Wednesday, 30 August 2017
We are now at the end of the summer season and schools will be back next week and I will be heading back to Parliament. But what a great Bank Holiday Weekend we have had to finish off the summer. As is usually the case the past six weeks have flown by but it has been really good to be home in Cornwall and getting around the constituency. One of the real benefits of the summer recess is not only the chance of spending time at home but also to have time to meet local people, visit businesses and charities and catch up with all that is going on locally.
Thank you to everyone who, as always, has made me welcome and taken the time to meet with me.
But now thoughts return to Parliamentary business and what lies ahead and there is no doubt that one issue will dominate as it has done for the past 18 months – Brexit.
Whilst the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU continue, we are expecting to debate and vote on the legislation that will pave the way for us to leave and incorporate current EU legislation and regulation into the UK – what has become known as the Great Repeal Bill. The actual name of the bill is, however, the European Union (withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 and is due to begin its 2nd Reading on 7th September.
This Bill will be one of the most significant and potentially complex pieces of legislation to pass through Parliament for many years. It is bound to be hotly debated and contested but it is essential that we pass this bill in order to ensure continuity and that we are not left with a legal vacuum. By taking all EU laws into the UK law we can provide the certainty businesses will need when we actually leave and then over the coming years decide what changes we wish to make in order to suit the UK.
As we have become custom to, there have been the usual political debate in recent weeks from both sides of this issue. The Government has issued a number of position papers which have provided a clearer picture of the way forward in our negotiations to leave. We have also seen the Labour Party change their position once again and now say that they wish us to remain in the Single Market for an undefined period of time after we leave.
I continue to hold the view that this is not what people voted for on 23rd June last year – especially the 62% of people in our constituency who voted to leave. We voted to regain control of our laws, borders and money. The single market is at the heart of this and if we continue to be a member of the single market we may as well remain in the EU entirely. We would have to continue to be subject to free movement of people and the EU courts and very little would actually change.
Although there is talk of a short transition period to allow business to adjust once we know what our new relationship with the EU will be, I believe this needs to be for as short a period as possible. We need to press on and make a clean break. Anything else would be a denial of the democratic decision our country made in the referendum.
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
We are now in the middle of the summer season – the busiest time of the year for those of us who work in the hospitality and tourist industries supplying services for the many visitors who visit our beautiful part of the world for their holidays.
With this in mind, last week I was pleased to welcome John Glen MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism to Newquay, one of the top tourist destinations in the UK, to show him just how important the tourist industry is to Mid-Cornwall.
In Mid-Cornwall we are proud to have many of the best tourist attractions not just in our Duchy but in the whole country. Along with vibrant visitor destinations such as Newquay and Fowey, we also have historic harbours such as Mevagissey and Charlestown, attractions such as the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project and beautiful beaches such as those at Par and Crantock.
In Cornwall, the hospitality and tourism industry accounts for 37,000 jobs and sustaining further jobs in other sectors dependent on hospitality and tourism. Between 2010 and 2014 the industry created 3,523 jobs in Cornwall and 1 in 5 new jobs nationwide. It is the biggest industry and economical driver in our county.
During the visit I took the Minister to meet with local tourism business leaders to press the case about how vital tourism is for not just Newquay, but Cornwall as a whole, and what the Government is doing to support it. It was good to welcome representatives from Visit Cornwall, the Headland Hotel, Cornwall Airport Newquay and the Eden Project, all major organisations that do so much to promote and grow Brand Cornwall as one of the top international destinations for people from across the world.
Of course, as we were in Newquay during the summer I also persuaded the Minister to come body boarding with me at Watergate Bay. It’s not often that you can get a Minister in a wetsuit to catch some waves, but he told me he really enjoyed his experience!
As well as bringing Ministers down to Mid-Cornwall, to show them first-hand how important tourism is to our area, I also work in Parliament to promote and support the industry.
One of the ways I can do this is in my capacity of Chair of the Visitor Economy All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). This group provides an opportunity for MPs from all parties to work with the tourism industry to make sure their voice is heard loud and clear, on matters locally and nationally that matter to them. We aim to actively support and promote the visitor economy by working with the Government to bring forward measures and incentives to support domestic and international in-bound tourism.
As we look to the future, returning to Parliament after Summer Recess and also to Brexit and beyond, I will be doing all I can, both in Cornwall and in Westminster to promote and support the tourist industry.
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
One question that I am often asked is how MPs spend their time during the Summer recess when Parliament is not sitting. I see it as an opportunity to get out into our constituency and meet as many people as possible, visiting businesses, charities and residents to provide support and listen to the various concerns.
For example, last week I met with the organisers of the Boardmasters Festival ahead of this event, which brings in so many visitors and millions of pounds to the local economy. I also met the Foxhole Village Green Committee to look at their work in maintaining this valuable green space. I visited the team at Cornwall Airport Newquay to discuss the ways in which I can continue to support them, and went to Little Harbour Children’s Hospice near St Austell to talk about the excellent work they do. I also took the opportunity to meet with Ocean Housing and get a look around one of their new housing developments. Then on Friday night I went out on patrol with the Police based in St Columb which provided a very interesting insight into the challenges of neighbourhood policing in rural areas.
I was also pleased to hold one of my regular Meet your MP events at the Hewas Inn in Sticker. I have held many of these events since my election in 2015. They are an opportunity to meet with local residents in an informal setting and have a chat about the issues, local and national, that matter to you.
In Sticker, for example I took questions on subjects as diverse as foreign aid and defence spending to speeding on local roads and planning. I have had good feedback from these events and people who have attended tell me they have found them interesting and informative and a good way to keep in touch with me as their Member of Parliament.
My team in the constituency office are now helping me deal with those issues raised at that event. This is a vital part of an MP’s work that goes on from week to week.
I will be holding another Meet your MP event at the Blue Anchor Inn in Fraddon, between 6pm- 8pm on Thursday 24th August. Please do come along if you would like to see me and have a chat about the issues, local and national that are important to you.
Since my election in 2015 my team has helped with more than 3,000 individual cases, including recouping many thousands of pounds of benefits for families needing support and securing housing for families in crisis.
As well as looking at personal issues for individuals and households, my team can also take up issues including national policy. The real life experiences of local people helps me understand the impact of Government policies that I can use to help shape and inform my own opinion when it comes to shaping future policies.
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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or contact me on either 01726 829379 or email@example.com. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Growing up in this part of Cornwall I have lots of happy memories from my childhood. Many of them were from days when my cousins, friends and I would head out on various adventures on the sea at the coast or the woodlands that surround us.
As I look back I am amazed at the freedom we enjoyed in those days. When we were young teenagers we would often head out on our bikes first thing in the morning, on a weekend or during schools holidays, and not return until early evening. That freedom did sometimes result in us getting into a few scrapes and the odd bruise or graze or hairy situations.
However, the sense of adventure and the lessons were learnt have stood us in good stead. We learnt to assess risks and make choices for ourselves. We discovered our own limitations and the ability to challenge ourselves.
When our own boys were growing up we wanted to make sure they also got to experience the adventures that living in Cornwall can offer and tried to give them as much freedom as possible to be independent.
I was therefore very interested to read the recent report from the Chief Inspector of Schools who made the point that we have become over cautious and risk adverse when it comes to raising our children today. We now live in an increasingly litigious society where is seems we are no longer able to have genuine accidents but always look to blame someone and hold them responsible.
We have probably all heard the stories of schools banning conkers or yo-yos because they pose a risk of injury. It seems every activity a school now undertakes has to be preceded by endless risk assessments and measures such as children having to wear hi-vis jackets to simply cross the road.
Now of course we want all reasonable measures possible to be taken to keep our children safe – whether that is when they are at school or when in our care as parents. But I cannot help feel that we have gone too far now.
I am aware that today's world does present new dangers for children but we are also better able to keep in touch with them and for them to contact us in the event of any problems with mobile communications.
As the report I mentioned states if we continue to insulate our children from the realities of life we do them no favours in the end. They need to experience the challenges of life for themselves, including the odd bump and graze, in order to develop the independence, confidence and resilience they need to get on in life. If we continually give them the message that you cannot do anything that contains even the slightest risk then we raise them with a fear of the unknown and new experiences.
I hope the government takes notice of this report and puts in the place the measures our schools and parents need for them to take a common sense approach that allows our children to enjoy some of life’s adventures and challenges. I will certainly be encouraging them to do so.
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
This week I thought it was appropriate to pause and reflect on the centenary of the start of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Battle of Ypres - one of the bloodiest of World War One.
Passchendaele was fought between 31 July and 6 November 1917 in the West Flanders region of northern Belgium. The allied objectives were to narrow the front of combat in Belgium and also to capture the coast back and deny the Germans access to the sea, where they had several U-boat bases, which were causing havoc to shipping to the UK.
About 275,000 Allied troops and 220,000 Germans were killed, wounded or went missing in this time, a loss of life that to me is beyond comprehension. To put this into perspective almost as many people died as who currently live in Cornwall today.
In the past I have written about former Member of Parliament Captain Thomas Agar-Robartes, whose constituency encompassed much of the present St Austell and Newquay constituency, and whose memorial in St Austell has just been listed. Captain Agar-Robartes’ name is rightly remembered for his heroic actions and death on the field of combat in the earlier Battle of Loos in 1915.
However, many, many more people from Mid-Cornwall died during the Great War.
While writing this column I came across the story of Edward Saunders who was born in Mid-Cornwall in 1898.
It is likely that Edward was conscripted under the Military Service Act which introduced conscription for all unmarried men aged 18-41 at the start of 1916. Edward fought at Passchendaele from July through to October 1917. By the end of October the battle had broken down into a bloody stalemate with massive casualties on both sides.
The battle fell into a daily routine with artillery bombardment followed by skirmishes and then the main attacks. On 22 October, Edward Saunders died in one of these preliminary skirmishes. He was 19 years old. Edward had no known grave and because of this he joins 35,000 similar British casualties incurred after August 1917 in the Battle of Passchendaele who are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial which today stands in the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium.
Looking back at the Battle of Passchendaele it is difficult not to see this loss of life as anything but futile. While the front was narrowed, the Germans kept their U-boat bases. Writing after the war, then Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote,
"Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war ... No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign ..."
However these soldiers followed orders and fought and died for their country. It is important that we remember the sacrifice of everyone who fought and served in conflicts like the Great War, as their actions then have allowed us our way of life 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events