Remembering the Great War

On Sunday our community came together as one to pause and to remember all those who died during the Great War and all those who have died in conflicts that have happened since.

For everyone, different events will stand out. I felt that the creativity, compassion and care taken in acts of remembrance in this constituency were magnificent. From the sand portraits on Perranporth Beach to the poppy memorial in Portloe. From the hand-made poppies dropped from the tower inside Truro cathedral and those adorning the trees in Kimberley Park, to the silent vigil in Zelah and the lone piper in St Mawes. The floral tributes, bells ringing out from our church towers and the re-dedication and creation of new memorials, all in their own way declared our ardent desire never to forget those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, peace and way of life.

We have sought to commemorate the war in many ways over the past four years. The high profile events have been complemented by an extensive range of cultural and educational activities. In 2012 the government established the 14-18 NOW cultural programme to work with artists to tell these important stories through the mediums of culture and art. There has been a particular focus on engaging children and young people, with events including the Great War school debate series and school battlefield tours. More than 35 million people have engaged with the centenary, including 7.5 million young people under the age of 25.

Over the past four years I have really enjoyed discovering more of our local history, visiting Pendennis Castle and the local museums and history groups that have so imaginatively told the story of local people and communities during the Great War, including those who went to fight and those who were left behind. Poignant stories that had been forgotten until now. BBC Radio Cornwall did a great job in capturing so many of these local stories.

As part of the programme, the government has sought to highlight the enormous contribution made by those who came to our nation’s aid from across the world. Some 2.5 million men and women from the Commonwealth answered the call to fight, with 200,000 laying down their lives. If you haven’t yet visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves in our local grave yards I encourage you to do so. They are beautifully kept and online information tells us about those buried here from all over the Commonwealth, from Canada to India.

On Friday, I am looking forward to watching Edward Rowe in his new play Hirith that explores the role of Cornish Miners in the trenches. Many poems, pieces of music and works of art have been created to tell the story of the people who came from all walks of life from every part of our community to play their part in the Great War. Over the past four years, together I think we have all done our best to remember them.

First published in the West Briton 15/11/18


Welcoming the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act

There is so much happening in Parliament that doesn’t get reported that I have decided periodically to use this column to highlight some of that work. Work that will improve the lives of my constituents and people across Cornwall and the UK. 

The Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Act was introduced to Parliament in July 2017 as a Private Member’s Bill by Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, with government support. It received Royal Assent on 13 September 2018 and is expected to come into force in 2020. It will give all employed parents a day-one right to 2 weeks’ leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Eligible parents will be able to claim statutory pay for this leave. This is the first law of its kind in the UK. 

Recognising that the law needs to cater for a variety of family circumstances, the government has confirmed that those who are eligible will be widened beyond parents to all primary carers for children, including adopters, foster parents and guardians. 

It will also cover more informal groups such as kinship carers, who may be a close relative or family friend and have assumed responsibility for the care of the child in the absence of the parents. 

Dealing with the loss of a child is an awful tragedy which people will deal with differently. It is important this new law is designed so that people are given the space and respect to grieve in their own way. 

Following feedback from parents and employers, the government last week published its response to the public consultation and announced further details about how the new right will work: leave can be taken either in 1 block (of 1 or 2 weeks) or as 2 separate blocks of 1 week: it can be taken within a 56 week window from the child’s death so as to allow time for important moments such as anniversaries; notice requirements will be flexible so that leave can be taken without prior notice very soon after the child’s death; employers will not be entitled to request a copy of death certificate to use as evidence. 

We are very fortunate to have wonderful local organisations that can support people at such a difficult time. Once such organisation that I have visited is Penhaligon’s Friends, a Cornish charity supporting bereaved children, young people, parents and carers throughout the county. They offer children and young people the chance to meet others and share their experiences, as well as practical resources for children and parents. 

Over the years the organisation has grown and there are now 5 full time and 4 part time staff members and a dedicated team of over 80 volunteers. They have increased their partnership working with other agencies, thus broadening the opportunities for Cornish children and families to receive optimum support. This essential work also helps to prevent mental ill health that can sometimes accompany bereavement. 

 First published in the West Briton 08/11/18

Welcoming the 2018 Budget

The hard work and sacrifice of many local people making their contribution to tackle the huge hole in our public finances left by the last Labour government is beginning to pay off. Remember the note left for us in 2010, “I’m afraid there is no money”.  

On Monday, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility gave its verdict on our economy. It was a positive picture with public finances now under control. We are no longer borrowing to pay for our day to day expenditure on public services. As long as we stick with our sensible and balanced approach to managing public finances our national debt is forecast to fall each year. The economy is growing. We have record levels of employment and wages are rising.  

As our economy is growing the Chancellor has committed to sustained increased investment in our public services, most notably the NHS, and is providing Cornwall Council with additional funding for children and adult social care. New investment to support people of all ages experiencing mental ill health and funding for air ambulances will make a real difference here. 

I know that there are many local people who work very hard and have felt the pinch over the past eight years. So I am pleased that the Chancellor continues to increase the National Living Wage that we introduced by nearly 5 per cent, from £7.83 to £8.21 in April. This will deliver a £690 annual pay rise to a full-time worker, taking the total annual pay rise since its introduction to £2,750.  

We are also fulfilling our promise to cut income tax one year early, so that people keep more of what they earn. We will raise the personal allowance to £12,500, saving a typical basic rate taxpayer £130 compared to 2018-19 and £1,205 compared to 2010-11. 

We are freezing fuel duty for the ninth year, saving the average car driver a cumulative £1,000 since April 2010 and local businesses even more, as well as cutting business rates for local small businesses.  

I am pleased to see some additional investment in our local schools. This year, on average, each primary will receive £10,000 and each secondary £50,000 to purchase equipment to support opportunities for young people. Cornwall is one of five areas that will benefit from a share of £200 million to pilot innovative approaches to deploy full fibre internet to primary schools, with a voucher scheme for homes and businesses nearby.  

As a campaigner for life-long learning, I am pleased that the Budget allocates £100 million for the first phase of the National Retraining Scheme. This will include a new careers guidance service with expert advice to help people identify work opportunities in their area.  

The Clean Growth agenda of our Industrial Strategy is promoting sustainable growth and tackling climate change so I want to ensure local people already in work have the opportunity to improve their health and wellbeing by changing careers and join growing businesses that are offering well paid employment.  

First published in the West Briton 01/11/18

Working to promote the teaching of swimming in schools

I participated in this year’s annual CoastSafe Forum at the Maritime Museum in Falmouth. It was led by local police officer, Truro Crime Manager, Andy Mulhern who is also the RNLI Community Safety Advisor. The forum brought together a wide range of public sector bodies and charities that work together to ensure that we are all doing everything we can to prevent people drowning. A lot of good partnership work is being done locally and the number of people dying in the waters around Cornwall’s shores is falling.   

Andy’s key request to me was to ensure that the government enables all primary school aged children to be taught to swim and stay safe in and around water. 

So, following the forum, I met with Ministers to take up the local concerns raised with me. I was not alone in making the case for vital changes and am delighted with the announcement last week, that Primary schools in England are set to receive extra support and improved guidance to help make sure all children can swim confidently and know how to stay safe in and around water. 

Working in partnership with Swim England, the Department for Education and Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport announced extra help for schools to make sure every child knows how to swim and be safe in and around water by the end of primary school, supported by the £320 million PE and Sport Premium. 

To coincide with the announcement, Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch have also backed a pledge by Swim England – signed by the likes of British Olympic swimmer Steve Parry – calling on teachers and parents to do all they can to ensure children are taught swimming and water safety at primary school. 

The extra support will help deliver the government’s sport strategy ‘Sporting Future’, which committed to ensuring that every child leaves primary school able to swim. It includes: 

  • using the PE and Sport Premium for extra lessons for children who have not yet met the national curriculum expectation after core swimming lessons, and extra training for teachers on water safety and swimming techniques through courses provided by Swim England; 
  • extra guidance, provided by Swim England, will be available to help schools deliver safe, fun and effective swimming lessons; and a drive to boost partnerships with independent schools to offer the use of facilities, coaching and other forms of support to schools in their area. 

The measures announced follow a government-backed review of swimming and water safety in primary schools, which found that swimming standards vary in schools, despite being compulsory on the national curriculum. 

Steve Parry, Olympic bronze medallist and Chair of the Swimming and Water Safety Review Group, said: 

“Since my competitive days I’ve been championing the need for all children to be taught swimming and water safety at primary school. Along with Swim England and the Swim Group, we have been working to raise awareness of the issues and provide support for all those involved in the delivery of curriculum swimming and water safety. 

Ensuring our children are able to enjoy the water safely is everyone’s responsibility. That is why it’s great to hear the government is raising awareness of the issue and pledging its support. We want everyone – schools, parents, lesson providers, decision makers – to do likewise and pledge to support schools to achieve our joint vision.” 

This announcement is part of a drive to tackle childhood obesity and help children to lead healthy, active lives, with more than £1 billion invested in schools through the PE and Sport Premium to improve PE and sport since 2013. 

It comes after the Education Secretary announced a cross-government school sport and activity action plan that will consider ways to ensure all children have access to quality, protected PE and sport sessions during the school week and opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day. The action plan will be launched in spring 2019. 

First published in the Falmouth Packet 31/10/18

Removing barriers to disabled people on our high streets

Shopping is an integral part of our day-to-day lives, from heading to the local shops or supermarket to get our groceries to looking for clothes and gifts on our high streets and villages. 

Sadly, there are often barriers that prevent shopping from being an enjoyable experience for disabled people and those with health conditions. 

A poll by disability organisation Purple found that more than half of the disabled people they surveyed were concerned about overcrowding. A similar proportion said they had left a store or abandoned a purchase because of a poor customer experience. 

Many people often choose to shop online thanks to advances in technology, but poor access can extend to the internet. For example, some people miss deliveries because they haven’t been given enough time to answer the door. 

While these issues are felt even more acutely in the fast-approaching peak Christmas shopping period, inadequate access isn’t limited to the festive season. 

A lack of provision of facilities such as Changing Places toilets can mean that disabled people might just choose to stay at home, rather than getting out and socialising, while poor staff awareness can make shopping more hassle than it’s worth. 

Businesses that don’t make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled customers not only risk breaking the law, but they are also missing out on the £249 billion spending power of disabled people and their families. 

In my experience, most businesses aren’t intentionally excluding their disabled customers – they just need more guidance to help them become more inclusive. Many people tell me that they are worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. 

That’s why I’m joining forces with Purple for the UK’s first ever accessible shopping day on Tuesday 13 November. The day will see retailers – in store and online – introducing new measures to make shopping a more inclusive experience, sending a powerful message that they care about all their customers and that their business matters. 

It’s often the small changes that can make a big difference to people’s experiences. Providing staff with disability awareness training and making simple changes such as having quiet hours or clear walkways can all help improve the shopping experience for disabled customers. 

More than 100 national retailers are already involved with Purple Tuesday, including some of the UK’s most recognised names such as Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and Argos. 

Purple Tuesday is a significant step forward in showing retailers how important it is to recognise the needs of their disabled customers. Purple have produced a website of free information, tools and marketing materials so any retailer can join in and serve all their customers well.  

You can find out more about Purple Tuesday at . I hope that more local retailers will join Purple Tuesday so that they can benefit from the spending power of disabled people and their families and show that Cornwall’s businesses are playing their part in building an inclusive community. You can share your experiences on social media using #PurpleTuesday. 

Celebrating our renewable energy achievements

The glorious weather of this year’s summer seems a distant memory as we wrap ourselves up against the chilly winter weather. The changes we are seeing in our weather are a poignant reminder of how our climate is changing. 

Storms of a different nature have been in the news recently as we remember the global financial crisis.  2008 will be looked back on with interest for many years to come. Not only was Barack Obama elected as the first black USA President and China hosted the Beijing Olympic Games but something remarkable also happened in our Parliament. 

The UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A radical political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since. 

A recent report from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking act has been instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade – and has provided a framework through which the UK has led the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy. 

But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue not only to drive emissions reduction at home, but overseas too. 

As a key part of our Industrial Strategy, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating well paid jobs. 

Our low carbon sector now supports almost 400,000 jobs across the country, and the sector is still growing. These businesses include Kensa, the UK’s most popular ground source heat pumps brand, and Carley’s Organic, which produces chutneys, mustards and pickles in a dedicated organic eco-factory. I am proud that both businesses are based in my constituency. 

By 2030, the UK’s clean economy has the potential to support up to two million jobs whilst generating £170bn of annual exports. 

Creating electricity from the hots rocks beneath Cornwall is something I have been supporting for a long time and I am excited that the first commercial drilling is due to take place in United Downs this autumn. This innovation could contribute significant amounts of carbon free energy and more well paid jobs. 

Cornwall already hosts a wealth of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal and marine.  Cornwall now contributes more than 768 MW of sustainable energy generation to the UK energy mix, with approximately 25 per cent in local ownership, including 8 MW of Council-owned solar panels and more than 1MW owned by community groups supported by England’s first community energy revolving fund with £2.5 million council funds. 

There are 200 community groups around the country already generating their own energy to the benefit of the local community. A great example in Truro & Falmouth is Transition Ladock and Grampound Road which was awarded £500,000 to install low carbon technologies in the community. 

The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act.  Five years ago, dirty coal accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at 7 per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance will be eliminated altogether. 

In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables – with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources – an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables. 

Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds – the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way. 

Long term government planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming general elections, and it was precisely this short termism which the Climate Change Act overcomes. 

Business, community and public bodies all have a role to play but so does each and every one of us. Small changes in our daily routine can add up to significant benefits for our environment. Climate Vision, a local organisation, has produced ten pledges – actions we can all make to our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact. 

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a special report that assessed the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and related emissions pathways, following the higher level of ambition set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to provide new advice on how soon we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. 

The Latin “conservare” means to preserve, and, as a Conservative, I am working hard to leave our environment in better shape than we found it. This is a huge challenge requiring us all to play our part and take collective action but I am confident we can meet this challenge head on and deliver. It only will be benefit but future generations too. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave November edition. Similar article published in the West Britain 18/10/18

Supporting jobs at Falmouth Docks and other local businesses

I have been celebrating with A&P their success in winning a valuable ten-year MOD contract that will secure skilled employment in the docks and could enable investment for the long term in our port infrastructure.  A&P have a large supply chain of local businesses that provide goods and services to their operation so the benefit of the new £239 million contract will be felt far beyond the dock gates. 

Small and medium sized businesses are the life blood of our local economy so I listen carefully to their ideas and concerns. Two concerns often arise from our conversations; not being paid on time and the cost of utility bills, especially energy, water and telecoms. 

Following on from actions such as improvements in access to quality business advice and finance for small businesses and the appointment of the small business commissioner, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy unveiled more policies last week. 

While over the past five years the amount owed to businesses in late payments has halved, we need to make sure all our small businesses are treated fairly.  So, a new consultation seeks ideas on how best to close this unacceptable gap.  

This will help identify the most effective way possible to tackle this issue once and for all and ensure small businesses are on a level playing field with their larger counterparts. 

According to BEIS, nearly a quarter of UK businesses report late payments as a threat to their survival, and research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) indicates that tackling a late payment culture could add £2.5bn to the UK economy and keep 50,000 extra businesses open each year. 

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the government getting serious about this issue, especially when it comes to large firms paying their supply chains promptly. The voluntary prompt payment code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed.” 

While government is leading the way in paying its bills on time, it aims higher with a target of 90% of invoices paid within 5 days.  I am asking Cornwall Council to review its policy to enable faster payments. 

The government also announced an independent review of utilities regulators to ensure that they are fit for purpose.  It is essential that regulators develop resilient utilities, able to face the challenges and opportunities of our time as well as improve outcomes for customers.  While it has become easier to switch energy suppliers, I believe that smart regulation and smart new technology could make it even easier. All too often loyal customers have inferior deals to those offered to new customers, so it’s important that we take action to prevent people and businesses paying more than necessary and enable more switching to low or no carbon suppliers of our energy.  

First published in the West Briton 11/10/18