Friday, 31 July 2015

Newspaper column 29 July 2015 - Public toilets

As many of you are aware, Cornwall Council is in the process of relinquishing its management of public toilets.  A number of concerned constituents have contacted me about this issue and I agree with their concerns.

The tourist industry is vital to Cornwall’s economy and the provision of public toilets, especially in the tourist hotspots, is a key part of the overall service that tourists expect.  Local people also use these important community facilities. 

The responsibility for the provision of public toilets does not legally sit with any particular Government body, although local councils have historically taken on this important role.  As Cornwall Council continues its programme of cutting services to save money public toilets have become one of the more controversial areas it has targeted.  

Cornwall Council’s approach has been to threaten to close local facilities unless the local Town or Parish Council agrees to take on the cost of keeping them open. Whilst some of the larger local councils have the capacity to do this, many smaller parishes have found this a real challenge.

One of the issues these local councils face is that public toilets are liable for business rates. As crazy as this seems it has been this way for many years. With little or no revenue to cover these costs, councils are finding it impossible to find the funds to run the service which often run into tens, even hundreds, of thousands of pounds per year.

When the Prime Minister was in the constituency a few days ago, the six Cornish MPs, including myself, raised the issue of business rates on public toilets with him.  He acknowledged the problem and was grateful that we had highlighted this issue to him.  I followed up the conversation with a letter to him, laying out my position.

In light of the current business rates review, I asked the Prime Minster and Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, that serious consideration be given to the case for making public toilets exempt from business rates, especially when run by not-for-profit entities. 

The Prime Minister then spoke about the conversation with the six MPs on local radio.  He said “The whole issue of how public toilets are treated for business rates for instance is an issue they want to put very firmly on table and I think that is important.

“It may sound to some people like a fringe issue – but when you are dealing with wanting to have lots of tourists, with having lots of beach resorts, this is a really important issue.

"Of course, there is more that we can do – and I know that we will be looking at all these things.”

The removal of the business rates is not the silver bullet for this issue but it should go a long way to help the smaller local councils provide this vital service.  I will be working to ensure that the review does consider my request, as this will be a big boost for our communities in Cornwall.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Newspaper column 22 July 2015 - The Deal for Cornwall

This week in the constituency has been one of the most eventful for me since the election.  Last Thursday morning the Prime Minister announced the ground-breaking Deal for Cornwall (“the Deal”).  He then travelled to County Hall in Truro to meet with leaders from Cornwall Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership (“LEP”), Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS) and the Cornish MPs to continue discussions about implementation of the Deal.

On Thursday evening the PM then met with the MPs to discuss a number of issues, including the Government’s continued commitment to invest in Cornwall. Then on Friday morning I accompanied him again as he met with tourism business leaders at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. 

The Deal for Cornwall has provoked significant debate since it was announced.   The six Cornish MPs were involved in the discussion at Westminster and we are committed to working together to bring sensible change to Cornwall.

Cornwall Council had prepared their “Case for Cornwall” that proposed the devolution of wide-ranging powers to the Council.  In contrast, the Deal for Cornwall spreads the devolved powers across a number of bodies working together.

I have been campaigning for the integration of health and social care services for some time.  While the NHS is currently managed by central government, our local council manages social care.  This is a barrier to communication and integrated care.  The result is that patients remain in hospital beds, the so-called blocked beds, while they wait for a place in a care home.  An integrated countywide solution will help alleviate this pressure. 

I also campaigned on job creation; and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP will play an even greater role in our economic future. The LEP and Cornwall Council, working together, have been given greater power to assign European funding to growth projects in Cornwall. 

We have also been given the chance to improve our transport system. The Government is already investing more in our roads and railways than we have seen for many years. Now we have the chance to have greater management over our bus services to make sure we have an integrated public transport system that works for Cornwall.

This deal is a partnership between the Government, the Cornish MPs, Cornwall Council, the LEP, and the health authority. It is not just about giving more powers to Cornwall Council.

Cornwall is in many ways a unique place and we face a number of challenges that require different solutions to those made possible when services are run from central Government.

For most of my life people in Cornwall have expressed that the Westminster Government (of all political parties) has felt remote and detached from Cornwall. I believe we should see the Deal as a positive step that addresses this remoteness and has some great possibilities that we should be focusing on.

We clearly need to make sure that these changes are implemented in a sensible way that ensures positive outcomes for Cornwall.  We are now being given a unique opportunity to stand up for ourselves and take responsibility for a number of key services.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Newspaper column 15 July 2015 - The Budget

Life in Parliament continues to give me firsts.  This week I attended the Budget reading for the first time.  As you may have seen on the TV, the House was packed and very noisy, but it was an amazing experience, especially as the Chancellor’s Budget was so far-reaching.

The Conservative Government continues to deliver on its manifesto promises.  The Budget was designed to deliver security to working people and to keep us moving from a low wage, high tax, high welfare economy to a higher wage, lower tax and lower welfare country.

Cornwall and our constituency featured strongly in the Budget.  The Chancellor spoke of the steps towards devolving more power to Cornwall in his speech and I will continue to work with the five other Cornish Conservative MPs to ensure that Cornwall has a solution that makes sense. 

Although not mentioned in the main speech, the following announcement was also made on Wednesday; “The government reaffirms its commitment to £7.2 billion investment in transport infrastructure in the South West over this Parliament. The government will provide local councils with funding to support the development of business cases for the North Devon Link Road, and the A391 in Cornwall.” 

The development of the A391 from the A30 into St Austell is extremely important and something that I campaigned on during the General Election.  St Austell needs improved connectivity to unlock inward investment and villages such as Roche, Bugle and others, will get a much-needed bypass.  I will continue to fight to ensure this new infrastructure becomes a reality.

The broader budget introduced many changes; the new National Living Wage combined with the income tax cuts are excellent news for hardworking people in St Austell and Newquay and shows we will deliver what we promised.  The rise in the personal allowance will mean lower taxes for around 48,851 working people here in St Austell and Newquay, with an estimated 939 people taken out of income tax altogether. These changes, along with the further reforms to tax credits, and the welfare cap, are designed to support people into work and make the welfare system sustainable for the future.

These reforms mean that it remains important that we attract new investment and jobs into our constituency.  Better-paid jobs and lower taxes will provide economic growth in our area and give local people a better standard of living with more money in their pockets.  Therefore, I will continue to focus on job creation. 

The measures introduced in respect of apprenticeships will also help our constituency and I strongly support this programme.  In an area dominated by small businesses, apprenticeships represent a way to bring continuity and growth to these businesses.

I would appreciate hearing your views on the Budget and any other matters that concern you.  For a direct response please email me on 

Otherwise, I post regularly on Facebook so please join the page and follow what is going on.  Alternatively you will find regular updates on my website and you can follow my blog

Friday, 10 July 2015

Private Members Bill on Assisted Suicide

Thank you for contacting me about assisted suicide.

I appreciate your concern on this very sensitive issue. Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families. These cases are truly moving and evoke the highest degree of compassion and emotion.

A Private Members Bill seeking to legalise Assisted Suicide is to be brought before Parliament in September 2015. This issue, probably more than any other that this Parliament is likely to consider, is a matter of conscience.

I have a great deal of sympathy for people on both sides of this issue. I have considered my own views very carefully before reaching a conclusion. My personal belief is that I could not support any legislation that would legalise assisted dying. I intend to attend the debate and I will be voting against the bill. There are many factors that bring me to this view.

The law, which already makes provision for such circumstances, is working, and does not need changing. Assisting or encouraging suicide is a criminal offence under Section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 for which the maximum penalty is 14 years’ imprisonment. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (“DPP”) has discretion not to prosecute in certain compassionate cases.   

Guidelines published by the DPP are primarily concerned with advising the Crown Prosecution Service on the factors they need to consider when deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a person for assisting or encouraging another to commit suicide.  The DPP’s policy offers important and sensitive guidance on when to prosecute, but makes clear that assisting a person to die is still illegal and anyone doing this faces the risk of a murder charge if prosecuted.

If, as a society, we made assisted suicide legal, we would in my view, be fundamentally changing the very foundation of our civil society. We would be legitimising the fears and anxieties of so many sick and vulnerable people who worry that they are a burden on those around them and on society more widely. As a compassionate society, our response to suicidal feelings must never be a lethal injection.

For every person that we might consider to have a clear and settled wish to end their lives, there are countless others who are vulnerable, despairing and often lacking in support who may feel under pressure – internal or external – to go through with this decision.

This is the main reason that no major disability group favours a change in the law. This Bill legitimises the idea that suicide is a solution for disability and severe sickness. Where assisted suicide is legal around the world, the data shows that those who choose suicide are almost invariably disabled. They need assistance to live, not assistance to die.

Those who support assisted dying often point to safeguards as the remedy to this problem. But, as years of debate on this issue in the House of Lords has shown, there is no safeguard that would be sufficient to stop a person who feels a burden on their family, friend or caregivers from ending their life; nor can doctors accurately assess this, or worse, pressure or abuse which does regrettably exist, in certain cases.

This is why none of the Royal Medical Colleges support a change in the law. In fact, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Physicians, actively oppose such a change for that very reason. Legalising assisting dying would fundamentally change the nature of the doctor/patient relationship. A doctor is not a detective and cannot reasonably be expected to investigate all of the relevant social factors involved in such a grave decision. That would take a close, consistent and long-term relationship which very few doctors have with their patients today. Any suggestion that this fundamental problem can be lessened by the arbitration on by a High Court judge is similarly groundless, as the judge would have even less knowledge and capacity to judge whether pressure, overt or covert, had been placed on the individual.

I am also concerned that, as has been the case in other countries, legalising assisted suicide would lead to demands for legalisation of other forms of euthanasia – for example in Belgium, where in 2002, a euthanasia law was passed for adults, in 2014 – a law was passed enabling children to be euthanized. In Oregon – upon which this assisted suicide law is based - the extension of their assisted suicide law is currently being considered.

In Britain, we lead the world in palliative care. Our response to the physical and emotional pain of terminal illness must be to show compassion by extending and developing this further. Not by letting people die when they most need encouragement and assistance to live.

My view is that if we were to legalise assisted dying we would be crossing a line that would lead to the devaluing of life. This is not something I am prepared to support.

Update on Hunting Act ammendments

The technical amendments (called Statutory Instruments) we are proposing will not lift the ban on hunting with dogs – secondary legislation cannot be used to defeat the purpose of the original Act. 

In fact, the Hunting Act will remain in place and will continue to prohibit the pursuit and killing of a wild animals by dogs (my opinion on this can be found on my blog  These changes amend the exemptions that Members on all sides of the House agreed during the passage of the Act were necessary for the purposes of “pest control”.

The amendments we are seeking to make are:

·         Enable farmers and gamekeepers to make a judgement, based on the terrain and other circumstances, as to whether it is appropriate to use more than two dogs to flush out foxes and other wild mammals.  This is particularly important in upland areas where the use of two dogs across large and difficult areas of ground, often covered by woodland, is not regarded as effective or practical.  There is no limit on the number of dogs that can be used in Scotland.
·         Amend the requirement to produce evidence of land ownership or landowner consent in cases where a dog is used below ground.  In Scotland there is no such requirement.  This amendment will mean that the evidence does not need to be carried by the person carrying out the activity but can be presented at a police station within seven days.  This is in line with the timeframe for presenting a driving licence under road traffic law. 
·         Extend the scope of the “rescue” exemption to include “diseased” animals.  This is a logical extension of the provision that enables hunting to be undertaken to relieve a wild mammal of suffering when it is injured.

I support these changes and will be voting for them.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Newspaper column 8 July 2015 - The Tunisian tragedy

As we were celebrating local community events here in Cornwall on Friday 26 June, a terrible tragedy was unfolding on a Tunisian beach.   Holidays are something we look forward to and the last thing we expect is for a welcome period of relaxation to be blighted by horror and death.  That this incident impacted a couple from Bodmin only served to bring it even closer to home.

My thoughts and prayers are with Cheryl Mellor as she recovers, and with the rest of Stephen Mellor’s family.  I am deeply sorry for their loss and trust that the support of family, friends and the local community can give them some level of comfort.

When faced with such horror, our immediate reaction is disbelief and then anger; we want to react swiftly and fight back against the enemy, even if that enemy is not easily identifiable.

As a new MP, the responsibility that Parliament has towards the people of this country to make fair and rational decisions has been brought home to me more than ever this week.  I am taking the necessary time and counsel before reaching my opinion on the course of action that the UK should take. 

Of some things I am certain; the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. We cannot sit back and allow our citizens to be murdered either at home or abroad without standing up and defending our liberty. Secondly, we should respond, but not with a knee-jerk reaction.  We need a carefully thought-through response that will be effective.

There is currently a groundswell of support growing for the UK joining the airstrikes into Syria, but I remain to be convinced that such a move would be effective as a deterrent of future terror acts, but could potentially bring about the suffering of more innocent people.  We need to careful consider whether such a move could serve to escalate, rather than dampen, further attacks against the UK and our people.

There are many factors that need to be weighed in the next few weeks; the safety of our citizens, the impact that any intervention will have to further inflame the situation in the region and the role that our servicemen and women will have to take.  The decision to send our military personnel into harms way is not a decision that should be taken lightly. 

I am very aware of the responsibility of making a decision of this nature. The one thing I commit to do is continue to listen to the views of local people as well as the debate in Parliament and ensure that, if there is a vote, I will make my decision based on what I believe to be right for our country.

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  

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Newquay area newspaper column 01 July 2015 - Supporting Newquay

Running up to the General Election I campaigned hard on the pledge to work with local businesses in order to support economic growth and the creation of more better-paid jobs.  I believe that a growing national economy will give us the resources we need to invest in our vital services, and that a growing local economy will give our young people the chance to build a life in Cornwall. 

There are many ways that I can support these aims as your MP and I have taken the opportunity in the last few weeks to work on these issues.

There has been much debate in the press and on the radio about the subsidy paid to Newquay airport.  I featured on BBC Radio Cornwall in support of the airport last week. The airport is critical to the whole of the Cornish economy; it provides connectivity for local businesses, local people and visitors to the area.  Without it, many businesses would leave Cornwall and new investment would be harder to attract.  I will continue to support the airport and fight for its future.

Later in the week I met with local business leaders in Newquay; representatives from the Newquay Business Improvement District and the Newquay Chamber of Commerce.  It is great to be involved with people so passionate about their town and prepared to put in significant effort to bring real change.  I look forward to working closely with them.

We discussed a wide range of topics including one that I feel strongly about, the ban on taking children out of school to go on holiday.  This rule impacts Cornwall and especially Newquay in two important ways.  Firstly, the so-called shoulder months of June and September have seen a significant decline in visitors to the area.  Many businesses in Newquay have reported a drop in profits and some are considering whether they can survive. 

Secondly, many Cornish people work in the tourist industry and so it is impossible for them to take family holidays during the school summer holidays.  I believe that family holidays are an important feature of family life; a time to bond and spend time together away from the stresses of everyday life.  If families are not allowed to take their children out of school, I struggle to see how many Cornish families can manage a holiday together.

This is an issue that I am extremely concerned about and I am already working at Westminster to address this issue, raising the issue with Government Ministers and will continue to campaign for a more flexible approach to families holidays.

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  

St Austell area newspaper column 01 July 2015 - Weeks of celebration!

I always enjoy life in Cornwall, but I look forward to this time of the year as it is full of local community events; Feast weeks, carnivals and regattas come one after another.  As I write this, Mevagissey Feast Week is in full swing and the St Austell Feast Week has just ended.

I am always amazed at just how good Cornwall is at putting on these weeks of community fun and entertainment. Many of them have been going on for many years and the traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. Each one is unique and has its own particular style and flavour. But at the heart of each of them is a group of dedicated people who work tirelessly to organise the events and a small army of volunteers who give their time to make sure everything runs well. Despite the numerous challenges faced by the committees who run these events, with ever onerous health and safety regulations and difficulties obtaining insurance, it is a credit to everyone involved that these events are able to take place.

St Austell Feast Week is relatively new, having been revived after an absence of many years.  The organisers are to be congratulated for the excellent events that they put on, both in the town centre and in other locations around the town.  Anne and I enjoyed the It’s a Knockout event that we attended last weekend.  I am sure that this festival will go from strength to strength. 

Mevagissey Feast Week was established in 1754 and so this year continues in that illustrious line.  From the fish festival to the flora dance, this Feast Week is not to be missed and I will be dropping in on Saturday to enjoy the fun – you might even get to see me doing the Flora Dance! 

As well as the larger festivals, many villages celebrate various events throughout the summer and there are many carnivals that we can enjoy and in the next few weeks we have the Charlestown and Fowey Regattas to look forward to. 

I look forward to seeing as many people as possible at these festivities and if there is an event over the summer in your area, please let me know, and if can I will come along to support it.

There are many things great about living in this part of our Cornwall. Our stunning coast and countryside and the wonderful food and drink we produce for a start. But for me the best thing will always be the amazing community spirit and pride in our local identity that makes this area so special. We are justly proud of our heritage and culture, let’s continue celebrate and promote it.

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