Wednesday, 27 January 2016
Last week in Parliament saw the Psychoactive Substances Bill successfully negotiate its third reading. The Bill is likely to come into force as early as April this year and will effectively ban the so-called “legal highs” as it seeks to ban all substances that have a “psychoactive effect”.
During the course of last year I was made aware that substances that provide legal highs are readily available on our high streets. A few minutes of investigative work proved this to be true, and I was shocked to see how easy it was to buy these substances on the high street in St Austell and Newquay.
While legal highs come with many health warnings and cannot be marketed for human consumption, they were readily available for sale. I was pleased at the time to raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs, which resulted in the withdrawal of their sale in St Austell town centre.
Britain uses more psychoactive substances than any other country in Europe and is at risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this problem. A countrywide ban as contemplated in the Psychoactive Substances Bill, is the right and sensible next step.
The Bill will introduce a blanket ban on the production, supply, and possession with the intent to supply, and import and export, of psychoactive substances. These measures mean that the availability of legal highs will be severely restricted; effectively the supply will be cut.
The Bill is not intended to criminalise those who use legal highs for recreation and therefore simple possession is not an offence under the Bill. While civil and criminal sanctions are included in the Bill, they are aimed at the larger suppliers of legal highs.
The Bill seeks to shift the boundary between legal and illegal substances, and includes a list of a number of substances that will be explicitly exempted from the controls in the Bill. These include alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. The Bill also provides order-making powers for the Secretary of State to add substances to this list. It is likely that the scope of this legislation will continue to evolve.
The passage of the Bill has been accompanied by controversy, with the main counter argument being that use of legal highs will continue, but will be forced underground. While I recognize that this is possible, I believe that the benefits of this Bill outweigh the costs.
It cannot be right that chemical substances that mimic illegal drugs are readily available on our high streets, and I was therefore happy to support this Bill.
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Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Last week the Prime Minister gave a speech on the Government’s Life Chances Strategy. He outlined the principles that will be used to drive more detailed policies that will be announced later this year. I have heard him speak on this topic in the past and his words strike a chord with me every time I listen to them.
He began the speech by laying out what he called the two forms of 20th century thinking; “This fixation on welfare – the state writing a cheque to push people’s incomes just above the poverty line – this treated the symptoms, not the causes of poverty; and, over time, it trapped some people in dependency.
“The second approach is the more free market one – the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats. Both approaches had one thing in common. They focused on the economics, and ignored the social. They missed that human dimension to poverty: the social causes, the reasons people can get stuck, and become isolated.”
I agree with this analysis and wholeheartedly support the One Nation thinking that means that the Conservative Government will tackle the causes of poverty, both economic and social.
The Prime Minister continued; “Work is – and always will be – the best route out of poverty and with welfare reform, Universal Credit, tax cuts and the introduction of the National Living Wage, we are making sure that it always pays to work. And we’ll continue to tackle the scourge of worklessness in Britain including by reforming the way we support people who fall ill, so that they can stay in work and aren’t just consigned to a life stuck on benefits.”
The strengthening economy is important, but will only go so far, it is the social issues that need to be addressed and social issues are harder to tackle than economic ones.
The Prime Minister identified the four strands of social reform that the Government will be focusing on; “First, we must think much more radically about improving family life and the early years. Second, when we know the importance not just acquiring knowledge, but also developing character and resilience there can be no let-up in our mission to create an education system that is genuinely fit for the 21st century.
“Third, it’s now so clear that social connections and experiences are vitally important in helping people get on. And fourth, when we know that so many of those in poverty have specific, treatable problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, poor mental health we’ve got to offer the right support, including to those in crisis.”
I agree with all of the sentiments, indeed I campaigned on them myself. I remain convinced that support for parents and children in their early years helps pave the way for a life out of poverty; that education supports this aim and that improving social connections will help our young people to realize their dreams. And when people need help, they should get it, we should fight to ensure that issues like mental health and addiction no longer carry a stigma, but are treated in the same way as other health issues.
I am delighted that the Prime Minister has clearly set out his determination to address these causes of poverty and I look forward to working with him to bringing about the changes we need.
Monday, 18 January 2016
I have been contacted by a number of people in relation to my decision to vote against a Labour amendment regarding rented accommodation.
Firstly, it goes without saying that everyone should be able to expect to live in a home that is safe and fit for purpose. But I strongly believe that the only thing the proposed amendment would have achieved is to hinder further investment in such properties and push up rents for tenants, which would have proved totally counter-productive.
It is also worth noting that local authorities, such as Cornwall Council, already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality accommodation and the Government have made it clear they expect them to use them.
Additionally, it has already been confirmed that the Government will carry out research to see what, if any, legislative changes and amendments for such requirements in the private rented sector should be introduced.
I think it is important to tackle an issue like this at its roots, which is why the recently announced package of measures to either radically transform or knock down some 100 housing estates across the country, replacing them with high-quality homes, is so important. On top of this, the Government have already pledged to build 1 million homes by 2020 and made funds available to take action against rogue landlords.
Far from wanting to keep people in homes that are not fit for purpose, I genuinely believe by taking this action, we can tackle the country’s housing problems, something I am very keen to see happen.
Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Last week the Prime Minister updated Parliament on his latest discussions in the renegotiation of our relationship with the European Union. He also announced that Cabinet Members and Government Ministers are free to campaign on either side of the debate in the EU In/Out Referendum.
It is now likely that this Referendum will be held during 2016, possibly in June or July. This was one of the key commitments in the Conservative election manifesto and I am pleased that we are delivering on it so quickly.
A number of people have asked what my position is on the EU Referendum, and how I will be voting. My position has remained unchanged since I embarked on the journey to become your MP in January 2013. I believe our relationship with the EU is currently no longer working in Britain's best interests. The EU has become increasingly bureaucratic, undemocratic and institutionalised. So much is now driven by ideology that is inconsistent with UK values. If the choice were carry on as we currently are or leave, I would certainly vote to leave.
The Prime Minister is seeking to renegotiate a number of aspects of our relationship. These include; an opt-out from the “every closer union” objective, protection for the UK and other countries who remain outside of the Eurozone, and limits on the benefits paid to EU migrant workers who come to work in this country.
Whilst I welcome these elements of the negotiations, I am disappointed that we are not asking for more. I would like to see a much more fundamental reform that re-establishes the sovereignty of our parliament over the EU Commission.
Clearly there are some benefits to belonging to the EU such as the Free Trade arrangements and access to European markets. Cornwall has also benefited from millions of pounds of EU support. However I believe we have now reached a point where the cost and negative impact of being in the EU outweigh the benefits.
There will be risks in leaving but there are also risks in staying. The future is uncertain and no one can predict what the EU will look like in 5 or 10 years time. The migrant crisis, slow growth and economic instability in the Eurozone, and political changes in individual countries, together create a very real risk that remaining in could drag our country down.
The UK economy is stronger and growing faster than any other EU country; we are in a good position to continue to thrive outside of the EU.
I will wait until the Prime Minister's renegotiations are compete before coming to a decision on how I will vote, but I will need to see more fundamental reform than is currently under discussion before changing my position. Therefore it is likely that I will be voting to leave the EU in the Referendum.
It is important to remember that it is not what the politicians think that matters. This will be an opportunity for the people of this country to have their say on our future relationship with the EU for the first time in 40 years. Your view and your vote will count.
This is your chance to have your say - use it wisely.
Wednesday, 6 January 2016
In my first column of 2016 I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy, prosperous and peaceful New Year.
We live in interesting times and as I look forward to the year ahead I thought it worth sharing my priorities and ambitions for the coming year as your MP.
Across Cornwall we will all watch with interest as the Devolution Deal for Cornwall moves into implementation. With more powers devolved from Westminster, Cornwall Council faces a challenge to ensure that the right skills are in pace to deliver on these new powers. As other powers are devolved to local councils it is important that the necessary structures are put in place to ensure that these councils have the capacity to deal with their new responsibilities and I will take an active role in ensuring this happens.
While Cornwall Airport Newquay had a fantastic 2015, the coming year is shaping up to be even more exciting. At a recent Prime Minister’s Question Time I was able to ask the Prime Minister on the timing of the decision on the location of the UK Spaceport. This process is likely to happen during 2016 and I am working hard at Westminster to lobby for Newquay to be granted this status. I believe that Newquay remains the most obvious choice for the UK Spaceport.
The decision over the third runway at Heathrow has again been delayed. I will continue to press for this to go ahead so that Cornwall can once again have the vital air link to Heathrow.
I will also be watching with interest as the Bloodhound Supersonic Car prepares to come to Newquay. The Bloodhound team is very enthusiastic about the time they will be spending at Newquay testing the car in preparation for the world land speed record attempt in South Africa. They are likely to be at Newquay Airport for at least a month and I encouraged them to make the car available to as many local people as possible during that time. We do not yet know exactly when they will be coming but I know that the Airport team is already planning for their arrival.
I will also be continuing to press the Government to relax the restrictions of families being able to take their children on holiday during term times.
The coming year is likely to be an exciting year for the St Austell Bay Area; the Clay villages, Par and St Blazey, and St Austell Town. Over 76 projects have been identified to move the area forward and these include the scheme at Higher Trewhiddle and the Carlyon Beach development. Work on the A30 link will continue and I will work push forward on each of these projects.
Once again I would like to wish you all a happy new year, let us make it a good one for St Austell and Newquay. My team and I are here to serve and support you in any way we can, so if you think we can help please get in touch: Tel. 01726 829379; email – firstname.lastname@example.org