Boundary Review

Along with the other Cornwall’s MPs, I was elected, by some margin, to do what I said I would do. That included, following through on the legislation that had been passed during the last Parliament, enabling the reduction of the number of MPs to 600 and making sure every voter was treated more equally.

The independent Boundary Commission has the task of consulting widely and updating the boundaries of Parliamentary constituencies that will be used in the 2020 General Election. The current Parliamentary constituency boundaries were agreed using the electoral roll and census of 2000. They are out of date and real unfairness has crept in with some constituencies having 21,000 and others 108,000 constituents.

The proposed new constituency boundaries drawn up by The Boundary Commission will result in one MP representing a constituency that includes both Cornwall and a small part of Devon. The boundaries of Cornwall are not being redrawn. Cornwall remains Cornwall.

It is worth reflecting on the fact that over time the border between Cornwall & Devon has been fluid. It’s also worth noting that Bishop Tim, who in my opinion does a great job standing up for people in Cornwall in the House of Lords, is the Bishop for Cornwall and parts of Devon. Cornish MPs work with our colleagues and authorities in Devon to secure mutually beneficial changes for our constituents, such as investment in road and rail infrastructure.

As for the Cornish Minority Status, this is being taken into consideration by The Boundary Commission too.

I am proud of my deep Cornish roots and am passionate about Cornwall’s history and unique culture. While constantly needing improvement, I am also a passionate supporter of our Parliamentary democracy.  I believe that it is a matter of fairness that every vote should have an equal value.

Back to School

Along with a loving family, a good education is an important building block for our children’s futures. While learning starts as soon as we are born and it is important to nurture all aspects of development, time in school can shape much of our future chances in life.

Given the importance of education not only to each person but to the whole of our society, it is not surprising that it is a policy area that I spend considerable time on. Time listening to local teachers, academics, leaders of schools and colleges, parents, carers and young people. I also listen to local and national employers about future opportunities for our young people. This enables me to represent the views of my constituents with Ministers as they undertake their role of shaping government policy.

Over the past six years we have made great strides forward, with more than 1.4 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools than in 2010. The academies programme has helped unlock the potential of many schools. This Government is committed to helping all schools enjoy academy status freedoms and school-led system improvement through multi-academy trusts.

Conversion to academies in Cornwall has improved educational outcomes for children and young people. The majority of young people are in schools that are academies and Cornwall now has an above average proportion of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools, and a proven track record of securing improvement. In 2009, 62% of our schools were judged to be ‘good’ or better, and this has risen to over 90% in March 2016. It is well reported that throughout this period school inspections have become tougher. As two members of my family are recently retired teachers, I have seen first-hand how dedicated teachers are to providing a great education.

We are fortunate to have highly effective leadership of our two local secondary schools, which have both enabled local young people to achieve excellent results in recent GCSE exams. These results are significantly above the national average and amongst the best results of any school in Cornwall.

During a recent conversation with Brett Miners of Falmouth School, I asked him about the success of the school. I thought you would be interested in his response. He summarised the journey over the past three years as being built on a belief that tolerance and respect coupled with high aspirations, standards and expectations underpin much of what the school does. Aiming each day to give students the highest possible quality of support and in return expect excellent standards of behaviour in and out of the classroom ensures all students have every opportunity to succeed. “This way we can make a real difference.”

He went onto say, “We are also determined to make the school a community school. We have increased the use of the building in the evenings and at weekends and we now work with an increasing number of groups who regularly hire the school facilities.”

I very much support the new Sports Development Project at Falmouth School, the construction of which is imminent, as it will enable many more local people of all ages to participate in a range of sport.

The commitment to ensuring that every child in this country receives a high-quality education and that we narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor is the driving mission of the Government’s education reforms.

This Government is putting the interests of ordinary working-class people first. We want this country to be a truly meritocratic country, where what matters most is a person’s individual talent and their capacity for hard work, so we need to build a schools system that works for everyone, not just for the privileged few.

The Government wants to build on the progress made over the past six years and make the schools system truly fit for purpose in the 21st century. The current “Schools that work for everyone” consultation is about engaging with as many views as possible so that we can design policies that make the most of the expertise that we already have, and widen access to good and outstanding school places for all. There is so much potential in our country, and that talent base needs us to ask the big questions, leaving no stone unturned so that we can build a schools system that truly works for everyone.

Flooding

Improved rain and flood modelling, a significant increase in new temporary flood defences and greater protection to infrastructure were all outlined in the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review this week.

Lessons learnt from last winter’s floods have helped build a new approach so the nation is better prepared and more resilient to flooding, now and in coming years.

The review includes £12.5 million for new temporary defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps, at seven strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the Environment Agency will have four times more temporary barriers than last year. Utility companies’ have committed to increase flood protection of their key local infrastructure, such as phone networks and water treatment works, so they are resilient to extreme flooding. There will be a new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in England and, for the first time, Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with Environment Agency modelling to provide a new assessment of flood risk.

Locally, we have seen just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the flood defences.

The extra funding will help the Environment Agency do even more for local communities so that we can better protect homes and businesses and respond even more rapidly and flexibly when extreme weather strikes.

With the evidence of the National Flood Resilience Review, Government will now turn its attention to investment after 2021, making sure funds are directed where they are needed most.

This builds on the £2.5 billion already being invested between 2015 and 2021 to strengthen our flood and coastal defences, as well as spending £1 billion on maintaining the nation’s flood defences over this Parliament.

Microbeads

I fully support the ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic products and have been working with Surfers Against Sewage to promote this. Microbeads are certainly having detrimental effects  in oceans all around the world so it is essential that we take action.

Recently the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology published a report on Marine Microplastic Pollution. This report explains what microplastics are, what effect they are having on both wildlife and the environment and how they are currently being managed.

The UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. One of its most important objectives is to reduce marine litter, and in 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address this problem. The plan includes action on microplastics, and involves co-operating with manufacturers to achieve a voluntary phase out of their use in cosmetics and personal care products.

Following this agreement the European trade body for the industry, Cosmetics Europe, issued a formal recommendation to its member companies to discontinue the use of microbeads in these products. It also noted that many of its member companies had done so already.

I welcome the news that Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have all agreed to take action on microbeads. Tesco has committed to remove all microbeads by 2017 and Waitrose will remove all branded products with beads from 4 September. Other supermarkets say they are seeking to ban the microbeads – Boots, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Next, Aldi, Superdrug and Asos are also seeking to banish the ‘toxic’ beads from their products.

I am delighted that the Government has announced further action and will continue to work with our international partners to eradicate the use of microbeads.

Brexit and the Environment

The Bank Holiday weekend gave me some time to enjoy our precious natural environment. Many people have asked me what is going to happen to environmental policy post Brexit.

The two outgoing energy and climate ministers, Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom, were on opposite sides of the referendum debate but swiftly presented a firm, united front, emphasising continuity in energy and environmental policy.

Both remain in cabinet positions. The appointment of Greg Clark and Nick Hurd to DECC’s successor has been greeted with warmth by leading environmentalists: both have long championed the UK’s commitment to climate and the environment. As Margaret Thatcher said: “The core of Conservative philosophy and of the case for protecting the environment are the same. No generation has a freehold on this earth.”

The UK’s own Climate Change Act, enshrining legally binding emissions reductions, is a major benefit and was passed by an overwhelming cross-party majority. The act is unaffected by Brexit, and the government’s decision to recently approve the fifth carbon budget was an explicit confirmation of this.

A Conservative manifesto commitment to develop a 25 Year Environmental Strategy is currently reconsidering how to deliver its environmental ambitions post-Brexit. This is an opportunity for us to go beyond EU targets and put in place more sustainable resource management policies and environmental protections. While new measures are put in place we have domestic legislation, as well as international commitments ratified by the UK, such as the Bern and Ramsar Conventions that protect our environment.

As someone who grew up here, I have seen first hand how EU policies have benefitted us, particularly the bathing water directive. I remember swimming from our local beaches where raw sewage was routinely discharged. Thankfully this is now a rarity so I am determined to build on these successes.

“A” Level Results

Congratulations to the young people, teachers and their families who worked so hard for the excellent “A” level results we saw from our local schools and Truro & Penwith College. I believe that a good education is essential for people to realise their full potential and play as full a part in our society as possible.

We have, yet again, seen record university application rates, a four percent rise on last year, from every part of the UK. As importantly to me, more young people, including high achieving young people, are starting apprenticeships.

As we build a Britain that works for everyone and not just the privileged few, we want to ensure that every young person going to university or starting an apprenticeship receives the high standard of education they deserve.

Building on the progress of recent years, more people from disadvantaged backgrounds will be going to university this year. 18-year-olds from the least advantaged backgrounds are seven per cent more likely to be placed than in 2015.

While more needs to be done, more people from disadvantaged backgrounds go to university in England than in Scotland despite free tuition from the Scottish Government. For 2014, the latest figures available, the entry rate of university students from disadvantaged backgrounds was 18.2%, up 5% from 2009. For Scotland the comparable figure was nearly half that at 9.5 % despite free university education.

Jeremy Corbyn in his recent visit to Cornwall pledged to scrap university tuition fees. While constant scrutiny is essential to ensure everyone who has the ability to benefit from a university education has the opportunity, scrapping the current system, introduced by Labour and made much fairer by Conservatives in Government and described by the independent OECD as offering the most scalable and sustainable approach to university finance, seems reckless.

Combating Modern Slavery

Thousands of law enforcement officers across the United Kingdom will be empowered to join the fight against modern slavery at sea using new powers in the Modern Slavery Act which come into force this week.

The new powers will enable officers from Border Force, police forces and the National Crime Agency (NCA)  to board and search vessels, seize evidence and arrest offenders, where it is suspected that modern slavery is taking place.

Officers will be able to intercept vessels with reasonable grounds, arrest offenders and rescue victims from ships in UK waters. I was pleased to meet our local Border Force team in Falmouth and local police this week.

Modern slavery is a crime that rips victims from their families, trapping them in a cycle of abuse at the hands of ruthless gangs.

Officers from the Shetlands to the Isles of Scilly now have the power to arrest offenders and protect victims from this abhorrent crime whether on board a ship or on our shores.

Our message is clear – the UK is taking action to protect victims.

Offenders arrested at sea for modern slavery offences now face up to life imprisonment for their crimes under the Modern Slavery Act.

The new powers are in addition to the support announced by the Government last week, including a new taskforce to coordinate cross-government action, £33.5m in official development assistance funding and a HMIC inspection to assess police response to modern slavery.

Over 2013 and 2014, the NCA identified 37 potential victims of modern slavery who reported exploitation in the maritime industry. Victims onboard vessels will be brought to the mainland and will be able to access tailored care and support through the National Referral Mechanism, as part of the Government’s National Care and Coordination Contract administered by the Salvation Army.