Monday, 27 January 2020

Campaign reply - Clean air and healthy lungs in St Austell and Newquay

Thank you to those constituents who have written to me as part of a campaign titled ‘Clean air and healthy lungs in St Austell and Newquay’.

I will support measures to tackle air pollution and smoking and improve the care received by thousands of people in St Austell and Newquay who live with a lung condition.

I will certainly endeavour to attend the Taskforce for Lung Health’s parliamentary reception on Monday 27th January 2020, Parliamentary business allowing, in order to find out more about what I can do to support this cause.

Campaign response: ‘Will you join Crisis in Parliament and help end homelessness in 2020?’

Thank you for those constituents who have recently contacted me as part of the campaign ‘Will you join Crisis in Parliament and help end homelessness in 2020?’

I am happy to attend the drop in event on 25 February, Parliamentary business allowing and see what more I can do to support people out of homelessness.

I am clear that one homeless person is one too many, and that we need to find genuine solutions that actively support these people out of the situations they find themselves in.

Campaign reply: End Our Pain "Please help severely ill children still being denied NHS access to medical cannabis"

I have been contacted by a number of residents as part of the campaign End Our Pain "Please help severely ill children still being denied NHS access to medical cannabis".

As per earlier contact on this matter, constituents may be interested to know that the Home Secretary last year confirmed that there will be a review on the scheduling of cannabis.

This step is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use and the government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.

However, if the review identifies that there are significant medical benefits then the Government does intend to reschedule.

As a Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Department of Health I am aware of these matters, but am not in a position where I can attend events or sign letters asking the Government to review its policy.

In a February 2019 commission, the Home Secretary asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to:

‘provide an outline for an assessment framework. This should set out how the ACMD will assess the various impacts of rescheduling cannabis-based products for medicinal use to Schedule 2 under the 2001 Regulations, and the data sources (including those provided by the Home Office and DHSC) the ACMD will use by November 2019?’

In December 2019 the ACMD provided an outline assessment framework for the assessment of the impact of rescheduling cannabis-based products for medicinal use, and will use it to provide a full report assessing the impacts of the rescheduling of CBPMs to Schedule 2, by November 2020. I have linked to the framework below:

I will view the results of this report with interest and trust that the government will then act based on the outcome.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Response to multiple campaigns on refugee children/unaccompanied refugee children

In recent weeks I have received a number of different campaign emails from constituents concerning Child refugees and the Lords amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on the issue.

I refer them to my most recent responses of 9 and 16 January.

Constituents will now be aware that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill has passed through both Houses and is awaiting Royal Assent before it becomes Law.

I would like to remind them that I did not vote against the Commons and Lords amendments on child refugees because I do not want the UK to offer safe routes to sanctuary to child refugees. On the contrary, I have always made clear that I want our immigration, asylum and refugee policies to demonstrate compassion to those to most need our help. For instance I am immensely proud of our country’s record of giving sanctuary to thousands of Jewish children and families fleeing from the Holocaust during the War.

The Government also has strong record on supporting the most vulnerable children. The UK has granted protection to over 41,000 children since the start of 2010.

In 2018, the UK received over 3,000 asylum applications from unaccompanied children – 15% of all asylum claims from unaccompanied children across the EU – making the UK the third-highest intake country in Europe.

Intake in the year ending September 2019 rose to over 3,500. 

I voted against the amendments because the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which seeks to facilitate a smooth and orderly Brexit and allow the Government maximum flexibility to negotiate with the EU, is not the right place for an amendment that would effectively tie the Government’s hands even before the negotiations commenced.

Furthermore, our helping child refugees should not be considered a primarily Brexit issue. I certainly do not want to see it be politicised to the same degree as Brexit has been. The principle of showing compassion to child refugees that something that MPs across the benches can agree on.

The Government has made it abundantly clear that it remains absolutely committed to seeking an agreement with the EU which will enable unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in an EU Member State to be reunited with specified family members in the UK, where it is in the child’s best interests, and for children in the UK to be reunited with family members in an EU Member State in equivalent circumstances.

I would also like to address the popular misconception that Section 17 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act as it originally stood guaranteed the family reunion rights of unaccompanied children.

It did not. It simply required the Government to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU – section 17 did not guarantee the rights of these children and it is not possible to do so without an agreement with the EU.

The Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to seek an agreement.

It is important to note that any future agreement with the EU is a matter for negotiations, and not within the gift of the UK Government alone.

Similarly, the new Clause 37 of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill does not remove any such rights.

Moreover, Clause 37 goes above and beyond the previous obligation in section 17 in that it provides a statutory guarantee that Parliament will be updated on the Government’s policy regarding family reunion for unaccompanied children within two months of the Bill's passage, giving Parliament the opportunity to provide scrutiny to the progress of the Government’s negotiations with the EU to seek an agreement on child refugees.

Campaign reply - “It's Time to Stand For The Trees and ReThink HS2, before it's too late.”

Thank you to those who sent me a copy of the campaign email entitled “It's Time to Stand For The Trees and ReThink HS2, before it's too late.” My concern is that it appears that an opinion has been formed on a prejudged perspective. This is always  difficult as no amount of explanation or facts will shift opinions.

HS2 Ltd have taken more care and trouble over the routes and the impact it has than any other railway ever built in the UK and possibly in the world. They care. They are obliged to under the remit given. For instance, HS2 has focused on the "green corridor"  which will deliver the project that "respects" the natural environment. That covers all manner of issues besides trees, but it demonstrates the care and trouble being taken. For example, it has taken great care to move animals, such as the Great Crested Newt, away from the line and created  new habitats.

On trees, HS2 will plant seven million new trees - a mix of species including holly, hazel, dogwood and oak. This is double the number that might be felled.

One aspect of this campaign that troubles me is that train travel is one of the most environmentally friendly travel options and it seems perverse for any environmentalist to oppose it.

We must also bear in mind that there is growing concern over build costs and the government is urgently reviewing this. It might not go ahead. I will take a keen interest in following this if only on cost grounds as I am content with other aspects of the project originally inspired by the last Labour government – other than the oft repeated routine failure to estimate likely final costs.

For those who have troubled to send me a copy of the campaign email I believe it shows your keen interest in our environment. My interests are similar for I have long since been involved with various environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Ocean Conservation hosting events in Parliament and lobbying ministers on a range of related issues. I also take practical steps by organising events in the constituency. Campaign emails have become part of our democracy but far more telling is what we all actually do to improve our environment. With that in mind I would be delighted if you would join me and my team of volunteers on beach cleans and the like. Details of upcoming events can be found here:

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Newspaper column 22 January - Flybe

Last week was dominated by issues around Flybe, both concerning their overall operation and then once that was resolved the decision on the future of the destination airport for the crucial Newquay-London air route.

I was concerned about the issues surrounding Flybe and the financial challenges they were facing. When I heard of the situation last Monday I make contact with Government Ministers and raised the issue in Parliament at the first opportunity.

As co-Chair of the Regional Airports All Party Parliamentary Group I am very aware of how crucial Flybe, as the UK’s biggest domestic carrier, is to the future of our vital regional airports like Cornwall Airport Newquay – where they account for more than 70% of passengers who go through the airport. I am pleased this was recognised and swift action taken by the government to ensure that Flybe could continue to operate.

The daily route linking Cornwall to London is backed by the Government through a Public Service Obligation. I was pleased to have it confirmed that this was secure as the Aviation Minister stated in response to my question in Parliament.

However, we also need to look at why airlines such as Flybe are struggling. The UK has the highest Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Europe and one of the highest in the world.

The aviation industry is taking action to reduce emissions and they need our support, not to be taxed out of business. If they cannot invest in new, cleaner aircraft they will continue to use the older more polluting ones.

We need to work with the industry towards net zero in 2050 not crash the economy in the process. I have been campaigning for the past three years for the government to reduce APD, particularly on domestic flights where passengers are charged on both legs of a return journey. I am pleased that as part of the arrangements made with Flybe the Government has committed to review regional aviation connectivity including a review of APD.

Once the wider issue on Flybe’s continued operation was confirmed, on Friday we heard about decision to switch its London route from Newquay back to Gatwick.

I appreciate many will be disappointed at losing the link to Heathrow. As someone who worked hard to secure the landing slots as Heathrow for the Newquay route this time last year, I share the disappointment. However, in the light of the events of last week the priority has to be securing the viability of the airline for the future whilst securing the best arrangements possible for Cornwall.

The package of new routes and additional flights, including a daily link to Amsterdam, together with securing the four times a day link to one of the major London airports provides the best available option for Cornwall. It also allows passengers to plan their flights to and from London after March.
I have been working hard behind the scenes for some time to seek to keep the route at Heathrow but having met with representatives of Virgin, the major shareholder in Flybe I have had to accept that the proposed changes provide the best way forward for both the airline and Cornwall. I know there had been growing frustration among many passengers at not being able to book flights for the spring and summer. At least now this uncertainty is removed and people can plan and book their journeys.

I will continue to work with all concerned to ensure the best outcomes for Cornwall Airport Newquay and the Cornish economy.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Monday, 20 January 2020

Campaign reply - Please take action on baby loss

Thank you to all those constituents who got in touch asking me to attend the baby loss charity Sands All Party Parliamentary Group event on baby loss in Parliament on 27 January.

I am very supportive of this issue, but sadly am required to be in the Chamber of the House of Commons in my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care at this time, so will be unable to attend.

I will use my role in the Department of Health and Social Care to continue to address this important matter on behalf of the many families affected.