Friday, 30 March 2012

Cornwall Celebrates!

I think this bulletin from the Cornish Development Company focusing on the great things happening in Cornwall is worth sharing with you all.  I am particularly pleased to see Devoran Gig Club and A&P Falmouth flying the flag for the Truro and Falmouth constituency

· named Cornwall as the top ‘Staycation Destination’ in the UK
·         Cornish Pasty named ‘World’s Best Street Food’ by the March 2012 edition of Lonely Planet
·         Holiday lettings company Classic Cottages has been recognised as one of the top two self-catering companies in the UK by consumer guide ‘Which?
·         Cornwall dominates Trip Advisor’s Top Ten UK Beaches and St Ives makes the 10 Ten European Beaches list (6)
                    1        St Ives
     2        Newquay
     8        Padstow
AND Travellers’ Choice Beach Destinations:
     4        St Ives
     7        Bude
     10      Padstow
·         Cornwall Council enjoyed success by winning two of the five categories it was nominated in at this year’s Local Government Chronicle Awards – the Local Government equivalent of the Oscars.
·         St Agnes-based Dental Precision won the title of ‘Elite Dental Laboratory’ in the large laboratory category at the Elite Practice Awards.
·         St Austell Brewery has been named Regional Brewery of the Year at The Publicans’ Supplier Awards.
·         Flying the FLAG for Cornwall & Isles of Scilly£1.13 million of European Fisheries Fund (EFF) money has been secured to support the sustainable development of fishing communities in Cornwall & Isles of Scilly.
·         Heartlands grand openingHeartlands, “the UK’s first cultural playground”, will open its doors to the public on Friday April 20, it has been announced.
·         Row, Row Row your boatDevoran Gig Club veterans will be taking a gig up to London as they have been selected to take part in the Jubilee Thames Regatta alongside 1,000 other vessels
·         TRAC-ed in national rankingAn independent research report analysing the top companies within the UK Healthcare Consultants Industry ranked Cornish Regulatory Affairs specialist TRAC as the 21st fastest growing company in terms of sales growth for 2011.  TRAC has recorded an increase of over 300% in its international sales so far this year.
·         Cornwall Today nominated in national awards
Cornwall Today has received a nomination at the 2012 Newspaper Awards, in the category of Regional Supplement/Magazine of the Year.
·         Butchers’ academy will put Cornwall at cutting edgeA new academy to train the next generation of butchers is being built in Cornwall as part of a £600,000 expansion by the Brian Etherington Meat Company Ltd.  The first intake of students will be from Fifteen at Watergate Bay
·         Celeste Copper unveils "significant" drill results from Cornish projectThe drill results from the Dolcoath area the show high polymetallic grades, and a number of wide intersections of tin, copper, zinc, tungsten and indium mineralization.
·         Deli Farm wins Olympic contractDelabole-based Deli Farm Charcuterie has beaten off hundreds of hopefuls across the country in the race to supply athletes and visitors with the best of British foods for the London Olympics.
·         Cornish design studio wins major project for new £40m hotel group
Nixon is celebrating the start of 2012 by winning a major new contract for a £40m national hotel group, Halcyon Hotels and Resorts, which will involve them rebranding and creating new websites for seven luxury hotels situated across the UK
·         Superfast MilestoneA quarter of all Cornish homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband. 66,000 Cornish premises can now receive the service, with the technology operating in 35 of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly’s 100 telephone exchange areas.
·         Furgo Seacore MASTer offshore windFugro Seacore have announced that they have signed a contract relating to the design, build and installation of an offshore met mast to record and monitor site conditions on the proposed Rampion Offshore Wind Farm site in the English Channel.
·         Sunshine on a cloudy day
Piran Technologies has won a place on the newly-unveiled Government G-Cloud Framework to supply cloud computing services to Government departments, councils and other public sector bodies.

      A&P wins Grimaldi contract A&P Falmouth has won a multi-million pound contract with   the   Italian ship owner Grimaldi. The new contract was won against stiff competition from several shipyards throughout Europe. It marks a milestone in A&P’s ten-year partnership with Grimaldi, taking the total number of Grimaldi ships repaired by the A&P Group to 50, the majority of which have been in Falmouth.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Action on TEDC

Below is a link to a West Briton article published today detailing the actions I have taken in representing the views of the many constituents who have contacted regarding TEDC:

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My work on Local BBC Cuts

The article below from the Western Morning News centres on the work I am doing to preserve the important BBC local services in England:

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Westminster Faith Debates Pt. 3

I would encourage you to take a look at the next in the ongoing series of Westminster Faith Debates, asking, ‘What Role for Religious Organisations in an era of Shrinking Welfare?’

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

The Alcohol Strategy

 I welcome the Government’s alcohol strategy and in particular the new licensing powers. At the time Labour brought in 24 hour licensing it was heralded as a new era of European ‘cafe culture’. Instead we have town centres blighted by a culture of cheap booze fuelled anti-social behaviour. The price has been high in terms of alcohol related illness, injury and violence as well as huge amounts of taxpayers money for the NHS and the policing. The paramedics, staff at A&E as well as the police officers that have to deal with the consequences of too much cheap booze are to be admired. Local councils have been handed back the powers they need to clamp down on licensing in their areas, powers that will crucially also cover supermarkets.    

Below are links to both the Alcohol Strategy itself, and also to my contribution to the debate on Friday 23 March concerning this:

My Call for a Probe into Rural Fuel Prices

Below is a link to a Western Morning News story on the work I am carrying out to investigate the profiteering in rural fuel prices, an issue that is of vital importance to many in my constituency:

‘Pasty Tax’

I am very concerned about the ‘Pasty Tax’ and the impact this could have on Cornwall. I am urgently raising this with the Treasury to try and secure a resolution. Please see the link and extract from Hansard below for my actions on this yesterday:

‘Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s cue. Creative industries are vital to Cornwall, but so is creating high-quality food products. There is growing concern throughout Cornwall about the possible unintended consequences of the Budget and about the undoubtedly real threat to the Cornish pasty of the pasty tax. May I seek my hon. Friend’s reassurance that the concerns of pasty makers in my constituency are being listened to and that a solution can be found?

Edward Vaizey (Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills): I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, which I know the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will respond to fully when he winds up. I congratulate her county on receiving the award for being Britain’s best tourist destination for the third year, and I congratulate her on the extraordinary energy with which she represents her constituency. She and I have had many meetings to discuss various issues in her constituency. [ Interruption. ] You are looking at the clock, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I shall wrap up; however, let me tell my hon. Friend that I hear what she says about the Cornish pasty issue, and I am assured that the Treasury is looking at it seriously.’

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Budget

Many people in my constituency work in public services and all, apart from those earning less than £21,000, are facing another year of pay freezes. I also know that many people in local businesses are also not getting pay rises. That is why I am very pleased that in the Budget last week the Chancellor increased the amount of money people earn before they pay tax.
It rose to £9,205, which for an average person or family will mean a saving of £220 a year. The aim is to get to £10,000 as soon as possible.
I was however disappointed that fuel tax will go up by 3p in August. For the past two years, the Chancellor had frozen the fuel duty rises planned by Labour saving the average family £144. I will not stop arguing for my constituents who are particularly hard hit by high fuel prices. In the debate on the Budget I specifically asked the Government to refer the high local pump prices to the Office of Fair Trading. Pump prices in regions like Cornwall are much higher than the UK average, indicating that the regional fuel market is not working in the best interests of customers.
Two years ago I made similar representations to Ministers about shocking rises in heating oil prices. An enquiry by the OFT followed, action was taken and thankfully this winter we did not see a repeat of rapid price hikes.
This week the basic state pension will rise by 5.2% up to £107.45 a week, an increase that will amount to an extra £275.60 in the pockets of pensioners over the next year.  The married couple’s pension will also rise, from £163.35 to £171.85.
This is due to the Government’s imposition of a ‘triple lock’ on the state pension, ensuing that every year the state pension will rise in line with either wages, inflation or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest.
A range of other benefits for older people, including the free bus pass, warm home discount, free prescriptions, eye checks and Winter Fuel Payment, remain.  
However, there will be a change to the tax system for pensioners - in the future, as the personal allowance (the money you can earn before you pay tax) increases, it will become the same however you earn your money – whether through paid employment or when you are a pensioner from income on savings or investments. At the moment it is higher for pensioners. No pensioner who currently receives the higher allowance will lose it. It will be frozen at the current level. This effects less than half of all pensioners as most do not pay tax at all.
These are very tough times and all the ‘grannies’ and for that matter grandfathers I know care more than anything else about their children and grand children. They know that we have to get the economy sorted and the country back on its feet so we all have a future to look forward to.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Raising the tax threshold and closing loopholes are priorities

In the week before the Budget you will not be surprised to learn that I joined many informal meeting to press the case for my constituents’ priorities. Top of my list is the need to keep the cost of living down by not increasing taxation - especially the taxation of fuel. This is a major problem for my constituents, particularly for manufacturers in Cornwall who have to get their goods to markets up country and overseas.  For families bringing their cars on holiday to the West Country the extra cost of choosing Cornwall over Devon can also be a deterrent.

I also pressed the Chancellor to increase the amount of money people can earn before paying tax. This I believe will put more money into the pockets of  those that need it most – people working for low and middle incomes as well as pensioners. I understand that there are many people in my constituency who are really feeling the pinch and struggling to make ends meet as a result of the measures we have had to take to get our economy back on its feet and to get back to living within our means.  I want to make sure every penny of tax payers money is spend wisely and not wasted.

Large savings are being made by cutting out waste, for example in the NHS computer management information systems.  Money saved is ploughed back into local services such as the A & E department at Treliske. It is encouraging that the latest official figures show that since the 2010 General Election, there are 2,500 more doctors, 200 more nurses and 3,500 fewer managers working in the NHS across the country.‪‪ Whilst managers play an important role, under Labour their numbers increased at six times the rate of nurses.

I am reassured that the Chancellor shares my outrage at the tax loop holes that the wealthiest people find to avoid paying taxes.  He is determined to close these loopholes as soon as possible. More than ever we need entrepreneurs and business people, in large and small businesses to work hard, create jobs and wealh.

On Friday, I enjoyed spending the morning with the Friends of the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Capably navigated around the hospital by the Chairman Beatrice Dyer, it was a pleasure to meet volunteers and staff and look at the wide range of improvements  that the donations of the Friends have made.

These improvements have made a real difference to the quality of the working environment for staff as well as improving the experience of being a patient at Treliske. The Pheonix Appeal is already making a difference.

Every day there are about 37 volunteers working in the hospital and overall there are 650 volunteers. As the Chairman of the hospital trust told me – they play a vitally important role. So thank you to all those people who make a donation and join in the fundraising activities as well as those that give so freely of their time.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Burial and cremation fee rise postponed by Cornwall Council

I am pleased to see that Cornwall Council is looking again at its proposed increase in burial and cremation fees:

Monday, 19 March 2012

My evening at the Cornish Music Festival

I was delighted to be invited to compare the Gala Performance of the Cornish Music Festival on Saturday 17 March.
The Cornwall Music Festival includes a wide range of competitions for both young people and adults; soloists and groups. It also includes singers, musicians and storytellers. The festival has grown over the years so that it now offers over 200 classes for musicians and speakers of all ages to demonstrate their skills, including for this year, three Cornish language spoken competitions, and a new class for dialogues in Cornish. 
This was an inspirational evening where I was able to listen to some of the talented young people of Cornwall and give some real appreciation for their teachers and supporters.

Friday, 16 March 2012

My first day as a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee...

As a member of the Science and Technology Committee, I was delighted to take part in the ‘Voice of the Future 2012’ scheme organised by the Society of Biology. This unique event saw young scientist and engineers quiz Ministers and member of the Committee on important scientific issues:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

New Chair of Women’s Business Council Appointed

I welcome this initiative by the Home Secretary to drive women’s contribution to economic growth:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Ensuring Britain is s Good Place to Grow Old in...

Last week in Parliament I led the debate about how together we are going to ensure that Britain is a good place to grow old in.
One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century was a significant increase in life expectancy.  The challenge for the 21st century is to address the consequences of this increase, to re-design the way we care for elderly people, or adults living with chronic illnesses and disability, so they can live as full a life as possible.
Let’s be honest – if we were designing services to support families caring for their elderly and disabled family members - would we have designed the system we have today?  Despite the undoubted good intentions of previous parliaments, our system has developed in fits and starts, since the 1920s- it is disjointed and does not  deliver the joined-up  help for the cared for or the carers. It can be utterly frustrating for care and health professionals.
 It has been estimated a total of £145 billion a year of public money is spent on the elderly in social care, the NHS and welfare payments - that is £3,000 for every man, women and child in this country.  It does not feel to me like elderly people and their carers are receiving the quality of services and care that such a sum could provide if were spent differently -more effectively.
Growing old or living with an illness and disability is frightening for too many people today. Frightening for the people that love them too. There is fear about the quality of care they will receive from the NHS and social services and fear about if they will have to pay and how will they afford it.
We need to alleviate as much of this fear as possible by creating services and ways of paying for them that are fair and easily understood by people of all ages and that deliver high quality care and support to carers. Services in which those that are employed feel respected and appreciated.
To achieve this requires a vision and a plan that everyone understands. A plan that is fair. A route from where we are today to where we want to be. It then requires all political parties over a period of time to implement it. This will deliver the lasting, consistent and sustainable reform that, despite many good intentions, has eluded all Governments for many years.
I believe the Government has recognised the challenge and has taken a number of steps forward; there is a pledge in the Coalition Agreement to reform care services and funding. Delivering this will very much depend on the determination of the Opposition to work constructively with the Government.
While a longer term solution is found to the current  issues, more public money is being given to the NHS and councils to work together to deliver joined-up services for people and their carers. In 2012-2013 our local NHS is getting £ 941.8 million, a cash increase on last year of £25.7m, and Cornwall Council Adult Social Care and Support is benefiting from an additional £7.5 million of funding.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

£60m Rural Economy Grant Scheme

I just wanted to make you aware of a new £60m grant scheme for rural entrepreneurs that the government launched earlier this month.
This is an exciting new scheme whereby rural businesses can apply for individual grants which could range from £25,000 to more than £1m each.  The objective is to support the businesses in increasing competitiveness and profits.
This announcement is part of a broader £165m package we are delivering to unlock the economic potential of our rural areas. It is further proof of how this Government is investing in our rural economy, supporting our countryside and driving growth in rural businesses. It also demonstrates this Government’s appreciation that we need to foster a growing and robust rural economy - for the benefit of both rural communities and the economy more widely.  This contrasts sharply with the approach of the previous Government.
Applications for grants are now being accepted and further information is available at:

ShelterBox Joins Rapid Disaster Response Network

Shelterbox, a Cornwall based charity which I have supported and championed in Parliament, has today joined a network of experts who can be called on by the UK Government in times of international crisis, such as famine, floods and earthquakes.
This is absolutely fantastic news, for more information see their website below:

The End of Port Taxes

I am really pleased to see that the government has waived port taxes from 31 March, fulfilling a pre-election promise, and meaning that five firms in Falmouth will save £314,000. This is money that can now be ploughed back into their businesses, helping the local economy as a whole.

NHS Funding Success!

I am delighted to see that the government has allocated more funding to the NHS in the Southwest, in particular an additional £1.2 million to Treliske Hospital to improve its emergency department.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Bookstart 20

In the last 20 years Bookstart, a programme is run by Booktrust, an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books, has given out over 30 million free books and parental tips and guidance to 8 million children across the UK.

 The programme is enabled by funding from the Department for Education and the devolved governments in Northern Ireland and Wales, with the generous sponsorship of more than 25 children's publishers. 

It is coordinated, resourced and delivered locally via enthusiastic local public services professionals, including health visitors, library staff and early years professionals.

I think this programme and the thinking behind it is an absolutely fantastic idea, and to celebrate Bookstart’s 20th anniversary, I am pledging to share at least 20 books in 2012.

More on Bookstart and the Bookstart 20 campaign, can be found here:

Employment News

With the government’s Work Experience scheme in the news recently, I am pleased to see that we have already added three major new firms to the scheme this week – Airbus, Hewlett Packard and Center Parcs. Around 200 smaller firms have also come forward to express interest in supporting the scheme in the past two weeks, and this added support really goes to show that critics of the programme just don’t have their facts right!

I think the article from the Telegraph, linked to below, provides an excellent argument for the positive aspects of the Work Experience scheme:

Although I would add that the term ‘Workfare’ is an American idea that is not what this Work Experience scheme is about.

Also great news today from Nissan, who are creating 2,000 new jobs with a new plant in Sunderland.

South West Water parent company Pennon Group wins Achievement in Sustainability Award

South West Water parent company Pennon Group wins Achievement in Sustainability Award

I am delighted to see that South West Water’s parent company, Pennon Group, has won the Achievement in Sustainability Award at the annual Public Limited Company Awards.

Judges highlighted a number of achievements in managing sustainability issues at South West Water including:-

·         Environmental improvement projects – 90.3 per cent of bathing waters meet the European Union “excellent guidelines” up from 84 per cent in 2009;

·         Increased “upstream thinking” – working with farmers and landowners to promote good catchment management; and

·         Generating power through gas capture from anaerobic digestion plants at wastewater treatment works.

Monday, 5 March 2012

A busy week in the run up to St. Piran's Day!

The Government is determined to maximize the economic potential of rural communities and businesses. The Rural Economy Growth Review was announced last week and sets out a £165 million package of measures, including cutting red tape, to further support rural communities.  
These measures include the creation of Rural and Farming Networks, which will ensure that rural businesses will have a hotline to the heart of Government, allowing them to directly shape future rural policies. Networks will bring together people from rural communities, rural businesses and the food and farming industries.
Each group will be a point of contact providing feedback to Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) on a range of topics including the impact of local emergencies – such as flooding -  so that the right kind of assistance can be provided to keep businesses running.
Last week, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were among the first fourteen new rural networks set-up by the Government to identify and feedback local issues and concerns straight to the heart of Government. Cllr Bert Biscoe is the first Chairman of this new network in Cornwall and I wish him and the team well in this vitally important work.
It was a great pleasure to take Chris Grayling MP, Minister for Employment to meet with staff at Truro Job Centre Plus, and at Work Programme providers Working Links and Ground Work South West; organizations that provide one-to-one help for people to look for work and get into work. We heard first hand, from people of all ages who have been out of work for some time, about how the Work Programme is helping them to secure full time employment.  
We also met young people who were very positive about the work experience they had experienced with a wide range of local employers. More than 50% of young people who have undertaken the Government’s scheme have found full-time jobs with more than 60% with the firm that gave them the work experience.
Also last week I supported the Water Bill that will enable a £50 rebate on every SW Water domestic water bill starting next April. The unfairness of water bills in Cornwall has been raised for many years but this is the first time a Government has taken real action. The Bill also includes further financial and other assistance for the hardest pressed and vulnerable households in the region.
I will continue to push Ministers to consider extending the rebate to very small businesses such as B& Bs and tackle the problems experienced by people who occupy sheltered accommodation or live in houses of multiple occupancy that share one unmetered water bill. People living in these types of home can apply for an “assessed charge” which can lead to significantly reduced bills, but few do.
Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed popping into some of the St Piran’s Day celebrations on Perranporth and joining the parade in Truro.

Environment Minister Promotes Rural Living

Environment Minister Richard Benyon visited Devon and Cornwall at the end of February to discuss rural issues and how to stop pubs, schools and firms closing.  A summary of this visit, from the Western Morning News, can be read by following the link below.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Supporting the Cornwall Hydration Innovation Project

I was delighted to recently meet with Lord Howe and Naomi Campbell RGN, a front line nurse from Falmouth Hospital, to discuss the important work Naomi has been conducting on the Cornwall Hydration Innovation Project.

 Naomi has spent the last three years of her own time developing practical and cost effective solutions to help tackle the long term problem of dehydration in elderly care settings. Her knowledge and understanding of dehydration is now recognised at a national level and she has been invited to join several national steering groups including the All Parliamentary Hydration Forum, Chaired by Baroness Sally Greengross at the House of Lords.

Naomi has been commissioned to write for national nursing journals and attracted interest from Australia and the USA where dehydration is also a major concern.

 Above all else, Naomi’s work is focused on finding new innovative ways to ensure patients are given enough help to drink, according to their individual needs.  “As a result of my studies I have identified several weaknesses in the systems and processes that support hydration care. I firmly believe my project will help create new ways of thinking - resulting in new resources, equipment and training to help all nursing staff and organisations provide consistent best practice and improve the quality of care.

Naomi says “trying to help elderly people to drink adequate amounts of fluids can be very challenging, it requires significant nursing time, gentle encouragement, patience and physical assistance. I became particularly interested in hydration after nursing my terminally ill mother at home and having an idea for a simple drinking aid. Only by nursing someone do you truly understand ‘just how difficult it can be to help someone to drink.’ However, there can be absolutely no excuse for leaving drinks out of reach or letting people die from lack of water.

Helping our elderly and vulnerable patients to drink more could prevent thousands of avoidable emergency admissions or increased length of stay due to falls, urine infections and confusion etc. Dehydration costs the NHS billions each year; the human suffering is immeasurable.”

The project is supported by NHS Innovations (South West) who helped her secure a grant from the Regional Innovation Fund.  Naomi is also delighted to be working closely with the elderly care organisation ‘Cornwall Care’ who are hugely supportive of her project aims and will be actively involved in trialling new equipment and assessment skills. It is hoped the findings of the trials in Cornwall will help shape a future national policy for hydration.

Naomi works part-time as a senior minor injuries unit nurse and is the founder and an active member of a multi disciplinary ‘Paediatric emergency care network’ which is now in its third year. However, her long term ambition is to also to create a working role focused on hydration care.

I am really pleased to see this project develop and think it is a real ‘one to watch’ going forward in terms of caring for some of our most vulnerable people.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Bill Progress...

I was pleased to be present at a debate with other Southwest MPs regarding the £50 annual rebate from Southwest Water due to be brought into play from 2013 for the duration of the spending review. This is an unprecedented positive measure and a real step in the right direction!

The link below goes direct to the Hansard transcript of the debate:

A reassurance on insurance costs for Truro Cathedral

I was delighted to be able to get a reassurance from the Church Commissioner about the current situation surrounding the affordability of insurance for Truro Cathedral, which so many of my constituents have worked hard to raise funds for.  The extract below is from Hansard:

What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to ensure that cathedrals are able to access insurance.[97364]

The Church Commissioners are aware of the increasing demands that cathedrals are making on their insurance policies, especially as a consequence of metal theft. The majority of cathedrals are insured by Ecclesiastical Insurance and so far no Cathedral has ever been refused any insurance claim by Ecclesiastical, which is working extremely hard with all cathedrals to assist in reducing the problem of metal theft.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, because there has been alarming coverage in the press of cathedrals being unable to insure themselves. People in my constituency work very hard to raise the necessary funds to support Truro cathedral and its vital work in the community, so will my hon. Friend keep ensuring that cathedrals can afford insurance?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. Cathedrals have not been immune from thefts within and without and only recently a silver cross was stolen from the Lady chapel in Manchester cathedral. Each time this happens, it puts up the costs of insurance in all cathedrals, including the much-loved Truro cathedral in my hon. Friend’s constituency. That is why we have to bear down on metal theft.'