Working to reduce plastic pollution and provide security for tenants

Thank you to everyone who responded to the recent government consultation exploring how changes to the tax system, or charges, could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we waste by reducing unnecessary production, increasing re-use, and improving recycling.

Last week, I met with the Treasury Minister responsible for this important policy area to discuss ideas developed with local people. I was assured that the government will consider all options for using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and to drive innovation, and will use the evidence gathered to inform that process. The government wants to look broadly across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal, in order to gain the best possible understanding before deciding on the best course of action.

Since being elected I have worked with Surfers Against Sewage on their campaign to prevent plastic entering our precious natural environment, especially the sea. In Parliament I support their work and am pleased that we introduced the 5p single-use plastic bag tax that has seen a dramatic reduction in their use. The use of microbeads in everyday products has been banned too. Thanks to many local initiatives to reduce single use plastic, particularly the work in schools with young people, positive change is happening.

Last week I was also delighted to welcome new moves to enable people to have longer and more secure tenancies. The Secretary of State for Communities proposed the introduction of a minimum 3-year tenancy term, with a 6-month break clause, to help renters put down roots, and give landlords longer term financial security.  According to government data, people stay in their rented homes for an average of nearly 4 years. But despite this, 81% of rental contracts are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of just 6 or 12 months.

Local people tell me that this can leave them feeling insecure, unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated, and unable to plan for their future or contribute to their wider community. Although tenants and landlords can already agree longer terms between themselves, the majority choose not to do so. Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time.  Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.  Landlords play a vital role in providing homes to many local people and the proposals ensure that longer tenancies help them avoid costly periods while they search for new tenants and offers them flexibility to regain their properties when their circumstances change.  The government understands that some landlords worry about the time it can take to gain possession of their property in the courts. The consultation runs until 26 August 2018.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/18

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Protecting our Natural Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood in Cornwall, I have been fascinated by bees and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to successfully campaign for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Ministries, like Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Parish Councils are increasingly responsible for local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that both Truro City and Falmouth town councils will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

We continue to support pollinators in an international arena. In particular welcoming the recent (UN led) IPBES assessment on pollinators and will continue to highlight the best practice action taken by the UK; encouraging others to follow our lead. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies through which many actions are promoted and encouraged that will improve conditions for wild and managed pollinators in farmed and urban areas. The other 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. This declaration will help them learn from each other and shape the strategies.

First published in the Wave Magazine July edition

Protecting our Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so. Pollinators play an essential role in ensuring we have a wide range of food to eat. Very little of what we eat has not involved a pollinator.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood just outside Falmouth, I have been fascinated by bees, butterflies, moths and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to campaign successfully for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Departments, like the Ministry of Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Falmouth town and local parish councils are increasingly responsible for our local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that Falmouth town council will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

The UK continues to lead support for pollinators in the international arena, in particular, welcoming the recent UN led IPBES assessment on pollinators. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, only the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies but 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. It’s essential that we work together and learn from each other, thinking globally and acting locally.

First published in the Falmouth Wave on 30/06/18.

Reducing Plastic Pollution

Ministers announced new funding for scientists at the University of Plymouth which will use it to research how particles from tyres, polyester clothing and fishing gear enter the oceans and affect marine life.

The project comes after the Government introduced a ban on miniature plastic beads or ‘microbeads’ in the manufacture of wash-off cosmetic and personal care products where the plastics can be washed down the drain. There are many other sources of small plastic particles – found in places as remote as the Arctic sea ice – including from car tyre friction on roads or through fibres from synthetic clothes released during washing. The 11-month project will build on research already under way, with scientists estimating that tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release more than 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.

I know that many of my constituents share my view that the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation.  I am grateful to Surfers Against Sewage, based in St Agnes, who I have been working with for some time. They keep me updated on the latest research so that I can effectively lobby for change in Government policy. The UK is already leading the way in this area, but we want to go further – and faster. Robust scientific evidence should support our policy proposals, and through this exciting project we will build on work under way to understand better how microplastics end up in the marine environment and what we can do to tackle this in the future.

The project is being led by Professor Richard Thompson, who said: ‘The types of microplastics entering the marine environment are incredibly diverse, but recent estimates in Norway and Sweden have suggested that particles of tyre and debris from the road surface could be a substantial source. With very limited real data available to confirm the impact from these sources, there is a genuine and pressing need to establish the true scale of this issue. By combining this with an assessment of the quantities of microplastic from synthetic textiles, we can develop a more complete picture on the relative importance of various sources. We will be able to use our findings to work with the Government, scientists and industry to try to prevent these particles entering the marine environment in the future.’

It is vital that we all play our part in reducing the chances of plastic getting into our marine environment by decreasing our use of single use plastic and disposing of it carefully if we do.  It is great to see so many people, scientists, industry, businesses and organisations working together to tackle this problem and to see so many local ‘plastic free’ initiatives as well as beach cleans.  It’s difficult to kick the plastic habit but each of us doing something will add up to a big difference.

First published in the West Briton 10/05/18

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

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

Introducing CCTV to 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.