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.