Working to remove the Brexit impasse

Many people are contacting me about Brexit so I think it’s worth recapping on where we are. In the 2016 EU Referendum a majority of people in this constituency voted to Remain. At the 2017 General Election I was given a mandate by my constituents to deliver Brexit, with an orderly transition to a new, close and special relationship with the EU. To deliver Brexit with ‘a deal’ not a ‘no deal’ Brexit.  

I believe the Prime Minister’s negotiated EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Political Declaration delivers on that manifesto pledge and will continue to support it. I have voted for it twice and given the opportunity will vote for it a third time. 

The PMs ‘deal’ will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no ongoing payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the EU. 

Last week, after the negotiations with the EU were complete and the Government lost the second attempt to secure the support of Parliament for the PMs ‘deal’, I resigned from the Government, so that I could vote for a motion that honours my commitment to my constituents, to leave the EU with ‘a deal’. Not a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 

This week, I am continuing my work with other backbench colleagues, from different political parties, to enable Parliament to consider a range of options, to find the common ground, that could enable us to leave the EU with ‘a deal’ if the PMs ‘deal’ continues not to secure enough support. 

Labour and Conservative MPs were all elected at the last General Election on a manifesto to leave the EU with ‘a deal’ so we must honour our commitments.  

I understand the frustration and anxiety the current Parliamentary impasse is causing as well as the desire for some certainty and clarity about our future relationship with the EU. I also appreciate the damage that is being done to the reputation of our parliamentary democracy and standing in the world. Please be assured that I will continue to work hard to resolve the impasse in the best interests of my constituents and our great country.  

Some people have asked about the current EU funding that Cornwall is receiving now. My colleagues and I have ensured that the U.K. government has underwritten the programme so we will not miss out. In the future Cornwall will benefit from dedicated funding from the Shared Prosperity Fund.  

Having lived overseas for a number of years I know how important it is to feel a sense of belonging and understand this is a very difficult time for our neighbours, friends and workmates who are from EU countries. You are welcome! We are leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe. 

First published in the West Briton 28/03/19

The “Deal” and supporting Cornwall’s schools

I had hoped that by the time you read this column the House of Commons would have passed the Withdrawal Agreement (EU) and Future Political Declaration. This is usually summarised as ‘the deal’. Along with all Labour MPs, I was elected at the last General Election to deliver Brexit with ‘a deal’ negotiated with the EU and I will continue to work hard to achieve this.

I believe that ‘the deal’ the PM has negotiated with the EU will give us free, no tariff, unlimited quota trade with the EU, minimal or zero frictions at the borders, complete control over immigration and would avoid a “hard border” between North Ireland and Ireland. There will be no payments to the EU and we will be out of the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies and there will be no customs union, so we will be free to strike trade agreements with nations outside the European Union.

The much debated “backstop” in the EU Withdrawal Agreement, if used at all, would allow us continued, contribution free access to the EU whilst having total control over migration. This is why it is designed to be, and will prove to be, temporary; for the first time ever, and contrary to the EU’s oft-repeated position of not splitting the ‘four freedoms’, they have done exactly that. Any suggestion that such an arrangement would, in effect, become permanent would cause an existential crisis within the EU. Their incentive not to use it, or to leave it quickly, would be at least as great as ours.

In addition to preparing for Brexit, I am working on a range of other important matters. One such key issue is ensuring all our young people have the opportunity for the best education. Thanks to the hard work of local teachers, governors, parents and all those who support our local youngsters, more children are receiving a good or outstanding education here since 2010. This is despite challenging funding settlements. While school funding is at a record high and increasing, I know it is not enough and am pushing the Chancellor for more.

The Schools Minister has visited Cornwall twice to meet with teachers and head teachers organisations to hear first-hand local concerns.

Some local parents are being sent letters citing information provided by the Schools Cuts campaign. The information used by the Schools Cuts campaign was referred the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), the watchdog for the use of statistics. In January, it said that Schools Cuts uses “misleading” statistics and flawed methodology in its calculations to deliberately downplay funding received by schools.

This deliberate scaremongering aimed at parents using misleading and discredited statistics is deeply concerning. Schools Cuts needs to come clean on its links to the hard left of the Labour Party.

On my website I have a webpage dedicated to my long-standing campaign to increase funding for our local schools and FE colleges. There you can see the sums of money allocated to Cornwall and each school.

First published in the West Briton 21/03/19

The Second Meaningful Vote and HMS Tamar

By the time you read this column you will know that Parliament did not support the legally binding changes to the EU Withdrawal Agreement that the PM secured from the EU. This is very disappointing as the PM achieved what Parliament asked of her

By the time you read this you will also know that I voted for the EU Withdrawal Agreement as amended by the PM and that I honoured the commitment that I made at the General Election, to leave the EU in an orderly way, transitioning into a new, close and special relationship with the EU. I voted against a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

I am continuing to work with colleagues of all political parties in the House of Commons to find a way forward, finding the common ground and honouring the commitments that I have made to my constituents. I understand the utter frustration with the current state of affairs that many people share with me and also the anxiety of the current uncertainty. As events are fast moving, I will keep my website regularly updated so you can see what I am doing to resolve the current impasse.

I am also working hard, playing my part in preparing the country for whatever happens at the end of the month. As the Minister with responsibility for the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), I am ensuring that important environment and human protection regulatory regimes are fully operable when we leave the EU.

Next week I am also travelling to Glasgow to the naming ceremony of a new vessel, H.M.S. Tamar. She is one of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels that was built in Scotland, part of a significant investment in U.K. shipbuilding, securing thousands of skilled jobs.

Building the Offshore Patrol Vessels filled a gap in orders after the completion of the second aircraft carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction.

HMS Tamar and her sister ships will be used by the Royal Navy to undertake various tasks including border protection roles, anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, fisheries patrols, and immigration law enforcement.

For some time I have been making the case for investment in new vessels to work alongside the U.K. Border Force to keep our waters safe and I am very much looking forward to welcoming H.M.S. Tamar into Falmouth.

I had the privilege of joining a Border Force Cutter in Falmouth and I discussed their important work with her crew. As a result of conflict, changes in the climate and modern slavery many people fall into the hands of serious and organised criminals who, along with smuggling illegal drugs and weapons, also smuggle people, this most wicked trade in human suffering. So, it is vitally important that we have increased the number of Royal Naval vessels that can patrol our waters, upholding the rule of law and protecting some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. HMS Tamar and her sister ships will also play an important role in protecting our fisheries too.

First published in the West Briton on 14/3/2019

Celebrating International Women’s Day

It is International Women’s Day tomorrow so here is some information about our work to provide more women with greater financial security, ensuring equal opportunities and keeping them safe. It’s very important to me that girls and women have the opportunity to reach their potential.  

According to the ONS the female employment rate is at a record high of 71.4 per cent in October-December 2018. The gender pay gap is at a record low. In April 2018, the full-time gender pay gap (for median earnings) for full-time employees decreased to 8.9 per cent from 9.1 per cent in 2017, and 17.4 per cent when the survey began in 1997. 100 per cent of UK employers with over 250 staff have published gender pay gap data and the PM has also called on more companies to publish, and improve the pipeline to ensure progress on female representation at senior levels, and make flexible working a reality for all employees. 

We are putting marginalised women at the heart of our work on gender. We are focussing on helping women who are economically inactive, in low paid and low skilled jobs, and have set up a new funding to enable return to work when they are ready. We are also investing £5 million in returnships to help those returning to work after long career breaks. Returnships will be open to women and men, with the aim of giving people who have taken lengthy career breaks, often to provide care to a family member, the opportunity to refresh their skills and build professional networks. There is more help for female entrepreneurs. Men and women are benefitting from shared parental leave and flexible working. More investment is being made in free early years childcare too. 

Our increases to the National Living Wage have benefited women. This year the National Living Wage will rise to £8.21 per hour, meaning full-time workers aged over 25 will earn over £2,750 more a year than when it was introduced in 2016 – analysis shows women are more likely to be low paid, so benefit disproportionately from these rises. 

We are working to end violence against women and girls and published the Domestic Abuse Bill to protect and support survivors of domestic abuse. New legislation will introduce the first ever statutory government definition of domestic abuse, establish a Domestic Abuse Commissioner, introduce new Domestic Abuse Protection Notices and Domestic Abuse Protection Orders, prohibit the cross-examination of victims by their abusers in the family courts, and provide automatic eligibility for special measures to support more victims to give evidence in the criminal courts. We are committing over £100 million of funding between 2016 and 2020 for domestic and sexual violence advisers, national helplines and rape crisis centres. We have introduced Clare’s Law so women can check if their partner has a violent history.  

With more girls and young women achieving well at school, college, in apprenticeships and university we are building a Britain that is fit for their future. 

First published in the West Briton07/02/19

Celebrating the UK’s Environmental Achievements

While preventing catastrophic climate change is clearly a global challenge, I fully support the UK government’s determination to eliminate our own emissions and to work globally for urgent sustained reductions. 

In 2010, the UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near-unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A radical political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since. 

A recent report from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking Act has been instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade – and has provided a framework through which the UK has led the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy. 

But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue to not only drive emissions reduction at home, but overseas too. As a key part of our Industrial Strategy, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating well paid jobs. 

Our low carbon sector now supports almost 400,000 jobs across the country, and the sector is still growing. These businesses include local business Kensa, the UK’s most popular ground source heat pumps brand, and Carley’s organic, who produce chutneys, mustards and pickles in a dedicated organic eco-factory. 

By 2030, the UK’s clean economy has the potential to support up to two million jobs whilst generating £170bn of annual exports. 

Creating electricity from the hots rocks beneath Cornwall is something I have been supporting for a long time and am excited that drilling the first well has started at United Downs. This innovation could contribute significant amounts of carbon free energy and more well-paid jobs. Cornwall already hosts a wealth of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal and marine.  Cornwall now contributes more than 768 MW of sustainable energy generation to the UK energy mix, with approximately 25 per cent in local ownership, including 8 MW of Council-owned solar PV and more than 1MW owned by community groups supported by England’s first community energy revolving fund with £2.5 million council funds. 

There are 200 community groups around the country already generating their own energy to the benefit of the local community. A great local example is Transition Ladock and Grampound Road who were awarded £500,000 to install low carbon technologies in the community. 

The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act. Five years ago, dirty coal accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at 7 per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance will be eliminated altogether. 

In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables – with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources – an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables. 

Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds – the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way. 

Long-term government planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming general elections, and it was precisely this short term-ism which the Climate Change Act overcomes. 

Business, community and public bodies all have a role to play but so does each and every one of us. Small changes in our daily routine can add up to significant benefits for our environment. Climate Vision, a local organisation, has produced ten pledges – actions we can all make to our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact. You could join the Climate Vision Pledge Group: 

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a special report that assessed the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and related emissions pathways, following the higher level of ambition set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to provide new advice on how soon we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. 

I am working hard to leave our environment in better shape than we found it. This is a huge challenge, requiring us all to play our part and take collective action but I am confident we can meet this challenge head on and deliver the changes we need to see. This is not only the right thing to do now but essential for future generations. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave March edition