Monday, 17 February 2020

Campaign reply – Safeguarding the NHS in US Trade Deals

I have been contacted by a number of constituents recently regarding concerns the NHS should be kept outside of any future trade deals with the US.
As I have stated repeatedly in the past, if the NHS were ever ‘on the table’ in future deals with the US I would strongly oppose this. However, I am reassured by both our Government and the US Government who have repeatedly said, at every level, that the NHS will not be a part of any future trade deal.
I feel it is important to clarify that a trade deal would never have the power to stop the NHS being a free, universal service and there is legislation already in place regarding restrictions and regulations for private companies, including US companies, to bid for contracts to provide NHS services.
There are many high-profile politicians within the US who are publicly blaming the UK and other European countries for the high cost of medications and healthcare within the US. However, the reality is the UK, through the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care initiatives, have the bargaining power to negotiate lower prices of medicines whereas the US does not have national procurement initiates and therefore do not hold the same bargaining power. As I understand it, national bargaining is banned in the US following pharmaceutical lobbying, the group who would of course be severely financially impacted by such initiatives, and therefore the most effective step the US could take to reduce costs would be to change their own laws. I believe it is easier for US politicians to use the UK and European countries as a ‘scapegoats’ for the issues within US healthcare to give the impression it is out of their hands, regardless of the facts of the situation.
As a result, there is no need for legislation to protect the NHS as it is not on offer. Implementing legislation would be timely and costly and potentially delay other more urgent legislation. As trade deals are already in the works, it would not be possible to implement without a great deal of resources and time from across both Houses, at great cost to the taxpayer. This would not be a good use of parliamentary or government time when it is unnecessary.
The Prime Minister has reiterated his commitment, both publicly and privately, to the NHS and I assure you none of my colleagues across the house would support the NHS being a part of trade deals. It is one of our most loved institutions and has been in the hands of Conservative governments for the majority of its time. It will always be safe in our hands.
I hope this clarifies my position and reassures you that the NHS would never be open to negotiations in a trade deal with the US. 

38 Degrees Campaign Reply – A&E 4 hour waiting times

Thanks to those constituents who have contacted me regarding proposals to change the four-hour standard in A&E departments, particularly those who have shared their personal experiences with A&E waiting times.

There are undoubted pressures facing the NHS, and in particular A&E services, and the need to find new and innovative ways to deliver better health outcomes in a timely manner is a priority. The government is reviewing current measures, such as the four-hour standard in A&E, to explore ways to improve patient care, patient outcomes and effectively measure where this is working and where it is not.

The four-hour standard target since its introduction has focused resources into emergency care with the number of emergency doctors growing by almost 50% since 2009 and significant increases in the numbers of nurses working in A&E. This is positive progress and any new proposals would be designed to help maintain this.

The proposals referred to by this campaign are not intended to ‘scrap’ the four-hour waiting times, but to review and update them in line with the major changes in the practice of medicine and way that urgent and emergency care services are delivered since its inception in 2004, more than 15 years ago.

The four-hour standard only measures and reports performance of one aspect of the urgent and emergency care system and the clinically-led review of NHS access standards states a more sensitive method of measuring the timeliness of care is needed. This review raises the following concerns with the current standard:

·       The target does not measure total waiting times
·       The target does not take into account patient condition
·       The target does not measure whole system performance
·       The target does not consider clinical advances in Same Day Emergency Care
·       The target is not well understood by the public

Proposals are therefore aiming to bring more transparency to waiting times, additional focus on time spent by patients awaiting admission, introduce new timescales for critically ill patients needing immediate care (e.g. patients experiencing a stroke or sepsis), ensure clinical-decision making takes places at a clinically appropriate time and be more meaningful in reflecting the true picture in A&E departments and hospitals a whole.

However, it is important to note that at this stage these are proposals and no plans are in place to implement any of the above without comprehensive consultation with clinical experts, appropriate charities and wider stakeholders. There are a number of hospital trusts testing the initial proposals and the views of staff, patients and local stakeholders operating under these proposals will also be captured as part of this evaluation.

The NHS is one of the best and most loved institutions we have and this government is delivering on the NHS. We have seen funding increases every year I have been MP as well as millions of pounds of investment in Cornwall, including the recent £450m to improve hospital facilities in the Duchy. I am confident this government will continue to ensure the NHS is priority and any new measures are appropriate, transparent and focused on providing quality patient outcomes in a timely manner. I will follow this review with interest, and work with colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care and wider colleagues in Westminster to ensure the needs of the NHS and in particular the unique challenges we face in Cornwall are fully considered.

Campaign Reply – A care package for you

Thanks to those constituents who have got in touch with regard to children and young people’s wellbeing and the included digital care package.

Improving children and young people’s mental health is an area I am very passionate about and am proud to have been able to support record levels of funding and investment to tackle this rising issue.

This year will see the roll out of additional NHS mental health trailblazer sites, Cornwall being one of them. This will establish new Mental Health Support Teams will provide early intervention support on wellbeing, as well as encouraging a ‘whole school approach’ to improve the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.

Additionally, Cornwall is one of 6 local authorities to have been awarded funding from The National Lottery Community Fund for the HeadStart programme which commenced in 2016. Locally the programme is known as HeadStart Kernow. As part of this programme an annual survey of Cornish secondary school children is undertaken and wellbeing is one of the measures captured.

This funding also provides the opportunity for all school staff in Cornwall to access HeadStart Kernow funded training in mental health, resilience and trauma to enable them to better support pupils and staff wellbeing. There is also funded places on intensive, 10-day courses for two staff members within school to enable them to provide one-to-one and group support for pupils will additional emotional health needs.

I understand that funding for the HeadStart programme is due to end in 2021, however I have been informed the Council are committed to continuing as much of this work as possible and are exploring ways to continue annual surveying of children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing in Cornwall.  

As Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) for the Department of Health and Social Care, I am in a good position to champion this issue and would like to assure all my constituents that I will continue to highlight the importance of this work. I am confident from previous conversations with colleagues, and recent commitments from the Prime Minister, that this agenda will continue to be a priority.

Campaign Reply – Will you be a trailblazer and protect children from abuse online?

Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me regarding the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign to support new legislation to make children safer online.
The safety of children, both online and offline, is a government priority and the Online Harms Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech underscores this commitment. I am confident the government will bring forward this bill as soon as possible. The initial government response to the Online Harms White Paper was published yesterday (12th February 2020) and the full response is expected in the spring. The government is continuing to work with a wide range of stakeholders across the industry and civil society to ensure progress is made on online safety now highlighting the seriousness with which the government is taking this issue.
Where there is a risk to the safety of children, the government is working with law enforcement and other relevant bodies to produce interim codes of practice. This will provide guidance on how to tackle specific content and activity of great concern, such as Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA). The codes will be voluntary but are intended to bridge the gap until a regulator becomes operational, given the seriousness of these harms. I understand these interim codes of practice will be published in the coming months, however the government expects companies to take action immediately to tackle harmful content and activity on their service.
With the rise in internet use opening the door for new ways for children to potentially be abused and exploited, it is essential we get this right. I have every confidence that the government will take this issue seriously and look forward to the full response to the White Paper and reading more detail of the bill when available. I will continue to follow this closely as I am extremely committed to protecting children from all harm, online and offline. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Campaign reply - Animal cruelty sentencin

Thank you to those who have sent me a copy of a further campaign email regarding animal cruelty sentencing. I know the strength of feeling on this issue and note the previous campaign emails covering this. With that in mind I copy below my earlier expressed views on this. As an animal lover I will continue to promote animal welfare.

Animals are mentioned many times in the Conservative manifesto and as an animal lover I welcome the actions proposed. The document sets out :

Animal Welfare:

High standards of animal welfare are
one of the hallmarks of a civilised
society. We have a long tradition of
protecting animals in this country,
often many years before others follow.
Under a Conservative Government, that
will continue – and we will continue to
support such efforts overseas.

We will introduce tougher
sentences for animal cruelty.

We will crack down on the illegal
smuggling of dogs and puppies.

We will bring in new laws on animal

We will end excessively long
journeys for slaughter and fattening
– one of the many benefits of
leaving the European Union.

We will bring the ivory ban into
force and extend it to cover other
ivory-bearing species, and ban
imports from trophy hunting of
endangered animals.

We will ban keeping primates as pets.

We will bring forward cat
microchipping, giving cat owners
peace of mind and increasing the
measures we have available to tackle

I have already led a Westminster Hall debate calling for banning of live animal export for slaughter and will continue to support legislation that improves the lives of animals and was delighted to hear the Prime Minister make reference to banning this during Prime Ministers Questions.

Campaign reply - Please speak up for nature in the Environment Bill debates

Several constituents have sent me a campaign email concerning the Environment Bill.

The environment and how we protect it has long since been of great importance to me and I have been delighted to work with different environmental groups on this vital matter.

The government has consistently said that it will not dilute measures designed to protect the environment now we have left the EU. The Government’s 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment is available here:

The campaign email refers to local people:  “Locally, people are doing great things for nature’s recovery by switching to green energy, leaving a patch in their garden to grow wild, and eating less meat, but key nationwide change cannot happen without strong laws”. I agree with much of this sentiment about local people caring. My own experience of organising events around improving our environment have always been met with real support and enthusiasm from constituents. One area I have long campaigned on is the reduction in single use plastics and the terrible damage they do to our environment. Beach cleans involving collecting plastics have also been well attended and I will always be pleased to welcome more volunteers in helping. You can find out more here:

The conservative party manifesto refers not only to the environment but also to the bill:

Stewards of our environment
Our Environment Bill will guarantee
that we will protect and restore our
natural environment after leaving
the EU. Because conservation has
always been at the very heart of
We will set up a new independent
Office For Environmental Protection
and introduce our own legal targets,
including for air quality.
We will invest in nature, helping us
to reach our Net Zero target with a
£640 million new Nature for Climate
fund. Building on our support for
creating a Great Northumberland
Forest, we will reach an additional
75,000 acres of trees a year by the
end of the next Parliament, as well as
restoring our peatland.
We welcome the Glover Review
and will create new National Parks
and Areas of Outstanding Natural
Beauty, as well as making our most
loved landscapes greener, happier,
healthier and open to all. We will
make the coast to coast path
across the most beautiful areas of
the North a National Trail.
We will continue to lead the world
in tackling plastics pollution, both
in the UK and internationally, and
will introduce a new levy to increase
the proportion of recyclable plastics
in packaging. We will introduce
extended producer responsibility,
so that producers pay the full
costs of dealing with the waste
they produce, and boost domestic
recycling. We will ban the export
of plastic waste to non-OECD
countries, consulting with industry,
NGOs and local councils on the
date by which this should be
We will crack down on the waste
and carelessness that destroys
our natural environment and
kills marine life. We will increase
penalties for fly-tipping, make
those on community sentences
clean up their parks and streets,
and introduce a deposit return
scheme to incentivise people to
recycle plastic and glass.

Much of the concerns raised in this campaign are covered by the strong environmental commitments made by the government and I will always welcome feedback from constituents on this vital area and hopefully look forward to meeting many of you on our next beach clean.

Newspaper column 12 February 2020 - Agriculture, housing and the NHS

Last week was another busy and significant week in Parliament. As the first week that Parliament had sat since we left the EU we were able to focus on delivering what the country needs to ensure a positive future independent of the EU.

The Agriculture Bill passed its second reading – this lays out the framework for how we will continue to support our farmers as we leave the Common Agriculture Policy. We also passed the NHS Funding Bill, which will now go to the House of Lords. This sets into law the record increase in funding we will be providing for the NHS. By the end of this Parliament the NHS will receive an additional £33.9billion every year – the biggest cash increase in its history. This amounts to an additional £651million per week – almost double the amount that was written on the side of that bus!

I was also pleased to meet with Education Minister Lord Agnew to discuss the future of Further Education provision through Cornwall College. This was a meeting I was due to have in the Autumn but was delayed due to the General Election. It was a very positive meeting and I was pleased to receive his support to work with me to ensure that FE provision is not just secured but improved for the future.

One of the biggest challenges facing our country is ensuring that we have the housing we need to meet the demands of our population, particularly the 83% of people who currently do not own their own home but aspire to do so. Nowhere is this challenge felt more strongly than here in Cornwall.

We will all be familiar of the difficulty our young people face in finding a home they can afford to purchase, particularly those who desire to live the in communities they grew up in when those places are popular for tourists and holiday homeowners.

Very often the biggest obstacle is saving enough for a deposit. Very often couples who are renting from a private landlord find that the monthly cost of a mortgage would be less than the rent they pay, but are unable to save for the deposit due to the cost of renting.

In recent years the government has sought to help first time buyers get onto the property lander through various schemes, such as Help to Buy, which have had some success. But the challenge is a very large one and more clearly needs to be done.

Therefore I was pleased that the Conservative Manifesto contained a commitment to bring forward further schemes to enable first time buyers to buy their first home and that one such scheme was launched last week. The First Homes scheme will enable first time buyers to buy their first home with 30% discount that will count towards a deposit and assist in obtaining a mortgage. The scheme is specifically aimed at enabling local people to purchase a property in the place they currently live.

I believe this could be a game changer in enabling local people to own their first home. As with all these type of schemes we need to watch the detail closely as it is rolled out. But I am pleased to see the government getting to grips with the real challenges that face people in our communities and coming forward with plans to address them.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Campaign reply - Please support a ban on the use of the whip in horse racing

Several constituents have written to me with a campaign email, “support a ban on the use of the whip in horse racing.”

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.

This industry is already one of the most heavily scrutinised in the world and quite rightly so as all animals should be treated appropriately. However sometimes there are campaign groups seeking to introduce ever more draconian  regulation as a disguised attempt at a total ban on horse racing. As a Conservative, I do not believe in banning things in general.

As a family we have been horse owners and lovers and so animal health, welfare and their treatment is always of interest.
During a recent Westminster hall debate the Minister did take note of many points raised over the concerns for racehorses . It is also worth noting that the debate itself was an invaluable tool in raising awareness amongst MPs and the public around racehorse welfare and treatment. That has the effect of  influencing decision-making in Government and Parliament.

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

Campaign reply : ‘Please attend Action for Children’s drop-in event on domestic abuse and children’

Thank you to those constituents who have recently contacted me as part of the campaign ‘Please attend Action for Children’s drop-in event on domestic abuse and children’.

I regret I am unable to attend this meeting due to a longstanding prior Parliamentary commitment.

However I am of course sympathetic to these concerns and will certainly continue to raise them with colleagues in Westminster when these matters are discussed in informing future policy.

Campaign reply Please support people with motor neurone disease by attending a meeting in Parliament

Thank you to those constituents who have recently contacted me as part of the campaign ‘Please support people with motor neurone disease by attending a meeting in Parliament’

As a Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care I am unable to join All Party Parliamentary Groups relating to health matters.

However I am sympathetic to these concerns and will certainly raise them with colleagues in the Department when these matters are discussed in informing future policy.

Campaign reply - “ Help protect the Oceans”

Several constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email from Greenpeace, “ Help protect the Oceans”.

It was an honour to host an event for Greenpeace in Parliament in June of last year highlighting similar issues and plastic pollution in our rivers – which of course can lead to the further pollution of our seas and oceans.

I continue to take an interest in the work of Greenpeace and also the excellent work of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Ocean Conservation Group which I have chaired. Following the general election the APPG will be reformulated. The invitation to others to join the APPG says this:

As you know, the ocean is now front and centre of the environmental debate and public concerns, both in terms of impacts we are having on ecosystems and possible solutions to safeguard our natural world. We look forward to working together to discuss issues including climate change, plastic pollution, water quality and the need for highly protected marine reserves. This year marks the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, which provides us with a powerful external frame to further develop the scope and impact of the Ocean Conservation APPG.

Representing a coastal constituency, I feel an increased sense of responsibility to do all I can to both raise awareness of these issues and do something about it. It includes taking practical steps too. For those who have troubled to send me a copy of the campaign email I believe it shows your keen interest in our environment. As already stated, I have long since been involved with various environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Ocean Conservation hosting events in Parliament and lobbying ministers on a range of related issues. I will continue to do so including the Prime Minister.  But it is essential to do something beyond that; I also take practical steps by organising events in the constituency. Campaign emails have become part of our democracy, but far more telling is what we all do to improve our environment. With that in mind I would be delighted if you would join me and my team of volunteers on beach cleans and the like. Details of upcoming events can be found here:

Friday, 7 February 2020

Campaign response – Stop extreme abortion framework being imposed on Northern Ireland

Thank you to constituents who have been in contact with me about the amendment that was passed to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill requiring the Government to introduce a new abortion framework for Northern Ireland that would have to be implemented by 31st March 2020.

As someone whose pro-life views on abortion are known to many, I continue to have my concerns about the imposition of Westminster’s unpopular and unwarranted will on the people of Northern Ireland regarding abortion liberalisation.

The legislative process in Northern Ireland has been devolved since the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Abortion laws in Northern Ireland is a domestic policy issue that primarily affects the people of Northern Ireland.

Recent polling shows that two-thirds of women in Northern Ireland (and 70% of 18-34 year olds) believe that the law on this issue should be a decision for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives, and is not for Westminster to decide.

It is also worth noting that the Northern Ireland Assembly has considered the issue of abortion more recently than any other parliament in the United Kingdom. In 2016, a cross-community vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly upheld the law on abortion as it currently stands.

The amendment to the NI Bill sets a risky precedence in our devolved relationship with the Northern Ireland executive, especially at a time when we have finally found a way forward to restore the Executive in Belfast.

As your representative in Parliament I continue to work closely with charities and organisations like Right to Life, SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) and others to campaign to lower to gestational time limit for abortion in the UK, prohibit the practice of sex-selective abortion, and ensure that we have an adequate system of support women and their unborn children.

I have already spoken to Government ministers about this issue and raised my concerns, and constituents can have my assurance that I will continue to make my views known via all channels on this issue.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Campaign reply - Will you attend the St Mungo's Parliamentary event? - 5 February, 12.30 - 2.30, Dining Room A

A number of constituents have contacted me asking me to attend the St Mungo’s Parliamentary event, which took place on 5 February.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend as my role as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care required me to attend to other Parliamentary duties.

However I recognise the need to support people away from rough sleeping. I am pleased that the government in recent years has given significant funding to Cornwall Council as part of the Homelessness Reduction Fund. However this funding needs to spent responsibly and with the impact of the wider community in mind, as well as helping those in need. I will continue to work with colleagues in Cornwall and in Westminster to ensure this happens.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Campaign reply - “Will you ensure the Budget delivers on PM’s climate and energy promises?”

Several constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email entitled, “Will you ensure the Budget delivers on PM’s climate and energy promises?”

Protecting our environment is a matter of huge importance to me and I was delighted to see the clear commitments made in the recent Conservative Party manifesto to see us reach a net zero carbon economy by 2050. We are the first major world economy to announce this bold plan.  Plans are well laid and there are a range of actions already in process. For instance, we were one of the first countries in the world to ban the sale of conventionally fuelled cars by 2040 – something likely to be achieved well ahead as the market and manufacturers have already reacted with the sale of electric cars up and the introduction of a record 19 new electric cars into the UK market this year. Transport makes up around a third of all pollution, so this is a vital step forward.

The way we tackle climate change and protect our environment will be many fold and whilst the emphasis in this campaign is on onshore wind farms it is just one way we will win the climate change battle. Another highly significant development, with less visual and noise impact than onshore wind farms,  is the huge technological strides being made in offshore wind farms. I have recently met with industry specialists on this and believe there to be huge potential in developing this industry not only to generate clean energy but also see hundreds of new, well paid jobs come to Cornwall as we see potential development in the seas that surround us.

The Conservative party manifesto references the environment 22 times. The government has and is taking this as a priority. I copy a section below:

Fight climate change and protect the environment Conservation is, and always has been, at the heart of Conservatism. Our Government’s stewardship of the natural environment, its focus
on protecting the countryside and reducing plastic waste, is a source of immense pride.
But today, the climate emergency means that the challenges we face stretch far beyond our borders. Thanks to the efforts of successive Governments, the UK has cut carbon emissions by more than any similar developed country. We are now the world’s leader in offshore wind – a fantastic success story of Government and the private sector working hand in hand to cut costs and deliver ever more electricity at plummeting costs.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, we believe that free markets, innovation and prosperity can protect the planet. Yet we recognise that there is far more that needs to be done.

We will lead the global fight against
climate change by delivering on our
world-leading target of Net Zero
greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,
as advised by the independent
Committee on Climate Change.
We have doubled International
Climate Finance. And we will use
our position hosting the UN Climate
Change Summit in Glasgow in 2020
to ask our global partners to match
our ambition.
We will set up new international
partnerships to tackle deforestation
and protect vital landscapes and
wildlife corridors. We will establish a
new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to
help protect our oceans from plastic
pollution, warming sea temperatures
and overfishing, and extend the
Blue Belt programme to preserve
the maritime environment. We will
continue to lead diplomatic efforts
to protect 30 per cent of the world’s
oceans by 2030.
Our first Budget will prioritise the
environment: investing in R&D;
decarbonisation schemes; new flood
defences, which will receive £4 billion
in new funding over the coming
years; electric vehicle infrastructure
including a national plug-in network
and gigafactory; and clean energy.
In the next decade, we will work with
the market to deliver two million new
high quality jobs in clean growth. We
have ambitious targets:
Our world-leading offshore wind
industry will reach 40GW by 2030,
and we will enable new floating wind
We will invest £800 million to build the
first fully deployed carbon capture
storage cluster by the mid-2020s.
We will invest £500 million to help
energy-intensive industries move to
low-carbon techniques.
We will support gas for hydrogen
production and nuclear energy,
including fusion, as important parts of
the energy system, alongside increasing
our commitment to renewables.
We placed a moratorium on fracking
in England with immediate effect.
Having listened to local communities, we
have ruled out changes to the planning
system. We will not support fracking
unless the science shows categorically
that it can be done safely.
We will help lower energy bills by
investing £9.2 billion in the energy
efficiency of homes, schools and
We will support clean transport to
ensure clean air, as well as setting strict
new laws on air quality. We will consult
on the earliest date by which we can
phase out the sale of new conventional
petrol and diesel cars.

Since publication there is now further consideration being given to bringing forward the ban on sale of conventionally fuelled cars to 2035.

Campaign reply - Trophy hunting

I have received a number of campaign emails on the matter of trophy hunting.

There is to be an early day motion and I have been asked to sign it. 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 tax payer. However that is not to say I do not have sympathy with your concerns.

In recent times trophy hunters have come under significant scrutiny in social media and other platforms. There is clearly a growing sense of disquiet of certain aspects of this “sport”.

Whilst I am at heart against the banning of things, I believe legislation around trophy hunting could be looked at further.  Now we have left the EU we will of course be free to make our own laws again and that will serve this cause and the nation very well on all manner of matters.

Campaign reply - Rail Passengers

Several constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email which at heart is seeking the nationalisation of the railway. I disagree.  It also makes deeply flawed statements about the rail network and completely overlooks the progress made since privatisation such as passenger numbers doubling and the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times.

Much of the views expressed in this campaign were reflected in the Labour party manifesto which as we all know was heavily rejected at the last election. The Conservative party manifesto made clear the  commitment to the railways and how best to continue record investment to improve them. There is a lot that still needs doing after decades of neglect and under-investment during the disastrous state owned era.

For the avoidance of doubt the government will ensure we see best value for money so that rail users can enjoy more reliable and frequent services.  Cornwall has seen the provision of  a million extra seats recently with the introduction of new, faster and more frequent trains. It will continue to act against any part of the rail service that is failing.

The Conservative party manifesto made many references to our railways. Below is an extract from one section. It sums up the vision for the future of the railways and one I am pleased to endorse as did so many at the last election:

A transport revolution

A key part of our plan to level up the UK’s cities and regions is to connect them. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a light rail or metro system. And European cities are often more productive than our own in large part because they have better infrastructure. We will connect our cities:

We will build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle. We will invest in the Midlands Rail Hub, strengthening rail links including those between Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Coventry, Derby, Hereford and Worcester.

We will also invest in improving train lines to the South West and East Anglia.

We will extend contactless pay-asyou go ticketing to almost 200 more stations in the South East, meaning that 50 per cent of all rail journeys and almost all London commuter journeys can be completed using a  contactless bank card.

We will give city regions the funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services to make them as good as London’s, with more frequent, better-integrated services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and smart ticketing – such as the vision proposed by Andy Street for the West Midlands.

The railways need accountability, not nationalisation. So we will end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective rail system, including giving metro mayors control over services in their areas.

We will make a £28.8 billion investment in strategic and local roads. We will invest £1 billion in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station. We will consult on the earliest date we can phase out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars, while minimising the impact on drivers and businesses.

We will require that a minimum service operates during transport strikes. Rail workers deserve a fair deal, but it is not fair to let the trade unions undermine the livelihoods of others.

HS2 is a great ambition but will now cost at least £81 billion and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.

Connectivity is not just about the UK’s great cities. To help communities across the country,
we will restore many of the Beeching lines, reconnecting smaller towns such as Fleetwood and Willenhall that have suffered permanent disadvantage since they were removed from the rail network in the 1960s.

Newspaper column 5 February 2020 - Looking forward after Brexit

As I am sure we are all aware, the UK left the European Union on Friday. I know that for many this was a moment of celebration – the culmination of three and a half years of struggle to deliver on the 2016 referendum result. For others it is the end of years, even decades of campaigning for the UK to leave the EU.

But I am also very much aware that there are plenty of people form whom this is a moment of regret and sadness. Those who believe this is not the path the country should be taking. So while I was one of those who allowed themselves to enjoy the moment at 11pm on Friday, it was also with a deep sense of the task ahead.

My strongest emotion on Friday was one of relief. As someone who has lived through the past three and a half years at the heart of the wrangling in Parliament, it is a relief to finally reach this point so that we can move on. It is a great relief to be able to deliver on what the vast majority of politicians said they would do – respect the referendum result. In that sense it is a relief that we have shown that democracy is alive and well in our country and that when a majority of people vote for something it actually happens.

Any sense of celebration is tempered by the need for us to now come together as a country, heal the divisions that have been so raw in recent times and face the future with a renewed sense of common purpose and confidence in our nation. So while I fully understand all those who felt the desire to make a big show of their celebrations of this historic moment, I also fully support the Prime Minster who sought to keep things fairly low key.

The reality is that not much has changed since Friday. Officially we are no longer a member state of the EU. We have left all its institutions, no longer have MEPS and will take up our seats on international bodies as an independent state once again. However, we are now in an eleven month transition phase until the end of this year. During this time we will continue to abide by all EU regulations.

This period of time will primarily be used to negotiate our future relationship on trade and cooperation in areas such as intelligence and security. It will also give time for Parliament to put the necessarily legislation in place so we have the legal framework we need for the UK Parliament to take over the democratic responsibility for areas that have been under the EU until now. Due to the make up and deep division in the previous Parliament we were unable to pass the legislation before. Now Boris Johnson has a majority we can get on with passing these bills that will provide our farmers, fishermen and businesses with many of the details they need to know about the future regulations they will need to operate under.

This week Parliament will begin debating the Agriculture Bill, which will provide the legal framework for our famers once we are out of the EU Common Agriculture Policy. This will lay out the way we will support our farmers and the standards we will expect them to adhere to for important things such as animal welfare and protecting our environment and countryside.

Also last week we began the process of the Fisheries Bill and Environment Bill being presented to Parliament. One of the key aspects of leaving the EU is the UK being once again in control of our own fishing waters. This bill will return power to the UK Parliament to decide who is allowed to fish in our waters and will mean we can ensure our own fishermen get a fairer share of the quota.

The Environment Bill will establish our commitment to protect the environment and enable us to be in control of the standards we operate by. I am particularly interested in the measures this Bill will provide for protecting our seas and holding water companies more effectively to account for discharging sewage.

In the coming weeks we will also have a new Immigration Bill, that will provide the new policy the UK will operate by once we end free movement of people and control our own borders.

So we have a busy and important time ahead in Parliament now we have actually left the EU. This is primarily what Brexit is about. Returning the democratic responsibility for all these things, and many more, to our own Parliament where you can hold me as your MP to account for the decisions we make.

This is a historic time in our nation’s history. I count it a huge honour to be representing our constituency in Parliament at this time and I will never forget that it is you, the local voters who put me here, and you that I am ultimately accountable to.