EU Withdrawal Bill

Last night a majority of MPs, from across the Conservative, Labour, and DUP parties and two Independents voted for an amended EU Withdrawal Bill. A couple of weeks ago, a majority of MPs voted against the original version of this bill.  

Over the last two weeks a huge amount of work has been done to find the common ground in Parliament. The EU and the PM quite rightly said to Parliament, “we know what you don’t agree upon, so tell us what you do”. The amendment to the EU Withdrawal Agreement is about finding a different way of guaranteeing that we honour the Belfast and Good Friday agreements – the so called “backstop”. Those agreements are about honouring our commitments in securing peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

So what happens next? The PM will spend the next two weeks negotiating with the EU with the aim of bringing back to Parliament a final version of the EU Withdrawal Agreement. 

In the meantime, much good work continues on a wide range of important policies that matter to us all. Last week I held one of my regular meetings with the NFU and local farmers. We discussed the Immigration Bill and the Agriculture Bill that are currently working their way through Parliament.  

On Friday, the government launched an ambitious new strategy to clean up our air – which includes a commitment to support farmers’ efforts to tackle air pollution. 

Agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia gas which can travel long distances, be damaging to the environment, and combine with other pollutants to form fine Particulate Matter (PM) pollution, which is harmful to human health. 

The measures set out in the Clean Air Strategy will help cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030. 

Under the new strategy the government will provide farmers with support to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions and will work with industry to encourage low emission, holistic farming techniques. 

Funding has been available through the Countryside Productivity Scheme to help farmers purchase manure management equipment including low-emission spreaders and the scheme is due to run again in 2019.  

Funding is also available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for slurry tank and lagoon covers for farmers in priority water catchments. 

In September 2018 the government launched a new £3 million programme through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership to fund a team of specialists who work with farmers and landowners in priority areas to provide training events, tailored advice, individual farm visits and support with grant applications. 

Our Agriculture Bill already sets out how future financial support for the farming sector will be focussed on delivering improvements to the environment. We propose that a future environmental land management system should fund targeted action to protect habitats impacted by ammonia. Natural England are already examining options to improve the effectiveness of schemes for mitigating ammonia emissions in protecting these habitats. 

First published in the West Briton 31/01/18

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Backing the PM’s deal

The Parliament I returned to on Monday is almost as divided as it was before Christmas. It is still divided into several factions; those who support Mrs May’s EU deal and those who oppose it, those who want a general election and those who want a second referendum. No one has come up with a better deal – including “no deal” – that commands more support than that of the Prime Minister. These same divisions exist across our nation, in our communities and in our homes. 

I have received around one thousand letters and emails from constituents passionately expressing their views one way or another, with each appealing to me to do the ‘right thing’ by representing their position in Parliament. It is my job to listen to the arguments and then carefully draw my own conclusions.  

There is no doubt that the vast majority of people are very supportive of the Prime Minister, and rightly so in my view. I agree that her deal is not perfect, but it does offer a compromise which I can support and I would urge others to do so too. As I have said before, this 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 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. These key objectives, which are often referred to as the Prime Minister’s ‘red lines’, actually represent the promises made to British voters in the referendum campaign and at the most recent General Election. 

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. 

If we do not support this deal, then anything could happen. This would have unknown and potentially untold consequences. The vast majority of local employers who have contacted me want certainty and do not want a “no deal” Brexit. 

There might also be a vote of no confidence in the present Government, which could result in a General Election, which Mr. Corbyn might win. For most, I do not need to explain the consequences of this for our economy, on investment and on jobs. 

I think it’s time to come together and support the deal. 

 First published in the West Briton 10/01/18

Spearheading action to reduce climate change

Last week, policymakers and climate experts from around the world gathered in Katowice, Poland, for pivotal talks on ambitious global action. 

In October, world leading scientists delivered a stark warning of the potentially devastating impacts of climate change on our health, prosperity and energy security. 

We are in this together, which is why the UK spearheaded action in Poland to establish a ‘rulebook’ for curbing climate change. 

This rulebook creates a level playing field for every country to play their part. Greater transparency will ensure scrutiny of progress toward targets and increase sharing of best practice. We must spread collective action using our combined wealth of knowledge to find the most effective and innovative ways of tackling climate change. 

The UK has a solid track record, since 1990 we have cut emissions by more than 40%, while growing our economy by more than two-thirds. During our first-ever Green GB Week, more than 30 UK-based businesses committed significant action to tackle climate change, from investing hundreds of millions in new solar panels to converting fleets of trucks to biofuels.  

But it’s not all about economics. There is a moral imperative too, as the effects of climate change already dominate our lives. It will be the poorest and most vulnerable people who will inevitably feel the effects hardest. 

That is why three years ago, the UK and other developed countries committed to mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 to help these countries cope with the increasing risk of droughts and floods and provide access to clean energy. We know that every pound spent reducing CO2 today pays for itself between five and 20 times over in offsetting climate impacts. 

UK climate finance has, to date, supported 47 million people across the globe cope with the effects of climate change and provided 17 million people with improved access to clean energy.  

Investing this money overseas keeps us secure too. In the UK’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, climate change was recognised as leading to and exacerbating instability overseas through crop failure, droughts and climate-change related migration.  

I am often asked – does leaving the EU mean the UK will row back on its ambitious climate action? Let me say it once again: absolutely not. 

The UK has always been ahead of the curve in setting climate ambition, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passing 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. 

Our ambition will not be hindered by leaving the EU. In fact, when the Government asked the independent Committee on Climate Change for advice on setting a net zero target in response to the October report, we were the first major developed country to take such action. 

Last week’s global agreements were a hopeful end to the Parliamentary year. Wishing you a very happy Christmas. 

First published in the West Briton 20/12/18

Update from Parliament

Last week was dominated by consideration of the proposed agreements with the European Union that set out how we will leave the EU in an orderly way and develop a new and close relationship – a relationship that is based on our shared values, mutual security and economic prosperity.

The negotiations are still not complete and the final proposed agreements will be presented to Parliament later this month for further and thorough debate. We will then vote on the agreements.

I have read and considered all the documentation and listened to the debate in the Commons. I believe that what the Prime Minister has agreed with the EU has delivered on what the referendum mandated: we will be leaving the EU in March next year, the right to free movement will end, we will take back control of our laws and we will be leaving the single market. We will become an independent coastal nation.

I know that fervent Brexiteers, and those who do not want to leave the EU, will say that some of these things aren’t delivered instantly and that there remains some uncertainty on others. Some will protest that we will have to follow EU rules on goods.  And they will be right.

But, crucially, the deal also delivers continued near friction free access to the EU markets which guarantees so many jobs and livelihoods here and all over the UK. We will be able to continue to participate in Europol and EuroJust and other mutually beneficial programmes that are so important for our security, universities and jobs. While it is perfectly logical to reject this “deal” because of the compromises it makes, I won’t be doing that.

This “deal” delivers Brexit in a humane and considered way and fulfils the objectives the PM outlined at the start of the process and which were agreed by Parliament. It has been welcomed by important organisations such as those representing business and industry as well as the NFU. I hope that Parliament will pass the final version of the “deal”. I will continue to support the PM to do so. We can then move on.

The really hard work of implementing the “deal” will then begin. It will take considerable focus and effort to implement it well over the next few years.

At the same time we will all need to spend more time in addressing the divisions in our society that came into sharp focus during the referendum campaign – divisions, often based on ignorance and fear, that are being manipulated by politicians and public figures with far left or right wing political ideology.

Their simplistic, popular remedies for our current problems often conceal their underlying ideology.  Fascism and socialism, with all the suffering that it brings, is not dead despite the battles fought in the last century and the manifest suffering of people subjected to socialism now in countries like Venezuela.

Now is the time for people who believe in our values of freedom, tolerance and compassion to stand up for them.

First published in the West Briton 22/11/18

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

Challenges for the New Year

Thank you to Western Power and our emergency services who worked hard throughout the challenging stormy Christmas period into the New Year.

There seems little doubt 2018 will be a challenging year. We live in uncertain times. I believe that we must remain positively engaged with other countries in trying to shape a peaceful and sustainable future. In difficult times it is all too tempting to withdraw from the world and look inwards and backwards. Our great strength as a nation has always been our ability to look confidently outwards and to the future.

2018 will be the year that we seek to reset our relationship with the European Union. I remain positive that we can achieve a mutually beneficial and deep partnership involving a wide range of activities related to our mutual security and future prosperity. It will not be easy and will take a great deal of hard work, resolve and determination, but I believe it is possible.

2018 is the year that the Commonwealth countries come together for an important meeting in the UK. This is a great opportunity to deepen our relationships outside Europe, working as a collective force for positive change on the most pressing issues of our time, from tackling poverty and climate change, to preventing terrorism and serious and organised crime, especially human trafficking and modern day slavery, while also improving our stewardship of our natural environment.

I don’t doubt the determination of the many ‘can do’ people I know in all walks of life who have a positive vision of Britain in a new partnership with friends around the world. 2018 will demand much of many of us and I am looking forward to the challenge.

What could make the task of tackling these enormous challenges more difficult is how we respond to the reporting of them. A free media and engaged, well informed, citizens are essential for our democracy. Yet at a time when it has never been easier to communicate, getting to the truth seems harder than ever.

In Falmouth The National Maritime Museum’s new exhibition, Titanic Stories, will remind us that fake news is not new. It examines some of the stories arising out of the Titanic’s sinking, re-appraising some of the myths that quickly sprang up and still persist around this tragic event. Exploring the passengers of Titanic’s lifeboat number 13 will help us to examine myths such as ‘women and children first’. Looking at who was actually in that lifeboat boat we will see a more complicated picture.

I am planning to visit the exhibition and challenge my assumptions. I would encourage you all to look for factually accurate and balanced reporting of the news in the turbulent year that lies ahead. The BBC, especially the World Service and Radio 4, have good analysis and fact checking.

Another important source is the Parliamentary website. If you are interested in what is going on, I encourage you to visit the site and sign up for regular updates.

First published in the West Briton 04/01/18

Delivering on my Manifesto Pledges

During the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged more funding for all local schools and that Cornwall would continue to receive designated economic development funding. Both are being delivered.

Last week the proposed new schools funding figures were announced. Overall schools in my constituency will receive an additional £1.9 million by 2019/2020 and that is a 3.8% increase. The individual figures for each school will be available on my website.

It is vitally important to me that our schools receive their fair share of funding. For sometime I have campaigned for a transparent national formula for per pupil funding for our schools based on the needs of the children it serves. Clearly setting out for the first time the sums that we are directing to different aspects of the formula, to the basic amount per pupil that every school receives, or to the children with additional needs, allows for properly informed debate on this vital topic, something that the existing opaque system held back.

In addition to per pupil funding, schools receive a fixed sum and can access funding for building improvements and expansion. Schools also receive the Pupil Premium and funding for children with Special Education Needs. The final decision about what each school receives depends on Cornwall Council, but if they deliver the funds that they have been allocated for per pupil spending to each school, all schools will receive increased funding.

As far as the EU funding is concerned, it is good to see many local organisations benefitting from the current round of funding that will run its course until 2020. Post Brexit, the need for dedicated funds for economic development in Cornwall has been agreed by the Treasury. The details of the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be consulted upon.

First published in the West Briton 20/09/17