Should we stay or should we go?

Last summer, when our son rowed for GB at the European Coupe de Jeunesse and the Union Jack was raised as we sung the National Anthem I felt intense patriotism. I roared with the other British supporters urging our youngsters to beat those from across the European Union.

Being proud to be British is at the core of who I am. So my Referendum decision is based on what I believe is best for Britain.

While the European Union is far from perfect, I think that we all too easily overlook the huge benefits for British people of having the opportunity to trade with and to work, live and study with ease in the largest market in the world. This is a market that shares broadly the same values as us and, like us, promotes freedom across the world. Do we really want to close down these opportunities for our children and grandchildren?

It is significant that David Cameron has won the argument that Britain can be part of the European Union without having to become a fully integrated member moving towards a United States of Europe with a common currency.

If we leave we will still be trading and working alongside the European Union but we wouldn’t have a say about the rules. As our major allies and some of our most important trading partners have already warned, outside the European Union we would lose influence.

I hope we will remain in the European Union, as I believe we have more to gain than loose, and we should continue leading reform so together we can more effectively tackle the challenges we all face – global migration, climate change, sustainable economic growth, financial stability and threats to our way of life.

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Published by West Briton.


How Cornwall’s using devolution to grow its green economy

Last July, Cornwall was the first county to sign a devolution deal with central government, giving Cornwall Council, NHS Kernow and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) greater control over how the county’s taxes are spent and our local public services are run. The deal is a great opportunity to improve the health and well-being of people in Cornwall, and to grow our economy sustainably. The questions are how we can use the deal to our best advantage and, in relation to issues like climate resilience and extreme weather, whether Cornwall has the answers to its own problems.

A strong starting point: We already know that Cornwall’s green economy is strong: it has been a pioneer of low carbon technology and renewable energy development and is home to some of the UK’s most striking natural landscapes. So developing our green economy will be central to our plans. As a result of the deal, locally shaped investment and support opportunities are now available for low carbon businesses and social enterprises in Cornwall.

In November last year, I was pleased to join members of Cornwall Council, academics, local businesses and community groups at a workshop hosted by Green Alliance. We discussed opportunities and challenges around how we can enable environmentally sustainable growth while protecting our natural environment.

Exeter University, based in my constituency, has mapped the natural capital value of the land in Cornwall and we discussed how this information could be used in Cornwall Council’s planning decisions.

The Duchy’s many high quality food and drink producers are a key part of our sustainable growth plans, so making the right decisions about land use will be vital. We need the land to generate energy and produce food as well as space for homes, business and recreation, while protecting the ecosystems and natural environment we all value.

From our discussion, it is clear the LEP is on the right track, as a driver of low carbon growth and renewables. It has recognised Cornwall’s advantages in relation to growing the green economy and exploiting its wealth of renewable energy sources, particularly marine and geothermal energy. It’s performing a valuable role in creating closer links between business, the public sector and the environment and making the most of local expertise.  This includes developing the electricity grid in Cornwall, local ownership and community energy models for renewable energy and a local energy market, as well as an energy efficiency framework.

Why it’s essential to involve residents: The recent floods have served as a strong reminder that climate change is Cornwall’s problem too. The work of Cornwall Flood Forum is building community resilience and involvement in flood prevention and mitigation.  The devolution deal has also offered the chance to develop an integrated, evidence based flooding and coastal defence investment programme, which will help reduce risks to residents and economic activities from severe weather events.

Balancing responsibilities and priorities is complicated, but we have to take the community with us to be successful.  We know we need to engage Cornish residents on the nature of our energy future and in thinking about how we value our natural capital, recognising that the Cornish natural landscape is an asset, to be enjoyed and handed down safely to future generations.

Infrastructure change is too often felt as something done to people, not by them. If we increase engagement and information sharing among Cornish communities on issues around energy, climate change and the natural environment, we will foster a better understanding of our personal environmental responsibilities. An existing initiative showing great results is Carbon Logic, a project tracking people’s personal commitment to tackle climate change through ten ‘pledges’. It has already delivered real carbon reductions while supporting local farmers and businesses.

To increase local action in Cornwall on global challenges, greener growth needs to be made a more tangible concept for local people, and it is vital that we increase their sense of participation and ownership of the means to achieve it.

You can follow the progress of devolution in Cornwall in the Devolution newsletter.

Published by the Green Alliance Blog on February 8th 2016

Supporting Superfast Broadband in Cornwall

Nearly a year ago, the Digital Economy Minister, Ed Vaizey MP, wrote to Cornwall Council encouraging the leadership to ensure that new build housing developments include provision for superfast broadband connectivity.

As the letter said, “Advanced high quality superfast broadband is essential for sustainable economic growth. Government and local authorities are investing £1.7 billion to bring superfast broadband to 95% or more of the United Kingdom by 2017.

“You have a crucial role to play in supporting this ambitious target through your Local Plans and when considering planning applications to ensure wherever possible commercial and residential new builds are able to access superfast broadband. The policy on this is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.”

“The Framework also requires local planning authorities, in preparing and reviewing Local Plans to work with providers to assess the quality and capacity of infrastructure of strategic priority in your area and its ability to meet forecasted demands. Policy places the provision of telecommunications alongside other key infrastructure such as roads and utilities.”

Some local authorities, have already brought in policies requiring all new build homes to have access to broadband. Despite my pressing for action from Cornwall Council, sadly too many local new build projects fail to ensure a good level of superfast broadband availability.

The Government’s planned introduction of a Universal Service Obligation, similar to obligations put on other essential utilities providers such as water and electricity as well as this week’s announcement of a voluntary agreement between BT and big house builders are important steps forward. A forthcoming EU requirement will mean that from 2017, all new buildings need to be “high-speed broadband ready.”

But what we need right now is Cornwall Council to use its existing powers and take action to support residents and small businesses in getting broadband.

Published by West Briton.

Cornwall’s End of Life Support

Over the last few years, MPs have tackled some very controversial issues that perhaps our predecessors would have shied away from.

Child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, and tackling the stigma of mental health were significant themes of the last Parliament.

So what taboo is going to be tackled in this Parliament? In England, there are about 500,000 deaths each year, of whom approximately 80% were people aged over 65. Despite this huge number, few of us seem prepared to share our thoughts with even those closest to us about living with a period of ill health before death.

Huge amounts of public policy has been developed to enable a good start to life but far less is concerned with our final years and exit. Why isn’t this more of a priority?

It might well be that too many of us don’t like to think about losing the people we love and are fearful of the end of our own lives, but we will all die and more needs to be done to enable a good death.

Last year’s excellent parliamentary debate on proposals to legalise assisted suicide clearly reflected the deep emotions death stirs in us all and the fact that it is a difficult subject to talk openly about.

I support vastly improved end of life care and the Government has stated its commitment to ensuring that all people at the end of life in England receive the best possible care.

Here in the West Country, Health Watch Cornwall conducted research in early 2015 into Cornwall’s end-of-life support and five recommendations were made. I am optimistic that following their excellent conference last week that an End-of-Life Charter for Cornwall, based on the feedback from a wide range of professionals, will be implemented and local care improved.

Published by West Briton.