In Solidarity

My thoughts like your thoughts have been with our French neighbours this week. The spontaneous acts of solidarity around the free world speak of a unity of spirit. A spirit that is united against the infusion of fear and hatred that the perpetrators of the atrocities in Paris on Friday night want to achieve.

It is vitally important that we do not succumb to the hatred and division that those responsible for these and other recent terrorist attacks on democratic nations incite. Our democracy is well worth defending against the barbaric forces of so called ISIL who want to snuff it out altogether. Along with my colleagues, I will be working hard to redouble our efforts to protect our citizens at home and abroad while ensuring our response to recent events is motivated by the desire to bring peace to Syria, Iraq and the wider region.

While our thoughts remain with those grieving in Paris, local people are planning their journeys to the UN Climate Change Summit there later this month. Last week, I met supporters of Climate Vision and received the Climate Logic Report that sets out the results of the enormously successful, local, campaign which clearly shows that by taking part in ten straightforward pledges individuals can collectively make a huge difference in reducing carbon and at the same time boost their health, the local economy and community spirit.

Sometimes people tell me that they think that the actions of an individual or even our nation won’t make a difference to preventing man made climate change. I found taking part in the 10 straightforward pledges can be fun and certainly isn’t too difficult. This local work proves an individual and a community working together can make a really positive difference to what is a major global challenge.



Remembrance Sunday

It was an honour and privilege to participate in the acts of Remembrance in Truro and Falmouth on Sunday. I believe it is vital that we remember all those people who have sacrificed so much for the freedom we enjoy today.

Over the past few months some constituents have contacted me to relate their concerns regarding the situation in Syria, the wider Middle East and Britain’s military role in the region.

Firstly, I think it is important to say that there are currently no plans for Parliament to vote for more British military involvement in Syria.

Secondly, I thought it would be helpful if I outlined to you how I would approach such a vote if a motion was presented to Parliament. The most difficult decision for any MP to make is whether or not to risk British lives in a foreign conflict. Fortunately, as an MP, I have privileged access to a wide range of up-to-date, independent, security information and briefings that allow me to make an informed decision.

If Parliament was asked to vote on this issue again, I can assure you that I will cast my vote based on my assessment of a wide range of evidence, including from Ministers, independent analysts and constituents. However, I do believe that we need to consider a range of possible interventions, along with our allies, to try and address the problems in Syria. The terrorists operating in Syria, as well as the regime of Assad, are both responsible for terrible atrocities, and I believe we should consider what more we can do to bring this dreadful civil war to an end. If you are interested in Syria, you might like to read the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons report of their recent inquiry into Syria.

Advancing Gender Equality

If you have the opportunity to see the film Suffragette, take it. Not only is it a good film but a powerful reminder of the debt we owe to women who fought so hard for Parliamentary representation and in doing so, they improved the lives of women and girls here and around the world. Local women like Jane Pascoe of Marlborough Road, Falmouth who travelled to London and took part in direct action to help secure the franchise.

Encouraging girls and women into public life is important to me, so I was delighted to join the Leader of the House of Lords and female Cornwall Councillors at a recent event at County Hall to do this. I am proud that the two finalists in the Conservative candidate selection for our Police & Crime Commissioner were women.

Tackling the gender pay gap has been a long standing priority for me and my Conservative colleagues and it is something that I have personally campaigned on for many years. The current pay gap in the UK means that women, on average, earn 19% less than men. In real terms, this means women earn 80p for every £1 earned by a man – for doing the same job. Across the whole of the EU, women earn less than men for doing a job of equal value, something that is not only morally indefensible, but is against the law in the UK.

I am pleased the Government has brought in new measures so companies with more than 250 employees will be required by law to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees as well as the amount awarded to men and women in bonuses. We have seen progress with the enforcement of the minimum wage by using this ‘naming and shaming’ approach.

Tax Credit Changes

Since being elected, I have worked hard to support better paid jobs in Cornwall. While there is more work to do, the economy is improving, with more people of all ages in employment now than 2010 and wages are rising. Just under 70% of people working in Cornwall are in full time employment.

However, our government is still spending significantly more each year than it raises in taxes. It cannot carry on doing so indefinitely and pass on the deficit to our children to sort out.

The welfare budget is the biggest single element of government spending. If we don’t make savings in this budget, all the deficit cutting will fall on public services like the NHS, schools and the police. That’s not right, which is why our manifesto said that we would find £12 billion of the £30 billion of savings required from the welfare budget.

The three largest elements of the welfare budget are the state pension, disability benefits and tax credits. We don’t believe it would be right to cut the state pension or disability benefits.

So what is the case for cutting tax credits? Tax credits were introduced to help people in low paid work, but by the time Labour left office 90% of working families were eligible for them. The last Government took this down to 6 in 10 and after these Budget changes it will be 5 in 10.

Tax credits also allow employers to pay their staff less than they need to make ends meet, knowing that the taxpayer will top salaries up.

I support reducing spending on tax credits, if at the same time, we take action to ensure people are paid a living wage and pay less tax on what they earn. That is exactly what the Government is doing.





Community Energy Plus

Today the award winning local charity Community Energy Plus have announced the deal they have negotiated for local people – so why not consider switching energy suppliers? Local people saved on average £250 last year.

As I switched on the central heating system at home this week, I know that some of my constituents will be worried about the cost of doing so in their own homes. Every year I work with the Winter Wellness campaign to ensure people can stay warm and well. If you or someone you know are elderly, or a person with underlying health issues, caring for a vulnerable person or young children, and are worried about fuel bills, debts, keeping warm or your home being cold or damp and this is effecting your health, then the Winter Wellbeing campaign can help.

For advice and access to services provided by the programme’s 30 partner organisations, Freephone 0800 954 1956.

The Winter Wellbeing programme offers access to a range of services including independent energy advice tailored to your individual needs, including home visits and follow-up support, access to heating and insulation grants, providing practical advice on understanding and reducing your energy bills and combatting condensation and damp, support for families with children if they have additional needs, debt advice, benefits advice and health information.

Winter Wellness is funded by Public Health, Inclusion Cornwall, Council of the Isles of Scilly, NHS Kernow and Cornwall Community Foundation (CCF). Over 30 partners work together to deliver common outcomes of reducing fuel poverty, improving health and progress to work.

Since 2011/12, Winter Wellness has helped nearly 4,500 households to stay warm and well during the winter, prevented 675 hospital admissions, helped 913 households through Winter Wellness Emergency Fund, and helped nearly 200 households remain in work and progress towards work.


Right to Buy

I am pleased to report that the Government has reached an agreement with the National Housing Federation, which will extend Right to Buy discounts to at least 1.3 million more families across the country.

We want more people to be able to own a home of their own. The Right to Buy is a key part of this, and has already helped two million families to realise their dream of home ownership.

Until now, Right to Buy discounts have only been available to tenants in local authority properties and some former council properties. Extending these discounts to housing association tenants, with the same restrictions for rural communities, in England will end this unfairness, and will deliver our manifesto commitment to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants.

Under the agreement, all homes sold to tenants will be replaced on a one for one basis, delivering an overall increase in housing supply. Housing associations have a strong track record in the delivery of new homes, playing a major role in exceeding the Government’s 2011-15 affordable homes target by delivering nearly 186,000 homes.

The agreement will mean that the first housing association tenants will be able to start to buy their homes from next year. The Government will compensate the housing association for the discount offered to the tenant, and housing associations will retain the sales receipt to enable them to reinvest in the delivery of new homes. Housing associations will use the sales proceeds to deliver new supply and will have the flexibility, but not the obligation, to replace rented homes with other tenures such as shared ownership. Government will continue to work with the National Housing Federation and its members to develop new and innovative products, so that every tenant can buy a stake in their home.


Cornwall Community Flood Forum

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.