Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Newspaper column 28 December 2016 - Looking back at 2016

I hope you all had a good Christmas. As we enter 2017 and look forward to all that the New Year has in store, it is a good time to also look back at 2016. There is no doubt that the past year has been a very interesting and significant time in British politics as well as a busy time in our constituency.

Dominating the national picture has been the result of the June 23rd Referendum and the ensuing negotiations to bring about Brexit. Holding a Referendum was a Manifesto commitment of the Conservative Government, one that I was proud to stand on and one that we have delivered on after just one year in government. I will be doing everything I can to ensure the best possible outcome for this country, and Cornwall in particular over the coming months.

This includes joining the European Scrutiny Committee in Parliament. While we are negotiating our exit from the EU this committee will continue to play a crucial role. Not only in keeping an eye on the EU legislation that continues to come through but also in ensuring as smooth and positive an exit as possible.

Turning to my specific work as Member of Parliament, along with my team I am pleased to have assisted over 2,000 individual constituents with their concerns in the last year and I have written to over 8,000 people who have contacted me about policy matters. In Parliament I have spoken in the main Chamber 53 times and voted in nearly 90% of all votes, both above average for MPs. Here in Mid-Cornwall I have attended over 250 local events, visited more than 30 schools and welcomed many Government Ministers, including the Prime Minister and several members of her Cabinet, to the area so they can see first-hand the issues we face here.

One area that I have been really pleased to have had success was in securing an additional £3m funding for Cornwall Council at this year’s Budget. The Secretary of State has also announced a comprehensive review of the costs of delivering services in rural areas next year.

Turning to my pledge to fight for investment in our all-important transport infrastructure, I am pleased to have worked to bring forward positive developments across Mid- Cornwall in the last year. These included getting the ball rolling on a link road between the A30 and the A391 – which will benefit St Austell and the surrounding area, getting funding to upgrade 6.8km of the dangerous A3058 road between St Austell and Newquay, and of course working closely with the team at Cornwall Airport Newquay to grow and expand the airport on a number of fronts.

Another part of keeping Cornwall connected is our vital rail link. Working with my Cornish MP colleagues I have been pleased to have successfully lobbied the Secretary of State for Transport to provide an additional £10 million funding to develop the Dawlish line.

In non-transport infrastructure, I have also had successes with South West Water, particularly in upgrading and providing better maintenance for their Menagwins Waste Water Treatment site, which serves St Austell and most of the surrounding area, and also their work to repair and bring up to scratch the Yellowsands Viewing Platform at Newquay, and ongoing work to upgrade the sewage system in Fowey.

Finally, it would be right to mention my actions on the controversial Parliamentary Boundary Changes review, which could see Cornwall sharing a cross-border Parliamentary seat with Devon. I have always said that I am a Cornishman first and a Conservative second. This is one of those occasions when I believe that speaking up for Cornwall is the best thing to do even if it means disagreeing with the Government and so that is what I did.

I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Mid-Cornwall in 2017 and beyond to make this a better place to live, work and grow up in.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Newspaper column 21 December 2016 - Good funding news for Cornwall

Parliament has now risen for the Christmas Recess and I have been here in Mid-Cornwall trying to get to as many events and visits as possible around the festive period.

While I am now looking forward to a nice relaxing break for a few days with my family, it was good to see, in the last full week of Parliament, a number of positive announcements for Cornwall from the Government.

Firstly, the Government has announced its financial settlement for Local Government. This announcement and publication of the settlement marks the start of a consultation period until 13 January 2017. The final settlement for 2017/18 will be laid before the House of Commons in February 2017.

At a time where savings in public spending are still needed, the positive news here for Cornwall Council is that there is no change in the levels of Revenue Support Grant, Rural Services Delivery Grant or Better Care Fund.

Along with my fellow Cornish MPs I have been lobbying for increased funding for Cornwall, and am pleased to see a number of areas where we are getting increased funding or new avenues of funding have become available.

Firstly there is now a new Adult Social Care Support Grant available. This is a new grant that has been established, funded from savings in the New Homes Bonus. Amounts will be distributed according to relative need and Cornwall’s indicative allocation is £2.806m for 2017/18.

With Adult Social Care such an important issue, the Government has also previously allowed local authorities to add onto the Council Tax bill a 2% levy for Social Care. Now the Government is allowing local authorities to increase this percentage. I agree we need more money in Social Care, and hope that Cornwall Council will spend monies raised via this route sensibly and to provide and protect people who are at their most vulnerable.

The Government has also confirmed that Cornwall Council will pilot 100% Business Rates Retention from April 2017, although the details of that scheme are yet to be announced and are expected to form part of the final settlement in February 2017.

Last week we also saw the Government announce proposals on fair funding for schools.
Our Cornish schools have been underfunded for decades when compared to other parts of the country, and people have been calling for this inequality to be addressed for years. I am pleased to be part of the government that is at last doing something about this issue.

Shortly after my election I joined fair funding for public services in rural areas campaign group, f40, which has campaigned for over 20 years for a fairer, more equitable school funding formula. I was honoured last month to be appointed as Vice Chairman of the group and have been actively lobbying Ministers to get a better deal for our school children.

While the devil is in the detail, I believe the basic fair funding element meets what I have been demanding, which is a recognition of the challenges of running schools in rural areas and that our rural communities in Cornwall are some of the poorest in the country.

I am pleased that the Government has listened to the arguments put forward by me and many of my colleagues and is now taking the first of many steps to put this historic unfairness right.

Last week’s report shows the Secretary of State understands that the existing funding model has no rationale and is clearly unfair.  I will continue to work with colleagues both locally and in Westminster to push for the best outcome for Cornish children.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year for 2017.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Newspaper column 14 December 2016 - Voting on Article 50

Last week in Parliament saw a historic moment in the House of Commons, when MPs voted for the first time ever, in the light of the referendum result, on the implementation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is the formal process by which the UK will officially begin its withdrawal from the European Union.

The Government’s amendment to the original motion by the Labour Party called for Article 50 to be invoked no later than 31 March 2017.

This was the very first time MPs have had the opportunity to demonstrate their position with regards to the democratic decision made by the people of the UK. After much speculation and debate, MPs voted by a majority of 372 to support the triggering of Article 50 by the end of March to take the country out of the EU. I was pleased to see support for this motion from across the two main political parties and that subsequently a clear demonstration of Parliamentary support for the democratic decision of the British people from the Referendum on 23 June will be respected.

On a related note it was a shame to see the Liberal Democrats failing to live up to their name and their leader calling for their MPs to vote against this democratic decision. More than half of their MPs voted against it, and the other four, despite being present chose to abstain from voting on this hugely important issue.

As I have previously said, our democratic system is a wonderful thing, something which previous and current generations have fought to preserve. Many people I know who voted Remain in June’s Referendum have accepted the decision and now want to work together to make the best deal possible for our country going forward. It is a pity that some remain insistent on thwarting the outcome, something that I believe is fundamentally against the very basic principles of democracy that we stand on.

We now need to look forward and I will be doing everything I can to ensure the best possible outcome for this country, and Cornwall in particular, over the coming months.

As part of this I was delighted to recently be appointed to the European Scrutiny Committee in Parliament. This gives me the opportunity to look closely at the legislation and directives being passed down by the EU as well as participate in debates on EU related matters.

While we are negotiating our exit from the EU this committee will continue to play a crucial role. Not only in keeping an eye on the EU legislation that continues to come through but also in ensuring as smooth and positive an exit as possible.

I am honoured to have been appointed to this important committee and look forward to continuing to play an active part in Brexit, while speaking up for the interests of Cornwall.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Newspaper column 7 December 2016 - St Austell editions - Planning matters

As I am sure we are all aware, planning is often a controversial issue that can polarise opinion. Although MPs have no role in local planning decisions and little influence over the decisions planning committees make, I believe we still have a role to play in ensuring the views of local people are heard.

There is no doubt in my mind that St Austell has been badly let down in the past as we have seen more and more housing approved without the necessary investment in our local infrastructure to support it.

I am not opposed to all development. I recognise there is a clear need for more housing in the area. Those of us with adult children know how difficult it is for them to get on the housing ladder. However, I am also clear, this housing needs to be appropriately sited, with investment in local infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services to support the increase in population. New development should also support the local economy by creating jobs and business growth.  

This brings us to the recent application by Wainhomes to build 300 houses on the controversial site behind Poltair School and the College. This is the fourth application they have submitted for this site, having been refused three times previously.  

I have always opposed applications for housing on this site, which I believe to be wholly unsuitable for development. When I was a Cornwall and Town Councillor in Poltair, I fought against previous similar applications on this site, including at an Appeal, and was pleased to see them rejected. I remain opposed to the current application.

I have worked closely with St Austell Town Council on the St Austell part of the Cornwall Site Allocations Development Plan Document (Allocations DPD). The DPD was written with public consultation. 95% of local people who responded did not want this land included in the DPD. 

Subsequently the land in question was excluded from the town framework which identifies land for development. It is therefore disappointing that Wainhomes have chosen to ignore the views of local people and once again apply for permission to develop this site.

I recently wrote to the Head of Planning at Cornwall Council along these lines when the most recent plans surfaced and expressed my surprise and disappointment at the way this application was being progressed.

Last week I had the opportunity to raise this issue in the House of Commons when I questioned the Minister for Housing and Planning in Parliament on the application, saying that while I appreciate he cannot comment on individual planning applications, did he agree with me that if permissions are granted on sites that have been excluded for development after consultation and a democratic process it will do little to promote the public’s confidence in the planning system.

In reply the Minister reiterated how important it is to have a plan in place and congratulated Cornwall Council on finally passing its Local Plan.  I too am pleased that after too many years of discussion, Cornwall Council has finally voted to adopt the Cornwall Plan.

I will continue to monitor this application closely and do all I can to ensure that the clearly expressed views of local people are respected and urge Cornwall Council to do the right thing here and reject this completely unsuitable application.

Newspaper column 7 December 2016 (Newquay edition) - Funding for our roads

Going back to my days as Cornwall Councillor, the upkeep and maintenance of our highways has always been something that is of great importance to the people of Mid-Cornwall.

Keeping our roads in good condition is vital for the continued prosperity of Cornwall and it therefore follows that a great deal of public funding has been allocated to Cornwall Council for precisely that.
In fact, earlier this year, the Government announced £50 million of funding, estimated to repair nearly 1 million potholes across the country over the 2016-17 financial year. Over 100 councils in England received funding as part of the £250 million Pothole Action Fund included in April’s Budget, which will fix over 4 million potholes by 2020/21.

Cornwall Council pocketed £1,267,000 from this fund this year. This is money ring-fenced specifically for filling potholes. Last week it was announced that next year’s funding will be £1,847,000, and this is over and above the £144 million the Government is already committed to providing in 2017 to help repair local highways.

In addition to this it was good to see the Government recognise an issue I have raised a number of times, that being the dangerous A3058 road between Newquay and St Austell. Funding has now been made available to improve this busy road and I will be working with Cornwall Council to ensure we make the best use of the money available and improve safety as a priority.

I am pleased to have had some success in helping Cornwall Council spend some of the money that the Government has made available to it, notably on Treloggan Industrial Estate, where Cornwall Council finally got it right after a couple of goes and the surface is now looking much better.
However, I have been concerned to hear from local residents and businesses around Newquay that there are more and more problems occurring and that Cornwall Council seems ill-inclined to take action here.

Just recently we have seen headlines in the local press that the resort’s roads have    been ‘left to rot’. This at a time, where Cornwall Council in other areas, including Truro, has recently found the money to make numerous improvements to the roads and public highways.

Newquay, as I am sure you will know is a huge income generator for the coffers of Cornwall Council. County Hall takes, takes and takes again from the town, which with its numerous council car parks and other facilities is the gift that keeps on giving. And I am sure I am not the only one who feels frustrated when the Council wastes hundreds of thousands of pounds on unwanted parking consultations but then tells us it cannot afford to paint a few road markings in Newquay.

I have now written to the Head of Transport at Cornwall Council and asked for some urgent action to be taken in Newquay and the surrounding area. I do not believe it is fair that should continue to prioritise its spending away from the town and believe that now is the time for action to be taken to address this. I look  forward to hearing back from the Council and to be able to update you on their response shortly, but rest assured in the meantime, I will continue to do all I can to support the people of Newquay both on this matter and elsewhere.

There is much more to be done but I is good to see some progress being made and I will continue to fight our corner both with national Government and Cornwall Council to get the investment in our roads we need.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Newspaper column 30 November - Care Homes

Last week I was shocked and appalled to see the Panorama documentary on Clinton House, a care home run by the Morleigh Group in St Austell, and the neglect and abuse that has occurred there.
Although I had been made aware of the investigation when Cornwall Council closed Clinton House down earlier this month, to actually see the covert filming of what went on in the care home was horrific and physically sickened me. Having had a relative in a Morleigh home before I can only imagine what the residents and their families must be going through.

Now that we are aware of these awful incidents, as MP I want to ensure that something like this does not happen again, through Mid-Cornwall and indeed across the country.

Some have commented that this is purely a funding issue but I know that just throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away is not the answer to everything. What has happened here is, in my mind symptomatic of a system where the operators of a care home or group have allowed a culture of endemic neglect and abuse to exist. There are many care homes run with the same funding model across Cornwall that provide excellent care.

The vast majority of people who work in care homes are dedicated and caring people and we shouldn’t allow this to detract from the excellent work being done in the majority of homes across Cornwall. However we also need to address weaknesses where we find them.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the body responsible for the inspection of care homes to ensure they are being run correctly. After having considered what has happened over a prolonged period of time, I believe the inspection process is flawed. In this case, the CQC investigated Morleigh Group care homes, including Clinton House and the other establishments subsequently identified and closed in the following investigation, 22 times over the last two years. Yet it took Panorama to uncover the abuse that was taking place here. Obviously there is a problem with the system.

Specifically, I think there is a culture of cover up that needs to be exposed. Both staff and families of residents need a way of making their concerns heard and addressed without fear of reprisals. Whilst I had not been contacted by constituents with concerns about the Morleigh Group prior to the Panorama airing, I have now been contacted by a number of families of residents and former care home workers, with disturbing stories of their experiences.

The day after the Panorama investigation was shown I met with the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and the Minister for Care David Mowatt to discuss what can be done to safeguard residents and their families from abuse like this in the future. I subsequently met with management from the CQC this Monday to raise my concerns over the inspection process and will be feeding the outcome of this meeting back to the Secretary of State in the coming week.

Make no mistake about it, the Panorama programme and the investigation that came from it has cast a dark shadow across certain care homes in Cornwall. As I have said in the past treating people with respect and dignity cost nothing. As MP I will do all I can to work with those involved to ensure lessons are learned, safeguards are put in place and everything possible is done to make sure that this does not happen again. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Newspaper column 23 November 2016 - Using my vote to protect Cornish constituencies!

This week I thought I would write about the recent developments regarding the Boundary Commission and their proposed changes, which would currently see a new Parliamentary constituency created that crosses between Devon and Cornwall.

When I first wrote about these changes, back in September, I said that I was disappointed with the new seats as proposed, especially the cross border seat. I said  that I understood and shared the very strong feelings the people of Cornwall have about this issue, was aware that there were challenges to these plans being discussed and would continue to monitor developments closely to decide what I could realistically achieve to change these plans. 

I have been on record as opposing these changes since 2011, before I even became a candidate to be MP. My opposition has not changed but what I needed to do was decide upon how I could best make an actual impact and make a stand against them.

After carefully considering the various arguments that have been made against a ‘cross-border’ seat I came to the conclusion that the only way I could actually make an impact and affect the change that I feel is needed is by voting to change the legislation. This is because the many arguments made against a cross-border seat, while powerful and emotional, simply do not carry legal weight under the current legislation.

As an MP one of the most important things I can do is use my vote to affect change in Parliament. I therefore decided to use my vote last Friday, voting against the Government in the Private Members’ Bill, Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendments) as a first step to getting the legislation that will lead to a cross-border constituency changed.

Apart from the physical changes of the constituency boundaries, I also do not agree with the idea of reducing the number of MPs, particularly in the current political climate.

If we are proposing to reduce the numbers of MPs purely for financial reasons, to cut the cost of politics – we are already doing so by voting to leave the EU and therefore losing 73 MEPs. Of course their workload will be absorbed back into the work of existing MPs. I also think that if we are looking at reducing the numbers at Westminster we should instead look at reducing the numbers of Peers that sit in the unelected House of Lords, which I do not believe should have more members than the elected House of Commons.

I was pleased to see the vote go in favour of the amendment, which will mean this legislation will continue through Parliament. I will continue to keenly follow this Bill as it progresses and do all I can to support it.

I have always said that I am a Cornishman first and a Conservative second. As MP I can use my position to speak up and vote in Parliament where I think I can best affect change. This is one of those occasions when I believe that speaking up for Cornwall is the best thing to do even if it means disagreeing with the Government and so that is what I have done.

To read my speech in full on Hansard, see the following link below:

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Newspaper column 16 November 2016 - The US election result

Over the past week there has been one story that everyone has been talking about – the political earthquake that was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.

Although many appear to have been surprised at this result I always had a gut feeling he could and would win.

There is no doubt there has been a major shift in politics in 'the west' over the last year or so.

Polling companies are consistently calling it wrong. First we had the 2015 General Election with a majority Conservative Government returned against ‘all odds’, then the vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in the recent referendum and now President Trump’s victory on the other side of the Atlantic.

The old rules about how people vote have changed. Many people do not want business as usual, to maintain the same status quo, or indeed the same old big government. The electorate are happy to take a risk in order to break the established order.

The reaction by many who probably should know better shows they haven't understood that a shift has happened in the political landscape.

From political parties saying they will ignore the referendum and stay in the EU to others calling voters who voted for Brexit or Trump names, there has been a somewhat predictable backlash from what some have called the ‘liberal elite’ and their celebrity backers.

Apart from anything else I do not find it sensible to insult the electorate in this way. After all people rarely change their minds to vote for the person who has insulted them!

All politicians need to remember we are only in our job because of the electorate - you are the boss. Too often politicians can give the impression that they know best.

As an example, the result of the referendum was clear – we as a country have decided to leave the EU. I believe we now need to get on and implement this decision. I find it unbelievable that some political leaders are not only seeking to delay this decision, but saying they will actively work to ignore it and keep us in the EU.

All this does in my view is deepen the divide between the electorate and those in power.
I often think to myself that I chose an interesting time to get into politics. But in these turbulent times we can either embrace the changes that are happening or we can resist them. History, I believe, shows that we cannot resist changes of this nature when they happen. So I for one welcome the challenge and am more determined than ever to listen and work to represent this area as best I can.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Newspaper column 9 November 2016 - Remembrance Day

This coming weekend we step back and reflect on Remembrance Day.

This year is particularly moving as we commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
The Battle of the Somme took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

On top of this, the futility of the trench warfare tactics was readily apparent here. Although it was initial cast as an allied victory, in fact the British and French had advanced about 6 miles and the war would drag on for another two years.

As I wrote last year, Captain Agar-Robartes, the sitting MP for mid-Cornwall when he died on 30th September 1915 as a result of injuries sustained in battle.  Born 20 years after the end of the Second World War, I can only imagine what it must have been like to live through conflict, either as a combatant or at home, waiting for loved ones to return.

Of course it isn’t just about the Great War. Like many people my grandfather served in the Second World War and experienced the horrors of war in the Navy. My thoughts are always drawn to him on Remembrance Day as I recall the few occasions he told us about his experiences.

The men and women of our armed forces also continue to serve and protect to this very day. With extremists such as ISIS in the Middle-East, it is a shame that global peace still remains distant.

I am very aware of the responsibility being an MP brings, to make the right and at times difficult decisions when it comes to the defence of our nation and protection of others in an ever more dangerous world. The decision as to when and how to deploy troops is brought home on Remembrance Day.   This is a responsibility I intend to take extremely seriously.

As usual many communities will be marking Remembrance Sunday this weekend with parades and services.  My team and I will be honoured to join the parades and then to lay wreaths across Mid-Cornwall.

This weekend is about remembrance.  Let us remember the men and women who gave their lives for us in the past and honour those who continue to risk their lives today.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Monday, 7 November 2016

Updated Statement from Steve Double MP regarding The Boundary Commissions proposals

When I issued my initial statement regarding the proposed Parliamentary boundary changes in Cornwall on 28th September, I made clear that I shared the strong feeling that many people in Cornwall felt about these changes.

I also stated that I would consider how best to work to change these plans.

Over the past few weeks I have had several discussions both with people locally in Cornwall and in Westminster, including Government Ministers, to seek the best way forward.

The reality is that the legislation for these new boundaries was passed by the previous coalition government. The way the legislation is set leaves very little room for any flexibility in the size and therefore the number and make up of the constituencies in Cornwall.

We need to remember that these are legal arguments and we have to be realistic about the reasons they can be effectively opposed. I have considered the various arguments put forward seeking to oppose the new boundaries. Unfortunately, none of them contain valid legal reasons to prevent them.

Like many people, I had hoped that the Minority Status the Cornish people now enjoy would provide a legal argument to oppose the cross border seat with Devon. Sadly, legal advice obtained by Cornwall Council has stated that this is not the case.

However, despite there being no clear legal reasons to oppose these plans, in my heart, as a Cornishman, I know they feel wrong. And I know this feeling is shared by many people in Cornwall.

This is an emotional response that comes from the deep pride and passion we feel about our identity.

There are only two places where we can express our views on this issue that will make any difference – in Parliament and to the Boundary Commission.

It is my privilege and honour to be the voice of the constituency of St Austell and Newquay in Parliament. Be assured that I have been making your views known and will continue to do so. Much of the work in Parliament is carried out in individual meetings. However, there will be opportunities for these views to be expressed in public debate in the coming months and I will take these opportunities as they occur, whenever I can.

If you have views on these boundaries please contacted me and make me aware of them so that I can represent you –

The first opportunity for me to express the views that I and many local people have on these proposals will be today at the South West Boundary Commission Consultation in Exeter. I am pleased to confirm that I will be attending this consultation. A copy of the oral presentation I will be making there is below.


Oral Submission to the South West Boundary Commission by Steve Double MP

My name is Steve Double and I am the sitting MP for the constituency of St Austell and Newquay in mid-Cornwall.

I understand the legal restrictions that the Boundary Commission has had to work within in drawing up these proposals. The legislation passed by the previous coalition government is highly restrictive and leaves little room for manoeuvre in Cornwall.

I do have a number of concerns with regards to the current proposals and the way they impact on the constituency I represent. However, due to the way the rules have to be applied I cannot see any other way of dividing up the boundaries that would produce a better outcome local residents would prefer.

I do still wish to place on record the concerns I have, both for my own sake, and on behalf of the people of St Austell and Newquay that I represent and the wider people of Cornwall.
Of particular concern to people locally is the splitting up of what are locally known as the ‘Clay Villages’. These are the villages of St Stephen, St Dennis, Foxhole, Nanpean, Whitemoor, Roche, Bugle, Indian Queens and Fraddon.

These villages form a tight knit community bound together by their shared history as being the centre of the china clay mining industry for over 150 years. They have a great deal in common both historically and also today.

It is very disappointing that the current rules mean that there appears to be no way of making up the constituencies in mid-Cornwall that enable these villages to remain in the same constituency.

But I wanted to place on record my concern on this and also specifically the views of St Austell Town Council, whom I know have written to the commission directly, on this point.
But of far greater concern to the people of Cornwall is the matter of the proposed cross border constituency between North East Cornwall and North West Devon.

As I am sure the commission is aware by now this issue provokes strong feelings for many, myself included.

Now I will admit that having looked at the case being put forward against the cross-border seat, many of the arguments are not valid reasons within the current legislative framework.
I do not believe that Cornwall’s democratic representation will somehow be weakened by sharing an MP with part of Devon as some claim. Cornwall has had a cross border seat since MPs existed – with the Isles of Scilly. I married a Scillonian and no one has ever suggested to me that the islands lack political representation as a result of sharing an MP with west Cornwall. Nor that somehow Cornwall’s border is compromised by sharing an MP to the west.

Many MPs across the country represent areas that are diverse and have communities from very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a single constituency.

I have no doubt that an MP would be completely capable of representing people from east Cornwall and west Devon effectively.

The Cornish border is not moving and part of Cornwall is not joining Devon as some would say. This is about a line on a map that only shows the area an MP will represent – nothing more.

Like many, I had hoped that the protected Minority Status afforded to the Cornish people would provide a basis for a legal challenge. Sadly, legal advice obtained by Cornwall Council has stated that our Cornish Minority Status is not something that can be used to argue against a cross border seat.

So, despite all of the rhetoric, in my view, there are very weak reasoned legal arguments against this proposal.

I have grappled with this matter for the past few weeks. I have had to ask myself the question, if there are not reasonable arguments against this why do I, like so many other proud Cornishmen, feel so strongly about this matter?

I think I have to be honest and admit it is a deep emotional response. 

The objection to this proposal for a cross border seat with Devon is something we Cornish people feel. There may be no way of articulating it in words that have any weight with the boundary commission, but that does not mean we feel it any less.

The trouble is that when these maps are drawn they are done so following strict legal guidelines. They are drawn using population statistics, percentages and maps. Those guidelines do not capture the pride and passion we, the people of Cornwall, feel.

And so I am simply here today to try to express to you a clear message that I hope you can take away and feed back to the Government. I will be doing the same within Parliament, but I wanted the commission to hear it as well.

In the strongest possible terms the people of Cornwall object to any proposals for a constituency that crosses the Cornwall-Devon border.

It is no real surprise that people who do not share the way we feel find it difficult to comprehend how strongly we feel about this issue. Cornwall is unique so how can we expect others to understand.

We accept others will not understand. We accept others will not agree with us. But what we cannot accept is our views not being respected.

Do not under estimate how deeply many Cornish people about this issue.

It somehow stabs at the very core of the way we feel about our county as Cornish men and women. We feel it is challenging our identity.

That in-built deep sense of Cornish independence is provoked by the thought of our border being crossed. Even though it is only a line on a map – it symbolises something far deeper in the Cornish psyche.

Sadly, under the current restrictions contained in the legislation, I reluctantly admit I cannot find any valid reasons to oppose the current proposals. If they are to go ahead I cannot offer a better alternative under the current rules.

But my message is, please do not go ahead with these changes as proposed. Please find a way to change them, in order to enable the boundaries to be drawn along the Cornish border.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Child refugees from Calais

 Last week on the 26th October, the French authorities started to dismantle the camp known as the ‘Jungle’. I believe this was the right thing to do as it should never have occurred in the first place. The reasons for the Jungle are complex but are partly down weak internal boarders across the EU and French law enforcement turning a blind eye for too long.    

With regards to the children in the Jungle in Calais. UK authorities have been working with the French and charities in the camp to establish if any of the children have family connections or relatives in the UK. If they do then they will be allowed to come into the UK. Once in they will either be taken to their relatives or if a family placement is found to be unsuitable, the child will be placed into Local Authority care through the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Transfer scheme.

Some people in the media and elsewhere have commentated about the age of those who are coming into the UK and have asked for dental checks.  Where credible and clear documentary evidence of age is not available, criteria including physical appearance and demeanour are used as part of the interview process to assess age.  We do not use dental x-rays to confirm the ages of those seeking asylum in the UK as this process has been described as inaccurate by The British Dental Association. 

The remaining people in Calais will be offered places around France so they can be properly processed by the French asylum and immigration system. It is important to separate those who are fleeing violence as they are asylum seekers, and those who are economic migrants who do not have the right to be in France. The Government is committed to doing our fair share to accept responsibility for those with links to the UK, as expressed in the Dublin regulation.  If we take every refugee directly from Europe we encourage more migrants to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean that cost over 3,600 people their lives last year.

It should be noted, the UK is also taking thousands of the most disadvantaged people in the refugee camps around the Middle East, who have had to flee their homes due to the Syrian Civil war. We are also the second highest contributor to aid for the area, only the United States donates more money. Since 2012, we have spent over £2.3 billion on aid to help the Syrians and surrounding nations cope with the humanitarian disaster caused by President Assad’s forces, ISIS and Russia.


Grouse shooting

I recently led a debate in Westminster Hall, called by over one hundred thousand people signing a petition to ban grouse shooting.

You can read my contribution here: 

In summary I argued against the ban as there is evidence that grouse shooting, not only helps the environment by reducing flooding and increasing biodiversity, but also rural economies who depend on it as a source of income.   

Newspaper column 2 November 2016 - The Prime Minister's visit to Cornwall

Last week I was delighted to welcome the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Mid-Cornwall.

As I have written previously, I was keen to get the Prime Minister to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity, so she could understand first hand some of the unique challenges we face at this end of the country and why it is essential for the Government to continue its unprecedented investment in the county and the south west region in general.

It is significant that the Prime Minister chose to come to Cornwall so early in her term and reaffirm the government’s commitment to our county. When I recently questioned her in Parliament, the Prime Minister specifically mentioned that her ‘economy that works for all’ includes Cornwall, and my time spent with her last week reinforced that commitment.

Last Tuesday the Prime Minister made the courageous, long-delayed decision to confirm that a third runway at Heathrow is the preferred option for airport capacity expansion in the South East.

This decision is not just about what is right for London but for the country as a whole. I have always believed that expanding Heathrow is the right move for the country and particularly for Cornwall. A route from Cornwall Airport Newquay to Heathrow would immeasurably improve Cornwall’s connections to not only London and the rest of the country, but also to the major international air hub that Heathrow is. Improving our connectivity for both people and goods is a key to future economic growth.

I was pleased to see the Prime Minister start her visit to the South West at Cornwall Airport Newquay. The Prime Minister said on Heathrow’s expansion that,  Not only will it allow the South West's exporters to reach new markets around the world and encourage new tourism investment, it will also bring the prospect of cheaper and more convenient holiday trips to all corners of the globe.’

This is a win-win situation to me. Cornwall Airport Newquay continues to grow, with another route opening only last week, and I look forward to continuing to work with its management and the Government to encourage its own expansion, as well as working towards the other positive improvements outlined above, in the future.

Of course a decision on airport expansion is not the only way in which we are looking to improve Cornwall’s connectivity. The Prime Minister has been vocal about putting the South West at the heart of the Government’s transport investment plans.
A major part of the Conservative 2015 manifesto was a commitment to transport improvements. In Cornwall this included improvements to the A30 and our railway network.  

Of the £15bn government investment in the national road network, the dualling of the A30 is part of the largest single project. By 2018 the Government will also have provided the funding to replace the old Intercity trains on the Penzance-Paddington route with new rolling stock that will be quicker, more reliable and more comfortable than the current trains that are now 40 years old.
With Brexit talk still dominating the headlines I was also pleased to be part of a meeting at Cornwall Airport Newquay with the Prime Minister along with Cornwall Council and business leaders. I felt this was really positive and we presented a clear positive view to the Prime Minister of the massive potential Cornwall has post Brexit.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Newspaper column 19 October 2016 - Questioning the PM on funding for Cornwall

The Brexit debate rumbles on. Last week I was pleased to be able to ask the Prime Minister, at the first PMQ’s after the conference recess, for an update on post-EU funding for Cornwall.

One of the key questions asked by people in Cornwall since the referendum has been whether the UK Government would be committed to support the Cornish economy following the ending of funding through the EU.

Despite several rounds of European Regional Development funding the Cornish economy still lags around 30% below the UK average. In my mind this points to the failure of the European funding that we have had in the past to really make any difference to the people and businesses that really need them.

The previous rounds of EU funding that we did get were meant to create 10,000 new jobs in Cornwall. In fact, in the past 10 years or so, it has helped created only around a third of that number. That Cornwall has now qualified for a third round of EU economic aid demonstrates that the funding is failing. It is not lifting the Cornish economy as it was supposed to do and has not raised wages or the standard of living in the way it was designed to.

There are some very practical reasons for that failure. We are not able to spend the funding on what we need to in Cornwall. How we should spend it has been dictated, Big Brother fashion, by the EU. The EU funding we had was designed for a Europe-wide programme that does not fit the Cornish economy and often applicants were forced to fit proverbial round pegs into square holes in order to try to access the money.

As an example, what Cornwall really needs in larger businesses moving into our Duchy that will bring significant investment and job creation. However the current round of funding through the EU excludes larger businesses – the very thing we actually need. 

Throughout the referendum campaign I argued that should we vote to leave the European Union, we would have the potential to replace European funding with our own regional economic programme that would be less bureaucratic, more effectively targeted and better value for money for the British taxpayer.

With this in mind I asked the Prime Minister whether she agreed with me that Brexit will allow the Government to bring in just such a programme, as well as whether she could provide an assurance that her government will continue to invest in the poorer parts of the country like Cornwall once we leave the EU.

In response the Prime Minister provided me with the reassurance that in line with her goal for an economy that works for everyone, for every part of our country including areas like Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, she would be open to further discussions with Cornwall on ways in which the Government can improve the Cornish economy for the future.

I am pleased that the Prime Minister has been clear she will continue to work with us to ensure we deliver what Cornwall needs. I believe we have an opportunity to develop an economic programme that will be more effective than what we have had in the past through the EU. There are many other aspects of our Brexit negotiations to consider with them in the last week seemingly encompassing everything from immigration to the price of marmite. I will do all I can to make sure Cornwall gets the best deal for our future.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The sale of kittens

I totally agree that kittens and other pets should be sold in good condition and well looked after. Currently under the law it is a criminal offence to keep any animal in a poor condition or cause any unnecessary stress to animals. This includes not treating any diseases, underfeeding or inappropriate housing/environment.

The Government has produced a guide for buying a cat or dog. It gives advice on what to look for when buying a pet to make sure the illegal trade in animals isn’t being fuelled. You can look at it here: 

The next time I meet with the Minister responsible, George Eustice, I will raise the point about kittens not being included in the review of legislation.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Newspaper column 12 October 2016 - The Prime Minister's speech

Last week was the Conservative Party conference and our new Prime Minister’s first real chance to lay out her vision for our country.

In her closing speech she presented a vision of a country that works for everyone and touched on a number of key issues and steps to achieving this.

It marked a shift in emphasis after six years where we have had to address the deep financial challenges the country was facing in 2010. Although there is clearly still work to be done in ensuring our country lives within its means, Theresa May clearly intendeds to look to the future and the type of country she wants to build. I welcome this.

The biggest issue facing us as a country is clearly implementing the decision by the British people to leave the EU. I was pleased that the Prime Minister sent a clear message that we will respect the democratically made decision and ignore those who are calling for it to be rerun, cast aside or fudged. We will be leaving the EU and we now have a timetable for when this decision will be implemented - in the first part of next year. This will be followed by a Great Repeal Bill that will legally pave the way for us to leave the EU and re-establish the sovereignty of the UK Parliament over all matters that are currently controlled by Brussels.

The PM also made clear that she understood that the referendum result was not just about leaving the EU. It was a deeper expression of people’s frustrations and anger at the disconnection people feel to the political systems, along with the desire for us as a country to take back control over our own affairs, especially in areas such as immigration.

This will be a lengthy process which will have any number of twists and bumps in the road. But I believe Theresa May has shown that she gets it and will deliver on Brexit.

Other highlights from the Prime Minister's speech include an announcement to continue to reform welfare and the changes to assessments for ESA as I wrote about last week, reform of corporate governance to ensure all businesses are run accountably and with long-term interest clearly in mind, strengthening workers’ rights, bold new education reforms – so that every child has the chance to go to a good, local school and that they are not held back by where they live or how much money their parents have and continuing to invest in our NHS – £10 billion extra over this Parliament, which is only possible because of the strong economic foundations we have built.

I am proud to be part of the Government that is working to achieve the Prime Minister’s vision and look forward to continuing to practically apply it for the good of Cornwall.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Newspaper column 5 October 2016 - Changes to ESA

This week the Conservative Party held our annual Conference, which today concludes in Birmingham. As usual there have been a number of announcements of new policies. There was one in particular that I was very pleased to hear.

As your Member of Parliament a great deal of my time is taken helping and supporting people who encounter issues with the systems for claiming benefits there are entitled to.

One of the issues that I most often encounter has been with constituents encountering delays and processing issues with their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims.

ESA was brought in by the last Labour Government in 2008 as a replacement to Incapacity Benefit. It is the benefit that people claim when they need support as they are unable to work due to illness. When ESA was first brought in there were many problems with its operation, which the Coalition Government set to fixing, not least the lack of focus on mental health disorders. ESA in 2016 is much more fit for purpose than in 2008 but there is still more work to be done.

One particular issue that has concerned me since I have been an MP has been the requirement for ESA claimants to be re-assessed regularly even when their condition was clearly a long term illness or disability with little chance of improving. I was pleased then that last weekend the Work and Pensions Secretary announced that people claiming ESA who have chronic conditions, that are unlikely to get well, will no longer have to attend repeat assessments to determine whether they are still eligible to claim the benefit. That people did have to attend multiple assessments, when they had conditions that were never going to get better, and in fact often only get worse, did strike me as being counter-productive and something which hindered those who we should be trying to help. Since becoming MP I have lobbied DWP Ministers many times on this issue and am pleased to see that the Government has now listened and made the changes that were needed.

The challenge now is to ensure our benefits system remains there to not only help and provide for those people who are unable to return to work but also support those who are able to get back and find a job. I am a passionate believer that for the vast majority of people claiming benefit, we should be doing more for them than just paying them money to live. Providing a package of support, not just monetary, for those who are able to return to work is a much more positive way of helping those who need it. I will continue to work both in Cornwall and in Westminster to ensure the benefits system is one that is fair for all.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Newspaper column 28th September 2016 - The Boundary Commission’s proposals and how they will impact on Cornwall

Making the headlines in the last couple of weeks have been the Boundary Commission’s proposals for the reduction of Parliamentary seats and Members of Parliament.

This has caused particular controversy in Cornwall because the proposals include the creation of a ‘cross-border’ Parliamentary constituency between Devon and Cornwall.

These initial proposals have been published by the Boundary Commission and have been carried out as a legal requirement under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. This was passed before I was elected, by the previous Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition Government. The Boundary Commission is an independent body that decides on the Parliamentary and local government seats. As such their proposals are made based on certain criteria as set up in the legislation.

The reason that a cross border seat is necessary under this legislation is because the Act stipulates that the number of constituencies must decrease from 650 to 600, with every constituency having an electorate of within 5 percent of the national average, which in England must be around 74,000 people.

The country is split into regions in order to allocate the correct number of seats. When this rule is applied to Cornwall, with our current population, we are too big for 5 seats but do not have a large enough population to have the six seats we currently have on our own. Therefore under the current legislation there is a legal requirement for a shared seat with Devon.

There is now a lengthy process, which includes a number of rounds of public consultation, which the people of Cornwall can take part in, before a final decision is reached.

I am disappointed with the new seats as proposed, especially the cross border seat.

There are many reasons for my disappointment, not least that I believe with the current population growth forecasts, the figures this review is based on, will be inaccurate. This review is based on the electoral roll at it stood in December 2015. Since then we have seen over 2 million new people added to the register across the country before the referendum in June. My concern is that by the time the boundary changes are implemented the actual numbers of people living across Cornwall could be much closer to those that would allow us to have six seats within Cornwall alone. However more importantly to me would be the crossing of a historical line, in more ways than one in the proposals for a cross-border seat. The proposals have met with a good deal of criticism from across the political and public spectrum in Cornwall for precisely this reason.

Whilst I fully support the principle of the equal representation of voters through Parliamentary seats all being of a similar size, I also understand and share the very strong feelings the people of Cornwall have about this issue.  I am aware that there are challenges to these plans being discussed. I will continue to monitor developments closely and concern what might be realistically achieved to change these plans. 

Details of the initial proposals and the consultation process can be found via the Commission's website here: 

I would certainly encourage anyone who is interested in the future of Cornwall’s Parliamentary representation to make their views known.

Monday, 26 September 2016

NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Since coming to power in 2010, firstly the coalition Government then the majority Conservative Government has increased spending on the NHS. During the course of this Parliament (2015-2020), spending will increase by an extra £10 billion. This year, the increase in health funding is 4% in real terms – three times the rate of inflation. The real point however, is not to do with money- however much the Conservatives put in and however much Labour says it will put in, it is down to the NHS being effectively managed.

STPs are about building a health and care system for local needs. Last year, the NHS outlined a new approach to try and better integrate health and social care. This is where the STPs come in. STPs will help drive genuine improvements and sustainable outcomes for patients based on local requirements, they will take into account of the scale needed to deliver the public health services required to improve patient outcomes with complex health and social care needs.  

Some organisations such as 38 Degrees have argued STPs are a secret process and a Trojan horse for privatisation. This is incorrect, STPs were announced in December 2015, in the NHS planning guidelines on the NHS website. Despite what Labour and 38 Degrees say ad infinitum, the NHS is not being privatised, it will still be free at the point of need and funded out of general taxation.

Thank you for contacting me about the NHS and STPs. If you would like to know more information about the issue, you can read more here: