Friday, 4 June 2021

Campaign response: Please sign an EDM calling for an end to 'at-home' abortion

 

 

Thank you to constituents for their emails asking me to sign EDM 2 tabled by Carla Lockhart MP which calls for an end to ‘at-home’ or DIY abortion.

As I am sure they can imagine, I get hundreds of requests to sign EDMs on a regular basis.

However, when I was elected in 2015 I pledged that I would not sign any, since they have no legislative power, rarely achieve anything, and cost the taxpayer a substantial amount.

I find that making representations directly to Ministers on these issues far more effective and I will endeavour to do this when I get an opportunity.

The issue of DIY abortion, in particular, is one that I have taken a great deal of interest in, not least because many constituents have been writing to me to express their opposition to this appalling practice.

Constituents who have previously written to me on this will be aware of my position, which has not changed since we last corresponded: 

Since this measure was introduced at the start of the pandemic in 2020, as has been reported extensively in the media, a number of significant problems have put the lives and health of many women in danger. For instance, police in the Midlands launched a murder investigation last summer following the death of a newborn after a mum took abortion drugs posted to her. Other cases include a pregnancy being terminated at 28 weeks — four weeks after the legal limit. Inspectors at the Care Quality Commission are now investigating 13 significant incidents after identifying an “escalating risk” with medical terminations at home.

Furthermore, a nationwide undercover investigation has found evidence of abortion providers putting women at significant risk by not carrying out basic checks before sending them home abortion pills. The investigation also discovered home abortion pills can easily be obtained and administered to others, potentially in a coercive manner, which is especially concerning for domestic abuse victims: https://christianconcern.com/ccpressreleases/undercover-investigation-exposes-diy-abortion-service-as-unsafe-and-crossing-legal-boundaries/ 

Based on the evidence we have seen so far I am concerned that this form of ‘DIY’ abortion should become the norm after the pandemic. More than anything, I believe the health and safety of women have to be the priority and I am far from convinced that the current arrangement where women are able to easily obtain pills without adequate consultation and clinical assessment and carry out abortions without of any direct access to medical should be allowed to remain beyond the pandemic.
 
In Westminster I have the privilege of serving the Health Secretary Matt Hancock as his Parliamentary Private Secretary, and I have spoken to him at length about the contentious matter of abortion, as it is a conscience issue and MPs are free to vote based on their beliefs and personal views.
 
I know he is very much aware of the latest situation with at telemedical abortions and is consulting with the care minister and medical professionals urgently to look into the issues that have come to light. 


I will continue to do all that I can to oppose DIY abortion and any move to extend its provision beyond the pandemic.

I hope the above adequately sets out my position on this important issue.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Newspaper column 19 May 2021 - The Queen's Speech and housing

Last week Parliament returned from the prorogation with the State Opening of Parliament when Her Majesty the Queen began a new session of Parliament with the ‘Queen’s Speech’. This is where the government lays out its programme for the new session.

The Queen’s Speech laid out a comprehensive programme of bills and other measures the government will be bringing to Parliament including key areas such as the environment, animal welfare, crime and victim support, protecting free speech, supporting the NHS, providing people with the skills they will need for the future, planning reform and levelling up our economy.

Every new session of Parliament begins with several days of debate on the topics in the Queen’s Speech. I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate last Thursday. In my speech I raised one of the issues that I know is currently a major concern for local people – housing.

We have seen a dramatic increase in demand for housing, to purchase and rent, in Cornwall. Some reports indicate that there have been over 15 million searches for properties to buy in Cornwall already this year, the highest in the country, and over 1 million people looking to rent a home. I have often said that I can appreciate why so many people are interested in living in what is the most amazing place in the UK, I mean I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. But the current situation is unsustainable and is having a very negative impact for local people and businesses.

My office is regularly being contacted by local people who are finding it impossible to find a place to live, whether to purchase or rent. I also know of many businesses that are struggling to find the staff they need, not because they cannot recruit staff, but because often those staff are coming from elsewhere and although they find a job they then cannot find anywhere to live and so have to decline the job offer.

In my speech in Parliament, I highlighted the concerns many local people have raised with me. Clearly part of the solution is that we do need to build more homes in order to meet the housing need both locally and nationally. The government are proposing new legislation that will seek to simplify the planning process to make it easier to build the new homes we most definitely need. However, I also acknowledge the reasonable concerns some have about the impact any reform of the planning system may have.

The experience in Cornwall of the past decades is that just building more houses does not necessarily mean local people are able to access these new homes. Too many are purchased by people who use them as an investment – whether that is as 2nd homes, holiday lets or buy to rent properties. There is little point in building lots of new houses if they aren’t available for local people to buy or rent as their main residence.

This is a hugely complex matter and anyone who pretends there are quick or easy solutions doesn’t understand the realities of the housing market. We live in a free country where people are free to purchase property and live wherever the wish – I do not think anyone would seriously want to change this. The government has and continues to take steps to assist people onto the housing ladder. Schemes like Help to Buy have helped many first-time buyers. New measures such as 95% mortgages and a new homes discount scheme will further assist. I believe we also need to make more use of community land trusts and self-build opportunities as well as building more ‘affordable homes’ that are only offered to local people.

Following the debate, I have since spoken to the housing minister to ask him to ensure his office is aware of the current situation in Cornwall and what steps the government could take in the short term to help. There is not going to be a single solution to this challenge, but it is something that we need to work for a long-term sustainable solution to. I will continue to work to find the solutions we need so that local people, particularly our young people, have the opportunity to own or rent a home in the place we all love to call home.  

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Newspaper column 12 May 2021 - Local elections update

 

Last week’s local elections proved to be historic for Cornwall. For the very first time the Conservative Party will form a majority administration at County Hall. This was the outcome of the hard fought campaign which saw the Conservatives win 47 of the 87 council seats.

Obviously, I am pleased with this outcome which will mean that with the council leadership being from the same party as all of Cornwall’s MP we will be much better able to work together for the benefit of Cornwall.

Here in St Austell and Newquay it was also a very positive result with the Conservatives taking 11 of the 16 seats. I want to pass on my congratulations to all those who were elected including the three Mebyon Kernow and two Independents.

There were some disappointments with two sitting Conservative councillors losing their seats. I want to say a big thank you to Mark Formosa and Sally-Anne Saunders for all their work for the residents of their divisions. Politics can sometimes be brutal, and it is sad to see hard working and dedicated councillors miss out on re-election. I am sure we would all wish them well for the future.

There were also a number of other councillors from different parties, who were not re-elected, many of them were long serving councillors over many years. I want to say thank you to them for all they have done for the communities they represented.

Having spent the past 6 weeks out and about speaking to local residents there were a number of clear priorities that were raised time and time again. Issues of anti-social behaviour, housing for local people, inappropriate and over development and traffic and speeding were the issues most often raised. The one thing I know is that the newly elected council will ensure that it works to deliver on the priorities of the people of Cornwall and I look forward to working with all those elected in a constructive and positive way to address the priorities of local people.

I know each of the Conservative Councillors well and I know they will be dedicated to representing and serve their communities. We do not have a magic wand to change things overnight, but I do know with Conservatives now representing a very large part of this constituency, including all of the seats in our two main towns of Newquay and St Austell, we have a team that will be determined to get things done and I know they have already made a start.

This election was of course quite different to normal, being held as we emerge from the lockdown. Despite this the election went off without a hitch and thanks should go to the council officers who made it possible. It also demonstrated that despite what some parties were claiming, it was the right decision to go ahead with the elections at this time.

Next week we will continue our journey out of the lockdown with another important step in easing the restrictions. As I write this we await to hear the precise details of what the Prime Minister will announce but all the indications are that indoor meetings will now be allowed.

I am sure we will all welcome this, particular as the weather currently seems to be against us. It will also enable pubs, bars and restaurants to serve customers inside which will be another important step on our economic recovery.

With the lifting of restrictions, I will be recommencing my regular Advice Surgeries. If you would like to book an appointment to see me, please contact me office on: tel. 01726 829379 or email office@stevedouble.org.uk

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Newspaper column 21 April 2021 - Keeping Mid-Cornwall tidy!

With the COVID restrictions further easing over the past couple of weeks and the great weather we have been having, it has been good to see so many people out and about enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful countryside and beaches in Cornwall.

However, with the increased outdoor activity, and the fact that many of the pubs and restaurants that have now re-opened are doing so on a takeaway basis only, we have seen a massive increase in littering  - something which really blights our countryside and coastal areas and makes it unpleasant for everyone who lives or visits here.

I have always been clear that we should all do our bit to keep where we live tidy – and the vast majority of people do this. But there is a small minority who ruin it for everyone. Littering is a crime after all, and people who litter should be treated accordingly. It is unacceptable that there are those who feel they are above the law and choose to leave their litter for someone else to clear up. We should all be responsible for our own litter, by putting in a bin, or if the bin is full or there isn’t one nearby, taking our own rubbish home with us. It is the right thing to do both for our environment and our communities.

In my time as Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay I have always supported our local litter pickers and also organised my own to do my bit to clean our communities clean and tidy. With the easing of restrictions this is something I hope to get back to soon and I hope to be able to arrange some, in a Covid-safe manner over the next couple of weeks, to coincide with World Earth Day.

As well as doing our bit locally, I am also involved with a number of groups in Parliament that look to tackle these issues on a wider scale. I am pleased to be a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Keep Britain Tidy, as well as Chair of the Ocean Conservation All Party Parliamentary Group, which works with Cornish-based charity Surfers Against Sewage. Both Keep Britain Tidy and Surfers Against Sewage have done commendable work over the years in raising the profile of why we should absolutely not be littering in any environment, as well as running nationwide campaigns that get thousands of people together to take part in litter picks or beach cleans every year.

So, what is needed to tackle the littering scourge is joined up action, not just people working locally to tackle the issue itself, but also the good work of national groups to bring about the culture change that we need to make litterers think again before dropping their rubbish. This needs to be combined with stronger penalties and more committed enforcement from local authorities like Cornwall Council, who are responsible for issuing fines for littering. We all have a part to play in stopping littering and keeping our Cornwall tidy for residents and visitors alike.

My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm. If there is an issue you would like my assistance with then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Newspaper column 31 March 2021 - The roadmap to recovery continues

This week we took another step on the roadmap out of lockdown. From Monday the instruction to stay at home was lifted and we are now able to leave home without the need for one of the permissible reasons. Also, we can now meet family and friends outdoors in groups of two households or up to six people and outdoor sports and activities can recommence.

I am sure like me, many people will very much welcome being able to see our family and friends, albeit outdoors. I will certainly be making the most of this to catch up with people I have not been able to meet for several weeks.

These deliberate and cautious steps are important to ensure we continue to win our battle against the virus. The Prime Minister is clear that he wants each step to be irreversible, and that this will be the last lockdown needed. So although I understand those who feel frustrated at the cautious approach being taken, particularly in the light of the very positive news of the reduction in infections, hospitalisations and deaths, I believe it is the right approach in ensuring this is a one way street now.

In other news there were a couple of very welcome announcements from the government last week. Firstly, in a review of a number of tax policies the government committed to close the loophole that allows holiday home-owners to avoid paying council tax or business rates. This is an issue I have been campaigning for action on for several years and I know something that many local people feel very strongly about. I am pleased we are now seeing action on this which will ensure in future, those owners which are not genuine business will not be able to avoid paying their fair share of the contribution to local services.

Also, the government announced a new policy to kerb the number of illegal immigrants coming to the UK, whilst ensuring those genuinely seeking asylum will be treated fairly and compassionately.

Again, this is an issue many people have contact me about, concerned at the number of people we have seen crossing the Channel in dinghies, and coming through other routes. Many of those coming were economic migrants and had paid people traffickers to get here.

I believe we need a system that enables people who legitimately need asylum to and be able to go through the legal system more quickly, while discouraging those who seek to abuse the system. It is inevitably a difficult balance to strike, but I certainly want the help we provide to be made available to those who need it most and not based on one someone’s ability to pay the trafficking gangs.

We also need to ensure that those we are legally seeking to deport, because they have come here illegally, are able to be returned without having our legal system clogged up with lawyers exploiting the current system.

The UK has always provided a safe refuge for those who need it and approach us through legitimate means, and we will continue to do so. But we also need a system that makes it difficult for those who seek to exploit vulnerable people and discourages people from making dangerous journeys. The proposals put forward by the Home Secretary strike this balance and address the key points that I know many people have been concerned about. I look forward to this legislation coming forward.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Newspaper column 24 March 2021 - The first anniversary of the first lockdown

This week marks the first anniversary of when our country first went into lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic. I am sure none of us expected, twelve months later, to still be living with the consequences of the pandemic and still have our lives so restricted.

It has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us in so many ways and this anniversary gives us a point in time to look back over the year. I am sure we will all look back with a wide range of feelings about all we have lived through.

I know many people want to take a moment to remember those who have been lost to this virus and pay our respects. Before I left for London on Monday morning, I took a moment to visit the local church where people have been tying ribbons to the railings and trees and laying flowers. In Parliament we held a minute’s silence to commemorate the anniversary of the lockdown and remember those who have died. It is important we remember that in the midst of all we have gone through so many families have sadly lost loved ones to this terrible virus.

But I am also sure many of us will also want to say thank you to all those who have worked to support and serve our communities through this year. Of course, top of that list will be our frontline NHS workers who have cared for and treated the sick, and our carer workers who have looked after the elderly and most vulnerable. There are so many others who have gone above and beyond, including our police, school teachers and staff, pre-school and nursey staff, delivery drivers, supermarket workers and local shop keepers as well as an army of volunteers.

As we mark the anniversary of the lockdown we can do so with a hope that the end is in sight. With the successful roll out of the vaccines we know the end to these measures will come soon.

Despite some of the current debate around the future supply of the vaccine, we have already vaccinated over half of all adults in the UK. Just last Saturday we vaccinated 844,000 people. This is an incredible effort by all involved. We should be very proud and thankful of the huge national team effort that has made this possible. Despite the recent question the government remains confident we will have enough supply of vaccine to meet our targets.

Next Monday we take the next step on the roadmap to lifting the restrictions. From Monday we will be allowed to get together with one other household or in groups of up to 6 from different households outdoors, including in gardens. I know I am looking forward to this to be able to see family and friends again. Let us hope the weather is kind to us to allow us to really enjoy meeting up with people.

But it is important we continue to remember that the restrictions that remain in place are there to keep us safe. We only have to look across the Channel to note what is going on in the rest of Europe to know this virus has not yet been defeated. The vaccine is the way to win this battle and we in the UK are ahead in the fight. It isn’t won yet, but victory is now in sight.

 

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Column 17 March 2021 - The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The sad death of Sarah Everard, in London last week, has brought into sharp focus the safety of women in the UK. This was then followed by disturbing scenes on Saturday evening as Police sought to break up a gathering of people on Clapham Common.

I fully understand the concerns, and even anger, that many people have expressed at the scenes as reported, and there are certainly questions that need to be answered as to how the events unfolded. I am pleased that the Home Secretary has responded quickly and asked for an independent, lessons to be learned, report from the Inspectorate of Constabulary. It is right that we wait for this report before jumping to conclusions about the events of Saturday night.

The Police have a very difficult job at this time, as they seek to keep up safe in the middle of a pandemic. They have some incredibly difficult decisions to make every day. It is very easy for us, 250 miles away, to jump to conclusions based on pictures on social media. But I believe we should allow the full details of that night to be reported and then we can consider how they should be viewed and what lessons there are to be learnt.

We must also not allow these events to cause us to lose sight of the tragedy of Sarah Everard’s death. It is deeply concerning that too many women do not feel safe walking the streets of our country, particularly at night. I am pleased that the government already has plans in place to increase sentencing and provide greater safety for women in our country. But it is also right that we look again to ensure we are doing all we can to protect everyone in our country.

We also need to keep everything in perspective, particularly here in Cornwall, where we continue to have among the lowest crime figures in the country. We are fortunate to live where we do and we should never take for granted that relatively speaking, our streets are the safest in the country.

This week the government also introduced a new Bill into the House of Commons that seeks to strengthen the law in a number of important areas. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a major piece of legislation that covers a broad number of areas. One part of it particularly has caused concern in the media regarding the clauses that help the Police to be able to take action to prevent protests from unreasonably disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

I have witnessed for myself too many times in recent years when our capital city has been held to ransom by organisations determined to not just protest peacefully, but to cause the maximum damage and disruption to our economy and people’s lives.  

It is absolutely right that the Police have the powers they need to stop these type of protests from happening. This Bill does not remove our rights to peaceful protest as some are trying to make out. The powers in the Bill put into statute and clarify long established principles that the right to protest does not allow anyone the right to disrupt law abiding citizens from going about their business.

Some have tried to tie the measures in this Bill to the events on Saturday night. This is incorrect and those seeking to do so are, deliberately or through misunderstanding, misrepresenting the facts. The steps taken by the Police on Saturday were taken under the emergency powers they have been given to keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bill going through Parliament has been many months in the making. It is not in any way connected to what happened at the weekend.

The right to peaceful demonstration in our country is a foundation of our democracy. I will always defend that right and all those who seek to exercise it. But what I will not accept is those who seek to destroy our democracy, damage private and public property, and the livelihoods of others in the name of protest. This Bill strikes the right balance and I am grateful that the government is bringing these measures forward.