Wednesday 22 May 2024

Newspaper column 22 May 2024 - DWP and WorkWell

As I have written previously, our Department for Work and Pensions teams in St Austell and Newquay play an excellent and often overlooked role in supporting some of our most vulnerable people back into work, as well as ensuring people who are temporarily out of work for whatever reason are quickly able to access the skills and help needed to get another job.

Last week in Parliament, during questions to Department for Work and Pensions Ministers, I highlighted the fact that we have achieved an 80.2% employment rate locally, which is well above the national average. We also have got some great opportunities for the jobs of the future coming through in renewable energy, lithium extraction and the space sector and I asked about plans to help us capitalise on these sectors. The Minister in reply spoke about the DWP’s partnership team, which is working with local employers such as Naked Solar to design sector-based work programmes and fill potential vacancies. This is something I very much support and I hope the DWP’s partnership team will go on to work with all of the sectors I mentioned above, and more in order to ensure people living locally are able to benefit from the high-skilled well paid jobs that are going to be available as these industries continue to grow.

In other positive employment news for our constituency, it’s recently been good to see more details of the DWP’s WorkWell scheme, which will be piloted in Cornwall, along with 14 other areas from October of this year.

Someone’s disability or health condition should not define them and in particular, whether they remain in the workplace or not. However long-term sickness is the most common reason for economic inactivity in the UK and has grown in recent years, at the same time increasing the amount of public money that is spent on providing benefits.

The £64 million WorkWell pilot will connect people with a health condition or disability to local support services including physiotherapy and counselling to help them stay in or return to work. It will see our local DWP and NHS organisations working together to deliver positive outcomes for people with long term health conditions in order to help support them back into work.

For example, a GP could refer a patient with a bad back to WorkWell, where an adviser may contact their workplace to make adjustments such as flexible working or relocating their office to the ground floor, and help them access physiotherapy.

This is a new and exciting way of working and one that I am sure our local DWP teams and NHS will welcome. I look forward to seeing the WorkWell pilot begin and help those who need it, access the support necessary to improve their lives.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Newspaper column 15 May 2024 - Speaking out in Parliament

Following on from my column last week, where I wrote about some of the work I do as Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay while I am working in Cornwall, this week I thought I would highlight some of the times I have recently spoken in Parliament.

One of the main reasons I returned to the backbenches last November was to be able to once again take part in debates in Parliament and ask questions of Ministers, something which you are unable to do when you have a role in Government.

Speaking out in Parliament is certainly something I have successfully prioritised since then, with statistics released in March showing that I contributed more to Parliamentary debates in the first two months of the year than any other MP in the South West. I have continued to be very active in Parliament since, and just last week, spoke in Parliament several times.

One thing an MP can do in Parliament is ask questions of Ministers in order to highlight local issues and bring national attention to them in the hope of getting something done.  I was shocked to see the flooding in Mawgan Porth in March and sadly this is not an uncommon occurrence. In a question to the Floods Minister last week I was pleased to make the case that more needs to be done at Mawgan Porth to guard against flooding, and was pleased that in response to my question the Minister agreed to meet with me to discuss what can be done. I look forward to working with him and all involved to get a positive outcome for Mawgan Porth.

Another thing MPs can do when speaking in Parliament is push for updates on national schemes that affect the areas they represent. The Government’s replacement for the previous EU funding, the Shared Prosperity Fund, is one such example, and last week in Business Questions I highlighted some of the great investment in St Austell and Newquay this fund has made possible, and pressed for details on the next round of funding.

We can also highlight Cornwall’s importance in the national picture during debates, and last week I was pleased to do just this when I spoke in the debate on mining and mining communities, highlighting Cornwall's mining past and the role lithium will play in our future, in a debate that was otherwise dominated by MPs representing northern constituencies.

As a backbenchers there are always loads of opportunities to speak in or hold debates in Parliament. For this week I am holding a debate on the future support for the under ten metre fishing fleet, following my successful campaign to provide compensation for pollack fishermen earlier this year. I will continue to loudly speak up on behalf of our constituency as we go through the year.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Newspaper column 8 May 2024 - Constituency work

As the weather has improved and the evenings have drawn out, it has been good to spend more and more time out and about in our constituency, knocking on doors and speaking to local people about the issues that matter to you. One of the questions I am often asked is what my role as Member of Parliament encompasses when I am not in Parliament. For my column this week I thought I would give examples of some of my work in Cornwall over the past week or so.

Parking problems are an issue for elected representatives at every level of democracy and I recently spent some time in Newquay visiting businesses in Cliff Road to talk about their views on proposed changes to on-street parking. This was an interesting discussion and I will be feeding their concerns back to Cornwall Council in order to ensure their voices are heard before any changes are made.

Flooding is another big concern locally and I have worked over a number of years with Cornwall Council, the Environment Agency, Pentewan Valley Parish Council and the wider community to help deliver an important flood defence scheme for the village of Pentewan. I am pleased to have been able to help lead this project, securing the funding and ensured a timely competition, and recently attended an event with the project stakeholders to mark its completion.

Supporting businesses is another important part of my role, and I recently visited Naked Solar Ltd in Newquay, to see how this company has grown since I last visited a few years ago and discuss their exciting plans for the future. We particularly discussed the need to ensure local people are able to gain the skills to work in this sector, and I will work with local businesses, colleges and DWP to ensure we are able to provide the training needed to ensure this happens.

Our rural businesses are very important and I recently visited Boddingtons Berries strawberry farm near Mevagissey and met with a group of young farmers. We had a great tour and introduction to the business and I then took questions from the young farmers on a range of subjects.

Last week I went to Mount Edgcumbe Hospice to see their new garden and have a chat with CEO of Cornwall Hospice Care Paul Brinsley, following my highlighting of their work in the debate in Parliament earlier in the month. It was good to visit the hospice and talk about the incredible work they do in helping people when they are at their most vulnerable and I look forward to continuing to support them into the future.

And then last Thursday I spent most of the day campaigning to support the Conservative Candidate for Devon and Cornwall's Police and Crime Commissioner election Alison Hernandez on election day. Alison was successfully re-elected and I look forward to continuing to work with her in the future to deliver for the people of our Duchy in policing matters.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Newspaper column 1 May 2024 - Police and Crime Commissioner elections

This week will see local authority elections take place across much of the country, where people get the chance to vote for their elected representatives who will run the councils where they live. There are no local elections in Cornwall this year though, as our electoral cycle runs every four years, and in this case from 2021-2025.

What we do have this week, though, is an election to determine who the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Constabulary will be.

From the conversations and meetings I regularly hold, I know how important policing is to many local people. We are fortunate to live in one of the lowest crime areas in the UK, but I know we all want to see effectively policing, keeping our streets safe and catching criminals and bringing them to justice. Police and Crime Commissioners play an important role in providing the democratic accountability for our police forces.

There are 39 police areas across England and Wales with a Police and Crime Commissioner. Our area is Devon and Cornwall.

Police and Crime Commissioners are there to make sure that the local police in their area are meeting the needs of the community. Police and Crime Commissioners aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their police force area. They are elected by the public to hold the police force to account on their behalf.

Police and Crime Commissioners:

·         make sure the police force budget is spent effectively

·         appoint the chief constables of the local police force

·         engage with the public and victims of crime to help set police and crime plans

·         work closely with the local council and other community organisations on these plans and projects

As you would probably expect, I will be voting for Alison Hernandez, the Conservative Candidate, on Thursday. Alison has been a formidable and effective Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall since she was first elected in 2016, and during that time has successfully brought about, amongst other things, the reopening of police station front desk in St Austell and Newquay’s police stations, as well as overseeing the successful recruitment of officers to a point where we now have more officers serving in Devon and Cornwall than at any other time in the past, and also joining me in championing the Tri Service Safety Officer role, which we are leading on in Cornwall.

The Police and Crime Commissioner role is an important one, and no matter how you vote, I would encourage people to vote in this election.

One thing you should be aware of when voting on Thursday are the new rules around Vote ID.

Voters at polling stations must show photo ID before they can vote. This also applies to a proxy voting on someone’s behalf. 

Voter ID is designed to prevent impersonation, the crime of pretending to be someone else when you vote. Voter ID will protect voters from having their vote stolen.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Newspaper column 24 April 2024 - Benefit changes

A big announcement from the Prime Minister last week was that the Government will be consulting on proposed reforms to the benefits system to ensure benefits are targeted at those who need it most whilst ensuring those who are able to work are supported to do so.

The Department for Work and Pensions provides a valuable service supporting people to find work and ensuring a safety net for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. In particular, the DWP offices in our constituency, St Austell and Newquay Jobcentres and St Austell Benefit Centre, do excellent work, with Newquay Jobcentre recognised as one of the best performing in the south west for the way in works with local businesses and community groups in innovative ways to help people find work.

The Prime Minister’s announcement from last week outlines a package of wide ranging reforms to put work at the heart of welfare and deliver on his “moral mission” to give everyone who is able to work, the best possible chance of staying in, or returning to work. The welfare package also includes further measures to crack down on fraud and removing benefits entirely from long term unemployed who don’t accept a job when one is available.

It comes as many more working age people are being awarded benefit for mental health conditions than when it was first introduced over a decade ago, as well as concerns that the assessment process is significantly easier to abuse by individuals who seek to exploit the system.

Total spending on benefits for people of working age with a disability or health condition increased by almost two-thirds to £69 billion since the pandemic, and we now spend more on these benefits than our core schools’ budget or on policing. Given the significant change in caseload and unsustainable increase in costs, it’s clear our current disability benefit system for adults of working age is not fit for purpose.

A consultation on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be published in the coming days which will explore changes to the eligibility criteria, assessment process and types of support that can be offered so the system is better targeted towards individual needs and more closely linked to a person’s condition rather than the current “one size fits all” approach.

Let me be clear, this is not about removing support for those who need it, but the current situation is unsustainable. Not only is it cost taxpayers a huge amount of money. Let’s remember the money has to come from somewhere and it is hard working taxpayers who are footing the bill. The current situation is also making it more difficult for local businesses to find the staff they need. This is holding back our economy locally and nationally.

I am pleased that the Prime Minister has listened to the calls for reform to the system. It is crucial that those with long term health conditions who most need assistance via the benefits system and services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions get appropriately targeted support to enable them to manage their conditions and the way in which it impact their lives. But at the same time, we also need to ensure those who abuse the system are not able to continue to do this..  I hope that the Prime Minister’s announcement will enable both of these things to happen, and I will continue to support our local DWP staff in the delivery of their vital work.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Newspaper column 17 April 2024 - More support for our fishermen

Parliament has now returned from the Easter Recess. In the last week, among other things, I was pleased to meet with Cornwall Council in St Austell town centre about anti-social behaviour, meet with a local company near Newquay about renewable energies, get an update from the team delivering the A30 Link Road to St Austell, and spend time on the doors talking to people about the local and national issues that matter to them in communities across our constituency. Whilst in Roche I visited the Clays Health Centre and met with some of the doctors and staff there. It was good to get an update on their work and I have come away with a few issues to work on, on their behalf. On Thursday I spent time meeting with fishermen in Mevagissey following the Government’s decision to provide compensation to fishermen most affected by the by the zero total allowable catch decision on pollack, which was recommended by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas last year.

I have worked hard, along with my Cornish MP colleagues, to get the Government to provide support for these fishermen, many of whom are based in Mevagissey or Newquay, since I first heard about the upcoming changes and met with the fishermen in November last year. The fishermen were very clear then that the thing they would most welcome would be a compensation scheme. This is because the changes were brought in at short notice, and fishermen did not have the time or resources to be able to adapt their way of working to go after different fish, and as such they were essentially left without a way to make a living  - so seeking compensation to address this was a sensible way forward.

Since I met with the fishermen I have worked with them and the organisations that support them to gather evidence to make the case for compensation. I met with the DEFRA Ministerial team on many occasions, asked questions in Parliament and held a debate on the subject in February.

There was resistance to a compensation scheme from civil servants, essentially because this is a unique situation and has never happened before. However the  Environment Secretary has listened and taken action, recognising the issues faced by the affected fishermen and has used the powers available to him to effectively override the civil servants.

I'd particularly like to thank the fishermen from these communities and everyone who contacted me for working constructively with me to help make the case for this support. This shows the Government is on the side of Cornish fishermen and I am pleased to have played a part in them reaching this decision.

The compensation scheme is very welcome, but it is only the first step, and what we must do next is look at restoring a sustainable pollack fishery, as I highlighted in my debate in February. The Government is working with the fishermen, who know most about their catch, to get the scientific evidence to do this, and I will be working with local fishermen and industry representatives to make this happen as soon as possible.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email:

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Newspaper column 27 March 2024 - State Pension updates

The State Pension has been in the news a lot recently for several reasons.

One of the main things I have campaigned on over the years is for the Government to retain the triple lock for the State Pension.

The triple lock is designed to ensure pensioners, especially if they rely solely on the state pension, are able to afford rising prices, or keep pace with the increases in the working population's wages.  It means the state pension rises in line with average earnings growth, inflation or 2.5% - whichever is highest.

It was introduced by the coalition government in 2010, but there has been debate over whether it can continue in the long-term future due to its costs.

I have been clear in conversations with colleagues in Government that retention of the Triple Lock, particularly while we are experiencing cost of living pressures, has never been more important.

The Government has listened over the past couple of years and kept the Triple Lock. Last year saw the largest ever increase of the State Pension, with a 10.1% increase in April 2023, and next month will see another significant increase, with a rise of 8.5% from April 2024. Combined this means the state pension will have risen by around £1800 in this time. It is absolutely right that we provide pensioners with these increases during these difficult times.

But now we are looking to the future, with a General Election due later this year, and I was delighted to see over the weekend that the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has now publicly committed to retaining the State Pension Triple Lock as a Manifesto commitment should the Conservatives win the next election.

The Chancellor said that although continuing the Triple Lock will be an "expensive commitment… You can only make that commitment if you're confident that you're going to deliver the economic growth that is going to pay for it." As we have seen with the continuing fall in inflation and economic growth indicators brought about by the Chancellor’s sensible management of the economy, this is happening and therefore I am pleased that the Government is doing the right thing and committing to the Triple Lock under a future Conservative Government.

I do understand that some people are frustrated that the Personal Allowance, the amount you can earn before paying tax, will not be going up this year. This is a difficult but necessary decision to maintain income tax thresholds until April 2028 to ensure the tax system supports strong public finances. That being said, the Government has increased the Personal Allowance by over 40 per cent in real terms since 2010, ensuring some of the lowest earners do not pay income tax. Thanks to the PA, in 2021-22 around 30 per cent of earners did not pay tax.

Also in the news last week was the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation into issues with the Department for Work and Pensions communicating with women born in the 1950’s over State Pension changes.

The Ombudsman’s report had previously concluded that maladministration under the last Labour Government between 2005-07 has caused injustice, and their report into the DWP’s communication of the changes is now complete and will be put before Parliament. The Government will consider the Ombudsman’s report and respond in due course, having cooperated fully throughout the investigation.

As ever, if I can be of assistance on any matter, my office is available for any constituents needing help, advice or guidance – tel: 01726 829379 or email: