Fair Funding for our local Police

It was good to meet earlier this week with fellow Devon & Cornwall MPs, PCC Tony Hogg and Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer. I do not want to see the number of police officers in our communities reduce. Our local police have coped well with reduced funding thanks to their professionalism and dedication. I understand that as D&C is an efficiently run police force it will be difficult to make further savings without reducing police officers.

As I don’t want to see this happen, I have met with ministers to push for a review of the way the national funding for police is allocated to make sure we get our fair share. This is going ahead this summer and will be implemented in 2016. At the moment, the allocation formula does not fully recognise the current levels of student households or numbers of tourists visiting our area.

So that police numbers can be maintained before the new formula comes in, I support the PCC and his plans to increase the local police precept. I believe this money raised in Cornwall must be spent in Cornwall on neighbourhood policing. I also think Cornwall Councillors should actively consider using more extensively, the new powers they have on licensing.

Armed Forces Day

This weekend brings Armed Forces Day, offering us the opportunity to celebrate and pay respect to those who serve or who have served our country.

A survey published earlier this week conducted by the country’s oldest national military charity, SSFA shows that 68% of people  think “we do not give enough support to those who have served their country in the Armed Forces”. Listening to the maiden speech of my colleague the Conservative MP for Plymouth, Johnny Mercer I was struck by one statistic: “In 2012 ….more soldiers and veterans killed themselves than were killed in operational service in defence of the realm.” While Johnny spoke very positively of the work undertaken by the last Government to support our Armed Services men and women, including the Military Covenant, clearly more needs to be done.

As a region that has a proud tradition of people serving in our armed services, we have many people in active service and veterans working and living in Cornwall.  I have seen first hand the great work that our Armed Forces do here to support their personnel and the many local charities that support veterans. I want to make sure that our local authority, Cornwall Council, learns from the recent Local Government Ombudsman’s report and fully implements the Military Covenant that it has signed.

I have written to the Leader of Cornwall Council and asked him to enable all staff to have awareness training about the Military Covenant as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As far as I am aware Cornwall Council has money allocated to staff training and there are excellent, local social enterprises such as ActivePlus who could undertake the training. Given how many people Cornwall Council employ and have contact with everyday, it is vitally important they deliver their duty of care.

The Fight against Sepsis

The heart breaking article about William Mead in last week’s edition has prompted me to write about Sepsis. In the last parliament, with the UK Sepsis Trust Chief Executive & Consultant in Critical Care, Ron Daniels, we set up the APPG on Sepsis.

The APPG has made real progress over the past two years raising awareness of Sepsis and securing a range of actions to prevent avoidable deaths. The Health Ombudsman did a very hard hitting report about the scale of the problem and a Parliamentary Select Committee has followed up on the Ombudsman’s report.

Earlier this year, I welcomed the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP proposed measures to prevent deaths and serious harm from Sepsis that included an audit of every GP surgery in England on their effectiveness at diagnosing the condition, which was due to take place by the end of March this year.

Plans also included the creation of new NICE clinical guidelines, the introduction of an incentive scheme for hospitals, the launch of a public awareness campaign and the development of a new diagnostic tool for GPs to recognise symptoms in children under five.

Each year, Sepsis claims around 31,000 lives including around 1,000 cases of children under 5 – more than bowel cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The cost of treating people with sepsis is estimated to be £2 billion a year. Significant savings of lives could be made with early diagnosis and treatment.

Jeremy Hunt MP said he wants to make tackling sepsis as important to the NHS as tackling the superbugs Clostridium Difficile and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

“Sepsis is a devastating condition that kills more than 80 people in England every day. It’s time to apply the lessons we’ve already learnt on patient safety and reduce the number of lives that are needlessly lost to this silent killer.”

Since being re-elected, I have contacted Jeremy Hunt MP requesting a progress report on the promised actions. Locally, the KCCG have assured me plans are in place to raise awareness and the implementation of NHS staff training.

 

The Highlight of My Week

A highlight of my week was spending Friday at the Royal Cornwall Show. It was great to catch up with some of our excellent local food producers and discuss our long-term vision for the future of British farming, working with industry to develop a 25 year plan to grow more, buy more and sell more British food.

I was pleased to hear that our plans to enable farmers to smooth their profits for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to help counter the impact of volatility in the prices farmers receive for their crops, meat and milk will help. So will our plans to liberate farmers from red tape by coordinating all visits through a single Farm Inspection Taskforce, which will involve farmers themselves and use data from existing industry schemes, such as Red Tractor.

At the request of Cornwall Young Farmers, I joined a panel of inspiring women in agriculture and highlighted our plans to treble the number of apprenticeships in food, farming and agri-tech, as part of our plan to secure three million more apprenticeships.  Farming and food production is changing fast, opening up new opportunities but we all agreed more work needs to be done in explaining these opportunities. Alongside this, continuing to promote maths and science qualifications in primary and secondary schools so more young people can benefit from not only the enjoyment of studying these subjects but the choices they will open up for them.

Over the next few months, I will be working hard with our inspiring local food producers and even more inspiring Ruth Huxley from Cornwall Food and Drink to make sure we are making the most of the new Great British Food Unit that will help trademark and promote local foods around the world and back British food at home, by guaranteeing that all central government departments purchase food to British standards of production by the end of the Parliament. We will also help consumers to buy British by pushing for country of origin labelling in Europe, particularly for dairy products.

 

History suggests that 2015 will bring numerous reasons to be cheerful.

Text from recent article in the Times – 29 December 2014

‘ So long as we don’t go on a spending spree.

Years ending in 15 (or 65) have often been good ones to be British. In January, we celebrate 750 years since Simon de Montfort first summoned Parliament to Westminster. In June, we mark the 800th anniversary of making kings subject to the law in Magna Carta. Three days later it’s off to Waterloo for the 200th birthday of the battle.

There’s more. In October, we cry God for Harry, England and St George, and beat the French again at the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. November, for those with any fireworks left, marks the 300th anniversary of arguably the last battle fought on English soil — at Preston, where the Old Pretender’s last hopes died.

Unlike this year’s remembrance of 1914, these are cheerful and somewhat British events — with the exception of Waterloo, where Blücher’s Prussian army and Wellington’s Hanoverian troops deserve a large chunk of the credit. Indeed, Waterloo and Preston excepted, they are English events (I presume the French do not celebrate Agincourt or Waterloo). So it is not a bad time to remind ourselves how lucky we are to live on this damp little island.

I don’t mean this in a jingoistic way, and certainly when you look closely there is little to recommend Henry V’s brutal French raid. What there is to celebrate, of course, is Shakespeare’s poetic rendering of the campaign. It is our literary, scientific, technological, economic, political and philosophical achievements, rather than just our military milestones that we should occasionally pause to remember, amid our usual self-criticism.

All my life I have been told that Britain is in decline. But stand back and take a long, hard look. Even by relative standards, it just is not true. We have recently overtaken France (again) as the fifth largest economy in the world and are closing on Germany. We have the fourth largest defence budget in the world, devoted largely to peace-keeping. We disproportionately contribute to the world’s literature, art, music, technology and science.

We have won some 123 Nobel prizes, more than any other country bar America (and more per capita than America), and we continue to win them, with 18 in this century so far. In the field of genetics, which I know best, we discovered the structure of DNA, invented DNA fingerprinting, pioneered cloning and contributed 40 per cent of the first sequencing of the human genome.

On absolute measures, we are in even better shape. Income per capita has more than doubled since 1965 — in real terms. In those days, three million households lacked or shared an inside lavatory, most houses did not have central heating and twice as many people as today had no access to a car. When they did it was expensive, unreliable and leaked fumes.

In the 1960s even though there were fewer people in Britain, rivers were more polluted, the air was dirtier, and there were fewer trees, otters and buzzards. Budget airlines, mobile phones, search engines and social media were as unimaginable as unicorns. Sure, there was less obesity and fewer traffic jams, but there were more strikes, racism and nylon clothing. People spent twice as much of their income on food. There may be political angst about immigrants, but Britain is far more at ease with its multicultural self today than we might have dared to hope in the 1960s.

Even the things that were getting worse turned around. After 1965, levels of murder and other crimes rose for a while, but then fell back and are now lower than they were then. The number of cars produced in Britain fell as our industrial relations deteriorated, then rose again and will soon break the record set in 1972. Britain is making more cars than Germany, 80 per cent of them for export.

Likewise, London’s role as a capital of global finance shrank for a while, but then boomed as never before, giving us an unrivalled role in international service industries — confounding the pessimists who warned us that we would become an irrelevance in the world, especially if we did not join the euro. London’s population shrank, then boomed as it became the city everybody’s rich people wanted to live in. That brings rising house prices. But rather that than Detroit’s urban deterioration.

Compared with many other countries, we have enviable opportunities ahead of us. We are sitting on one of the world’s largest shale-gas fields. Our economy is growing faster than any other in the western world. Unemployment is falling faster than anybody predicted and is less than half that of France, one quarter than of Spain. According to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Index, published last month, we are the most entrepreneurial country in Europe and the fourth most entrepreneurial in the world, our highest-ever ranking.

Don’t forget our natural advantages: a Goldilocks climate with none of the brutal cold or blistering heat that most countries experience at one season or another. Enough rain to keep the country green throughout the year, unlike most countries, but not so much (on the whole) as to annoy. And sufficiently unpredictable weather to be worth talking about, unlike in many countries. That it is a bit too dark at this time of year is a price worth paying for those long summer evenings.

Then there is a stunning coastline that is never more than 70 miles away, few snakes, bears, mosquitoes, tornadoes or earthquakes and no poison ivy to worry about when walking or gardening.

Plus a huge variety of landscapes crammed into a small land area and an amazingly rich architectural heritage. In short, we have an economy to rival America in a culture to rival Italy on a landscape to rival France with social cohesion to rival Germany.

Then we have a democratic tradition as strong as any in the world and an adherence to defending liberty that — for all the threats — is still far more robust than most people in the world can experience. And to cap it all, a brilliantly neutral and beneficent head of state who this coming September becomes our longest reigning monarch.

There is one giant fly in the ointment: the huge and rapidly growing national debt, alongside our steep levels of personal debt. Rightly, that will obsess us in an election year. Even so, let’s pause at New Year to contemplate what might go right in Britain.’

The Feeding Britain Inquiry

I have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with our local Foodbanks. Members of my team work closely with the volunteers who do a great job offering more than food to the local people they help. My team work with the volunteers to tackle the underlying reasons why people need to go to our local Foodbanks and they try to help people individually with those problems. As a result of this work, together we have been able to help many people back onto their own feet. I have been able to take up systemic issues about some administrative problems with benefits and get improvements such as the early withdrawal of the last Labour government’s ATOS contract for work capability assessments.

I don’t want to see Foodbank use become an entrenched part of our welfare system. I am a member of the APPG, chaired by Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro and Frank Field MP that produced the Feeding Britain report that was published last week. It was well received, considered a thorough and thoughtful piece of work and welcomed by the Government who are carefully considering its recommendations.

Last week I also spent time highlighting the excellent work of Shelterbox and in particular their work in supporting the refugees from the conflict in Syria. Shelterbox have brave teams of aid workers in Syria now providing more than accommodation and including teaching material and medical support. I am looking forward to spending tomorrow afternoon visiting Shelterbox to personally thank the professionals and volunteers for their work which contributes to Britain leading the humanitarian support in this region, as it does in so many others parts of the world torn apart by man made or natural disasters.

Everyday of the year, including over this festive season, local people are serving their community and their fellow citizens both in our own country and around the world. Our society is made up of people from all walks of life, and from the public, private and voluntary sectors. It works best when we all work together.

One of the key recommendations of the Feeding Britain Inquiry was for those who can make make a difference in tackling poverty in our society to work more closely together in their communities. No two communities are the same and it is the people living in them who have the solutions. The causes of poverty are complex and require a range of solutions. This is a really important political issue that needs a political solution, there will be different ideas but that shouldn’t mean name calling and blame games.

Some politicians are trying to conjure up old 20th century politics based on failed ideology. The state versus the individual and the private sector. This is a false choice and nonsense.  The Conservatives are committed to balancing the nation’s finances. When we have done this public expenditure will be broadly where it was in 2007. That is not a return to the 1930s! The real debate is how taxpayers money is spent to deliver a better future.