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.


Campaign response – Please make sure families affected by COVID-19 are not split up



Thank you for constituents who have contacted me recently to express their concerns over the minimum income requirement in our immigration rules.

They mentioned an amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination Bill that is unfortunately out of scope and is therefore highly unlikely to be considered by MPs in the next stage of the bill’s progress through the Commons.

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.

That said, I fully understand the strength of feeling on this matter and I have always made the case that at the Home Office needs to take into greater consideration the interest of the family in its immigration decisions. After Brexit we will be regain the ability to build a fairer and more effective immigration system. Where there are genuine reasons for immigration in the UK, such as for family purposes, we must look to ensure that any unnecessary obstacles are removed so that we will continue to be welcoming and open nation.

On the minimum income requirement more specifically, since July 2012 the UK’s Immigration Rules have required non-EEA nationals to satisfy a financial, ‘minimum income’ requirement in order to secure a visa to join a British/settled spouse or partner in the UK.

Since the introduction of the minimum income requirement, there have been several legal proceedings against it. In 2017 the Supreme Court found that the minimum income requirement is acceptable in principle. It ruled that the government policy strikes a fair balance between the interests of those wishing to sponsor a spouse to settle in the UK and of the community in general. It ensures that taxpayers are not required to support those settling in the UK on Family visas and the policy promotes integration.

However the Court did require the Government to make some changes to the Immigration Rules and associated policy guidance.

Amended Immigration Rules and policy guidance came into effect on 10 August 2017.

Since then, if an application cannot meet the financial requirement through the five sources specified in the Immigration Rules, decision-makers (i.e. Home Office officials and caseworkers) are instructed to consider whether there are “exceptional circumstances” which could or would render a refusal decision a breach of human rights (ECHR Article 8).

If the Home Office decision-maker considers that refusal would result in a breach of the Article 8 rights of a relevant party, they must grant the application, even if the financial requirement is not met.

The Government has commented this subject: “We continue to keep our family immigration rules under review and make adjustments in light of feedback on their operation and impact.”

Going forward I will continue to monitor the impact that the minimum income requirement has on our families in Mid-Cornwall and speak up in support of them where possible.

If any constituent would like help with an immigration application or case for a family member, they are always welcome to get in touch with me on office@stevedouble.org.uk


Friday, 12 June 2020

Campaign reply - Ask the government to better protect people with diabetes in the workplace


A number of people have been in touch with me as part of a campaign called ‘Ask the government to better protect people with diabetes in the workplace’

The Government’s response to COVID-19 is constantly under review with new revisions and measures announced regularly.

I appreciate the concerns of those people who have been in touch with me that people with diabetes and in other vulnerable groups have over a potential return to work as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

I will certainly ensure these views are heard in my regular meetings with Ministerial colleagues and the team at the Department of Health and Social Care as part of my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Secretary of State for Health.

Campaign response – Please prevent longer Sunday opening



Thank you to constituents working in the retail sector who have contacted me in recent weeks to express their concerns over possible changes to Sunday trading hours.
    
The Government has rightly focussed much of its efforts on supporting our much-loved high streets with important initiatives such as the Future High Streets Fund. Sunday trading laws are key to ensuring that we continue to have an environment where smaller, independent shops can compete fairly with larger shops like supermarkets. As evidence has shown, relaxing our Sunday trading laws would favour larger shops and further draw business away from smaller shops, many of which are already under significant pressure brought on by Covid-19.

I have already written to Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to express my concerns on this issue. While I fully understand the importance of looking at our laws and regulations at this critical stage to ensure that they are enabling us to withstand the impact of Covid-19, I will be seeking reassurances from government ministers that any changes will be temporary and for as short a time as necessary. We certainly do not want to see these temporary changes to be setting a precedent for a permanent change in the law after we recover from the current crisis.


Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Campaign reply - “Will you amend the Trade Bill to protect the NHS?”



A number of constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email “Will you amend the Trade Bill to protect the NHS?”

This alone is misleading and a total misrepresentation.

The NHS is not for sale and never will be. The Prime Minister and the Trade Secretary have given clear commitments on this.

Stories to the contrary are generated as part of disgraceful political game playing.

Meanwhile the NHS continues to receive record levels of funding and will continue to do so as this has been enshrined in law.

Campaign reply - NHS Pay rise


Constituents have contacted me as part of a campaign run by 38 degrees asking to give all NHS staff an immediate pay rise.

I fully appreciate the incredibly hard work put in by staff in the NHS as well as across a number of critical and key workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many people who have heroically carried on doing their work throughout this pandemic who all deserve great praise and recognition.

At the moment, the priority must continue to be to focus on the immediate challenge  of continuing our fighting against the COVID-19 virus, emerging from the lockdown and reopening our economy.
Once we are through this it will be right to consider how best to recognise all those who put themselves on the frontline in this crisis. This could of course include a pay increase and when the appropriate time comes this is something I would happily support.

Newspaper column 10 June 2020 - A return to Parliament and BLM


Last week, along with the majority of MPs, I returned to Parliament. Ten weeks to the day after I last attended the House of Commons in person it was very strange to walk back in.

Whilst the measures put in place to allow MPs to participate in debates and vote were very welcome, it really was no substitute for actually being present physically. Strict restrictions are still in place that limit the number of MPs who can be in the chamber at any one time in order to maintain social distancing which means the House is still far from ‘normal’, it is definitely much better than having to appear by video link.

So much of what we do as MPs does not take place in the chamber. And whilst there are still many things that are unable to happen, it is still far better to be there and able to talk with government ministers and other MPs face to face – from 6ft apart of course. Both in my role as your local MP and my role as PPS to the Health Secretary, I am much better able to do my job being physically present.
I know much was made of the new voting system that involves MPs having to join a very long queue and vote by walking into the chamber. Obviously, this takes much longer than our usual method of voting where we all cram into the voting lobbies. Clearly that would not be possible under the current restrictions and whilst I am sure things will continue to be reviewed and improvements made, at least we get to cast our vote in person. After the first couple of votes MPs and staff became more familiar with the system and it was getting more efficient each time we voted.

The key point for me is that at a time when we are expecting many to return to work and businesses preparing to reopen it is important that Parliament sets an example. Yes, it is inconvenient for us and takes a bit more time that normal, but many businesses will be facing these same challenges as they put measures in place to keep their staff and customers safe. Therefore, I feel the least we MPs can do is put ourselves through a little bit of inconvenience and take a bit more time in order to do our job. 
I am pleased that after it was agreed we would return to working in this way Parliament did decide to allow those MPs who are unable to return to Westminster due to medical advice, as they are in the shielded category or on the advice of their GP, will be allowed to cast their vote by proxy and participate remotely to ask questions of government ministers. It was important that MPs were not excluded from these aspects of Parliament due to following medical advice.

In the coming weeks we will continue to face many challenges, nationally and locally here in Cornwall, as we continue to come out of the lockdown and reopen our economy. In the light of this it is important that Parliament is able to function as close to normal.

The other major issue making the news has been the Black Lives Matter protests. I understand the frustration and anger many people have expressed that these protests took place at a time like this which have been in direct breach of the restrictions in place to keep us all safe.

The tragic murder of George Floyd was abhorrent and has rightly caused outrage across the world. And it has put the issue of racism and the inequality experienced by many black and minority ethnic people across the world, including in our own country, to the forefront. However, some of the scenes we have witnessed – particularly in London - have been unacceptable.

Whilst here in the UK we have done so much to push back racism and made progress towards a more equal and diverse society, there is no doubt there is more to do and we should take this issue seriously to heart. I am just not convinced this is the right time or the right way to go about it.

The protests, particularly in London, will have put lives at risk by spreading the virus, just at a crucial point in our collective fight against COVID-19. The actions of a small minority who have used these protests as a cover for their own extreme agenda and engaged in violence and vandalism have actually undermined the message. Violating memorials of those who died for our freedom (especially on the anniversary of D Day) and attacking Police cannot be the way to get your message across. In fact, I know many will feel it is counter-productive.

We should all stand up to all forms of racism whenever we see it, and those who feel passionately about these issues have the right to make their feelings known through demonstrations, but we need to balance this with our duty to do everything possible in our fight to end the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Campaign reply: Will you pledge to #ProtectNHSworkers?



Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the #ProtectNHSWorkers campaign. 

I have written extensively on the issue of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and have been working tirelessly with my colleagues within the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and local leads within Cornwall on this very important issue. One of my more recent blog posts on this is available here:


We have now signed over 100 new deals with PPE suppliers around the world. Here in the UK, thanks to the efforts of Lord Deighton and his team and the brilliance of domestic manufacturers we have signed contracts for over two billion items of PPE, including facemasks, visors, gowns and aprons.

I can also assure you that all NHS staff who need a test for coronavirus are able to receive one. The Government is also testing the families of NHS workers, as well as other critical public-sector workers, including those who work for the police and fire services. Anyone working with the NHS is able to access these tests as a priority. Testing capacity has significantly increased and currently exceeds 200,000 per day.

The Government will also begin offering antibody tests to health and care staff, eligible patients and care residents in England to see if they have had coronavirus, representing further progress in our national testing programme. The Government signed contracts to supply over 10 million tests from Roche and Abbott in the coming months. The Government will begin rolling these out in a phased way, prioritising our NHS and care staff, where there is a clear value in knowing who has had the virus.

The Government will continue to do all it can to work to ensure our NHS staff are protected and supported as they carry out their lifesaving work. On issues such as sick pay, we have made Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) available for people with Covid-19 symptoms available from day one of their illness (it was available after four days previously) and ensured stronger welfare support for people who might not be eligible for SSP. The Chief Executive of NHS England has already written to senior NHS leaders to make clear that staff should be offered NHS-reimbursed hotel accommodation so they can continue to work if they are affected by PHE’s 14 day household isolation policy. Many local businesses across the country have also been offering accommodation free of charge to all NHS and care workers that need it.

Additionally, if any NHS staff or social care workers sadly lose their life to Covid-19, their families will qualify for death in service benefits. Resident families without leave to remain who sadly lose a loved one working within NHS or social care will be granted indefinite leave to remain, free of charge. Every death is a tragedy and very sadly, some NHS staff and social care workers have made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of saving the lives of others. This is being implemented immediately, and retrospectively, to ensure no bereaved families will be forced from their home and will be able to access significant financial assistance during a very challenging time.

This outbreak reminds us of the huge debt of gratitude we all owe the brilliant NHS and care staff working in this country, and I can assure you that the Government will continue to ensure they are supported. 

Thanks once again for raising this with me, and as ever, if anyone living within the St Austell and Newquay constituency is experiencing any difficulty with the above issues, or any other matters, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and my team. You can find contact details on my website – www.stevedouble.org.uk

Campaign response: Support an extension to the transition period in the national interest


I have been contacted by some constituents asking me to support an extension to the transition period for Brexit.

It will probably be of no surprise that I do not support this.

I find the statement that ‘the majority of people support an extension’ to be questionable at best.

Certainly that is not my experience when talking to constituents in St Austell and Newquay.

I would suggest that the majority of people want to see us Get Brexit Done as soon as possible, so we can get through the transition period and move forward as an independent nation. In fact this was the central policy of our party in the election just a few months ago where we won a resounding majority.

At that election I made a commitment to the voters of our constituency that I would work to ensure we left the EU on time with no delays. I intend to honour that commitment to the 31,273 people who voted for me.

I will continue to do all I can to support us getting through Brexit and beyond with a positive outcome that will be in the national interest.

Campaign reply - 'Support Cancer Research UK’s urgent call for safe spaces for cancer services'


I have been contacted by a number of constituents as part of a campaign asking me to support Cancer Research UK’s urgent call for safe spaces for cancer services.

Having lost my own Mum to secondary breast cancer 11 years ago I am fully aware of the toll this terrible disease has. I am keen to see regular treatments resume as soon as possible.

As Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care I will certainly make sure the message from this campaign is heard by senior Ministers. I will continue to work within the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that people are able treatment as soon as it is safe to do so.

Campaign reply - Budgets for children's services


I have recently been contacted by a number of constituents about funding for children services at local authorities.

The decisions on budgets for all services run by local authorities, including Cornwall Council, are rightly local decisions made by councillors and officers.

Clearly there are many pressures on public spending and ever increasing demand in a number of areas including this one.

Ultimately the decision on the level of funding for these services is a matter for Cornwall Council within their £1.4 billion budget.

Clearly we want to see children's services properly funded within the overall level of funding available but it is for Cornwall Council to set the Budget responsibly, which Councillors have a chance to vote on every year.

Interestingly, last year Cornwall Council spent less of a percentage of its budget on children’s services than similar councils, but this is a political decision made by their councillors, who the budgetary responsibility rests with.

I would also advise that you contact your own Cornwall Councillor, who will be able to feed in direct to this process. You can find out who your Cornwall Councillor is by following the below link:


I hope this is helpful in outlining my position on this matter and giving further steps that residents can take to highlight this with Cornwall Council.

Campaign reply - ‘Youth homelessness in our constituency’

A number of constituents have contacted me as part of a campaign called ‘Youth homelessness in our constituency’

This Government is committed to supporting vulnerable claimants, such as those with mental health conditions or experiencing homelessness. We understand that these claimants may face extra challenges in their lives. Universal Credit is designed to target resources at those that need them most and to provide support for people who cannot work or need help moving towards the labour market.

We recognise the importance of understanding how a mental health condition impacts someone’s ability to prepare for and look for work. That is why we have developed a range of specialised mental health training for work coaches and increased the number of Disability Employment Advisers who can provide additional support where needed. Furthermore, we have a number of Community Partners recruited specifically for their expertise in mental health issues, that can provide advice that is often based on lived experience.

In the case of homeless claimants, it is our priority to ensure that people experiencing homelessness get the appropriate support they need to improve their lives and move into work. For example, we are able to put job-seeking requirements on hold temporarily whilst claimants find accommodation or stabilise their housing situation, as well as priority access to the Work and Health Programme.
We are supporting the manifesto commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and eradicate it altogether by 2027 through the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Reduction Taskforce, and commitments set out in the recent Rough Sleeping Strategy. Furthermore, work coaches in England are legally bound to offer a voluntary referral to claimants they consider may be homeless or threatened with homelessness to a Local Housing Authority of the claimant’s choice.

Rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping have also been supported by £3.2 million of initial emergency funding if they need to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The funding has been available to all local authorities in England and will reimburse them for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to help them successfully self-isolate.

I was also pleased to see at the weekend, the Government announce further funding to support homelessness prevention charities, and that St Petroc’s Society and Harbour Housing in Mid-Cornwall have both received some.

This is in addition to the £492 million committed in 2020 to 2021 to support the government’s ambition to end rough sleeping in this Parliament, a £124 million increase in funding from the previous year. This forms part of £643 million in funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over the next four years.

This initial emergency response funding will ensure swift support is offered to people who are unable to self-isolate, such as those staying in night shelters or assessment hubs, as well as people who are currently sleeping rough.

I hope this is helpful in outlining support that is available at the moment, I am sure the Government and Cornwall Council locally will do everything they can to support all parts of our society at this challenging time and I will support them in doing this

Campaign reply - Trade Negotiations


A number of constituents have sent me a copy of an email regarding trade negotiations with the USA and concerns over the NHS.

The NHS is not for sale. It is not on the negotiating table and never will be. Reports to the contrary are false and purely politically motivated which is disgraceful.

The NHS has proven yet again what a wonderful and precious asset it is during the recent medical crisis and I was delighted to see the government act swiftly to add further countless millions of funding to the NHS to give it the support it needed.


Friday, 5 June 2020

Campaign response – Stand against police brutality in the UK and USA



Young people in the constituency have been writing to me to expressing their concerns over police brutality.

I want to first thank them for taking the time and the initiative to contact me about this important subject that has been receiving much media attention of late.

Clearly the situation in the US and allegations of US police officers applying excessive force in response to protests are concerning. Where there is an opportunity for Parliamentarians to debate the matter or have their say over any government response to the situation that is rapidly unfolding across the US, I will be of course be happy to do my best to speak up.

Let me be very clear: Black Lives Matter. There is no if’s or but’s to this statement. I am assured that the Prime Minister has made this very clear at the Despatch Box during Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday.

Whenever black people in our constituency have stepped forward to raise their concerns about how they are being mistreated as a result of their race or ethnicity, I have always gone out of my way to listen to them and take action on their behalf where possible, and I intend to continue to do this as long as I have the privilege of serving as your MP. If any constituent has any specific concerns regarding cases of racial injustice or inequality of any form, I would ask them to not hesitate in getting in touch with me to bring them to my attention.

I would go even further in saying that all lives matter. Racism anywhere of any form must be condemned. I will always seek to help and support all constituents whatever their race, colour, gender, religion or sexuality.

The right to peaceful protest is a key tenet of any democracy and I have spoken in favour of this essential right to be respected in places where there is clear state suppression of protest and dissent, such as Hong Kong. I do not condone the use of force against unarmed, peaceful protestors.
Some of these demonstrations in the US are by and large peaceful. But where protests turn violent and out of hand as a direct result of the actions of protestors, there are reasonable steps that I believe any democratic and law-abiding society need to take in order to prevent damage to property or people.

I fully respect the right of black people or people of any colour to protest here in the UK.

I also care about their health and wellbeing just as much, and so I was alarmed to learn from the PHE report published this week that confirmed BAME people are indeed statistically at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Therefore, while I fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this matter and the desire that many have to show solidarity with African Americans in the US, for the sake of their health and wellbeing, I would strongly urge anyone thinking of breaking lockdown and taking to the streets here in the UK to consider the current dangers brought on by Covid-19 and the potential public risks involved in mass rallies. We do not want to see anyone, particularly members of the BAME community, falling ill or dying from Covid-19 as a result of being exposed to the virus during these protests.

The situation in the US is radically different to that of the UK and I am pleased that we have not seen anywhere near the same degree of accusations of brutality and excess force being lodged against our police officers. British police officers are not themselves complicit in the murder of George Floyd and I am concerned to read recent reports that a number of them were attacked near Downing Street. They are our valued key workers, who are doing their very best to keep us all safe under the present circumstances.