MP's column

There is no appetite for me to create further cost and disruption to small business. In fact, I’ve spent time since being elected arguing that Government improves the lot of small businesses through simplifying the tax system, scrapping business rates, creating training opportunities and ensuring small businesses have access to credit.

However, due to the tin ear of the Business Secretary and changes to the early May Bank Holiday I’m arguing in a debate that Government reinstate the Bank Holiday on May 4th and keep the May 8th Bank Holiday announced recently to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe. I’m completely in support of the day set aside to celebrate and commemorate VE Day. The challenge for businesses, particularly in tourism, is that the Government has given just 11 months notice as if the 75th anniversary has come as some sort of surprise. My apologies to businesses that can ill-afford another May Bank Holiday but I’m arguing that it is too late to scrap May 4th Bank Holiday and the Government should reinstate it. For the full transcript of the debate please go to derekthomas.org.

This week I met with the Minister responsible for forests and woodland. This followed a question in Parliament I put to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, seeking his support for communities who want to plant trees to improve air quality and the natural environment. To help to address harmful emissions, millions of extra trees are needed and the Government has two schemes that help community tree-planting initiatives.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is supporting the Woodland Trust with the Trees for Schools project where schools can have 400 trees to plant on their grounds. Many local schools have already taken up this challenge. The second is a recent initiative titled The Urban Tree Challenge Fund. The UTCF is open to anyone who wants to plant trees in urban or peri-urban areas ‘as long, as you have full management control or consent to use the land for the duration of your agreement and your planting location is within an urban area’. The closing date is 28th July, 2019.

I know that Cornwall Council is keen to see trees planted and as part of the commitment to Carbon Free Cornwall I urge the Council not to miss this opportunity. It’s not the whole solution. My suggestion week No 9 is that Cornwall Council ramps up its engagement with the Forestry Commission (who are mapping all the possible locations suitable for tree planting) and enables community tree planting initiatives across the Duchy. To find out more about the Urban Tree Challenge Fund which is relevant to our large towns go to www.gov.uk>Expandingurbanforests:TheUrbanTreeChallengeFund.

Over the weekend I met with care providers discussing how we ensure they can recruit and train the staff they need. I also hosted a meeting looking at how the Government, once we have left the EU, will be free to support farmers financially to adopt regenerative farming practices and I attended an event at a United Downs to look at the opportunity to extract lithium from underground alongside the development of geothermal energy generation. There is a very real opportunity for Cornwall to exploit the employment opportunities that come, many to small businesses, by embracing the drive to build a low-carbon economy.