MP's Column

VE Day was to be a great celebration on our streets and I was looking forward to it. VE Day is a bitter-sweet anniversary remembering many who gave the ultimate sacrifice and celebrating the end of this terrible conflict 75 years ago. All is not lost and, by going to the link below, you can find a wide range of free resources, such as bunting, games, recipes and a huge amount for children – a great, educational but fun resource for parents in need of activities during the lockdown! There will be a 2 minute silence at 11am and the Her Royal Majesty the Queen will be delivering a national address.

A complete headache is how I’d describe the logistics of supporting small businesses effectively during lockdown. Once the Government had announced the business grant for businesses that receive rate relief it quickly became clear that a host of businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure would fall through the net because they do not operate from business rateable properties! During the entire month of April I fed in examples of these, calling for help so I was glad when the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary of State wrote to me on Friday with news of an extension to the criteria and extra cash for Cornwall Council to award grants and address these anomalies!

My other concern has been for small independent hotels, guest houses and holiday lets which are potentially the target of the Competition and Markets Authority. The CMA has announced that it is investigating (as a priority) the fact that holiday makers are not necessarily receiving full refunds. In normal circumstances when a holiday booking cannot be fulfilled by the provider a full refund is absolutely what I’d expect to happen. However, the lockdown is unprecedented and unplanned and insurance companies are not in most cases covering these losses. The owners of hotels and guest houses that I have spoken to are doing all they can to ensure they do the right thing. In many cases this includes offering a holiday later in the year. Instructing them to offer full refunds across the board would be catastrophic for Cornish and Scillonian tourism!

I was glad to learn of the Cornwall Live initiative to help us with our mental health. Doing the right thing is keeping coronavirus at bay across Cornwall but some are paying the price and are acutely lonely, anxious and isolated. Anything we can do to make contact with each other is worth every effort!

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (I sit on this committee) met virtually on Tuesday to take evidence of how the lockdown has impacted our farmers. With hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafes closing, the surplus of perishable and high value British food presented an immediate problem for the industry. MPs representing rural constituencies have been discussing this weekly and pressing Government to find a way to support our farmers so that they can survive to feed us when we return to ‘new normal’. We remain hopeful!