Thursday, 26 April 2012

Consultation on Schools funding reform launched

I have campaigned for some years to secure fairer school funding for Cornwall, and was pleased last year to secure the Education Secretary’s assurance that this issue would be looked at by the Government.

Further to that assurance, a consultation has now been launched asking for the public’s views on proposals to reform the schools funding system:  

Monday, 23 April 2012

We must all work together to tackle the problems of excessive alcohol consumption

As a nation we have a problem, a problem that has crept up on us over a number of years- large numbers of people are regularly drinking too much alcohol. This is not just about binge drinking in our town and city centres, all too often people of all walks of life and all ages drink far too much in their own homes.

We are all going to have to get involved if we are going to prevent the human suffering that this excess drinking is causing. The Science and Technology Select Committee (of which I am a member) has given us a good steer. 

Like all Select Committees, this group of MPs from the main political parties, investigates issues of interest to the public. A wide range of experts visited Parliament to discuss with MPs alcohol consumption in Britain today. The work that came out of these discussions has helped the Government to develop its Alcohol Strategy.

A long list of actions has been identified in the Strategy, including better education about the risks of drinking too much alcohol; action on supermarkets promoting and selling alcohol cheaper than bottled water and new punishments for people who persistently drink too much.

I was particularly pleased that the Government is giving powers back to communities on how many outlets, including supermarkets, have a licence and the hours of the day and night when alcohol can be sold. Your parish and town councils now have these new powers so I encourage you to discuss with your local councillors what you think they should be doing to ensure people enjoy a quiet drink in the local pub, club or bar without harming themselves and our communities.

Ask anyone who works in the A&E at Treliske or as a paramedic, firefighter or a police officer and they will tell you of the human misery that too much alcohol can bring and the extra cost to our public services.

A key way in which alcohol related hospital admissions can be reduced is through increasing effective treatment for dependant drinkers. The Alcohol Strategy commits the NHS to improving access to the support services that can help people turn their lives around. From next year decisions on how NHS money is spent in Cornwall will be made in Cornwall so now is a good time to be thinking about this.

Just like many readers might not be aware of the useful work MPs do on Select Committees, they might not be aware of the quiet and invisible work we do directly with Ministers. For months I have been making common cause with like minded MPs of all parties who were worried about cuts to the legal aid budget.

We won concessions from the Government so that clinical negligence cases for babies, victims of domestic violence as well as some welfare cases will be eligible for legal aid. I am now assured that we will continue to have the best funded legal aid system in the developed world - with only Northern Ireland spending more.

Westminster Faith Debates Pt. 4

I would encourage you to take a look at the next in the ongoing series of Westminster Faith Debates, asking, ‘What Limits to Religious Freedom?’   

As always, I think these debates are important ways to talk about topical subjects that bear great relevance on modern-day society.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Fal Energy Partnership Launch

I am delighted to be working with the Fal Energy Partnership group to help battle fuel poverty.

Localised powers for Cornwall

During Business Questions today I was pleased to secure confirmation  from the Leader of the House of Commons, Sir George Young, that the Government is committed to enabling Cornwall Council to acquire greater powers to enhance the lives of Cornish residents.

This confirmation follows discussions I have had with Ministers Mark Prisk and Greg Clark over the past weeks. The meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday was very positive too.

The Coalition Government is keen to explore with Cornwall Council how the transfer of new powers from London could help the Council to improve the quality of life of local residents, and to further help Cornwall’s economy grow.

I am pleased by this commitment, which could see Cornwall become the first rural region to enjoy localised powers on a par with the UK’s major cities, and look forward to working with Cornwall Council and my fellow Cornish MPs to enable this.

30th Anniversary of the Falklands Conflict

I feel privileged to have been able to join in the remembrance activities to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict:

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Independent Parliamentary Report into Online Child Protection

I feel that the publication of this Independent Parliamentary Report into Online Child Protection is an important step in the right direction to tackling this important issue:

Defying the Jobs Recession

I am pleased to see that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s  latest Work Audit report reveals how the 'Madonna generation' of women aged over 50 have defied the jobs recession. Women aged 50-64, and men and women aged 65 and over, are the only age groups to have registered an increase in both the number in work and employment rates since the start of the jobs recession in 2008.

Richard Lander Walk

Richard Lander Walk
I am really looking forward to meeting representatives from St Agnes Rotary Club and Richard Lander School on The Strand in London on Monday 23 April.

Encouraging news on unemployment

Figures released today by the Office of National Statistics show that, in line with the rest of the UK, unemployment in Truro and Falmouth fell in March 2012:

Although work needs to be done to bring these numbers down still further, in Truro and Falmouth we remain in a better position than other parts of the UK. When the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the UK are ranked from those with the highest number of unemployed first, Truro and Falmouth comes in at number 422.

As of last month, for every two Jobseekers Allowance claimants in Truro and Falmouth, there are nine unfilled Jobcentre Plus vacancies.

However there is absolutely no room for complacency, and I will continue to work closely with businesses and Jobcentres in Cornwall, and with parliamentary colleagues in Westminster, to help Truro and Falmouth’s jobseekers into employment.  As Employment Minister Chris Grayling said today,  there are "far, far, far too many people still unemployed". This has to change. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

NHS Trauma Centres

I am pleased to see that patients who suffer life-threatening injuries will benefit from new arrangements for treating major trauma, which started to roll out in the south from 2 April.

Excellent Progress with Apprenticeships

I am very grateful to the local companies that have responded to my personal request that they consider taking on apprentices. There has been an encouraging response to my campaign to secure 100 new apprenticeships within 100 days. Seasalt, the Cornish Cyder Farm, Arcol Resistors, Trewcare and Kernow Coatings are amongst the range of companies that have all now agreed to offer apprenticeships.
These new apprenticeship starts join longstanding and award winning apprenticeship programmes such as those offered by Pendennis Shipbuilders in Falmouth. At the moment there are over seventy vacancies listed for apprenticeships with the Job Centre Plus; apprenticeships based in industries that range from care to horticulture, from retail management to motor engineering and from  bricklaying to administration. 
This growth in local apprenticeships is very good news, and due in large part to the first class efforts of the West Briton to further promote apprenticeships.
People sometimes ask me whether the apprenticeships actually lead to jobs, I am happy to confirm that they almost always do. Former apprentices that don’t stay with their parent company often move into related employment.  While I have been focussed on young people taking up an apprenticeship, they are available for people of all ages. Our local colleges offer excellent training and a wide range of qualifications as part of the apprenticeship scheme. It’s never too late to consider an apprenticeship, currently the oldest apprentice in Cornwall is 72!
In addition to supporting apprenticeships I am a keen supporter of work experience. I was delighted to get involved with a project that has just started at The Space in Penryn. Common sense has combined with terrific community spirit to enable a group of young people who have been unemployed for sometime to work under the supervision of experienced trades people and a Cornwall College instructor, to acquire building site experience.
The venue for this work experience is in Penryn’s community hall, The Space, where they are undertaking a range of improvements from interior decoration and planting flower beds, to installing a new loo and building a perimeter wall.  The materials and construction expertise has been donated by local firms including Auto Graffiti, Blue Flame, Keyline, Penryn Plastics and B&Q. Rowe’s bakery will be providing daily pasties.
For the next few weeks these young people will  acquire building skills with  their training culminating in the award of a qualification that will enable them to apply for jobs in the construction industry. Many of the building firms involved in the project have vacancies, which the newly qualified young people will be able to apply for. 
This is a terrific team effort led by Victor Tullin and Sue Bradshaw and supported by Penryn Town Council and really shows what can be achieved when all sectors of the community, private business, public services and volunteers come together to make a positive difference and help people to acquire work experience necessary to get a job. At the same time the whole community will benefit from the improvements at The Space.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Seeking Assurances from South West Water

I have been notified by South West Water that the South West region has been declared as being in a status of environmental drought.  However, I have been reassured that public water supplies will remain unaffected and we are in a good water resources position in the South West.

South West Water tell me that they foresee no need to apply for drought orders, permit or water restrictions affecting commercial and domestic customers this summer, which will be their sixteenth successive summer without such restrictions.  They say that their work in tackling leakage, transforming two china clay pits into reservoirs, upgrades to their distribution network and using less water in their own treatment processes, together with their customers using less water themselves, has all contributed to this good position. I will continue to press South West Water for further assurances as the situation develops.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Western Morning News Article on Computers in Education

Below is a link to an article I wrote for the Western Morning News earlier this year, on the importance of computers in education today:

St. Petroc’s and the Winter Wellness Scheme

Most of my adult life I have volunteered with organisations providing help for homeless people. Before I was elected I cooked breakfasts with Truro Homeless Action Group and supported St Petroc’s fundraising. I also took part in the farce that was ‘the rough sleepers count’ - the process that ensured the true scale of the problem was hidden. I am proud to say that this farce ended with the new government. A better process has been put in place that has revealed the scale of the problem in Cornwall. Why is the rough sleepers count process important? Because based on the numbers, the Government provides specific funds to Cornwall Council to help homeless people, especially during the coldest winter months - £800,000 last year.
Last week I spent time with St Petroc’s understanding the extra help that their staff and over 350 volunteers were able to provide over the past winter. St Petroc’s have many years of experience helping homeless people in Cornwall. I also hard about the support they receive from local businesses and the important role this newspaper and other local media played to raising awareness of the problems faced by homeless people in Cornwall.
Just a small amount of the money that Cornwall Council received was given to St Petroc’s and their partners and yet they achieved significant results with people being helped into accommodation and a healthier future.
I am looking forward to reading a full report of how Cornwall Council spent the rest of the £800,000 and the lessons learned from the past winter as well as planned future actions. Helping rough sleepers is one part of a bigger housing problem. Tackling the legacy of chronic housing shortages in Cornwall and the complex web of social problems that often lead to homelessness is not easy work and will take determined and consistent effort. Few things can be more important for us all than trying to enable people, families, communities and the agencies of government, at all levels, to support each other and the most vulnerable people in our community, those in need of a decent home.
I also joined the summit reviewing Cornwall’s Winter Wellness Campaign. Cornwall Council successfully bid for a grant of £130,000 from the Department of Health to enable a wide range of organisations from the NHS to Social Services, care providers and voluntary organisations to come together and provide joined-up help for people suffering from the cold. Direct financial assistance has been provided to those living in cold homes unable to heat them, as well as advice and information on how to obtain free insulation and benefits. Donations given to Cornwall Community Foundation were also used and overall the campaign helped many people to have warm homes over the last winter. Over 5,000 ‘How to Save Money on your Fuel Bills’ booklets produced by my office have also been distributed. I am very hopeful that these organisations will continue to work together so more people have warm homes and save money on their heating bills going forward.

Welcoming my youngest constituents in Parliament

Below are some photographs of pupils from Shortlanesend and Cusgarne School who recently visited me in Parliament.  I always enjoy welcoming my youngest constituents to Westminster and answering their questions – which are always the most difficult and unexpected!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Apprenticeship Event with Lee McQueen

I was delighted to recently be part of the panel at Truro College’s Apprenticeship Event on 29 March, working alongside local businesses, as well as the National Apprenticeship Service and Jobcentre Plus, to publicise some of the great things currently going on with Apprenticeships in Cornwall.

Truro College’s press release from this event is below:

‘A major Apprenticeship event at Truro and Penwith College featured The Apprentice winner Lee McQueen who gave a fast paced and motivational speech at the largest Apprenticeship event in Cornwall. This special meeting of the college’s Cornwall Business Club was compered by Daphne Skinnard from BBC Radio Cornwall.   Over 180 business people from all over the county attended the event held at Truro College’s Fal Building.  Appropriately, Apprentices organised and hosted the evening, with 12 Apprentices studying their Professional Cookery framework at The Seafood Restaurant making and serving fabulous canap├ęs. 

Truro and Penwith College, Cornwall Works, National Apprenticeships Scheme and Jobcentre Plus planned the event to showcase Apprenticeships and to reach out to Cornwall businesses, encouraging them to employ an apprentice.  Lee McQueen confirmed the need to give young people opportunities and to encourage talent. He shared his experiences of starting out with two jobs to earn enough money for a mortgage rather than paying rent.  His determination to work hard led to his learning a trade first in catering and later as a ‘Resourcer’ in the recruitment business. He gave up his £32M turnover business to work as Sir Alan Sugar’s apprentice. McQueen attributed his success in winning The Apprentice to the straightforward philosophy which leads to success in any business: “ Work together as a team, work hard as a team, and win as a team”.   

A panel of key influencers were there for a question and answer session, including MP Sarah Newton, Michael Rabone HR Manager at The Seafood Restaurant and Apprentice Ambassador, Helen France Head of Business Development - National Apprenticeship Service, Sally Wilson Learning and Development Manager, Cornwall Foundation Trust and Apprentice Ambassador, Rachel Jones, Fit and Fun Kids and Leading Women Network, Paul Masters Assistant Chief Executive Cornwall County Council, Carolyn Webster European Programme and Partnership Manager Jobcentre Plus, Mark Yeoman, Convergence Partnership and David Walrond, Principal of Truro and Penwith College.

The economic benefits of taking on Apprenticeships were reinforced by Michael Rabone, Sally Wilson and Rachel Jones who all employ Apprentices as part of their HR strategy, bringing dynamism, commitment and energy into their companies.

The advice, information and new government initiative designed to encourage higher employment; particularly within the 16-24 age group was reviewed.  David Walrond spoke of the crucial partnership between employer, learner and trainer to ensure that both businesses and apprentices gained long term and sustainable benefits. Work experience for young people was also debated, with McQueen explaining that in his recruitment business he is looking for the right attitude in people and his belief that the attitude for work often starts at home.  The panel fielded questions on how employers could get involved, the value of work placements for young people in Year 11, support available for businesses taking on Apprentices for the first time and many others.

David Walrond Principal of Truro and Penwith College commented on the evening:

“It was a great success in terms of the levels of interest and engagement from businesses and the quality of the discussions, including the many informal networking conversations that surrounded the presentations. We want more and more businesses to take on board the idea of employing apprentices and the feedback from this evening is really encouraging. There were serious messages to communicate but we wanted this to be an enjoyable occasion too, and the feedback in that regard was equally positive. We are very grateful to Michael Rabone and his team for their efficient and highly professional organisation and catering. Having the apprentices so successfully involved in running things meant that the event itself became powerful proof of what can be achieved through offering and serving apprenticeships.” 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A Busy and Varied Week

Last Monday I met with Danny Alexander the First Secretary to the Treasury and David Gauke Treasury Minister to pass on the considerable concerns of my constituents regarding the proposed ‘pasty tax’. These proposals are out for consultation until 4th May. I will be joining colleagues in making further representations to the Treasury in Parliament after the Easter recess.
My campaign to tackle the unfair fuel prices we are paying at the pumps, by asking the Office of Fair Trading to undertake an investigation,  is gathering momentum.
I feel that there is an urgent need for such an investigation to take place. The price of petrol in rural parts of the UK can now be up to five pence more expensive per litre than petrol sold in urban areas. I am well aware of the impact such high prices are having upon the finances of my constituents, who are often dependent upon cars to access work, school and public services. Local businesses, often with long supply chains which are road-based, are being hit as well.
I will be working with the Countryside Alliance and a range of my parliamentary colleagues to persuade Ministers that the particularly high fuel prices paid by rural motorists needs to be look at, to ensure that the regional fuel market is functioning fairly and competitively.
My  e-petition on the Government website e-petitions direct has also be launched, calling on Ministers to refer these high prices to the Office of Fair Trading. This e-petition can be accessed by visiting www.   and searching for ‘Refer rural fuel prices to the OFT’.
On Tuesday, I joined the debate on Assisted Suicide. Many constituents had asked me to join the debate on this controversial subject that had not been debated for nearly 20 years. There were more MPs wanting to speak than the time allowed so while I couldn’t speak the wide range of opinions expressed by my constituents were covered. This debate was enabled by reforms made in the last Parliament to ‘clean-up politics’. In this Parliament there are new opportunities for back bench MPs to secure debates that are important to their constituents and the nation that the Government don’t make time for. This reform has been welcomed by many as have other changes to ‘clean up politics’ such as the open reporting of the cost of MPs.
The next urgently needed reform in the process of ‘cleaning up politics’ is how parties are funded. I am pleased that last week, Nick Clegg started the process he is leading to work with all political parties to find a new and better way of fund raising. As Nick Clegg so rightly said; “No politicians can claim the moral high ground on party funding. Every party has been tainted by funding scandals and mine is no different. Unless we reform our discredited and distrusted system of party funding, we may never restore that public confidence and trust that is the lifeblood of our democracy.”

Falmouth Energy Partnership Launch

I was delighted to be able to attend the Falmouth Energy Partnership (FEP) Launch event on 28 March.  The link below is a summary of the event and shows some of the important work that FEP are doing.