Reducing 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

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Animal Sentience

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

Mental Health Awareness

On Sunday, I joined World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s imperative that we all understand the importance of promoting good mental health. I have had the privilege of helping a number of local organisations secure funding for new and improved mental health services, many take advantage of our splendid natural maritime environment to promote good mental health.

As a member of the Conservative Environment Network I joined colleagues last week in launching our most recent report and a copy is on my website.

The report, which has been sent to Cabinet ministers, includes an essay from my colleague Rebecca Pow MP who is encouraging gardening to be adopted as a policy by a range of government departments including health, justice, defence, local government and education.

Gardening can help to cut childhood obesity, improve public spaces, provide purpose for prisoners in jails and help people deal with mental stress.

Gardens in Britain cover an area the size of Exmoor, Dartmoor, the Lake District and the Norfolk Broads National Parks combined.

The garden economy makes a significant contribution to the nations’ coffers, with £7.8billion being spent on this sector by tourists every year.

That figure does not include the way our parks and gardens are valuable habitats for wildlife and nature, capturing and storing carbon helping to combat climate change and reducing flooding.

Providing people with the opportunity to green their communities can be a way of tackling unemployment, lack of skills, loneliness and improve wellbeing.

There are many great, local projects from growing food in schools to Glen Carne enabling gardening for formerly homeless men and those suffering with Dementia in St Agnes to Incredible Edible Penryn at St Gluvius Church Hall. You don’t have to own a garden or know anything about gardening to benefit from these great community projects.

First published in the West Briton 13/09/17

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.

Microbeads

Microbeads will be banned to prevent tiny pieces of plastic entering the world’s oceans where they are then swallowed by wildlife, the Environment Secretary announced last week.

He also pledged action to reduce plastic waste in the world’s oceans and set out the Government’s ambition for the UK to lead the world in environmental protection.

As new figures published last week revealed more than nine billion fewer plastic bags were used since the government introduced a 5p charge, an 83 per cent reduction, the Environment Secretary set out further plans to prevent other sources of plastic finding their way into our oceans and seas.

Speaking at WWF UK on Friday morning, he said: “Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat.

“There is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic – in particular plastic bottles – entering our seas, improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters – all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU.”

Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Louisa Casson said: “The UK government has just proposed the strongest ban on microbeads in the world to date.

“This is great news for our environment and a positive sign of Britain’s global leadership on ocean plastics.”

For some time I have worked with St Agnes based Surfers Against Sewage, campaigning for these vital changes – small changes that make a huge difference. Some people are concerned about post Brexit environmental protection. Along with transferring EU laws to the UK, the plans laid out demonstrate commitment to delivering our pledge to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

First Published in the West Briton

Plastic Waste

It’s spring cleaning time and I will be joining constituents cleaning up local parks and beaches. Every year I am struck by the increasing amount of plastic we collect. The plastic bag tax has helped reduce waste considerably and we are making real progress with plastic microbeads too. I understand and share concerns about the impact these ingredients have on the marine environment and fish.

I have been campaigning for a ban for sometime, working with great charities such as St Agnes based Surfers Against Sewage. That is why I am pleased to tell you that, following work with the industry to achieve a voluntary phase-out, the Government has announced plans to ban them from cosmetic products completely.

The Government launched a consultation on proposals to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics and personal care products containing harmful microbeads. This consultation ran until 28 February. It will also gather evidence on the environmental impacts of microbeads found elsewhere, such as in household and industrial cleaning products, and consider what more can be done in future to tackle other plastics, such as microfibers, that also enter the marine environment.

Clearly there is an international dimension to this issue so I am pleased to say that the UK, along with several of our neighbours, is party to an international organisation known as the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2014 its members agreed a regional action plan to address marine litter, one of its most important objectives. The plan includes international action on microplastics.

I understand that manufacturers are exploring natural alternatives to plastic microbeads, including nut shells, salt and sugar. These have the same exfoliating properties but do not threaten the environment, so the products containing them should perform just as well.

Environmental Protection

While some are mourning 2016 as a year of political shocks and celebrity deaths, conservationists say it has seen some “landmark” environmental successes.

Environmental campaigners warn global wildlife populations could have declined by two thirds on 1970 levels by the end of the decade, but said 2016 shows that people can make a difference.

Some of the world’s most charismatic species have seen an upturn in their fortunes, with tiger numbers increasing for the first time since efforts to conserve them began and giant pandas moved off the “endangered” list, wildlife charity WWF said.

Nepal has achieved two years in a row with no rhino poaching, while trade in the world’s most trafficked mammal, the pangolin or scaly anteater, has been made illegal by countries meeting to discuss international wildlife trade.

The UK was among 24 countries and the EU that signed an agreement to protect 1.55 million square kilometres (600,000 square miles) of the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean, Antarctica, from damaging activities.

2016 saw the UK commit an extra £13 million to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and, elsewhere in the environmental arena, ratify the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive deal by countries to tackle climate change.

People in Cornwall are playing our part. We will be hosting ground breaking work to develop a sustainable local energy market. A three year £19 million programme has just been agreed, including EU funding, with Centrica, British Gas, Western Power, The National Grid and Exeter University. The programme will be working with local businesses and residents, utilising new technology to develop more sustainable and lower cost energy.

I am delighted that this innovative work will be undertaken here. It is just part of a plan enabling Green Growth in Cornwall, with high skilled and well paid employment that brings.

First published in the West Briton 04/01/17