Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Newspaper column 9 September 2020 - Extinction Rebellion's attempt to stifle the press

 

The ‘cancel culture’ – which seeks to shut down views and voices that don’t subscribe to a particular, narrow, political agenda, took another concerning twist this weekend when Extinction Rebellion blockaded several newspaper print factories in order to prevent them from being printed and distributed.

The fact that it was only some newspapers, and not those who generally support a more left-wing political view, shows once again what the thinly veiled agenda is behind this campaign.

This latest stunt in the undemocratic campaign to bring down capitalism should be a cause for concern for many reasons.

Firstly, it is illegal, and I was pleased to read that the Police did actually take action and there were 58 arrests of those who were protesting. To seek to prevent companies from going about their lawful business in this way should never be accepted in an open and democratic society. It is worth noting that by preventing newspapers from being printed and distributed it is not just the owners of the papers that pay the cost. It is also thousands of businesses across the country, many of which are small family businesses such as newspapers and convenience stores, who stock and sell these papers who would have felt the consequences. At a time when many of our businesses are struggling to recover from the lockdown this type of action is the last thing they and our economy needs.

But probably more serious is the blatant attempt to shut down those who do not concur with the narrow and extreme agenda of Extinction Rebellion. A free press is one of the hallmarks of freedom of speech that is the foundation of our democracy. Listening to opposing views is a healthy part of any open democratic society. As the saying goes you do not win a debate by stopping debate from taking place.

When it comes to the issue of climate change and protecting our environment, we have been having a significant and constructive debate in this country now for many years. That debate needs to be allowed to continue. The issue is too important to be shut down now. But we also have to accept it is a very complex matter with a wide variety of views and opinions. Seeking to shut it down, particularly at this point in time, is the last thing we need to do.

The irony is now, that just at a point when we are making real advances in action being taken to limit and prevent climate change, those who claim to be the most focused, committed and vocal on the matter are in danger of being the ones doing the most harm to progress.

When Extinction Rebellion began their direct-action protest last year it was clear there was a fair degree of sympathy and support for their cause. People may not have completely agreed with all of their actions but there was a general acceptance that their cause was just.

However, as they have continued their protests and escalated their actions it is clear from my post bag that they are losing much of the good will they may have initially attracted. This latest action at the weekend appears to have lost them even more support. Even some leading politicians from parties who are known to be in support of more action to fight climate change are now saying these latest stunts by Extinction Rebellion are undermining the cause and counter-productive.

There is a fine balance between allowing protest to happen whilst remaining legal and respecting the views of others. Many people, and our society as a whole, has been on a journey in recent years and it is clear the general direction of travel has been towards a greater understanding of the importance of protecting our environment, and a greater acceptance that more needs to be done to reduce emissions and prevent further harm to our environment.

This government has taken more action than any other to put in place legislation to cut our carbon emissions, reduce pollution including things such as plastic waste and promote clean energy and sustainable growth. Yes, more needs to be done and more will be done. But as in any significant change the government, and politicians in general, have to take the public with them. That is where our democratic mandate for the action required will come from.  

The vast majority of people I engage with now accept that we need to take more action to reduce pollution and the impact of climate change. My concern is that the actions of a few extremists is now damaging the cause they say they are fighting for. It is becoming more and more clear to me that their consistent criminality and disruption of the lives of law-abiding businesses and hard working people is losing them the support of much of the public. Support we are going to need if we are to make further progress.

 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Newspaper column 26 August 2020 - returning to school

The controversy around exams results of the past few weeks have brought into sharp focus the consequences of closing our schools and not being able to get pupils back to the classroom.

Firstly, while I have a number of concerns about the long term impact of the decision to award all pupils the higher of their Centre Assessed Grades or those moderated by the OFQUAL, it was clear that in the circumstances it was the only right decision to make. Too many pupils were adversely affected, and we needed to end the uncertainty for our young people.

It is well established that teacher assessed grades are often, on average, higher than the grades pupils achieve in actual exams. There are very genuine and understandable reasons for this as teachers will predict grades that pupils are capable of achieving which is not always the same as what is actually achieved.

While there is a reasonable argument that the Department for Education and OFQUAL could have handled this situation much better, the reality of the situation is that once exams were cancelled there was no easy way to deal with awarding grades and where we have ended up is probably the least worse outcome.

But all this should bring home to us just how important it will be to see all our schools open next month and all pupils return to the classroom. Too much time has already been lost and it is vital our children are able to recommence their education. It was pleasing to see at the weekend that England’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, confirm that in his expert view it is safe for schools to reopen. In fact, he went as far as to say that not returning to school is likely to cause more long-term damage to children than the risks of Covid-19.

I know our local schools have already been working hard to ensure this can happen. I recently wrote to all our local schools asking them to confirm what their plans are for September and I am pleased to say all those who have replied to date have plans in place to ensure they are able to welcome all pupils back.  I want to say a big thank you to all our headteachers, teachers and school staff for all they are doing.

It is one of the government’s top priorities that schools fully open at the beginning of September and all pupils are able to return and I will certainly be doing all I can to support our local schools to achieve this.

If any parents of school children have any particular concerns or questions about their children returning to school, please do contact your school. My office is also available to assist and answer any questions you may have, so please do get in touch if you feel I can help.

We have also had some very good news with regards to school funding in recent weeks with the announcement that spending on schools nationally will increase by £4.8billion next year. Further good news is that our local schools will be receiving an above average increase which will continue to close the funding gap Cornish schools have been facing for many years now. It is good to see that our continual campaigning on funding for our schools is paying off and this government’s commitment to ‘level up’ education is happening.

Overall funding for schools in our constituency will increase by 5.9% next year, well above inflation, rising to more that £69million. Some of our smaller rural schools will be allocated much larger increases with some receiving over 12% more. As always these are indicative allocations and the final sums received by schools will depend on how Cornwall Council apply the new budget. I certainly hope that they will ensure all our schools receive the uplift in funding allocated to them in full.

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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance with then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I will be recommencing regular, appointment only, advice surgeries from next month. Do get in touch if you would like an appointment to see me.

 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Newspaper column 12 August 2020 - Investment in Cornwall

 

The latest figures which were released at the end of last week show the level of government support through the COVID-19 pandemic for businesses and jobs in our constituency. The economic shock has impacted just about every part of our local economy and as we begin the long road to recovery, it is good to reflect on the support so far that has protected thousands of jobs and hundreds of businesses.

Treasury figures show that 17,600 employees have been furloughed with the government funding 80% of workers’ wages – estimated at a total of around £145milllion from March – August.

5,700 self-employed people have received the self-employed income support scheme which has put over £16million into the bank accounts of local people.

Almost 1,900 businesses in St Austell and Newquay have received government backed loans through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme or Bounce Back Loans totalling almost £50million. Three thousand six hundred businesses have received grants and further 1,200 are having their businesses rates bills cancelled until April next year.

This is an unprecedented intervention by the government to support businesses and project jobs and our constituency has received one of the highest levels of support of any across the country.

This is all on top of the specific measures taken to support the tourism and hospitality sector, which our constituency relies on more heavily than any in the country through the VAT cut and Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.

Whilst I am very much aware that there will be those individuals and businesses who will have fallen through the gaps and not able to access the various support schemes, there is no doubt that we would be facing a much bigger challenge locally if these schemes had not been in place. The Chancellor has always been open and honest that we will not be able to save every job or protect every business. I continue to make representations to government ministers for further support both for those who have so far not received any support and also for our vital hospitality businesses who will face further challenges as the season ends.

Sadly, there will be those who lose their jobs and businesses who will not survive this crisis. The government is already taking steps to invest in job creation and training to ensure any recession and increase in unemployment is as short as possible.

It is important we make the most of what is left of this season. I do understand the concerns some people have of the risk of welcoming tourists to Cornwall at this time. However, all the evidence to date shows that there has been very little impact on the level of cases of Coronavirus in Cornwall since tourists were allowed to come. Last week saw a reported 9 new cases in Cornwall – among the lowest of any week so far – and this is with increased levels of testing available. There have been no new cases of people falling seriously ill and requiring hospital care. Whilst there is no room for complacency and we must all continue to keep to the restrictions and guidance, we can take some confidence from the fact that to date the increase in cases some feared is not materialising.

Whilst there have been a few notable spikes in a few parts of the country, the overall trend nationally continues to show the downward trend in the number of cases.

Our traditional sectors of tourism, hospitality and food production will always be the bedrock of our Cornish economy. These are our strengths and we should continue to make the most of them. But one things the events of recent months have highlighted again is the need to reduce our reliance on these sectors, which can level our economy vulnerable, and invest in other new sectors that will create jobs and attract inward investment.

Last week we received more good news in the confirmation that the government will be investing in a number of ‘shovel-ready’ projects in Cornwall that will go some way to achieving this. Funding was announced that includes support for projects in the space industry in Cornwall and lithium extraction as part of an overall £14million package. Possibly more than any other opportunities these two areas have the potential to change the profile of our local economy and create some exciting career opportunities for local people.    

So whilst I will always champion our amazing tourism and hospitality businesses and promote Cornwall as a great place to come on holiday, I will also continue to work to attracted the investment and government support we need to see in these other great opportunities for our county. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Newspaper column 29 July 2020 - ASB issues

One issue has dominated the news and social media in St Austell this past week – the rise of anti-social behaviour, drugs and crime in the town centre.

For many years now this has been an ongoing issue that tends to see an increase in the summer months. However, it was quite clear from the number of people who contacted me that there had been a significant increase in cases since the beginning of this month.

Having spoken to businesses representatives, local Police and the Town Council, it was clear to me that urgent action was needed, particularly as local businesses were already facing big challenges to draw people into the town following the easing of the lockdown restrictions. Therefore, I used my position as the local MP to call an urgent meeting last Thursday. Initially Cornwall Council declined to send any representatives to the meeting but after I pressed the point with them, they did eventually agree to join us by video link.

This is particularly frustrating as last summer we saw a noticeable improvement as a result of the hard work of local businesses, the Police and council working together. However, it does feel that all that good work has been undone in just a few weeks as a result of the number of people currently being housed in the town by Cornwall Council.

I have always been of the view that this issue needed a dual approach. We need to address the symptom by having a visible Police and security presence in the town. But we cannot just go on throwing resources at the symptoms, we also need to understand what the cause of the problem is and address them.  Whilst this is a complex matter and I do not pretend for a moment there are any simple long term answers, there is no doubt in my mind that more could be done to understand and take action to deal with the causes.

Whilst all towns have their problems with anti-social behaviour, it has been true for too long that St Austell has more than its share of challenges. It is undeniable that there are a significant number of facilities around the town that provide housing to those with complex needs and chaotic lifestyles. Recent figures produced have highlighted that St Austell has a higher number of supported accommodation beds commissioned by Cornwall Council than other comparable place in Cornwall.
This is something I have been working on for more than 3 years and in fact had a meeting with senior Cornwall Council officers planned for March, which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the lockdown.

In calling the meeting last week my aim for to first agree some immediate action in order to ensure the current situation was improved quickly. But I also wanted to ensure steps were put in place to work to find longer term solutions.

I am pleased to report that the meeting went very well. I was very pleased with the way everyone from St Austell made a robust presentation to Cornwall Council of the challenges our town faces – including the Police, Town Council including the Mayor and Deputy, and those from the towns’ businesses community. We all agreed following the meeting that for the first time we felt as though Cornwall Council ‘got it’.

The local Police were able to confirm at the meeting that they would be increasing their presence in the town centre immediately and it was good to receive reports of several arrests that were made in the following few days. Also, the outreach services from the anti-social behaviour team agreed to increase their patrols. From my visits to the town in the days that followed it was clear that this had an immediate impact and the businesses I spoke to, reported a noticeable improvement.

However, I am also determined that we address the underlying causes of this issue. It was disappointing that still, after more than two years of me asking Cornwall Council the questions, they were unable to provide us with any figures as to how many people with complex needs, the various departments of Cornwall Council are currently housing in St Austell. Those at the meeting did however commit to provide me and the Town Council with this information in the near future.

This will be the first step to ensuring that St Austell is treated fairly by the council and that we can all work together to ensure we do not see a repeat of the events of the past few weeks. I am determined that this will now happen and will continue to work with the Town Council, Police and businesses to make sure it does. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Newspaper column 22 July 2020 - Toilets


As MPs one of our main roles is to legislate – to pass new laws and regulations that address the current and future needs of the country to improve the way we live. Most of the legislation we pass is initiated by the government which will mainly come from the Cabinet members.

However, occasional as a local backbench MP you are able to influence the government to pass legislation that they would not have ever considered without your input. Last week I had one of these opportunities.

The Public Lavatories (Non-Domestic rating) Bill will probably not go down as the most exciting or glamorous piece of legislation the House of Commons will debate in this Parliament. For me, however, it represented the culmination of an eight year personal mission.

It was in 2012 when I was the Cabinet Member on Cornwall Council with responsibility for public toilets that I first became aware of the fact that public toilets were liable for non-domestic rates, or business rates.

At that time Cornwall Council were seeking to devolve the running of toilets from the Unitary Council to Town and Parish Councils and it was one of my duties to try to enable this to happen. I quickly found that one of the biggest elements of the cost of running public toilets was business rates. This was a barrier to parish councils taking on these facilities.

In a place like Cornwall public toilets are essential for locals and tourists unlike as well as being vital for elderly people or those with health conditions that mean they need regular access to toilets. Therefore, at that time I wrote to the then Secretary of State and suggested that toilets should be made exempt from rates. He agreed and said the government would look into this.

Three years later in 2015 when I was first elected as MP, I raised this with the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, when he visited Cornwall. In one of those odd coincidences, this conversation took place on 16th July 2015, precisely fives years to the day that the bill to enable this to happen passed its first stages in the Commons, last Thursday.

It has been frustrating over the past three years that we have not been able to find the time to put this legislation to Parliament. With the turmoil of all that has gone in that time – General Elections, Brexit, hung Parliaments, and of course the pandemic of recent months, it was good to eventually get to debate and vote this bill through.

It was quite fulfilling, that after eight years I was able to speak about my reasons for wanting this legislation passed and to feel that I had played a significant part in making this change happen. It will save our local Town Councils tens of thousands of pounds every year, and even for many of our smaller Parish Councils the savings will be a significant part of their annual expenditure. The bill also allows for this exemption to be back dated to last April which will mean these savings will apply to the current year which I know will be very welcome.

I have always been a big supporter of our local councils which within the context of local government in Cornwall play an increasingly important role in serving the communities they represent. They have of course also played a key role in recent months in supporting their communities through the pandemic and lockdown. Providing vital local support, especially to elderly and vulnerable people.
Many of them have seen their costs increase whilst some have lost income through not having revenue from car parks and other sources. One thing I have been highlighting recently is that the government has made money available to support the Town and Parish Councils in Cornwall. This money has been part of the almost £40million that the government has granted to Cornwall Council and Ministers have been very clear that they expect Cornwall Council to pass some of this on to Parish Councils to ensure they are not in financial difficulties.

Sadly, so far Cornwall Council have refused to make any funding available to our local councils. Just this last week Cornwall Council have received a further £5million from the government and I hope that they will now make some of this funding available to Town and Parish Councils across Cornwall who are in urgent need of additional support.



















Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Newspaper column 15 July 2020 - Police, tax cuts and COVID-19


It does feel, at the moment, as though every week there is a great deal happening that I could write about – and this week is no different.

Away from COVID-19, I was able to lead a debate in Parliament last week highlighting the work of Devon and Cornwall Police. I was able to place on record my thanks, and the thanks of many of us, for the proactive and pragmatic approach they have taken to Policing over the period of the lockdown. It was also an opportunity to present the unique set of challenges our Police face in the far South West – from our geography being a peninsula, the many rural and coastal communities covered by the force, as well as the length of our minor road network. Of course, we also face the biggest seasonal influx of tourists of any UK Police Force with the additional demands this places on our local officers.

I was told this was the first time these challenges were presented to Ministers in such a comprehensive way and it gave me the opportunity to make the case for additional funding for D&C Police.

Once again it was a significant week in our progress against the Coronavirus. We saw further easing of the restrictions and more announced for the coming weeks which will allow more businesses to open. As we see the numbers of infections, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall it is right we allow the economy to open up, whilst of course continuing to keep to the guidance on social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large gatherings.

The biggest news was of course the Chancellors financial statement on Wednesday which laid out further measures to support jobs and businesses as we begin the process of rebuilding the economy. One thing I particularly like about Rishi Sunak as Chancellor is that he does not hide the challenges we face nor that every decision and economic measure taken will have both ups and downs. There is no doubt we are in for some tough times in the coming months and possibly years. Avoiding job losses are unavoidable following the sudden shock to the economy caused by the outbreak of the virus and the lockdown that was necessary to control it. But the measures announced this week are aimed at lessening the impact as far as we can, seeking to save jobs and enable businesses to get through the coming months. Of course, at some point all this money will have to be found and repaid but that is for another day. Right now, the focus is rightly on saving as many businesses and jobs as we can.

Particularly welcome to hundreds of businesses in our constituency will be the cut in VAT for hospitality and tourism to 5%. This was something I know the sector had been calling for and it was good that the Chancellor had clearly been listening. This measure is aimed at supporting businesses and help them to increase their margins through the next 9 months. I know that some people are now expecting to see a cut in the cost of their holiday or price of a meal out but I think we need to appreciate this is not what the cut is aimed at. These businesses have lost 4 months of income in what would have been some of the busiest weeks of the year and this additional income, that they can keep rather than pay to the government, will be a big help to enabling them to make it through this winter.
The other headline grabbing announcement was the cut in stamp duty which will benefit anyone looking to buy a house until the end of March. The housing market is a key part of the economy that supports many other businesses in the supply chain from construction, trades, estate agents, home improvements, new appliances and furniture and DIY –  all are dependant on a thriving housing market. So, this step will do far more than just help people buying properties.

Along with the job retention bonus that will be paid to businesses who bring people back from furlough and keep them in jobs, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme that will encourage us all to go out to eat in August or the Kick Start programme to help young people into work, there was lots of support for businesses and jobs which is going to be crucial.

We should not be in any doubt as to the big challenges ahead of us to recover our economy. We will all have a part to play in the coming months but it was very good to see the Chancellor stepping up and playing his part.

As always my office staff and I are here to help and if any constituents have any questions or concerns about the announcements this week or any aspect of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis please do not hesitate to get in touch. You can email me of office@stevedouble.org.uk or call 01726 829379.   

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Newspaper column 8 July 2020 - Tourism and new 111 Pilot


After a great deal of anticipation, by all accounts, the past weekend passed smoothly. Pubs, cafes, restaurants and holiday accommodation were all able to open.

I spent a large part of Saturday visiting local businesses who were opening for the first time. A big well done should go to everyone who worked hard to be ready to open with measures in place to keep us all safe. I saw mostly local people taking the chance to get out and enjoy themselves, all of whom were following the guidance and behaving very responsibly.

Although we did see some tourists arriving for a holiday, the great influx, many were predicting, does not appear to have happened. The A30 was not particularly any busier than it has been in recent weeks. Some pictures of queues of traffic did appear on social media but these were the result of one of a number of accidents that caused congestion. Holiday parks did report tourists arriving but not in the numbers that had been predicted.

The local police reported a fairly peaceful time with very few incidents. So, a big well done to everyone who behaved responsibly and continues to follow the guidance.

This weekend also saw another significant development in our local health services. I know for many people one of the big concerns of opening up to tourists will be the pressure this could place on our NHS in Cornwall. This is why I was delighted that Cornwall was chosen to be one of the first places the new enhanced NHS 111 service would be piloted.

One of the things I have seen in my role as PPS in the Department for Health has been the way the NHS has adapted during the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the new ways the NHS has worked to cope with this pandemic have taught us some important lessons about how the health service can work more efficiently in more normal times. Also, changes that have been planned to be introduced over the next few years have been accelerated and can now be made.

The new NHS 111 service is designed to make better use of the current 111 service and direct people needing medical advice or treatment to the most appropriate part of the NHS. This will save time of patients having to wait to see a doctor only to be then redirected to a different part of the NHS.

From now on, anyone wanting to access the NHS, for anything other than a 999 emergency, will be guided to call NHS 111 first. You will then be able to discuss your concerns with a trained member of staff who will then direct you to the appropriate service – whether that is your GP, Minor Injuries, your local Pharmacy or A&E. If you are directed to attend a hospital, or your GP, an appointment will be made for you which will save you having to just show up and wait.

Additionally, better use of GPs across the country will be made. One of the things we have seen in recent months has been GPs making better use of video and phone calls in order to hold consultations with patients. This is a much more efficient use of GP’s time. Most of the time it is not necessary to have a face to face appointment with your GP who can very often diagnose the treatment you may require on the phone of via a video call. Of course, if you do then need a face to face appointment this can be arranged much more quickly.

One benefit of this is that you can ‘see’ your own GP wherever you are in the country. The significance of this for us in Cornwall is that any visitors who call NHS 111 and are directed to see a GP will be put in touch with their own GP in their home town via a video call. This will take pressure off local GPs in Cornwall as tourists will only be guided to see them if a face to face appointment is absolutely necessary.

This is a very welcome new development in the way health services are accessed and I believe will have great benefits for us here in Cornwall in relieving much of the pressure we often experience in the holiday season. You can read more about this service here https://www.england.nhs.uk/urgent-emergency-care/nhs-111/next-steps-for-nhs-111/

So, from now on if you need medical help or advice and it is not an emergency you should call NHS 111 first for a more efficient service.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Newspaper column 1 July 2020 - Further lockdown easing


This coming weekend marks a significant step in our progress out of the lockdown. From Saturday pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to open, along with holiday accommodation.

Whilst I understand the concerns some people have regarding the risk of an influx of tourists to Cornwall, I believe it is right that we take these steps, with sensible precautions in place, to open up our local economy. Thousands of Cornish jobs depend on us doing so.

I also understand the worries that are created by some of the scenes we have seen in places such as Bournemouth of packed beaches and clogged roads. However, I do think we need to keep these scenes in context. The vast majority of those who went to visit Bournemouth were day trippers heading to the coast on the hottest day of the year. This is not something we are likely to experience – one of the benefits of being a further three hours drive west.

Additionally, these events happened at a time when all hospitality businesses were still closed and therefore there was little for people to do other than head to the beach. The situation from 4th July will be very different.

Our local businesses have been working hard to ensure they are ready to welcome customers in a safe way. I have spent much of the last week on video calls with different businesses and industry representatives discussing how best we can welcome tourist and give them a positive experience whilst minimising the risks. I am confident our local businesses are taking all the appropriate measures to do this.

I have been assured that local holiday accommodation providers will be reminding all their guest of their duty to behave responsibly and respect local communities – this includes taking their rubbish with them when they leave the beach! 

But inevitably we will see many more people out and about from this weekend – visitors and locals. We do all need to continue to follow the guidance – maintain social distancing, washing our hands and avoiding large crowds. We all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a sensible way and not do anything to put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk.

It is also going to be a challenging time for local businesses, especially our pubs and restaurants, who will have to adapt to meet the new guidance. This means that those of us who do go out for a drink or meal, to meet up with friends, perhaps for the first time in months, should be prepared that things will not be the same as they were in March.

Businesses will be having to limit the number of customers they allow in at any one time. Some people will have to sit outside – let’s hope the weather is kind. The way we order food and drink, and they way it is served to us will be different. Tables will have to be spread out, we may find screens keeping us separate from other groups and staff wearing PPE.

All of these measures are there to keep us safe. I know at times it may be frustrating, but let us all keep in mind that these businesses are following the guidance issued by the government and their trade bodies. All of these measures are in place for a reason – an important one. We should not take out our frustrations on the staff if they are too busy to allow us in or we cannot sit with whoever we like, or it takes longer than normal to get served.

Many of the staff who will be serving us have faced hugely uncertain times over the past three months.

I am confident that if we all apply common sense and abide by the new guidelines, we can all enjoy the new freedoms available. In fact, I would encourage us all to do so and get out and support local business.

Finally, my office is beginning to return to a more normal way of working. Please remember my staff and I are here to help and serve you. So if you have anything that we can help with, provide you with information or advice, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Email – office@stevedouble.org.uk tel. 01726 829379

Monday, 29 June 2020

Campaign reply - NHS payrise


Thank you to all my constituents who have contacted me about NHS pay rises. 

I am very grateful to every single person working in the NHS during this incredibly difficult period. Their hard work, dedication and professionalism has been a lifeline to many thousands of people, while they have, at the same time, selflessly cared for those individuals and families who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one.

As part of our efforts to support NHS staff in the fight against coronavirus, the Government has committed to ensuring the NHS has the resources, staff and funding it needs so it can continue to deliver world class care for everyone, whilst keeping staff safe at the same time. On a local level, I have been in regular contact with local NHS leads including the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT), Cornwall Foundation Partnership Trust (CFT), GPs surgeries and other key NHS stakeholders and feedback their experiences and any concerns to my colleagues within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

The immediate concern is keeping NHS staff safe and ensuring they have the protective equipment they need. That’s why the Government is working to ensure that all NHS staff and their families are able to get regularly tested for coronavirus, while also ramping up the production and delivery of personal protective equipment. We are also rolling out antigen testing, to identify those NHS staff who have had coronavirus.

With regard to annual pay awards for NHS staff, these are determined by an independent and transparent pay review body process. Pay has already been set up to 2020-21, as part of a deal that was reached in 2018.  This deal was negotiated and agreed upon with the NHS trade unions, and represented one of the largest public sector pay increases in several years. Starting pay for nurses, for examples, has risen by over 12 per cent since 2017-18, while the Government also agreed a pay deal that provides junior doctors with a minimum 8.2 per cent pay rise over four years. The pay review bodies will make pay recommendations for future years at the appropriate time, but I know the Government wants to ensure that the NHS continues to attract, retain and reward staff for their hard work. 

The fight against coronavirus is a national effort, and the Government is committed to giving NHS staff the additional support they need throughout it.

As ever, if anyone within my constituency is in need of assistance please don't hesitate to contact me and my team on office@stevedouble.org.uk or 01726 829379


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Campaign reply - " Invitation to meet on 30 June - virtual lobby for climate, nature and people."

Thank you to those constituents who sent me a copy of the campaign email entitled " Invitation to meet on 30 June - virtual lobby for climate, nature and people."

These matters are important to us all which is why I take a great interest in our environment and the achievements to date. For instance, I am very proud that the Duchy leads the country in geothermal projects and wind and solar power. The UK has just achieved two months of power generation without the use of any coal fired stations – the first time this has happened since the start of the Industrial revolution and Cornwall can take at least some of the credit. These are exciting times as we see our constituency paying an increasingly important role in improving our environment.

Cornwall has an exciting part to play in achieving net zero carbon emissions. I continue my work and support for those seeking to extract lithium from reserves found locally. This is a vital mineral in the production of batteries and will become in ever greater demand with electric cars becoming the norm.

The government's commitment to seeing our economy become carbon net zero by 2050 is challenging whilst being achievable.

Thank you again for the invitation. I regret that due to other parliamentary commitments I am unable to join the proposed meeting.


Campaign Response: Letter from your constituent regarding West Papua


Thank you to constituents for writing to me about concerns regarding the current situation in West Papua.

I am aware of the violence that we have seen in the far-eastern province of Indonesia over the past 50 years and I am concerned to learn of recent developments there and in particular, the disregard for the fundamental freedoms of religion and worship.

Indonesia has been considered an ally of the West since the end of WWII. However, very little attention has been paid to the Christian Papuan majority who are politically and socially marginalised. In West Papua, nearly 60% of the population consider themselves Christian.

Racial tension and religious intolerance have flourished in West Papua, with Islamic Indonesian culture dominating the region and further Islamisation becoming the norm. A 2016 report by the Archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia described arrests, poisoning, fire bombs, kidnapping, torture and other attacks on the Christian population, with multiple reports of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Islamic militants in the province under the watch of the Indonesia government. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has also produced a briefing suggesting that "the militarisation of West Papua has led to widespread and serious violations of human rights, and there are fears of religious tensions developing.”

Therefore I am very pleased to learn from constituents that a new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on West Papua is being set up – APPGs are excellent forums for bringing MPs and experts in the field together to discuss important issues like this and I have the privilege of chairing and vice chairing a large number of APPGs focusing on issues of particular relevance and interest to Mid-Cornwall. If I am find the time and capacity to look into issues facing West Papua, I will be sure to bear this APPG in mind and support their work in making representations to the FCO. Where there are other opportunities for me to speak up for human rights and the freedom of religion around the world, I will of course be mindful of the specific concerns on West Papua and seek to voice them where I can.


Campaign reply - Open Our Pools campaign


Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me as part of the Open Our Pools campaign with concerns about the re-opening of swimming pools.

The re-opening of facilities across England is a gradual process and the government continues to follow scientific and medical advice throughout.

I understand your disappointment. However, there are particular aspects of these facilities that mean they carry an increased risk of transition of the virus that mean it is too soon to reopen them at this time.

I have raised these concerns with Ministerial colleagues and understand the government will continue to review the situation and make further announcements in the coming weeks.

I will continue to make representations on your behalf and hope that these facilities will be able to re-open as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.

Newspaper column 24 June 2020 - COVID-19 update 12


The events of the last week have really brought into focus the challenges our part of the world is facing as we seek to overcome the COVID-19 virus and reopen our local economy and return to some sort of normal life.

We saw local non-essential retail shops able to open for the first time in 13 weeks. It was good to hear from local businesses that trade had been brisk in our main retail centres. I would again encourage us all to do all we can to support or local businesses, and not forget the many smaller shops in our tourists towns and villages – hundreds of local jobs depend on these businesses being able to return to profitability as soon as possible.

On Friday we had the announcement that the medical advice had been issued that allowed the threat level for the virus to be dropped from 4 or 3. After weeks of seeing the number of cases of the virus, along with the numbers in hospital and the number sadly dying with the virus, falling consistently this was welcome news.

This will allow the government to now make a number of decisions that will allow other parts of our economy to open up. For us this will hopefully include the tourism and hospitality sector. At the time of writing this there is great expectation that the government will make an announcement on this soon.

Along with this we are expecting the outcome of the review into the 2m social distancing guidance. This is expected to see this changed to allow for a 1m distance providing other mitigations are put in place such as wearing masks, or not sitting face to face. I know this will be welcomed by the many local pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes as it will enable them to open in a way that allows them to serve more customers.

Along with the confirmation of the progress we are making there was also the very sad news of job losses. Both at the airport and one of our biggest local hotels over 100 people are set to lose their jobs. This is on top of the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs across Cornwall in the past 3 months and I am also aware of other businesses who are facing tough decision on how many of their staff they can keep on.

I know there are some who suggest we overplay the importance of tourism to our economy, but the reality is our local economy is heavily dependant on tourists. Over 30% of all private sector jobs rely on the tourism sector directly. This forms the bedrock of our local economy that then provides the income for tens of thousands of households to be able to spend money with countless other businesses. For every job or business lost in tourism others will also be at risk in the supply chain in other sectors.

Additionally, many of the excellent local businesses and other facilities we all get to enjoy while living here simply could not exist without the visitors we attract every year. The majority of our favourite local pubs, restaurants and shops simply wouldn’t be here without tourists.

That is why I am now quite clear – we must welcome tourists back to Cornwall as soon as possible. With the threat level falling and all the data showing we are winning this fight, within the guidance that will ensure we continue to prevent the virus being spread, we must allow our local tourism and hospitality businesses to welcome visitors.

I understand why some people are cautious and concerned at the risk of opening up to tourists at this time. But we do need to accept that progress has been made. We cannot remain in lockdown forever and while there will never be a 100% guarantee until we have an effective vaccine, which could still be many months away, the risk is now low enough for us to welcome visitors back.

Some of the messages that have come out from Cornwall Council, and other quarters, in recent days have really not been helpful. To suggest we should wait until the autumn to allow tourists back to Cornwall is putting tens of thousands of local jobs at risk. If we do not welcome people you can be sure other parts of the country will do. People will be looking to go on holiday and with foreign travel severely restricted many families will be looking to travel within the UK. This presents a big opportunity for Cornwall to enable many of our local businesses to salvage something from this season and secure many jobs. If we do not grasp this opportunity others will.

What we need is a united positive message that makes clear we are ready to welcome tourism back to Cornwall. We will all need to get used to seeing more people around in the weeks ahead and each of us manage our own safety and wellbeing in the way appropriate to us.

So, my plea to us all is to be positive about allowing tourists to return. The risks of not doing so, for our local economy and jobs are almost incalculable.  

Monday, 22 June 2020

Campaign response – Don't risk the future of children/Please protect UK aid through this merger



Recently some constituents have written to me expressing their concerns over the impact that the DFID-FCO merger may have on UKAid and its ability to help the poorest and most impoverished people around the world.

Constituent will know that I am a supporter of our international aid and I am proud of the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our budget in international aid, which is helping to build a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries and in the UK.

British aid goes towards vaccinating children from preventable diseases, enabling them to go to school and helping people work their way out of poverty, as well as providing food, nutrition and medical care.

Foreign aid also provides added value to our security and trade policies. Foreign development assistance can often make an important contribution towards in supporting stability and sustainable development for the recipient country, leading to better foreign relations and prospect for a more preferential trade deal with them.

It is in our interest to maintain our foreign aid policy because it also helps to promote UK interests abroad and ensure our position as the world’s leading soft power nation is secure.

At the same time, I understand the concerns that many constituents have raised with me regarding the inefficiency of certain aid and relief programmes that DFID had been running, and the need for the allocation of this budget to be made accountable to, and provide the best value for money, to UK taxpayers.

I am glad these points were shared by the Prime Minister in his statement on Global Britain in the Commons and in response to my question to him during his statement: “I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What is actually happening, of course, is that DFID and the FCO are now joining ​together to become a new Whitehall super-Department for international affairs, which will be of huge benefit to our ability to project Britain’s sense of mission about overseas aid. For too long, frankly, UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests, to the values that the UK wishes to express or to the diplomatic, political and commercial priorities of the Government of the UK.” (https://bit.ly/3hCgsn3)

It would be wrong to suggest this latest merger as cynical move to roll back on our humanitarian commitments to the world. What it does represent, is a new and innovative approach by the UK to international relations, in order to secure our values and interests in a rapid changing world – bringing together this country’s strength and expertise to bear on the world’s biggest problems.

When DFID was created in 1997 it was the right set-up for that era. I pay tribute to the incredible work that DFID officials have done over the years, earning DFID and the UK a well-deserved reputation as one of the leaders in the world when it comes to humanitarian relief and development aid.

But our world has changed since then. At present, the division of responsibility between DFID and FCO means we are unable to always be as effective as we could on the global stage.

This latest merger is about streamlining Whitehall to ensure both its effectiveness and efficiency – Having a single new Department will give the UK the change required to maximise our positive influence around the world without losing any of the expertise.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that we will continue to commit to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development, and that it will be at the core of our new foreign policy approach.

I will continue to support and speak up for our aid efforts around the world and to ensure that they remain effective and sustainable.


Campaign reply - Will you write to our local transport providers?


Thank you  to all constituents for sending me a copy of the campaign email from the guide dogs association. I know of the excellent work they do and the help they provide to so many in our communities.

All businesses have a legal obligation to assist and update their practices to assist disabled groups and it is important that as they consider the knock-on effect of the current medical crisis they remember this important part in their planning and execution.

I contacted Cornwall Council and have a reply from them on this important matter:

“Thank you for your email [name redacted] regarding accessibility to public transport for those with limited vision.
As you will appreciate, the Covid-19 pandemic and our subsequent lockdown period has seen bus service patronage across Cornwall reduce dramatically to less than 10% of normal loadings.  Nevertheless, local bus companies are following Government guidance to provide a safe journey for keyworkers and those who are unable to access essential services without the use of bus services.  The bus companies are paying particular attention to social distancing, reducing interaction between driver and passenger but in the meantime also offering as much support as is necessary to ensure people can board and feel safe and assured to travel by bus.  All bus companies observe codes of conduct when providing for the more vulnerable and needy of our society.  Of course, passengers are also encouraged to follow Government guidance on how to avoid contact and social distance.   Information on bus services is being provided to passengers through a variety of means such as telephone help desks at Traveline South West, online, via app but also at the roadside.  [name redacted] can rest assured that her well-being and safety will be paramount in the bus driver’s mind should she present herself for travel.
The advice from the Charity Guide Dogs is welcomed - we will use this to gently remind our local bus companies of its content and very useful guidance. If we can provide any further information to you or [name redacted], please do not hesitate to contact us.’
I hope this is helpful and am pleased they are circulating the advice your provided to the local bus companies.
Thanks again for getting in touch and do let me know if I can ever be of further assistance with any other matter in the future”.
ENDS
I am also in regular touch with many businesses across the county and will be pleased to highlight the matter you raise where appropriate.

Campaign reply - “Please sign EDM 291 calling for a ban on warfare experiments on animals”.


A few constituents have written to me with a campaign email entitled “Please sign EDM 291 calling for a ban on warfare experiments on animals”.

As a principle I never sign early day motions as they very rarely achieve anything whilst at the same time running up costs to the taxpayer.

I am not in a position to verify the claims made by Animal Aid however that is not to say I do not have considerable concern with the matters raised. As such I will be taking up these matters with ministers and their officials when I see them.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Campaign response - Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill



Many constituents have been writing to me to express their concerns about the so-called ‘no-fault’ divorce provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.

They have also asked if I could support a series of amendments tabled by Fiona Bruce MP and Sir Edward Leigh MP to the bill. Fiona and Edward are both esteemed colleagues and friends of mine that I have worked with on many previous occasions, especially on conscience issues like abortion and end of life issues where MPs can freely disagree with the stance that the Government is taking. 

I fully understand the concerns many constituents have expressed to me and in particular the potential for ‘no-fault’ divorces to be allowed and the impact that can have on society. Marriage is one of our most important and valued institutions, and no one wants a marriage to break down – I speak as a fellow Christian and a former church leader.

The bill received its Second Reading in the Commons on 8 June. Unfortunately due to other parliamentary business that I had to attend to on that day, I was not present to debate or vote on the Second Reading of the Bill. 

I have, however, been assured by ministers that the bill is not designed to weaken the institution of marriage or make it easier for couples to seek a divorce, but to minimise the harm and conflict that can arise from the legal process, once both parties have agreed to divorce. Divorce will always be one of the hardest decisions anyone has to take. 

I was further assured by ministers that the Government is following through on the funding commitments made in the last Budget to support organisations providing vital counselling work such as Relate and important initiatives such as the troubled families programme, as well as research work to bolster the effectiveness of family hubs, where work can be done to support families in conflict who are struggling and having difficulty keeping together.

Divorce brings far-reaching effects on children, on the wider family and on other relationships. 

No law can ever prevent or even remove conflict at a time of great personal and family upheaval.

What the law can do is to minimise the potential for couples to entrench positions against each other, and to encourage couples who have been unable to reconcile to approach arrangements for the future as constructively and cooperatively as possible, reducing conflict and its impact on children. 

On these points I do agree with the Government that there is merit in this bill in helping to bring about resolution to a difficult situation.

But I will continue to monitor the impact that these new provisions may have and seek further opportunities to speak up for marriage and family unity.


Campaign response – Please support your constituents by endorsing #FAIR4HOSPITALITY



Throughout the Covid-19 crisis I have consistently been a vocal supporter for the hospitality and tourism sector in Parliament and beyond, and so of course I will be pleased to support the #FAIR4Hospitality campaign run by UK Hospitality, which provides secretariat services to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hospitality and Tourism that I chair.

I am getting in touch with UK Hospitality directly to see how best I can continue to support their work to promote hospitality businesses across the UK. 

Constituents may also be interested to learn that following an extensive inquiry the APPG and UK Hospitality have now published our “Pathways to Recovery” report on how the hospitality and tourism sectors could recover from the impact of COVID-19 (https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/PathwaystoRecovery). I am pleased to have played a role in giving voice to hospitality and tourism businesses in St Austell and Newquay in the inquiry’s consultation process. 



Thursday, 18 June 2020

Campaign response – Make Black histories mandatory in the national curriculum



A number of constituents have been writing to me and copying me into their emails to the Education Secretary regarding the inclusion of black history in the national curriculum from KS1 to KS4.

Racism in whatever shape or form has no place whatsoever in our communities, and we all have a part to play in tackling it. 

My team and I continue to stand ready to support and assist anybody in our constituency who has fallen victim to this heinous crime.

The wealth of diversity across our country is something to be celebrated, so I am pleased that the national curriculum allows schools to do exactly that.

Educating our future generations about racial diversity and equality should be a primary responsibility for parents, who know best in communicating with their children and guiding them in their thinking on important social issues. But I recognise that schools can also play an important supplementary role. 

The national curriculum already provides a number of opportunities for pupils to be taught about different societies and how different groups have contributed to the development of Britain, and that this can include the voices and experience of people from BAME backgrounds in our country. 

Indeed, I would go even further as a Cornishman and Cornish MP in saying that I also want to see the history of Cornwall and the struggles the Cornish throughout our history, including being taken as slaves in the 17 century, being taught in schools in Cornwall. 

All schools have the freedom to teach this from primary school age onwards as part of the history curriculum, and they have the flexibility to choose how they teach this and which resources to use. 

Finally I note that the Department for Education has published an article on its official blog to outline the current policy position on this matter, which constituents may find helpful: https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2020/06/09/black-history-in-schools/


Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Campaign response - End indefinite immigration detention/Compassion/Detention



Recently a number of constituents have written to me to ask if I would support a series of amendments to the Immigration and Social Security Bill to end the practice of detaining asylum seekers indefinitely.

I am glad to read this, as the ending of indefinite detention is an issue that I have been working with organisations such as Detention Action on and continue to take an interest in. Constituents may also recall that in my speech at the Second Reading of the Immigration Bill in 2019 I called on the Government to address this long overdue issue.

The UK is a unique case within Western Europe as there is currently no maximum time limit on how long an immigrant can remain in detention.

Not only does this policy at times jeopardise the rights of asylum seekers, there are significant costs incurred to the tax payer as a result. On average it costs over £30,000 to detain an individual for a year which is not an unusual length of time in the UK.

Immigration detention should be used only as an absolute last resort, and I will continue to use my influence as an MP to work with the Government in ensuring that our asylum and immigration policies are effective and robust in protecting our borders, while treating individuals fairly and lawfully – in this regard it should mean not detaining them for any longer than is necessary.

Under the present circumstances, my preferred outcome is that those in immigration detention should have their cases expedited by the Home Office. Some will have their decisions overturned while others, subject to immigration removal, may well need to be in more suitable accommodation arrangements so that are shielded from those who have COVID-19, before they can be returned to their country of origin.


Campaign reply - Cancel Reception Baseline Assessment in 2020/21


A number of constituents have contacted me as part of a campaign called ‘Cancel Reception Baseline Assessment in 2020/21’.

I appreciate people taking the time to write to me as part of this campaign.

Baseline assessments are vital to ensure schools are able to assess the level at which children begin school to enable them to provide the right level of education in the early years to ensure they get the very best start to school life.

As such what is proposed is something I cannot support.

As many young children will have now been at home for at least three months now with their parents in some circumstances being able to give them more time, I would, in fact expect children entering school this autumn to have an advantage compared to previous years.

Campaign response – Letter from your constituent; Gender Recognition Act



Thank you to constituents who have been writing to me about their concerns regarding the Sunday Times’ report on the draft report of Gender Recognition Act.

No 10 have now clarified that: “The report on the GRA Consultation is not yet finalised and the Prime Minister will have the final say on the recommendations.”

Transgenderism and rights for transgender people are issues of particular sensitivity and it is right that the Government ran an extended public consultation on Gender Recognition Act back in 2018 – I do hope that constituents with strong views on the matter have had a chance to respond to the consultation exercise and make their points directly to the Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004

Personally, I am against any moves to weaken our clear gender identities but I am also aware that there are those who struggle with these issues, who need support and help.

And so I do have my concerns about the possibility making the process of obtaining recognition of gender change progressively easier.

One of the strongest arguments that have been put forward against these measures is that they could bring unintended harm to women by forcing them to share toilets and changing rooms with men who self-identify as women and have not undergone any form of sex reassignment surgery. Predatory men who disguise themselves as cross-dressers and have no claim to identifying as women whatsoever, should not be given any opportunity to take advantage of women through this change in the law.

Furthermore I note that the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, has recently delivered a speech to the Women and Equalities Select Committee in which she set out her ministerial priorities which would be of interest to you:

“First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important.

Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.

Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions. Of course some of these policies have been delayed, Chair, by the specific issues around Covid but I can assure you that alongside the Covid work, our officials continue to do those things to make them happen.”

I was certainly very much encouraged by the sensible and balanced approach the minister has committed to take, which recognises the sensitivity and strength of feeling expressed by all sides in this matter but also the importance of ensuring that people are offered adequate protection.
Constituents can be assured that I will continue to be aware of the importance of this issue to them and closely monitor developments with the Gender Recognition Act going forward.

Newspaper column 17 June 2020 - Demonstrations


I am sure, like me, each of us have been deeply disturbed and appalled by the scenes of violence and vandalism on the streets of London.

It has become quite clear that what were, for the vast majority on both sides of opinion, intended to be peaceful demonstrations to express heartful concerns, have been infiltrated by extremists intent on causing disruption and disorder. Whether it is the far left or right, those who seek to attack our Police, vandalise public property and spread hate and abuse should be roundly condemned by every decent person in the UK. I have been pleased at the messages from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary making clear that those who broke our laws will be held to account.

There is a very real need now for calm and reasonable responses to these events and to avoid inflaming the situation any further. Particularly as this is all taking place with the backdrop of a global pandemic which is causing a national health and economic crisis. Anyone choosing to ignore the lockdown restrictions which ban public gatherings is simply not acting in the national interest however justified they believe their cause to be.

The killing of George Floyd in America clearly brought to the fore the deep sense of injustice many black and minority ethnic people carry. Whilst there is no doubt that we in the UK have made great progress in becoming a more diverse and equal nation we cannot overlook or deny that there remain too many inequalities in our country. We should all take note of the depth of feeling that has been expressed and look into our own hearts. But this expression of desire for the injustices of the past and present to be addressed should not be used as cover for those who have an extreme left-wing agenda to undermine our values and overthrow the foundations of our society.

Just as those who observed some of our most treasured monuments to our national history and leaders being defaced by those who have an anti-British agenda felt the understandable need to defend and protect them. A legitimate cause has been hijacked by ring-wing extremists who were more intent on a fight than peaceful demonstration.

Both are wrong. Both should have no place in our society. Both should be condemned.

There is no doubt that inequality and injustice remain in our country. There are many reasons or root causes for the fact that too many people do not get a fair shot at life. Too many get left behind and do not have an equal chance of making the most of their talent and hard work. As the Prime Minister stated in the election campaign last year, talent and ability are spread equally across our country, but opportunity is not. It is one of this government’s priorities to address this and level up our country.

Supporting the people of our country to get through the current crisis has rightly taken the focus in recent months but the commitment remains to ensure the gap in opportunity for all will be back front and centre of our agenda as soon as possible.

In order to address these issues there does need to be an acceptance that inequality comes in many forms. The causes of inequality are complex and multiple. It is far too simplistic to say that the colour of someone’s skin or the ethnic background is the cause of every issue some people face. Many reports show that some of the most disadvantaged people in the UK are working class white boys in coastal communities such as in Mid-Cornwall. I believe we do the cause of our collective battle against inequality no favours when we polarise the issue into just a matter of race.

I do not believe the UK is a racist country. There are still sadly some residents of the UK who hold racist views – as there are in every society. But just as there is a danger that the unacceptable minority of those on the streets of London delegitimise the just cause of those wanting to highlight the injustice BAME people face, calling the UK a racist country due to the views of a small minority, or because of things that took place centuries ago, risks underlining the cause.

In my view, we will never be successful in rooting out injustice and inequality if we cannot start by recognising the significant progress we have made, avoid reducing it to a simplistic matter of race and accept it is complex. It includes matters of culture, family upbringing, values and behaviour where each one of us has to accept some degree of personal responsibility for the outcome of our own lives as well as that of our neighbours.
         


Campaign response – An amendment that can really show our gratitude



My thanks to the constituents who have written to me concerning the future visa status of NHS and care workers from abroad, whom like their UK counterparts continues to play a key role in helping our health and social care systems combat the spread of Covid-19.

They have been making incredible sacrifices in the course of our response to this deadly virus and their valiant efforts to save lives and care for the sick have not gone unnoticed. As Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Health Secretary I have been supporting ministers in their efforts to recognise and reward these frontline workers.

The Prime Minister, who contracted Covid-19, has himself thanked the two nurses from Portugal and New Zealand, for their care of him while he was hospitalised.

This was followed by his much welcomed announcement at the Despatch Box that all health and social care workers are to be exempted from the Immigration Health Surcharge (HIS) as soon as possible – something that I have long been supportive of and have asked ministers to consider.

Constituents asked if I would support Yvette Cooper NC17 amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Bill.

This amendment is unfortunately not in the scope of the bill and is therefore highly unlikely to be considered by MPs in the next stage of the bill’s progress through the Commons.

This is because the bill primarily relates to our leaving of the EU and the ending of the EU doctrine of free movement, as opposed to setting the rules for our future immigration system.

However the substance of Yvette Cooper’s amendment is one has received much cross-party support and as PPS I will be sure to feed back to the Department of Health and Social Care the points that constituents have made on the importance of ensuring that our NHS and social care workers from abroad can continue to stay in the UK and contribute.