Domestic Abuse

I was pleased to visit staff and volunteers at Twelves Company in Threemilestone on Friday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Twelves Company are an award winning charity that provides specialist support to victims, men, women, girls and boys of sexual violence and domestic abuse across Devon and Cornwall. They run REACH which is a gateway and single point of contact for domestic abuse in Cornwall. The helpline is open weekday working hours on 0300 7774777.

They are partners in Safer-Cornwall who ran a Domestic Abuse Awareness Week by holding a number of public events throughout the Duchy from Monday 21 to Friday 25 November.

The week was a celebration of the partnership working between the public, private and voluntary sector organisations across Cornwall, the primary aim of which is to continually improve community safety across the county.

Last year there were 8,223 reported incidents of domestic abuse to the police in Cornwall.   In addition, during the same period, the specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services have received over 6,300 referrals from individuals wanting support and advice. Domestic abuse accounts for 13% of all crime and 37% of all violence.

Domestic abuse is a ‘hidden crime’ and National Domestic Abuse Awareness Week is important. It is an opportunity for all services to highlight the wide range of fantastic support that is on offer, encourage people to seek help and stand side-by-side to show commitment to a zero tolerance of domestic abuse and sexual violence in Cornwall.

This year Safer Cornwall focused its Domestic Abuse Awareness week on people aged 60+. Older people experiencing domestic abuse can face particular barriers to accessing appropriate support services and so it is important to raise awareness of the specific needs of such victims.

 

Published in the West Briton.

Devonwall

A few people have contacted me about the so called “Devonwall” Parliamentary constituency. There has been some party political campaigning around the proposed changes of Parliamentary constituency boundaries, so I am very pleased to have this opportunity of addressing the concerns raised with me.

Firstly, I will clarify the current situation. Constituency boundaries are kept under review to ensure that MPs represent roughly the same number of constituents at Westminster. The reviews are carried out by the Boundary Commissions for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. These are independent bodies that propose constituencies that must meet the Rules for Redistribution set out in statute. These Rules were changed in 2013 to include the requirement that the House of Commons has 600 seats; and the requirement that all these constituencies (with the exception of four island seats) have electorates within 5% of the electoral quota. This is the total number of voters in the UK divided by the total number of constituencies (with the exception of the four island seats and their electorates).

In 2011 The Parliamentary Election and Constituencies Bill was debated and voted upon. It sought to enable the next general election to be fought under the Alternative Vote system, provided the change was endorsed in a referendum on 5 May 2011 and boundary changes made to reduce the size of the House of Commons to 600. New rules for the redistribution of seats were designed to give primacy to numerical equality in constituencies and regular redistributions would take place every five years.

Understanding that one of the implications of this Bill would be the possibility of an MP representing Cornwall and part of Devon, all Cornwall’s MPs made the case for Cornwall be treated as a special case. We moved an amendment to the legislation but sadly were defeated. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t have enough support in Parliament to “keep Cornwall whole”.

Subsequently, the legislation went through both Houses of Parliament and the Bill became an Act of Parliament. The Boundary Commission are currently implementing the Act. That is a public consultation on the proposed boundaries.

After the Commission’s report in 2018, the Secretary of State must lay their reports before Parliament. The Secretary of State must then lay before Parliament a draft Order in Council to give effect to the proposed boundary changes. This Order requires the approval of both Houses of Parliament. This order is not amendable.

Secondly, I will comment on some of the general points raised around this issue. We are very fortunate to live in a democracy where there are a politicians promoting a wide range of views. Cornish nationalists take every opportunity to pick fights with what they call ‘Westminster politicians’ and stir up grievances. The Scottish and Welsh nationalists adopt a similar strategy, trying to undermine politicians like myself who are not only very proud of our deep Cornish roots but also support the Union.

From what I understand, the basic assertion of the Cornish nationalists is that Cornwall is a separate nation like Wales and Scotland and should be treated as such. While I agree that the Duchy has a unique status within the United Kingdom, I accept that Cornwall is currently part of England and in turn the Union.

I think being part of the Union matters. It matters for the economic stability and jobs that our partnership brings. It matters for the defence and security of our country. It matters because of the common bonds we share right across this United Kingdom. And it matters perhaps even more so now that we are leaving the European Union. I don’t agree with the Scottish, Welsh or Cornish nationalists that want each nation to become independent and break up the Union. I think it is important to build bridges, focussing on what unites us rather than what divides us.

There is an assertion that by having one MP represent Cornwall and part of Devon, that Cornwall is in some way diminished or weakened. I don’t accept this assertion. Cornwall remains Cornwall. It’s worth noting that Cornwall’s bishop Tim, a member of the House of Lords, represents Cornwall and some parishes in Devon. This recognises the fact that the border between Cornwall & Devon has moved over time.

It is also worth noting that one Cornish MP, Derek Thomas, represents not only Cornwall but also the Isles of Scilly. As you know the Isles of Scilly are not part of Cornwall. This proves to me that it is possible for one MP to represent two distinct areas.

Also, I expect that when the next boundary review is undertaken, the population of Cornwall will have grown and we should have enough people eligible to vote, if all those eligible to vote actually register, to prevent the current situation.

I am very proud of my deep Cornish roots and am proud that along with my fellow Cornish MPs we have delivered significant investment into Cornwall, including the Cornish language, heritage and culture over that last few years. I am confident that we will continue to see investments in years to come too.

Cornwall Council is the first non city council to have signed a devolution deal with the Government that is enabling many more decisions to be made in Cornwall rather than Westminster. I am a keen supporter of this devolution, although I am very disappointed with the leadership of Cornwall Council’s attitude to most parish councils and hope that following elections in May 2017, the new Cornwall Council will deliver a ‘double devolution’ to people and communities in Cornwall.

As you will be aware, building on the foundations laid when John Major was Prime Minister, the last Prime Minister helped enable the Council of Europe recognition of Cornish Minority Status. This special status has of course been taken into consideration by the Boundary Commission.

There have been some comments about the motivation of Cornish MPs when deciding how to vote in Westminster. I can assure you that how I decide to vote is based on three principles; firstly what I think it is in the best interests of my constituents; secondly delivering the manifesto commitments I was elected to do and finally what is morally right. Our manifesto in 2015 was clear about implementing the Act. During the General Election campaign when asked about this issue, I made my position totally clear. I said I would vote to implement the Boundary Commission changes. I believe that voters voices having equal value is a cornerstone of our democracy.

While I wish we were not in this position, and tried to prevent it from happening, I firmly believe that being your elected representative is about doing the right thing, even if it is not popular.

Loneliness at Christmas

As I write this last column of the year, I am looking forward to being with my family, at home in Cornwall for Christmas. For me Christmas is a special time of year and I really enjoy the preparations and sharing the day with as many of my family as can make it.

I also enjoy inviting someone who would otherwise be on their own. It’s a habit I started when I was young and living overseas when I couldn’t afford to make it home. So I recreated the sense of family with others who were also stranded, far from their loved ones. My favourite Christmas away from home was spent cooking a traditional British Christmas lunch, on a very rickety old stove, in the Riverside Church shelter for homeless men in New York City.

Based on my personal experiences over the years, I very much support the Diocese of Truro Christmas appeal for people to consider inviting a neighbour or friend, who might be on their own, to join them for a meal over the Christmas festivities.

I am really pleased that so many local people will be joining community events to share the spirit of Christmas with their friends and neighbours. I hope that if you or someone you know is feeling lonely that you will join the many community events happening in Falmouth and Penryn.

The Salvation Army on Brook Street in Falmouth with be providing a Christmas Day Lunch for the community and homeless at 12.00 noon. There will be a Church Service at 11.00 am and all are welcome to come along. For further details contact Alison Godwin on 01326 314567.

The Winter Night Shelter Cornwall Project (WNSC) will provide night shelters in December and January. Last winter we accommodated 111 rough sleepers and 75 % of these were helped into permanent accommodation as a result of their contact with the service. WNSC could be a life saver for those with no home and also provides companionship and food. The night shelters need a large number of volunteers to make this project a success. Full training and expenses will be given to prepare for this challenging, but always rewarding service to those in most need.

Any support you can give this important work will be gratefully received and if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact the Diocesan Social Responsibility Officer Andrew Yates on 01872 274351 or e-mail Andrew.yates@truro.anglican.org

or Corinna Langford at St Petroc’s 01872 264153 corinna.langford@stpetrocs.org.uk.

Britain, according to government figures, is the loneliness capital of Europe, but even – or perhaps especially – here, the urge to connect is overwhelming. But I am concerned in this post Brexit Britain that people are feeling less part of our community. Some people tell me that even talking about Brexit has become such a difficult topic of conversation that they have stopped talking to colleagues or friends all together.

It should be possible for all of us to listen to each other respectfully and appreciate and value our differences. Kindness in my opinion is a much undervalued characteristic. Going forward we need to step back from the angry, even hateful public discourse that has been a sad feature of 2016 and commit to reconnecting with each other in 2017. From spending time with people all around my constituency I know that there is much more that unites us than divides us.

As George Monbiot recently wrote in The Guardian, “This reattachment, I believe, holds the key to both our psychological and political transformation. Connected, engaged and happy people do not allow themselves to be trampled into the dirt. It is when we are estranged both from each other and from our political environment that we are easiest to manipulate, as the rise of demagoguery in Europe and the US seems to attest. Without the power of kindness our society will fall apart”

All that remains for me is to wish you a very Happy Christmas. It continues to be both an honour and privilege to serve this community as your MP and I am very much looking forward to continuing my work for you in 2017.

Published by Falmouth Wave Magazine

Winter Wellness

The Cornwall Community Foundation is calling on anyone who receives the Winter Fuel Payment but does not need some or all of it, to donate it to Cornwall’s Surviving Winter campaign. The aim is to help local people to stay warm and well this winter.

Despite the mild temperatures this year, winter is still a very challenging time for many of those who live in our communities. Too many local people live in poorly insulated and costly to heat homes. Living in a cold home causes serious health problems including heart attacks and strokes with over 342 ‘excess’ deaths in Cornwall in winter each year.

There are many small specialist community organisations who are equipped to give support and direct, practical help, and these will be funded from the donations. This year we are aiming to raise £30,000 to help those most in need of our support.

Donations can be made by sending a cheque made payable to The Cornwall Community Foundation or visiting http://www.cornwallfoundation.com.

Last winter the campaign successfully allocated £15,550 in grants to a total of 13 organisations. Over 500 people benefited from the help received in Cornwall.

The groups that benefited last winter include Community Energy Plus, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, Cornwall Women’s Refuge Trust, Gateway 2 New Life, Inclusion Cornwall, Launceston Memory Café, St Austell Community Kitchen, The Oasis Centre, Volunteer Cornwall and the Wild Young Parents Project.

There is a great deal of local help for people who are struggling to make ends meet but not everyone knows where to turn.

Sadly, I have found that the people who most need help are least likely to receive it.  You can help by promoting The Winter Wellness free phone 0800 954 1956- the expert and friendly advice service that connects people to the help they need.

Truro & Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan

If you live in the parishes of Truro and Kenwyn, on 10th November please vote in the referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan. The parish councillors, supported by Roger Gazzard and Robert Lacey, have worked hard, over several years, on this plan, engaging with local people and organisations. I have seen at first hand how useful the process has been in sharing information and building partnerships. This plan is important as it will help shape the future of our community for years to come.

Our democracy depends on informed and active citizens and I firmly believe that Neighbourhood Planning strengthens our democracy. I share the team’s frustrations with the process and have used my experience with this plan to make recommendations to Ministers for improvements to Neighbourhood Planning.

Our democracy also depends on an independent judiciary. Last week, following the ruling of the Court of Appeal about whether Parliament must approve the triggering of Article 50 to start the process of leaving the EU, I was dismayed by the attacks on the judges that made the ruling. While Parliament is sovereign it is the judiciary that upholds the laws. Our freedom depends on the checks and balances in our constitution. To undermine the judiciary performing its job is to undermine our democracy.

Many people stopped me in the street last weekend to ask me about Bexit. When I voted for the Bill to hold the Referendum I accepted that I would honour the result. If, on appeal,  the Supreme Court agrees that MPs must vote on Article 50 then I will vote for it to be triggered. This is just the start of the process. It has always been clear that the final terms of our departure and our future relationship with the EU would have to be decided by Parliament.

Prime Minister’s Visit to Cornwall

Last week I was pleased to welcome Theresa May on her first visit to Cornwall as Prime Minister. While she is no stranger to Cornwall, it was fantastic that she started her SW tour with a visit to Newquay Airport.

She met with business leaders, including the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership as well as Cornwall Council to discuss plans for local economic growth.

It goes to show how important our Duchy is to her plans of creating a society and an economy that works for everyone.

Connecting Cornwall to the rest of the UK and the world is essential for growing well paid jobs here. I am delighted that the PM recommitted to record levels of investment in our rail and road infrastructure. Air links to Cornwall are important too. While I understand my London colleagues’ concern for their constituents, I support the expansion of Heathrow Airport, so long as we secure a Newquay to Heathrow service at least as good as the one we now have with Gatwick.

I was also delighted to see the government welcome the Bill to reduce homelessness, introduced into Parliament by my Conservative colleague Bob Blackman MP. This is something I campaigned for in the last Parliament and discussed with the Housing Minister when he visited Cornwall recently.

This Bill will significantly reform England’s homelessness legislation, and ensure that more people get the help they need to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place. The Bill will place a duty on councils to help people at risk of homelessness secure accommodation before they are threatened with homelessness. Those who are homeless will be supported for 56 days to help find them accommodation.

The Government also announced £40 million additional funding for homelessness prevention.

Falmouth High Street

I am delighted that Falmouth has made it onto the shortlist of Great British High Street Competition, in the coastal communities category. This year’s competition saw a record 900 entries.

This is a terrific achievement for the team that works day in and day out to improve Falmouth. The town team of Richard Gates and Richard Wilcox are supported by a wide range of people in our community.

If Falmouth wins, Falmouth high street businesses will benefit from a share of the prize pot worth £100,000 and expert training from Google’s digital taskforce for shops, bars and restaurants and a trip to Twitter UK’s London office to further boost social media skills.

The Great British High Street Competition celebrates the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets. It is one of a number of Government initiatives to help champion high streets as the cornerstones of communities.

My great grandparents and grandfather lived above the family shop on High Street in Falmouth. The town centre is as important to the community now as it was then. It’s the life and soul of Falmouth.

Voting is incredibly important as because, along with a visit from expert judges, it makes up 50% of the final decision as to who should be crowned the Great British High Street of the year.

You can vote by visiting this website http://thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-award. A person is allowed one vote per day in each category, which will be registered through the website using their email addresses.

Voting ends on 18th November so please share this good news with your friends and please get voting daily!

Finally, if you feel that you could offer support for refugees coming to Cornwall, please contact me.