Cornwall helps in the fight against ebola

Falmouth’s naval links have always been a source of great pride for all of us and this week is no exception. RFA Argus, the hospital ship whose home port is Falmouth, will be sailing from the town tomorrow bound for Sierra Leone. She will serve as the support vessel for a multi-million pound UK Government drive to halt the spread of the Ebola virus, which to date has caused over 4000 deaths, mainly in West Africa.

The UK support package will be spearheaded by 750 armed service personnel, who will help engineers to build new Ebola treatment centres and new Ebola training facilities for healthcare workers. Supported by £125 million of UK aid funding this UK drive will support 700 Ebola treatment beds, providing medical care up to 8,800 patients. Vital supplies, including chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers, will also be provided.

RFA Argus, refitted last year by A&P Falmouth, is perfectly equipped to support this mission. On board there is a 70 bed hospital ward and a range of specialist medical facilities, including a full emergency department, resuscitation and surgical facilities, a radiology suite with a CT scanner, a critical care unit and a high dependency unit, all staffed by crew members from the MOD’s hospital units. The UK military mission is taking place alongside extensive work to prepare the UK for any possible outbreak.

As the UK steps up to the fight against Ebola is good to see the pride of Falmouth, in first class condition thanks to work of A&P employees, playing such a pivotal role. Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew and with their colleagues from the Army and RAF who will be deployed to Sierra Leone alongside them. I am humbled by their bravery.

The deployment of RFA Argus underlines the continuing strategic importance of the Port of Falmouth, matched only be the vital role the Port plays in Cornwall’s economy. I was delighted to visit RFA Argus several times during its refit to see first-hand the first class work being undertaken by A&P Falmouth, I regularly highlight this excellent work to Minister as I continue to lobby for and secure further MoD contracts for the Port.

It also further demonstrates how Britain cannot afford to turn its back on the developing world in a globalised 21st century. Those arguing against the international aid commitments David Cameron has made as Prime Minister often suggest that this spending is not in a national interest. Nothing is further from the truth. In a world where ideas and finance cross oceans at the click of computer mouse, where 500, 000 people are travelling by air at any given moment and where international trading links are growing more and more important, emerging problems in the developing world are tomorrow’s domestic disasters. Aid is an important way in which the UK can work with the governments of developing countries to head off these problems at birth, generating international goodwill and securing a better shared future for all.

My Vision for 2020

Over the recent Party Conference season we have seen the UK’s political parties start to lay out their stalls to the nation.

Given this national focus on the years ahead I think it is right to let you know what more I want to do to build a brighter future for our own community.

I am very clear as to what I want for my constituents over the coming years. I want you to feel Cornwall is the best place to raise a family and grow old in. I want your income to rise so you can do more of the things you want to do, and for you to have access to great education and employment opportunities. And I want to ensure that our natural environment is looked after for future generations to enjoy.

How can this be achieved? By helping local employers create more jobs that pay at least a Cornish Living Wage, by ensuring that there are more apprenticeships, further and higher education and skills opportunities available to people of all ages looking to secure employment in a changing global workplace. By using the proceeds of this sustainable economic growth to create a fairer tax system, whereby people on average incomes keep more of their own money, and by ensuring that Cornwall’s NHS and other public services are fairly funded. By ensuring that more decisions about Cornwall are made in Cornwall and that we have the resources we need to improve our Duchy’s infrastructure.

Cornwall’s ‘Can Do’ spirit has achieved great things and I am confident that, if re-elected, I will be able to deliver my positive vision for Truro and Falmouth. To read my full vision for our community visit my website

I was delighted to see David Cameron in his Conference Speech passionately commit to implementing a positive vision on a national scale. From the tax cuts that will take a further 3 million of the lowest paid out of income tax and mean a tax cut for 30 million people on medium incomes, to English votes for English laws and a referendum on EU membership, this is a radical agenda which empowers us all to build better futures. Better and more equal futures, the tax cuts David Cameron has already delivered have helped reduce inequality in the UK to its lowest point since the 1990’s. The Prime Minister’s pledge to continue to protect NHS spending, on top of the Better Care funding pledged for next year, and the commitment to build on the 2 million new jobs created since 2010 by securing full employment, were also particularly welcome. These measures will be essential to delivering the positive future I want to see for Truro and Falmouth.

This vision, focused on helping people get on and grounded in a keen appreciation of our historic community and landscape, is one that is both distinctively Conservative and distinctly Cornish. I will continue working every day to deliver it, for the people I am privileged to serve.

The decision to attack ISIS

Last week I voted in favour of British armed forces taking part in military action in Iraq. These are not easy words to write.

In taking my decision I considered closely the views of local people, along with all the available evidence about the situation on the ground. This consideration led me to cast my vote in favour of military action because of one overriding factor: ISIS poses a very real threat to my constituents, a threat that British military action can help eradicate.

Some people will scoff at the idea that developments thousands of miles away under a blazing desert sun could pose a threat us here in Cornwall. I wish I could scoff too, but I can’t.

ISIS is now a de facto state, controlling a territory the size of Britain. It is a state funded by extensive oil supplies and internationally sourced funding, one armed with modern weapons and expert in the use of terror in its own territories and overseas. It is a state whose one purpose is to impose its violent ideology on others by military means. It ranks Britain as one its foremost targets, and has prophesied that in a matter of years its black flag will fly over Downing Street. Their hatred of the west predates George Bush’s wars, ISIS was founded in 1999. It is only since the Syrian civil war that they have grown powerful enough to put their ideology into action.

As David Cameron said in the House of Commons last week ISIS has declared war on us. As such there is no ‘walk on by’ option.

Of course ISIS isn’t just a threat to Britain. Whilst the threat posed to the UK is a sustained terrorist campaign on the British mainland, for the democratically elected Iraqi Government and the people it serves ISIS represents an invading army, killing all who oppose it. This is why the Iraqi Government have formally asked for Britain and other countries to help defend its people.

Britain is one of a Coalition of countries that have responded to this call in the knowledge that if ISIS take Iraq then the misery and horror they will inflict there will soon spread yet further. It is important to note that the majority of this Coalition is formed by Muslim nations. Thousands of Muslims have been killed to date by ISIS, which has been dubbed the Unislamic State by the international Islamic community. Christians living in ISIS controlled areas have also been savagely attacked. We owe it to our own Christian and Muslim communities to take arms to support their persecuted brethren.

This is not 2003. British forces are being committed at the request of a people under attack from a hateful movement that threatens all of us. This threat will grow if not stopped now. With their deployment backed by the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons it is now to our service men and women we look, with respect, gratitude and prayers for their safe journeys home.

One Nation: a soundbite for Labour, a defining philosophy for Conservatives

One Nation politics has had a home within the Conservative Party for over hundred and fifty years. It has lasted less than two years with Labour. Ed Milband’s Conference Speech last week dropped the One Nation phrase he appropriated in 2012 and instead showcased a more traditional Labour politics of division. Employers were painted as exploiters, countryside campaigners declared dinosaurs, family homes rendered into mansions. Matters of concern to a great many people, including the deficit and immigration, were not considered worthy of comment.

Unlike Ed Milband I feel that One Nation politics, where all parts of our society work together for the common good, are needed more than ever. As the economy grows we need to work together to ensure that no-one is left behind.

Measures such as the Work Programme are helping more people than ever before into work. In my own constituency of Truro and Falmouth unemployment across all ages has fallen by a third since 2010. As the Government works hard to create a good economic climate for employers to create these new jobs, businesses in the South West are leading the way, with our regional economy growing faster than any other in the UK.

It isn’t only new jobs that are helping people to get on; a revolution in education and skills training is opening up new opportunities for people of all ages. More people are in apprenticeships than ever before, more people are going to university than ever before. The Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is working with businesses to provide employment focused skills training and increase the adoption of the Living Wage. This One Nation politics is working – figures published in July by the DWP show that inequality in the UK is at its lowest point since the 1990’s.

One Nation also means trusting different communities in the UK to decide how they can best contribute to our shared future. I want to see more decision making powers not only devolved from Westminster to City and County Halls, but to Town and Parish Councils.

However our current relationship with the European Union imposes a stumbling block – how can we in the South West ensure our economy powers ahead when decisions that shape key sectors, like farming, fishing and maritime trade are made not by us, but by people sitting in Brussels? Being in Coalition with the LibDems is like driving a car with the handbrake on. At the General Election we need to win more support in the SW and around the country to release this brake and drive forward reforms with our relationship with the EU, returning powers to people and communities here and around the UK.

In the years ahead Britain’s economy is set to grow faster than any of the largest economies of the world. This means that we have a real chance to build a balanced economy which helps everyone to build the lives they want to live. It’s been done before. Over the desk of David Cameron hangs a portrait of Harold MacMillan, the Conservative Prime Minister who presided over a decade of full employment, rising living standards and plummeting inequality. Sixty years on a new generation of One Nation Conservatives are looking to build an even brighter shared future.

Investing in education

This month more people from disadvantaged backgrounds went to University than ever before. Overall student numbers are the highest they have ever been. More people than ever before are taking part in an apprenticeship, with apprenticeships now widely recognised as being as good as going to university.

As a passionate believer in helping everyone to fulfill their potential, and a supporter of the 2010 reforms that secured a fairer student loans system, I am delighted by this progress. Falmouth University and Exeter University now offer local people the option of studying a range of first class courses in Cornwall, options that thanks to the 2010 student loan reforms are now open to local people of all ages. Further education providers like our excellent Truro & Penwith College are providing more opportunities than ever before for local people to study and to learn
new skills.

Good progress is also being made in securing the fair schools funding our young people need to build their future. Before 2010 school funding was determined on the basis of historic spending levels not the needs of pupils.

This was deeply unfair on Cornwall and on entering Parliament I campaigned with Conservative colleagues to change this system. Ministers listened and in March this year the Government announced that in the future school funding would be based on the needs of pupils. As a result Cornwall is one of 64 local authority areas (out of 468 across the UK) to see substantial school funding increases as the new-needs based approach takes effect. Next year funding for each Cornish pupil due to rise by £75. I will be pressing for further year on year increases.

This long overdue reform reflects a particular focus of Conservatives in Government – on investing in the educational opportunities that can help people build the lives they want to live. This focus has seen the education budget protected and our education system expanded. New early learning places have been created, meaning that 40% of two year olds are now in education. Free school meals are now given to every child between four and seven to help boost concentration in lessons. The school leaving age has been raised to 17 and pupils now have to get a C or above grade in English and maths GCSE before leaving school. This tackles an unacceptable inheritance left by the last Labour Government which saw Britain’s pupils ranked 22 out of 24 countries for their numeracy and literacy skills.

This year has seen an extra £32 million announced to help create new Cornish school places, doubling the former budget. Schools in Truro and Falmouth have been given an extra £4 million of extra funding through the new Pupil Premium, a new fund to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, since 2011. A further £2.5 million of Pupil Premium funding for schools in Truro and Falmouth is committed for 2015.

I will continue to argue for further funding for Cornwall’s schools to reflect the needs of our young people.