Helping the Rural Economy

In addition to my regular advice surgeries, one evening next week, I am also holding a Farmers Surgery, so please do get in touch if you would like to join me.

One of the things we will be discussing is the recently announced £200 million grant funding for rural businesses that will provide new support to expand and improve farm infrastructure such as buildings, machinery and access to broadband.

The current Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) is expected to generate 6,750 new jobs. Already more than 1,400 projects have been agreed which are expected to create over 2,300 jobs.

I want to see this funding enabling high quality jobs in rural communities across the Duchy.

This round of funding will include: £30 million to improve rural broadband – the grants available will encourage growth by helping provide broadband services at speeds of 30Mbps or faster where this is not available or planned. It will supplement existing Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport investment in rural broadband. £45 million to help rural businesses grow and invest in new equipment – rural businesses, including those engaged in tourism and food production, can apply for funding to invest in their company, helping them to expand, diversify, and invest in new technology. £120 million for projects that improve farm productivity – this money will help farmers, foresters and landowners manage their land more effectively. Funding will be available for a wide range of purposes, including woodland management equipment, creating on-farm reservoirs and using water more efficiently. A further £6.6 million will be available for animal health and welfare projects.

This funding is part of planned investment of at least £3 billion into our rural economies by 2020 under RDPE. All projects agreed before we leave the EU will be guaranteed for their lifetime.

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Delivering a Fairer Society

Delivering a fairer society surely must start with education – making sure that our children and young people can do their very best and reach their potential, wherever they’re growing up. That’s the means by which we build a better country.

I believe opportunity is about how we translate hope into something real – something concrete. So for me creating opportunity for people is essential. Our strong economy is vital, because it’s the opportunity engine of our country. But we now need to make it a country where everyone has an equal shot at taking advantage of those opportunities being created. This is a government that wants more opportunity for more people – and more equality of opportunity.

I believe we are building that education system that unlocks the talents of people here. We’ve got the right ingredients: expert teachers, determined to unlock every young person’s potential. A society that believes in fairness and businesses that now more than ever understand how education and skills drive growth. We can unleash the wealth of latent talent that we have – and become a modern, confident and fairer economy. A country that works for everyone.

Our country has been on a long journey on education – not just on improving the quality of our schools, but on giving parents real choice where before there was none. When I was growing up here there was no real choice at all. You got what you were given. I went to my local comprehensive school in Falmouth because nearly everyone did. And in this system some people got a good education. I was lucky – I had a great form teacher Mr Morris, who encouraged me and inspired me. People never forget great teachers, because the impact they have on our lives goes beyond that of other people that we will go on to meet. But some people were left behind. We can never accept the randomness of a postcode lottery in education.

Thanks to the leadership of local head teachers, the Academy programme, started under the last Labour government and accelerated since 2010, as well as the hard work of local teachers, more local children and young people are now in ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools.

That’s why we will keep pursuing our ambitious reforms. On what children are taught, on making sure they are taught well, and on how schools provide them with the knowledge and skills they need in modern Britain. We want schools that work for everyone.

This is a bold plan for transforming education in Britain. Everyone needs to play their part. This is not an easy mission. But the potential gains are huge – for young people and for Britain. And if we unlocked the talent of every young person, it would have a huge impact on their wellbeing and the economy.

Because, in spite of their circumstances, everyone has a talent. And when we recognise the potential of every person, we recognise the potential of our country.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 23/08/17

Exam Results

It’s good to see so many local young people doing so well in a wide range of exams. Much appreciation must go to their teachers, family members and carers who supported them through their time at school and college, enabling them to participate in a wide range of high quality academic and vocational learning.

Young people who are unsure what to do next can contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900, via web chat, email or by searching online for the National Careers Service. The service offers free and impartial advice and access to a range of online tools, including skills tests, course search, job search advice and personalised help from careers advisers.

A good education is a key building block in enabling people to unlock their potential and support their wellbeing. It also provides choices for young people considering their options after their formal education ends.

Helping young people think about their options requires very skilled and experienced navigators.

So I am delighted that part of the devolution deal that Cornwall Council has with the government is improving local careers advice.

“The Cornwall Careers Offer” that will be launched later this month at the Eden Project is a strategic plan that aims to increase the understanding of Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance across both secondary education and businesses in Cornwall to enhance the skills and career prospects of local young people and support business growth.

“The Cornwall Careers Offer” draws on best practise across the country and includes the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Enterprise Adviser Network that brings together senior business volunteers working directly with school career leads to inspire young people about the world of work.

First published in the West Briton 23/08/17

CCTV in Slaughterhouses

I welcome the hundreds of emails, letters and calls I receive from constituents every week on a wide range of issues. By far and away the most popular topic is animal welfare. Based on my experience as your local MP, there is no doubt that we are a nation of animal lovers.

I have corresponded with many constituents about the use of CCTV in English slaughterhouses. So I was delighted last week to welcome new plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses in England. The proposals detailed in the six week consultation will make it necessary for slaughterhouses to record all areas where live animals are present.

Authorised officers such as official veterinary surgeons would have unrestricted access to footage, reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced. If breaches are found, a slaughterhouse can be given a welfare enforcement notice, have its licence suspended or revoked, or be referred for a criminal investigation.

The Food Standards Agency supports the introduction of mandatory CCTV as a tool to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of their oversight and enforcement activity. I expect the Government’s proposals to be supported by a wide range of organisations and the British Veterinary Association. These proposals should increase public confidence in the welfare standards of Great British food and I would expect the farming and food industry to support them.

The Government is also consulting on plans to raise welfare standards for farm animals and domestic pets by modernising statutory animal welfare codes to reflect enhancements in medicines, technology and the latest research and advice from vets. The codes will remain enshrined in law and the first to be updated will cover chickens bred for meat.

These proposals fulfil our manifesto commitment and demonstrate this Government’s strong commitment to animal welfare.

Education Opportunities

Many local people, especially young people, will be making fresh starts this month; starting school, college, university or an apprenticeship. Delivering a fairer society surely must start with education – making sure that our children and young people can do their very best and reach their potential, wherever they’re growing up. That’s the means by which we build a better country.

I believe opportunity is about how we translate hope into something real – something concrete. So for me creating opportunity for people is essential. Our strong economy is vital, because it’s the opportunity engine of our country. But we now truly need to make it a country where everyone has an equal shot at taking advantage of those opportunities being created. This is a government that wants more opportunity for more people – and more equality of opportunity. And that means unlocking our children’s potential.

I believe we are building that education system that unlocks the talents of all our people here. We’ve got the right ingredients: expert teachers, determined to unlock every young person’s potential. A society that believes in fairness and businesses that now more than ever understand how education and skills drive growth. We can unleash the wealth of latent talent that we have – and become a modern, confident and fairer economy. A country that works for everyone.

Our country has been on a long journey on education – not just on improving the quality of our schools, but on giving parents real choice where before there was none. When I was growing up here there was no real choice at all. You got what you were given. I went to my local comprehensive school in Falmouth because nearly everyone did. And in this system some people got a good education. I was lucky – I had a great form teacher Mr Morris, who encouraged me and inspired me. People never forget great teachers, because the impact they have on our lives goes beyond that of other people that we will go on to meet. But some people – and some places – have been left behind. The schools they went to and are going to weren’t good enough. We can never accept the randomness of a postcode lottery in education if we are to succeed as a country.

That’s why we will keep pursuing our ambitious reforms. On what children are taught, on making sure they are taught well, and on how schools provide them with the knowledge and skills they need in modern Britain. That’s why we’re pursuing a new gold standard in curriculum and assessment, together with an expectation that the vast majority of young people will study the EBacc subjects – this is an academic core of subjects – that keep options open for young people. And we are steadily strengthening the teaching profession with high-quality qualifications and standards, an increased focus on CPD of teachers supported by a new professional body – the College of Teaching – to bring the profession together.

We want all our children taught in good and outstanding schools. So we have an academies programme that hones in on inadequate and coasting schools – to ensure they improve. And our reforms are working – 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools since 2010, 1.8 million more children getting a better start and a better chance to realise their potential. We want schools that work for everyone.

We are reforming education post-16 by lifting the cap on university places. And with the help of top employers we are reforming our technical education – injecting investment, standards and quality – so that young people who are technically gifted have a world-class route to a great career.

In Britain there will always be room for talent. Unlocking talent is how we build all of our futures. And we will build an education system that unlocks that talent in every one of our young people.

This is a bold plan for transforming education in Britain. Everyone needs to play their part. Not just our education sector – our teachers, school leaders, lecturers, schools, colleges and universities. But also our employers, businesses and the government, local and national.

This is not an easy mission. But the potential gains are huge – for young people and for Britain. And if we unlocked the talent of every young person, it would have a huge impact on their wellbeing and the economy.

That’s why education is such a crucial part of our industrial strategy.

It’s why education is at the heart of our plan for Britain.

A true meritocracy. Opportunity as the glue that brings the country together. A strong, modern economy facing out to the world. A global Britain that lives up to its values.

Because, in spite of their circumstances, everyone has a talent. And when we recognise the potential of every person, we recognise the potential of our country.

First published in the Wave magazine

Domestic abuse survivor praises Emmerdale for its powerful Rhona storyline

Rhona Goskirk’s recent domestic abuse storyline in Emmerdale moved many viewers. Here, domestic abuse survivor Mandy Thomas, explains why she’s thankful the soap tackled such a sensitive subject…

51-year-old Mandy Thomas is an artist, writer, and mum-of-four. She’s also a Survivor’s Ambassador for Women’s Aid, after surviving 18 years of horrific abuse at the hands of her ex-husband.

“I suffered every kind of abuse imaginable at the hands of my ex, including horrific physical attacks,” Mandy explained. “My eldest son even saw his father take a blow torch to me.”

And now Mandy – whose son Jahméne Douglas won the nation’s heart when he took part in The X Factor in 2012 – has praised Emmerdale for raising awareness about the horrors of domestic violence through Rhona Goskirk’s story.

“Hats off to the Emmerdale scriptwriters and actors for tackling such a sensitive subject,” she enthused.

“Storylines such as Rhona’s not only raise awareness about the different kinds of abuse – from verbal, to coercive control and physical – but also help victims know that they’re not alone.”

Although the dramatic scenes of Rhona being raped on her wedding night were clearly powerful, for Mandy, it was the more recent court scenes which really struck a chord.

“My heart was in pieces for Rhona,” she explained. “I was pleading for her to get justice, as so many do not.”

Talking about her own experiences, Mandy told us: “My trial went on for a year and my children were dragged through the court, as my ex pleaded not guilty. In the end, he was sentenced to 15 years (six for rape and nine for GBH with intent and false imprisonment).”

However tragically, that wasn’t the end of Mandy’s ordeal. Her ex-husband was released from jail early after serving just six years, and shortly after her son Daniel took his own life.

“We still live in an era where people are unaware about what goes on behind closed doors,” Mandy explained.

“It’s so important that TV shows like Emmerdale show exactly what victims of domestic abuse have to go through to get justice.”

Mandy isn’t the only person who’s been impressed by Emmerdale’s work. Sarah Newton, Minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, echoed Mandy’s comments, saying: “I welcome Emmerdale raising awareness of domestic abuse to millions of people.

“More abusers than ever are being brought to justice, but with so many people still suffering from this horrendous crime it is clear there is more to do.”

What is the UK government doing to tackle domestic abuse?

The Domestic Abuse bill

The UK government recently introduced the landmark Domestic Abuse bill, which will help them to protect and support victims, recognise the life-long impact domestic abuse has on children, and make sure agencies effectively respond to domestic abuse. This will include measures to:

  • Enshrine a definition of domestic abuse in law
  • Create a consolidated new domestic abuse prevention and protection order regime
  • Make sure that if abusive behaviour involves a child, that the court can hand down a sentence that reflects the devastating life-long impact that abuse can have on the child
  • Establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, to stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness, monitor the response of statutory agencies and local authorities and hold the justice system to account in tackling domestic abuse
  • Demonstrate our commitment to the Istanbul Convention by extending our extra-territorial jurisdiction over Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) related offences to ratify the Convention.

Coercive or controlling behaviour offence

A new coercive or controlling behaviour offence came into force in December 2015. It carries a maximum five years imprisonment, a fine or both. Guidance for professionals on the new offence was also launched at the same time. The offence means victims who experience coercive and controlling behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, can bring their perpetrators to justice.

Justice for victims

In the year ending March 2017 the police recorded 464,886 domestic-abuse related offences – a 10% increase over the 421,185 offences recorded the previous year. This increase is likely to be due to improvements in crime recording and more victims coming forward to report crimes to the police.

More perpetrators of domestic abuse than ever have been brought to justice with the highest volume of prosecutions and convictions ever recorded. There have been year on year improvements for domestic violence prosecutions and in 2015-16 the volume of prosecutions rose to 100,930, the highest ever recorded. The volume of convictions in 2015-16 reached 75,235, also the highest ever recorded.

Funding and projects

Earlier this month the Home Secretary announced a £17million Violence Against Women and Girls Fund.

More than 40 projects will share the money to help prevent violence against women and girls.

If you or a friend or family member need support, you can contact the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on: 0808 2000 247

First published in Closer Magazine August 2017

Jeremy Hunt visits Treliske

Last week Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt visited Treliske – his second visit in three months – to thank staff and have a conversation about patient safety.

The independent Commonwealth Fund said of the 11 countries analysed, the UK has the safest healthcare system in the world – a great tribute to NHS staff.

However there is more work to do as across England there are potentially around 150 avoidable hospital deaths every week.

Understandably, he got a number of questions about resources. He agreed that the NHS is treating more people than it ever has before, and trusts are grappling with significant financial pressures. “Some people assume that the goals of sound financial management and providing good quality care are mutually contradictory – but in fact the opposite is the case, with ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’-rated CQC trusts likely to be in surplus and ‘requires improvement/inadequate’-rated ones likely to be in deficit.

“Looking after patients and looking after pounds go hand in hand – I suspect because good financial management releases more resource for patient care, which in turn reduces the more than 10% of hospital expenditure which goes on avoidable medical mistakes or infections that people catch in hospitals.”

He agreed that we need more doctors and nurses, which is why he said “we are training tens of thousands”. But he added that culture, leadership and transparency are vital too.

“In 2012, many trusts had cut adult nursing numbers by several thousand – and were planning thousands more cuts to follow. Following the Francis report we then asked them to publish nurse numbers every month on every ward – after which instead of cutting numbers they went up by around 13,000.

“That is surely the reason why NHS in-patient satisfaction rates are currently at their highest ever level, despite ever-growing demands for care.”

First published in the West Briton 09/08/17