Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Newspaper column 1 July 2020 - Further lockdown easing


This coming weekend marks a significant step in our progress out of the lockdown. From Saturday pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to open, along with holiday accommodation.

Whilst I understand the concerns some people have regarding the risk of an influx of tourists to Cornwall, I believe it is right that we take these steps, with sensible precautions in place, to open up our local economy. Thousands of Cornish jobs depend on us doing so.

I also understand the worries that are created by some of the scenes we have seen in places such as Bournemouth of packed beaches and clogged roads. However, I do think we need to keep these scenes in context. The vast majority of those who went to visit Bournemouth were day trippers heading to the coast on the hottest day of the year. This is not something we are likely to experience – one of the benefits of being a further three hours drive west.

Additionally, these events happened at a time when all hospitality businesses were still closed and therefore there was little for people to do other than head to the beach. The situation from 4th July will be very different.

Our local businesses have been working hard to ensure they are ready to welcome customers in a safe way. I have spent much of the last week on video calls with different businesses and industry representatives discussing how best we can welcome tourist and give them a positive experience whilst minimising the risks. I am confident our local businesses are taking all the appropriate measures to do this.

I have been assured that local holiday accommodation providers will be reminding all their guest of their duty to behave responsibly and respect local communities – this includes taking their rubbish with them when they leave the beach! 

But inevitably we will see many more people out and about from this weekend – visitors and locals. We do all need to continue to follow the guidance – maintain social distancing, washing our hands and avoiding large crowds. We all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a sensible way and not do anything to put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk.

It is also going to be a challenging time for local businesses, especially our pubs and restaurants, who will have to adapt to meet the new guidance. This means that those of us who do go out for a drink or meal, to meet up with friends, perhaps for the first time in months, should be prepared that things will not be the same as they were in March.

Businesses will be having to limit the number of customers they allow in at any one time. Some people will have to sit outside – let’s hope the weather is kind. The way we order food and drink, and they way it is served to us will be different. Tables will have to be spread out, we may find screens keeping us separate from other groups and staff wearing PPE.

All of these measures are there to keep us safe. I know at times it may be frustrating, but let us all keep in mind that these businesses are following the guidance issued by the government and their trade bodies. All of these measures are in place for a reason – an important one. We should not take out our frustrations on the staff if they are too busy to allow us in or we cannot sit with whoever we like, or it takes longer than normal to get served.

Many of the staff who will be serving us have faced hugely uncertain times over the past three months.

I am confident that if we all apply common sense and abide by the new guidelines, we can all enjoy the new freedoms available. In fact, I would encourage us all to do so and get out and support local business.

Finally, my office is beginning to return to a more normal way of working. Please remember my staff and I are here to help and serve you. So if you have anything that we can help with, provide you with information or advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Email – office@stevedouble.org.uk tel. 01726 829379

Monday, 29 June 2020

Campaign reply - NHS payrise


Thank you to all my constituents who have contacted me about NHS pay rises. 

I am very grateful to every single person working in the NHS during this incredibly difficult period. Their hard work, dedication and professionalism has been a lifeline to many thousands of people, while they have, at the same time, selflessly cared for those individuals and families who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one.

As part of our efforts to support NHS staff in the fight against coronavirus, the Government has committed to ensuring the NHS has the resources, staff and funding it needs so it can continue to deliver world class care for everyone, whilst keeping staff safe at the same time. On a local level, I have been in regular contact with local NHS leads including the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT), Cornwall Foundation Partnership Trust (CFT), GPs surgeries and other key NHS stakeholders and feedback their experiences and any concerns to my colleagues within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

The immediate concern is keeping NHS staff safe and ensuring they have the protective equipment they need. That’s why the Government is working to ensure that all NHS staff and their families are able to get regularly tested for coronavirus, while also ramping up the production and delivery of personal protective equipment. We are also rolling out antigen testing, to identify those NHS staff who have had coronavirus.

With regard to annual pay awards for NHS staff, these are determined by an independent and transparent pay review body process. Pay has already been set up to 2020-21, as part of a deal that was reached in 2018.  This deal was negotiated and agreed upon with the NHS trade unions, and represented one of the largest public sector pay increases in several years. Starting pay for nurses, for examples, has risen by over 12 per cent since 2017-18, while the Government also agreed a pay deal that provides junior doctors with a minimum 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years. The pay review bodies will make pay recommendations for future years at the appropriate time, but I know the Government wants to ensure that the NHS continues to attract, retain and reward staff for their hard work. 

The fight against coronavirus is a national effort, and the Government is committed to giving NHS staff the additional support they need throughout it.

As ever, if anyone within my constituency is in need of assistance please don't hesitate to contact me and my team on office@stevedouble.org.uk or 01726 829379


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Campaign reply - " Invitation to meet on 30 June - virtual lobby for climate, nature and people."

Thank you to those constituents who sent me a copy of the campaign email entitled " Invitation to meet on 30 June - virtual lobby for climate, nature and people."

These matters are important to us all which is why I take a great interest in our environment and the achievements to date. For instance, I am very proud that the Duchy leads the country in geothermal projects and wind and solar power. The UK has just achieved two months of power generation without the use of any coal fired stations – the first time this has happened since the start of the Industrial revolution and Cornwall can take at least some of the credit. These are exciting times as we see our constituency paying an increasingly important role in improving our environment.

Cornwall has an exciting part to play in achieving net zero carbon emissions. I continue my work and support for those seeking to extract lithium from reserves found locally. This is a vital mineral in the production of batteries and will become in ever greater demand with electric cars becoming the norm.

The government's commitment to seeing our economy become carbon net zero by 2050 is challenging whilst being achievable.

Thank you again for the invitation. I regret that due to other parliamentary commitments I am unable to join the proposed meeting.


Campaign Response: Letter from your constituent regarding West Papua


Thank you to constituents for writing to me about concerns regarding the current situation in West Papua.

I am aware of the violence that we have seen in the far-eastern province of Indonesia over the past 50 years and I am concerned to learn of recent developments there and in particular, the disregard for the fundamental freedoms of religion and worship.

Indonesia has been considered an ally of the West since the end of WWII. However, very little attention has been paid to the Christian Papuan majority who are politically and socially marginalised. In West Papua, nearly 60% of the population consider themselves Christian.

Racial tension and religious intolerance have flourished in West Papua, with Islamic Indonesian culture dominating the region and further Islamisation becoming the norm. A 2016 report by the Archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia described arrests, poisoning, fire bombs, kidnapping, torture and other attacks on the Christian population, with multiple reports of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Islamic militants in the province under the watch of the Indonesia government. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has also produced a briefing suggesting that "the militarisation of West Papua has led to widespread and serious violations of human rights, and there are fears of religious tensions developing.”

Therefore I am very pleased to learn from constituents that a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on West Papua is being set up – APPGs are excellent forums for bringing MPs and experts in the field together to discuss important issues like this and I have the privilege of chairing and vice chairing a large number of APPGs focusing on issues of particular relevance and interest to Mid-Cornwall. If I am find the time and capacity to look into issues facing West Papua, I will be sure to bear this APPG in mind and support their work in making representations to the FCO. Where there are other opportunities for me to speak up for human rights and the freedom of religion around the world, I will of course be mindful of the specific concerns on West Papua and seek to voice them where I can.


Campaign reply - Open Our Pools campaign


Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me as part of the Open Our Pools campaign with concerns about the re-opening of swimming pools.

The re-opening of facilities across England is a gradual process and the government continues to follow scientific and medical advice throughout.

I understand your disappointment. However, there are particular aspects of these facilities that mean they carry an increased risk of transition of the virus that mean it is too soon to reopen them at this time.

I have raised these concerns with Ministerial colleagues and understand the government will continue to review the situation and make further announcements in the coming weeks.

I will continue to make representations on your behalf and hope that these facilities will be able to re-open as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

Newspaper column 24 June 2020 - COVID-19 update 12


The events of the last week have really brought into focus the challenges our part of the world is facing as we seek to overcome the COVID-19 virus and reopen our local economy and return to some sort of normal life.

We saw local non-essential retail shops able to open for the first time in 13 weeks. It was good to hear from local businesses that trade had been brisk in our main retail centres. I would again encourage us all to do all we can to support or local businesses, and not forget the many smaller shops in our tourists towns and villages – hundreds of local jobs depend on these businesses being able to return to profitability as soon as possible.

On Friday we had the announcement that the medical advice had been issued that allowed the threat level for the virus to be dropped from 4 or 3. After weeks of seeing the number of cases of the virus, along with the numbers in hospital and the number sadly dying with the virus, falling consistently this was welcome news.

This will allow the government to now make a number of decisions that will allow other parts of our economy to open up. For us this will hopefully include the tourism and hospitality sector. At the time of writing this there is great expectation that the government will make an announcement on this soon.

Along with this we are expecting the outcome of the review into the 2m social distancing guidance. This is expected to see this changed to allow for a 1m distance providing other mitigations are put in place such as wearing masks, or not sitting face to face. I know this will be welcomed by the many local pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes as it will enable them to open in a way that allows them to serve more customers.

Along with the confirmation of the progress we are making there was also the very sad news of job losses. Both at the airport and one of our biggest local hotels over 100 people are set to lose their jobs. This is on top of the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs across Cornwall in the past 3 months and I am also aware of other businesses who are facing tough decision on how many of their staff they can keep on.

I know there are some who suggest we overplay the importance of tourism to our economy, but the reality is our local economy is heavily dependant on tourists. Over 30% of all private sector jobs rely on the tourism sector directly. This forms the bedrock of our local economy that then provides the income for tens of thousands of households to be able to spend money with countless other businesses. For every job or business lost in tourism others will also be at risk in the supply chain in other sectors.

Additionally, many of the excellent local businesses and other facilities we all get to enjoy while living here simply could not exist without the visitors we attract every year. The majority of our favourite local pubs, restaurants and shops simply wouldn’t be here without tourists.

That is why I am now quite clear – we must welcome tourists back to Cornwall as soon as possible. With the threat level falling and all the data showing we are winning this fight, within the guidance that will ensure we continue to prevent the virus being spread, we must allow our local tourism and hospitality businesses to welcome visitors.

I understand why some people are cautious and concerned at the risk of opening up to tourists at this time. But we do need to accept that progress has been made. We cannot remain in lockdown forever and while there will never be a 100% guarantee until we have an effective vaccine, which could still be many months away, the risk is now low enough for us to welcome visitors back.

Some of the messages that have come out from Cornwall Council, and other quarters, in recent days have really not been helpful. To suggest we should wait until the autumn to allow tourists back to Cornwall is putting tens of thousands of local jobs at risk. If we do not welcome people you can be sure other parts of the country will do. People will be looking to go on holiday and with foreign travel severely restricted many families will be looking to travel within the UK. This presents a big opportunity for Cornwall to enable many of our local businesses to salvage something from this season and secure many jobs. If we do not grasp this opportunity others will.

What we need is a united positive message that makes clear we are ready to welcome tourism back to Cornwall. We will all need to get used to seeing more people around in the weeks ahead and each of us manage our own safety and wellbeing in the way appropriate to us.

So, my plea to us all is to be positive about allowing tourists to return. The risks of not doing so, for our local economy and jobs are almost incalculable.  

Monday, 22 June 2020

Campaign response – Don't risk the future of children/Please protect UK aid through this merger



Recently some constituents have written to me expressing their concerns over the impact that the DFID-FCO merger may have on UKAid and its ability to help the poorest and most impoverished people around the world.

Constituent will know that I am a supporter of our international aid and I am proud of the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our budget in international aid, which is helping to build a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK.

British aid goes towards vaccinating children from preventable diseases, enabling them to go to school and helping people work their way out of poverty, as well as providing food, nutrition and medical care.

Foreign aid also provides added value to our security and trade policies. Foreign development assistance can often make an important contribution towards in supporting stability and sustainable development for the recipient country, leading to better foreign relations and prospect for a more preferential trade deal with them.

It is in our interest to maintain our foreign aid policy because it also helps to promote UK interests abroad and ensure our position as the world’s leading soft power nation is secure.

At the same time, I understand the concerns that many constituents have raised with me regarding the inefficiency of certain aid and relief programmes that DFID had been running, and the need for the allocation of this budget to be made accountable to, and provide the best value for money, to UK taxpayers.

I am glad these points were shared by the Prime Minister in his statement on Global Britain in the Commons and in response to my question to him during his statement: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What is actually happening, of course, is that DFID and the FCO are now joining ​together to become a new Whitehall super-Department for international affairs, which will be of huge benefit to our ability to project Britain’s sense of mission about overseas aid. For too long, frankly, UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests, to the values that the UK wishes to express or to the diplomatic, political and commercial priorities of the Government of the UK.” (https://bit.ly/3hCgsn3)

It would be wrong to suggest this latest merger as cynical move to roll back on our humanitarian commitments to the world. What it does represent, is a new and innovative approach by the UK to international relations, in order to secure our values and interests in a rapid changing world – bringing together this country’s strength and expertise to bear on the world’s biggest problems.

When DFID was created in 1997 it was the right set-up for that era. I pay tribute to the incredible work that DFID officials have done over the years, earning DFID and the UK a well-deserved reputation as one of the leaders in the world when it comes to humanitarian relief and development aid.

But our world has changed since then. At present, the division of responsibility between DFID and FCO means we are unable to always be as effective as we could on the global stage.

This latest merger is about streamlining Whitehall to ensure both its effectiveness and efficiency – Having a single new Department will give the UK the change required to maximise our positive influence around the world without losing any of the expertise.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that we will continue to commit to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development, and that it will be at the core of our new foreign policy approach.

I will continue to support and speak up for our aid efforts around the world and to ensure that they remain effective and sustainable.