Thursday, 28 May 2020

Campaign response – Renewed concerns about the Middle East Peace Process and the Israeli government's plans to annex land in the West Bank of Palestine

Thank you to constituents who have written to me regarding their concerns for the Middle East Peace Process in recent weeks.

The resumption of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians is the only way to secure the two-state solution that we all hope to see. It is regrettable that the Palestinian leadership has rejected peace proposals in the past, and it is incumbent on the international community to encourage both sides to make the difficult compromises necessary to achieve a lasting peace.

Constituents are also right to say that the UK has a historic responsibility in helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed, we have a proud record of not only upholding but shaping the international rules-based order.

The recent cooperation we have seen between Israelis and Palestinians in coordinating their response to COVID-19 is commendable and demonstrates that positive engagement is possible. The UK is the fourth largest donor country to the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to combat coronavirus, with over $1.12 million provided via the Inter-Agency Response Plan.

I continued to be deeply concerned that the Hamas terror group’s preference of the destruction of Israel over the wellbeing of the people of Gaza, and no doubt you share my view that until Hamas seeks peace instead of terror, there sadly can be no progress towards a peaceful resolution with Israel.

On the issue of Israeli settlements, while I believe settlement expansion to be counter-productive to the peace process, they should not be considered a permanent obstacle to peace. Not only does Israel have a history of removing settlements in the interests of peace, but both parties have accepted for decades, as per previous interim peace agreements, that a final two-state solution would include Israel retaining settlements in exchange for equivalent land swaps.

Questions remain over the details of the annexation proposals constituents refer to; this is not a foregone conclusion and premature reactions should be avoided. With that in mind, I support the UK Government in recognising a Palestinian state only at a time when it best serves the objective of peace.

While the latest US proposals for peace have not been universally welcomed, it is significant that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have expressed optimism over the plan alongside the UK. It is regrettable that the Palestinian leadership refused to engage with the US during the drafting process, and rejected the proposals outright. The plan should be seen as the basis of negotiations, not a final agreement.
As a country renowned for its high-tech expertise and scientific discoveries, the UK benefits from Israeli innovation. Medicines from Israel save the NHS billions of pounds a year, and over 200 tablets or capsules made by Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva are taken by patients in the UK every second. Sanctions on Israel and the wider boycott campaign therefore stands to be damaging for UK-Israel bilateral relations and the wellbeing of our populations.

What is clear, above all, is that the need for a renewed peace process is more urgent than ever. Our Government remains committed to a two-state solution through direct negotiations, and all parties involved as well as the international community must step up efforts without delay.

Thank you again to constituents who have taken the time to contact me on this important matter. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Newspaper column 27 May 2020 - Covid update 10

As we enter our ninth week in the Coronavirus lockdown, we can begin to see a glimmer of hope that we are on the road out.

I am very much aware of the genuinely held concerns of many local people that we need to tread carefully as we ease the restrictions. Having worked so hard to contain and push back the virus in Cornwall, we are of course concerned that we do not unnecessarily risk another outbreak. The small and measured steps to relax the lockdown have of course been welcomed as we have been able to enjoy getting out more, but of course we are also aware of the risks.

There has been much concern about the number of people who may now be coming to Cornwall from elsewhere in the country. While there have been reports of some people defying the restrictions and coming to Cornwall to stay overnight in their 2nd homes or campervans, I do think we need to keep a sense of perspective.

Our local Police have been proactive in investigating reports of overnight stays and have issued fines and sent people on their way where breaches have been found. But it has actually been a relatively low number and the vast majority of those who have been out enjoying the beach and other open spaces have been local people. We do all need to make sure we do not fall into the trap of believing that everyone driving a campervan or enjoying the beach has travelled hundreds of miles to be here. It has been particularly disappointing to hear reports of local people receiving abuse and damage done to vehicles because they were wrongly believed to be visitors.

The A30 has been quiet all weekend. And apart from a spike last Wednesday, which saw the first real beach day weather since the rules were relaxed, the beaches have been relatively quiet. All the evidence I can see is that with a small number of exceptions, of selfish and irresponsible people who have travelled here to stay, it is local people who have been out and about and behaving responsibly. 
The sad news of one of the country’s major staycation travel firms, Shearings, going into administration is a poignant reminder of the impact this crisis is having on our biggest economic sector. This firm used to bring thousands of visitors to this part of Cornwall every year. The closure of two of our local hotels and the resultant loss of hundreds of local jobs reminds us that the cost of this virus will not just be in health but will also be economic. It is of course absolutely right that protecting lives will always be the priority. Nothing is more important than making sure we all, especially our most vulnerable, are not exposed to the threat this virus brings. But we should also all be aware of the hardship and suffering that is likely to lie ahead as our region that is so dependant on tourism seeks to recover.

This week I received some national data that showed of all the constituencies in the country, ours in St Austell and Newquay, had more tourists staying overnight in a typical year than any of the other 649. I am rightly proud of our place in the tourist economy and all the local businesses who play their part in this success. But the downside of this means that we have the most to lose from this crisis.

I have been as robust as anyone in making clear that now is not the time for tourists to come to Cornwall. I have been on national broadcast media and in the national papers making clear we are not yet ready to welcome tourists. But this situation will have to change at some point. As we continue to make progress in our fight against the Coronavirus the point will be reached when hospitality outlets and some accommodation providers will be allowed to open. This will only be done when the data and expert advice says it is safe and appropriate to do so, and will be done in a gradual and measured way. The government have stated that the earliest this is likely to begin is 4th July and it will of course be dependent on there being no signs of a further outbreak.

But this point will come. And it is important that we are prepared for it. Both practically in ensuring our local businesses are ready to welcome those who may come. But also, mentally and emotionally. I do believe that all of us who live here need to guard against building up an attitude that tourist are the enemy. Our economy relies on people coming here on holiday more than any constituency in the country and when the time is right, only when the time is right, we need to be ready to welcome them.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Campaign reply - re-opening of schools

Thank you to all those constituents who have been in touch regarding the re-opening of schools. There have been several different campaigns regarding this proposal, and I hope to address as many of these concerns as possible within this post.

I do understand this is a worrying time for many people. As we emerge from the lockdown there are many questions and concerns regarding the proposed changes as none of us have ever lived through a situation quite like this.

Firstly, please let me say the government continues to follow the expert medical and scientific advice in all the decisions that are made. The proposal to re-open school is only being considered because we believe it is safe to do so. The spread of the virus is largely under control and the infection rate and death rate has been falling steadily for several weeks. It is only in this context that these decisions are being taken. Protecting the health and safety of the British public is, and must always be, our number one priority. That goal has guided the Government’s actions so far, and will continue to do so, both now and in the future. The welfare of children and staff is at the heart of all decisions being taken on this proposal.

We are now entering a period where the negative risks to children not attending school is as much of a concern than the potential risks to children attending school. We are very sadly seeing a rise in rates of depression among children and there are many vulnerable children who have had no contact with their peers, teachers and other key members of their support networks throughout this very challenging period. We are also extremely mindful of the significant negative impacts of poverty, both in the short and long-term, for children whose parents are unable to work or who could lose their jobs due to the coronavirus. Whilst the government has put in place unprecedented packages of support, targeting those on the lowest incomes, there will inevitably be those families who fall through the gaps. By increasing school provision, many parents will be able to either increase or take up work which has a range of emotional as well as financial benefits.

When we initially closed schools, the estimated infection rate within the community was between 4-10%. Schools were therefore shut to reduce the number of social interactions between non-household members and help to reduce the spread of the virus. We now believe the infection rate within the community is 0.27% and whilst this means of course there is still a risk, it is significantly lower. It is also important to keep in mind that even before Coronavirus, deadly infectious diseases existed within the population and no infectious disease has ever been completely eradicated, with the exception of smallpox. As we now believe the risks to children’s wellbeing and long-term prospects of not attending school is higher than the risk posed by the spread of the Coronavirus, we are looking to introduce a phased return to schools. This does not mean we expect every school to open or every pupil to attend, and this will be not be implemented without significant safeguards in place. All of this is dependent on the continued progress of our fight against the virus and any further steps to ease the lockdown will only be taken if it is safe to do so.

The government guidance regarding the reopening of schools is also available online and is continually being reviewed and updated, as appropriate. I would encourage any constituents with concerns to read the guidance on these proposals. The link to this guidance is as follows:

It is worth noting that other countries have opened their schools, some did so several weeks ago. They have managed to operate schools safely and there have been no reported adverse effects from this.  

Early years are vital in children’s educational development, which is also in part why the government is looking to open early years settings first. Neurological research shows that early years plays a key role in children’s brain development including building important skills such as socialising with other children and adults, communication and language as well as forming the foundations for autonomy and independence, and developing their personality and preferences. School settings are designed to promote positive development and teachers are professionally trained to provide children with the best educational start, supported by pastoral staff whose priority is the welfare of all pupils. All teachers and senior leads in schools within Cornwall also have access to high level professional training on emotional resilience and mental health and at least two staff from each school are trained to deliver one to one and group sessions for any children who may benefit from additional support. There is also further support available through the HeadStart Kernow programme. Whilst I do of course appreciate parents’ concerns about their children returning to schools, and I would like to reassure all parents the government will not be forcing parents to send their children to school, I believe it is important for them to keep all of the above in mind when making this decision.

With regard to specific queries about what measures are being put into place to keep all pupils and staff safe, the government has produced specific guidance for schools which is also available online using the link below:

This outlines the recommended practices schools can adopt to minimise infection, such as regularly cleaning surfaces and encouraging good hygiene (regular hand-washing) as well as making simple steps to reduce the number of pupils and staff mixing, such as changing classroom layouts and staggered break times. As I have already highlighted, the government is not expecting all pupils to return to school immediately, and anyone who is shielding would of course be encouraged to stay at home. In some cases, it may be necessary for providers to introduce a temporary cap on numbers to ensure that safety is prioritised. The recommendation is for every school to undertake a risk assessment before making any decision regarding reopening. For parents of children who are vulnerable, but not in the shielding category, they should seek medical advice as to whether it is safe for their child to return to a school setting.

The safety of children, staff and their families is of the utmost importance and therefore schools would only reopen if it is safe to do so. The government is seeking constructive engagement with teachers and unions to draw up further guidance. It is important to highlight a significant number of schools have remained open during the lockdown for children of critical workers and vulnerable children and have therefore already put in place protective measures, including ensuring pupils do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms, keeping children in small groups and minimising contact, and cleaning surfaces more frequently. This proposal is looking to enhance and expand this offer, in a safe and sensible way.

I would also like to take this opportunity to again thank all those teachers and other school staff for their dedication and hard-work in providing this essential service for vulnerable children and children of key workers. Schools have also been continuing to provide Free School Meals for the most vulnerable families and I am grateful for all the staff involved in ensuring these children have had this vital support.

The government recognises it is impossible to expect young children to socially distance, which is why we are looking at using the ‘bubble’ model where children returning to school will be grouped with a small number of other pupils and staff. They will effectively become an extended household, and if anyone within this group is symptomatic, they will all be asked to isolate. As recently announced, anyone over the age of 5 is now able to access testing and if testing is negative, they will be able to safely return to school. The fewer the number of social interactions all of us have, the safer it will be to relax restrictions, supported by the test, track and trace programmes to quickly identify and isolate any new infections. The bubble model will enable children to have positive social interaction in a safe and responsible way.

Initial research is suggesting that children are less likely to contract the virus, and where children do contract they virus they tend to experience very mild symptoms. There is some evidence to suggest they are also less likely to transmit the virus to others and this is being explored by researchers as there are very few reported cases of adults contracting the virus from children. There have also been no reported outbreaks in schools around the world which suggests that with appropriate safeguards, schools are low risk environments for all attending. There is a potential for teachers and school staff to pose a risk to one another, which is why it is recommended that as much as possible school staff all adhere to social distancing with one another. We recognise this may not always be possible, and therefore staff can be assigned within the bubble model, so that staff are limited to close-contact interaction with other staff within your bubble and social distancing is maintained with staff in other bubbles.

Whilst youngest pupils are typically those who are least able to socially distance, they are also at the lowest risk to the effects of the Coronavirus and typically have the smallest number of social connections both inside and outside of school settings which reduces the likelihood of them mixing with those outside their household or bubble. The youngest pupils are also at the earliest stage of their education, which research consistently shows is one of the most vital stages for their development as I outlined above. However there are older pupils who are at key stages of their education, and this is why they are also being considered as a priority for a return to school settings, such as Year 6 pupils who are due to make the key transition from primary to secondary schools in September.

By taking this staggered approach, this also allows us to monitor the effect of each of these decisions and if there is any indication that infection rates are increasing, immediate action would be taken.

I would also like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the government will not fine any parents who choose to keep their children home and therefore if anyone, after considering all of the above, feels it is not right for their children to return to schools at this time, then they would not face any negative repercussions for this choice.

Whilst everything will be done to ensure children and staff are as safe as possible as they return to school, we also have to accept that we cannot remove all risk, whether that is from Coronavirus or other dangers. Until we have an effective vaccine there will always be a risk of a further outbreak. However it could be several months or even a year before a vaccine is widely available, if ever. It is unrealistic to expect schools to remain closed until this is achieved. Therefore, it is right that we work together to allow children to return to school whilst doing everything we can to minimise the risk. This has been the approach taken in other areas such as food retail and other essential services and it should be the approach now taken by schools.

We need to work together in the best interests of our children and wider communities. Getting our children back to school as soon as possible is important for a number of reasons and I really hope everyone who needs to will work together to find a way for this to happen.

Thanks again to all those who have been in touch about this important issue, and I trust this is reassuring to you.

Camapign reply - Tethering

A number of constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email regarding tethering of animals and horses in particular.

We are an animal loving nation and that is reflected not only in the concern and love shown to animals by so many of us but also by the UK having some of the toughest laws in the world around animal welfare. My family have owned horses in the past and I know they bring much joy.

I fear there will sadly always be those who do not share the care and concern for animals that the vast majority do and whatever legislation is introduced it will not prevent all acts of ill treatment. Essential to seeing a reduction in cases if ill treatment is should anyone become aware of cases of animal cruelty they report it immediately to the police or the RSPCA.

The role of local authorities is important and whilst I support greater intervention by them it is the duty of local authorities. I have no control over how they manage this or any other aspect of their responsibilities.

Whilst I am supportive of causes seeking the best animal welfare it is also right that those who have responsibility in any given area make sure they fulfil their duties and as such I will raise the matter with the Council.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Campaign response - Extradition

Thank you to constituents who have contacted me to express their concerns about recent media reports that two British men have been extradited to the US to face charges.

I agree with them on the importance of holding those who are responsible for the murder of Harry Dunn to account and will continue to speak up for justice to be done in the case.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, wrote the Revd Martin Luther King Jr. Just as we in the UK are keen to see foreign fugitives who have committed serious crimes in this country to be returned to our country, we should expect to see the same level of eagerness from US citizens to see foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes returned to their country to face the consequences of their actions.

I fully understand how strongly constituents feel about seeking justice for Harry Dunn and this is certainly a case that has certainly raised important questions about our historic and special relationship with the US. I and many colleagues across the benches will continue to press ministers for further action and representations to their US counterparts. But in returning fugitives to the country where they have committed their offences to face the legal consequences, we are demonstrating to our American partners that we are doing the right thing and honouring our end of the agreement with them, and that it is up to them now to review their latest decision and ensure that those who are culpable for the murder of Harry Dunn are brought to justice before a British court.

Newspaper column 20 May - COVID Update 9

It has certainly been another eventful week in our progress towards beating the Coronavirus.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of some small relaxation of the lockdown there was understandably a great deal of concern as to how this would play out here in Cornwall. I was pleased to see that generally, the vast majority of people, continued to apply common sense and enjoyed the new freedom we have in a responsible manner.

Thankfully, we did not see an influx of day trippers as some had feared and although there was certainly more traffic on the roads this was mostly locals moving about for work and local recreation. The Police reported only a slight increase of traffic on the A30 and although some were expecting a long line of caravans and campers heading our way this simply did not materialise.

It is important we all continue to behave in a responsible way. We cannot stay in lockdown forever and as we continue to see progress made in fighting this virus, there will be further relaxations of the restriction. But these will only be made on the basis of scientific advice and when it is safe to do so.

 The other big issue last week was the proposals to begin to reopen schools from 1st June. I am sure we will all agree that getting our children back into school as soon as it is safe to do so should be a priority. Pupils have already missed more than half a term of education and we know that prolonged time out of the classroom can be difficult to catch up on. This is particularly true for younger children. It is well established that time in the classroom in the early years is vital to a child’s ongoing education and attainment later in life.

However there has been a debate, particularly from the teaching unions, as to whether now is the right time to start to bring children back.

I think it is worth noting that of course many schools have remained open throughout this crisis, providing schooling for children of key workers. I want to again thank all those teachers and other school staff who have continued to go to work to provide this essential service.

I understand that no parent wants to take unnecessary risks in sending their child back to school. But we also need to keep things in balance. There is good evidence that children are at much lower risk from the virus.

Many parents will also need to be able to get their children back to school in order for them to be able to return to work.

It is unrealistic, to say that we cannot reopen schools until it is 100% safe to do so, as some are suggesting. Life always has inherent risks and we manage those risks every day. The only way we could ever say schools are 100% safe from Coronavirus would be if and when a vaccine is available. But this could still be many months, even years, away, if ever.

It is also worth noting that other European countries reopened their schools several weeks ago and have managed to do so safely and there have been no reported adverse consequences.

Many key workers have been managing the risks of this crisis for 8 weeks now. Our NHS staff, care workers, pharmacy staff, the Police and Fire Service and those who have kept our supermarkets and other essential provisions open. They have all had to face risks and work to reduce the risk whilst accepting it cannot be totally removed.

This is the approach we are all going to need in the coming weeks to get back to work, to get the economy moving.

Reopening our schools will be an important milestone in our progress out of lockdown. It needs to be taken in a measured and pragmatic way based on clear scientific advice. This is the approach the government are taking. The proposal is to begin doing so at the start of June, at the same time that Parliament is also likely to return, provided we continue to make steady progress. I am aware discussions are ongoing between the government and teaching unions to enable this to happen.

The Schools Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has said that schools need to open as soon as possible, particularly in the interest of the most vulnerable children in our communities who are most at risk from the continued closure. She has told the teaching unions and government to ‘stop squabbling and agree a plan’.  I tend to agree with her. We need to work together in the best interests of our children and wider communities. Getting our children back to school as soon as possible is important for a number of reasons and I really hope everyone who needs to will work together to find a way for this to happen.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Campaign reply - 'HS2 betrays us all'

A number of constituents have sent me a copy of an email regarding HS2.

The government’s commitment to see the UK economy at net carbon zero by 2050 is world leading and dynamic and has my full support.

There have not been any new lines built (other than the Euro tunnel link) outside of London for a hundred years. The Victorians were very good at building the lines we still use today but they are now beyond capacity, particularly going North. A mix of freight, local stopping trains and express services all sharing the same line causes problems and delays which will only escalate with demand. Trying to upgrade those lines would cause massive disruption and weekend line closures estimated at lasting for 29 years – and it would not solve the underlying issue of capacity. So, a new line is needed and the difference in cost between a new line and a highspeed one is marginal. Further, it may as well be a fast one which uses the latest technology.

No major project has received greater consideration in terms of the environment than HS2. Two million trees will be planted to name but one of the measures. Bear in mind too that train travel is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport.

The economy is of course going to feel the fallout of the medical crisis and once we are through this the government no doubt review expenditure in many areas. One of the ways to boost the economy is to continue to invest in our infrastructure and that includes the prospect of improving road and rail links both locally and nationally.

Campaign reply - 'The impact of coronavirus on disabled people’

A number of constituents have contacted me as part of Scope’s campaign ‘The impact of coronavirus on disabled people’

I appreciate people taking the time to get in touch with me about this important issue and the concerns raised are important.

I have read the report which was helpfully provided and will certainly bear in mind its content when discussing the Government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic with colleagues in the coming days and weeks.

If individuals have specific instances where they have needed assistance then they are welcome to contact me direct and I will help them.

Thanks again to everyone who has been in touch as part of this campaign.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Campaign reply - 'No turning back'

I have recently been contacted by constituents as part of the ‘No turning back’ campaign about ending homelessness.

I have been pleased to see the Government make funding available for rough sleepers, or those at risk of rough sleeping, who  will be 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 made 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.

It 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 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, as well as in looking at ways to further reduce homelessness across our country in the future, such as with the national schemes we already have.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Newspaper column - COVID-19 update 8

There has been a very mixed reaction to the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday evening. My view is that in the context of a single statement it provided a realistic update on where we are in our fight against the Coronavirus, gave a broad plan as to the way ahead to get out of lockdown and gave a few small relaxations of the existing restrictions.

Some people said they were left confused or concerned while many others have been in touch with me to say they felt it was a clear statement that they both understood and accepted as a sensible next step.

As I write this column, we are still awaiting the further guidance that the government will issue on the way ahead and I know there are many questions in people’s minds. Hopefully, the additional guidance will provide answers people are looking for.

The overriding message in the PM’s statement was clear – although we are winning the fight against this virus we have not won yet. Although we can take a few small steps to relax the lockdown, the lockdown largely remains in place. It is down to each one of us to remain responsible for our own actions and behaviour to keep ourselves, our family and everyone safe.

The two specific steps announced were around work and our daily exercise. The message is now that if you cannot work from home you should return to work provided you can maintain the social distancing rules. It is down to employers to put measures in place to enable staff to keep 2m apart. 

Again, more guidance for businesses will be issued this week on what measures they should put in place to achieve this. It is important as we start to look to come out of lockdown that we get businesses and the economy moving once again.

The other key announcement was that the restrictions on our daily exercise have been relaxed. From Wednesday there will be no limit on the number of times you can leave your house for exercise. Also, more forms of exercise will now be allowed such as playing some sports where this can be done alone or with members of your own household. We can also now enjoy being outside for recreation other than exercise such as sitting in park or on a beach, and that we are now allowed to drive to places to do this.

I know there has been a great deal of concern as to whether this will see people flocking to Cornwall. But we need to be clear that this relaxation is in the context of taking exercise or recreation. This should not give people the green light to come to Cornwall for a holiday or to relocate to their second homes. All holiday parks, hotels, bars, pubs and restaurants remain closed so we are unlikely to see hordes of people coming to Cornwall.

It is important to remember that the social distancing restrictions remain in force and the fines for breaking the 2m rule have now been increased. The Police will continue to enforce the social distancing rules in all public places.

One of the main questions raised has been about being able to see our family and friends once again. These announcements do provide for that in very limited ways. We still must not visit other homes. But we are able to meet our family and friends in small numbers in open spaces provided we keep to the social distancing restrictions. So, no hugs or kisses yet, but we can at least meet up in the park and have a chat.

I think we all understand that we cannot stay in lockdown for ever and we do need to begin to slowly and cautiously provide the public with a clear road map for the way ahead. I believe the Prime Minister provided this on Sunday with key markers as to when schools, shops, pubs and restaurants may begin open. But only if the current progress in winning the fight against this virus continues. There will be a new 5 stage Covid Alert Level that will monitor the level of infections, what is called the ‘R’ rate and the current risk of the virus spreading – level one means the disease is no longer present, level 5 means we are at extreme threat. We have been at level 4 since the lockdown began. As the rate and risk falls we will see further relaxation of the restrictions. There was a clear message though, if we start to see the infection rate increase we will find further tougher measures put in place.

What we all now need is a good dose of common sense and each of us continuing to play our part in this fight. Whilst we should all take the opportunity to enjoy the new freedoms in an appropriate way, we need to Stay Alert to the risk of a further outbreak. Maintaining the social distancing rules, washing our hands regularly and ensure we are not responsible for risking the virus spreading.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Campaign reply - FairFuelUK campaign

Thank you to those constituents who have sent me a copy of email from FairFuelUK seeking further support for hauliers during the corona virus.

In a reply to an earlier campaign email supporting the haulage industry I stated that  road transport forms a vital part of the infrastructure of the UK. We all rely on it.

Haulage remains a highly competitive business. I know many companies have ceased trading over the years whilst others have run successful and profitable businesses.

The government has in record time introduced a range of measures to assist businesses. The aim of the government  is that those that were viable before the medical crisis will be in a position to continue trading once it passes. The haulage industry presents unique circumstances and challenges and I will do all I can in making further representations to ministers to see what further help can be made.

Many will already be aware of the help the government is offering businesses in a multibillion-pound effort. More details can be found here:

The recent introduction of the bounce back loans is another widely welcomed measure. Here are some of the key features:

  Business banking and self-employed personal customers can borrow from £2,000 up to £50,000 for a fixed term of six years. The interest rate will be 2.5%.
  The Government will guarantee 100% of the loan and customers will not pay any interest or capital for the first year.
  To apply, customers should apply online to their bank.
  The application form will ask customers to consider a series of declarations.
  If customers are unable to apply online, they should call their bank to discuss next steps.

Having been in business myself for many years I am acutely aware of the pressures that virtually all businesses are facing right now and whilst I will continue to petition for more help on behalf of the haulage industry  I also firmly support the provision made by the chancellor to date.

Campaign reply - Stand with me for a democratic planning system

A number of constituents have recently contacted as part of the campaign ‘stand with me for a democratic planning system’

While the Government has had to put in changes to the way in which local councils can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is up to the individual council as to how they conduct them.

In Cornwall Council’s case it has chosen to not hold any formal meetings at all, so far, during the pandemic.

I have included a link to their changes below for your convenience:

Other councils have been able to hold virtual meetings and discuss planning matters during the pandemic and it is disappointing that Cornwall Council has not been able to do this yet.

It would also be easy using existing technology, to allow members of the public to attend and participate in these meetings.

I suggest residents with concerns about how Cornwall Council is doing business to contact their local Cornwall Councillor about this. You can find out who your Cornwall Councillor is by putting your postcode into the below link:

Nonetheless I hope that this way of working, which is necessary under the current circumstances but not ideal, will only last for as long as the lockdown restrictions last, and that regular meetings and participation will be restored as soon as it is safe to do so.

Campaign reply - “ URGENT New Starter Justice campaign”.

Some constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email entitled “ URGENT New Starter Justice campaign”.

There is mention of an early day motion. 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.

Pay as you earn real time information (PAYE RTI) has been in place since 2013. It requires all employers to notify HMRC of their liability to PAYE when or before they pay employees.

This well-established, secure and verifiable system has been used by the government to reach out to literally millions of employees through the furlough scheme during the medical crisis. The government introduced the furlough scheme with astonishing speed bearing in mind the scale of the task.

Revising forward the cut-off date  following the announcement of the scheme, would leave the tax payer open to the significant risk of fraud.

There are other measures in place to help those who fall outside the cut off date or who are unable to revert to a previous employer for furloughing:

Cornwall Council have recently set up the People Hub hotline for more specific employment advice, which is available on:

0333 0150699 between 10am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Cornwall Council have a landing page for Coronavirus:


There is also a grant via Turn2Us for those in extreme financial hardship but it is temporarily closed, they do have a grant finder though:

Also there are funds available directly from Cornwall Council hardship fund:

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Newspaper column 6 May 2020 - VE Day

We are now in the seventh week of lockdown. Looking back to last week I was able to make a couple of appearances in virtual Parliament on matters relating to Cornwall while my team and I continued to assist people and businesses across the area with issues they need help with. It was also good to see our Prime Minister Boris Johnson back at work following his own bout with COVID-19. April must have been a rollercoaster of a month for him and his fiancée Carrie Symonds, who I was delighted to see welcome their new son, Wilfred, into the world on Wednesday.

This week I wanted to step back from the ongoing COVID-19 updates to look back at remembering Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), which we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of on Friday 8th May. I do believe it is important we continue to mark these important events in our national history so that we do not forget and today’s generations are able to appreciate the price that was paid for our freedom today.

The COVID-19 crisis is the biggest our nation has seen since the Second World War. VE Day is when we celebrate the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces on 8 May 1945 at the end of hostilities in Europe.

Some 60 million people died in the Second World War, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. Many of the civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass bombings, disease, and starvation. This included 17 million victims of Nazi genocide via the Holocaust and similar persecution.

Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.

A momentous event to mark our triumph after a long and difficult conflict. This year the early May Bank Holiday was moved to coincide with the VE Day Anniversary. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic all public events relating to the celebration have had to be cancelled. Nonetheless the day does bear marking and remembering and I am sure we will do all we can as individuals and households to mark the occasion and remembering the sacrifice so many made so we could live free today.

Of course, there are still members of that ‘Greatest Generation’ that lived or even fought in the Second World War, with us today. These people who, lived through the war, set us a great example as we ourselves live through the current crisis. Although I think we should be cautious when comparing our current challenge with those of World War II, it is good to know that then, as now, our nation is at its best when faced with adversity and will get through this if we all pull together and work for the common good.

As we look back in the coming days to remember the price people paid 75 years ago as they successfully stood against the tyranny of the Nazi’s and rebuilt our country in the years that followed, I am sure we would all agree that the challenges we face fall a long way short. I am sure we can find some inspiration from those times to remain determined to do whatever it takes to get through this crisis and defeat this virus.

But the 8th May 1945 was a day to celebrate. To rejoice in the hard-won victory and look ahead to better days. And so, as Winston Churchill said on that day, "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead”. The country knew the end of the war was not the end of the challenge. The focus shifted from war to recovery.

In that there is most certainly a parallel for us all. There are clear signs to be encouraged that we are winning the battle against coronavirus. In this we can rejoice. But we should all be aware that rebuilding our economy is also going to take a collective determined effort in the months and years ahead. So, on Friday let us all enjoy a day to remember, be thankful and celebrate. And then let us refocus our hearts and minds to all play our part for the challenges ahead. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Campaign reply - “Will you ensure airline bailouts protect workers and the climate?”

A number of constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email entitled “Will you ensure airline bailouts protect workers and the climate?”

Airlines have made remarkable progress in recent years in reducing emissions and noise and improving efficiency. I have no doubt this will continue, and their aim is to be carbon neutral by 2050. A truly remarkable ambition and one I am confident they will meet.

They, along with their dedicated staff, have also played a vital part in assisting during the medical crisis such providing air freight services for the vital personal protection equipment  (PPE) sourced from around the world, the successful repatriation of thousands of UK citizens and mercy missions for those in need of urgent medical attention.

The future wellbeing of this vital part of our transport infrastructure and those that work within it will be key in the decisions taken as we emerge from the current situation. The government continues to support a vast swathe of businesses and families during the medical crisis and I fully support the action to date and the speed that help has arrived to so many.

Going forward none of us know the full impact on the world economy and how our own economy will fare. The government will continue to engage with all interested parties including the aviation industry to ensure that any help provided is in the long term  best interests of the workforce, the businesses involved and the wider economy. The future wellbeing of this vital part of our transport infrastructure and those that work within it will always have my full support.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Campaign reply - Universal Basic Income proposal

Thank you to those who have contacted me as part of a campaign around a Universal Basic Campaign.

This is not one I support and as such I did not sign the letter mentioned.

Each country have taken a different approach to providing financial support through the COVID-19 crisis. The UK’s coronavirus aid package is the second most generous in Europe, and one of the most generous when compared globally.

As for UBI more generally, while on the face of it the idea that every individual should receive a regular income from the government may seem like a fair and positive solution, this would present a whole range of different challenges.

Schemes of this nature are extremely costly and would benefit wealthy individuals who do not need this payment, which would be diverting funds from the most vulnerable.

The only research on it which is ‘promising’ are misleading because they are actively choosing extremely poor families in desperate need of money, and who under the welfare schemes we already have in this country would be eligible for financial support.

This article from the national Guardian newspaper from last year might also be of interest in explaining the issues behind UBI.

Thanks again to those who took the time write to me about this issue.

Campaign Reply: 'Please Help Keep Care Home Residents and Workers In Your Constituency Safe During Covid-19'

Thank you to all those who have emailed in with regard to this campaign.

Reporting for daily deaths in non-hospital settings has unfortunately historically had a lag in reporting, which has meant a delay in the statistics that Public Health England (PHE) and the government could release during the daily briefings and online via the gov website. Given the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, commonly known as the Coronavirus, and the tragic number of deaths resulting from it outside of hospital settings the government recognised the priority of ensuring these figures are as up to date and accurate as they can possibly be. As a result, PHE have rapidly developed a new method of reporting daily Coronavirus deaths to give a more complete picture of those who have died from the virus.

From 29th April, the government’s daily figure will include deaths that have occurred in all settings where there has been a positive Coronavirus test, including hospitals, care homes and the wider community. All of the figures previously reported have been revised retrospectively since the first death on 2nd March to include the additional data sources not previously included and is therefore more reflective of the actual number of deaths.

It is important to note that this is in line with the trends seen by the Official of National Statistics (ONS) in their data, which already reports deaths not in hospital settings. It will remain the case that ONS data, which publishes every week with data from 11 days ago, includes suspected cases where a test has not taken place. ONS figures will therefore continue to include more deaths than the government’s daily series.

It is also important to highlight whilst discussing data of any kind that comparing statistics with other countries across the world should be done with caution. Each country is counting Coronavirus deaths differently and reported numbers alone do not take into account population numbers, density or many other factors.

I believe any death is a tragedy and this government is committed to using this enhanced data to better understand the impact this outbreak is having on those living in care homes so that we can continue to do everything in our power to protect them, as well as those in hospital and in the wider community. The government is committed to ensuring that those living in care homes continue to receive the best care possible and that both residents and care workers are adequately protected against this virus. We will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that all appropriate support including additional funding is available to assist care homes, social care workers and residents through this exceptionally challenging time.

This all underscores the importance of everyone staying at home and keeping safe. It is simply the best weapon we have to slow the spread of the virus. That way we can protect the NHS and save lives.

Thanks once again for bringing this matter to my attention, and I trust this swift action reassures you of this government’s commitment to this extremely important issue.