Thursday, 18 October 2018

Email your local MP to demand the end to rip-off loans campaign reply

Some of my constituents have recently contacted me to draw my attention to the issue of high interest payday loans.

One in ten UK households have taken out a payday loan, a frequently cited contributor towards household debt. Following the recent collapse of Wonga and reports of possible bankruptcy of a number of other major highstreet payday lenders e.g. Money Shop, there are concerns that customers face losing thousands of pounds in unpaid compensation.

I was therefore glad to learn that earlier this week the Financial Conduct Authority ordered payday lenders to bring forward compensation for customers who were mis-sold loans, even if it threatens the company with bankruptcy. The FCA said payday lenders must consider the “severity of the consumer detriment that might have arisen” from loans granted in the past, and consider whether they should begin a “redress or remediation exercise, which may include contacting customers who have not complained.”

I will continue to speak up for those who are on the receiving end of unfair lending practices. I would also encourage any of my constituents who have been mis-sold high interest payday loans to contact their payday lender to seek appropriate compensation.

Plunged into debt campaign reply

Gambling addiction is a serious problem that has regrettably ruined far too many lives. Many of my constituents share my view and some have recently written to me to express their concern following reports in the media that the new £2 maximum stake on highly addictive betting machines – fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) – will not be implemented until April 2020, as opposed to 2019. 

FOBTs are a type of electronic slot machine normally found in betting shops. Each machine accepts bets for amounts up to a pre-set maximum and pays out according to fixed odds on the simulated outcomes of games. It is possible to lose large amounts of money in a very short period of time while using FOBTs, and research have shown that the machines
have a causal role in problem gambling.

On 17 May 2018, the Government announced that the maximum stake on FOBTs will be reduced to £2. This will reduce the ability to suffer high session losses, while also targeting the greatest proportion of problem gamblers. It will mitigate risk for the most vulnerable players, for whom even moderate losses on the machine might be harmful.

I fully understand the harm that FOBTs can do and I believe it was right for the government to take action in protecting our citizens from falling prey to these machines. Changes to the stake will be made through secondary legislation and I would like to see these changes implemented soon.

However I also recognise that any new industry regulation requires meaningful engagement between government officials and stakeholders. Betting shops need to be fully prepared and be given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes brought about by the change.

It is in everyone’s interest to have a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, but also one that does all it can to protect players and their families, as well as the wider communities, from harm.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill

In the past week I have been contacted by constituents asking if I could take part in the parliamentary debate and vote at the Third Reading and Report Stages of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill on Friday 26 October.

The bill makes provisions for i) heterosexual couples to enter a civil partnership, ii) registration of the names of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership, and iii) registration of stillborn deaths.

I support the bill’s aims to allow for a mother’s name to be recognised in the marriage certificate and create a system of proper registration for stillborn babies. However, I am concerned that the creation of heterosexual civil partnerships might lead to more couples opting for a low-commitment alternative to marriage, where they are not required to vow to commit to each other for life, and therefore making it easier for their partnerships to break up at a time when the divorce rate is already well over 40% in England.

The proposals would also mean traditionally-married couples would not be given a marriage certificate on the day and there would be an electronic register instead of an official one in churches. Denying a married couple their marriage certificate on their special day is not a measure I would support.

While I would like to be able to attend the debate and vote of the bill on Friday 26 October to engage with the views of other parliamentarians, I regret to inform my constituents that on this occasion I will not be able to as I am already committed to a number of important constituency engagements on Friday 26 October.

Campaign response - The Prime Minister's future

There has never been a time sine I became an MP when someone, somewhere has not been in touch demanding that the then incumbent Prime Minister be removed from office so it comes as no surprise that during the heightened tensions during the historic  move towards leaving the EU that I receive further such communications.

I see a meaningful BREXIT as the focus of my attention and will continue to fight for that. Changing the Prime Minister will be a huge distraction at this vital juncture. The day will come when of course we will have a new Prime Minister and whatever the circumstances are I will be pleased to carefully consider along with yourselves who that should or might be.

Campaign response - Ask Chancellor Hammond to restore Migrant Impact Fund

I have recently received emails from constituents asking for my support to restore the Migration Impact Fund and increase its funding.

Immigration is an important subject to me. Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a fair, compassionate and sustainable immigration system to better address issues concerning the number of people entering this country, their impact on public services, as well as how well their integrate into local communities.

The Migration Impact Fund (MIF) was introduced by the Labour Government in 2009 to provide £35 million to local authorities every year. Its primary purpose was to alleviate the impacts of immigration on local services. In the light of the overall fiscal position and the need for urgent action to tackle the deficit, the Coalition Government withdrew the fund as a cost-saving measure in 2010. The principle to address effects of immigration however, remained an important one for the previous Government, and led my party to commit in the 2015 General Election manifesto to introducing a new Controlling Migration Fund (CMF) to replace the MIF.

In terms of funding, the CMF matches the MIF’s provision by providing £35 million of funding each year from 2016-2020 to local authorities to support the delivery of public services. Compared to the alternative models proposed by think tanks and policy commentators, the CMF also has more in common with the MIF in its design and scope. In addition, the CMF goes further by committing additional resources to enforcement and compliance officers in order to tackle the issue of illegal migration – an important issue that was not addressed by either the CMF or the previous Labour Government.

I am therefore of the view that restoring the CMF with a new version of MIF, which is in itself a replacement and an improvement on the original MIF, would not serve any meaningful purpose. Far from restoring the public’s trust in the immigration system, it would distract the important work that the Government is already doing in reviewing our immigration arrangements, based on the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee, to ensure that the system is fit for purpose after Brexit. Any substantial increase in government funding for the CMF would be offset by an increase in taxation to balance the books, which would affect migrants working hard to make a living for themselves and look after their families.

Instead, a better way to restore trust in the system for government officials to work with local people in enabling more migrants to find employment, education and training, in order to contribute towards our public services and become fully integrated members of our society. To this end, the Government is already committing a new £7 million Integrated Communities Innovation Fund to help encourage local led innovative projects to tackle local needs in integration, and a number of local authorities across England have already signed up to this ambitious project.

Campaign response - No Deal Brexit plan

Recently, I have been approached by a number of constituents with concerns over a no deal Brexit and what this will mean for Cornwall.

Throughout the process, the government has been ensuring the UK will be properly prepared for any outcome, including a no deal Brexit.  As the Brexit Department statement says “It has always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a no deal scenario would be accelerated. Such an acceleration does not reflect an increased likelihood of a ‘no deal’ outcome” We are preparing for every outcome possible.

I have stated previously that I have always been of the view that the EU would agree a deal and I continue the hope for a deal to be made. Though, a deal will only be accepted if it’s in the best interest of the British people and delivers the Brexit people voted for in the referendum. As the Prime Minister rightly said, “no deal is better than a bad deal” so I will support a no deal if the EU continues to offer no constructive way forward.

There is a lot of scaremongering going on by some, but I believe that whatever the outcome the UK will not only cope by thrive outside of the EU.  Once we leave we can regain control of our law, money and borders.  One of the main reasons the majority voted to leave the EU was so that we could regain control of our own affairs, and it is precisely this that we are striving for.

Whilst I will continue to work to represent the people of our constituency in achieve the best deal possible as we leave the EU, I am also confident we have nothing to fear from a no deal outcome and we will do all we can to prepare should this be the result.  

Monday, 15 October 2018

Are you in to end homelessness campaign

I have received a number of communications from constituents bringing my attention to the issue of homelessness and the work of campaigns such as ‘Everybody In’ calling for all parties to work together end homelessness for good.

Homelessness matters. In Parliament and in our constituency I have often spoken about the importance of tackle this issue and have voiced my strong support for legislations and initiatives seeking to eradicate homelessness.

I am delighted that the government intends on leading the fight to end homelessness by publishing its Rough Sleepers Strategy recently, which commits £100m towards eliminating rough sleeping in England by 2027. This will include £30m of funding for mental health and substance abuse services and £50m for new homes outside of London for those ready to move on from hostels. It will also give renewed focus on preventing homelessness by providing more intensive support for those vulnerable to homelessness, including people leaving prison or care.

I am proud to be supporting the implementation of this strategy, which complements the Homelessness Reduction Act (came into force at the beginning of April). The Act provides new support to people who aren’t entitled to help under the current system, by requiring local authorities to do more to prevent homelessness – incorporating prevention and relief duties for the councils, as well as a duty to refer for other public services, and continued protection for affected families.

Earlier this year I also welcomed confirmation that Cornwall will receive £437,489, part of a targeted £30m Rough Sleeping Initiative fund to support those sleeping rough and those at risk in 83 local authorities with the highest need. I am pleased that the Government has released this further funding to Cornwall Council to help support those sleeping rough. This represents a significant step in the Government’s plans to reduce rough sleeping.

This funding nationally will provide for over 500 new staff focused on rough sleeping. This will include more outreach workers to engage with people on the streets, specialist mental health and substance misuse workers and dedicated co-ordinators to drive efforts to reduce rough sleeping in their areas. It will also provide over 1700 new bed-spaces nationally including both emergency and settled accommodation.

I look forward to seeing the detail of what Cornwall Council proposes to do with its funding, and look forward to working with them to ensure that it is used to provide the best outcome for the people that need it, the communities they are part of and is good value for the tax payer.

I applaud the vital work of campaign groups to ensure that this issue remains on the top of Government’s agenda. In response to my constituents’ ask for me to raise this issue with my party leader, I am glad to inform them that I will be placing my full support behind the Prime Minister as she seeks to tackle homelessness, and will be working to ensure that the Government be given every resource necessary for it to keep its pledge of eradicating rough sleeping in the next decade.