Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Newspaper column 13 February 2019 - Unauthorised encampments

This past week again saw a lot of varied and interesting opportunities for me in my work as your Member of Parliament. 

In Westminster I met with the Business Minister and the Cornish Lithium company to discuss the future of lithium mining in Cornwall, as well as speaking up for Cornwall in the debate on Economic Growth in the South West.

Meanwhile in Mid-Cornwall I attended the Plastic Free Cornwall event at St Austell to discuss how we can all do more to cut down on single use plastic. I also met with local farmers and Mevagissey fishermen to discuss a variety of concerns. I also made it to St Austell RFC at the weekend to welcome in the new reusable plastic pint cups initiative by Sharps Brewery.

On Wednesday, I was pleased to see the Home Secretary announce plans to give police tough new powers to crackdown on illegal traveller sites.

These sites are sadly a regular feature in Cornwall, particularly during the summer months, and last year I was involved with issues with them that came up in both St Austell and Newquay towns.

The problem as it stands is that while everyone knows that these sites, are by their nature, unauthorised and so should not be there, there is a lengthy process that needs to be followed in order to evict them. The people who create these sites know this and take advantage. In the meantime, while these sites are there they often take up parking or public space and are left in a poor state of repair, costing the taxpayer more to clean up.

The proposals the Home Secretary set out last week look at making it easier for officers to intervene and remove travellers from land they should not be on. He will also consider making it a criminal offence to set up such camps. It is currently defined in law as trespassing, a civil matter.

In addition, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced it will provide local authorities with practical and financial support to handle unauthorised encampments.

The move to review making trespassing a criminal offence rather than a civil one is over and above what has previously been considered, and something I have asked for in Parliament previously. This will give the police powers to quickly intervene and move on unauthorised encampments and avoid the issues described above. 

I look forward to these plans progressing and being brought into law 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 office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events

Campaign response - STAND UP AGAINST 40 YEARS OF OPPRESSION IN IRAN



As we approach the much-anticipated US-Poland summit on Iran, and a number of concerned constituents have copied me into an email they have written to the Foreign Secretary urging his to lead to UK delegation in its efforts to curb Iran’s aggression and oppression.

I have noted the points made in their email. I will continue to speak up against the threat posed by the Iranian regime, not only to the international order but also to our own citizens like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who has been unfairly detained and denied access to medical care.

The regime continues to allow the systemic persecution of Christians in its country to go unchecked. Imprisonment of and violence against Christian converts are widespread and those who are found to attend underground churches face long sentences and public humiliation.

I trust that the Foreign Secretary will provide a timely and satisfactory response to important points made by constituents. I will also be seeking to raise these points directly with the Foreign Secretary when the opportunity arises.

Campaign response – We need a People’s vote on Brexit as do not want No Deal



I voted against the Withdrawal Agreement after carefully considering the 585 page Brexit deal proposed by the Prime Minister.

But not because I want a second referendum.

I backed a people’s vote in 2016. The Brexit referendum was the largest exercise in British democracy by turnout percentage in more than a quarter of a century. Our constituency voted by almost 2-1 in favour of leave, the biggest margin in Cornwall.

It is vital for our democracy we respect the decision the British people made in 2016’s referendum and deliver what the people voted for.

Additionally, during the election campaign in 2017 I stood on a very clear message that I would respect the result of the referendum and work to deliver Brexit. I received a clear mandate in that election receiving and biggest vote and biggest majority ever seen in the constituency.

the 2016 vote, which was a people’s vote, it would also undermine the negotiating position. It would also cause further delay and uncertainty.

The vast majority of people tell me they simply want us to get on with things and leave. Businesses in particular want to know, as soon as possible what the future will hold.

It is doubtful there would even be time for another referendum within the time available but even if it could be shoehorned into the schedule, the delay and uncertainty would be the last thing we need.

Of course there is also the question that if we held another referendum, if there were people unhappy with the result of that one, would they then want another one, and so on until they got a result they were happy with? That isn’t how democracy works.

I am a democrat and I believe that in order to safeguard our democracy we need to implement the will of the nation, as expressed in the results of the referendum, by leaving the European Union.

Furthermore, I do share the views of a number of constituents that no deal Brexit would spell the end of the UK economy.

My preferred option is that we leave with a satisfactory deal, but I do not for a second believe in the claims made by scaremongers should we opt for a managed no deal Brexit.

I have expressed, time and again, that no deal is better than a bad deal, and we stand in a strong position to weather the challenges of no deal as one of the world’s largest and most competitive economies.

Our future is bright outside of the European Union and I will continue to work hard to ensure that we have a deal that fully delivers the results of the 2016 referendum and for every one of my constituents.

Campaign response - Help make horse racing more humane


A number of constituents have written to me regarding Race horse welfare:

 As many of you will know there was a debate in Parliament on 15 October following a  successful application to the Petition Committee. The petition, had over 105,000 signatures. The Government statement on this said it “does not consider that it is necessary to create a new body to protect racehorse welfare,” and outlines that “the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) is responsible for the safety of jockeys and horses at races in this country.” The debate gave opportunity to challenge and question a Minister.

As a family we have been horse owners and lovers and so the debate was of interest, however  I was unable to attend due to other pressing Parliamentary business. The Minister did take note of many of the points raised. It is also worth noting that the debate itself is an invaluable tool in raising awareness amongst MPs and the public around these issues. That has the effect of  influencing decision-making in Government and Parliament.

I firmly believe these debates makes all interested parties take note and the BHA will no doubt review all its' procedures if only to ward off possible punitive legislation. My own view is that I am generally against banning things and over legislating. However this is a matter I can raise with Ministers when I see them.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Newspaper column 6 February 2019 - The Brady Amendment


Last week was another busy and varied week in Parliament.

I spoke in debates, including speaking up for the hospitality and tourism sectors in the Immigration Bill debate, and praising the work of the team behind the Newquay Neighbourhood Plan in fighting inappropriate clifftop development with the Minister for Local Government.

The end of the week saw a surprising heavy snowfall that covered much of Mid-Cornwall, causing disruption. I would like to thank all the members of the emergency services, highways teams, and volunteers who worked throughout the night in very challenging conditions to keep drivers safe and Cornwall running.

At the beginning of the week we saw the latest Brexit votes, with what became known as the Brady Amendment, which calls for the Irish Backstop to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement, voted through Parliament.  I supported this amendment as a pragmatic way forward and was pleased to see it gain enough support from across the house to be passed. While this was in itself important, we should not under-estimate the significance of the defeat of the other amendments.

There was one overriding message from the outcome of the votes, as all amendments that sought to delay, postpone or thwart the UK leaving the EU on 29th March were clearly defeated. It demonstrates that there is a Commons majority committed to seeing us leave the EU on schedule.  
We have grown used to these Commons Brexit showdowns in recent months, but the rejection of the amendments proposed by Yvette Cooper and Dominic Grieve (which sought to delay leaving the EU and tie the hands of the government)  particularly represents a hugely significant moment for all of us who voted to leave the EU.

It serves as a timely reminder, even though it may not always feel like it, that a majority in support of Brexit has always existed in Parliament, since MPs voted by a majority of 384 to trigger Article 50.
I was also significant and worth noting that those seeking to inflict another referendum on the country withdrew their amendment as it became clear it would have also been resoundingly defeated. I think this shows that despite what some people will try to tell us there is little appetite in either Parliament or the country for another referendum.

Whilst Parliament has also expressed that it wants us to leave with a deal and not a no deal Brexit, last week’s events have not changed the legal position that we leave on the 29th March, with or without a deal.

The votes sent two very clear messages. Firstly, to the EU: If you want a deal, you have to deal with the backstop. As expected, EU leaders have been quick to dismiss the significance of the results. But they know as well as anyone else what is at stake for the economies of the EU and the future of the European project, if they do not return to the negotiating table. 

Secondly, the votes sent a clear message to the Government, that if they want to win votes on Brexit, they need to keep the Eurosceptics on side. Compared to the historic defeat of the Prime Minister’s deal just two weeks ago, the vote for Sir Graham Brady’s amendment was a massive turnaround for the Government. This was only achieved with the support of Eurosceptic MPs, mainly from the Conservative party but also crucially the DUP and a contingent of Labour MPs.

It will be abundantly clear to the Prime Minister that if she is to get a deal through Parliament, this is where the majority lies. These are the people she needs to work with.

I hope the votes will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand. For the first time, it feels like we are in a position to really negotiate head-to-head with the EU. I hope she will return to Brussels, take up the mantle of courageous leadership we need, with a robust message: if you want a deal, you have to deal with the backstop.

There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome before Brexit day, but last week’s vote was a significant step forward.



Campaign reply - Protecting the International Aid Budget


A number of constituents have written to me regarding UK aid.
I was delighted to open the Westminster hall debate on this and give my full support for the continuation of the UK’s aid budget that does so much good across the globe.
Below is a statement from Department for International Development following the debate and also a link to the debate itself:
The UK’s commitments on overseas aid were part of the 2015 manifesto on which the government was elected. The government is keeping its promise to the electorate, tackling global challenges in the national interest.
Britain faces a simple choice: either we wait for the problems of the world to arrive on our doorstep, or we take action to tackle them at source.
UK aid, whether it is helping to prevent deadly diseases like Ebola from coming to the UK from West Africa, or enabling Syrian refugees and other would-be migrants to stay in their home region, is about creating a more stable and secure world.
Over the last five years, UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. We have supported 11 million children through school. We have helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. We are leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.
UK aid is spent where it is most needed and is subject to rigorous internal and external checks and scrutiny at all stages. The UK’s aid programmes are scrutinised by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the International Development Select Committee and Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, and the National Audit Office. This is in addition to internal monitoring and evaluation to ensure projects stay on track and deliver value for taxpayers’ money.
The government has realigned the UK’s aid strategy, cutting wasteful programmes and making sure spending is firmly in the UK’s national interest. Alongside an increased defence budget and the UK’s world class diplomatic service, our aid programme is helping to create a more prosperous and stable world in which the UK can stand tall and flourish.
Britain’s aid strategy recognises that tackling poverty overseas means tackling the root causes of global problems that affect all of us, such as disease, migration, and terrorism. The Department for International Development is the UK’s primary channel for aid, but to respond to the changing world, more aid will be administered by other government departments, such as the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department of Health, and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, drawing on their complementary skills.
The government will invest more through its aid programme to tackle the causes of instability, insecurity and conflict, and to tackle crime and corruption. DFID is already working with the Metropolitan Police, National Crime Agency, and HMRC to recover funds stolen from developing countries, and help countries build proper tax systems and robust institutions so they can stand on their own two feet.
This is an approach that works; as well as delivering humanitarian aid to crisis zones and targeting the root causes of the migration crisis, it is increasing economic prospects in fragile states to help counter extremism, and helping build our future trading partners”.

You can watch the debate here:


Monday, 4 February 2019

Campaign reply - 'Please support families of babies receiving neonatal care’.


A number of constituents have contacted me as part of the campaign ‘Please support families of babies receiving neonatal care’.

I am grateful to my constituents for taking the time to raise the issue of parental leave for parents whose babies are born prematurely and spend long periods of time in neonatal care.

This is something I am happy to raise with Ministerial colleagues in order to learn more about both the current situation and also about what more can be done to assist parents who find themselves in this satiation in the future.

I have now written to the Minister about this issue and will provide a copy of the reply once I have it.

Campaign response: Please speak up on Thursday to Save Our Pubs!


Recently I have received a number of correspondence from constituents asking if I could speak in support of British pubs in Parliament at a Backbench Business debate on beer taxation and pubs on Thursday 7 February.

As Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Beer Group, I see it as both a duty and a privilege to be able to speak up regularly for pubs and breweries across the UK, including St Austell Brewery, an important local business and jobs creator.

In October I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to announce a review of Small Brewers Relief in the Budget in order to make the system fairer, encourage growth at all stages of a brewer’s business development, boost exports and provide better value for money for the taxpayer while saving the British pint as we know it.

I am glad that the Chancellor announced that he will be freezing beer, cider and spirits duty for another year, supporting patrons of the Great British Pub and saving people 2p on a pint of beer and 30p on a bottle of Scotch or gin.

But I also agree that the current businesses rates system is out of date and is particularly unfair to pub. I have been pressing the Government to reform business rates since I was elected in 2015.

On this occasion, as much as I would like to represent the views of constituents at the debate on Thursday, I regret to inform them that due to other parliamentary commitments on the day I will not be able to be able to do so.