Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Newspaper column 28th September 2016 - The Boundary Commission’s proposals and how they will impact on Cornwall

Making the headlines in the last couple of weeks have been the Boundary Commission’s proposals for the reduction of Parliamentary seats and Members of Parliament.

This has caused particular controversy in Cornwall because the proposals include the creation of a ‘cross-border’ Parliamentary constituency between Devon and Cornwall.

These initial proposals have been published by the Boundary Commission and have been carried out as a legal requirement under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. This was passed before I was elected, by the previous Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition Government. The Boundary Commission is an independent body that decides on the Parliamentary and local government seats. As such their proposals are made based on certain criteria as set up in the legislation.

The reason that a cross border seat is necessary under this legislation is because the Act stipulates that the number of constituencies must decrease from 650 to 600, with every constituency having an electorate of within 5 percent of the national average, which in England must be around 74,000 people.

The country is split into regions in order to allocate the correct number of seats. When this rule is applied to Cornwall, with our current population, we are too big for 5 seats but do not have a large enough population to have the six seats we currently have on our own. Therefore under the current legislation there is a legal requirement for a shared seat with Devon.

There is now a lengthy process, which includes a number of rounds of public consultation, which the people of Cornwall can take part in, before a final decision is reached.

I am disappointed with the new seats as proposed, especially the cross border seat.

There are many reasons for my disappointment, not least that I believe with the current population growth forecasts, the figures this review is based on, will be inaccurate. This review is based on the electoral roll at it stood in December 2015. Since then we have seen over 2 million new people added to the register across the country before the referendum in June. My concern is that by the time the boundary changes are implemented the actual numbers of people living across Cornwall could be much closer to those that would allow us to have six seats within Cornwall alone. However more importantly to me would be the crossing of a historical line, in more ways than one in the proposals for a cross-border seat. The proposals have met with a good deal of criticism from across the political and public spectrum in Cornwall for precisely this reason.

Whilst I fully support the principle of the equal representation of voters through Parliamentary seats all being of a similar size, I also understand and share the very strong feelings the people of Cornwall have about this issue.  I am aware that there are challenges to these plans being discussed. I will continue to monitor developments closely and concern what might be realistically achieved to change these plans. 

Details of the initial proposals and the consultation process can be found via the Commission's website here: 



I would certainly encourage anyone who is interested in the future of Cornwall’s Parliamentary representation to make their views known.

Monday, 26 September 2016

NHS England’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan

Since coming to power in 2010, firstly the coalition Government then the majority Conservative Government has increased spending on the NHS. During the course of this Parliament (2015-2020), spending will increase by an extra £10 billion. This year, the increase in health funding is 4% in real terms – three times the rate of inflation. The real point however, is not to do with money- however much the Conservatives put in and however much Labour says it will put in, it is down to the NHS being effectively managed.

STPs are about building a health and care system for local needs. Last year, the NHS outlined a new approach to try and better integrate health and social care. This is where the STPs come in. STPs will help drive genuine improvements and sustainable outcomes for patients based on local requirements, they will take into account of the scale needed to deliver the public health services required to improve patient outcomes with complex health and social care needs.  

Some organisations such as 38 Degrees have argued STPs are a secret process and a Trojan horse for privatisation. This is incorrect, STPs were announced in December 2015, in the NHS planning guidelines on the NHS website. Despite what Labour and 38 Degrees say ad infinitum, the NHS is not being privatised, it will still be free at the point of need and funded out of general taxation.


Thank you for contacting me about the NHS and STPs. If you would like to know more information about the issue, you can read more here: 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Newspaper column 21 September 2016 - Schools that work for everyone

Last week the Government published its green paper on education. The document ‘Schools that work for everyone’ consults on a number of key reforms designed to make the education system fairer for all.

The headline announcement from the green paper are the proposals for new schools that select pupils according to aptitude, often referred to as grammar schools.

I welcome this review as I have for some time held the view that our education system needed to be broader and offer more choice and diversity for families. Every child is different and I think it is right that children are encouraged to learn and grow in an environment and atmosphere that works best for them, both at home and in school. It follows then that we should be open to considering that children who demonstrate a more academic aptitude should have their talent nurtured in an academic environment, while those more vocationally gifted should be able to learn in schools that focus on their talents.

Critics of grammar schools point out that they create what they consider a ‘two tier’ education system. However, in a way this already exists as those with enough money are able to send their children to private education. Additionally, as things stand, we have a situation of selection by house price with the best schools only accessible to those families able to afford to live in the catchment area. I have no objection in principle with allowing children to develop and learn in a school and through ways of teaching that are best suited to them. If a sensible model comes forward from this consultation I would certainly carefully consider it.

However, along with these positive changes, as ever I must think about how they impact on us in Mid-Cornwall. In largely rural settings such as we find across Cornwall, there is a question over whether pupils living in rural locations would have suitable choices when educated in a system like this. Making sure that all areas, whether rural or urban have fair access to all types of education would be crucial in gaining my support for any proposals of this nature.

Another issue that I would seek reassurance on before deciding whether to support these measures is that of continued funding equality across the education system. I would seek confirmation that all schools would continue to receive equal funding based on pupils and not the type of school. I would not support a system that saw resources unfairly directed at any particular type of school.

Additionally, this review provides another opportunity to make the case for fairer funding of education, in order to address the current inequality that sees Cornish schools receive hundreds of pounds less per pupil. This is something I was pleased to raise with the new Education Secretary in Parliament last week.

Our children are our most important asset and it is crucial that we give them every opportunity to get on in life. A reformed education system that works for everyone is a good step forward. I think we can be positive about this consultation but as ever need to ensure that the Government gets it right for Cornwall.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Newspaper column 14th September 2016 - The Digital Economy Bill

This week Parliament voted on the Digital Economy Bill in Parliament. This Bill is an important part of the government’s programme laid out in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year and will implement a number of policies seeking to make our country more digitally competitive.

At the heart of the Bill is a commitment to make broadband connections a Universal Service Obligation. This will put broadband on the same footing as telephone and electricity as an essential service. Access to fast and reliable broadband connection is becoming more and more essential in today’s world whether it is staying in touch via email or social media, for business, entertainment or online shopping.

In Cornwall in particular, the rural nature of much of our county means that those living in the countryside or coastal areas often unfairly miss out on having the very best in broadband infrastructure. In fact, complaints of this nature are a big issue, and I have had many of you contact me with problems accessing and retaining a decent level of broadband. Whilst Cornwall fairs well when compared to our rural areas, our constituency in St Austell and Newquay falls into the bottom 30% of Parliamentary constituencies overall for the availability of superfast connections.

I am therefore particularly pleased then, that this Bill is being brought forward early in the Parliamentary session and although it will not take full effect for a few years yet at least we can establish the principle of the new ‘Universal Broadband Obligation’.

This obligation entitles consumers to a minimum speed, enhances switching and compensation for communication services, and provides a new Electronic Communications Code to deal with phone and internet infrastructure. It will make the roll-out of new infrastructure cheaper and subject to simplified regulations.

The telecoms standards regulator Ofcom has specifically stated that the Universal Broadband Obligation will ensure that the households living in areas with poor connection speeds are not excluded from the benefits of a digital society and thus the implementation of the legislation in this Bill will have a major tangible impact on the many people living in Mid-Cornwall who have to date been poorly served.

Improving the speed and availability was a manifesto commitment of the Conservatives in 2015, and this is another occasion where this Government is delivering on our promises. Combined with the continuing action Ofcom is taking that I hope will lead to broadband infrastructure provider Openreach becoming increasingly separate from BT, this statutory obligation for decent broadband speed for consumers is a huge step forward.

Whilst we wait for this Bill to be passed and come into full effect, I will continue to work with the Cornwall Development Company, Openreach and internet service providers locally to ensure that we get the possible deal for Mid-Cornwall, while ensuring in Parliament that more legislation like this gets voted through to help those who need it most.


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, 7 September 2016

Newspaper column 7 September 2016 - Microbeads

Like many of you I was able to spend a lot of time on our beaches or in the sea over the summer months. Apart from being an integral part of Cornwall, our seas and beaches are important assets for our tourism and fishing industries and their protection must be a priority.
As I headed back up to Parliament this week, I was particularly pleased to hear that the Government has announced plans to ban microbeads used in cosmetics and cleaning products from 2017.
Microbeads are small pieces of plastic commonly found in toothpaste, exfoliating body scrubs and other household products. They damage the environment and are building up in oceans with the potential to enter the food chain, with small particles of plastic now regularly found to have been ingested by fish.
Most people don’t realise every time we shower, brush our teeth or use cosmetics we are putting hundreds of thousands of tiny plastic particles down the plug. They are invisible to the eye and too small to be filtered out and therefore end up in the sea.
I am chair of the Protect Our Waves All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), and work with Cornwall-based charity Surfers Against Sewage to address urgent environmental issues including that of marine litter.
A major part of marine litter is the amount of plastic that ends up in our seas. The Protect Our Waves APPG has made highlighting and campaigning for the importance of reducing the plastic in our seas a priority.
As a start, the 5p charge for plastic bags brought in under this government has reduced the number of new plastic bags in circulation by 85% which has meant 6.5billion fewer going into landfill or into our oceans.

This ban on microbeads is an important next step, one that the Protect Our Waves APPG has been calling for and one that I wholeheartedly welcome. As ever, the devil will be in the detail and I look forward to seeing how the Government implements the ban, which will be another positive move in the fight against marine pollution.


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, 31 August 2016

Newspaper column 31 August 2016 - looking back at Summer Recess

This week’s column is my last before Parliament returns at the beginning of September. This summer’s Parliamentary Summer Recess has certainly been an eventful one and it has been great to be able to spend time here in Cornwall and get out and meet people and businesses across Mid-Cornwall.

I have visited communities across our constituency as well as attending numerous events. Thank you to all of those who I have met and have given me a warm welcome.

One of the major concerns has been the impact of the result of the EU referendum on Cornwall and I have spent time meeting with Cornwall Council as well as business leaders, including Newquay Airport, to listen to their views and concerns. I remain positive that we can secure a better future for Cornwall with the UK outside of the EU and will be doing all I can to secure the investment we need.
One major issue that became apparent in St Austell was the increase in anti-social behaviour in the town centre, which was highlighted to me by a number of residents and businesses as well as being raised in the local press. I have now met with the local town council, police and our Police and Crime Commissioner and am taking forward a number of issues, both locally and in Westminster, to seek to find longer term solutions to this issue.

I have also taken time to meet with local NHS representatives addressing some of the issues we face here in mid-Cornwall including dental health provision, community hospitals and mental health.
As part of this I spent time looking at mental health provision in and around Newquay. I have visited a number of facilities to see some of the excellent work that is currently taking place there as well as the challenges faced and understand what I can do to press the case for increased mental health provision for Cornwall going forward.

Across our constituency I have also done a great deal of work with South West Water, who I am working with to achieve a permanent solution to historic problems with sewage leaking in Fowey. It is also good to see the renovation work at the Yellowsands viewing platform at Pentire Esplanade in Newquay.

I have held a number of ‘Meet your MP’ events across Mid-Cornwall. These are events held in informal settings, such as a local pub, where people can come and see me without an appointment and talk about anything that they want. I was pleased to see excellent attendance at events in St Austell, Roche and St Stephen and look forward to holding more across the constituency throughout the year.

It has been a busy but enjoyable time, but next week Parliament returns and I will once again in in Westminster 4 days a week. Back in Parliament I will be continuing to meet with Ministers and make the case in Parliament to get the best deal for Cornwall following Brexit. Ahead of the Autumn Statement I will also be doing all I can to ensure we get the best outcome in the Government’s funding reviews for local government, schools and the Police, all areas where Cornwall has been traditionally poorly served by consecutive governments, where I believe myself and my Cornwall MP colleagues have a real chance to make a difference.

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, 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