Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Newspaper column 24 August 2016 - The future of EU funding for Cornwall

Last week Brexit and the future of funding for Cornwall through the European Union was once again back in the news.

There does, sadly, appear to be a mood of doom coming from some about the future for Cornwall once we leave the EU. However, there are many positive economic messages that show that they future can be bright and full of opportunities.

Whilst I understand the clamour for answers and guarantees about the future of funding for Cornwall that has historically come via the EU, I think do we need to acknowledge that it is still very early days. It is only 2 months since the referendum and the historic decision made by the British people.
In that time we have seen a new Prime Minister and an almost entirely new Cabinet put in place. Inevitably it will take a bit of time for these decisions to be made.

However, just last week our new Chancellor, Phillip Hammond made a very significant announcement. He confirmed that the British government will continue to fund any projects that have been agreed up until this year’s Autumn Statement once we leave the EU. This guarantee is very welcome news and provides the certainty we need.

He also guaranteed current levels of funding for agriculture will be met by the British government up until 2020 – again very good news for our Cornish farmers.

To have this clarified so soon after the referendum is clearly very positive news.

The Chancellor also confirmed the Treasury will be putting in place arrangements for funding further projects that are not signed off before the autumn statement but that will be in place whilst we remain a member of the EU – likely to be until 2019.

The upshot of this is that British businesses and universities will have certainty over future funding and be able to continue to bid for competitive EU funds while the UK remains a member of the EU.
The Chancellor has also given a clear indication that there will be further central government funding available to support the Cornish economy and we await the detail as to how this will operate it is clearly a positive sign of the Government’s intent to continue to provide support for Cornwall post Brexit. I will be working with my fellow Cornish MPs to make sure we get the support we need.
I have been disappointed with the response from the ruling administration at Cornwall Council, who do not seem to want to see this as a positive step.

To me, far from the negative position that some have taken, this announcement is an important and positive step to give reassurance for projects currently seeking funding traditionally available via the European Union.

I have always said the EU funding programme was an ineffective and bureaucratic system. Lots of money has been spent in a way which has not resulted in the desired outcome. Let us remember this was British taxpayer money recycled by the EU with lots of additional bureaucracy and hoops to jump through added for good measure. Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to spend our own money, to have a more effective programme that will be better value for money for the taxpayer and provide better targeted and more effective support for the Cornish economy.


As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Newspaper column 17 August 2016 - St Austell editions - Addressing anti-social behaviour in St Austell

As was highlighted in the local papers last week, the issue of anti-social behaviour in St Austell town centre is a growing problem in the town. My office is based on Fore Street and so both myself and my team regularly see examples of anti-social behaviour.

I am pleased that following my phone call to the local Police Superintendent last week there was a swift response to the current issues with a number of arrests the next day. However, this needs to be maintained and I will continue to work with the Police and local council to ensure we continue to address the concerns of local residents and businesses.

We do need to also consider some of the wider and underlying causes of these issues. It is quite clear to many local people that the cause of much of the antisocial behaviour and low level crime in the town is a direct result of the number of ‘halfway houses’ that are located in very close proximity to the town centre. I believe the time has come to have a serious conversation about the placement of these facilities, not only for their current service users, but also for those who subsequently leave, for whatever reason and remain in the community.

Simply put, I think these residences are too close to the town centre. I have in the past objected to the placement of these facilities in their current locations and certainly think that a change in their way of operating now would do a lot to remove the cause of the anti-social behaviour we see.

Some people have laid the blame for these issues at the feet of the government, citing the cuts to Police funding. It is true that tough decisions have had to be made to ensure that we as a country live within our means and do not continue to rack up uncontrolled debt for future generations. It is also worth noting that, along with other MPs, I fought to ensure that the Police budget was not cut in last year’s spending round and I will continue to do all I can to ensure our local Police Force gets its fair share of funding.

Having said that it is clear that our Police face a number of challenges. The nature of crime in changing with more being committed online. All of us are far more likely to now be a victim of crime through the internet than we are in our homes or on the streets. As a result it is right that our Police adapt in order to face the challenges of modern Britain.

Locally we also face the impact of the thousands of tourists who come and spend their holiday here. Of course they are essential to our local economy but as we are all aware it also places greater demands on our local services including Policing. In my view it is wrong that the funding for our local Police does not reflect this increase in demand and this is something I am continuing to challenge the government on.


As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events

Newspaper column 17 August 2016 - Newquay editions - Safer parking

With the summer season now in full flow it is good to see the area busy with tourists.
Many businesses I speak to are positive about the way this summer is shaping up.

Whilst I appreciate the influx of tourists into Newquay and the area, where we see the population more than treble in August, present a number of challenges for locals, we cannot escape the fact that our economy depends on the tourist industry. Thousands of local jobs directly and indirectly rely on people choosing to come and take their holidays here.

But there is no doubt it is vital our local infrastructure is able to cope with not just the influx of people in the summer but also with the growing local all year population. We need to continue to see investment in our roads, school and health services particularly, as well as the local economy so that people are able to have decent jobs. This is something I remain committed to fight for and have already been working. in a number of ways, to make sure we get the funding and investment this area needs.

As is often the case when major infrastructure investment takes place there can be significant disruption as a result – such as we have seen on the A30 at Temple and more locally the new road junction near Hendra. Thankfully that was completed in time for the peak season.

One issue that has been highlighted to me recently is the number of cars parked on local streets. With more cars than ever on our roads and most households having more than one vehicle to park overnight, our residential streets can become clogged with cars parked along them.

Our older streets were designed a time long before the number of cars we all have today. The previous government’s attempt to move us away from using our cars and impose limits on the number of car spaces developers could provide in modern housing estates also exasperated the issue. Thankfully planning policy has now been relaxed and developers are able to allow more space. But we are still left with a legacy of too many cars for too few spaces in many areas.

It can be all too easy to simply park our cars in the place most convenient to us and not think about the impact this may have on access in an emergency. I have been asked by the local Emergency Services to publicly highlight the problems they have experienced, and ask that car owners consider how they park and that when they park, they do so in a way that does not hinder the emergency services doing their job.

On a recent call out to what could have been a very dangerous situation, the fire tender was unable to get down a street in Newquay due to the way cars had been parked. I am sure you will all agree this is not helpful and could potentially cost lives, something none of us want to see.

We are all very grateful to all of the services that help make this area a safe place to work and play. I would like to publicly thank them for their continued dedication, commitment and service to our community. One way we can thank them is by taking notice of where and how we park.

As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events








Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Newspaper column 10 August 2016 - Looking back...

This week I thought I would focus on some of the things I said I would do during my campaign to be elected as your Member of Parliament, looking back over the last year.

One of the things I campaigned on was that should I be elected, I would represent your interests and be a strong voice for Mid-Cornwall in Westminster. As I often said I count myself to be a Cornishman first and a Conservative second.

It is clear that 6 Cornish Conservative MPs in a Conservative Government gives us a huge opportunity to work within the government to attract the investment we have lacked for so many years.

After many years of inaction by previous governments, soon after the General Election last year, the then Prime Minister made Cornwall the first rural area to be given greater devolved powers. This was something many people in Cornwall had been calling for and something I was delighted to be a part of delivering.

At the election some of the issues most often raised with me by local people were public transport, economic growth and Health and Social Care. The ‘Deal for Cornwall’ addresses some of these concerns by granting Cornwall greater say over things such as local transport, skills and economic development and the integration of health and social care services. This is not about more power just for Cornwall Council but for Cornwall as a whole.

As I am part of the party of Government, it is natural that most of the time I do agree with and vote to support Government motions, many of which are policies that were in our manifesto that I was elected on. However, when I think the Government has got it wrong, and proposes changes that I do not believe will be in the best interests of the people of mid-Cornwall, I will and have challenged them robustly to make the case for changes.

Earlier this year I was concerned, along with many of my colleagues representing rural areas, that Government proposals on local government funding would have widened the gap between already traditionally under-funded rural areas such as Cornwall, and metropolitan areas. This was unacceptable to me and I, along with all of my Cornish MP colleagues were very keen to stress this to Ministers.

This is something I would have rebelled against the Government over, and I was pleased that the Government listened and announced a transitional grant of £3m additional funding to Cornwall Council along with a commitment to a review with a vote next year. The Secretary of State also announced the Government will carry out a comprehensive review of the costs of delivering services, meaning that we will have the chance to definitively prove that it is simply more difficult and therefore more expensive to deliver similar services in rural areas compared to cities. This will give us the chance to back up our arguments with hard evidence and pave the way for establishing the fair system for Cornwall which we all deserve.

I am also pleased to have stood up against the Government against proposed changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit in this year’s Budget, as I was concerned at the impact these could have on some of the most vulnerable people in our society at a time when in the same Budget much was made of a tax cut to people earning a great deal more than the average wage in Cornwall. I did not think this was fair or right and therefore I could not support these changes and made it clear that I would not support a vote on them.  I was pleased the Government listened to my concerns, along with several of my colleagues and decided to drop these changes.

I also signalled my intent to rebel against proposed changes to tax credits, which were subsequently dropped, and did rebel against proposed changes to Sunday trading hours, which I felt would penalise small businesses, in a vote which the Government lost. I will continue to put the interests of the people of Mid-Cornwall first when it comes to my role as MP.

As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Newspaper column 3 August 2016 - Progress with rural broadband

One of the main issues raised with me across Mid-Cornwall is the poor level of broadband service provided to people living in rural areas.

In 2016 people rightly expect access to high-speed internet connections. Having a fast and stable broadband connection is increasingly a crucial part of our lives, both for leisure purposes but also vital for all manner of businesses. Whether at home or work, fast broadband should be a reality in all our communities. Sadly, this is not yet the case. In Mid-Cornwall people are dealing with some really poor connections and gaps in services. St Austell and Newquay falls into the bottom 30% of Parliamentary constituencies for the availability of superfast connections, and Cornwall itself gets a speed below the 10mb per second Ofcom say everyone should have.

I regularly meet with constituents who share their experiences of poor broadband service, and have also met with representatives from the Cornwall Development Company, the body responsible for the implementation of broadband infrastructure in Cornwall, and Openreach, the division of BT that maintains the UK’s largest phone and broadband network on behalf of competing providers to press for a better service locally.

In Westminster, earlier this year, I co-signed a report calling on telecoms regulator Ofcom to take radical action over the ‘natural monopoly’ too long enjoyed by BT Openreach.

I was pleased then, to see last week’s announcement that Openreach will become a "distinct company" within BT, with more control over its own finances and an independent board, as part of a package of reforms. Under Ofcom's proposals, Openreach will be forced to make its infrastructure of ducts and poles available to rival companies from next week, and face tough new performance rules that take effect later this year.

I believe Britain should be leading the world in digital innovation. Yet instead we suffer from having a BT run monopoly clinging to outdated copper technology with no proper long-term plan for the future. We need to start converting to a fully fibre network so we are not left behind by other nations who are rushing to embrace digital advancement.

However, we will only achieve this by taking action to open up the sector. While last week’s announcement is a good start, given all the delays and missed deadlines, I believe that only a formal separation of BT from Openreach, combined with fresh competition and a concerted ambition to deliver, will now create the broadband service that our constituents and businesses so rightly demand. I am pleased then, that Ofsted have put on record that if BT "cannot achieve" the reforms outlined in their plan, that they should become a separate company under different ownership.

As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Newspaper column 27 July 2016 - The new Prime Minister and Cabinet

Parliament has now risen for Summer Recess and I look forward to spending the next few weeks out and about across Mid-Cornwall. However before we settle into for what many of us is the busiest time of the year, I want to reflect back on events in the last two weeks, particularly my thoughts on our new Prime Minister and her Cabinet.

I think our new Prime Minister has gotten off to a flying start. She has gotten on with the job of getting a new Cabinet in place, given a formidable performance at her first Prime Minister’s Questions, and most importantly has not shied away from the important answers, giving a firm commitment to Brexit, as well as making an excellent case for the renewal of Trident, which was confirmed following last Monday’s vote.

The new Cabinet, made up of the Secretaries of State who run major Government departments is also proof of the Prime Minister’s commitment in her first speech following her appointment that she wants to govern ‘a Britain that works for everyone and real people that reflect Britain.’

Our new Prime Minister’s Cabinet is 70 per cent state educated. The new Education Secretary, Justine Greening is the first Education Secretary to have attended a comprehensive school and this government has the lowest proportion of privately educated ministers of any political party since 1945. The Prime Minister herself was state educated and as someone who also took this path, I feel this new Cabinet is much more representative of not only the Conservative Parliamentary Party but also the country as a whole.
On top of this, the Prime Minister’s new Cabinet has the most women of any previous Conservative administration, matching the previous record set by the Blair Government. This is another step forward and shows that we are the real progressive party – matching our words with actions and delivering not only the UK’s second female Prime Minister but also the joint highest female representation in the Cabinet.
Finally, I was particularly pleased to see the appointment of so many familiar faces from the Leave Campaign into positions where they will be able to work to affect positive change. It was great to see David Davis appointed as EU Exit Secretary and Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary where they will both be able to work towards our country leaving the EU in good order.

In summary I believe the new Prime Minister and her Cabinet will do well in getting on with business of running the country, taking us through Brexit and beyond. I have already invited members of the new Cabinet down to Cornwall to show them first-hand some of the issues we face and look forward to working with them all in the future for the good of Mid-Cornwall.

As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Newspaper column 20 July 2016 - Trident

Speaking at the Nato summit in Warsaw earlier this month, one of the last actions of David Cameron as Prime Minister was his announcement that MPs would vote on 18 July on renewing the UK's Trident nuclear weapons programme.

The Trident nuclear programme covers the development, procurement and operation of the current generation of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them for our country.

The former Prime Minister has said that he believes the vote will confirm support for replacing and upgrading the current systems, calling Trident an "essential deterrent" to both Britain's security and the overall security of NATO.

I believe it is absolutely vital that we maintain a continuous independent nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantee of our national security. The Government has consistently set out the case for maintaining our nuclear deterrent. Of course all of us would wish that we could live in a world without nuclear weapons. However, it is clear that the world today is becoming an ever more dangerous and in many ways unstable place to live. I believe firmly that we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the UK might re-emerge. This alone is a powerful reason for the retention and renewal of Trident.

There are various claims about the cost of renewing Trident. This current commitment represents a cost of £31billion over 35 years. This is 0.2% of our overall defence spending and the full cost of the Trident programme is only 6% of our defence budget. I believe this puts the cost of this piece of our military capability into perspective and represents value for money for the tax payer.

Despite successes over recent decades in limiting the number of states with nuclear capabilities, we still cannot rule out, particularly in these turbulent times, a major shift in the international security situation which would put us under grave threat. We should not abdicate our roll in the world and ‘outsource’ this part of our defence to other nations with nuclear capabilities. We need to stand together with our allies and demonstrated out commitment. That is why I do not believe, particularly under the current circumstances, that it would be right to give up this capability.

The Government's policy has been to retain the Trident continuous nuclear deterrent, where there is always one of our four nuclear submarines armed and at sea, to provide the ultimate deterrent to anyone threatening the UK. This will also secure thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.

I fully support the renewal of our nation’s own nuclear deterrent in the form of the Trident missile system and voted for this on Monday. This is the only sensible policy for ensuring our country’s future security. This I believe is the first priority of any government.


As always, 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. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events