General Election 2017 update
In March’s Budget the Government granted Cornwall Council an additional £24m to address the pressures on adult care.
We have also just seen the announcement of the long-needed mental health in-patient unit for young people in Cornwall and Treliske Hospital has been given £1m to ease pressure on its A&E department in time for next winter.
I am pleased to be part of this Government that is delivering for the NHS. There is more to do and I look forward to continuing to work to ensure Cornwall's NHS is fit for all.
Steve lobbied Ministers to get Cornwall Air Ambulance £1m LIBOR funding from the Government in the 2016 Autumn Statement to go towards providing the charity a new generation helicopter.
Steve was also pleased to support applications for the three new schools across Mid-Cornwall that have now been successful.
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Having raised our family here Anne and I understand the challenges parents face.
The traditional fabric of family and community life is under siege as never before. The pace of change in 21st century Cornwall can leave the vulnerable behind.
As your MP I continue to provide community leadership and support the structures that bind us together.
I have been involved in local church and charity work for most of my life including 12 years pastoring a local church.
The Cornish motto 'One and All' is reflected in the strong communities throughout this constituency.
I will continue this work to support communities and charities; to ensure the most vulnerable receive the support they need.
School attendance rules
One area where I disagree with the Government is on their changes to the rules that govern school attendance. I was able to secure a debate in Westminster on this and continue to work from within the Government to change the rules for the better.
The changes to school attendance rules have seen parents unable to take their children out of school during term time and risk being fined if they do. This has led to families not going on holiday during the traditional ‘shoulder months’ of the tourist industry, also being effectively priced out of going on holiday during the summer months. This has affected the revenue of many tourist related businesses in Cornwall, as well as stopping many Cornish parents who work in the tourist industry from going on holiday with their own families.
I believe it should be up to parents to decide when to take their children on holiday. The policy is also unfair to those who work in the tourist industry and therefore unable to take a holiday during school holidays.
A debate was secured as a direct result of the online petition that attracted over 100,000 signatures. I was asked to lead the debate as a member of the Petitions Committee. It was reassuring to see the number of colleagues, both locally and in Westminster who came forward to offer their support. This, combined with the backing of groups such as Visit Cornwall and the Local Government Association, as well as a number of family and parenting groups and of course, as the large numbers of constituents who are keen to ensure their views are represented, shows how much of a groundswell of support this issue has.
I hope I have made the case for change and that the Government has listened to the voice of parents and tourism businesses. Although we have not yet changed the Government’s mind on this issue, this was an important step. The fight goes on.
School funding changes
Working with a number of colleagues, I was able to make a strong case that the Government change the funding formula used for schools.
Cornwall’s schools have historically been underfunded when compared to the national average. This has meant Cornwall losing out by millions of pounds every year.
I joined over 111 MPs in writing an open letter to David Cameron calling on the Government to deliver school funding reform. Working on a cross-party basis, we asked the Prime Minister to change the existing system to one which will ensure fair funding based on pupil need across the country.
I was delighted when The Chancellor in 2015’s Autumn Statement announced that the existing funding formula will be scrapped and a new fair formula put in place for 2017. This is the result of campaigning by a number of people over many years and I am delighted to be a part of the Government that will at last deliver this change for Cornwall.
Scrutinising the Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy
We are facing a crisis of obesity among our children that is storing up trouble for the future for our nation, as it has implications for the personal health of those individuals, and will create wider social problems and economic challenges such as loss of productivity because of ill health and the cost to the NHS.
We need to be realistic. The issue is complex and there is no silver bullet that will solve the problem of childhood obesity in one hit. There needs to be a comprehensive plan and a combination of measures to encourage greater activity and participation in sport and to address aspects such as diet, labelling and lifestyle. Parents must be at the heart of any strategy. We cannot replace their role and responsibility in raising their children and deciding what is best for their children’s welfare and future. We must never lose sight of that. Many parents feel that they are fighting a losing battle. The greatest influence on many children growing up today is no longer the parents and the household, but the media and the marketing budgets of multinational companies. Even the simple fact that in most shops a bottle of water is more expensive than an equivalent-sized can of fizzy, sugary drink… is evidence of the losing battle that many parents feel they are fighting in teaching and enabling their children to make the best choices.
Having looked at the evidence, I have come around and now believe that the Government should seriously consider introducing a sugar tax, because it would send a clear message about what is right and help people to make the right choice.
I think that a sugar tax would be another step towards helping people, and particularly helping parents to help their children, to make the right choices. It would send a clear message that sugary drinks are not good for us. The Government would also be seen to be providing leadership on the issue, making a very clear and bold statement.
A tax on sugary drinks is not a silver bullet. It needs to be part of an overall package and a comprehensive strategy that includes better labelling, as we have heard, better education and encouraging physical activity. But I have been convinced that it needs to be seriously considered as part of the strategy to send that clear message and help parents make the right choice.
I have encouraged the Minister to look at my clear message that the Government should seriously consider introducing a tax on sugary drinks as part of its overall Childhood Obesity Strategy. It is something we need to see move forward, and a clear message needs to be sent.
While imposing a tax on sugar would not be the immediately obvious answer for myself and many of my Conservative colleagues, in this case the evidence shows that such a measure could well be the strong message we need to send to the food and drinks industry to help them to produce healthier products. The debate continues and I will continue to push for these measures and to do everything I can to help tack the root causes of the obesity crisis.