Raising the issue of climate change

The UK leads the world on tackling climate change. We have decarbonised faster than any major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990. Yet we know we need to go further and faster, which is why Parliament supported the world-leading net zero target. Now the Government must outline a strategy, concrete policies and a road map on how we are going to get there.

Climate change and decline of our nature is the most serious threat we face. Unchecked, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, damage precious natural habitats, and cause sea levels to rise. The impacts could be irreversible. The response must therefore be similarly comprehensive and action must be taken across our whole economy.

I am confident that we can do this. Why? Because there is comprehensive concern and support for action. We are an imaginative, creative, innovative nation and have what it takes to rise to this challenge. It’s an opportunity to grow our economy more sustainably. Every week I have meetings with people from a wide range of organisations fully invested in seeing us succeed in meeting our net zero target.

In every meeting, there is agreement on what the challenge is and the conversation moves onto the how and when they can play their part. If we are to harness this enthusiasm, we will first and foremost need to provide more information.

Not everyone will read the 277 page Committee on Climate Change (CCC) net zero report – or even the 630 page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of 1.5 degrees of global warming – or the daily announcements coming from different government departments. It’s hard for businesses or individuals to find accurate information about how they can make an impact by making changes. In going for net zero, we need to bring people with us, and that means empowering them to make different choices.

The Government can provide that information by sharing its data and expertise on, for example, the smartest way to get to work or school, what local British food is in season and sustainably grown, and the suppliers of the cleanest forms of electricity and heating.

This should be provided in one place, where any individual, council, business or student can find out all they need to know to reduce their carbon footprint. Opportunities for business to access support to innovate.

We have world leading universities and tech companies and I would like the Government to set up a Eco Tech Innovation Fund so we can harness this expertise to create user friendly and accessible  apps and websites that seamlessly compile impartial and accurate data and explain what people can do and how they can access support.

Information is power and will enable every work place and home to make smarter choices.

I would like to see a new role created in the Cabinet Office that coordinates all Government policy and plans to reach net zero. Government should lead by example and each department has a role to play from making their buildings more energy efficient to switching to low emission transport.

Businesses also have an important role to play. It has been great to see businesses come forward with their own net zero targets, such as the water industry which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030.

The climate change movement fails when it fails to bring people with it. As we saw in France, we have to make it clear why action to tackle climate change matters and ensure people aren’t left behind as we transition to new cleaner industries.

It can’t just be about distant international summits with acronyms that few people understand. When the UK hosts the international UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, it must ensure that every sector of society, everyone is involved in the conversation. With an issue as big as climate change, we need everyone’s collective brainpower to find the right solutions and we must have everyone on board if we hope to implement them.

First published in the House magazine 09/10/19.

MP calls for ‘Climate Impact Labelling’ on all goods

As the Extinction Rebellion protest continued across the road, Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton led a debate in Westminster Hall this morning on the government’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

London police have made more than 300 arrests as climate-change protesters, labelled “uncooperative crusties” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, continued two weeks of civil disobedience to push for more to be done to protect the environment.

On Monday, the Extinction Rebellion group took action in several countries including Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia, France and New Zealand as they lobby politicians to go further in cutting carbon emissions.

The protests are the latest stage in a global campaign for tougher and swifter steps against climate change coordinated by the group, which rose to prominence in April when it snarled traffic in central London for 11 days.

London police said 319 arrests had been made by the end of Monday. Speaking at an event on Monday evening Johnson said: “I am afraid that the security people didn’t want me to come along tonight because they said the road was full of uncooperative crusties,”

The Extinction Rebellion group wants Britain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 rather than the government’s 2050 target.

Inside The Palace of Westminster, Newton led a busy debate on how the government plan to get to their own self imposed target.

The Truro MP suggested that to “level up the expectation on all businesses to take action the government should require goods for sale to include climate impact on their labelling – the requirement could cover items of food, electronic goods and so on. It would help consumers make smarter choices when shopping and get companies measuring their carbon footprints of individual products” She admitted it would add a  cost to business so that was why it was crucial to make a level playing field by implementing it on all goods.

“Climate change and the decline of our nature is the most serious threat we face” the Truro MP said. “Unchecked, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, damage precious natural habitats, and cause sea levels to rise. The impacts could be irreversible. The response must therefore be similarly comprehensive and action must be taken across our whole economy.”

She claimed that ‘there is no doubt’ that the UK leads the world in tackling climate change.

She said “We’ve de-carbonised faster than any other major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990” she told the gathering of MPs from all sides. “But we all know we need to go further and faster”

Newton said that as the UK has committed itself to the zero net carbon target it needed to set out a road map to get there. She said that as the potential consequences of climate change will be felt across society then the reaction to it now must be made in a similar widespread fashion.

Caroline Lucas intervened at one point to promote the Green Party idea of Citizen’s Assemblies and bringing the net zero target forward but Sarah Newton said the Independent Committee on Climate Change set up by the 2008 Act had set 2050 as a realistic target and said a 2030 target is not deliverable.

Newton said there was an appetite within the general public to do their bit but they needed a one stop shop type information centre to guide them to success.

“The Government can provide that information by sharing its data and expertise on, for example, the smartest way to get to work or school, what local British food is in season and sustainably grown, and the suppliers of the cleanest forms of electricity and heating.This should be provided in one place, where any individual, council, business or student can find out all they need to know to reduce their carbon footprint. Opportunities for business to access support to innovate.We have world leading universities and tech companies and I would like the Government to set up an Eco Tech Innovation Fund so we can harness this expertise to create user friendly and accessible apps and websites that seamlessly compile impartial and accurate data and explain what people can do and how they can access support.”

Newton also said she would like to see a new role created in the Cabinet Office that coordinates all Government policy and plans to reach net zero. “Government should lead by example and each department has a role to play from making their buildings more energy efficient to switching to low emission transport” she said. She also suggest each departmental budget gets analysed for its positive or negative impact on the net zero target by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).

In a lively debate, speakers also included St Ives MP Derek Thomas, Luke Pollard, Tim Farron and Melanie Onn.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP was there for the government as Minister for Energy and Clean Growth. He hinted focus would now be on the COP26 conference in Glasgow next year when the UK government hoped to persuade other countries to join the 2050 target.

First published on Cornish Stuff 08/10/19: https://cornishstuff.com/2019/10/08/mp-calls-for-climate-impact-labelling-on-all-goods/

Welcoming new investment into Cornwall

Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too. 

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working together, to decide how best to use this funding and to develop plans to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. Funding is available to them right now to undertake this work. I am asking them to consider carefully how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regular treatment, receive care as close to their home, family and friends as possible. 

I am delighted that the Government has decided that this capital investment will be publicly funded and not through Private Finance Initiatives. The last Labour Government saddled so many public services, including local schools, with years and years of debt and ongoing charges that they have little control over.  

While buildings are important, ensuring that we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as important, so I am pleased that the day to day funding that our local NHS receives is growing each year.  Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share of funding but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding. 

This week the PM has also confirmed that, after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund.  Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. 

Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. I am determined that there is much less bureaucratic process, with more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding. 

This is exactly what I have been pressing the government for. All Cornwall’s MPs, along with our Local Enterprise Partnership leaders, will be meeting with the Treasury Minister to work through next steps. 

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities and better paid fulltime jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed and so that we can become one of the most prosperous regions, not the least, by growing our economy sustainably and inclusively. 

First published in the West Briton 02/10/19

Welcoming another £450 million of investment into the local NHS

There is much good news to share this week. Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too.

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working with the local community, to work together and decide how best to use this funding, to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. I will be asking them to carefully consider how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regularly treatment, receive care as close to their home and family and friends as possible.

The PM has also confirmed that after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund. Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. This is exactly what I have pressing the government for.

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities, better paid full time jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed. So we can become one of the most prosperous regions not the least, growing our economy sustainably and inclusively.

While we can all point to local infrastructure such as the Eastern Breakwater in the harbour or to the local railway between Falmouth Docks and Truro, some of the EU investment is not so well known. I am determined that there is much more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding.

While Falmouth University has benefitted significantly from EU funding, I would like to see a partnership with Exeter Medical School that enables more medical research to happen here. This will benefit local people and make it easier to attract and retain doctors and other health related professionals in the Duchy. With new NHS funding for hospital facilities and the Shared Prosperity Fund confirmed, investment is available to enable this to happen.

While buildings are important, ensuring we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as vital, so I am pleased that the day to day funding our local NHS receives is growing each year. Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding.

I have always believed that prevention is better than the cure, so I am delighted with the recent announcements setting out significant ambition and investment to protect and enhance our precious natural environment, leaving it in better condition for the next generation. What’s good for the environment is good for our health and wellbeing. While I very much support Cornwall Council’s Forest for Cornwall, it’s not enough. I don’t want you to have to get into a car to experience woodland. I am pleased that the Government has announced the extension of pocket parks funding. Existing parks that need new play equipment and landscaping such as the Beacon could benefit. Other small pockets of land that could be turned onto a natural space can too. I have written to our local town and parish councils to apply for this funding. Please let me know if I can help you and your community turn a scrap of neglected land into a natural oasis.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 02/10/19

Securing investment in our public services

I was delighted to sit in on a monthly ‘team talk’ of RCHT staff and had the pleasure of handing out certificates to staff nominated for the NHS Parliamentary Awards. These are prestigious annual awards, judged by senior NHS clinicians as well as the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens.  Linzi Lancaster and her team were SW regional winners and I was pleased to learn more about their important work while I was at Treliske. It is always a pleasure to recognise the brilliant staff in our local NHS.  

It was good to hear the really positive feedback from staff following this week’s news of a major investment of just under £100 million pounds into new facilities at Treliske. This, I was told, was the largest single investment in the hospital since it was built. This new funding will enable the building of a new Women and Children’s hospital as well as creating a new entrance.   

It follows the good news in December of just under £35 million investment into Haematology, MRI and Oncology services. The building work for this investment needs to be completed before the work on the Women’s and Children’s hospital can start.   

I visited the staff on the wards currently providing these services to learn more about the plans. While enormous effort is being made to deliver high quality, safe care in the current wards there is no doubt that the new facilities are much needed. As the population of Cornwall grows, and medicine and treatments evolve, more space is needed. There is also the opportunity for the specialist teams at RCHT to offer more services in the community, with new clinics in other health care settings across Cornwall as well as in people’s homes.  

I also followed the pathway which patients take when coming into A&E. It was good to see at first-hand how changes have been made to improve patients’ experience. Of course, there remain huge challenges, especially around partnership working with other parts of the health and care system in Cornwall, but I will continue to fight for the resources that are needed to provide safe, high quality health and care services in Cornwall. 

I have also met with GPs and Public Health staff at Cornwall Council. While funding for our local NHS increases each year, and recent injections of cash for adult social care are welcome, we know there is more to do, especially with our community hospitals and achieving a long term, cross party solution to the funding of adult social care. As a General Election is in the air, please be assured that the NHS has no plans to close Falmouth Hospital. Sadly, some of my political opponents do run these scare stories. 

It’s not just our local NHS that is receiving additional funding, but our local police, schools and Cornwall Council. 

I have been working with Cornwall Council, to develop the Britain’s Leading Edge campaign that I helped to launch in Parliament in July. It has a simple premise: for the nation to achieve its potential every citizen needs the opportunity to realise theirs and that we need to unleash the economic opportunities of every region of England, not just those with a large city. The campaign demonstrates the systematic bias in public funding allocations that leaves regions without large cities receiving less funding than those that do. Now is the time to correct this historic bias.  

This is particularly important now as Cornwall and many of the English regions that make up Britain’s Leading Edge are already making great contributions to tackling the greatest challenge we face in climate change and habitat and species loss. Britain’s Leading Edge provides a significant amount of renewable energy and food for the nation. We have the potential to do more. I want to see Falmouth supporting a growing offshore floating wind industry.  

We are making progress.  Historically, Cornwall’s schools receive less per pupil funding than some others, so I am delighted that the f40 campaign, of which I am a member, has been successful. Our schools will be receiving more funding in each of the next three years. I pressed the government to communicate the actual amounts each school will receive and this should be announced in mid–October and I will publish an update on my website http://www.sarahnewton.org.uk 

First published in the Falmouth Wave October edition

Returning to Parliament

I am unexpectedly back in Parliament this week. The Supreme Court made arguably one of the historic constitutional judgments of our modern history. 

I encourage you to read the full judgment, it’s not as long as you might think, easy to read and you can find a link on my website.  

The Government has said that while it disagrees with the decision it will respect it. I think that is the right thing to do. Checks and balances are an important part of our system of Parliamentary democracy and should be respected.  

Our system depends on informed and active citizens, our independent judiciary, the rule of law as well as Parliament to promote and defend our hard-won freedoms. 

To say that Brexit has proven to be a challenging test of our Parliamentary democracy is an understatement. I very much understand the frustration of my constituents. However, it is wrong to blame the judges for the current situation. 

In practical terms, it means that Parliament might be meeting every week for the foreseeable future. This is the Party conference season and I would normally be working in Cornwall for the best part of three whole weeks as Parliament normally does not sit during the Party conference season. This means that I have had to curtail my work with constituents locally, a hugely important part of my role as your local MP. 

The Supreme Court decision also means that we won’t now have a new session of Parliament as planned, one that sets out the Government’s proposed agenda, including measures to tackle climate change and environmental degradation. I know that many constituents want more urgent action taken on this. The PM will have to prorogue Parliament to enable that to happen. Given the Supreme Court’s decision, I expect that, if this happens, it will be for a short period of time, and Parliament will return around 14th October.  

I will make the most of this time in Parliament to continue my work as a backbench MP, building a consensus for Parliament to deliver the commitment in the 2017 Conservative General Election manifesto to leave the EU in an orderly way, with ‘a deal’. This was also a commitment of the Labour Party in their 2017 manifesto, something their leader seems to have forgotten.  

As you know the Government doesn’t have a majority in Parliament. One way to have broken the Brexit deadlock was to hold a General Election and elect a Government with a new Brexit mandate before the end of October, when we are due to leave the EU. Despite the Leader of the Opposition frequently requesting this, when his opportunity arose, he bottled it. 

In the absence of a General Election, I believe it is even more essential that all Conservative and Labour MPs need to work constructively with the Government as it negotiates with the EU, so that we can break the deadlock, honour our commitments and leave the EU in an orderly way with ‘a deal’. 

First published in the West Briton 26/09/19

Campaigning for affordable local housing

While Parliament is prorogued my work continues.  I have had meetings with a number of ministers on important matters.

It is essential that we redevelop existing buildings into high quality and genuinely affordable homes for local people, as well as building new homes for them. I very much support the reuse of land already developed rather than farmland.

We should have a range of housing choices to meet local peoples’ needs, from social homes to rent, to opportunities for local people to build their own homes as well as homes with support for people with long term health conditions and disabilities.

As regular readers will recall, I was instrumental in securing the £300m Community Housing Fund (CHF) that was announced in the 2016 Spring Budget to transform the community led housing sector and lead to the delivery of nearly 10,000 additional homes across the country by 2021. Money was allocated to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and affordability issues.

Cornwall is a pioneering area for community led housing and it is a broad movement of Community Land Trusts (CLTs), Co-ops, co-housing communities and community anchors. Unlike traditional housebuilding approaches, they offer more than just resident involvement. They give local people the tools to build and renovate, manage and control the homes their community needs.

The Community Housing Fund is due to close in March 2020.  Likewise, bidding for the Homes England Fund will close in December 2019, just 18 months after it opened. Whilst interest is high and more than 16,600 homes are in the pipeline, very few groups have been able to submit capital bids in that short period and the pending deadline is deterring interest. It is essential that the Fund is extended so that those homes can be delivered.

I met the Housing Minister to make the case for her to use the budget increase delivered to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the recent Spending Round to extend the CHF.

For homes to be genuinely affordable they need to be affordable to heat as well as to buy or rent. I pressed the Minister to review building regulations to ensure all new homes are net zero carbon. Cornwall Council could make this a planning condition now but, as they are not doing so, changing regulations would ensure that this happens. Enabling people to live in well insulated, energy efficient homes is not only essential for good health and wellbeing but it makes a significant contribution to tackling climate change too.

In Truro, for many years now, I have asked Cornwall Council to enable ‘key worker’ housing for nurses, care assistants and other vitally important staff at Treliske who have modest wages and can’t afford Truro prices. This would help to attract and retain the staff that we need to deliver the health and care services that we all depend upon. I am pleased to report that this idea is now being pursued by Cornwall Council and already has the support of Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan team.

First published in the West Briton 18/09/19