Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Newspaper column 24 June - Employment, planning, aerohub and care

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in our constituency has now more than halved since 2010, a fall of 52% from 1815 claimants in 2010 to just 879 in 2015, also 409 less than at this time last year.  The Conservative Long-Term Economic Plan is clearly working and we will continue on this path to bring greater prosperity to Cornwall.

While I welcome this drop, I recognise that there is much more to do. Apart from improving the employment rate in mid-Cornwall, I also want to make these jobs better paid.  This task is not made easier when new housing developments are given the green light but do not bring any corresponding investment in infrastructure.  A plan to build 190 new homes in Holmbush, in St Austell was approved at appeal this week but sadly very little corresponding infrastructure investment is on offer.  I will continue to fight for the services we so desperately need including; more school places, better roads and more GPs.

The Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Newquay airport is an example of where those better-paid jobs will come from in the future.  The Enterprise Zone offers incentives for aeronautical and space-related companies to operate in Cornwall.  With significant land to expand into, and an existing aeronautical infrastructure, the Enterprise Zone has room to grow. Later this year we can expect to see the team from Bloodhound SSC test their car at Newquay before attempting the land speed record in South Africa.  I am excited by the vision for the Aerohub as a centre of excellence and innovation in the aeronautical industry, and will do everything I can to support its development and bring the chance of a future in this industry to our young people.

Opportunities such as the Aerohub will boost our local economy and in turn, it is a strong and growing economy that will provide the funding that our vital services need.  

With a growing elderly population and an increase in those who suffer with conditions such as dementia, adult social care is one of the biggest challenges facing our future. I was delighted to be able to visit Kimberley Court in Newquay as part of the National Care Home Open Day. Kimberley Court is one example of the many excellent care homes we have looking after the elderly members of our communities.

This government is committed to working for better integration between our health and care services and I will be working with colleagues in Cornwall and Westminster to make sure our care services are as well run and funded as possible.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and seek to make a real difference to the lives of everyone who needs help and support in any way.

If there is any issue that we can help you with then please contact us on either 07555069714 or on  

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Newspaper column 15 June - The EU Referendum Bill

The main business in Parliament last week was the debate and vote on the EU Referendum Bill.  The vote after the second reading was an overwhelming 544 to 53.

I am pleased that this Bill is being debated so early in the life of this Parliament. Some people were sceptical that David Cameron was committed to a referendum. By bringing this bill forward in the first week of business in the Parliament, the Conservative Government has sent a clear message that we are delivering on our manifesto promise and are committed to giving the people of this country their say on this important matter.

The Bill will ensure an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.  While two and a half years seems like a long time I believe that this time is required in order that the Prime Minister has an opportunity to negotiate a better deal for us within the EU. 

I was clear throughout the election campaign that my position is that our current relationship with the EU is not working in Britain’s interest. We need to reform that relationship, if we can then I am quite prepared to vote to remain in.  If a reformed relationship is not possible then I believe we need to be prepared to leave.

Last week I joined a group of Conservative MPs known as Conservatives for Britain (CFB).  CFB is pushing for strong European reform ahead of the Referendum. Its leader, Steve Baker, said the group would back David Cameron's negotiations with Europe, but if these fail it would recommend an exit to voters.  Incidentally, Steve Baker is also a local Cornishman and former Poltair School student.

The key issue for me is Parliamentary sovereignty – which body decides how our country is being run. The biggest area of concern for me is the EU's ‘ever closer union’ objective. Unless we can opt out of that, I would vote to end our membership.

I am very aware of the impact that EU membership has on Cornwall.  While the UK is a net contributor into the EU, Cornwall receives a great deal of financial support. This important inflow into our local economy cannot be ignored. However, the funding that comes from Europe comes with a heavy burden of restrictions and regulation. Securing funding from the UK Government with greater freedom on how it is used could be a better deal for Cornwall. As with all complex issues there is no simple right or wrong answer and I will continue to listen to your views and concerns.  We will have up to two and a half years to debate the issues.

But the key point is that as this will be a referendum of the British people, it is not primarily what politicians think that matters. The referendum will give every voter in the country, for the first time in 40 years, the opportunity to express their view on our future relationship with the EU. It is time to let the people decide.  

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Newspaper column 10 June - My maiden speech

This week I gave my maiden speech in the House of Commons during the debate on the Queen’s Speech.  This is an important milestone, as I am now permitted to participate fully in all Government business. 

It is traditional in maiden speeches to give an overview of the constituency, its history and its character, and to include some lighthearted comments.  My maiden speech touched on the following themes.

St Austell and Newquay is a wonderfully unique, diverse and special part of Cornwall. It is one of only three constituencies in the UK that has two separate coastlines.

From the rugged beauty of the Atlantic coast in the north that draws thousands of tourists every year to Cornwall’s premier resort of Newquay, and creates the best surfing opportunities in Europe; to the picturesque south coast and the historic harbours of Fowey, from which we still export the world’s finest quality China Clay, and Mevagissey, now Cornwall’s 2nd busiest fishing port. Not forgetting the ancient World Heritage port of Charlestown, which has recently become renowned as the backdrop to many of the scenes in the BBC’s Poldark series.

There is no doubt that Poldark has been a huge boost for the Cornish tourist industry. But it has also produced a revival in a much loved Cornish tradition –Cakey Tea, a development that I very much welcome!

There has been a widely held view within Cornwall that we are often overlooked, ignored and neglected by successive governments in Westminster. This feeling dates back over 500 years to when Cornishmen marched on Westminster in protest.

I highlighted the fact that the issues facing Cornwall have not changed and have not been addressed for many people. I looked up the maiden speech for one of my predecessors, the late and fondly remembered David Penhaligon. Certainly he has been one of the biggest personalities in Cornish politics in my lifetime. He gave his maiden speech in 1974, 41 years ago. Its contents are striking.  In his speech he raised the issues of low pay in Cornwall and that we were back then one of the poorest parts of the UK. He referred to our over reliance on tourism and the need for different types and better-paid jobs. He raised the issue of a creaking infrastructure and lack of investment in our roads, our schools and our health services. These are the big issues facing mid-Cornwall today.

However, I believe that times are changing. After decades of under investment the previous coalition government has begun to invest in Cornwall. We have seen investment in our main trunk road, the A30, support for Newquay airport, extra funding for our schools and health services.

I believe we have a unique opportunity. For the first time in our history Cornwall has six Conservative MPs in a Conservative Government.  The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have made it clear that this Government will not neglect or ignore Cornwall.  I will be working alongside my Cornish colleagues in Parliament to make sure we deliver the investment Cornwall needs and deserves.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Human Rights Act

The abolition and replacement of the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities has been a longstanding policy commitment of the Conservative Party, and was part of our manifesto on which we were elected on in May.

 Our planned British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities will completely change the way in which our human rights laws work.

 It will retain the principles of the original Human Rights Convention. But it will put clearly into our law limitations on where and how it can be applied. There will be a whole range of caveats. There will be a triviality test stopping human rights laws being used for minor matters. We will limit the reach of human rights claims to the UK, preventing cases being brought against our Armed Forces overseas, that just stops them doing their job and keeping us safe. There will also be a proper balance between rights and responsibilities.

Crucially, we will stop Article 8, the Right to Family Life, being used for purposes it was never intended. It should not be used by an individual to say that their right to family life allows them to override the law that applies to every other citizen, for example travellers occupying green belt land and claiming human rights trump planning laws. Or a similar situation with a foreign criminal and our immigration laws. Everyone must be subject to the same law of the land, no exceptions.

Labour passing the HRA in 1998 was a mistake, we had a long history of human rights long before the HRA was past. But critically it was under our control and not foreign judges. It is time we corrected that. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

IPSA’s proposed pay rise for MPs

I have been contacted by a number of you about the 10% pay rise which the Independent Parliamentary Standards Board (IPSA) have recommended MPs receive.

I have always been very clear that this is something I feel very strongly about, and it was something many of you spoke to me about during my election campaign – my stance on this remains the same – I absolutely do not support this pay increase.

There is never going to be a good time to increase MPs’ salaries by significantly more than inflation, but if there was ever a wrong time it is definitely now. I welcome the request made by David Cameron that IPSA thinks again on this matter. If an above inflation rise is awarded then I will take the total net after-tax effect on my income and use it to increase the amount I give to local charities.

I believe that MPs should lead by example and while pay increases in the public sector are being restricted I will not support an above-inflation pay increase for MPs. Until we are able to give our hard working public sector staff a reasonable rise, we should not support a significant rise for ourselves. MPs’ salaries are regulated by IPSA, which was set up in the wake of the expenses scandal of 2009/10 in order to remove the decision-making about salaries from MPs. IPSA will make the decision and MPs will neither have the opportunity to vote on the proposed rise, nor will we have the option to refuse it.

It is worth stating that this pay rise will be cost neutral to the tax payer as the money will come from reductions to MPs’ pensions and allowances, measures that that have already been implemented. However, none of this makes it right.'

Newspaper column 3 June - The Queen's Speech

I was honoured to witness the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s speech last week.  The pomp and ceremony that mark this occasion are an important reminder of the strong traditions that our democracy is built on.

The Queen’s Speech marks the start of a new session of Parliament and sets out the Government’s agenda for the coming year. The new Government is not hampered by the need for Coalition negotiations and compromises and so we can get straight down to business delivering the initiatives that we were elected on in our manifesto.

We have a clear agenda for the country, to continue to bring down the deficit, grow the economy and create more jobs. We will ensure that people who work are rewarded and that all parts of the country benefit from the growing economy.

I believe these policies and aims are so important for this constituency. I have long recognized that our constituency urgently needs more, higher paid jobs and I campaigned hard on this issue.  The Queen’s Speech promised a Bill that will bring about full employment; a job for everyone who wants one. We will create more apprenticeships that will give our young people the skills they need to secure a good career.  

We want to see people keep more of the money they earn. Those earning the Minimum wage will be taken out of tax completely. The Government will lock into law our promise that there will be no increases in income tax, VAT or National Insurance in this Parliament.  This means we can get on with the business of building our local economy without any growth being strangled by tax increases.  This is a Government that will champion the working family and I am proud to be part of it.

The Queen’s Speech also confirmed our commitment to maintain and build our schools and health provisions, both themes that are close to my heart and again issues that I campaigned on.  An increase in NHS spending and a pledge to make the NHS a true 7-day service will give our services in Cornwall a welcome boost.  I will continue to press the case for our health services and schools in Cornwall to be better funded.

Another important announcement in the Queen’s Speech was the confirmation that a referendum on EU membership will take place by 2017.  I am keen that this issue is resolved.  We need a change in our relationship with the EU and the interests of the Cornish people must also be protected.

This coming week I am hoping to make my maiden speech in The House of Commons and will be getting down to the important business of representing this constituency as we debate these issues.

Newspaper column 27 May - The Surf Tax

Last week I was formally sworn in as the MP for St Austell and Newquay. Today will see the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech which will mark the start of the new session of Parliament. I must admit that I am looking forward to getting down to business in the House of Commons and being able to begin representing and speaking up for this constituency.

There have been a number of important developments this week at County Hall, with the resignation of CEO Andrew Kerr after only a relatively short period in post, followed by the Liberal Democrat/Independent administration’s pushing through of the ‘Case for Cornwall’ which has had virtually no debate or consultation with the people of Cornwall. However what stood out for me was something close to many of us who live and work in Newquay and the surrounding area – the shambolic pushing through by the Council of a ‘surf tax’.

This ‘Surf Tax’, which proposes to charge beach based businesses, such as surf schools, a percentage of their turnover, potentially means a huge increase in taxes from the current fixed charge of £300 per annum. It was put before the full Council last Tuesday and stands out to me for all the wrong reasons.

Most importantly, Cornwall Council are potentially undermining the safety of our beaches by sending the wrong message to surf schools, which I see as almost another emergency service on beaches that already saved many lives. A reduced presence of qualified surf schools will in turn encourage more hire of surf boards without an experienced beach presence, making the beaches less safe.

As well as concerns about safety, this appears to be yet another case of Cornwall Council failing to support our local tourist industry, following on from the closure of public toilets and increasing car parking charges.

Apart from anything else, this scheme is simply unenforceable, even if large amounts of local taxpayer’s money were dedicated to its operation. It also only stands to generate approximately £40,000 in income for the Council, a relatively small amount for an organization that has recently spent £15 million, and rising, on unnecessary new offices in Bodmin.

I am pleased to see Conservative Councillors proposed a sensible fixed fee license of £500 as a compromise. This was actually passed through the Council, before inevitably being referred back to Council officers for further discussion. I hope clearer heads will prevail and a sensible conclusion will be reached to the benefit of local residents, businesses and visitors alike.

Newspaper column 27 May - Retail in St Austell

Last Friday saw the opening of The Range store at the Stadium Retail Park. I was able to go along to the opening and met with the owner Chris Dawson. He is certainly what you might call a ‘character’ and it was interesting to hear his story of how he started out with a pitch at Par Market. His story is inspiring – how from fairly humble begins he has risen to be one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs of recent times.

I must admit it was great to see another new popular store opening up in this area and judging by how busy it was on the first morning it is likely to be a big success.  One thing particular that pleases me is that this is a store that is currently in Truro. Hopefully it won’t be the last one we see.

The retail choices available in the St Austell area continue to be one of the most frequently discussed topics and one that provokes strong views. When I was campaigning for the election it was one of the top three concerns raised by residents in St Austell area.

Hopefully there will be further progress in the near future. The Trewhiddle Farm application is likely to be decided by Cornwall Council in the coming weeks. I am continuing to work with the developers to make sure this scheme, if approved, will deliver the shops and jobs we need in St Austell.

I also welcomed the Chancellor George Osborne to St Austell last Friday. He came to visit following the commitments he and the Prime Minister made to invest in Cornwall in the run up to the election. I know some people saw this as empty electioneering so it was pleasing that he was prepared to come down so soon after the election and confirm the Government’s commitment to support Cornwall.

Specifically I was able to raise with him again the desperate need for a new road linking St Austell to the A30. This was one of my commitments during the election campaign and would be a great boost for local businesses as well as providing relief from the heavy traffic Bugle and Roche have to suffer.
It was great to be able to firm up the Chancellor’s commitment to deliver this road. I will now be working with Cornwall Council to bring forward a scheme as soon as possible.

It is clear that with Cornwall now having 6 Conservative MPs in a Conservative Government we have a huge opportunity to attract the investment we have lacked for so many years. I, along with my fellow Cornish colleagues, will be doing everything we possibly can to make the most of this opportunity.

Newspaper column 20 May - My first week in Parliament

I am writing this back in Cornwall after my first week in Parliament.  It has been a truly memorable but somewhat surreal experience.  As one of the new intake of MPs I was taken through the Parliamentary induction process. Several of my fellow newcomers commented that it felt like we had joined Hogwarts crossed with Fort Knox. I did not go to university but I imagine this is what Fresher’s Week would be like.

In one corridor you pass men in tailcoats and white bow ties, while in the next you pass teams of heavily armed police. As you can imagine security is a high priority. The doormen lead you to a cloakroom where there is a hanger for your coat and a hook to hang your sword, since swords are not allowed in the chamber (note to self – remember to buy a sword).

There are strict rules about how you are allowed to address fellow members in the chamber and even how to enter and leave.  We were taught about the House of Commons procedures; how to register to speak in a debate, table a question and how to vote (hopefully in the correct lobby).

In the midst of all this I have been keen to get to work on the important issues for mid-Cornwall. I have already held meetings with ministers and officers to discuss issues that included; bringing the Spaceport to Newquay, moving forward on the new road link from St Austell to the A30 and addressing the concerns of residents of Fraddon around the traffic to and from the Anaerobic Digestion plant.  I also spoke briefly with the Prime Minister on the Stadium for Cornwall.  All of these issues are moving in a positive direction.

Here in mid-Cornwall I am focussed on setting up the constituency office so that my team and I can effectively serve local people. I am very clear this is what being your MP is primarily about. I have been interviewing for staff and viewing premises. Things are coming together and I expect the team to be in place in the next few weeks.

In the meantime I will be holding regular surgeries for local people.  These are designed so that you can bring your issues to me and discuss face to face. My first surgery will be in Newquay next week and then fortnightly in different locations around the constituency. If you would like to attend a surgery or if I can help in any way please drop me an email  Your you can call my off ice on our temporary number 07555069714.

Being your MP is an incredible honour and I look forward to representing and serving you for the next five years and working with you to make mid-Cornwall an even better place to live.