The situation in Westminster may seem to be in flux due to GardenGatheringGate.
The Prime Minister has a particular problem facing him even if he is absolved of any responsibility. MPs up and down the country were engaged in answering questions and queries from constituents about the interpretation of the rules in the first lockdown. We also took to the airwaves and on social media to repeatedly encourage people to ‘do the right thing’. I’m certain we were all aware of the difficulties and challenges this placed on many families and individuals for a prolonged period. I certainly was.
In the past week I’ve had several conversations with colleagues of disbelief that anyone in No 10 or any other part of Whitehall thought it was appropriate to gather in numbers at all, let alone for a drink. I’ve had a vast number of emails on the subject, many have told of heart-rending family separation as a mum gives birth or as a loved-one passes as examples. I also received a very pertinent email from a teacher, who, despite the stress of teaching in person to keyworker children and to children at home, said that not once did he and his colleagues meet up in the playground for a drink at the end of the day. In his battle to keep his job, Boris needs to demonstrate that things can change, can sharpen up, can be beyond reproach behind that shiny black door that carries the numbers 10.
However, my effort continues on the issues that are most regularly raised with me. This week I launched a comprehensive Access to NHS Dentistry Survey which is intended to capture real data regarding the extent of the problem in Cornwall. I also secured a commitment from the Minister responsible for dentistry that the contract that has harmed access to dentists so significantly is to be scrapped.
I met with Michael Gove’s team, following the announcement to close the council tax loophole on second homes, to discuss other measures to support local housing in Cornwall. Measures we discussed included the proposed condition on new homes for permanent residence only, measures to support landlords to maintain their properties for long letting and the need to strengthen enforcement so that it is an effective deterrent for those who give little consideration to planning rules.
Over the weekend I met with the Chamber of Commerce in Helston. This newly-formed group is greatly needed to support businesses in and around Helston and I’m keen to support their efforts. I also met with the Federation for Small Business to discuss what more can be done to help businesses across Cornwall and on Scilly.
I was met by protesters when I arrived to speak to the meeting. The group were protesting about the Police Bill which many believe will hinder their right to protest. The protest on Friday was peaceful, seemed cheerful and they were certainly polite to me as I arrived even though the banners carried my name. The Police Bill I’m supporting will not prohibit what took place on Friday. In fact, I believe it will help those who want to protest in this way. Peaceful protest is a very effective way to gather like-minded people together to bring something to a wider audience and bring about change. However, we have all see protests turn ugly caused by a few who have more interest in using the crowd to cause anxiety and fear rather than promote a cause. I wish I’d had more time to speak with the group on Friday.
On Friday evening I held a ‘drop-in’ in Sainsbury’s and at the Godolphin Club. Obviously, the No 10 gathering was featured but the reality is that people live with difficulties much closer to home, so I heard of difficulties with adolescent social care, adult social care, financial pressures, a delayed driving license renewal, domestic violence, speeding, discrimination at work, housing, and concerns about covid restrictions. I will continue to provide this opportunity for anyone to raise any issue, concern or idea and the next events take place as follows: Friday 28th January Badger Inn Lelant at 4.30pm, The Star Crowlas at 6pm and Coldstreamer Gulval at 7.30pm. On Monday 7th February at St Ives Library at 8.30am.
Back in Westminster and I met with colleagues with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministerial Team to discuss the Joint Fisheries Statement. This document sets out a UK wide legally strategic policy framework to deliver our world class sustainable fisheries and marine aquaculture. This framework is open for consultation (until 12 April) as are a long list of proposed detailed Fisheries Management Plans all intended to deliver a sustainable and well managed fishery across UK controlled waters. The aspect that may cheer many is that, if licensed foreign vessels want to continue to fish in our waters they are equally subject to these plans and the rules that accompany them. Much of which will be drafted with the input of our own fish producer organisations.
Cornwall Council has the responsibility of distributing further covid recovery grants to businesses that are impacted by omicron, staffing shortages and reduced consumer demand. The eligibility criteria is quite restrained as you would expect with tax-payers money so you will be better served to visit the Council’s website for greater detail. The Council is expected to ensure only the businesses that qualify and need to money should be paid and the Treasury Minister confirmed to me that Cornwall Council will have to account for how they distributed the cash. The grants are very much intended to support businesses interrupted by the impact of covid over the Christmas period.