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

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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

Protecting our 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. Pollinators play an essential role in ensuring we have a wide range of food to eat. Very little of what we eat has not involved a pollinator.

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 just outside Falmouth, I have been fascinated by bees, butterflies, moths 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 campaign successfully 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 Departments, like the Ministry of 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. Falmouth town and local parish councils are increasingly responsible for our 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 Falmouth town council will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

The UK continues to lead support for pollinators in the international arena, in particular, welcoming the recent UN led IPBES assessment on pollinators. 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, only the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies but 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. It’s essential that we work together and learn from each other, thinking globally and acting locally.

First published in the Falmouth Wave on 30/06/18.

Reducing Plastic Pollution

Ministers announced new funding for scientists at the University of Plymouth which will use it to research how particles from tyres, polyester clothing and fishing gear enter the oceans and affect marine life.

The project comes after the Government introduced a ban on miniature plastic beads or ‘microbeads’ in the manufacture of wash-off cosmetic and personal care products where the plastics can be washed down the drain. There are many other sources of small plastic particles – found in places as remote as the Arctic sea ice – including from car tyre friction on roads or through fibres from synthetic clothes released during washing. The 11-month project will build on research already under way, with scientists estimating that tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release more than 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.

I know that many of my constituents share my view that the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation.  I am grateful to Surfers Against Sewage, based in St Agnes, who I have been working with for some time. They keep me updated on the latest research so that I can effectively lobby for change in Government policy. The UK is already leading the way in this area, but we want to go further – and faster. Robust scientific evidence should support our policy proposals, and through this exciting project we will build on work under way to understand better how microplastics end up in the marine environment and what we can do to tackle this in the future.

The project is being led by Professor Richard Thompson, who said: ‘The types of microplastics entering the marine environment are incredibly diverse, but recent estimates in Norway and Sweden have suggested that particles of tyre and debris from the road surface could be a substantial source. With very limited real data available to confirm the impact from these sources, there is a genuine and pressing need to establish the true scale of this issue. By combining this with an assessment of the quantities of microplastic from synthetic textiles, we can develop a more complete picture on the relative importance of various sources. We will be able to use our findings to work with the Government, scientists and industry to try to prevent these particles entering the marine environment in the future.’

It is vital that we all play our part in reducing the chances of plastic getting into our marine environment by decreasing our use of single use plastic and disposing of it carefully if we do.  It is great to see so many people, scientists, industry, businesses and organisations working together to tackle this problem and to see so many local ‘plastic free’ initiatives as well as beach cleans.  It’s difficult to kick the plastic habit but each of us doing something will add up to a big difference.

First published in the West Briton 10/05/18

Ensuring a good deal for Farmers post-Brexit

As part of Brexit, the Government has launched a consultation paper on the future of food, farming and the environment and I want to make sure you have your views considered as part of this consultation. I will be meeting with local NFU members and farmers and want to hear your views too.

Passing on our precious natural environment in better condition than we found it to the next generation is a core Conservative value and aim of this Government. This consultation is a really important opportunity to shape future strategy and plans to deliver this aim.

Over the Eastertide, like many local people, I will be celebrating by bringing my family together for a meal of locally produced food. Despite the dreadful weather our farmers, food and drink producers have provided us all with an abundance of quality and choice.

Food is at the heart of every farming business and it is essential that Brexit should deliver opportunities for British food and farming. Agriculture accounts for over 70% of land use in the UK and food and farming provides 3.8 million jobs contributing £112 billion to the country’s economy.

When it comes to the food you eat, how much do you really know about the standards under which it is produced?  Red Tractor is the largest food standards scheme in the UK and ensures that the way food is farmed and prepared is checked against the highest of standards, covering animal welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.

Food and drink bearing the Red Tractor logo has been produced responsibly to some of the most comprehensive and respected standards in the world and is regularly checked by independent experts from farm to pack.

All users of the logo have to keep comprehensive records of their Red Tractor products and are regularly inspected to ensure that this is happening. The flag in the Red Tractor logo tells you where your food has come from and that it has been farmed and prepared in the UK.

Red Tractor makes sure that everyone using the logo applies rigorous standards of food safety and hygiene to the way your food is produced – from farm to pack.

Red Tractor standards mean that animals have enough space, and safe and comfortable housing or shelter and unlimited access to fresh, clean drinking water and are provided with well balanced meals. All Red Tractor farmers have to keep a written health plan for their animals.

Farmers under the Red Tractor scheme must use responsible farming methods to minimise the risk of pollution. This means making sure that any pesticide and fertilisers that are used are stored safely and are applied correctly.

I would welcome your views on how we ensure that these high standards are maintained and enhanced and would value your opinions. I am also determined to see that the geographical designated food scheme that many of our local food producers benefit from, especially our Cornish Pasty makers and Fal Oyster fishermen continues post Brexit.

First published in the West Briton 22/03/2018

Helping people out of poverty

Happy New Year! While we all expect it to be chilly outside at this time of the year I don’t expect anyone to be living in a cold home. Thousands of people across Cornwall will be lifted out of fuel poverty and live in warmer homes following an £8m funding investment over the next year.

Around 36,000 homes in Cornwall are in fuel poverty, with Cornwall in the top 10 of fuel poor areas in England. I am delighted to have helped secure this new funding to tackle a long standing problem in Cornwall. Having been a part of the Winter Wellness partnership for some time, I have seen first-hand how effective this partnership of public sector organisations, businesses, charities and community groups is in delivering positive change for people living on low incomes in Cornwall. Living in a warm home is a matter of social justice and this new programme and investment will help more local people.

The Winter Wellbeing Partnership, including 30 partners, from our local NHS to Cornwall CAB, the Fire Service and Cornwall Council has secured over £3.5m from National Grid’s Warm Homes Fund to work with thousands of people to stay warmer for less and be lifted out of fuel poverty.

The new fund – ‘Warm and Well Cornwall’ – targets residents who are in poor health or at risk of ill health, or with underlying health issues, or caring for a vulnerable person or worried about their home being cold or damp.

Warm and Well Cornwall will help 220 private homes, including owners, landlords or tenants and up to 800 social housing homes with first time central heating, such as renewable heating, mains gas, oil, or LPG, with many more to follow in future years.

Social housing partners Ocean, Coastline, Cornwall Housing, Guinness and DCH are investing around £2.5m to improve heating for their tenants with renewable heating and gas central heating.

Funding has also been secured from SSE Energy Solutions, Cornwall Council’s Energy Efficiency partner. SSE has ring-fenced Energy Company Obligation (ECO) eligible measures targeted at fuel poor and vulnerable households in Cornwall and is a key partner to delivering Warm and Well Cornwall. By January 2019 the programme is expected to have helped more than 1,000 homes out of fuel poverty, keeping people warm and well.

Private landlords with tenants can also apply for funding to upgrade their properties. From April 2018, private landlords cannot re-let existing rented properties rated EPC F or G, unless they have registered a valid exemption and from 2020 landlords won’t be able to let any (non-exempt) properties if they are rated F or G.

The WinterWellness Freephone 0800 9541956 is the place to get more information about the wide range of help and support available. It is run by the great Cornish charity called Community Energy Plus. There is cash available for emergency heating payments made available from the Cornwall Community Foundation surviving winter appeal.

Of course tackling fuel poverty is not just about bringing down the cost of heating a home and improving energy efficiency, it’s also about increasing household incomes. So Winter Wellness can provide access to impartial and expert information and advice over the phone or face to face with saving money as well as checking eligibility for cash benefits and discounts. Referrals can also be made to organisations that can help people increase their incomes and employment opportunities.

Helping people out of poverty and putting more money into the pockets of my constituents is a top priority for me in 2018.  I will be continuing to support local employers to protect and grow their enterprises so that more people have the opportunity of a good job. Increasing access to in work skills and training is really important to enable people to increase their wages too.

In 2018 I will build on the progress of the recent Budget that increased the personal allowance, so more people keep more of the money they earn before they start paying taxes. I will also make the case for further increases in the Living Wage. I am pleased that thanks to the hard work and dedication of local employers, the number of people of all ages in work is much higher than 2010. Throughout 2018, I want to see the number of well paid good jobs grow here and people keep more of the money they earn.

First published in the Falmouth Wave January 2018

Animal Sentience: Government support for animal rights

Since being elected, I have been actively working with local people to improve animal welfare. With my Conservative MP colleagues, we have taken action to ban the plastic microbeads which do so much damage to marine wildlife and new laws come into force in January. We will make CCTV mandatory in abattoirs to ensure animals are not abused or mistreated. We are banning the trade in ivory which puts the lives of African elephants in danger. And we will legislate to increase the sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty to five years imprisonment. That will ensure the sanctions for cruelty towards animals are as strong here as anywhere in the world.

And, as we leave the EU, new opportunities arise to further improve animal welfare. Having long campaigned against exporting live animals for slaughter, I am pleased the Government will take action to restrict and, if possible, end this trade. Also ensuring that food imports meet the highest welfare standards. And we will take action to deal with puppy farming and the cruel trade in pets reared in unacceptable conditions.

We will also legislate to ensure that the principle that animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and pleasure, is embedded more clearly than ever before in UK law. Some have been arguing that we must vote to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill to uphold this principle and a Labour amendment has been laid for debate next Tuesday which seeks to amend the bill accordingly.

Due to faulty drafting, this amendment would mean animal sentience was only recognised in law for the next 2 years and would only apply to Ministerial decisions made in that period. Conservatives believe animals are sentient for life not just for the next two years, so our legislation will ensure this happens.

First published in the West Briton