Promoting equal access to our maritime environment and securing jobs at Falmouth Docks

The summer months more than others bring us closer to our stunning maritime environment and heritage. The recent glorious weather has enabled many more people to experience the simple pleasure of going to the beach or out onto the water. Thanks to many inspirational local people determined to build an inclusive community, more people are able to enjoy these simple pleasures. People with visible and invisible impairments and disabilities are able to get onto the water thanks to Mylor Harbour’s Sail-ability specially adapted boats. Also based in Mylor Harbour is BATs, Cornwall’s sailing club for visually impaired people.  I recently met with the Helford Sailing Trust to learn about their ambitious plans to get more people afloat.

Then there are the special sand chairs at Gyllingvase beach that enable wheelchair users access to the beach and the sea. Cornwall Mobility, in partnership with Disability Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, works with Cornwall Council as well as a diverse range of coastal charities and businesses in providing all-terrain wheelchairs, also known as sand chairs, for the public to use on a number of beaches in Cornwall.  The all-terrain wheelchairs have been designed for outdoor use and have large inflatable wheels which allow them to roll over sand and pebbles with remarkable ease. This has allowed people with mobility challenges the pleasure and freedom to access and enjoy Cornwall’s beaches where they may have found it more difficult in the past.

While the wide range of recreational water-based activities available are undoubtedly fun and good exercise as well as enhancing our local tourist economy, they do bring challenges. I was delighted to open the newly refurbished National Coast Watch look out in Gerrans recently.  Staffed by volunteers who work in partnership with RNLI and Coastguard volunteers as well as our local emergency services coordinated by the Falmouth Coastguard, they help keep us safe on the sea and around our shores and rescue people if necessary. Together they provide an excellent service in promoting safety of the water and preventing harm.

Thank you also to the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and, having grown up here, I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth, but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth is working in partnership with other UK yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31 e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers visit A&P Falmouth to see at first hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports, including Falmouth, is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our Navy and that new ships are being built in the UK.  I want to see more and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition

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Supporting constituents in Fuel Poverty

Last week I was delighted to welcome the Minister for Energy and the Industrial Strategy to Cornwall to see for herself the innovative work that the Winter Wellness Partnership and, more recently, Warm and Well Cornwall have been doing. This effective partnership is making real inroads into a long standing, stubborn problem by doing things differently. Helping people on modest incomes stay warm and well in their homes by improving energy efficiency remains a priority for me. New technology is playing an important role, for example, free energy efficient central heating systems are being installed in homes in fuel poverty. Most of us take living in centrally heated homes for granted but there are too many cold homes in Cornwall without it. Last week’s Government announcements were welcomed by the partnership as they will enable us to build on our work of helping over 7,200 homes and 16,000 people to stay warm and well in winter by funding more help for more people.

New technology has the ability to improve many aspects of our lives. I am encouraging local businesses to apply for a share of £40million of government funding to develop new ways of charging electric vehicles. Electric vehicles significantly improve air quality, boost the environment and reduce costs for motorists. It’s vital we ensure the charging infrastructure is in place so we keep pace with demand. The government wants nearly all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050. A major challenge will be to grow the UK’s charging infrastructure quickly enough to make electric vehicles an attractive choice. The government has launched two competitions, with £40million up for grabs. The first focuses on charging vehicles in public spaces, to support people who don’t have suitable off-street parking. The second focuses on wireless charging of commercial vehicles, such as taxis and delivery vans.

There are so many innovative businesses in Truro, Falmouth and Cornwall as a whole, and it would be great to see some of them secure funding and lead this revolution in UK transport.

The deadline for applications for both competitions is midday on 29 August 2018.

Projects must be led by a business, working with other companies, local authorities, research organisations or charities.

New technology is also important for improving our local NHS. So last week I was delighted to see that the new Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, has earmarked the NHS in Cornwall for a tech-funding boost of over £4 million.

The funding is part of a half a billion pound national package, available immediately to the NHS, to roll out innovative tech aimed at improving efficiency, enhancing patient safety and helping more patients access health services at home.

A good example is Scan4Safety where barcode tracking in hospitals is enabling staff to track all patients and their treatments, manage medical supplies and the effectiveness of equipment.

The funding will be formally allocated once our local NHS and care improvement plan, ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’ is submitted and approved.

First published in the West Briton 26/07/18

Backing our Royal Navy and campaigning to keep jobs in Falmouth Docks

I would like to thank the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and having grown up here I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority for me. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth are working in partnership with other U.K. yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers Visit A&P Falmouth to see first-hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports including Falmouth is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our navy and that new ships are being built in the U.K. I want to see more ships built in the U.K. and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

Last week in Parliament, I joined a debate led by the Labour Party about the defence industry and shipbuilding. There was no division. We only have votes when the House of Commons “divides” on an issue. As we agreed there was no division and no vote. Sadly, some Labour politicians are trying to spin the debate to create division where none exists. I hope they will rethink and put local and national interest above local Labour Party politics and back my longstanding commitment and track record of effective delivery with A&P Falmouth.

First published in the West Briton 19/07/18

Working to reduce plastic pollution and provide security for tenants

Thank you to everyone who responded to the recent government consultation exploring how changes to the tax system, or charges, could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we waste by reducing unnecessary production, increasing re-use, and improving recycling.

Last week, I met with the Treasury Minister responsible for this important policy area to discuss ideas developed with local people. I was assured that the government will consider all options for using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and to drive innovation, and will use the evidence gathered to inform that process. The government wants to look broadly across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal, in order to gain the best possible understanding before deciding on the best course of action.

Since being elected I have worked with Surfers Against Sewage on their campaign to prevent plastic entering our precious natural environment, especially the sea. In Parliament I support their work and am pleased that we introduced the 5p single-use plastic bag tax that has seen a dramatic reduction in their use. The use of microbeads in everyday products has been banned too. Thanks to many local initiatives to reduce single use plastic, particularly the work in schools with young people, positive change is happening.

Last week I was also delighted to welcome new moves to enable people to have longer and more secure tenancies. The Secretary of State for Communities proposed the introduction of a minimum 3-year tenancy term, with a 6-month break clause, to help renters put down roots, and give landlords longer term financial security.  According to government data, people stay in their rented homes for an average of nearly 4 years. But despite this, 81% of rental contracts are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of just 6 or 12 months.

Local people tell me that this can leave them feeling insecure, unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated, and unable to plan for their future or contribute to their wider community. Although tenants and landlords can already agree longer terms between themselves, the majority choose not to do so. Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time.  Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.  Landlords play a vital role in providing homes to many local people and the proposals ensure that longer tenancies help them avoid costly periods while they search for new tenants and offers them flexibility to regain their properties when their circumstances change.  The government understands that some landlords worry about the time it can take to gain possession of their property in the courts. The consultation runs until 26 August 2018.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/18

Campaigning for affordable local housing

I was delighted to secure the commitment from Government that stamp duty on the sale of second homes will be used to support more community led housing. In 2016, the government provided £60 million to Cornwall Council and others to build capacity in this important, innovative housing sector. That investment has led to new homes being built for local people. Cornwall Community Land Trust received some of this money to build up their capacity to help more local people into new homes and support the creation of new trusts, such as the Truro Community Land Trust. I am pleased to hear that they are making good progress with their plans.

This week the government announced that it is making available an additional £163 million across England up to 2020 to 2021 through the Community Housing Fund.

The Fund aims to support an increase in housing supply in England by increasing the number of additional homes delivered by the community-led housing sector; to provide housing that is affordable at local income levels and remains so in perpetuity; and to deliver a lasting legacy for the community-led housing sector in the form of an effective and financially self-sustaining body of expertise within the house building industry in England.

Funding outside London is being allocated by Homes England across 2 phases.

Under phase 1 of the Fund, Homes England is making available grants to eligible organisations to support: applications for revenue funding for capacity building and predevelopment costs, including revenue grants to local authorities to support community groups; and capital bids for associated infrastructure costs which will support community housing development.

Full details of phase 1 and how to bid are published in the Community Housing Fund prospectus. Bidding for capital funding to support the costs of building new community-led housing schemes will be covered under a second phase to be launched later in the year.

The housing market needs to change. We have become far too reliant on a small group of big developers who build our homes. We need an injection of innovation and competition into the market, which means getting new organisations involved, supporting small and medium sized builders and embracing Modern Methods of Construction that will allow us to drive up quality and choice for people.

Through this fund, housing will be delivered where the mainstream market is unable to deliver what we need. Enabling self-build and homes that will be tailored to meet specific local needs that will help sustain local communities and local economies and help raise the bar in design and construction standards.

This week I also met with the leadership of our Local Enterprise Partnership to discuss the opportunities that this investment in community led housing as well as local social housing presents for local employment. I want to ensure that local people of all ages have the opportunity to acquire new skills and training to enable them to secure the well paid jobs that are available in this industry.

First published in the West Briton 04/07/18

Protecting our Natural Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood in Cornwall, I have been fascinated by bees and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to successfully campaign for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Ministries, like Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Parish Councils are increasingly responsible for local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that both Truro City and Falmouth town councils will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

We continue to support pollinators in an international arena. In particular welcoming the recent (UN led) IPBES assessment on pollinators and will continue to highlight the best practice action taken by the UK; encouraging others to follow our lead. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies through which many actions are promoted and encouraged that will improve conditions for wild and managed pollinators in farmed and urban areas. The other 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. This declaration will help them learn from each other and shape the strategies.

First published in the Wave Magazine July edition