technology. It will guarantee future collaboration between the life sciences sector and the NHS, and additional benefits will include the creation of new jobs.

I regularly meet the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, and the provision of pioneering new treatments is often a subject of much discussion. Most recently, I asked the KCCG about access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for young people with diabetes. CGM measures blood glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night. It displays levels and alerts patients to “highs” and “lows”.
 
For children in particular, it is difficult to ensure that they check their blood sugar levels regularly. Additionally, I have heard various parents say that the traditional way of testing leads to a loss of sensation in the fingers. CGM allows children to go about their lives as normal, and its technology is so advanced that it can send alerts to the patient, and their parents or guardians via their mobile phones. This is reassuring for all concerned, and I am pleased that its availability is something that is being actively considered. It is something that I will continue to fight for.
 
In my weekly constituency surgery, I often meet patients with rare conditions who come to me about the provision of new treatment and technology that they believe will improve their quality of life tremendously. I welcome last week’s announcement, and I hope that it will benefit many patients here in Cornwall.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Remembrance


This year, I will be attending Remembrance Sunday services at Hayle and Illogan.
 
Last week, Syrian troops retook Daesh’s last remaining city. Daesh/Isis is a barbaric group that has terrorised the region. Whilst many problems remain, particularly in Syria, intervention by British forces has helped.
 
This has led to the news that RAF jets may be able to begin withdrawing. Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, commander of UK operations in Iraq and Syria, said that the UK could being withdrawing RAF jets from the campaign as early as next year.

 There is no doubt in my mind that the difficult operations in recent years have made the public far more conscious of sacrifices made by our armed forces. We owe those who have given up so much at such a young age all the support they need to help them build their lives back, especially those who suffered life changing injuries during those terrible conflicts. Charities such as Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion do just that, helping people recover not just from the physical but also mental difficulties that come from being exposed to war.
 
2017 marks the centenary of the Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele, Britain’s main Western Front offensive of 1917. The battle ended in November 1917, with the capture of the village of Passchendaele by Canadian troops.
 
The French Government has been awarding the Légion d’honneur to D-Day veterans from many different countries as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.  The Légion d’honneur was established in 1802 by Napoléon Bonaparte and is France’s highest distinction and is awarded in recognition of both military and civilian merit. Second World War veterans from across Cornwall have been presented with the Légion d’honneur, and as of June 2017 the French Embassy said that there were just 100 more to be given out.
 
Remembrance Sunday is always supported by the various Cadet groups, Scouts and Brownies. It is great to see these movements going from strength to strength.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Half Marathon for Carn Brea Leisure Centre

Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have fond childhood memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre. It has been an essential part of the local community for well over forty years. I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletics Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea.
 
At any given time, there are over 1000 children learning to swim at Carn Brea. It is therefore great news that the management team have secured funding from Sport England to refurbish the pool and deliver other maintenance and improvements.
 
Work has already started, and will finish at the end of the year. It will ensure that facilities are sustained for existing users, as well as the next generation of swimmers. Carn Brea is Cornwall’s first Charitable Trust Leisure Centre, and provides health and wellbeing facilities in the heart of our local area. I am pleased to hear that during the pool refurbishment, facilities including the gym, running track, café and fitness classes will still be open.
 
We now need to focus our efforts on raising the remaining funds needed. I hope that the fundraising campaign will be a real community effort, in the true spirit of Carn Brea. For my part, I will be running a half marathon this weekend. My fundraising page can be found at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GeorgeEustice

 Alternatively, if you support Carn Brea but don't want to sponsor me, you can contribute directly to the fund raising appeal via the Trust's website at: https://www.carnbrealeisurecentre.co.uk/
 
I am saddened to hear of the death of former Falmouth and Camborne MP Candy Atherton. She was the MP from 1997 to 2005 and latterly a Cornwall Councillor. I debated her many times and, although we had different views on some issues, there was no doubting her passion and she made Cornwall her home. My thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Bill


Last Friday, I was one of the MPs that stayed in London to vote for the Bill to protect emergency workers and ensure that it passed its second reading. In the end, there was a consensus on all sides of parliament and a vote was not required, meaning that is has now passed to the next stage.
 
I think that strengthening the law to protect staff in our emergency services who are just doing their job is now needed.  In the current internet age, there has been a coarsening of our society with more people showing aggression and intolerance and more people finding themselves on the receiving end of abuse.  We see it in the nature of some of our political debate with intolerant attitudes which can undermine freedom of speech.   
 
We have also sadly seen an increase in abuse and physical attacks aimed at front line staff in our emergency services.  This is totally unacceptable. The great strength of our emergency services stems from the men and women who work in them and the commitment they bring. We owe emergency service workers a debt of gratitude for the courage, commitment and dedication they demonstrate in keeping us safe and this needs to be reflected in the law.
 
The Bill would create a statutory aggravating factor. This means that when a person is convicted of a specific offence, the judge would have to consider the fact it was committed against an emergency worker as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence within the maximum allowed for the particular offence. It will also create a new aggravated version of the offences of common assault and battery when committed against an emergency worker and extend the maximum penalty.

The Bill covers all emergency workers, including police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance personnel and it sends a very clear message that our society will not tolerate assault on the emergency services.  Sometimes, despite the nature of politics at the moment, parliament is capable of coming together in unity to deliver changes that matter.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Universal Credit

 
Reforming the welfare system and supporting people back into work go hand in hand. For too long, too many people were left languishing on benefits and trapped in a life of poverty.  Helping them go back to work has been one of the primary objectives of the Government in recent years and the results are showing. Unemployment has fallen, and the job market is stronger now than it has been for many years.
One of the most powerful schemes in recent years has been the policy of creating work experience opportunities for young people. The most important step to getting a full time job for school leavers is gaining experience. Lots of local employers have done their bit by offering unpaid work experience to school leavers and I have seen numerous cases where, after that short trial period, employers are so impressed by the young people joining their team that they move things around to try to find them a permanent place.
Another change that has been rolled out is the introduction of the Universal Credit to replace other out of work benefits and Housing Benefit. Previously, many believed that they were better off on the dole. If a job didn’t work out it was difficult to get back on benefits support. If income went over a certain threshold, people lost all Housing Benefit or tax credits resulting in employees being unable to work more than sixteen hours per week for fear of being worse off. Universal Credit has changed that.
Universal Credit offers a tapered support so that there is a single benefit payment which is withdrawn gradually as income rises.  It will always pay to work more hours but if something goes wrong, the support will kick back in automatically.

Recently, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that he is determined to ensure that those who need support earlier in the month will get it. He announced that guidance is being refreshed to ensure that anyone who needs an advance payment will be offered it up front. Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks, and will receive their advance within five working days.   

 
 
 
 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Royal Cornwall Hosptials NHS Trust


The problems at Treliske were laid bare this week in a concerning report by the Care Quality Commission. The hospital has been rated as "inadequate" with surgery, maternity and gynaecology, end of life and outpatient services also rated as inadequate.  As a result, we have seen the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust being placed into special measures. 
 
When any organisation faces the sort of challenging report delivered last week, we have to strike the right balance in our response.  We must not ignore problems or make excuses for some of the failures highlighted.   Equally, we must be supportive of those who work there and must take care not to undermine morale among hard working medical staff.   We all have tremendous respect for the doctors, nurses and other staff who show great commitment and dedication.  We also recognise that despite more funding, demand on NHS services has grown.
 
So, we need to use this report as an opportunity to help put things right. To their credit, the senior management team and the Board at the RCHT have taken this head on and made clear that they will work to address the shortcomings.   One of the consequences of going into special measures is that there will be a new Improvement Director put in place, with experience of turning around hospitals facing similar challenges.  They may help the management team at RCHT get back on an even keel and get the whole operation back on its feet.  In addition, strengthening some of the clinical management functions within the Trust will help.
 
We should also recognise that it was not all bad news.  Locally, we have great work being 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.  The quality of services at St Michael's in Hayle were recognised and rated as good.  Critical care and children and young people’s services have been rated as good. 
 
Alongside the report, a review found poorly coordinated processes that meant the experience of people moving between hospitals, social care and their own homes was often not good enough. How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.   Finding the right solutions is key to easing pressure on the NHS.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Conservative Party Conference


This week is the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester which marks the end of conference season.   Much like last year, the issue that is looming large is how we maximise the opportunities created by our decision to leave the European Union. However, there have been other, less high profile issues discussed which are important to me.
 
In my time as an MP and particularly as a Minister at Defra, I have worked to try to improve standards of animal welfare.  We are a nation of animal lovers but there are, sadly, some terrible individual cases of gratuitous cruelty to animals which must be addressed. That is why I was pleased that Michael Gove has announced that we will bring forward new legislation that will substantially increase the maximum sentences that can be handed out for people who abuse animals to five years, instead of the six months now.  This announcement follows on from an earlier decision to increase the maximum fine from £20,000 to an unlimited fine.  There have been too many cases in which courts have said that they would have handed down longer sentences if they had been available.  These new proposals will send a very clear signal to potential offenders that the abuse of animals has no place in our society.
 
This latest announcement is one of a number of steps we have taken to improve animal welfare recently.  We announced that we would introduce compulsory CCTV in slaughterhouses and are now consulting on that proposal.  This is necessary to ensure we can enforce the highest standards in slaughterhouses and, again, there have been too many instances of failure in the past.  Earlier this year, Defra published proposals to overhaul the laws on a number of animal-related licensing schemes, such as the regulations on pet shops and the licensing of puppy breeders.  I have campaigned to strengthen the licensing of puppy breeding since becoming an MP so I am pleased to be moving this forward.  
 

Media reporting of party conferences will always be dominated by personality politics and big speeches and this year is no different.  However, sometimes there are issues that attract less media interest but which are nevertheless important steps forward. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Local Schools

It has been a good news week for our local schools. I was pleased to read about students from Camborne Science and International Academy, who have just travelled almost 7,000 miles to take part in the Singapore International Science Challenge. CSIA has done some great work on international exchanges in recent years, and it is always clear that they are so beneficial to the students involved. Back in 2013, CSIA became the first school in Britain to host the International Student Science Fair. The decision to do so was a great credit to the school, and it has paved the way for continued excellence in science.

Meanwhile, at Hayle Community School, students teamed up with Rowe’s Cornish Bakers to launch a Cornish pasty into space. Very much bringing science lessons to life, the experiment coincided with a space project being undertaken by students. In another space adventure, Pool Academy’s school mascot was sent 20 miles up into the edge of space on a helium balloon by students, in order to take pictures and video clips.

Elsewhere, Redruth School has been named the best state secondary school in Cornwall by the Real Schools Guide. So all in all, a good couple of weeks for our schools and congratulations to all of those involved.

There was also some further good news on unemployment locally with more people in work than ever before. Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975. Over 3 million more people are now in work since 2010. Here in Camborne and Redruth, the number of unemployed claimants has gone from 3.8% of the economically active population in 2010 to 2.2% now.

On a more sombre note, I was saddened to read about the tragic events in and around Mexico City. Cornwall has close historic links to Mexico through the mining industry, and we recently welcomed a delegation from Redruth’s twin town of Real Del Monte.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Police


This week, I was fascinated to read about Rob and Tweed, a labrador and a springer spaniel which are part of a new police unit. Police in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset have created the first police dog unit that specialises in detecting digital storage devices. Devon and Cornwall Police say that the dogs are the first of this type outside the USA. This unit will be able to do so much here in the south west, and across the UK. The unit can be used to fight terrorism, fraud and a range of other crimes.  It is a sign that if you want to keep pace with modern technology, there is still not much that can beat man's best friend.
 
The recent attack on a tube in London is a reminder that attacks by lone extremists are, sadly, becoming something of a regular occurrence.  These attacks create a unique challenge for our security services and police forces since they are often improvised and unpredictable without organisation structures.  Nevertheless, the speed with which the police were able to move and identify the individuals involved demonstrated the extent of intelligence work done to protect us all.  Recently it was announced that an extra £24 million is to be pumped into counter-terrorism policing in the wake of this year’s terror attacks. 
 
Locally, our police have developed some innovative ideas to join up services.  The "Tri-Service" station in Hayle is a good example.  There, one single, modern building is the joint location for the Fire Brigade, the Police and the Ambulance Service.  It is a great example of our public services working together to save money on overheads like old buildings so that the front line can be prioritised.
 
However, like everything in life, the real strength of our police force stems from the men and women who work in it and the commitment they bring.  Trying to reduce the deficit and get the economy back on an even keel after Gordon Brown has meant difficult decisions on public spending in recent years.  However, last week, I was pleased that the Government announced that it would award police officers a pay rise. Following independent recommendations by the Police Remuneration Review Body and the Senior Salaries Review Body, officers will receive a pay award worth a total of two per cent to each officer in 2017 to 2018.  
 

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.

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.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Parking Fines


 A few years ago there were huge problems with cowboy wheel clamping companies effectively extorting huge parking "fines" from innocent drivers for very minor parking errors.  I argued for a change at the time and the government abolished the use of wheel clamping by these awful companies.

However, it's clear that the problem has not been entirely solved.  The same companies have continued to try to rip off people for trivial parking mistakes and to threaten and intimidate them with the threat of legal action.

The most extraordinary cases I have seen recently have concerned Veor GP Surgery in Camborne.  The surgery has introduced a maximum one hour limit on parking there.  People turn up for their appointment on time but often find that the doctors are running late, which is not unusual.  Then, because the surgery is running late, they overstay in the car park by a few minutes. The next thing that happens is they have to endure the stress and strain of being hounded by a cowboy parking company.  They cannot speak to anyone on the phone.  The company refuses to discuss problems but just bully people for cash.  No one replies to letters.  Veor surgery refuses to discuss the problem with them.  

These companies don't actually have a statutory right to fine.  Instead they rely on a rather creative use of contract law to provide the basis for the way they behave. 

We need to tighten the law to limit their powers, establish genuine dispute resolution and appeals processes and to cap the size of the "fine" that such companies are able to levy. We need to end the ridiculous situation where the people who judge your parking appeal are the ones trying to rip you off in the first place.

The Conservative Manifesto outlined that steps will be taken to tackle rogue private parking operators. I will be writing to DCLG to highlight the specific case of Veor GP Surgery, as well as the parking company involved to ensure that the lessons from this local problem are reflected in a national policy change.

 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

This Week

As the Queen said in her birthday message, as a nation we have faced a series of human tragedies leaving a sombre mood.  A string of terror attacks including those in Manchester, London Bridge and then Finsbury in recent days has left us all wondering why there is so much hate in the world today. But we have also shown our strength together and have been resolute as a country in making sure such hate does not prevail and that we carry on with our lives.

On top of these events we have had the appalling Grenfell Tower fire tragedy last week.  The suffering of those caught up in this dreadful event causes distress to everyone.  There has been anger too since it seems extraordinary that, with all the building regulations and fire regulations that are in place, cladding that seems to have been flammable could have been used on the building. The government has established a Public Inquiry to investigate why the fire was able to spread in the way that it did. While anger is understandable, we should, at times like this, reserve judgement and blame until an inquiry fully establishes exactly what went wrong and then we should act to ensure such mistakes are never made again.

The disaster was also a reminder of the tremendous and often dangerous and difficult work done by our emergency services, including local firefighter Ben Holehouse who used to live in Camborne and now works for the London Fire Brigade and was one of those who fought the fire at Grenfell Tower.  Closer to home, this week fire crews across Cornwall also fought a major fire at the recycling centre at Pool.


Despite the gloomy tragedies in recent months, we have to carry on with life as normal.  On a brighter note last weekend the sun was shining for Murdoch Day in Redruth and the town turned out in force.  The streets were packed and local schools danced to celebrate the life and achievements of William Murdoch, the local inventor and engineer. Murdoch was one of the pioneers of steam power development in Cornwall and famously invented the first ever gas light using piped gas. The day was a happier and brighter end to an otherwise tragic week.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

General Election 2017

Last Thursday proved that there are no certainties in politics and that elections are always volatile and unpredictable. 

The results were disappointing for the Conservatives nationally. We went to the country and asked for an increased majority as we enter the Brexit negotiations but the country declined to give us this.  

In politics you have to work with the hand you are dealt and read the result of elections. We asked the country what they wanted and the collective answer from voters is that they are unsure or, are divided. There have been a lot of elections in the last two years and there is fatigue with polls.

Parliament must therefore accept that indecisive verdict, work through the various issues before us and prioritise the tasks that matter most. Our constitution is designed to work towards what voters want with the parliamentary maths driving out compromise and caution in the dose requested by voters.

Here in Cornwall, all six constituencies returned Conservative MPs. I want to thank all of the 23,001 people in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle constituency who placed their confidence in me for a third term.  The total number of votes cast for me actually went up by 4,500 but a Labour surge at the expense of the Lib Dems means the majority is reduced. I want to be clear that I will represent everyone in this constituency, regardless of which way they voted and we Conservatives must also reflect on the message coming from those voters who turned out in large numbers to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Since being elected, I have prioritised the regeneration of our towns. We have achieved a lot, but there is much more that I want to do. We also need to attract new industries and better paid jobs. Unemployment is at its lowest level in many years, but the next step is to increase wages and create more opportunities for young people.


I will also continue to fight to ensure Cornwall gets its fair share of funding for public services. Just because we are a long way from London doesn't mean we shouldn't get our fair share.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Carn Brea Leisure Centre


Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have fond childhood memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre. It has been an essential part of the local community for well over forty years. I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletics Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea.
 
At any given time, there are over 1000 children learning to swim at Carn Brea. It is therefore great news that the management team have secured funding from Sport England to refurbish the pool and deliver other maintenance and improvements.
 
The work will start this summer, and will finish at the end of the year. It will ensure that facilities are sustained for existing users, as well as the next generation of swimmers. Carn Brea is Cornwall’s first Charitable Trust Leisure Centre, and provides health and wellbeing facilities in the heart of our local area. I am pleased to hear that during the pool refurbishment, facilities including the gym, running track, café and fitness classes will still be open.
 
We now need to focus our efforts on raising the remaining funds needed. The fundraising campaign will start in May, when full plans of the project will be unveiled. I hope that the fundraising campaign will be a real community effort, in the true spirit of Carn Brea.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Local Elections


It is now just a couple of weeks until polling day on Thursday 4th May when people right across Cornwall will have their chance to elect their local representatives to Cornwall Council.  The Lib Dems have been in charge for the last four years with the Independent bloc supporting them.

Cornwall Council has a very large budget of round £1.2 billion per year but a lot of people feel that they don't always get their priorities right. They say they can't find money for the things that really matter, like adult social care, but then they can always find money for pet projects like spending £536,000 on a bid to make Truro the "European Capital of Culture" - even though we will have left the EU by then and are therefore unlikely to be successful.

The Council is not getting its approach to social care support right at the moment.  I have seen many parents of disabled children or carers of adults with special needs who have previously benefited from quite modest support payments to help with a few hours a week of respite care or three hours a week from personal assistants.  It just helps them keep things together.  But all too often that small amount of support is being pulled away by Cornwall Council which is leading to anxiety.  It is also a false economy because when funds are tight we should be looking for more ways to provide a small amount of money that can make a big difference and reduce the need for more expensive care options later on.  Cornwall Council have it back to front at the moment.

Planning is another area where change is required.  In the last few years, the Council has had a poor track record in defending Cornwall from urban sprawl and inappropriate development on green field sites.   They do not pay enough attention to the need for infrastructure and services to support new development.

Local Council elections are always very close in this area so anything can happen.  Although I am a Conservative, I also have a lot of respect for everyone who puts themselves up for election whatever Party they represent and also to all the volunteers who give up their time to help deliver leaflets.  So, whichever way you decide to vote, make sure you do vote.