Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The need to renegotiate our relationship with the E.U

Call me old fashioned but I believe that since I have been given the honour of representing my constituents, I should do what I said I would do - implement the manifesto upon which I was elected. My constituents have a right to expect no less. They also have a right to expect that as events occur that I will respond. My responses to such events are formulated by listening to the views of my constituents and using my judgment to consider all sides of the argument and relevant evidence. That judgment is based on the best interests of my constituents and what will be in the common good.

On Monday we had a debate about the UK’s relationship with the EU. Having been a Conservative Party worker all my life I know how passionate some Conservatives can feel about the EU.

Many constituents told me they felt cheated by previous governments not following through on a promises of a referendum on EU treaties that passed considerable power from the UK to the EU. So emotions were  running high in Conservative hearts across the country as well as well as in the debate in Parliament on Monday.

A range of motions were put forward for debate. I supported the motion that called on the “Government to publish a White Paper (start of a Bill) in the next session of Parliament (May 2012) setting out the powers and cempetences that it would seek to repatriate from the EU, to commence a renegoitiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU and to put the outcome of those negotiations to a national referendum.” Sadly there was not a vote on this motion.

That we need to fundamentally change our involvement with the EU is without question. That the Government needs to cut us free from some quite ridiculous EU laws and regulations is a matter of urgency. That decisions concerning the well being of the people of this country should be made by their democratically elected representatives is what I campaigned for before the election and what I will continue to push the Government to do.

Measures to tackle the current debt crisis in some of the EU countries whose currency is the euro will require changes to EU treaties. Changes that in the near future will enable the Government to re negoitiate with partners to bring more decision making back from Brussels to Westminster.

To go back to what people voted for back in the 1970s – a mutually beneficial trading area not a European super state.

By reducing the money we spend on the EU, cutting back on unnecessary laws, regulations and red-tape we can improve our country’s competativeness and ability to trade with countries not only in the EU but around the world.

The majority of my constituents are worried about the future. About their jobs and pensions and jobs for their children and grand children. Above all, they want me and all other politicians to be focused on sorting out the mess our country is in - offering them hope that the sacrifices they are making are worthwhile.  

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Truro Trehaverne public meetings

Over the next month Fiona Ferguson, Cornwall Councillor for Truro Trehaverne, will be promoting two public meetings to discuss potential developments in the Truro Trehaverne ward.

The first will be held at Carrick House (Pydar Street) from 17.30 on the 9th November, and will allow members of the public to express their views on the application to build 5 houses and create a public open space between St Georges Villas and Bosvean Gardens.

The second meeting will be held at All Saints Church, Highertown, from 18.30 on the 23rd November. It will be a community workshop, to allow the public to discuss their ideas for the future of the old Richard Lander site.

Anyone requiring more information can contact Cllr Ferguson at Fiona@trehaverne or on 01326 375 969

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ensuring that the views of Falmouth shopkeepers are heard at Westminster

I was delighted to yesterday welcome a delegation from Falmouth BID, to join with me in meeting with the Government’s High Streets Tsar Mary Portas, to make the case for further support for small business:

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Falmouth-sends-invite-Mary-Queen-Shops/story-13599323-detail/story.html

Action on Human Trafficking in the UK

Congratulations to Cornwall’s Soroptimists, who on Saturday held a successful anti-slavery day in St Austell.

I welcome the Government’s ongoing efforts to tackle human trafficking, outlined by Home Office Minister Damien Green:

‘‘Human trafficking is a brutal crime which ruins lives, and which is appallingly one of the fastest-growing international criminal activities. Traffickers treat people like commodities. The message from the British Government is clear. The UK is not a safe haven for traffickers; they will be pursued and brought to justice.
We have signed up to international conventions against trafficking, and published our own national strategy in July. This will build on previous work helping victims by improving Britain's capacity to stop trafficking in the first place. It will provide more tools for those who are out there on the front line, tirelessly working to fight the traffickers. As Anti-Slavery Day approaches we can demonstrate that anger many British people feel about trafficking is reflected in Government policy.

Our work is focused on understanding the modus operandi of traffickers and identifying the threats. We are doing this at the same time as tightening up our immigration controls. Through better intelligence and joint working with law enforcement agencies around the world, we are raising the stakes for traffickers. The creation of the National Crime Agency will further improve our capacity by establishing a command which brings together general law enforcement and border policing to share intelligence and to mount joint operations. This will provide better protection for those trafficked into sex slavery or illegal working.
We want to stop vulnerable people from being duped into a life of exploitation and prevent them from becoming victims in the first place. So we are working with source countries like China, India, Slovakia and Albania, where we are educating and advising vulnerable people what to look out for. We have started a new programme in West Africa providing authorities with training to improve trafficking investigations and help with successful prosecutions.
 
Should victims be found in the UK, our National Referral Mechanism helps us identify their needs quickly and offer specialist care and support through the Salvation Army. We have protected £2 million per year to fund this victim care for adult trafficking victims.
This week, the Home Office and Department of Education will publish guidance for local authorities and the police on, for example, how to report potential victims and how to recognise the key indicators of trafficking.
Charity and voluntary organisations are often best placed to provide us with information from the ground and help us prevent this crime. So we have reached out to these groups to harness their expertise.

There is also a role for the private sector to play. Today - on Anti-Slavery Day itself - we are launching a new initiative with Virgin Atlantic who are providing cabin crew with training to help them spot potential traffickers and victims. I would urge other airlines to follow Virgin Atlantic's lead.

Trafficking has no place in a modern society. Anti-Slavery Day is a chance to reflect on the plight of those who fall victim to this terrible crime and remind ourselves of the role we can all play in stopping it.’’

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Congratulations to Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust

http://www.dcpt.co.uk/templates/template_23.asp?entity_id=8396&media_id=11559

Helping children to realise their potential

On 12 October the Government announced that it will be increasing the amount it is providing through the Pupil Premium this year for disadvantaged pupils in schools in England to £488 per pupil. Children from low income families generally do not achieve as well as those from more advantaged backgrounds. The Premium, which will be provided for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals in January 2011, will support schools in helping them in reaching their potential. The attainment of looked after children is also generally lower than average and the funding we are providing through the Premium for them will also be £488 per pupil.
In the constituency of Truro and Falmouth 38 schools will receive £625,421 for 2011-2012. Parents and others with an interest in school funding are able to access this information through the below link:


This is a significant investment  in helping children who need some extra help to reach their potential. The Pupil Premium was a key election pledge of the Conservative Party. It won’t make up for the fact that Cornwall’s schools have historically been under-funded as a result of national funding formulas favouring large, urban centres and I will continue to hold the Government to its word of correcting this unfairness as soon as possible.

Helping young people to stay in education after their sixteenth birthday and make the best choices that suit them is a key priority for schools, colleges as well as government local and national. I am delighted by the pro-active work in schools and colleges in this constituency to provide a wide-range of choices and help youngsters to make the most of the first class local opportunities for higher education. Since schools have become Academies, they have more freedom to work with their local community to provide opportunities for youngsters to reach their potential. Initiatives such as the compact between Penryn College and University College Falmouth are to be welcomed.

Affording to stay on in education can be a real issue for some young people and I welcome Cornwall Council’s initiative to supplement the funds being made by central government for the 16-19 Bursary Fund (the replacement for EMA). Although the new fund will deliver £1,208,590 to education providers across Cornwall in 2011-2012, I am sure any extra funds from Cornwall Council will be appreciated.  As the cost of transport can often be the greatest barrier to choosing the best course, I also welcome Cornwall Council’s approach to reviewing all the transport subsidies it provides. It provides funding not only for the National Concessionary Bus Pass Scheme but school and other transport. 

I was pleased to be able to represent the Council’s calls to central government to enable more flexibility in how they deliver subsidised transport in a debate in Parliament last week. Given the difficult financial situation, it is vitally important that Cornwall Council is  given the flexibility to work with local people to find new ways of delivering  vital public services.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Co-ordinating vital services

Most weeks of the year, I hold an advice surgery so that people can discuss their worries and problems with me face-to-face. Each week, I help people to tackle a wide range of problems. Resolving problems is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. These discussions as well as phone calls, letters and e:mails are immensely valuable to my work in Parliament. I am informed by the real experiences of the people I represent. Trying to ensure good policy developed by government actually delivers good services in Cornwall is a key part of my job.
Over the last year or so, I have met with parents or carers of children and young people with disabilities. I have also met with professionals dedicated to helping them. I have listened  to parents having to battle to get the support their child needs; support needed not joining up education, health and care support; children falling between the gaps in services or having to undergo multiple assessments; multiple layers of paperwork and bureaucracy adding delays to getting support, therapy and vital equipment; a confusing and adversarial assessment process, with parents’ confidence in the system undermined by the perceived conflict of interest where the local authority must provide SEN support (special educational need) as well as assess children’s needs. I have also listened to the frustrations of teachers and other professionals about the lack of co-ordination of services.

Earlier this year, the Government unveiled proposals which would mean the biggest programme of reform in the education and health support for children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities in 30 years. While the proposals received a warm welcome from many different groups of people, I am very much aware of the potential gap between the good intentions of government in London and what is actually experienced by people in Cornwall.
So, I was very pleased that Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust (the organisation that purchases NHS services for us) formed a partnership and applied to be a pathfinder to test the delivery of the reforms. Last week, I was delighted to learn that they have been chosen by the Government to help test proposed changes to services provided for disabled children and those with special educational needs. Each pathfinder will receive up to £150,000 per local authority per year.

Cornwall Council is quite right when it stated: “This gives us the chance to develop stronger partnerships with parents and disabled children and young people to move towards greater control and flexibility of the services they receive. Through personalisation and joint planning the journey from adolescence to adult hood for young disabled people will be much better and will mean health education and care working even more closely.
“Our new Health and Well Being Board will have a key role to play in making sure that the pathfinder makes the most of the health reforms that are on the way”.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cornwall pioneers new affordable housing scheme

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Cornwall-pioneers-equity-loans-help-families-buy/story-13462232-detail/story.html

Supporting manufacturing in Truro

http://www.falmouthpacket.co.uk/news/9281784.MP_visits_Truro_manufacturer/

Pressing for action on care funding

Who pays for care has vexed politicians for decades.

There has been no shortage of good ideas, based on evidence garnered from the
many government reviews and commissions over the years, but there has been a
failure in political will resulting in only limited action being taken.

However demographic change, and its impact, is now an issue that is moving
rapidly up the political agenda. All parties are now signaling a desire for a
long-term, all-party solution to our care crisis. It is clear that now is the
time to take action.

During the debates on the Health and Social Care Bill there was little dissent
from the view that the integration of health and social care is a good thing. In
the Budget debate there was no opposition to the proposal that NHS money should be given to councils to help them integrate services. The recent Dilnot Review was met by a broad coalition of support from a wide range of stakeholders, and was warmly welcomed by all political parties.

Week after week in debates in Parliament failings with today's provision are highlighted. The prospects of finding a long-term solution to the funding of long term care is better now than at any time in the past fifty years.

Who pays for care is just one of the questions the Government's reforms of
social care must address. There are issues of quality, regulation, training and
pay as well as choice. It is vital to ensure that care and health services work
closely together, and that our care laws are simplified to make it easier for
people to get the help they need.

We must never forget that informal carers provide more support than any
government could afford to pay for. The most recent research from the charity
Carers UK estimates that there are more than six million carers in the UK. The
care and support they provide to help people remain safely in their own homes is
valued at a staggering £119bn per year, which is far more than the annual cost
of all aspects of the NHS. Support to enable carers must be central to future
provision of services.

The Dilnot Review came up with a package of reforms that will require an extra
£1.7 bn a year that would rise with an aging population. To set this sum in
context; it represents 0.25% of government spending.

While I do not underestimate how difficult it will be to find this sum during
this Parliament, constructive ideas have been given to the Treasury as to how
this spending commitment could be achieved.

Consideration could be given to sourcing this sum from within government
departments. The NHS has already earmarked £1bn a year from its £100bn-plus
budget by 2014 to boost services which overlap with social care.  In parts of
England where services have been integrated, patient care has improved and
savings have been made as fewer people needed expensive hospital treatment.

Alternatives include, £3bn a year being raised through people who work past the
normal retirement age paying national insurance contributions or through an
across the board rise of 0.25% in contributions.

The Government has committed to produce a White Paper by Easter and this week I spent my time at the Conservative Party Conference working with the many people who are playing an important role in building momentum and consensus for
vitally important change.