West Briton column 27 June 2013

A rich seam of creativity runs through the long years of Cornwall’s past. From the Cornish speaking monks penning Arthurian tales at Penryn’s Glasney College, to Truro’s pioneering composer Joseph Antonio Emidy, through to St Ives’ fisherman-painter Andrew Wallis, Cornwall based writers, musicians and artists have done much to enrich our cultural heritage.

In the twenty first century creative people in Cornwall continue to make an outstanding contribution to our cultural life and increasingly, to our economy.

The creative economy across the South West is now worth more than £1 billion and employs more than ninety four thousand people. In Truro and Falmouth alone the variety and scale of creative enterprise is dazzling, from sector leading graphic designers, to pioneering conceptual artists and their support teams, to digital games pioneers. First class institutions, like the Truro Cathedral, the Hall for Cornwall, the Royal Cornwall Museum, Cornwall Maritime Museum and Falmouth Poly and Art Gallery are catalysts for all this innovation, inspiring and supporting creative endeavour.

I am pleased that the Government is doing all it can to support this vibrant part of our local economy. New beneficial tax arrangements for the film industry have made a real difference, and we are seeing Cornish scripts, Cornish set designs and Cornish locations appearing more and more in films both large and small. The blockbuster film “Summer in February”, currently being screened in cinemas across the UK, was shot in locations across Cornwall, including Holywell Bay in my constituency.

Crucially Ministers have recently enabled Falmouth to gain full University status. This new status, following on from £100 million of investment over the past ten years, will help the newly embodied Falmouth University to build on its successes. What successes those have been- the ever increasing range of high quality courses on offer over recent years has provided a wealth of opportunities to creatively minded people of all ages, and of all backgrounds. These courses have helped produce thousands of extremely talented creative professionals. Many of these talented individuals hail from Cornwall, and many stay on in the Duchy after their studies, setting up creative businesses and creating local jobs. These links between the university and the local economy are getting even stronger, with the opening last year of Tremough’s Academy for Innovation and Research, and the Innovation Centre. Graduates and undergraduates work at the Academy and Centre with local businesses, using their creativity to help create even more employment opportunities. These two projects aim to support nearly two hundred local companies by 2015, generating £18 million for the local economy and creating over a hundred new jobs.

As the Government continues to rebalance UK economy away from over-dependence on financial services concerned in the South East, it is Cornwall, and its vibrant creative renaissance, that is increasingly at the forefront of growth. Just as the arts have the potential to bring meaning, colour and understanding to the lives of individuals, they have the potential to refresh and revitalize our national economy.

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West Briton column 20 June 2013

Over the last week or so I have visited a number of primary and secondary schools where I have been grilled by Year Six to Year Eleven students on my work as their MP. This is always a tough but rewarding experience, I learn so much from the discussions at each meeting. Of the wide variety of questions politely asked of me, the subject of sports facilities and an ‘Olympic legacy’ for Cornwall is always of great interest. I am delighted that so many young people participate in such a wide range of outdoor activities and sports.

I am pleased that the Government is supporting this involvement with sport, using £493million to invest in grassroots sporting groups. I am particularly pleased to see that local clubs from St. Agnes Tennis to Penryn Rugby to Flushing Gig Club have all received funds from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund to make substantial improvements to their facilities and activities. I sincerely hope that more clubs and groups will apply for this support, further details of which can be found through http//inspiredfacilities.sportengland.org/

As Cornwall Council works with local communities on deciding the numbers of new homes and where they are to be built it is really important to make sure that green open spaces are planned in as well as sports facilities. Both are important for our natural environment as well as ensuring that local people of all ages and abilities have access to facilities where they can have fun and boost their fitness.

That’s why I felt it was so important to intervene last week and prevent the sale of the former Budock Hospital site to the highest bidder. The plans put forward by Falmouth School and supported by both Falmouth Town and Cornwall Council make good sense. The land is publicly owned and should be for the benefit of local people.

The schools plan to build an all-weather sports facility for their pupils and the community, has the support of a wide range of groups including Cornwall Squash and Rackets Association; Cornwall Football Association and Road Runners as well as Falmouth’s Town Football, United Football, Cricket, Hockey and Rugby Clubs. This is a much better option that having a housing estate built in the middle of the school campus.

I was pleased to make the case for the well supported Falmouth School plans in Parliament last week and secured the support of the Health Minister in charge. The land has been taken off the open market and I have arranged a meeting with representatives of the NHS, Falmouth School and Cornwall Council which I will chair tomorrow so that we can find a common sense solution that will deliver much needed improvements for the school and a real Olympic legacy for Falmouth.

Finally congratulations to the organisers of yet another successful Cornish Festival of Cricket, hosted by Truro Cricket Club, and good luck to all those competing in the Cornwall Schools Games on the 28th June!

West Briton column 13 June 2013

Every day I speak to families concerned by the rising cost of living. They tell me that it is energy bills that are hitting the hardest. Government action on bills is focussed on keeping the increases as low as possible and investing in secure supplies of energy for our grandchildren.

The carbon based energy sources much of the ‘developed world’ has relied upon for decades are becoming more difficult to extract, more expensive to buy, and are frequently affected by the swings of an increasingly volatile international energy market.

If we are to liberate households from rising energy prices, we must first liberate our energy supply from international energy markets. To do this we must develop a comprehensive domestic energy package, drawing on a range sources of energy including renewable technologies. This week we debated the Energy Bill – a plan for renewing our ageing energy infrastructure so that it is fit for the future. This is as important for jobs, especially manufacturing jobs in high energy industries, as it is for households.

In an uncertain world, by generating more of our own energy in our own country we will be able to insulate ourselves from shocks in international energy prices.

The Coalition Government has introduced a raft of policies to reduce our dreadful waste of energy. The Green Deal enables homes to fund energy efficiency measures. The Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme and the Green Investment Bank, are designed to encourage investment in energy production and energy efficiency products.

This investment in clean domestic energy sources is paying off – renewable energy production in the UK grew by 27% last year alone. Over 10% of the energy now supplied in the UK comes from renewable sources.

Every week in my constituency I see people choosing to use government schemes to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their communities. This week I visited Penair School in Truro and their inspiration project of turning food, green and paper waste into energy. Investment in a biomass boiler will save them £13,000 each year in waste disposal charges alone.

I am seeing the growth of companies developing and installing renewable energy across my constituency, growing high quality and sustainable jobs at the same time. From Mount Wellington a former tin mine and centre for renewable heat technology to FabTest in Falmouth, which uses the calm waters of the Fal to test the efficiency and functionality of new marine energy technologies.

Many people, whilst supportive of renewable energy technologies, have understandable concerns and objections to inappropriate onshore wind turbine developments and large scale solar farms.

I welcomed the Governments guidance to Cornwall Council this week that put communities in the driving seat as decisions on future wind turbine applications are made. Communities hosting on shore wind should benefit from lower electricity bills and investment in their community too. Energy Minister Greg Barker MP, in his recent to Truro made it clear that solar panels should be on rooftops and brownfield sites not on productive farmland.

Western Morning News Column 11 June 2013

Every day I speak to families concerned by the rising cost of living. They tell me that it is energy bills that are hitting the hardest.

The carbon-based energy sources we have relied upon for decades are becoming more difficult to extract, more expensive to buy, and are frequently affected by the swings of an increasingly volatile international energy market.

If we are to liberate households from rising energy prices, we must first liberate our energy supply from the international carbon market. To do this we must develop a comprehensive domestic energy package, drawing on a range of renewable technologies. This week the Energy Bill set out a plan for the future. A plan for renewing our ageing energy infrastructure so that it is fit for the 21st century.

In an uncertain world, by generating more of our own energy in our own country, we will be able to insulate ourselves from shocks in international energy prices.

The coalition Government has introduced a raft of policies to reduce the dreadful daily waste of energy. The Green Deal enables homes to fund energy efficiency measures. The Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme and the Green Investment Bank, are designed to encourage investment in renewable energy production and energy efficiency products.

This investment in clean domestic energy sources is paying off – renewable energy production in the UK grew by 27% last year alone. Over 10% of the energy now supplied in the UK comes from renewable sources.
Every week in my constituency I see people choosing to use the Government’s measures to create a more sustainable future for themselves and their communities. Penair School in Truro has an inspirational programme of turning their food green and paper waste into energy. Their investment in a biomass boiler will save them £13,000 a year in waste disposal charges.

I am seeing the growth of companies developing and installing renewable energy across my constituency, growing high quality and sustainable jobs at the same time. Mount Wellington, a former tin mine, is a centre for ground heat, solar and tidal energy and neighbouring United Mines has planning permission to play host to the UK’s first deep geothermal power plant. Geothermal energy is a renewable, virtually carbon-free source of power derived from the ground’s natural heat, pioneered in Cornwall.

Falmouth is playing an integral role in the new South West Marine Energy Park, the new designation of the South West coast as a marine energy centre. Falmouth’s FabTest facilities, which use the calm waters of the Fal to test the efficiency and functionality of new marine energy technologies, form an important part of the park.

Many people, whilst supportive of renewable energy technologies, have understandable concerns about inappropriate onshore wind turbine developments, and the impact they have on the surrounding landscape.
Since being elected I have been campaigning for the reforms announced last week. These reforms will ensure that communities are in the driving seat as decisions on future turbine applications are made. Concerns about the visual impact of turbines will be given far greater weight within the planning system and developers will be required to work hand in hand with the community as schemes are developed. Communities hosting onshore wind should benefit from lower electricity bills and investment in their community.

Applications for large scale solar arrays on good quality farmland have been causing consternation and I am pleased that the Energy Minister Greg Barker MP, recently restated the clear policy that solar panels should be on rooftops and brownfield sites.

Looking more widely, this week Regen SW published a renewable manifesto. The Manifesto for the South West sets out a comprehensive plan to secure further growth in local green industries, with the aim of creating a further 34,000 jobs. Delivering lasting energy security for our country and keeping energy bills down is a huge challenge but one with a great deal of opportunity for the UK to innovate and generate new technologies and new jobs.

Are we Prepared to Care?

This year I am proud to have been asked by the Carers Week partners to be a Parliamentary Ambassador for their campaign, celebrating the incredible contribution of the 6.5 million people in the UK who provide unpaid care and support to older or disabled loved ones

This week sees the largest ever Carers Week (10 to 16 June) with over 2,600 organisations and local groups registering to take part and organising thousands of events right across the UK from the Shetland Isles to my own constituency of Truro and Falmouth.

The number of people caring for a family member or friend who is ill, frail and disabled has increased by 11 per cent in the last decade alone (Census 2011) and is only set to rise as we meet the demands of our ageing population.

Prepared to Care? is the theme for this year’s Carers Week and it has been launched with findings from a specially commissioned report which found that 75 per cent of carers were not prepared for all aspects of caring (both the emotional and practical).

Caring is a hallmark of the strength of family life – but it can also have an enormous impact on carers’ lives if they don’t get the support they need. Caring can affect people’s finances, health and well-being, and their relationships. It can also result in them giving up work or choosing an alternative role that enables them to fit work in around demanding caring responsibilities.

Too often carers struggle without knowing about the support, advice and information available. Some are signposted by frontline health and social care professionals to local support and networks but others can feel left in the dark and only find out by accident what benefits or financial assistance they might be entitled to and their rights as carers.

This is why it is so important that we show the UK’s 6.5 million carers that we are indeed ‘Prepared to Care’. We need public services, communities and workplaces to support our carers, who in addition to the immeasurable difference they make to the lives of those they look after, save the UK £119bn a year by providing voluntary care. Now is the time to show that it is not just individuals living with health problems who need the dedication of carers dedication more than ever before- as a society we would quiet simply be lost without them.

Carers Week runs from Monday 10 to Sunday 16 June right across the UK. For more information visit http://www.carersweek.org

West Briton column 6 June 2013

Two weeks ago I said that the delivery of my pledge on the Marriage Bill had taught me that people really want to actively participate in our democracy. I have now learned another lesson- that a reflective and democratic approach to a high profile issue, clearly understood and reported by other newspapers, did not please the editor of this paper who for the past two weeks has questioned my integrity. I stand by the actions I took to represent the views of my constituents in Parliament, whilst also standing by the freedom of newspapers like the West Briton to report stories in such a way. It is part and parcel of having a free press. The freedom of the press is a principle that has stood us in good stead for centuries, and one that I will continue to defend.

Another key principle worth fighting for is the belief that young people should be fully involved in the communities of which they form a part. I was delighted last week to meet with a team from Cornwall College that are working hard to promote this, through the National Citizen Service (NCS) Programme.

The NCS Programme, a free four week programme for 16-17 year olds as they make their transition to adulthood, was announced by David Cameron in July 2010 and was piloted in Cornwall. Following the success of these pilots the programme was rolled out nationwide and is now delivered in Cornwall by Cornwall College. Young people enrolling on the scheme take part in a two week residential activity programme exploring concepts of citizenship and team building. These two weeks see those involved overcome a number of challenges, including working with individuals they haven’t met before, and for many, the difficulty of living away from home for the first time.

Following the conclusion of the two week course those involved return to their communities to put the skills they have learnt into practice by pursuing a project to make their area a better place to live.

The Cornwall College team I met with last Friday were doing a great job of promoting the scheme on Truro’s Lemon Quay, and I look forward to visiting young people taking part in the scheme later this summer. I have had the privilege of doing so in previous years, and on each occasion was inspired by the enthusiasm and community spirit of all those involved.

Whilst young people increasingly make their own communities online through social media, programmes like the NCS help ensure that they don’t lose touch with the communities on their doorstep. The work of the NCS helps young people to develop people skills, their achievements demonstrating the contribution young people can make to all of our communities. There are a few places still left on this year’s programme- I would encourage all those interested in taking part to contact Cornwall College’s NCS team on 01726 226626 or through http://www.cornwall.ac.uk as soon as possible to secure a place.