Sunday, 31 July 2011

Give a day’s pay to save lives in Africa

As famine continues to ravage parts of East Africa, the Independent on Sunday is spearheading a new charitable campaign to help those worse affected by the disaster.

Members of the public can donate a day’s wages to relief organisations by following the below link:

I have done so, making my donation to Shelter Box. I am confident that Shelter Box will get help to where is most needed.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Cornwall Samaritans presented with The Queens Award for Voluntary Service

I was on Monday delighted to witness the presentation of The Queens Award for Voluntary Service to Cornwall Samaritans at Truro.

Cornwall Samaritans assist those in distress, and typically deal with over 4,000 contacts a month. The group consist entirely of volunteers. In addition to taking calls, emails and visits at their base in Truro the Samaritans work at Treliske, supporting patients, family and staff when they are facing difficult and upsetting situations

I am pleased the dedication and service of the volunteers at Cornwall Samaritans has been recognised by this prestigious award.

A new fund for Costal Communities

On the last day of Parliament, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles presented the findings of a six-month review into council finance that sought to repatriate business rates; create a financial incentive for councils to promote local and sustainable economic growth; reduce dependency upon central Government grant; and maintain protections for small business and vulnerable areas.

The National Audit Office has criticised the current system maintained by Labour as ‘highly complex and not transparent’. I believe a new system is needed to end a long-standing problem where councils have no direct growth incentive, to build stronger relationships with business and to put councils in charge of their own financial circumstances.

Local businesses have been hit hard by the last Labour Government’s hike in business rates and since being elected I have been representing those concerns with Ministers. Importantly, there will be no change to the way business pays the tax, who is eligible for discount, or the way it is set nationally. National discounts and rate relief will also continue to be supported, meaning no change to such groups as charities, amateur sports clubs, voluntary groups, those in hardship, and eligible rural or small businesses.

The Government has doubled small business rate relief, to help half a million small firms, funding the extra scheme for two years from 2010 to 2012, and is making it easier for small firms to get small business rate relief automatically, through changes in the Localism Bill. I have been pushing for the automatic payment of business rate relief for years as the current system is so confusing, complex and often seen as unfair.

The Localism Bill will also provide Cornwall Council with the opportunity of varying business rates – often the third largest cost to local businesses. This could really help to build small businesses and jobs.

I was also pleased by the Treasury’s announcement of more money coming into Cornwall to support the economic development of coastal communities. Money raised by the Crown Estate’s marine activities will be repatriated to coastal communities around the UK.

The new Coastal Communities Fund will support a wide range of projects, including those that support charities, the environment, education and health – examples of projects could include support for developing renewable energy, improving skills or environmental improvement.

The fund will be opening in April 2012 with an estimated £23.7 million in its first year. I encourage local organisations to find out more and apply – this fund has the potential to have real and lasting impact on our local economy.

Finally, it was great to be back home and in time to visit some schools and share in the end of term celebrations. I was particularly pleased to visit Mylor Primary School and be grilled by the Year Six students about my life as their MP and to share in the Leavers and Prize Day celebrations at Probus School. I wish the teachers and staff in all the schools in my constituency a well deserved break over the summer holidays.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Celebrating 150 years of Falmouth Docks

I greatly enjoyed joining members of Falmouth Town Council and the A&P Group in welcoming Princess Anne to Falmouth Docks on Monday, to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Docks

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Welcoming the Government’s proposed reforms to School Funding

I am pleased to welcome a new consultation from the Department of Education, asking for the views of the public on proposals that will ensure education funding is allocated more consistently across the country.

For too long Cornwall’s Schools have received funding that is below the English average. Education Secretary Michael Gove’s proposals aim to tackle such funding gaps.

I would encourage constituents to participate in the consultation, the details of which can be found through the below link:

Stressing the need for a Science-led approach to tackling Bovine TB

Monday, 18 July 2011

Celebrating Cornwall’s relationship with the Sea

A great deal of time in the House of Commons last week was taken up with completing as much legislation as possible before Parliament goes into Recess for the Summer. Ministers announced a number of policies and responses to consultations.

These policies included proposed changes to the production of electricity – changes intended to secure our electricity supplies for the future, reduce electricity bills for British consumers and ensure that the UK meets its ambitious carbon reduction targets.

I welcome these commitments and am excited by Cornwall’s role in delivering them. As the Government invests heavily in our marine renewable and deep geothermal technology, Cornwall can reap the benefits of being at the forefront of low-carbon technological development.

As new opportunities present themselves for Cornwall, it is important to remember the continuing importance of the sea to the Duchy’s culture and economy.

On Sunday I was delighted to join Sea Sunday in Falmouth where the contribution of all seafarers and those that support them was recognised.

The long association of Falmouth and the navy is very important. Not only are the Fleet Auxiliary ships frequent visitors to the port but many people work at RNAS Culdrose. Airmen from the base continue to make a very significant contribution to the operation in Afghanistan. Day in and day out the Royal Navy is providing invaluable service to every household in this country in keeping the world’s shipping lanes open.

More than 95% of everything we consume in this country comes in by ship. Ships bringing this vital cargo have to navigate some very dangerous waters, as the number of international pirates grows. I will continue to do all I can to stand up for the Navy in Parliament and ensure they have the resources they need.

On Thursday we learned of the out-come of the consultation on the future of another invaluable maritime service, the UK Coastguard. Falmouth Coastguards have done a great job in making the case for their service. I am pleased they will stay open 24 hours and will part of the new nationally networked service. I will continue to work with them in the months ahead to ensure that their front-line expertise is listened to and safety for everyone at sea remains the top priority.

Whilst safety is all important in formulating maritime polices, common sense is needed too.
That the EU Commons Fishery Policy has been a disaster both for fishermen and fish stocks is without doubt. The Minister for Fisheries has done a good job in strongly arguing the case for wholesale reform, pressing for decisions about fishing to be taken locally and practical solutions to discarding fish at sea be found with the help of the fishermen themselves.

This work will continue, as more and more organisations recognise the importance of sustainable fishing. I was pleased to recently see the launch of Marks and Spencer’s ‘Forever Fish’ campaign, a three year commitment to promote more high quality, sustainably-sourced fish, and support increased public awareness of the need for maritime conservation. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Welcoming the retention of cheques

I am delighted with the news today that cheques will continue as long as people want them. I have been contacted by many constituents, especially small businesses and sole traders who receive cheques from the majority of their customers in payment of goods or services. Good to see common sense prevail.

Welcoming the decision to keep Falmouth Coastguard open 24/7

After campaigning for over six months to keep Falmoth Coastguard open around the clock, I am delighted that the Government has listened to the Coastguards, and the community of Falmouth:

The phone hacking scandal

The whole country has been shocked by the revelations about the phone hacking scandal. What has gone on is simply disgusting. But this scandal is not just about some journalists on one newspaper. 

It's not even just about the press. It's also about the police. And it's also about how politics works.

Last week I wrote to the media regulator Ofcom to ask them to consider whether Murdoch is a fit and proper media owner.

I also wrote to Independent Non-Executive Board Directors of BSkyB to ask them to reconsider the deal with News International until after all the investigations have been completed.

I took your concerns to the Prime Minister.

Yesterday, I joined the debate in Parliament and supported the motion: “That this House beleives that it is in the public interst for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation  to withdraw their bid for BSkyB.” I am delighted that is exactly what has happened.

I am pleased with the comprehensive and decisive action the Government has taken. Here is a link to the Statement that the Prime Minister made in Parliament yesterday that describes what is going to happen next.

The Terms of Reference for the Judge led inquiry can be found here

I will be ensuring that no stone is left unturned in the investigations and reviews out-lined. It is vitally important that public confidence and trust is restored in the Police, the Press as well as politics.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Continuing to press for fairer NHS funding for Cornwall

Central Government funding for the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust has now improved from 7 per cent below its target to 2.2 per cent below.

Although this is definitely a step in the right direction, a lot more still needs to be done.  I will continue to press for the NHS funding gap in Cornwall to be reduced.

The valuable work of children’s centres in Cornwall recognised in survey results

Congratulations to Falmouth Coastguard on the international recognition of its work

Monday, 11 July 2011

Pressing the Government on help for people with homes heated by fuel oil

Last winter saw a sharp rise in the price of fuel oil, used to heat many homes in Cornwall. Since then I have been putting pressure on the Government to take action to prevent similar rises this winter, and welcomed the subsequent commissioning of an Office of Fair Trading report to look into the problem.

In the House of Commons  last week I asked for an update on the progress of that investigation, and was assured that the Office of Fair Trading report into fuel oil prices would be published in the autumn. The Government will then study the conclusions of the report, and decide exactly what measures need to be introduced to make sure that the problems of last winter are not repeated.

Health Secretary gives his support to BBC Cornwall stroke appeal

Friday, 8 July 2011

Celebrating the life of John Passmore Edwards

I was pleased to this week host a reception in Parliament to celebrate the life of John Passmore Edwards.  I was joined by Alex Ingham-Clark, a direct descendent of the great man as well as historian Dean Evans and members of his family.  

Mr Evans has done a really great job of reminding us of the significant contribution John Passmore Edwards made not only to Cornwall but many parts of England. I have fond memories of my weekly visit to Falmouth Library with my grandmother to change my Library books.

This reception was the 60th event so far in the centenary year.  I was pleased that MPs from all parts of the country came along and found out more about Passmore Edward’s legacy.  Dean’s book was well received and while Passmore Edwards did not enjoy being an MP at all, I was pleased to donate a copy to the House of Commons Library.

I want to make sure future generations appreciate the life of this great social reformer, born and raised in Blackwater, who did so much to improve the standard of living for working people.  He really understood that education is the route out of poverty.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Change is needed in child sexual exploitation cases

During the first Budget I lobbied the Chancellor to stop the 10% discount on council tax for second home owners and allow this money to be spent on building geniuinely affordable homes for people to rent or buy. I am pleased that Cornwall Council has carried out an analysis of tax records that has revealed there are an estimated 13,600 second homes in the county, five per cent of the total housing stock.

The highest densities were found in coastal areas including on the Roseland peninsula. Last week I was delighted to be invited by residents of the new homes for local people in Gerrans. This is a much needed development of social rented, shared equity and owner occupied homes for people with strong connections to the parish. It is just what we need in villages and towns around this constituency.

I welcome the motion at the next full council meeting of Cornwall Council to abolish the 10% council tax discount given to second home owners and will be following this up with a meeting with George Osborne MP Chancellor of the Exchequer  next week. The estimated £2 million of lost council tax each year, along with the Coalition Government’s “New Homes Bonus” could be used to build really affordable homes for local people to rent or part-buy.

This year Cornwall Council has received nearly £2 million “New Homes Bonus” for 1,939 new homes, including those that were empty and have been brought back into use in 2009 and 2010.  Over six years, for the same homes Cornwall Council will receive just under £12million. Every new home built will come with a “New Homes Bonus”. So, these substantial sums of money, together could make a real difference to many people who are currently in dire need of a decent home.

Every week constituents contact me with a range of housing problems and I appreciate the urgency of starting to sort-out this problem – a legacy of a decade of not building enough homes that are genuinely affordable for local people of all ages.

During the debate on the Criminal Justice Bill, I was pleased to have highlighted the need for effective sentences for perpetrators of child sexual exploitation. The Government is taking real action to raise awareness and prevent the crimes that include on-line grooming and rape of children, but I still think much more needs to be done. Sentences need to be much longer and the treatment of children by some courts, has to change.

As with all other crimes, to secure succesful prosecutions, witnesses have to be prepared to come forward and give evidence and have it cross examined in court. Unless witnesses, thier families and carers believe that in the process of ‘going to court’ that they will be fairly treated they won’t come forward.

My research has shown that changes must be made. Here are two real cases that demonstrate why the changes are needed.

The first is the experience of a girl who was repeatedly sexually abused. She was forced to give evidence for eight days in court, was cross-examined by a team of nine defence lawyers. On one occasion by five in a row, working as a team to try and undermine her evidence. All but one of the barristers were men and dressed in wigs and gowns represented in her mind the powerful men in authority who had abused her. While respect for the human rights of the defendent was shown by the court, there was no understanding of how the crimes perpetrated against her had left her as a vulnerable and very understandably terrified witness. She was physically sick every day and became so traumatised by the experience that she ran away from home during the case. Very sadly the case was dropped.

The second case is of a girl who was shown into the witness box when the screens that had been promised to her had been forgotten. Faced with seeing the men who had sexually abused her, she understandably became hysterical. As such she was deamed unfit to give evidence and again the case was dropped.

I want to improve the experience of young people in our courts and the cross examination of children and made some simple but effective recommendations that I will be following-up with the Minstry of Justice.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Labour’s failure to act on Social Care reform

Report of the Commission on Funding of Care and Support published

I welcome this report.  It is comprehensive, accurate and well researched.  The current system of paying for and providing care is broken and urgently needs fixing.  Andrew Dilnot and his team have met with many people over the past year and I was pleased to make representations to him myself.

It is essential that all politicians from all parties and both Houses roll up their sleeves in working through the recommendations of the report to find a solution that will last for many years to come.  The last Government kicked previous reports and their recommendations into the long grass or filed them in the ‘too difficult to do’ box.  This Parliament must be different – be brave and deliver a solution for this and future generations of adults who need care and support.