The Importance of the Docks for Falmouth

Throughout my childhood I lived with the fear of the docks in Falmouth closing. I remember my Falmouth School classmates wondering if their parents would lose their jobs or if they would be able to develop their own career in the port. My great uncle was a Falmouth Pilot and my grandfather worked in the docks for a while so, just like so many local families, our futures were bound up in the future of the port.

In fact all our futures are bound up in the future of the port in Falmouth and all the other ports around our shores. As a trading, island nation with over ninety percent of everything we consume arriving by sea, maintaining and developing our port infrastructure, ship building and maintenance skills are vital to our national security and prosperity.

When I was elected in 2010, I set myself a personal goal to secure the future of the port of Falmouth, including A&P. There are world leading businesses in the port, including Pendennis Shipbuilders, World Fuel Services and FalFish. Since 2010, these companies have been able to grow their businesses, securing new private and public funding. I was particularly pleased to have been able to officially open the new Eastern Jetty/breakwater last August which is not only vital infrastructure for World Fuel Services but protects the whole port of Falmouth.

I have been proud to bring a series of defence ministers to the port to see the excellent work that A&P is doing in supporting our Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships and I am delighted that A&P recently won new long term contracts for maintaining these important vessels that work alongside and play an invaluable role supporting the Royal Navy. I am also delighted that Falmouth is now the home port for the Royal Naval survey vessel, H.M.S. Scott.

During March, I am 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. ship building, 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 borders 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 – the 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.

Thanks to the foresight of the Falmouth Harbour Commissioners, Falmouth is also the home of an important renewable energy development site, for tide and wave power. Working in partnership with local businesses and Exeter University, Wave Hub is part of the Green Growth plans for the sustainable development of our local economy.

Along with the port of Penryn, Falmouth provides many opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy our natural environment with a range of recreational activity from rowing and sailing to recreational fishing. Our local water quality has significantly improved with the leadership of the Environment Agency working with partners and landowners, and investments made by South West Water. This is protecting the natural habitat of important local species such as the native oysters.

The port of Falmouth has faced many challenges since the Killigrews secured the charter and I am sure it will face further challenges. But right now, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit, innovation and determination of the people who work so hard for the ports of Falmouth and Penryn, our ports have a bright future.

First published in the Falmouth Wave April edition

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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 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: http://www.climatevision.co.uk/top-ten-pledges 

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

Smart employers know there’s a pool of talent to be tapped

Delve deeper into this week’s employment statistics showing there are more people in
work in the UK than ever – 32.6m – and an encouraging picture emerges about
our labour market.

More than half of working age disabled people are now in work. In just five years, their employment rate has risen from 44.2pc to 51.5pc. And what’s more, disabled women have seen an even faster increase, from 42.8pc to 51pc.

We have seen the employment rate gap between disabled and non-disabled people close significantly over this period, but we want to do more. As we continue to make progress, we need to shine a light on the ongoing work the Government and employers
do together to open up opportunities for disabled people.

We are ambitious for disabled people and in 2017 we set out our goal to see one million more disabled people in work over a 10-year period by 2027.

And we are committed to achieving that. Last week, we announced that we are upping the maximum grant disabled people can receive through Access to Work to pay for adjustments to help them do their job to almost £60,000 a year. This is an increase by £2,000 a year in the maximum amount of support that pays for things like workplace adaptations, assistive technology and personal assistants.

Lots of employers are doing the right thing and creating accessible workplaces. More than 10,500 businesses have signed up to the Government’s Disability Confident scheme, which provides support to employers to ensure disabled people are recruited, retained and supported in their careers. Last year we launched a voluntary framework to encourage large businesses to report how many disabled people they employ. The
voluntary framework, created in partnership with employers and disabled people, also obliges business to set out how they are currently supporting their disabled employees.

It’s clear that improving the disability employment rate isn’t just about doing the right thing for the UK’s 7.6m disabled people of working age – there will be long-lasting benefits for everyone.

Disabled people can bring a wealth of skills and talents to an organisation, and smart employers are making sure that they are not missing out on this untapped pool of talent.
Businesses, employers, government and employees must shout louder about this as it makes this journey together to ensure everyone can take up the opportunities being created.

First published in The Daily Telegraph 22/02/19

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

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

Improving our local health services

Dame Sally Davis is the independent Chief Medical Officer for England, and her recently published annual report on the NHS provides invaluable insights. I agree with her analysis when she says, that while the NHS is often a source of national pride, but despite this, a narrative of health being a cost to society prevails. As the late Hans Rosling said, “When things are getting better we often don’t hear about them. This gives us a systematically too-negative impression of the world around us, which is very stressful.” 

Dame Sally says her report “offers cause for optimism and I conclude that it is realistic to aspire to better and more equitable health in the next 20 years. As the NHS has developed its long-term plan for the coming ten years, this report looks at the strategic opportunities over the coming two decades for the health of the nation more broadly.” 

Like Dame Sally, I believe we need to reposition health as one of the primary assets of our nation, contributing to both the economy and happiness. We also must measure and track progress in our development of health as a nation and our fairness as a society in delivering improving health outcomes. I support her recommendation that the Government need to develop a composite Health Index that recognises this and is tracked alongside our nation’s GDP and the Measuring National Well-being programme. 

Health is generally used to mean the ‘absence of ill-health’. We often focus on the NHS as an ‘illness service’ rather than acknowledging the complex interactions in society that influence our health as individuals. Healthcare is often spoken of as a cost to the state and society rather than an investment that generates returns for the individual, communities and the nation. The NHS and public health services are not a burden on our finances – they help to build our future. Moreover, the good health of our nation is the bedrock of our happiness and prosperity. 

Health is an asset that we must protect and promote and is affected by the conditions in which we live and work. These conditions can be health-promoting or health-harming, and often governments, industry, and societies are responsible for those conditions, not the individual. We all have some responsibility for our own health, but we are not individually responsible for the house or neighbourhood we are born into, the school we attended, nor the health environment we live in. 

The health system needs to adapt for each individual and ensure both their environment and the care that they receive is helping them achieve ‘good health’. One example is our local social prescribing, which acknowledges our expanded understanding of physical, mental and social health and is an opportunity for the traditional health service to utilise, enhance and amplify existing schemes, including employment. Our local WinterWellness programme is another. One size clearly does not fit all, and this requires different types of care accessed through different places and different ways.