Thursday, 23 December 2010
Monday, 20 December 2010
Over the past week there have been a series of announcements and debates in Parliament about cuts in public expenditure. I very much appreciate the uncertainty and even anxiety that the prospect of cuts have been causing people who work in our much valued public services. But these are challenging times.
As the implications of the spending reductions reach through to all aspects of our lives, people have contacted me to question the commitment of the Coalition Government to protect the budget that is given to the Department for International Development (DFID) which currently stands at 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI).
The main question that people ask is “Why we are spending money on other countries when we are cutting funding at home?”
Firstly, it is in our national interest as the old adage “prevention is better than the cure” still stands true. If we refuse to tackle the spread of easily preventable diseases, if we fail to take steps to curb climate change, if we allow nations to fall into civil war or anarchy, we will have to spend more in the long-term. It is in our national interest to ensure that these issues are addressed to enable countries to prosper and establish themselves as peaceful trading partners of the UK. Spending money to maintain stability in other countries helps to protect us at home. It is for this reason that DFID plays its part in diplomatic and military decision-making.
The second argument is one that tends not to attract enough attention when politics is being discussed; it is a moral one. In the world of budgets and balance sheets, it is all too easy to ignore that almost 25,000 children will die each and every day from an illness which can be easily prevented. Every year, nearly 9 million children will die before their fifth birthday. I believe it is our duty to see that this injustice is brought to an end.
People have said to me, “The UK has spent millions of pounds on international aid and nothing has changed.” This is not true as demonstrated by the humanitarian responses we have had to the catastrophes such as the Haitian earthquake and the recent floods in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, 6 million children now have access to an education which was previously denied to them and 85% of the population now have access to basic healthcare. This is up from a mere 9% in 2002. We are making a difference.
Then people say that most aid is wasted. In an effort to ensure that the British taxpayer gets value for money, the Government has implemented tougher scrutiny through a new and independent watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which will examine the effectiveness of all aid packages and programmes. The UK Aid Transparency Guarantee will ensure that all British citizens will be able to see where their money is being spent and provide the reassurance that money is being spent well.
Finally, a huge “thank you” to the postmen and women who have carried cards and packages to our doors, despite the weather, and to all those people who will be working in the emergency services over the holiday season. Happy Christmas!
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 12:35
Thursday, 16 December 2010
A consultation has been launched to modernise the Coastguard service across the country.
The process will last for 14 weeks until the 24th Match 2011 and will involve holding local meetings to discuss the proposals, answering questions and listening to the views of local people. Details of these local meetings can be found by contacting the local Maritime and Coastguard Agency office in Falmouth:
Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton said “Reform of this vital service is long overdue. The technology and structure of the Coastguard has remained unchanged for years and needs to be updated. I would anyone with an interest in the future of the Coastguard to join in the consultation to ensure that we have a modern service that continues to protect our shores and shipping.”
Sarah continued: “I would like to pay tribute to the dedicated men and women of the Coastguard and the volunteers who give their time to protect mariners and the public. I would like to pay particular tribute to the staff of the Falmouth Coastguard Station and the very fact that the station will remain operational when others are being closed, is testament to their professionalism and a recognition of the vital role that they play.”
Sarah will be visiting the Falmouth Coastguard Station on Tuesday 21st December, to listen closely to the thoughts of the staff regarding changes to the Service.
Sarah will be visiting the Falmouth Coastguard Station on Tuesday 21st December, to listen closely to the thoughts of the staff regarding changes to the Service.
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 15:45
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Member of Parliament for Truro and Falmouth, Sarah Newton, has welcomed the Coalition Government’s announcement to overhaul the council house finance system.
The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, unveiled a plan to return control over council house finance to local authorities. Part of this change will be the replacing of the Housing Revenue Account system whereby rents that councils collect are paid to the Treasury in Whitehall. The reform will mean that councils can keep the money that they collect which gives them a far greater incentive to reinvest in their housing stock through better maintenance, repair work and building more council houses.
In effect, tenants and taxpayers will be able to hold their landlords to account for both the cost and the quality of their housing as the councils collecting the rent will be directly responsible for how it is then spent.
This marks a radical shift in the financing of council housing but one which the Local Government Association (the body representing and campaigning in the interest of local councils) welcomed. They also described the financial settlement as “tough but reasonable”.
Sarah Newton said: “Following my Bill in Parliament last week, I am pleased that Cornwall Council along with Wandsworth and the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport will be working closely with the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP and his officials next year. They will have an important role to play in ensuring the transfer of responsibilities works well. The current system is very complex and by working through the details with these councils we can get it right first time.”
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 15:32
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
In the run up to Christmas, our thoughts turn to the festive food we will share with family and friends. We are so fortunate that we live in a part of the world that has so many high quality local farmers and food producers. Last week, the Truro Primestock Show provided a great day out and an excellent way for people living near Truro to meet the people who are bringing the food from the fields around the city to the food on our plates.
Growing more food locally and encouraging people to choose food grown in this country is vitally important to me. With a global population estimated to increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050 and estimates suggesting that food production will need to increase by 70% compared to 2005-07 levels, increasing availability and access to existing food supplies, including minimising waste along the food chain, will be essential. Already over 1 billion people globally face hunger and under nourishment.
Access to food grown locally and in the UK is improving but there is more to be done to support farming and food production. The Coalition Government is pushing ahead with a range of reforms including ensuring supermarkets pay farmers a fair price for the food they produce and improving food labelling so it is easier for us to choose not only healthier food but that which is locally sourced. I also know how important animal welfare is to people living in this constituency from the number of e-mails that I receive on this subject.
Supporting local farmers and food producers is an important part of my work in Westminster and as such I recently met with National Farmers’ Union (NFU) representatives and just last week with McCain - best known for their oven chips. Better for us than pasta and rice and all grown in the UK, local potato growers are contributing an astounding 750,000 tonnes of potatoes to McCain each year.
I am vice Chairman of the newly created All-Party Parliamentary Fruit Group in Westminster. This group will provide an opportunity for growers to influence government policy to support them. Local fruit growers make a valuable contribution to not only our diet but to the local economy. For example, Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm has produced award winning ciders and is contributing to the local economy and providing employment to many people in the area.
I was pleased to help support our local high quality local cider makers with the introduction of a Bill that defined cider. The Government’s efforts to curb binge drinking through more excise duty on drinks with a strong alcohol content would have negatively impacted high quality cider producers. A clear definition will allow for a distinction to be drawn between top quality ciders such as Healey’s, and mass produced, low quality and very strong alcoholic drinks.
I am supporting the NFU’s and Women’s Institute Mission Milk campaign. It is a great pity that we have to revisit this issue since the last campaign in 2007 – but I will work with all concerned to do what I can to ensure dairy farmers are paid a sustainable price for their milk. If you would like more information about this campaign, or if you want to get involved, please visit their website at: http://www.thewi.org.uk/standard.aspx?id=20966.
Article by Sarah Newton MP, published in the West Briton
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 10:17
Thursday, 9 December 2010
The recent cold snap reminds us all of the importance of a warm home. Last week in Parliament I joined debates regarding the future of energy generation in the UK. For some time, I have been very concerned about our future energy security and dismayed that the UK has not had an adequate energy policy. We need a more sustainable energy mix, one that can meet our future needs and match our CO 2 emissions reduction ambitions while delivering affordable energy to industry and households.
We are currently overly reliant on imported fossil fuels from Russia and nuclear electricity from France, exposing us to the volatility of global energy markets. As resources become ever-scarcer and demand grows in emerging economies, we cannot risk deepening our dependence. We also face major challenges in power generation as old power stations close down.
We need £200 billion to replace our ageing infrastructure. We need a planning and regulation framework to enable the market to deliver the investment required. The plans to do this are taking shape and each week sees another piece in the energy policy jigsaw revealed and debated in Parliament. This week should see the publication of the Localism Bill that aims to find ways of balancing the needs of the country to build new infrastructure to support new energy generation with the needs of the local community that will be hosting them. At the moment, as we can see from the planning appeal process for the Truthan Wind Farm, I don’t believe this balance is not being fairly struck.
For people in Cornwall, who this week are living on very low incomes and worrying about how they are going to keep warm, help is needed now. While the government has kept the winter fuel allowance, cold weather payments as well as insisting energy providers make the lowest tariffs available for people in hardship, many people are still living in old, poorly insulated and cold homes and are not aware of the help that is available. Many of these ‘fuel poor’ households are the homes of elderly people.
Age Concern Cornwall offers advice on how to access the cheapest fuel deals, grants for insulation and has a Benevolent Fund for people who need help to pay their fuel bills. They do home visits or can be reached on 01872 266388. They have recently helped the victims of flooded homes. Some constituents have said to me: “I don’t need my winter allowance as I can afford to keep warm and I would rather the money was targeted at those who need it”. If you feel this way, please make a donation to Age Concern Cornwall and send it to: Age Concern Cornwall, Boscawen House, Chapel Hill, Truro, TR1 3BN. They will be able to ensure it is given to an elderly person who really needs to feel some warmth this winter.
Article by Sarah Newton MP, published in West Briton 9th December 2010
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 10:51
Wednesday, 8 December 2010
Sarah Newton MP will visit Royal Mail’s Falmouth delivery office on Friday 10th December to see for herself how postmen and women in the area get Christmas sorted.
The MP will take a tour of the delivery office to see how we deal with the mountains of festive mail. She will also chat to our hardworking staff who make sure they deliver a first class Christmas for Falmouth residents.
Sarah Newton will make an early start in order to meet Andy Hill, Delivery Office Manager, and some of the 59 postmen and women, who are responsible for ensuring that Falmouth’s massive Christmas mailbag is delivered to over 18,800 addresses at Royal Mail’s busiest time of year.
The visit will be in time to post any cards and presents for delivery before Christmas, with the last recommended posting date on Tuesday 21st December for First Class mail.
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 08:53
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton has received disappointing news from the Post Office. The decision to move the Falmouth branch, currently located on The Moor, to Market Strand has been upheld by the Post Office despite growing opposition to the proposals.
Sarah received a letter from the Post Office which acknowledged that the site on Market Strand had problems with traffic and narrow pavements which would prove difficult for elderly, disabled and other vulnerable customers. While the Post Office accepts responsibility for safe access into and within its premises, it does not accept any responsibility for the areas surrounding its branches.
Sarah Newton said: “It is clear to me from the Post Office’s response that it is shirking its responsibility to its most loyal customers who would find it difficult to access its branch in Falmouth. While it believes it has a duty of care once customers have passed through its doors, it does not care what happens to its customers on their way to and from its branch.”
Sarah went on to say “I am very disappointed by the disregard that the Post Office appears to be displaying towards its users. I have joined forces with Consumer Focus, the organisation that represents consumers, and will be escalating this formal complaint against the Post Office. I sincerely hope that they will reflect upon their ‘devil-may-care’ attitude and rethink their plans.”
In addition, Sarah will be writing to the Post Office to make an official complaint against the handling of this decision and will not simply allow this matter to rest. It is Sarah Newton’s opinion that the views and wishes of the general public have been neglected and this as well as escalating this complaint, Sarah will continue to post regular updates as to the future of Falmouth Post Office.
Monday, 6 December 2010
On Saturday 4th December Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton joined volunteers from the Truro Homeless Action Group (THAG), in putting up Christmas decorations at St Pauls Church Hall, Truro.
The Hall is used by THAG to offer Truro’s homeless a cooked breakfast, a cup of tea, and a friendly chat, every morning of the week. THAG’s volunteers serve a hot and filling meal to the homeless between 7.30 and 9.00, seven days a week, offering hot lunches on Christmas and Boxing Day.
THAG was founded by Ann Boorman and Paddy McParland eleven years ago, and was set up with the aim of providing the most vulnerable residents of Truro with a regular meeting place, and a good start to each day. For over a decade THAG has provided a degree of comfort and security for homeless people in Truro, contact details for homeless services being provided along with hot and nutritious meals.
However THAG faces an uncertain future. The Diocese of Truro, who own St Paul’s Hall, have recently informed THAG of their intention to sell the building. THAG are searching for an organisation prepared to lease the hall from the Diocese, whilst allowing THAG to continue to use the premises in the mornings and at weekends. If such an arrangement cannot be secured, THAG will be forced to find an alternative location from which to offer their morning breakfast service.
Commenting on the visit, Sarah Newton, who volunteered with THAG before her election, said:
“I was delighted to be able to come and decorate St Paul’s Church Hall, and to catch up with some of the volunteers who work so tirelessly for the homeless of Truro. The hot food, and even warmer welcome, provided by THAG every morning is needed more than ever before. People living in poor quality accommodation and who might well be lonely are also very welcome.”
A recent survey indicated that at least 36 people regularly sleep rough in Truro. Many of those people will continue to live on the streets as the weather worsens. THAG’s records show that in October alone, the volunteers at St Paul’s Church Hall served 209 hot breakfasts to 37 separate people.
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 12:59
Truro and Falmouth MP, Sarah Newton, has supported the Bill to conduct an evidence-based study into retaining British Summer Time (BST) all the year round. Changing the time is nothing new in itself and was first introduced in 1916 to help in the war effort. Winston Churchill himself altered the time zone to increase productivity during the Second World War.
The Daylight Savings Bill was proposed by the backbench MP Rebecca Harris, and called on the Government to conduct a comprehensive study into the benefits of keeping BST rather than changing the clocks twice a year. If such a change ever did come into effect, the result would be an extra hour of daylight in the evenings during the winter months and could bring a whole range of benefits.
Such advantages could be the saving of 80 lives a year which are lost in road traffic accidents, less electricity and gas being used in the evenings which would cut both costs and carbon emissions, and the majority of people would be able to have another hour of recreation in the evenings which would otherwise be spent indoors.
The Bill was put before the House of Commons on Friday 3rd December and was passed by a sizeable majority. Although the Bill does not actually change the time, it does compel the Government to establish a commission to investigate the possibility of altering the time across the whole of the UK. The Minister responding to the result, Ed Davey MP, stated that the views of the entire UK would have to be taken into account as changes could negatively affect certain areas such as northern Scotland.
Having voted in favour of the Bill, Sarah Newton said; “I have received more correspondence from my constituents on this issue than any other since I entered Parliament and almost all have asked me to support this study. Many of these constituents were from the medical profession and highlighted the number of lives that could be saved on Britain’s roads by having more light during rush hours. Others pointed to the environmental impact and a number of small business owners told me of the potential for increased sales.”
Sarah continued: “Government policy should be based on hard evidence and I believe it is correct that the Government should commission a study into the potential benefits that could be brought by changing our time zone.”
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 12:50
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Startling new evidence shows that one in 20 properties in Cornwall is in fact a second home. The figures from the National Housing Federation (NHF) confirm what many have long-believed to be true: that a large proportion of the housing stock in Cornwall is used for holiday homes and lets.
As a result of the confusing second home voter registration law and guidance, Cornwall Council faces great difficulty in establishing a person’s eligibility to vote in elections based upon their address and place of residence. Sarah Newton MP, Member of Parliament for Truro and Falmouth, highlighted this matter in the House of Commons. Speaking to the member of the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, Sarah received assurances that this issue would be thoroughly investigated, particularly as it affects Cornwall and Devon more than most other areas.
Sarah said: “The National Housing Federation’s findings serve only to support the importance of finding a resolution to this issue. We cannot have a situation in which the electoral register can be misused in this way. It is vital that only people who reside in a constituency or a ward can have the right to cast their ballot in that community. I will continue to ensure that the Government addresses this issue as a matter of urgency.”
Sarah was speaking up for the recent representations made by Cornwall Council to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who wrote that “The Council’s elections staff have issued written advice to all households in Cornwall based on the Electoral Commission’s guidance but this has led to a number of disputes with second home owners. The lack of clarity means that there may be some persons registered to vote who are not entitled to and others who have been denied the fundamental right to vote because they have not been registered when they should have been.”
Most of my time in Westminster each week is spent raising issues concerning constituents with Ministers. Each week I am aiming to sort-out a particular problem with government policy and change regulations or the law on behalf of constituents. There are a wide-range of ways I do this.
In the first instance, I write to Ministers explaining a situation and follow-this up with a conversation or meeting. Each day, on a rota, teams of Ministers representing the different departments of government come to the House of Commons to be asked questions by MPs and this is a good opportunity to raise specific constituency issues. In the last week or so I have asked Ministers, during these sessions about progress on the review of sentencing policy for crimes of paedophilia, for an update on progress on the implementation of renewable heat incentives for geothermal power generation and how passengers in Cornwall will benefit from the new investment in the railway.
Debates in the House are scheduled by the Government, the Opposition and as a new innovation in this Parliament, by the backbencher MPs. To secure the later, as a backbencher you join with colleagues and go along to a weekly ‘pitching session’. Backbenchers ‘pitch’ their ideas to an elected committee of their fellow backbenchers. This committee decides which topics will be debated. I have recently joined in debates on sustainable livestock farming, maternal health in pregnancy and this week will be joining debates about the regulation of financial services, the future of funding for school sports partnerships and potential changes to British Summer Time.
Finally, I can request of the Speaker a Westminster Hall Debate or an Adjournment debate which is held at the end of the business day on a topical issue of importance to individual MPS and their constituents. There is a great deal of competition for these debates and the Speaker of the House decides what will be debated. I am very pleased to have held a debate on the operation of the NHS in Cornwall. In these debates you have the un-divided attention of the Minister who has to respond to your case. I regularly join in Westminster Hall debates as they are focussed around a specific issue that is effected a number of constituencies around the country. Last week I join MPS raising the considerable problem of HMOs in university towns such as Falmouth and Penryn. I was able to make the specific point to the Minister that I felt in the forthcoming Localism Bill, town and parish councils should be deciding on HMO licensing as well as other types of licenses such as those concerning the sale of alcohol and entertainment.Constituents raise the issues that I take up to Westminster each week in a variety of ways. Some write to me or call my office, others come and see me in my advice surgeries or in Westminster. Please do get in touch if you feel there is something I can be doing to help you get your voice heard in Westminster.
Article by Sarah Newton, published in West Briton 2nd December 2010
Posted by Sarah Newton MP at 14:16