Friday, 24 August 2018

Campaign response - State Pension Dashboard


Thank you for your recent email.
I was sorry to hear of the concerns you have regarding rumours you have heard about the future of the State Pension dashboard website.
I have therefore written to Guy Opperman MP, Minister responsible for the State Pension and asked him to clarify the current and future plans for this website. I
I hope this is helpful and thanks once more for getting in touch.
Kind regards,
Steve

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Newspaper column 22 August 2018 - New trains!


As Summer Recess goes on through August it has great to continue catching up with so many of you around Mid-Cornwall.

Over last week I held a well-attended and lively Meet the MP event in St Austell, as well as a constituency advice surgery in Newquay, including discussions about Brexit, development and planning, car parking, mental health and more.

I visited Cornish Lithium to get an update on the potential of lithium mining in Cornwall which would be a huge benefit to our local economy.

I also met with our local Police Superintendent Ian Drummond Smith to discuss a number of local matters that constituents had asked me to raise as well as an update on a range of issues including Boadmasters, current crime stats and the recent bout of unauthorised traveller camps.

On Friday I was privileged to ride on the inaugural journey of one of the brand new trains that Great Western Rail will be introducing on the Penzance to Paddington mainline. These trains are modern, faster, cleaner, quieter and very importantly will be more reliable with 25% more seats. This is an investment of around £480million, replacing the current rolling stock that is more than 40 years old.

The new Intercity Express Train harnesses Hitachi’s pioneering Japanese bullet train technology, known for its quality and reliability. It has also been designed to withstand the region’s variable weather conditions, including routes along the Dawlish coast.

Passengers can expect more seats, better on-board facilities and shorter journey times, saving as much as 14 minutes between London Paddington and Penzance.

Passengers will also benefit from new on-board technology, including real-time journey updates and seat reservation screens.

The entire fleet is fitted with hybrid technology, allowing trains to use both diesel and electric power, and switch effortlessly between the two modes so they can make use of the electric overhead cables wherever they are installed.

Across the UK, rail supports a total of £36.4 billion in our economy and £11 billion in tax revenue a year, as well as employing 600,000 people. For our St Austell and Newquay constituency, this translates to an additional £33.6 million and 690 jobs. What’s more, for every £1 spent on the railway £2.20 is generated in the wider economy, showing how important rail is to the wider economy and connectivity of the country.

To go along with this investment of rolling stock we have also seen this Government’s investment in rail infrastructure continue locally as part of the largest rail investment since the Victorian era. This has recently included the £25m re-signalling work, which upgraded signalling equipment that actually does date back to Victorian times with modern technology. This will increase capacity on the mainline meaning we can have more frequent trains running as well as create more local jobs including apprenticeships. Network Rail will be recruiting a number of new apprentices to be based here in mid-Cornwall which is a great opportunity for our young people to have a worthwhile career on our railways.

The new trains should be in full service in the next week, so look out for them on the tracks. This is a significant investment in our railways but it is not the end and I look forward to continuing to press for more improvements to support the investment we already have.




Campaign - Deaf education cuts


Thank you for getting in touch and raising your concerns about funding for deaf children’s education services.

I contacted Cornwall Council to seek clarity on this issue and they advised me that in September 2017 the Special Education Needs (SEN) support services in Cornwall were restructured, affording the opportunity to extend the support and delivery to a wider range of SEN needs. They have explained this restructure was enabled through a rationalisation of budgets and have assured me that Cornwall Council remains committed to supporting all children and young people with special education needs.

They have told me that whilst there has been a net budget reduction to the Hearing Support Team budget for the year 2018/19, in real terms there has been no reduction in services to children and young people with a hearing impairment. They say this is because the Hearing Support Team budget had been carrying an underspend due to underspends on travel, services and long standing vacancies. They have said the overall numbers of teachers of the deaf have reduced very slightly and say this reduction reflects a falling number of students attending FE colleges requiring support.

As I understand it, the reduction in spending is a reflection of the reduction in the demand for the service. I am led to believe that by reducing this budget it is intended to utilise the funding which is currently surplus to provide funding to other areas of SEN needs which are currently overspending due to increased demands.

I trust this is helpful and addresses your concerns.

Thanks once again for raising this with me.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Campaign response - Fracking


Fracking is relatively new to the UK but around the world there are well over a million fracking operations and to date there has never been a serious accident; so in essence fracking is a safe and clean way to produce energy.

The need for energy is always growing and will continue to do so. Many households are already feeling the pinch with higher energy prices – despite a highly competitive UK market. With the introduction of fracking countries across the world have seen energy prices fall dramatically with real benefits for consumers and industry alike.

Nowhere in the world will fracking be more heavily regulated and controlled than here in the UK and with the advent of this exciting, clean and safe technology everyone will know and see the benefit.

Fracking is less harmful than some current sources of energy. For instance it will create less CO2 than compressing gas in Qatar and shipping it to Britain. Also being over reliant on supplies of gas from Qatar or Russia is always less than satisfactory.

National supply and decisions need a UK wide coordinated approach and whilst we will all take an interest in how this new industry and energy supply unfolds I am supportive of the government in its’ actions that will ensure the best possible outcome for everyone.

Campaign response - Brexit environment consultation



Many thanks for your note on the consultation on the environment post BREXIT. It is so important that we all take an interest in this vital area and I note your interest and the help you say you have received from 38 degrees in formulating your email. I will be sure to mention to Ministers the gist of your email to further assist them in their work.

With the Government's green credentials very much to the fore and its’ clear statement that it wishes to see the environment  left in a better state than it found it in you can rest assured that post BREXIT we can continue to see improvements. Further we will be free to regulate just as we see fit.

Expect to see the Government continues its trajectory of improvements in the months and years to come. Special thanks to you and 38 Degrees for endorsing the excellent work to date.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Newspaper column 8 August 2018 - Education changes


This past week it has been good to be out and about around Mid-Cornwall, among other things catching up with the National Trust to learn about their important work conserving Dodman Point, visiting local farmers to talk about how I can support them, and coming along to the St Austell Fire Station open day this past Saturday.

While Parliament is not sitting at the moment, Government business continues as usual.
I am delighted that last week the Government announced plans to teach children about good physical and mental health and the importance of healthy relationships, and have launched a consultation to seek the views of parents, teachers and community leaders.

As announced by the Health Secretary Damian Hinds, all pupils will study compulsory Health Education as well as newly reformed Relationships Education in primary school and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary school. The current statutory guidance on sex and relationship education, last updated in 2000, will be replaced by the proposed new guidance. Schools will be strongly encouraged to teach the updated subjects from September 2019 and will be required to do so from September 2020.

These proposals will teach pupils their freedoms and responsibilities under the law and equality and respect for different types of relationships, and allow teachers to deliver the new content in an age-appropriate manner. They will also provide flexibility for schools to design their own curriculum – building on the content that they are already delivering through existing programmes – and endorse the positive role which parents, local communities, faith communities including religious schools can play in educating our children.

I am especially pleased to see these proposals give timely and proper recognition to the importance of teaching children about the value of positive and safe relationships – a key foundation of our society. At a time when family breakdowns are becoming more common and young people are increasingly using the internet as a social platform, it is vitally important that our future generations understand the need for healthy and stable relationships, on and offline.

The new proposals will also give parents the right to request withdrawal from RSE for their children. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, these requests will be granted by head teachers until three terms before the pupil turns 16.

Another issue of concern to my constituents and I is our children’s future physical and mental wellbeing. Cornwall has significantly higher rates of adult and child obesity than England, and ONS figures published last year showed that Cornwall has one of the highest rates of suicide in the UK. By making Health Education compulsory for primary and secondary school pupils, the new guidance will ensure that our children are taught from a young age about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, prevention of health problems, how to build mental resilience and wellbeing, and learn how to recognise when they and others are struggling with mental health and how to respond.

I am a strong believer that education has to be about much more than passing exams and should include the importance of young people serving and engaging with the community, and I am pleased that the guidance will also encourage them to play an active role in community life and educate them about the positive influence it has on their mental wellbeing.

These proposals will give our children the knowledge and help they need to build healthier relationships, lead physically and mentally healthier lives, and be safe and happy in our communities.

A consultation exercise on these proposals is open until 7 November 2018. You can take part in this by visiting http://consult.education.gov.uk/pshe/relationships-education-rse-health-education


Friday, 3 August 2018

Early years education campaign


Thank you for your recent campaign email regarding support for early years education.

While this is an important aspect of a child’s life, at this early stage of their upbringing, I believe the primary responsibility for looking after and educating children lies with parents. While the government can help it is not our role to take this crucial role away from parents.

Relating to this I am pleased at the recent announcement that a cross-Government working group will be set up to review how to improve the support available to families in the period around childbirth to the age of 2.

The Prime Minister has asked Andrea Leadsom MP to chair a cross-Government ministerial group which will seek to identify gaps in available provision and make recommendations on how coordination across Departments can be improved.

The review will build on recent Government policy in this area including NHS England’s Maternity Transformation Programme, expanding provision for perinatal mental health care, building parents’ confidence to begin the learning process from the home, and supporting thousands of families with access to free childcare.

This includes:

Record investment in early years education and childcare support of around £6 billion by 2020
£365 million investment to enable 30,000 more women to access appropriate, high-quality specialist perinatal mental health care by 2020/21

15 hours per week of free early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds – nearly 750,000 children have benefited from this support

Ensuring parents in this critical period can benefit from up to £39 million being invested to reduce parental conflict through evidence-based intervention.

I hope this is helpful in outlining my position on this matter.

Thanks once more for getting in touch and please do let me know if I can be of further assistance with any other matter in the future and I will be happy to help.