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

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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

Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill

Many constituents contacted me last week regarding the Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill – the legislation enabling the Prime Minister to begin negotiating our future relationship with our friends in the European Union.

While I am saddened that we are leaving the EU, I believe it will be possible to make a success of “Brexit”. Each day I see Government Ministers reaching out to our neighbours and friends in Europe to build even closer relationships than we enjoy today. After all we are not leaving Europe and I am determined to do all that I can to ensure we have close relationships with European countries.

Why am I so optimistic? Because the huge challenges we face including climate change, mass migration and ensuring the future security and prosperity of our country relies on working in partnership with countries in Europe and across the world. The UK has a world leadership role in tackling climate change, ending violence against women and girls and tackling the abhorrent crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery.

In my role as Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, I am proud to have the responsibility for the Government’s response to two of these challenges. I can assure you that I spend significant amounts of time talking with my counterparts across Europe. They tell me that they respect the Prime Minister, respect the decision the UK has made and want to work even more closely with us, tackling crimes that will help keep our citizens safe. I do not believe “Brexit” will stand in the way of our vitally important work in protecting our citizens and stamping out modern slavery.

In addition to the work of Ministers, Parliament will continue to have a central role in shaping the Government’s approach and final outcome of negotiations.