Do we really send £350 million a week?

I have been contacted by many constituents this week, asking me about the truth of the Vote Leave claim that we send £350 million to the EU every week. The independent Institute of Fiscal Studies say our net contribution was £5.7 billion a year – equivalent to 24p per person per day. This takes into account the UK rebate, which does not leave the UK, and the money which comes back to us. The head of the UK Statistics Authority has said Vote Leave’s use of the figure is “potentially misleading”. We pay £5.7bn to be a member of the world’s largest free trade zone, but the CBI has shown that the net benefit of being in the EU is worth £91bn to our economy.

We need a strong economy to raise the taxes to pay for the NHS. Analysis has shown that leaving the EU would leave our tax receipts facing an annual estimated £36 billion black hole. That’s the equivalent of NHS England losing over a third of its budget.

Over 100 000 EU nationals work in the health and social care sector, including locally at Treliske. If we left, our ability to staff the NHS would be put at risk, causing waiting times to go up and the quality of care to go down.

The people campaigning to leave the EU, including Nigel Farage and Vote Leave Director Matthew Elliot, have for years campaigned to privatise the NHS. They can’t be trusted with the NHS.

Just 1% of government spending goes to the EU, about £7 billion. If we left the EU, the Treasury estimates public spending would be hit by £36 billion. It’s simply not true that leaving the EU would free up resources for the NHS. It won’t. Leaving means less money for the NHS, not more.




The EU Referendum & Cornwall

Quite understandably, virtually everyone I meet would like to talk about the EU referendum. The choice in this referendum is economic security and global influence as part of the EU, or a leap in the dark.

I believe we’ll be stronger, safer and better off in Europe because we will get to keep access to the Single Market of 500 million people – Britain’s home market – with a say over the rules of doing business across Europe. That means more jobs, lower prices, and more financial security for local families.

Vote Leave say they’ll walk away from the single market and negotiate a new deal, but they can’t explain what it would be and how long it will take. Vote Leave can’t guarantee that the funding Cornwall currently receives from the EU will continue. The truth is if we left, the EU would not give us a better deal than they have for themselves.

Independent experts have said leaving the EU would harm our economy, with an average hit of £4,300 for each UK household and £36bn in spending cuts, which would hit the NHS. If we leave, experts say jobs aren’t safe, prices will rise, mortgages will be at risk, and funding for your local school or hospital will fall. It is a risk not worth taking.

In Britain, we choose to co-operate with our neighbours in Europe because it makes us stronger, safer and better off. Nobody forces us to do this and the EU does not control us.

We retain complete control of our currency, public spending, interest rates, crime and security policy, as well as public services such as healthcare, education and public transport. The Prime Minister’s EU deal protects us from further integration in Europe – known as “ever closer union”.

So it’s simply not true that Britain is “run by Brussels”, as many of those wanting us to leave like to say.

Free movement for EU passport holders allows British citizens to live, work, study or retire in Europe, of which 2.2 million of our own citizens take advantage of. As a result of the Prime Minister’s deal, European passport holders coming here have to work and pay in before they can draw benefits. It’s not a free for all.

When we choose to co-operate with other countries, as we have in the EU, we do so of our own free will. Our parliament decides, no one else. Of course cooperation involves give and take, but when we compromise, it’s because it is in our national interest to do so.

The EU is a vast trading area giving huge opportunities to our businesses and exporters, bringing investment and jobs to Britain, and providing opportunities for Brits to work and travel abroad easily. Being part of the EU makes our economy stronger and magnifies our influence in the world. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face if we left.

In the modern world, engaging in cooperative decision-making gives us more control, not less; it make us stronger, not weaker; it gives us global power, not the illusion of sovereignty. We joined the UN and NATO in the 1940s, and the G7 and EU in the 1970s, precisely to enhance our power.

Britain is stronger with a fair EU immigration system and access to the Single Market, our home market of 500 million people. People from other European countries should not be allowed to access benefits until they have paid into the system, and that is exactly what the Prime Minister has secured for us. But access to the Single Market means we must welcome those who come here to work hard, pay their taxes and support our public services.

Vote Leave want to go too far, ending free movement completely. That means losing our access to the world’s largest free trade area and a say over the rules of doing business right across Europe, costing us jobs, pushing up prices and leaving us with less money for public services like the NHS. We would compromise opportunities for Brits to work, study, travel and retire freely in Europe, and we could see our border checks moving from Calais to Dover.

Over 100 000 EU citizens work for the health and social care sector. One and a half million people are employed in businesses owned by EU citizens, who have contributed £20 billion more in taxes than they have taken out in benefits. The facts are clear: the overwhelming majority of EU citizens in Britain are contributors, not free-loaders.

So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We must ensure fairness without sacrificing our membership of the Single Market, keeping our economy strong and securing opportunities for the next generation.


The Future of Local and National Media

A wide range of local media adds to the vibrant culture and community of Cornwall. Strong local media also have an important role to play in our democracy. National campaigns springing from local news stories have led to some significant positive changes. Last week’s coverage of Josh Will’s homecoming is a moving example. Our local newspapers and magazines have a tough time competing for your attention and money.

Over the last twelve months or so, I have discussed the future of local and national media with a wide range of constituents including those studying to be the next generation of journalists at Falmouth University. Most agreed that the BBC is one of this nation’s most treasured institutions that continues to command a central role in the lives of so many people here in the UK and overseas.

The new Royal Charter will put in place the right supporting framework to strengthen the BBC so that it continues to thrive in a fast-changing media landscape and goes on delivering the best possible for service for license fee payers.

Last week the government published the White Paper ‘A BBC for the future: A Broadcaster of Distinction”. It is the result of a thorough period of consultation, including two specially-commissioned independent reviews, a public opinion study, and several round-table events with industry representatives and a public consultation that attracted the second highest number of responses ever to a government consultation. The Government has taken close account of all the findings in drawing up the proposals.

As these proposals are debated in Parliament and with the BBC, I want to ensure that our local BBC receives the funding it needs to enable locally and regionally produced content, including news to be made in Cornwall, and that our local newspapers and magazines thrive.

Making Cornwall a Bee Friendly Zone

Each day I receive about 200 emails from constituents. Over the past week the most popular topic has been the impact of pesticides on bees.

As a former trainee beekeeper, I understand that bees and other pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment. In the last Parliament I led the debate and worked with national and local charities to support the introduction of the National Pollinator Strategy to protect our bees and many other pollinators. It was announced in 2014 and I want to ensure that Cornwall becomes a bee friendly community. We have a role to play in supporting our pollinators.

Most of our local farmers use pesticides to protect their crops and their use is tightly regulated. Decisions on the approval of these substances are made at the European level. Since December 2013, three of the five currently approved neonicotinoids are not permitted for use on a wide range of crops considered attractive to bees. The Government has implemented these restrictions in full. They are not time-limited, and will remain in place unless the European Commission decides to change them.

The European Food Safety Authority has begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees, which is expected to conclude in the summer. This includes looking at the effects on bees caused by seed treatments, and uses of the restricted pesticides in the form of granules. The Government has said that it will contribute fully to this review, because any decisions must be based on solid evidence. Restrictions on neonicotinoids will not be removed if the evidence shows that they should remain.

This week I will be meeting leading academics working with the impartial Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology for an update.

Milestone reached in Falmouth dredging project

There is one question that I get asked even more often that when Waitrose is opening in Truro, and that is what is happening about the dredging of Falmouth Harbour? This week marks an important milestone on a long journey to future bringing future improvement to the port of Falmouth and the important marine engineering jobs provided by the world class businesses based there.

Falmouth is one of the UK’s historic ports that connects Britain to the wider world – with 95% of our imports and exports travelling by sea this link remains as important as ever. I want to see Falmouth’s role as a port flourish and regularly lobby for investment into port based businesses, bringing a range of Ministers to meet Pendennis and other businesses based there. I am particularly proud that as a result of the excellent workforce at A & P Falmouth we have more ‘grey ships’ in the port than ever and this summer will be welcoming the new tankers that add to the range of vessels we host and that support the Royal Navy.

Businesses at the Docks feel strongly that they need a new channel in the harbour in order for the Port to remain in business. I have been working on enabling the dredging to go ahead without impacting unduly on the marine habitats of the Fal. In 2012, I secured an intervention that has enabled the Harbour Commissioners to undertake a trial dredge to explore the impact of dredging on our ecosystem. This was an important step towards gaining consent for dredging; the trial supervised by environmental regulators and undertaken by leading marine scientists has provided data that conclusively indicates that the dredging can happen without ruining our precious natural environment. The quiet determination of the Harbour Commissioners, never giving up on the port, is inspiring.






Apprenticeships in Food and Farming

The next generation of food entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to combine a high quality degree and on-the-job training under plans announced last week for new food degree apprenticeships.

Last year the Government announced a target to treble the number of apprenticeships in food and farming by 2020 and is increasing the annual level of spending on apprenticeships between 2010-11 and 2019-20 in cash terms to £2.5 billion. We have many talented apprentices working locally including at Rick Stein’s, apprenticeships are a real alternative for those who want to start their careers in this growing industry.

The new degree apprenticeships – spearheaded by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) – are being developed by a consortium of employers and industry representatives working to enhance the sector’s productivity. The creation of the degrees will help safeguard the UK’s position as a world leader in high-tech food innovation. Today the UK produces more new food and drink products each year than France and Germany combined.

While food and drinks exports to countries around the world are growing, the EU is a hugely important export market for British food and agriculture – around 60% of our food and drink exports go to EU countries generating around £11 billion for our economy. Maintaining our world leading food and farming industry is dependent on continued access to the EU market with no barriers. Thousands of young people benefit from valuable apprenticeships across the EU through support from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund, providing the bright new talent needed to deliver growth in the UK.

Food and farming should be a top career destination for our young people, as prestigious as medicine, as stimulating as the gaming industry and as cutting-edge as London’s Tech City.

Wave Article – April 2016

Over the last fifteen years or so we have seen some significant changes to our local community. Some would say nothing short of a transformation. These changes result from a determined plan not only to provide more and better education and skills opportunities for local people but to grow the local economy by creating Falmouth University and attracting the University of Exeter to Penryn. At the same time Falmouth Marine School has also been redeveloped.

There is no doubt that these universities have been successful in attracting world class academics and students from across Cornwall and the world. Since setting up at Penryn, Exeter University has joined the prestigious Russell Group of universities that are the best of British research led universities and Falmouth has become the UK’s top arts university.

There can be few families in Falmouth or Penryn that do not have a family member or someone that they know who has either studied or worked at one of the universities, or helped build the universities or works for one of the many companies that provide services for the institutions or their students. Many of the staff are active citizens and are contributing in a wide range of ways to the local community. Some students have stayed in the area and set up vibrant companies, such as Rebel Brewery. Local companies employ graduates who are helping them grow their businesses here. Local people are supported at the Penryn campus to set up and develop their businesses here.

While both towns are vibrant, there have of course been growing pains. Most significantly the impact on house prices and the availability of good quality homes to rent or buy for local people. There has also been an increase in anti-social behavior and parking problems too.

The total number of students in Falmouth, Penryn and Truro are set to grow from the current population of about 6,300 to 8,600 by 2020. The University of Exeter and Falmouth University are currently consulting the local community on their plans, including to build accommodation for more than 1,000 new beds on their campus in Penryn as well as converting a number of possible locations in Falmouth and Penryn into purpose built accommodation.

While I do support this planned growth over the next few years, I feel much more could be done to develop purpose built student accommodation in Truro on land that has already been given planning permission. This would build on the success of providing homes for students at Treliske, where the University of Exeter has a base. The Maritime Line between Falmouth and Truro enable commuting for students and staff of the universities. The partnership between local bus service providers and the universities has improved bus services locally and this work could also be built upon.

At the same time Cornwall Council needs to work much more closely and effectively with Falmouth, Penryn as well as Truro City Councils to meet the housing needs of local people as well as working with partners to deliver the infrastructure we need to support our growing community. The top priority should be developing more community based NHS services, led by our innovative and forward local GPs.

The continued rise of housing costs over recent decades have hit those earning modest incomes very hard. If we are to reduce housing costs for average and low income families we have to reform the private rented sector, which provides homes for many local people. Cornwall Council has not used all the powers it already has including the Article 4 Direction and needs to do so, as plans are drawn up for Falmouth & Penryn.

While the vast majority of tenants in the private rented sector in Cornwall receive a satisfactory service from their landlords, a small number of landlords act unlawfully, and place tenants in overcrowded or poorly maintained accommodation.

Cornwall Council was recently awarded £127,500 to tackle rogue landlords in the private rented sector after it successfully bid for funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The DCLG funding aims to crack down on this minority of landlords by providing funding to selected local authorities who have a large proportion of private rented housing stock. Cornwall Council is using this money to improve the skills of investigating officers and increase enforcement activity.

This money along with recent legislation, means Cornwall Council will have stronger powers and incentives to tackle ‘rogue’ landlords, including a database of rogue landlords and property agents, fines of up to £30,000 and the introduction of Banning Orders for the first time.

I am pleased that as a result of reforms introduced since 2010, more ‘council’ homes have been built locally and a range of housing options are available to enable more local people to part own or buy their own homes. This government is determined to reverse the trend of people not being able to afford to own their own home. There is a wide range of support from help with a deposit to discounts on the purchase price. We do however need the support of Cornwall Council and the local community in enabling more homes to be built as well as playing their part in enabling the infrastructure to support a growing community.