Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Newspaper column 21 June 2017 - The Grenfell Tower tragedy

As I head back up to Parliament this week for the Queen’s Speech and start of the next session of Parliament, the tragic events of the fire at Grenfell Tower last Wednesday are not far from any of our minds.

This was a terrible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with all those affected, those who lost their lives and their families. Praise must be given to our emergency services for acting how they did, running into the flames when others were running away and putting their own lives on the line to save those in danger.

The Prime Minister has promised a comprehensive package of support for victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. During a meeting with survivors of the fire, she announced a £5 million fund would be made available to pay for emergency supplies, food, clothes and other costs.

The package includes: a commitment that victims who lost their homes in the disaster must be rehoused at the earliest possible opportunity and that the Government should aim to do this within 3 weeks at the latest.

The Prime Minister has also ordered a judge-led Public Inquiry to ensure these events are properly investigated, lessons are learnt and everything possible is done to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again in the future. The survivors will be consulted on the terms of reference for the inquiry, which will allow them to shape the way it is run so they can obtain the answers they are seeking.

Clearly this tragic event raises concerns about the safety of high rise blocks of flats. We actually have the highest tower block in Cornwall in our constituency at Park House Flats, at Truro Road in St Austell. Shortly after the fire in Kensington I contacted Ocean Housing, the social landlord of Park House Flats, to ensure they have safety measures in place to ensure the safety of the residents if a fire was to happen there.

I have been assured by Ocean that the Park House Flats are fire rated to 1 hour and have all of the appropriate safety measures and alarms in place.

Ocean say that the building is subject to regular familiarisation inspections by Cornwall Fire and Rescue and is visited regularly by Ocean’s Head of Health and Safety with emergency plans being updated every six months.

Finally, Ocean have also confirmed that the Park House flats do not have any external cladding of the type implicated in the Grenfell tragedy.

I am also pleased to report that the local Fire and Rescue Service are visiting the flats and advising residents on how to act in the event of a fire to ensure their safety.

I am sure there will be more to come from this incident which has affected so many, but what is important now is that lessons are learned and we do not see any repeat in the future.

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Newspaper column 14 June - Looking back on the General Election

At June 8th’s General Election I was delighted and honoured to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay.

I was pleased at the result of my positive campaign, particularly that you, the people of Mid-Cornwall chose to vote for me in higher numbers, with a greater majority and share of the vote than in 2015.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me and especially to my incredible team and all those who volunteered to help my campaign, and a special thanks to my family and especially my wife Anne for her incredible support.

While nationally the result was not what we as the Conservative Party hoped for, I am pleased to be returned as part of a Conservative-led Government, as the Conservatives again won more seats across the country than all of the other parties put together.

It was also good to see Cornwall retaining its full complement of Conservative MPs and I am looking forward to working together with my colleagues as a continuing powerful shared voice for our county within Government.

It is important we get behind the Prime Minister as she leads our country into the crucial EU negotiations. That we press on now to make a success of Brexit both for the UK and also for Cornwall.

In the run up to the election International Trade Minister Liam Fox visited St Austell to discuss some of the exciting ways in which Cornwall could benefit from Brexit, including ‘phenomenal potential’ for our Cornish food and drink exports around the world once we leave Europe.

I am already back in Parliament and now the campaign is over and done with am back at work serving you to do my best, regardless of how you voted, to represent and serve your interests, both locally and as a strong Cornish voice in Westminster.

Looking to the future I am meeting this week with Cornwall Council to get an update on the progress of the crucial A30 link road to St Austell and the surrounding area, and will continue to champion the bid for Newquay to become the location of the UK’s Spaceport, as we await to hear news on their recent bid.

It has been a privilege to serve as your MP for the past two years and I now look forward to continuing to work for you over the coming years to make where we live a better place to live, work and grow up in.

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

Monday, 12 June 2017

Statement on proposed Conservative Party/DUP deal

I have been contacted by a number of constituents raising concerns about the proposed deal between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). 

I have outlined my views on this below.

Firstly, it is not a formal coalition. It is a supply and confidence motion which means the DUP will vote with the Conservatives on issues such as budgets and the Queen Speech. They will not be part of the Government. The Prime Minister has now appointed her Cabinet and it does not contain any DUP members.

Forming a Government that is supported by the DUP does not mean the Conservative Party agrees with all the DUP’s policies. From 2010-2015 we were in a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats despite there being many key issues where we did not agree with their policies. There are many key issues where we do agree with the DUP such as our approach to defence and terrorism, our general approach to taxation and Brexit. But there also some areas where we clearly do not agree on.

Laws concerning abortion and LGBT rights will not be affected, there are no plans to change legislation and those issues are devolved to the Northern Ireland assembly and therefore the DUP would have no influence over this matters in England.

It is generally the convention in Parliament that areas such as these are a matter of conscience and therefore would be a matter for a free vote.

The DUP will not be able to change the curriculum for schools in England, as it is an English only matter and as far as I am aware there are no plans to change what is taught in schools. Any attempt to change this is unlikely to find any support amongst my colleagues. 

The Conservative party is opposed to the reintroduction of the death penalty. I would vote against any attempt by anyone to introduce a bill for its reintroduction.

As regards to climate change, the British Government has signed the Paris Climate Agreement and will stick to it. There will be no watering down environmental legislation once we leave the EU. As someone who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group to Protect Our Waves, I am keen to see further efforts to reduce pollution and tackle problems of waste entering the environment.

I believe it is important that following the outcome of the election we now get on with forming a Government and providing the leadership the country needs at this time. The only possibility of this happening is if the Conservative Party forms a Government. The Labour Party simply do not have enough members and even if they were supported by all the other parties they would still have less seats than the Conservatives have on our own.

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

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

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 Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at:

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.