Government measures to support pensioners and savers

Every week I speak with constituents seeking advice on a wide range of everyday issues that are effecting them and their families. Many are concerned about the issue of debt, and are seeking quality, free, independent debt advice. Some want guidance on pension options. Some are worried about pensions cold calling to their families and are worried about financial scams. Others think we should have a breathing space to stop debt getting out of control.

All these legitimate issues were addressed this week in the House of Commons as the Government’s new bill, the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, completed its journey through Parliament and into law.

With the success of auto-enrolment in work place Pensions resulting in nine million new savers, including 11,000 employees in this constituency, this Government has helped create a whole new generation of savers, including many young people who are now saving for the first time.

As well as making it easier for people to save for their future, we want to provide high quality, impartial debt advice. Last year, the Government’s Money Advice Service supported almost 500,000 people across the country with debt advice sessions. But we can and will do more. We already provide pensions guidance for people across the UK through Pension Wise and The Pensions Advisory Service but, on an agreed cross-party basis, it has been agreed that merging these three organisations into one new Single Financial Guidance Body is the right way forward for better free services and greater coverage. This development has been welcomed by the Citizens Advice Service. I know from my close working with our local CAB that advice about debt remains the most sought after type of advice they provide to local people.

We know that free, high quality, independent advice is often most effective when it is delivered at important moments in someone’s life – such as when someone leaves school, gets their first job, has a baby or retires. But we need fundamentally to change the way people think about their finances, so that people more regularly seek help and guidance throughout their life. That is why we are pioneering the mid-life MOT, which would introduce a financial stock-take for older workers. This would enable people to make informed choices around savings, retirement and their pension together. And if they do get into debt problems a breathing space allows them to address the problems before they get out of control.

And, finally, we are also banning pensions cold calling, which has become a concern for many. There are tweaks and amendments that will be needed to sort the Bill into its final form but this is a Government that has identified problems and is working on the solutions.

The Government wants to open up free, impartial, debt advice and pensions guidance to more people. The new Single Financial Guidance Body will do just that, helping people to manage their finances better throughout their life.

First published in the West Briton on 26/04/18

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Military Action in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that, wherever possible, diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

This week we debated the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of the Syrian regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability the Prime Minister made her intentions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes minimising harm to Syrians were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or to effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. 
This does not represent an escalation of UK or Western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners, and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN has considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course we must continue our humanitarian and diplomatic effort to support the Syrian people and to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the West Briton 19/04/18

Intervention in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that wherever possible diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

I am also a mother of three children and am acutely aware that a decision to commit our armed services personnel will be putting another mother’s son or daughter in harm’s way.

When I was elected in 2010, I joined colleagues calling for much greater Parliamentary scrutiny of national security policy and decision makers. Along with my colleagues, I shared deep concerns arising from the Labour Government’s intervention in Iraq.

The Coalition Government, led by David Cameron, put in place processes that are enabling far greater scrutiny of information – including intelligence – about our national security by MPs than was previously the case. The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is composed of cross party members and its job is to scrutinise the work of those responsible for our national security.

The members of the committee are notified under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and are given access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The committee holds evidence sessions with Government ministers and senior officials. The work of the committee is invariably conducted in secret, but its members do speak in debates in Parliament. I think that the work of this Committee provides MPs some assurance that decisions are being made on the best possible information.

Had this Committee with the new powers it acquired in 2013 been in operation during the Tony Blair years, I doubt so many MPs would have voted for military intervention in Iraq.

This week, like most weeks in Parliament, we will be debating the UKs role in the world, including our involvement in the Middle East and Syria in particular. We will be debating the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian Regimes chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of Syrian Regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries and organisations, including NATO and the EU, support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities the Prime Minister made her intensions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. This does not represent an escalation of UK or western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN have considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian Regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course every diplomatic effort must continue to be made to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 18/04/18

Welcoming investment in Goonhilly deep-space communications

Amongst my earliest memories was the moon walk. Ever since then I have been inspired by space exploration, counting Apollo 13 and Gravity amongst my favourite films. So apart from the significant economic benefit, I was genuinely excited by the recent news that Goonhilly Earth Station, is being upgraded to communicate with deep space missions to the Moon and Mars. This is thanks to an £8.4 million investment from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

It will be the first time the UK has had the capability to communicate directly with deep-space missions and makes Goonhilly the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station.

The LEP’s investment has come from the UK Government’s Local Growth Fund and will be made via the European Space Agency, helping to create the world’s first commercial deep-space communications station, capable of tracking future missions to the Moon and Mars.

In future, Goonhilly will complement the capability of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s worldwide ground station network, which today comprises seven core stations supporting more than 20 earth, observatory, planetary and exploration spacecraft as well as European launchers.

The investment will provide a huge boost to Cornwall’s space ambitions. Once the upgrade work is complete, Goonhilly will have the ability to track and control forthcoming robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars, making a significant technical and economic contribution to European efforts in global space exploration.

This is a fantastic boost to Cornwall’s space ambitions and significantly enhances what the UK can offer the fast-growing global space industry – which is a key ambition of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. There will be more than 50 lunar and deep space missions planned over the next decade and it means our region can participate directly in global space programmes.

As well as taking on 18 new staff, the team at Goonhilly are expecting a significant upsurge in interest in the space sector in Cornwall. A number of companies are now looking at the growing capability both at Goonhilly and Cornwall Airport Newquay, which are both part of the Aerohub Enterprise Zone offering 100% business rate relief.

Separately, the LEP has plans to develop a commercial spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay. Small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports could capture a share of a £10bn global launch opportunity over the next 10 years.

With new spaceflight laws and grant funding announcements expected in the next few months, Cornwall is well prepared to make the most of this opportunity.

According to the UK Space Agency, the global market for space is expected to increase from £155bn per annum to £400bn per annum by 2030. The UK Government has set a target of securing 10% of this global space economy, £40bn per annum, by 2030.

This new technology is supporting the growing mining industry in Cornwall. Cornish Lithium secured funding from Innovate UK to run a project in conjunction with the Satellite Applications Catapult, looking at how satellite data can be used to support lithium exploration and to provide an environmental baseline for mining activities within Cornwall.

Earth observation data has been used to remotely map geological structures, clay alteration, land surface temperature and vegetation anomalies across two areas of interest in Cornwall at United Downs and St Austell. Along with its fellow mining consortium partners, including the British Geological Survey, Camborne School of Mines and North Coast Consulting, Cornish Lithium then used local knowledge and field evidence to test the validity of the remote mapping by satellite. The earth observation outputs were then integrated and combined to produce a prospectivity map for lithium exploration in Cornwall.

In parallel, earth observation data has been used to better establish the environmental baseline for the two project areas of interest. The mapping techniques developed by the earth observation companies can also be used to provide ongoing, remote monitoring of the environment as projects progress, which may be invaluable data for mining companies in the South West who need to continually prove their minimal impact on their local area.

These are just two recent examples of how the Government is investing in Cornwall, building an economy fit for the future. Since 2010 there are record levels of local people of all ages and backgrounds in employment and 4,950 apprenticeships have been created.

In 2010, I made supporting the creation of high skilled and well paid jobs a personal priority. Working with many local ‘can do’ and positive people I am pleased with the progress we have made. There is still much more work to do but it is good to see Cornwall leading the way in innovative technology with high skilled well paid jobs.

First published in the April edition of the Wave magazine