Pushing for Better Integrated Social Care Funding

The tragic loss of PC Keith Palmer was another reminder of the risks our police officers and members of our emergency services take each day keeping us safe. Leaving home each day for work not knowing what lies ahead. We are very grateful for their public service.

Thank you to the many constituents who contacted me last week asking after the wellbeing of my team and myself. Our overwhelming feeling was of sadness for the tragic loss of life and injury.

While the process has been painfully slow, following meetings in Cornwall last week, I am hopeful that local leaders of our NHS and care services are making progress in agreeing plans to improve our health and care services.

Each day, there are around three wards of people waiting in Treliske to go home or onto another care setting but can’t. Why, because of the continued inability of Cornwall Council to work constructively with care providers to enable them to safely leave the hospital.

The Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors are in charge of Cornwall Council. They choose how to spend our money. They choose to spend less on social care than other councils despite the fact we have more frail elderly people than many places.

Along with my MP colleagues we have made sure Cornwall Council is receiving extra, new funding for social care – £12 million this year alone. We will do everything we can to ensure they actually spend it on social care so that people who have their care funded by the taxpayer or pay for it themselves have access to the support they need to enable them to leave hospital safely.

It is however down to Council Councillors to deliver the joined up service promised – the joined up service that other parts of the country have achieved.

First published in the West Briton 29 March 2017

Defence and cooperation with our NATO allies

I was pleased to join crew from four naval ships, forming a NATO deployment, in Falmouth. Our Royal Navy vessel is working alongside three European naval vessels, including one from Estonia. This week they will be heading to the Baltic to undertake mine clearance and participate in NATO support for our allies.

120 soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles, including from Cornwall, deployed to Estonia this week to set up a UK headquarters in the country before the remaining 680 troops arrive in April.

The defence secretary said they would deter “Russian aggression”. The UK is taking a leading role in NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” operation, aimed at reinforcing the alliance’s eastern border.

Tensions between Estonia and Russia increased as a result of the Ukraine conflict, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

The UK-led Estonia battlegroup is one of four NATO multinational deployments to eastern Europe, which were agreed to at the 2016 Warsaw summit. Other NATO armies are sending forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where 150 UK personnel will also be sent as part of a rotating deployment.

Separately, the Royal Air Force has committed to providing Typhoon jets to bolster air defences in Romania for four months.

While it is understandable that Estonia is building a fence along its borders to defend itself against Russia, it is nonetheless sad. Also, an important reminder that it is important to both show our support for our allies in Europe and work hard to build the peaceful and secure Europe we all want to see.

Finally, it was an honour to join the 75th commemoration of the St Nazaire Raid from Falmouth with the Honorary French  Consul. It was a moving reminder of our countries long standing shared bonds of friendship.

Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill

Many constituents contacted me last week regarding the Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill – the legislation enabling the Prime Minister to begin negotiating our future relationship with our friends in the European Union.

While I am saddened that we are leaving the EU, I believe it will be possible to make a success of “Brexit”. Each day I see Government Ministers reaching out to our neighbours and friends in Europe to build even closer relationships than we enjoy today. After all we are not leaving Europe and I am determined to do all that I can to ensure we have close relationships with European countries.

Why am I so optimistic? Because the huge challenges we face including climate change, mass migration and ensuring the future security and prosperity of our country relies on working in partnership with countries in Europe and across the world. The UK has a world leadership role in tackling climate change, ending violence against women and girls and tackling the abhorrent crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery.

In my role as Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, I am proud to have the responsibility for the Government’s response to two of these challenges. I can assure you that I spend significant amounts of time talking with my counterparts across Europe. They tell me that they respect the Prime Minister, respect the decision the UK has made and want to work even more closely with us, tackling crimes that will help keep our citizens safe. I do not believe “Brexit” will stand in the way of our vitally important work in protecting our citizens and stamping out modern slavery.

In addition to the work of Ministers, Parliament will continue to have a central role in shaping the Government’s approach and final outcome of negotiations.

Marking International Women’s Day

For decades the 8th March has brought people together to campaign for a more inclusive and equal world. International Women’s Day is marked across the globe. It is a time to reflect on what progress has been made and to focus on what more needs to be done.

At home, in school, in work and in politics gender parity is critical to empowering women and releasing the full potential of countries and communities.

Although our country’s gender pay gap is at its lowest ever level at 18.1% it is still far too high. As a government we want to see this eliminated completely. We are also extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, introducing shared parental leave, and seeing what more barriers need to be removed.

As well as doing more at home, we also recognise our responsibility to support women and girls around the world. Education provides children with the best route out of poverty. Between 2011 and 2015 the Government supported over 11 million children, including 5.3 million girls, in primary and lower secondary education in developing countries. We have committed to help at least another 11 million children in the poorest countries gain a decent education by 2020.

The UK is a world leader in tackling violence against women and girls. We support the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women and we have committed to increased investment of £80 million to oversee the delivery of the violence against women and girls strategy here in the UK.

Incredible progress has been made over the last century to give women across the globe the rights they deserve. We can all play our part to ensure that, no matter what your background or gender, you should always have the chance to achieve your full potential.

First published in the West Briton 08/03/17

Campaigning to reduce plastic waste

It’s spring cleaning time and I will be joining constituents cleaning up local parks and beaches. Every year I am struck by the increasing amount of plastic we collect. The plastic bag tax has helped reduce waste considerably and we are making real progress with plastic microbeads too. I understand and share concerns about the impact these ingredients have on the marine environment and fish.

I have been campaigning for a ban for sometime, working with great charities such as St Agnes based Surfers Against Sewage. That is why I am pleased to tell you that, following work with the industry to achieve a voluntary phase-out, the Government has announced plans to ban them from cosmetic products completely.

The Government launched a consultation on proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads. This consultation ran until 28 February. It will also gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, and consider what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment.

Clearly there is an international dimension to this issue so I am pleased to say that 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. In 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address marine litter, one of its most important objectives. The plan includes international action on microplastics.

I understand that manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives to plastic microbeads, including nut shells, salt and sugar. These have the same exfoliating properties but do not threaten the environment, so the products containing them should perform just as well.