The recent harvest moon was beautiful to see and along with the alignment of the sun and moon, it brought unusually high tides. Fortunately, the high tides caused only minor flooding. Had the wind been stronger or the high tides been accompanied with heavy rain we might have experienced dreadful flooding as in the recent past. As a result of climate change we will be experiencing more erratic weather, so it is vitally important that we all take precautions. Understanding our homes and businesses’ flood risks needs to become a normal activity that we all do. Taking sensible precautions too. Just like we take precautions to reduce the risk of burglary or fire or carbon monoxide poisoning in our homes and work places, we need to do the same for flooding.
But where to go for impartial advice and information? Last week I joined the annual Cornwall Community Flood Forum with Lucy Isaacson and Martin Alvey. They were joined by experts from The Environment Agency, Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs and Cornwall Council. By calling the Cornwall Community Flood Forum on 07581 736347 you can obtain useful information for you and your community. Cornwall Flood Forum is a pioneering community led flood prevention scheme, with taxpayer funding, to enable partnerships in communities to work together to prevent flooding. At the event, the National Flood Advisory Service was launched too.
I know constituents who have been flooded and are very worried about getting reasonably priced insurance. That is why I am pleased to have helped bring into the force the new government backed Flood RE scheme. An estimated 350,000 homes will be able to obtain insurance and the costs of their premiums will be capped The Government created scheme came about following negotiations with various groups and the insurance industry and will come into force in April 2016.
As a driver of a car with a Diesel engine, I have been shocked and dismayed by the recent allegations of illegal activity undertaken by some car manufacturers and some of those involved in the testing of vehicle emissions. It is essential that widespread and thorough investigations are undertaken so we understand what has happened, and the scale of the problem. Lessons must be learned and urgent improvements made so our confidence can be restored in the process of measuring emissions. Those found guilty of illegal activities should be prosecuted.
Improving air quality is vitally important for public health and our natural environment. Reducing harmful emissions from transport plays a vitally important role in this. At the Cornwall Expo we saw an example of the new high speed trains that will be replacing the old diesel fleet. They have bi modal engines able to run on electrified lines and regular tracks. They are more energy efficient and less polluting than their predecessors. This is true for the new buses that Cornwall Council has acquired for the park and ride services across Truro. Investment in infrastructure to enable more cycling and use of electric cars is also being made. More needs to be done but these steps are contributing to improvements in air quality in Cornwall.
Improved roads can also help reduce air pollution, by preventing idling engines during tail backs at bottle necks. Last week, I was pleased to meet with representatives of Highways England and Cornwall Council to discuss the feedback from the public consultation on improvements to the A30 between Chiverton Cross and Carland Cross. The detailed work has begun on developing schemes that tackle the issues and opportunities raised in the consultation. By next summer, there will be some road scheme proposals ready for public scrutiny and feedback.
Like many local people, I love this time of the year. Harvest festivals and local food festivals are great opportunities to reflect on the abundance of high quality food and drink grown and made here. They are also a great opportunity to thank our farmers, fishermen and local food producers for all they do to provide us with such a magnificent choice of delicious food.
Food and drinks manufacturing in Cornwall has been growing over the last ten years or so. It has been estimated that a third of all jobs in Cornwall are now involved with these and related industries. Our Local Enterprise Partnership, working with local businesses, has recognised this vibrant sector as an important part of our economy to support. Over the next five years, Cornwall is receiving hundreds of millions of pounds to support businesses grow skilled and well paid jobs. Information about how to access the available support for all types of businesses can be found on the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP website.
Farmers are not only playing a vital role in our local economy but also a vital role in our natural environment too. I am really pleased that financial support is available to them to support this essential work.
A good example are the Countryside Stewardship grants that will help pay for thousands of individual agreements across the country with a special focus on four priorities: wildlife and nature; pollinators; woodlands and water management.
This scheme is just one part within the wider Rural Development Programme, set to benefit many different aspects of rural life, aiming to make UK food and farming the best in the world. Wide ranging support is available, including with access to Superfast broadband and renewable energy. Investing at least £3.5 billion into our rural economies by 2020.
On Friday, I joined the debate about the Assisted Dying Bill proposed by Labour MP Rob Marris. This bill was written by Lord Falconer and debated in the House of Lords during the last Parliament.
The Bill would enable a person who has been diagnosed as terminally ill, with death anticipated within six months, to ask their doctor to help them commit suicide. The Bill states that a person must be over 18, of sound mind and must voluntarily sign a declaration that they wish to embark on this process. Their doctor must counter sign and ensure that the patient has been informed of other care available. A second doctor would then have to sign the declaration. It would then be sent to a High Court Judge. It would be up to that Judge to decide what inquiries should be made. If the Judge agreed, the patient would be given medication and attended by a doctor while they committed suicide.
This was a day of thought provoking debate with a range of personal, professional and constituents’ views expressed. I could not support this Bill for several reasons. I believe those MPs who are also doctors and nurses who say this Bill would fundamentally change the relationship of these professions with their patients. It is not possible for doctors to accurately predict peoples’ death unless it is within two weeks. I fear that some people would feel that they are a burden for their families, the NHS or society and should commit suicide. Also, that there are insufficient safeguards to protect people from being pressurised into taking their own lives.
The challenge for this Parliament must be to improve access to the high quality palliative care that does exist and can enable a good death, including with loved ones at home.
Thank you to the many hundreds of constituents who have contacted me over the past few weeks about a very wide range of local, regional, national and international issues. I always appreciate people taking the time to put into their own words what they are thinking about the challenges and opportunities we face together.
Locally, your top three issues I have been working on are taking up concerns about the potential closure of the Ships and Castle in Falmouth; trying to ensure we have a deliverable and sustainable Stadium for Cornwall as well as ensuring that the huge amounts of EU and Regional Growth Funding Cornwall is receiving now and over the next five years supports the delivery of improved infrastructure and business support for all businesses and particularly for those businesses that are delivering high quality, well paid jobs. As recent reports have shown, in the past too much EU funding for Cornwall was wasted and I am determined to do all I can prevent this from happening.
Regionally, your top two priorities are ensuring that in the current review of the Police Funding Allocation, that Devon & Cornwall constabulary receives at least its fair share. Also, that the work to integrate and improve our local health and care services makes significant progress.
So far, the first week back in Parliament has been dominated by the recent concerns most frequently brought to me by my constituents. Debates about migration to Europe, plans to welcome more Syrian refugees to the UK and our national security. Passing legislation to enable you to decide, in a Referendum by 2017, our future relationship with the EU and implementing the Summer Budget measures. Tomorrow we will be debating and voting on legislation about enabling people who are terminally ill to be able to commit suicide.
It has been great to see so many people making the most of our fabulous natural environment and particularly our marine environment. From welcoming more marine animal visitors, to hosting some national sailing competitions, the Fal has been teaming with activity over the past week.
Cornwall remains Britons’ favourite holiday destination and thanks to the support the Chancellor has given to the UK film industry, more visitors are coming from further afield to see for themselves the locations of their favourite TV series or films.
Back in 2012, the Cornwall Tourist Board undertook a study to quantify the money that tourists spend in Cornwall’s towns. They calculated a staggering £930.3 million. They calculated that visitors to Falmouth spent £78.6million. While local businesses and people working in tourism related businesses benefit from this, so does Cornwall Council. While the Council does not produce figures that enable us to see how much income they receive from business rates from different types of businesses, in 2014/15 their total Business Rate Income was estimated to be £140,429,411.
Given how important tourism is to the local economy, I am as dismayed as my constituents to learn of the latest proposal from Cornwall Council: to consider closing Ships & Castle leisure centre. This leisure centre, much loved by locals and tourists alike, is essential for local people, school children and visitors. While Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth BIDs have done such a good job of keeping our public toilets open and investing in the public spaces of our town, why can’t Cornwall Council work in partnership with our universities, sports bodies and the Town Council to develop a strategy to keep this much valued facility open or if they decide it has to close, replace it with something at least as good?
I am looking forward to a few days off, spending time with my family and recharging my batteries before the start of the new session of Parliament. Curling up with a good book to read will certainly be part of my plans. A simple pleasure I have enjoyed since childhood and one, with varying tastes, my family share.
Last week, I was pleased to see so many local young people doing so well in their exam results. Reading and writing well is not only enjoyable. These skills are important for life and are also vital in securing good employment opportunities.
Before I was elected in 2010, I joined Falmouth Rotarians in a local primary school, where each week a team of volunteers supported teachers by listening to their pupils read. It was enjoyable for all concerned. It also helped improve the pupils’ confidence and ability to read. From talking to the youngsters I read with, I was dismayed how many never had the chance to read at home or visited the local Library.
The last government focussed on improving educational attainment in English and Maths and this Government is pushing ahead to make significant progress. The aim is to ensure every child is enabled to achieve their best at school.
Results are moving in the right direction. In 2010, the number of pupils achieving GCSE A* – C in English was 64.7%, compared to 65.4% in 2015. In 2010, the number of pupils achieving A* – C in Mathematics was 58.4%, compared to 63.3% in 2015. Over the past five years, much work has been done, especially in the early years, so I am confident that we will see much greater progress each and every year.
More investment is going into teaching. This One Nation government is delivering on commitments made in May, with the Chancellor last week announcing his intention to make real progress in closing the unfair funding gap for pupils in rural England.