The case for reforming Europe grows’

While it will take some time to fully comprehend the European election results, I have listened to my constituents and understand people’s frustration that Britain’s relationship with the EU is not working.

What is certain is that whilst the rise in the UKIP vote was considerable, and will impact on how well Cornwall’s interests are represented in the European Parliament, this was peaceful change delivered through the ballot box. This is in stark contrast to the violent change delivered through barricade, Molotov cocktail and bullet on Europe’s borders. The EU’s role in guaranteeing peace for its members should not be forgotten.

However this is not a reason for keeping the EU as it is. There is no doubt that the implicit deal of the EU where people in each member state give up some power to the Union in exchange for benefits of membership has broken down and needs to be fundamentally reformulated. The EU should also be more flexible and capable of evolving policies in response to the circumstances of the time.

David Cameron has been ahead of the curve on this, repeatedly raising the need for the European Union to urgently reform with more decision making power given back to people and member states. Change to the principle of unlimited migration within Europe, which events have shown to be flawed in the 21st century, has been and continues to be at the top of his list.

Right up to polling day UKIP, Labour and Liberal Democrats in Cornwall denounced Conservative plans for fundamental reform as unworkable. Today, more leaders across Europe from all corners and political traditions are supporting David Cameron’s position, understanding that the EU no longer commands unqualified support.

So what do the results mean for Cornwall now? If you want a reformed relationship with the EU followed by a referendum to decide if we should stay in or go it alone, please join your local Conservatives in working for this change. No other party is offering you that choice and is able to deliver it.

It is essential that we make the UK’s relationship with the EU work for Cornwall. Local people must be at the heart of this process and I am pleased that our business community this year are able to get directly involved in determining how taxpayers funds allocated to Cornwall by the EU are spent. The Coalition government set up our Local Enterprise Partnership, led by local business people, to make decisions on how to support the growth of our economy. Our LEP will decide how £592 million of taxpayer’s funding devolved by the EU to Cornwall will be spent supporting local businesses over the next five years.

I want to make sure that the views of people living and working in my constituency are fed into the LEPs plan development. I am writing to every business in my constituency to ask for their views and will continue working with the business community and LEP to get the plans right.

Fal River Walk 2014

Really enjoyed meeting with the President Jenny Hall  and the Truro Boscawen Rotary Club team who did such a great job organising the annual Fal River Walk. Really great community event for people of all ages and raises lots of money for local good causes too.

https://picasaweb.google.com/111140038713912492148/FalRiverWalk?authkey=Gv1sRgCNLZibr89ffzswE&feat=email

Your vote matters

Last month I had the privilege of meeting with a group of young people from Truro and Carn Brea Foyers, pioneering youth groups belonging to inspirational Foyer Federation, to discuss political participation. Their enthusiasm about politics and desire to get involved was a delight to see. Every week I meet local young people in schools and colleges and join in the good work that is being done by teachers and lecturers to foster and promote involvement in our democracy.

Today is of course polling day for the Euro elections and I very much hope that you feel able to go out and vote. Whatever your views on the EU you can best express them at the ballot box. I will be voting Conservative to ensure we have a strong voice for Cornwall and the UK in the European Parliament where our MEPs can work with like minded colleagues and David Cameron to get a better deal for the UK to be put to you in a referendum in 2017. You can decide if it’s good enough for us to stay in or choose to come out of the EU. As the young people from Truro and Carn Brea Foyers so eloquently put to me, your vote matters and will make a difference.

In my experience it is not just in political participation that our young people are leading the way. In our wider civic life in Cornwall younger generations are setting a great example. From the teenage volunteers I met earlier this year helping out at the National Autistic Society’s Cornwall swimming club, to the Penair School pupils who are leading local efforts to campaign for the release of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram, young volunteers are making a real difference.

Over the past three summers I was delighted to be able to get directly involved in a great youth project, the National Citizen Service (NCS). This is a free four week programme for 15-18 year olds introduced by David Cameron in 2010. Young people enrolling on the scheme take part in a two week residential citizenship programme before returning 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. Over 60,000 young people across the country have taken part so far.

To take part in the NCS Summer 2014 programme, delivered in Cornwall by Cornwall College, visit http://www.cornwall.ac.uk/NCS or calling 01726 226511.

I can’t write about civic duty without mentioning a public servant that is the living embodiment of the concept, Falmouth’s Cllr Geoffrey Evans, who last week ended his eighth term as Falmouth Mayor – part of a career spanning four decades as councillor. Geoffrey has been an outstanding ambassador for Falmouth and a real champion for the people he represents, work that will happily continue as he continues in his role as Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Arwenack. Thank you Geoffrey for all you have done, and continue to do.

Standing up for Britain in Europe

We now have a week to go before elections that will help shape the future of Cornwall – the Euro Elections 2014. This is an opportunity to vote for MEPs who will stand up for Britain’s interests in Europe.

Standing up for Britain is an easy thing to pledge at election time, but for some it seems hard to deliver in practice. To make the EU work for us we can’t just refuse to engage with it, like the UKIP MEPs who don’t turn up to vote, neither can we take the Lib/Lab road of humbly submitting to its centralising instincts. Instead we have to stand up for Britain.

This is what the Conservatives have done, with remarkable success. Do you remember those who said that efforts to change Europe were doomed to failure, and were mere posturing? One British treaty veto, one unprecedented cut in the EU budget and one ring fenced British rebate later such ‘posturing’ has saved the British taxpayer over £8 billion as well as seen off considerable threats to British business. David Cameron has stood up for Britain’s interests in Europe, showing that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In this he has been ably assisted by Conservative MEPs who not only turn up to represent their constituents in the EU Parliament but have led successful reforms including to the Common Fisheries Policy, ending live fish discards, and worked with me to protect the local oyster fishery from unwanted regulations.

In looking forward there is a clear Conservative vision for Europe – one where a more democratic EU, driven by local decision making, drives forward sustainable economic growth.Giving the British people a referendum on Britain’s EU membership is essential to this democratic surge. If given a mandate at the General Election next year to drive forward European reform David Cameron will ask you in 2017 to decide whether a reformed EU settlement would work for Britain or whether the time to leave the Union has come.

A key reform David Cameron is seeking is to bring back powers to the UK from Brussels. From EU President Barroso to German Chancellor Merkel, European leaders are responding positively to David Cameron’s calls. Reduced immigration, reduced operating costs, a single location for the European Parliament, increased accountability to UK taxpayers and opening up trading partnerships with growing economies around the world are on my agenda for change, as well as making sure the money Cornwall receives from the EU actually makes a positive difference.

With some notable exceptions, I am very disappointed that the £1 billion the Duchy has received from the EU since 2000 hasn’t helped enough local people to increase their incomes. With another £500 million of EU funds coming into Cornwall over the next five years we need investment directed by local people, into local businesses to see increased household incomes and prosperity.

This is a prize worth fighting for in Europe – those willing to put up this fight need your support next week.

Why rent controls won’t work

Another week, another policy from Labour chasing headlines rather than fixing problems.

Industry experts are clear that Labour’s scheme for rent controls would lead to less investment and fewer homes to rent. This would force up rents, as people chase fewer and fewer properties.

Similarly, Labours plans on letting agents fees will, according to Shelter and other housing experts, lead to higher rents. This is because agents will simply charge landlords higher fees, who will pass on the cost to tenants in turn.

It is for this reason that I did not support Labour’s rent controls amendment this week – to have done so would have been to vote for higher rents and higher charges. This would make life more difficult for people who rent in Truro & Falmouth.

By contrast, Conservatives in Government is taking real action to make sure tenants are protected and get a fair deal. We are:

1)     Changing the law to make it easier for tenants to get their complaints addressed.

2)     Requiring letting agents to publish all their fees and charges, so that the minority of rogue agents can no longer impose unreasonable, hidden charges. If they don’t publish their fees they will be fined.

3)     As part of our long-term economic plan, investing over £1 billion to build thousands of new, good quality homes to rent.

4)     Helping people to get on the housing ladder through the Help to Buy scheme, which has already enabled over 27,000 families to achieve their dreams and buy their own home.

I support measures that make it easier for people to rent and also deal with the small minority of rogue letting agents and landlords in Cornwall. Click here for more information. 

 

Revitalising the welfare state

I was really pleased to see the West Briton dedicate a recent editorial to the subject of food banks. It is great to see a local newspaper, a historic champion for the vulnerable in our society, participating in this debate over a topic that is rightly of real concern to many.

As this debate continues I thought it might be helpful to provide some more information concerning this Government’s actions towards the poorest in society.

The Coalition has set about revitalising our system of welfare support, restoring to it its central purpose of helping people from all backgrounds to get on in life. Those who can work are being supported to access the life-changing advantages that employment can offer, and those who can’t work are being supported.

The hard working staff at our jobcentres are now offering clients more targeted support to enable them into employment, including dedicated training and support opportunities for people with disabilities and for older workers. These efforts, supported by the Government’s long term economic plan, are paying off. Unemployment across all age groups in Truro and Falmouth has fallen by more than 25% over the past year.

Local people have been further helped by an above inflation rise in the minimum wage this year. Tax changes have lifted 5000 of the lowest paid people in Truro and Falmouth out of Income Tax altogether.

Financial support for people looking for work has been boosted, with the weekly JSA payment having increased by £6.25 since 2010. Meanwhile Child tax credit for the poorest families has increased by £420 since 2010.

Support for people who can’t work has rightly been boosted further, with the Government having put an extra £1 billion into the budget that supports disability benefits since 2010.

This revitalizion of welfare support is having an impact- the latest figures from the ONS show the income gap between rich and poor is at its narrowest since 1986. Much more work needs to be done as we move out of the great recession and I am determined that no one is left behind as the economy grows.

Another story that I know will be of concern to readers regards changes to Devon and Cornwall Police funding. This is part of the effort to reduce our national debt and annual budget deficit and work to reform policing, to ensure that it makes more efficient use of taxpayer money and is focused on visibly protecting communities. Thanks in no small part to the dedication and skill of our hard working police officers this approach is working – as police efficiencies continue to save money for the taxpayer last month the crime rate fell by 15%, the lowest level since the official crime survey began. By doing things differently it is possible to deliver better public services whilst also providing better value for money for taxpayers.

As our local Police continue to face particular challenges I will continue to support them – Cornwall remains an area of low crime, long may this remain so.

Looking to a peaceful and more prosperous world

One hundred years ago this year the intricate network of diplomacy that connected together the developed nations of the time contracted into catastrophic conflict. A century on, it is fitting to consider how we can ensure that the different nations that share the globe can live peacefully together. How we can be partners, not rivals, bound together by mutual respect, economic interdependence and a shared commitment to the values embodied in the United Nations.

Over Easter I learnt more about one such partnership, growing slowly after centuries of conflict and distrust, the relationship between Britain and China. Visiting China as a guest of the ruling Communist Party, not at the taxpayers expense, I was able to see firsthand some of the new links between us. Much of this linkage concerns trade, with British exports to China up 40% in the past four years. This is a developing economic success story which I want Cornwall to play a leading role in. I was proud to spend much of my time in China flying the flag for Cornish businesses, highlighting to local business and political leaders the high quality and growing international reputation of Cornish products. I had a particularly productive meeting with the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in China discussing how it can be made easier for Cornish companies to access Chinese markets.

A major Cornish export consists of the knowledge and skills capital built up at Falmouth University and Exeter University’s Cornwall Campus. I was delighted to visit Zhejiang University to discuss how links can be forged between its arts department and Cornwall’s dynamic creative sector, and to meet with the academics at Tsinghua University to celebrate their exciting collaboration with Exeter researchers.

Whilst these economic and research links are exciting, they are only half the picture. If we want to be friends to the Chinese people we cannot shy away from the issue of human rights, the shadowed side of our partnership with that country. I share the deep concerns of my constituents concerning the actions of the Chinese Government towards Tibet, political dissidents and certain faith groups.

Following a trade mission led by David Cameron last year progress is being made in promoting human rights in China. A pioneering UK China human rights summit, proposed by Mr Cameron during his 2013 trip, is due to take place this year. Trading links are paving the way for dialogue on human rights, as a deeper partnership develops.

The current flash points of conflict around the world all have different historical contexts and rationales but I believe share one theme – a rise of nationalism. We need to remember the world wars of the last century, as current conflicts are being provoked and led by people who stoke up nationalistic sentiment based on perceived historical injustice and social division, manipulating patriotic instincts for political gain. In Cornwall and around the world, we all have our part to play in working hard for human rights, understanding of different people and ultimately peace.