Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Offensive Weapons Bill and the reclassification of certain firearms as “prohibited weapons” under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968

I appreciate that this is naturally an issue of great concern to members of law-abiding shooting communities in Cornwall.

The bill proposes the prohibition of large calibre (0.50) ‘materiel destruction’ rifles and rapid-fire rifles under section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968.

A .50 calibre ‘materiel destruction’ rifle can shoot over a very long range. It was developed for use by the military and is designed to damage equipment such as vehicles. Rapid-fire rifles have a very fast rate of fire, which is greater than a conventional bolt-action rifle.

The Home Office estimates that there are 132 .50 calibre rifles and seven hundred rapid-fire rifles currently held by registered individuals or dealers in the UK. These types of firearms can currently be held on a standard firearms certificate issued under section 1 of the 1968 Act.

There is a risk of these firearms falling into the wrong hands if they are available for civilian use. In the Government summary of the consultation exercise on the bill, a significant number of respondents commented that the “risk to public safety from these weapons was high, and that the police have no suitable body armour to protect themselves against such high-powered rifles, should they fall into criminal or terrorist hands.” I also understand that the Home office is aware of at least one incident in which a .50 calibre rifle was stolen and subsequently recovered.

Rather than reducing the number of current incidents, the proposals are designed to prevent future incidents. Prohibiting ‘material destruction’ and rapid-fire rifles weapons will minimise the likelihood that these weapons could be obtained by terrorists or criminals in future.

Given the recent surge in gun crime in England and Wales (11% rise compared to previous year), I am keen to ensure that we get the balance right between making firearms available for sport and land management purposes, and protecting public interest and safety. Compared to many other developed countries however, the UK should be proud of its record. Gun murder rate in England and Wales is about one for every 1 million people. In the US, by contrast, there are about 160 times as many gun murders in a country that is only six times larger in population than the UK.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Newspaper column 27 June 2018 - The vote on Heathrow

On Monday we had a very important vote in Parliament on the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
I have been a strong supporter of the expansion for a wide variety of reasons and voted in favour of it.

Firstly, in general terms:

The extension will be good value. It will be delivered at no cost to taxpayers. The new runway scheme will be privately funded and we will work with industry to keep airport charges down.

The extension will provide a massive economic boost to the country, with new international routes, more than 100,000 new jobs, doubled freight capacity and benefits of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy.

The extension will have environmental protection built-in. The expansion will be delivered within existing climate change and air quality obligations and a new six and a half hour ban on scheduled night flights.

Expanding Heathrow will give guaranteed benefits for the whole of the UK. We have committed to about 15 per cent of new slots for domestic routes, new rail links, and new global opportunities for regional business.

This last bit is particularly important for Cornwall, and Cornwall Airport Newquay in particular.
Cornwall Airport Newquay continues to be the UK’s fastest growing regional airport. In Parliament I am co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Regional Airports, a group of MPs from all political parties who work together to promote and highlight regional airports and the communities they serve. I am always proud to bring up Cornwall Airport Newquay’s positive success at the meetings of this group.

Heathrow’s expansion makes a potential Newquay-Heathrow route a real possibility.
In PMQ’s last Wednesday the Prime Minister specifically mentioned our airport when it came to potential beneficiaries of the Heathrow expansion.

The announcement last week by the Government that it will protect routes from Heathrow to regional airports is also a potential game-changer for or airport, and anther massive potential economic booster for Mid-Cornwall.

Last week I welcomed the Secretary of State for Transport to Newquay to continue to press the case for this important route, as well as provide an update on the A30 link road to St Austell progress, and numerous other transport infrastructure projects we are working on with Cornwall Council.

Monday’s vote was a momentous one that has been 50 years in the making and represents the biggest national transport decision in a generation. I will continue to do all I can to continue to ensure Cornwall benefits from Heathrow’s growth now and in the future. 

 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 

Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

‘Are you in to end homelessness?' campaign

I agree that homelessness is an issue that we must do all we can to tackle.

I recently welcomed confirmation that Cornwall will receive £437,489, part of a targeted £30m Rough Sleeping Initiative fund to support those sleeping rough and those at risk in 83 local authorities with the highest need.

I am pleased that the Government has released this further funding to Cornwall Council to help support those sleeping rough.

This represents a first significant step in the Government’s plans to reduce rough sleeping and will be followed by a cross-Government strategy, published in July, which will set out how it intends to meet our manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027.

This funding nationally will provide for over 500 new staff focused on rough sleeping. This will include more outreach workers to engage with people on the streets, specialist mental health and substance misuse workers and dedicated co-ordinators to drive efforts to reduce rough sleeping in their areas. It will also provide over 1700 new bed-spaces nationally including both emergency and settled accommodation.

I look forward to seeing the detail of what Cornwall Council proposes to do with its funding, and look forward to working with them to ensure that it is used to provide the best outcome for the people that need it, the communities they are part of and is good value for the tax payer.

I hope this provides a reassurance that this is an issue I care deeply about and will continue to do all I can locally and in Westminster, to resolve.

EDM 1233 on Pub Closures.

The brewing and pub sector makes a huge economic contribution to Mid-Cornwall. Figures from a study commissioned by the British Beer and Pub Association show. The sector supports 3091 jobs and provides £86m in value to the local economy.

As a rule I do not sign Early Day Motions as they have no legislative affect and I believe change can be driven better through the other democratic processes available to us in Parliament.

I am very much involved in supporting the pub and hospitality industry both in Mid-Cornwall and across the country.

To this end I am a Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, a group of cross-party MPs who campaign to promote and protect the industry in Parliament.

In the last month I have welcomed a delegation of MPs from the Group to Cornwall to promote the Pub is the Hub initiative, which seeks to promote the vital role pubs play, particularly in rural communities such as those we have in Mid-Cornwall as hubs for the towns and villages they are located in.

I’ve also previously been privileged to spend the day as a brewer at St Austell Brewery and have seen first-hand its importance as an employer here in mid-Cornwall.

I hope this shows just some of the work I have been doing in this area and I will continue to do all I can to promote and support the pub and hospitality industry.

Cladding on tower blocks

I am pleased that the Government is fully funding the removal and replacement of cladding on high rise buildings.

I do believe though, that it is correct that the monies for this should be sourced from within the existing budget of the DHCLG. Whenever monies have to be found to pay for something, it has to come from somewhere, and I believe the Secretary of State is acting appropriately and responsibly in sourcing it from within the budget he is already responsible for. As the Secretary of State has recently confirmed, the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme remains over £9 billion, with £400 million of that now available in 2021-22. He also confirmed that the programme will still deliver the same number of homes in the long term.

Therefore I believe the measures taken are appropriate in tackling the important safety issue as a priority, while still ensuring the building of affordable homes remains on track in the long term.

Regarding cannabis and the potential for its medicinal use.

Regarding cannabis and the potential for its medicinal use.

We have seen in recent months that there is a pressing need to allow those who might benefit from cannabis-based products to access them.

You may be interested to know that the Home Secretary has recently confirmed that there will be a review on the scheduling of cannabis.

This step is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use and the government has absolutely no plans to legalise cannabis and the penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain unchanged.

However, if the review identifies that there are significant medical benefits then the Government does intend to reschedule.

You can read the full announcement via the link below:

I will watch this review, and its findings, with interest.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Reflections on the Windrush 70

Earlier this week I was pleased to welcome an announcement from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that a new national Windrush Day will take place on the 22th of June every year.

The announcement comes after I asked the Government what its plans were to commemorate the upcoming 70th anniversary of the arrival of HMS Windrush, at a Westminster Hall debate on the status of the Windrush Generation and their children that I led on the 30th of April.

The annual “Windrush 70” event will be overseen by a body of British Caribbean representatives, and a Windrush Day grant of up to £500,000 will be available each year to charities and communities seeking to hold commemorative and educational events.

The 70th anniversary is a fitting moment to officially recognise Windrush Day, as an annual acknowledgement of the positive contributions made by those who have come from overseas to our common home. This is an opportunity for the British public to be informed about the positive legacy of the Windrush pioneers and help younger generations to appreciate the sacrifices that they have made for this country.

We owe the Windrush Generation a huge thank you for coming to help our nation at a time of need, for the contribution they have made to our nation for the past 70 years, and for the vital part they played in shaping modern Britain as a tolerant and multi-cultural nation.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Newspaper column 20 June 2018 - More funding for our NHS

Last week in Parliament saw a number of important votes for Brexit take place, all of which were carried, meaning we are now edging closer to officially leaving the European Union.

Related to this, at the beginning of the week the Prime Minister announced an extra £20 billion a year in real terms for the National Health Service by 2023/24, ensuring patients receive world-class care, as part of our long-term plan for the NHS.

This funding in their 70th birthday year is part of a five-year budget settlement for the NHS.
Crucially, the extra funding will come in part from the ‘Brexit dividend’ – money we will no longer send to the European Union after we have left – and the country will be asked to contribute a bit more for the NHS in a fair and balanced way.

The Government has increased the NHS budget every year we have been in power. This further historic long term funding boost will secure the future of this vital service for generations to come, meaning patients will benefit from improved cancer survival rates, there will be better mental health care, and more doctors and nurses in our hospitals.

In return, the NHS will produce a new, clinically led, long-term plan – setting out how the money will be used to deliver our vision for the health service and to ensure every penny is well spent.

Of course, in recent years we have already seen increased general funding for the NHS in Cornwall, with a year on year increase since the Government came into power.

We have also recently seen work start on the construction of the long-needed mental health inpatient facility for young people in Cornwall, another £4m investment to Cornwall from the Government.
With my Cornish MP colleagues I lobbied the Government for additional funding for Adult Social Care and was very pleased to see announcement of the Improved Better Care Fund in March 2017.

The Government granted Cornwall Council an additional £24m over the next three years for adult social care to go towards improving social care in Cornwall.

Furthermore, Royal Cornwall Hospital is one of 74 sites from around the country that has been offered £30m as part of the ‘Core 24’ standard for mental health liaison, meaning a fully-staffed team will be operating 24/7 in the hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.

So this is great news for the NHS nationally and locally. I will now be working with the other Cornish MPs and NHS services in Cornwall to ensure that we get the right amount of funds for our county.

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Friday, 15 June 2018

Extending medical exemptions for prescription payments

I do recognise that the medical exemption list has not been reviewed for many years, apart from the addition of cancer recently, however I believe there are many other exemptions in place to provide support for those with long-term conditions. The prescription charging system is designed to support the most vulnerable of patients, for example children, the elderly and those on low incomes, from the financial impact of accessing potentially life-saving medication. This is not an exhaustive list, however I believe it targets support for those who need it most. It is important to note that nearly 90% of prescriptions are dispensed free of charge and there are also no charges to any patients who are dispended medicines when they are discharged from hospital.

There are a number of issues around extending medical exemptions, particularly with regard to how to define a long-term condition and a clear divide in opinion in terms of who should be responsible for deciding who is eligible. The majority of patients would want this to be decided by their GP, however GPs are rightly concerned that this would create additional pressure and workload and potentially cause a breakdown in the relationship between patient and doctor in cases where a dispute over eligibility arises. There are a huge number of hidden costs associated with the administration of such a system and concerns about whether an appeals process for disputes would have to be put in place, adding further costs.

When exploring options for how to assess eligibility there are no simple answers and many of the options explored are simply too complex and costly to administer and there are concerns about the ways it could influence patient behaviour. For example, if eligibility was based on diagnosis this would unfairly discriminate against patients with symptom-based conditions who have no definitive diagnosis. There is also the practical issues of creating and maintaining a list of all long-term conditions and diseases considering the European Medicines Agency report that 5 new diseases are described every week. If eligibility were based upon the volume of prescriptions required over a period of time, medical professionals feel this could create an incentive for over-medicalisation of a condition and treatment-seeking behaviour to retain this eligibility. There is also evidence to suggest providing free prescriptions, even if this eligibility is not based on the volume of prescriptions, acts as an incentive for patients to seek more medication which may not provide any clinical benefit.  

On top of this, the additional costs that would be incurred due to extending free prescriptions would add further pressure onto the NHS and potentially take resources away from other areas, such as better A&E care, new cancer treatments and better mental health services. As I have detailed above, there is also no way to measure the hidden costs of implementing and administering such a system.

There is also the factor that prescription numbers are significantly rising every year and the drug cost (not including dispensing costs) to the NHS dispensed in the community was a staggering £9.17 billion in 2017 compared to £500 million raised in prescription charges. Whilst the amount raised is a fraction of the amount spent, this is not an insignificant amount and this funding would need to be replaced. The recent review of NHS prescriptions highlighted the high cost of providing prescriptions, and how often free prescriptions are provided for conditions that either require no treatment or could be treated with cheaper over-the-counter remedies. For example the NHS spends £23 million a year on constipation remedies, which could pay for 900 more community nurses and £3 million on athlete’s foot, which would fund 810 hip replacements. There is also an estimated £150 million of unused prescription items returned to pharmacies which cannot be reused due to health and safety, for example because the medications have expired, not been stored correctly or it is impossible to know if they have been tampered with in any way. It is paramount that we are supporting patients with genuine need for medication who would otherwise be unable to fund their treatment, however, we must also address the high levels of waste and ensure good value for money.

There is also already other avenues of support available. For example, benefits such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) is not means tested and is designed to provide additional financial support, for example medical aids, adaptations and medications for people with long term health conditions and disabilities. Additionally, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people whom are unable to work due to their health condition and/or disability and any claimant receiving the income-related component will automatically be eligible for free prescriptions.

There is also a pre-payment certificate which provides a significant reduction in cost per month for patients with more than 1 regular prescription per month and there are a number of payment options to help patients budget accordingly. In addition to this, if someone’s circumstances change and they become eligible for free prescriptions before the end of their pre-payment certificate I am led to believe you can claim for a refund.

Whilst I do understand the case for the reduction in cost to other frontline NHS services by extending free prescriptions to patients with long-term conditions, the majority of the evidence this report is based on appears to be anecdotal evidence. More importantly, it does not fully consider the additional and hidden costs, which are likely to be far in excess of the savings the report suggest, or the many practical issues of implementing such a system and therefore I do not feel I can support this campaign at this time.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Newspaper column 13 June - The debate on the Cornish national identity and the 2021 census.

Earlier this week I was honoured to lead a debate in Parliament on the Cornish national identity and the 2021 census.

As a proud Cornishman I have been clear that speaking up for Cornwall will always be my priority in Parliament and this debate provided another opportunity to do just that.

The Cornish national identity is not a whim or some notion based on a romantic view of the past, but instead one that reflects our deep and lasting history as a separate people with a clearly defined culture.

In 2014 the Government announced that the Cornish would be classified under the European Framework convention for the protection of national minorities under the Council of Europe. A body that I have been honoured to recently be appointed to by the Prime Minister.

The Government has been very supportive of Cornwall in recent times. We are seeing record levels of investment in our transport infrastructure and Cornwall remains the only rural county to have been given a devolution deal. However, when it comes to the specific matter of recognition of the Cornish as a people there is still a great deal to do.

Sadly, despite the recognition afforded by the European framework convention, and embraced in words by the UK Government, the Government has been criticised by the Council of Europe for not doing enough to address the cultural needs of Communities in Cornwall. There have been warm words but little action.

In their report one of the key proposals they make to address this shortcoming is that a Cornish tick box for national identity be included in the 2021 census.

In the 2001 Census the Scottish were identified for the first time on the Census form, along with the English and Northern Irish. In 2011 a Welsh option was added.

Can you imagine the outrage today if the Scottish or Welsh were omitted on the next census?

The Government in its own statement in April 2014 stated that the Cornish would now be offered the same recognition as our Celtic cousins. And yet on this simplest and most basic of things – the ability to declare yourself as Cornish in the census, the Government is failing the Cornish.

The point has been made that there is the option under ‘other’ in the census to write in Cornish as a nationality. In 2011 a staggering 73000 Cornish men and women chose to do so. That 73,000 represents 14% of residents of Cornwall. This is the same percentage of Welsh residents who wrote in Welsh under the other option in the 2001 census. The inclusion of a specific tick box for Welsh increased the percentage of people identifying as Welsh from 14 to 66% in 2011. I am convinced that if a tick box is provided we would see a similar increase in the percentage of people choosing Cornish as their identity.

As it stands currently, the Cornish are the only nationality recognised by the Government under the framework convention not to be recognised in the census. No other group can make that claim.

In this way the Cornish case is unique. No one else can make the case we can for inclusion. Monday’s debate was an important one in highlighting this issue on a national level. I will continue to do all I can to press the case for positive change and ensure that Cornish people, one and all, are given tangible recognition in the future.