West Briton column 30 May 2013

Last week the Editor of this newspaper chose to make some insinuations about me. The freedom of the press is something I have been defending in parliament. The media has an important role in our society including holding people with power and authority, as well as well paid public representatives like me, to account.

Unlike editors of the BBC, editors of newspapers are not bound to be politically fair or scrupulous. Editors of newspapers do express political opinions – attacking or supporting individual politicians and parties. The Editor of this paper asserts that I appeared to try and pull the wool over the eyes of the people I represent by not making it clear in a statement how I voted at the third reading of the Same Sex Marriage Bill. I respect my constituents and don’t insult their intelligence. My press statement was absolutely clear that I did not endorse the bill.

If the Editor wasn’t clear about my actions and motivation why didn’t he ask me? He hasn’t been shy in asking me questions in the past. I haven’t been shy in answering them. The Western Morning News and local Packet newspapers did not express concern about lack of clarity and clearly reported my action.

If he had asked me this is what I would have said. I did not vote for the bill as the majority of my constituents who contacted me didn’t support the bill. I chose to abstain rather than vote against as this best reflected the balance of opinion expressed to me. A significant minority were in favour and many said they didn’t mind either way. A vote against or an abstention has the same effect as a bill needs enough votes in favour for it to proceed.

Last week I wrote to the new Cornwall councillors in my constituency expressing my commitment to work with them for the benefit of local people.

A priority will be meeting the housing needs of my constituents. I am pleased that recent government reforms to social housing that I pushed for are enabling all the rents paid to Cornwall Housing to stay in Cornwall – improving existing homes and building new ones.

However, I remain deeply concerned by the situation in Falmouth and Penryn where the prospect of making high rental returns from converting family homes into Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) for students has led to a fall in the number of properties available to families, and attracted some rogue landlords to the area. This situation is bad for both local families and students looking to rent.

Since my election I have been pressing Cornwall Councillors to address this situation, in part by requiring HMO conversions to be first approved by local Councillors and by creating a register of private landlords meeting quality standards. This has the support of the decent local residential landlords who are just as concerned as I am about rogue landlords. I will be urging the new Councillors to use their powers to take action.

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