Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Government invests in Marine Renewable Energy for Cornwall

Further to the Government’s announcement of major investment in marine energy in the South West, I am meeting with Energy Minister Greg Barker later this week to make the case for Falmouth.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Welcoming the Government’s commitment to male victims of domestic violence

In Parliament this week I was pleased to be able to secure a meeting with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office for Truro based charity Esteem.

Esteem runs the only service in England that supports men who are abused by their partners.  I visited the charity in Truro last month. 

Responding to my request for a meeting between the Home Office and Esteem, Lynne Featherstone MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, confirmed that Government’s commitment to tackling domestic and sexual violence directed against men, and expressed her intention to meet with the charity.

I am pleased that the Government recognises the need not only to protect women and children from the dreadful and often hidden crime of domestic and sexual violence, but also to support men who are victims of abuse.

I am delighted that Mrs Featherstone has agreed to visit Esteem, and look forward to welcoming her to Truro in due course.  I will continue to campaign for every victim of domestic and sexual violence to have access to the appropriate support.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Working to tackle child sex abuse

Last week I spent a great deal of my time focussed on what more needs to be done to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation as well as domestic and sexual abuse of women and men.  I also spent time on the issues of how to detect and prosecute these crimes and support victims to live with their ordeals.  I have been working with Devon and Cornwall Constabulary for some time on issues around these crimes and am pleased to see that the voices of those on the front line are informing Government policy and action.

I was pleased to join the launch of a new service in Cornwall for the victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is a partnership between the police, NHS and Cornwall Council and is based in Truro.

I appreciated the opportunity to listen to more professionals, volunteers as well as young people at a meeting in Torbay on Monday.  Organised by the Torbay Independent Safeguarding Board this meeting highlighted excellent work in Devon that brings together professionals from across the public sector and charities such as the NSPCC and the Children’s Society to tackle the sexual exploitation of children. We also learned about work around the UK that has really got to grips with protecting young people who are groomed by sex offenders and subsequently raped.  I have been shocked by the numbers of children affected in every community across the country.  While sexual abuse of children seems like a crime for a different country or in a bygone age, it is something we all need to face up to and tackle in our communities now.

While these are not new crimes, the internet is a new and highly effective tool for the perpetrators of this horrendous crime.  The Government has launched a new website that brings together a great deal of information about what all those adults working with or caring for children can do to inform themselves of the risks.  This is called the Click Clever, Click Safe campaign and can be found through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) website or by following this link:

As a mum of three children, my simple advice to any parent or carer of a child, is get informed and do not let your children use the internet on a mobile phone or laptop, alone in their bedroom.  The bitter irony is that while most parents are concerned about the risks of strangers coming into contact with their children and hurting them in a park or while they are out playing, they are more at risk on Facebook, Bebo or using other social media.

I have also been alarmed by the experiences of young victims in the criminal justice system, especially about failings in the court system.  I have written to Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State responsible, asking him to ensure that urgent improvements are made.  This week we will be debating the vitally important issues of sentencing offenders as well as looking at bail conditions and release on licence or otherwise.  I will highlight the issue and press for changes.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Welcoming the Apprentice Card

I was delighted to join the launch of the Apprentice Card in Westminster on Wednesday.

Research by Robert Halfon MP has demonstrated that one of the worst legacies of the last Government was a generation of young people lost to benefits, or trudging endlessly round a hamster’s wheel of six-month temporary courses.

Despite the billions spent on the New Deal, for example, around 100,000 of those who left school in Tony Blair’s first term never held down a job, and are now in their thirties, having never worked in their lives.

Just one in three British workers now qualify as apprentices, or with technical skills.  Whereas in France, it is one in two.  And Germany is even better, with two out of three workers qualified with proper technical skills.

France and Germany are miles ahead of us, and as a result our workforce is reckoned to be 15 percent less productive.

As part of efforts to change this, the Government has this week launched the Apprentice Card.  The Card will finally put apprentices on a level-playing field with academic students and other professions, giving apprentices discounts at high street stores, as well as free support services and legal advice - estimated at a value of £500. Other benefits are planned for the future, such as social events, mentoring, and careers guidance.
The NUS are supplying the card infrastructure, for a pilot scheme with the training organisations PERA, GTA England, Kaplan, the Association of Accounting Technicians, and Harlow College.

Together they represent tens of thousands of apprentices across the UK, working in companies like JCB, Jaguar Land Rover, Next clothing, Morrisons and other top British brands.

I am delighted that this card has been introduced. For apprenticeships to work, we need to change the whole culture, by giving apprentices pride and prestige.  And ultimately this means giving them similar rights and benefits to academic students.  The Apprentice Card is a small by significant step in the right direction.”

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Commons Transport Committee report on Coastguard plans published

I welcome this hard-hitting report.  It is what I have been saying to Ministers all year.  The MCA’s current proposals are not right.  Different proposals must be brought forward and must be consulted upon.  New proposals must take account of what frontline coastguards have to say.

Beach Live launched

I am delighted that Beach Live is now up and running,  providing live information on risks to bathing water quality caused by overflows in the public sewage network.

Welcoming Co-operative Fortnight

I am looking forward to the start of the UK’s second Co-operatives Fortnight, to be held from 25 June. The Co-op movement is incredible value to the UK, allowing people to come together to take action on a range of issues, including housing, arts, sport, land, finance and green energy. I am proud to be a member of the Conservative Co-operative movement:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Falmouth welcomes the Portas Review of the High Street

I am delighted that the Falmouth Business Community has already taken such an active role in the  Review of the High Street currently being undertaken by Mary Portas.

I look forward to meeting with Business people in Falmouth on Friday to further discuss the lessons that the Review can learn from the experience of Falmouth retailers.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Recognising our Armed Forces

The NHS Futures Forum chaired by Professor Steve Field has ended up endorsing the principles of the Health and Social Care Bill whilst calling for changes to address the concerns of those who work in the NHS.  These changes will be made while the Bill makes its way through Parliament.

In the interests of patients it is important to be absolutely focussed on curing and moderating disease and improving health outcomes.  We must not let the NHS fall prey to vested interests.

Professor Field wants more diversity of healthcare providers.  Good.  If that smacks of privatisation to you, think of the excellent Macmillan nurses who are woven into the very fabric of our health service.

I have taken a close interest in the Armed Forces Bill, which completed its passage through the House of Commons last week.

It is dominated by the writing into law for the first time of the Military Covenant, a matter of great importance in our area.  The Royal British Legion has been central to the development of the Bill and deserves much credit.

It is vital to recognise what our Armed Forces do for us.  This recognition extends not just to those in the Services including Reservists but also their families and veterans, and especially the injured and the bereaved.

I recognise that more needs to do more to ensure our Armed Forces, veterans and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The Covenant outlines the Government’s aspiration that the Armed Forces Community should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services and that the Government will consider positive measures to enable equality of outcome with other citizens, as well as consider special treatment for the injured and bereaved, as proper return for their sacrifice.  Specific measures include:

·         An increase in Council Tax Relief to 50%.
·         Launching the Community Covenant scheme.
·         A new fund of £30million Community Covenant Grant to support the scheme.
·         A Pupil Premium for Service children.
·         An additional fund of £3million per year to support state schools catering for significant numbers of Service children including children of Reservists.
·         Launching a veterans’ information service to provide support on health issues including mental health.
·         Launching a Veterans Card to access commercial discounts or privileges and to consider how this could be expanded to include Service families.
·         Working to ensure AFCS payments are not required to be used to pay for social care.
·         A guarantee that veterans suffering serious genital injuries receive three cycles of IVF.
·         Working with banks and building societies on how they lend to members of the Armed Forces.
·         A Ministerially-chaired meeting with key stakeholders to explore ways to improve access to housing.
·         Launching a Troops To Teachers scheme.

I am looking forward to showing my personal appreciation of our Armed Services at a special service of Celebration on Saturday in St Austell.

Enjoying the Sea Shanty Service at Falmouth’s KCM Church

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Paying tribute to all involved with the Falmouth Docks Fire

On Friday I visited the Falmouth Rest Centre at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Falmouth Fire Station and Falmouth Hotel to learn about the events of the day and thank all those involved. 

I was reassured that the plans to respond to major incidents developed by the Fire Service, Police, docks staff as well as Cornwall Council staff worked so well on the day. 

I pay tribute to all those involved who helped with the evacuation of students and residents, including the staff of the University as well as the great community spirit demonstrated by the management and staff at The Duchy and The Falmouth hotels.  It was a great team effort with everyone pulling together to help all those affected.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Ensuring a prosperous future for Britain’s High Streets

We have long been known as a nation of shop keepers. In the last century my family where shop keepers on the High Street in Falmouth. For centuries, making things and selling them here and around the world was the basis upon which Cornwall’s prosperity was built. I want to make sure that during this Parliament, we re-balance our economy to manufacture more things here, from food to clothes and household items.  I appreciate how much people enjoy shopping in Truro and Falmouth as well as valuing the convenience of local shops  in St Agnes, Perranporth and smaller villages around this constituency.

Retailing is important for jobs and the local economy as well supporting our very important tourism industry. Since being elected I have been very concerned by the threats to independent retailers on our high streets. I am dismayed that the last government pushed through massive business rate increases during the depth of the recession. While the Coalition has brought in some welcome  business rate reliefs– it is not enough to support many of the businesses in Falmouth and Truro, where the commercial value of properties have rocketed. Based on information I have gathered from retailers and the Evaluation Office, I have been lobbying Ministers for increases in business rate reliefs.

I was delighted that the challenges of increased costs of doing business as well as other issues and opportunities facing retailers on our high streets are urgently being reviewed by Mary Portas. As readers may recognise from her TV show, she is a leading retail marketing consultant and has been asked by the Government to lead an independent review and deliver an action plan by the autumn. I have invited her to this constituency. I will be working with the BIDs teams in Truro and Falmouth to submit a report to the review with a list of what will help our retailers here.

I am also interested in the views of retailers around my constituency, residents and all those who would like to participate in the review. There is a link to a survey on my website, If you  would prefer to write to me, I will be happy to include your concerns and ideas in my report to the review.

As our parish and town councils as well as Cornwall Council have an important role to play in developing vibrant and sustainable town centres and villages, I am keen to include thier views as well.

Finally, on Saturday, I joined the record breaking number of people who visited the Royal Cornwall Show – such a great show case for Cornwall. I was pleased to meet local food producers such as cheese and cider makers and learn how well their businesses are growing. Always a pleasure to help celebrate the successes of Cornwall’s business people. Congratulations to the organisers!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Speaking up for Cornish dairy farmers in Parliament

On Tuesday I was able to participate in a Westminster Hall debate on dairy farming. During the debate I drew the attention of those present to the importance of dairy products to Cornwall, and the current plight of many Cornish dairy farmers:

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Working to secure a bright future for Treliske

Last week I spent visiting organisations and people in my constituency as well as holding my weekly advise surgery. I have regular meetings with the management of our public services as I appreciate the challenges they are facing in coping with the cuts in thier budgets as the Government gets to grips with reducing the largest debts that any UK Government has faced in peacetime.

I take a special interest in the NHS and while the amount of money Cornwall’s NHS has received this year has increased, it still faces considerable challenges. From what constituents tell me, the NHS remains their number one priority. We all depend on the NHS to a greater or lesser extent and we all want it to remain freely avaialble at our  time of need. While there are issues at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, from my regular meetings with the leadership team where I take up constituents concerns, I beleive that there is a determination  to tackle those issues and improve the quality of care. I will continue to work hard to get the best possible financial settlement for Treliske to enable the staff and the management the opportunity of becoming a Foundation Trust and thus secure it’s independence.

I was particularly pleased to join the launch of a new iniative to support the growing marine renewal energy sector in Cornwall. The Peninsula Research Institute of Marine Renewable Energy (PRIMaRE) and the Falmouth Bay Test (FaB Test) launched the Dynamic Marine Component Test Facility (DMaC) and the demonstration offshore test site (FaBTest) at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth on Tuesday. FaBTest is a partnership project between A&P Group, FHC, Wave Hub, The University of Exeter, Cornwall Network and Mojo Maritime all of whom provide advice, expertise and support to the industry. It will enable the testing and servicing of devices designed to generate electricy from the marine environment.

That the UK is leading the research and development stage of making energy from tides and waves is indisputable. What remains is the challenge to make this type of energy generation commercially viable. Government has a role to play and urgent action is needed to provide the right market conditions and financial incentives to enable his to happen.

As Cornwall has the best wave and tidal resource in Europe and good working partnerships we are ideally situated to maximise the opportunity to enable this new industry to flourish. There has been UK government and EU financial support to get us to this point and we need to build on this investment now to get to the next stage. I very much appreciate that many in the industry are fed-up with fine words from Government and want to see action. So do I and will be working with colleagues to make the urgent case for investment in Cornwall’s marine energy industry.