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

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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

Winter Wellness

The Cornwall Community Foundation is calling on anyone who receives the Winter Fuel Payment but does not need some or all of it, to donate it to Cornwall’s Surviving Winter campaign. The aim is to help local people to stay warm and well this winter.

Despite the mild temperatures this year, winter is still a very challenging time for many of those who live in our communities. Too many local people live in poorly insulated and costly to heat homes. Living in a cold home causes serious health problems including heart attacks and strokes with over 342 ‘excess’ deaths in Cornwall in winter each year.

There are many small specialist community organisations who are equipped to give support and direct, practical help, and these will be funded from the donations. This year we are aiming to raise £30,000 to help those most in need of our support.

Donations can be made by sending a cheque made payable to The Cornwall Community Foundation or visiting http://www.cornwallfoundation.com.

Last winter the campaign successfully allocated £15,550 in grants to a total of 13 organisations. Over 500 people benefited from the help received in Cornwall.

The groups that benefited last winter include Community Energy Plus, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, Cornwall Women’s Refuge Trust, Gateway 2 New Life, Inclusion Cornwall, Launceston Memory Café, St Austell Community Kitchen, The Oasis Centre, Volunteer Cornwall and the Wild Young Parents Project.

There is a great deal of local help for people who are struggling to make ends meet but not everyone knows where to turn.

Sadly, I have found that the people who most need help are least likely to receive it.  You can help by promoting The Winter Wellness free phone 0800 954 1956- the expert and friendly advice service that connects people to the help they need.

Flooding

Improved rain and flood modelling, a significant increase in new temporary flood defences and greater protection to infrastructure were all outlined in the Government’s National Flood Resilience Review this week.

Lessons learnt from last winter’s floods have helped build a new approach so the nation is better prepared and more resilient to flooding, now and in coming years.

The review includes £12.5 million for new temporary defences, such as barriers and high volume pumps, at seven strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the Environment Agency will have four times more temporary barriers than last year. Utility companies’ have committed to increase flood protection of their key local infrastructure, such as phone networks and water treatment works, so they are resilient to extreme flooding. There will be a new stress test of the risk of flooding from rivers and the sea in England and, for the first time, Met Office forecasts of extreme rainfall scenarios will be linked with Environment Agency modelling to provide a new assessment of flood risk.

Locally, we have seen just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the flood defences.

The extra funding will help the Environment Agency do even more for local communities so that we can better protect homes and businesses and respond even more rapidly and flexibly when extreme weather strikes.

With the evidence of the National Flood Resilience Review, Government will now turn its attention to investment after 2021, making sure funds are directed where they are needed most.

This builds on the £2.5 billion already being invested between 2015 and 2021 to strengthen our flood and coastal defences, as well as spending £1 billion on maintaining the nation’s flood defences over this Parliament.