Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Newspaper column 26 April 2017 - Looking towards the General Election

There really is only one issue for my column this week - the decision made by the Prime Minister last Tuesday, to announce a Snap General Election for 8th June.

Make no mistake about it, this General Election is all about the continued Brexit process and who we as a country want to be leading these crucial negotiations.

The Prime Minister has now triggered Article 50, the formal mechanism by which we are leaving the European Union. There is no going back. We now head into the negotiations that will determine the terms of Brexit and our future relationship with the EU. As in any negotiation we need our leaders to be in the strongest possible position and have confidence that the nation and Parliament are behind them.

There is a very simple choice before us. We will either have Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister. Theresa May has shown herself over the past 9 months to be the competent strong leader our country needs at this time. The alternative is the coalition of chaos led by Jeremy Corbyn, who doesn’t even have the support of his own Parliamentary Party.

Over the past year we have seen the opponents of Brexit and the democratic decision that was made following the vote on our membership of the EU last year, repeatedly try to delay or water down the Brexit process. As the Prime Minister has said:

“In recent weeks Labour have threatened to vote against the final agreement we reach with the European Union, the Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill, the SNP say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain's membership of the European Union and unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way.”

At a time when our country requires clear leadership and certainty about the future, those that are seeking to disrupt this process are not acting in the interest of our country. The Prime Minister has now called them out on this and the country will get to make a decision on who you think is best placed to lead this process.

I will happily admit that this election is a surprise. Being your MP and representing you in Parliament this past two years has been the greatest honour of my life. I will be seeking re-election once again at this election. I believe I have shown in the past 23 months that I am the hard working strong voice our constituency needs.

I will be out and about in the coming weeks, knocking on doors and meeting as many people as possible. I look forward to seeing many of you, to listen to your views, so that I can understand what you would want from me as your MP, should I be re-elected.


During the campaign my constituency office will remain open for anyone who needs help with any issues. Please do get in touch if you think I can help. You can call my office on 01726 829379 or email office@stevedouble.org.uk

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Newspaper column 12 April 2017 - School attendance rules

This week I wanted to focus on the outcome of the Supreme Court case last week in which the Judges ruled in favour of the Government against a father from the Isle of Wight, Jon Platt, taking his daughter on holiday during term time. The court case had arisen because of changes to school attendance rules, which stop parents taking children on holiday during term time. Mr Platt had originally won his court case but the Government took it to Supreme Court and got the previous decision overturned.

This is an area in which I have consistently disagreed with the Government. I have campaigned for the reversal of these rules including leading and participating in several debates in Parliament since my election.

Needless to say this was a very disappointing ruling for me.

My view remains that this policy is wrong. The arbitrary banning of holidays during term time is so unfair, especially to those in the tourism industry or on low income, who will otherwise not get a chance to holiday with their children during the summer months, whether due to work commitments or not being able to afford the inflated prices charged by holiday operators during the school holidays.

I do not believe it is the role of the Government to micro manage families, this should rightfully remain the primary responsibility of parents. In fact, this policy is divisive in many ways, leading to parents and teachers being set against each other rather than working together for the betterment of the children involved.

Every child is different and I believe it should be for parents and heads to decide together whether an absence is acceptable or not. This was previously the case with head teachers being given discretion to allow a certain amount of leave during term time on a case by case basis. Time spent together as families is just as important as classroom time and it is my long held belief that children spending time with their families in educational and informative settings outside of school can be just as, if not more educational and informative in terms of life experiences than time spent in the class room.

I am pleased that in Cornwall though, Cornwall Council has taken a sensible approach, informed by the numbers of parents and children adversely affected by these rules, and fined far fewer people than the national average.

This is not the end of the matter for me and I am considering what steps I can now take to continue the campaign to get this policy changed. The fight goes on and I will continue to work both locally and in Westminster to highlight this issue and how unfair it is to people both here in Mid-Cornwall and around the country.


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, 5 April 2017

Newspaper column 05 April 2017 - Good news for the NHS in Cornwall

This week I thought I would focus on the NHS and its funding.

NHS funding in Cornwall has been a topical subject recently. The NHS is getting more money than ever both nationally and locally.

This Government has increased funding for the NHS nationally in real terms and is set to continue to increase the funding going forward – an additional £10 billion by 2020 (which is what the NHS said they required).

In Cornwall funding has also increased. Since the creation of NHS Kernow it has had a real terms increase in funding every year, which is projected to continue until at least 2020, an increase of over 20%.

At the same time as this we are currently going through the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), which is a complete review of NHS services throughout Cornwall.

The local NHS in Cornwall has overspent which is the reason for the need for saving and the possible changes that might arise as a result of it.

Some of the over-spending is a result of increasing demand from patients and bad management by those on top of the local NHS.

However, much of the problem is caused by bed blocking due to problems with the Cornwall Council-led adult social care.

In the recent Budget, the Government has just granted Cornwall Council an additional £24m over the next three years for adult social care to go towards resolving these issues.

Finally, on Friday we saw the announcement of the long-needed mental health in-patient unit for children and young people in Cornwall. For too long we have had to see children and young people, at a time when they are most vulnerable, having to travel across the country to access badly needed support. This puts unbelievable strain both on them and their families, so a facility in Cornwall is absolutely essential.

Furthermore, Royal Cornwall Hospital is one of 74 sites from around the country that has been offered £30m as part of the ‘Core 24’ standard for mental health liaison, meaning a fully-staffed team will be operating 24/7 in the hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.

These are both clear signs of the Government’s commitment to funding the NHS in Cornwall. I will continue to work with my Cornish MP colleagues to ensure this money is spent effectively, making sure that those who need help get it and that the services we have are value for money for everyone.


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, 29 March 2017

Newspaper column 29 March 2017 - The attack on Westminster

The events of last Wednesday are likely to leave a lasting impression on us all and particularly anyone caught up in them.

The attack on Westminster that caused the death of four people, plus the terrorist, as well as injuring at least 40 others is the first direct attack on Parliament for almost 40 years and the most serious terrorist attack on the country since the 7/7 bombs of 2005.

As I reflect on the events of a week ago, I feel deep gratitude to our security and emergency services and especially to PC Keith Palmer. We often say that this country has the best security services in the world. It is times like these when they prove it. The professional way that they went about their jobs, treating the injured, protecting people and dealing with the threat was a credit to all involved. This was clearly personified in the actions of PC Keith Palmer. He ran towards the danger while others fled. He put his life on the line and paid the ultimate price to defend those of us who work in Parliament. I will be forever grateful for his actions that day.

As despicable and dreadful as it is for our security services to be attacked in this way, the indiscriminate attack on members of the public on Westminster Bridge is another thing altogether. Those of us who choose to work in Parliament accept that there is an increased level of risk in working there. The fact that we are surrounded by high levels of security every day is a constant reminder that Parliament is a likely target for those who wish to attack our democracy and values. But I cannot in any way imagine what goes on in someone’s mind who deliberately drives along a crowded pavement, full of tourists, students and innocent by-standers in order to kill and maim. It merely reminds us that we are facing a threat from people who have a totally warped view of our world and have no regard for anyone who does not agree with and embrace their beliefs.

We are grateful that the events of last Wednesday are still rare occurrences in our country. That is down to the incredible work of our intelligence and security services who have prevented many attacks in recent years.

It reminds me that there are parts of our world who face such threats regularly, in some cases almost daily. The fact that it still shocks and shakes us is a reminder of the relative peace and security we enjoy in this country.

Our nation has a proud history of standing up to terror. We have never given in. We have stood for the values of freedom, democracy and tolerance in the face of the most extreme opposition. And this is what we must continue to do.

As the Prime Minister said last week, the best thing we can do, in the light of an attack like this, is carry on with our day to day lives. We cannot allow the fear that terrorists seek to create to cause us to cower or compromise. That is why I made sure I was there when Parliament sat on Thursday morning. Our greatest act of defiance will be in continuing as before. We know that the values we stand for and live by are not only right, they are also the best way to live. Love and freedom will always win over hate and fear.


  


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Newspaper column 22 March 2017 - Matters of Brexit

Last week the Brexit Bill was passed back through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and received Royal Assent on Thursday 16th March. The Bill is now an Act of Parliament, and I am pleased the Prime Minister has confirmed she will now make history and trigger Article 50 on 29th March, beginning the UK’s formal exit negotiations to leave the European Union.

In the run up to the Prime Minister taking this next step, I thought it worth touching on a few of the subjects relating to Brexit that residents have recently raised with me.

Firstly regarding the status of EU citizens currently living in the UK. The Government has guaranteed to protect the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK, as long as the EU states reciprocate and protect the rights of UK citizens currently living in EU states. This is paramount in negotiations for our Government but the EU has refused to negotiate until Article 50 is formally triggered.

Secondly, regarding fishing and farming. I see this as a great potential positive opportunity. I am determined to represent our local fishing communities and to ensure that unlike our negotiations for joining the ECC, the Government does not treat this vital industry as a bargaining chip and that we get our fishing waters and fair quotas back. Regarding farming, the Government has pledged to match Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding until 2020. After that we have the chance to change the way funding is applied, to make it fit for purpose by rewarding good practice and productivity instead of arbitrarily giving it to large landowners who do little to deserve it as we currently see.

Similarly, with funding for Cornwall, there is no question to this Government’s commitment here, as we have seen unprecedented investment in road and rail infrastructure both for and leading to Cornwall. As I have previously said, the current and past EU funding Cornwall has received is unwieldy and unfit for purpose. For example, despite the tourist industry being the largest economic driver in Cornwall, there is no EU funding available for it. I will do what I can to ensure the funding we do get, once the EU funding stops, is better targeted and easier to access for people and businesses who need it most.

Finally, looking at immigration, we need to be able to manage immigration in the UK’s favour to meet our social and economic needs – it isn’t a blanket stopping of all immigration and I am in favour of the Government taking steps to change our immigration policy along these lines.

All in all I see the Brexit process as about opening the UK up to the rest of the world instead of being locked into a small part of it. It is about restoring the UK as a global, outward-looking country on the international stage and I will continue to do all I can, along with my Cornish MP colleagues, to ensure Cornwall gets the best deal out of this.


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, 15 March 2017

Newspaper column 15 March 2017 - News from the Budget

The Budget that the Chancellor delivered last week continued the Government’s plan to reduce the deficit and balance the books – as a country we are still spending around £1billion per week more than we earn and tough decisions need to be made in order to leave the country in a better state for our children and grandchildren.

However, there was still plenty of good news for Cornwall in the Budget.

First on the list is more money for our social care system. I was delighted that the Chancellor announced that an additional £2 billion will be given to councils in England over the next 3 years for adult social care.

We are all aware of the pressure our local care system in Cornwall has been under recently. I have worked with my Cornish MP colleagues to lobby the Government for more money for Cornwall and am pleased that we will be getting a sizeable share of this new pot of money.

Cornwall will be getting a total of almost £24 million over the next three years, £12,068,325 for this coming year, £7,939,590 for 2018/19 and £3,943,423 for 2019/20.

Cornwall Council can use this money to commission new care packages for the coming financial year. This will enable mainly frail, elderly people to be better supported in order to enable them to continue living safely at home and also, in particular, help reduce the number of older patients who get stuck in hospital – sometimes for many months – despite being medically fit to leave, because the current social care system in Cornwall fails to provide the support they need to return home.

This is great news and I look forward to working with Cornwall Council to ensure this money is spent sensibly for the benefit of those people who need it most.

We also saw good news on business rate for small businesses and local pubs. I am sure this will make a big positive difference to the many who have contacted me about this in recent months.

Under the new measures, any business coming out of small business rate relief will benefit from a cap which prevents the rate that it pays from going up by more than £50 per month. The Government will also provide a £1,000 discount on business rates bills for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000, which includes 90 per cent of all pubs in England.

I am concerned about the proposed rise in National Insurance Contributions for those who are self-employed. I have already stated my opposition on this to the Government. I am pleased the Prime Minister has acknowledged the concerns that I and many Conservative MPs expressed and confirmed there will be a delay on a vote on this legislation while the impact is considered. I will make sure concerns of local self-employed people are heard as these discussions continue. If you are affected by these changes please get in touch and I will be more than happy to hear how you think they will impact upon you.

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, 8 March 2017

Newspaper column 8 March 2017 - Growth Deal funding for Cornwall

The recent announcement of £18 million from the Government under the Growth Deal to support the Cornish economy has attracted much attention in the local media, including some criticism from the usual rounds of naysayers.

Some are claiming that this shows the Government is not committed to Cornwall and will not be replacing the funding Cornwall has been receiving through the EU, now that we are leaving. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful if I were to put the record straight and dispel some of the myths being reported.

The Growth Deal 3 is, as the title suggest, the third round in the Government’s programme of investment to support regional economies. Cornwall has benefited significantly from the previous two rounds and this is in addition to and separate from the EU Regional Development Fund.
Cornwall’s Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) bid for Growth Deal funding was for £127m. The bidding process is a competition where bids are considered from across the country. The total bids this year were more than three times oversubscribed with over £6 billion of bids for a £1.8 billion pot of money. Therefore, it was always likely we would not be getting anywhere near what we hoped for. Although we all wished that Cornwall’s bid could have been stronger and attracted more but funding.
Of course, the usual naysayers were quick to jump to attack the Government here, crying out that this proves that the Government will not be replacing European Union funding lost we when we leave the EU.

This just simply isn’t the case though and it is disappointing to see people scaremongering in this way. We haven’t even started the formal process of leaving the EU yet. Cornwall is still getting EU funding under the current programme and the Government has committed to underwrite and support the current programme until 2020.Growth Deal 3 funding was never supposed to be a replacement for EU funding.

What this funding does give us is investment in science and innovation which will provide specific support for space, aerospace and marine renewable energy activity through the LEP’s Enterprise Zones. This is expected to lever in £20 million of additional investment, creating 400 new better paid jobs. Crucially it will support Cornwall Airport Newquay’s continued ambitions to be the UK’s first Spaceport, a bid which I have backed from the start.

It is also completely untrue to say the Government is not investing in Cornwall. I am proud if this Government’s support for Cornwall to date as evidenced by the soon to be completed dualling of the A30 at Temple. In Mid-Cornwall I have been working on the vital link road from the A30 to St Austell and the surrounding area - this £85million scheme is supported by and will be financed entirely by the Government. We are also seeing more investment in our rail infrastructure with state of the art new trains recently entering production for the Paddington to Penzance line. The fact is this Government is investing in Cornwall far more than we have seen for the previous 20 years.

Of course, once we begin to negotiate our exit from the EU we can also start to consider a replacement for the EU funding Cornwall currently receives. I can assure people that I continually remind Government Ministers of the need for a substantial programme of support going forward and always receive a positive response.


But those discussions are for another day. For now let us focus on making sure the funding we do have, whether through the UK Government or the EU is spent as wisely and effectively as possible. I am sure the people of Cornwall would much rather those at County Hall responsible for administering it spent more time focused on how it is spent rather than whinging and trying to score political points all of the time.