Thursday, 22 December 2011

Thank you to all those working for the community over Christmas

By the time you read this, Parliament will be in Recess and I will be joining those of you making last minute preparations for Christmas. I consider my self very fortunate to be sharing Christmas with not only my own family but also my sisters. Like all other families we will also be remembering and giving thanks for the family members that have passed on.

During the last few days before the Recess shopping was on the Parliamentary agenda too. Christmas is an important time for our high street retailers and last week saw the publication of the Portas Review of the future of the high street.  With more people using the internet for shopping, there is real concern for the future of our local shops.

I was delighted that the experience and ideas of our BIDs teams in Truro and Falmouth was recognized by the review. Both are important shopping centres,  along with villages such as St Agnes and Porthscatho where retailers have worked really hard to ensure vibrant and enjoyable shopping.

I have been a firm supporter of Business Improvement Districts(BIDS) since their introduction. BIDs  enable local businesses to raise money and spend it as they choose, as they work in partnership with others to support shopping centres.

Falmouth and Truro are distinct shopping experiences, yet are equally successful in creating festivals and events that also help develop a sense of community. The respective BID teams at the same time, along with the town and city council, work hard to keep the built environment clean, tidy and attractive.

The Government has committed to carefully considering the recommendations of the Portas Review and I hope Cornwall Council will too. Much of the support for our town centres need is in the hands of our locally elected Cornwall Councillors.

On the last day of Parliament I led a debate on the new rail franchise for Cornwall. Early in the New Year the process for deciding which companies run our local rail services starts. I am determined to ensure that the service meets the needs of my constituents and am pushing for improvements. I am very pleased by the support I received from colleagues of all political parties from across the south-west.

Of course Christmas is so much more than shopping and festivities and the initiative of Truro Cathedral to remind us at this special time to remember all those less fortunate than ourselves and donate what we can to help them is much appreciated.

I want to personally thank all those constituents who will be working over Christmas and the New Year to help those in need, and to protect our community. From our armed services and emergency services, to those at St Petrocs providing shelter to the homeless and the many people who will be volunteering to cook a meal for homeless people or inviting a neighbour to share a meal or just spend some time together.

While this is a difficult time for everyone, with so much uncertainty about the future, in the company of friends and family there is still much to be thankful for.

Superfast broadband rolled out across Truro and Falmouth

I am delighted that a  growing number of my constituents can now access superfast broadband, I look forward to the roll-out spreading to other communities across Truro and Falmouth

Monday, 19 December 2011

Councils given greater control over business rates

I have been campaigning on this issue since my election and I am pleased that the Government has recognised the benefits that more localised control of business rates will bring:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mary Portas Review into the future of UK High Streets published

Speaking up for Cornwall's Farmers

Congratulations to the Chairman of the Truro Primestock Show Jonathan McCulloch and the great team of volunteers who organize this annual treat. I was so sad to miss this very special occasion as I had to be in Parliament.

The Fat Stock Show is a great opportunity to bring people of all ages closer to the farming community that surrounds us in west Cornwall. Supporting the growing and producing of more food in our country are important aims for me. In this part of Cornwall we have high quality food and drinks producers who quite rightly pride themselves on buying as many of their ingredients as possible from local farmers. 

I am very proud to represent the home of Rowes pasties and baked goods, a company that not only uses local ingredients but exports that quality taste of Cornwall all over the country with its hard won contracts with leading supermarkets.

I am equally proud to represent the home of Healey’s and Skinners as well as a host of farmers and food producers from asparagus and strawberry growers to sausage makers, chocolatiers and bakers. No one is immune for the current difficult economic situation and I think it is more important than ever to support local businesses – including our farmers and food producers.

I regularly meet with the local National Farmers Union and their members and a consistent complaint is the cost of regulations imposed upon them by the EU in Brussels. Even more annoying is when the UK goes ahead and implements EU directives that have large costs for the producers and other EU countries don’t. British farmers are then at a competitive disadvantage. Also as British farming tends to have much higher standards of animal welfare, I get very annoyed that cheaper EU imports make their way into the food we eat from producers that are using methods that do not have animal welfare at their heart.

Some time ago I met with a local egg producer who told me about just such a situation. He has invested a great deal of money to meet new EU laying hen welfare standards. Thirteen other EU countries, including Spain, Italy and Poland have ignored the new rules. Of course his eggs will be more expensive as a result and I shared his concern that the UK would be flooded with cheap EU eggs.  At the moment we are relatively self-sufficient in eggs, over eighty five percent of the eleven billion eggs consumed in the UK every year coming from British farms.

I have taken up this issue with the Minister for Farming Jim Paice and was pleased with the progress he has made in protecting our local egg producers. The Government has secured an agreement with the British Retail Consortium, which covers a huge range of businesses including Tesco, MacDonalds and Starbucks. The agreement guarantees that conventional caged eggs from non-compliant EU countries will not be bought by the major retailers or used as ingredients in their own brand products. Rigorous checks on EU eggs coming into the UK will also be imposed, checks which will detect eggs produced in non-compliant countries. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Free childcare to help more families

I am delighted that as of last September, the Government has increased the free entitlement of childcare to 15 hours per week for all three to four year olds.  This is being extended so that 140,000 two year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds will have free childcare by 2013-14.

It is vital that we give children the very best start in life and this provision of extra help will do just that.  The new arrangements will mean that parents can balance their work and home life while their children are being looked after.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Britons are more self-reliant

 According to the National Centre for Social Research’s Social Attitudes Survey, Britons are becoming more self-reliant.

I believe that this clearly shows that people across the country want to take responsibility for their own lives and their own communities.  Reward must be a result of effort and the “something for nothing” culture is being rightly rejected by the nation.

A link to the survey can be found here:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Basic State Pension Up-rated

I welcome the announcement by the Pension Minister that the basic state pension will be up-rated.

This will mean that a single person will expect to receive an increase of £5.30 per week, giving them a total of £107.45.

The Government has protected the triple lock guarantee whereby the basic state pension rises either in line with earnings, prices or 2.5 percent.

A link to the Minister’s statement can be found here:

Progress on building more homes, and improving our existing housing stock

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rebalancing our economy

Last week in Parliament was focussed upon the economy in the UK and in Europe. One of the first acts of the Coalition Government was to introduce the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. This leading group of independent forecasters reviews the performance of the UK economy as well as the impact of government policy such as taxes and cuts in public expenditure. Gone are the days when the government of the day could 'cook the books' or manipulate data to suit their own argument. Members of the public can now freely obtain accurate and up to date economic information, showing the state of our economy. 

You don't have to be a leading economist to understand the message that data spells out; we are now all being affected by the legacy of the years of this country living beyond its means. Tackling this legacy will be painful and it will take time. As with any household or business that spends more than it brings in year after year, eventually decisive and painful action has to be taken to sort out the debts that have accumulated. 

My priority is to make sure that this pain is fairly distributed, with those most able to make the greater contributions to the national push to tackle our debt being required to do so while vulnerable people and those earning the lowest incomes being protected.

Part of the reforms needed to balance the nation’s income and expenditure needs to come from public sector employees’ pension schemes. At present, public service pension benefits continue to outpace both private scheme benefits and the contributions that are collected to fund them, with taxpayers’ money meeting the difference. Building on the reforms of the last government, John Hutton the Labour Minister for Pensions has developed an action plan for this government. These reforms, and their effect upon the differing pension schemes of separate groups of public sector workers, are now being negotiated. To tackle the lack of factual information a website has been set-up to enable people to see what is being proposed. This website can be accessed through  

It is very important to me that reforms to public sector pension schemes acknowledge the valuable contribution public sector workers make to our society enable people to have the time to adjust their personal plans and protect those on low incomes. I encourage affected constituents to raise their individual concerns with me so I can continue to take them up with the Government.

Despite the bad news on the economy, it is important to remember the Government’s vision for the future. Everyday, I am working with Ministers to re-balance our economy away from London-centric financial services into growing and producing more food, generating more of our own energy and producing innovative goods and services to export to the growing economies of the world.

In Cornwall we have private and social enterprises that are growing in expanding parts of the economy such as renewable energy, science, technology and creative industries. Just last week I was delighted to join Vince Cable MP at Engineered Arts in Penryn, a pioneering robotics company that exports to NASA, S.Korea and China.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Welcoming a new era for Cornwall’s leisure services

Congratulations to Carrick Leisure, who will now operate leisure services formerly run by Cornwall Council:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tackling the sexual exploitation of children

Last week I welcomed the launch of an action plan to tackle the sexual exploitation of children, which contains a number of measures that I had previously called upon the Government to adopt. This is a far more widespread problem than many of us like to accept.
Just after I was elected I was shocked by the discovery of groups of men living here who had committed these horrendous crimes. I met with the local police and professionals working with young people whose painstaking and careful work led to these criminals being detected and prosecuted. I took their experiences directly to the Minister responsible for developing the plan. I believe that it is vitally important that professionals working hard to deliver our public services should be involved in the development of policy.
The plan outlines forty six separate proposals which will further enable the prosecution of child abusers and enhance the protection of abuse victims and those at risk of abuse.
Earlier this year I presented Justice Secretary Ken Clark with evidence that the judicial system was failing victims of child sexual abuse, as children giving evidence against abusers were often subject to intimidating cross-examinations in court.  I argued that such intimidation saw many children break down, weakening their testimony, and making it easier for their abusers to go free. I called for urgent change to the judicial system to avoid such intimidation of children giving crucial testimony.
This change is now proposed in the action plan on child sexual exploitation, which puts forward reforms that would change the treatment of children in court. The reforms include a proposal, to be considered further by the Department of Justice, that the cross examination of children should take place in private, with recordings being then shown to the court.
In addition for pressing for more co-ordination of professionals working with children via the local safeguarding children’s boards, I have also campaigned for longer prison sentences for those found guilty of sexually abusing children. Last month I welcomed the Department of Justice announcement that sexual offences against children will now be placed in the category of ‘most serious sexual and violent offences, meaning that any person convicted of child sex offences for a second time will be liable to receive a mandatory life sentence.
The action plan on child sexual exploitation confirms this change, and pledges that new extended sentences will be imposed upon first time offenders. The plan also instructs the Crown Prosecution Service to improve the effectiveness of its prosecutions against child abusers.
Improving our local rail services is another issue that I consistently work hard to deliver. I was pleased that the popular Maritime Line whose passenger numbers have grown over 90% since 2007 will have an extra carriage from next year – easing overcrowding.
Department of Transport has signed an agreement with First Great Western with Cornwall Council and the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership contributing to the funding required.
The extra carriage is part of a wider effort by First Great Western and the Department of Transport to enhance rail capacity across the South West, First Great Western now operate over fifty more vehicles across the region than specified in their franchise.