Frequently Asked Questions

Colin Martin answers questions from voters

Since the election was called, I've received hundreds of questions on a huge range of topics. 

Under our electoral system, you vote for an individual, NOT a party. Although most MPs represent a party, they must be accountable for the individual decisions they make, and when it comes to the crunch, must always put their constituency, the country and the planet AHEAD of the party. Therefore, I've tried to show in my answers both the party line, and my own personal perspective.

For the past fourteen years, our Conservative MP has slavishly followed her party line and dismissed the views of anyone who didn't agree with them. I want to be a different kind of MP: I may not always agree with you, but I will ALWAYS take your views seriously and respond respectfully to those who challenge my opinions. Whichever way I vote, you can always be assured that your point of view has been heard and carefully considered.

If you've asked me a question but not yet received an answer, please accept my apologies.

For more detail on any of these subjects, please see our manifesto

Colin Martin answering questions
Colin has answered hundreds of questions from local people

Colin answers your questions:

  • Way back in 2008, I worked for Community Energy Plus, a Cornish charity with two missions: Tackling fuel poverty and promoting sustainable energy. Back then, energy bills were only a problem for the people on the lowest incomes or in the homes with the worst insulation, but over the past few years, those bills have become a problem for the whole country. The good news is that over the same period, renewable enrgy sources such as wind and solar have gone from being expensive novelties to become cheaper than every other form of electricity production.

    I agree with the overwhelming majority of scientists that man-made sources of greenhouse gases are causing dangerous climate change. But even if you think that's all nonsense, it STILL makes sense to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible because they are more expensive and vulnerable to price shocks caused by undemocratic foreign regimes. Trillions of pounds of investments are shifting away from fossil fuels and into renewables, which is great news for Cornwall because we have no oil or gas, but plenty of wind, sunshine and hot rocks!

    Since Cornwall Council declared a "Climate Emergency" in 2019, I have been pushing harder than any other Councillor to ensure that every household, every business, and every public sector organisation gets the support they need to insulate their buildings, electrify their heating systems and move away from petrol and diesel vehicles. Until now, Conservative politicians have been more interested in talking about targets rather than taking real action. But after years of campaigning led by me, a "Cornwall Climate Commission" has now been created. This independent body will hold both local and national political, public and private-sector leaders to account; spelling out exactly what resources are needed to make the net-zero transition as fast and fair as possible.

    Unfortunately after several years of political consensus, the Conservative party has now followed Reform's false narrative that the transition is too expensive and should be delayed. Meanwhile Labour have U-turned on their bold commitment to a £28 billion per year green investment fund, reducing it by 80%. As a party, the Liberal Democrats have consistently supported bold action to tackle climate change, and our manifesto has been rated by Friends of the Earth as better than either the Conservatives or Labour.

    Here are some of the highlights from that manifesto:

    Climate change is an existential threat. Soaring temperatures leading to wildfires, floods, droughts and rising sea levels are affecting millions of people directly, and billions more through falling food production and rising prices. Urgent action is needed – in the UK and around the world – to achieve net zero and avert catastrophe.

    At the same time, sky-high energy bills are hurting families and businesses, fuelling the cost-of-living crisis. Russia’s assault on Ukraine has reinforced the need to significantly reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels and invest in renewables – both to cut energy bills and to deliver energy security.

    The Conservative Government has failed to act with anything close to the speed or ambition these challenges demand. The independent Climate Change Committee warns that the Government is not on track to meet its legally binding targets.

    Liberal Democrats are committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 at the latest (That's five years sooner than either Labour or the Conservatives).

    We will take the bold, urgent action needed to tackle climate change, cut energy bills and create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid new jobs. Together with innovative British businesses, we will make the UK the world leader in the clean technologies of the future. We will help households meet the cost of the transition to net zero and make sure everyone benefits from it, leaving no one behind.

    We will:

    • Make homes warmer and cheaper to heat with a ten-year emergency upgrade programme, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes, and ensure that all new homes are zero-carbon.
    • Drive a rooftop solar revolution by expanding incentives for households to install solar panels, including a guaranteed fair price for electricity sold back into the grid.
    • Invest in renewable power so that 90% of the UK’s electricity is generated from renewables by 2030.
    • Appoint a Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury to ensure that the economy is sustainable, resource-efficient and zero-carbon, establish a new Net Zero Delivery Authority to coordinate action across government departments and work with devolved administrations, and hand more powers and resources to local councils for local net zero strategies.
    • Establish national and local citizens’ assemblies to give people real involvement in the decisions needed to tackle climate change.
    • Restore the UK’s role as a global leader on climate change, by returning international development spending to 0.7% of national income, with tackling climate change a key priority for development spending.

    For more details on our plans for energy and climate change, please see Chapter 5 of our manifesto.

  • I believe that farmers and landowners have a vital role to play in protecting nature, as well as tackling climate change and of course providing high quality, affordable food. But providing all of these services in an age of increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather is not easy. That's why the Liberal Democrats want to ensure that by 2030, at least 30% of our land is being used in "nature-positive" ways. Moving away from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, using land to manage water, and opening up public access all cost money, and farmers must still be able to make a living, so the Liberal Democrats would increase the farm support budget by £1 billion per year.

    For more detail on our support for farming, see chapter 13 of our manifesto

    Protecting our precious natural environment lies at the heart of the Liberal Democrat approach. Everyone should be able to enjoy open green spaces, clean blue rivers and the beauty of Britain’s coast.

    The UK is facing a nature crisis. One in six species are threatened with extinction from Britain. Air pollution claims tens of thousands of lives every year, and costs the NHS billions. The Government’s own Office for Environmental Protection has rebuked the Conservatives for falling “far short” of the action needed. The Conservatives are using Brexit as an opportunity to erode previously high environmental standards.

    Nowhere is the Conservatives’ lack of care for the environment clearer than the national sewage scandal. They are letting water company bosses get away with paying themselves millions of pounds in bonuses while dumping millions of tonnes of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and coastal areas. Just one in seven of England’s rivers are in good ecological health, and every single one is below chemical pollution standards.

    Liberal Democrats have a bold plan to restore the UK’s natural environment, and give everyone access to a clean and healthy natural world.

    We will:

    • End the sewage scandal by transforming water companies into public benefit companies, banning bonuses for water bosses until discharges and leaks end, and replacing Ofwat with a tough new regulator with new powers to prevent sewage dumps.
    • Set meaningful and binding targets to stop the decline of our natural environment and ‘double nature’ by 2050: doubling the size of the Protected Area Network, doubling the area of most important wildlife habitats, doubling the abundance of species and doubling woodland cover by 2050.
    • Plant at least 60 million trees a year, helping to restore woodland habitats, increase the use of sustainable wood in construction, and reach net zero.
    • Pass a Clean Air Act, based on World Health Organization guidelines, enforced by a new Air Quality Agency.
    • Strengthen the Office for Environmental Protection and provide more funding to the Environment Agency and Natural England to help protect our environment and enforce environmental laws.

    For more detail on our plans for the Natural Environment, see chapter 12 of our manifesto

  • As a Cornwall Councilllor I have previously (and on may occasions personally) supported the approach of trying to put a roof over someone's head as soon as possible, as well as finding the support to tackle any underlying health or personal issues that have directly or indirectly led to a person becoming homeless. For this reason I back much-needed investment in support services such as those llinked to mental health, addiction, domestic violence etc. and of course, this vital support needs to come before the point of crisis wherever possible. 

    In addition to the national issues around homelessness,  in Cornwall we have 25,000 houses that no-one lives in full time - because they are being used as holiday accommodation! This drives up house prices and mean that 25,000 local families and individuals are left on the waiting list for housing. It is simply unacceptable and unsustainable. 

    I have used my position on Cornwall Council to push four new laws through Parliament to control the spread of holiday accommodation in Cornwall so that more homes are available for local residents. These will make a real difference to Cornwall's housing crisis, but Conservatie MPs have put loopholes and time-delays into them. That's why I need you to send me to Parliament to finish the job! You can see more details here.

    The Liberal Democrats have made these manifesto commitments: 

    • Build 150,000 social homes a year, with new garden cities and community-led development of existing cities and towns.
    • Ban no-fault evictions immediately, make three-year tenancies the default, and create a national register of licensed landlords.
    • Give local authorities the powers to end Right to Buy in their areas.
    • Scrap the Vagrancy Act.
    • Abolish residential leaseholds and cap ground rents to a nominal fee, so that everyone has control over their property.
    • Create a ‘somewhere say to stay’ legal duty to ensure that everyone who is at risk of sleeping rough is provided with emergency accommodation and an assessment of their needs.
    • Ensure local authorities have sufficient resources to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and provide accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse.
    • Close the holiday let tax loophole and withdraw mortgage tax relief from people with holiday lets to encourage property owners to make homes available for local people.
    • Introduce a new planning class for holiday lets and second homes so that homes could not be converted into holiday lets without being given planning consent to do so.
    • Allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 500 per cent where homes are being bought as second homes.

    Please remember - The Labour Manifesto does not even mention second homes or holiday rentals! The issue clearly does not matter to the Labour party - you need a voice in parliament that understands our loca area. 

  • I firmly believe that everyone should be able to retire with dignity in this country but understand that far too many pensioners are being hit hard by the cost of living. I recently signed up to support Independent Living's "2 million 2 many" campaign to work to end poverty in later life.

    More than two million retirees are living in poverty and are now facing record energy bills and eye-watering shopping bills.

    This Conservative government is abandoning pensioners and have totally failed to give them proper support.

    Liberal Democrats are looking to the future and will build a country that is the best place in the world to save for, and enjoy, retirement.  We will:

    • Support pensioners by protecting the triple lock so that pensions always rise in line with inflation, wages or 2.5% – whichever is highest.
    • Ensure that women born in the 1950s are finally treated fairly, by properly compensating them in line with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
    • Requiring pension funds and managers to show that their portfolio investments are consistent with the Paris Agreement. This is the principal reason I joined the pension commitee and I have made sure than Cornwall Local Government pesion fund is leading the way on that.
  • As a teacher in South East Cornwall I have seen first hand how important kinship care is in our community, I think it is vital that kinship care arrangements are valued as highly as other types of care arrangements. Without these arrangements so many more children would end up in the state care system which would not only potentially more traumtic for them, but also far more costly to the system. For both of those reasons I am enourmously grateful for kinship carers and everyhing they do, and belive they should be supported in every way we can. 

    Lib Dem Education spokeserson Munira Wilson has led the campaign about kinship care:

    In our manifesto we have committed to:

    • Support children in kinship care and their family carers by:
      • Introducing a statutory definition of kinship care.
      • Building on the existing pilot to develop a weekly allowance for all kinship carers.
    • Support the education of children in care, extend Pupil Premium Plus funding to children in kinship care, and guarantee any child taken into care a school place within three weeks, if required to move schools.
    • Making all parental pay and leave day-one rights, including for adoptive parents and kinship carers, and extending them to self-employed parents.
    • In the longer term, when the public finances allow, our ambition is to give all families (including self-employed parents, adoptive parents and kinship carers):
      • Six weeks of leave for each parent, paid at 90% of earnings.(12 weeks in total)
      • 46 weeks of parental leave to share between themselves as they choose, paid at double the current statutory rate.
  • I have been deeply disturbed by the way the ECHR has become a political football in recent years, as some elected representatives and media outlets attemt to whip up a frenzy of anger with no real substance. This is the type of politics that has to stop. Not everyone will agree on everything all the time, but something so hard won, so essential as our basic rights as humans should never be tampered with.

    I subscribe to the same mantra as many of those who have contacted me: Either everyone is safeguarded or no-one is. 

    Liberal Democrats have long called on the Conservative Government to unequivocally commit to staying in the ECHR, and to ensure that all UK legislation is compliant with the Convention. As a voice in the new parliament I would continue to demand this of any new government.

    The Liberal Democrats will not stand idly by and watch as any government rolls back hard-won British rights and freedoms.

    • We are committed to upholding the Human Rights Act, the ECHR and the Equality Act. 
    • We will keep opposing the police’s use of facial recognition surveillance, because it breaches the right to privacy, is biased, and doesn’t work to identify criminals
    • We will protect the fundamental democratic right to peaceful protest by scrapping the Conservatives’ draconian anti-protest laws, restoring pre-existing protections for both peaceful assembly and public safety.

    The Liberal Democrats exist to build a society where every person’s rights and liberties are protected. Everyone should be able to live their lives as who they are: free to pursue their dreams, express their voice, and fulfil their potential, safe in the knowledge that their fundamental rights will be protected.

    This is why I am a Liberal Democrat and this is the voice I want to bring to represent South East Cornwall. 

  • The UK asylum system is broken. 

    The UK has a proud history of welcoming newcomers – whether people seeking to build their lives here, or refugees fleeing war and persecution, I firmly believe that people from all over the world have greatly enriched our economy, our culture and our communities across the UK. My own parents worked tirelessly to support asylum seekers and refugees from around the world, who were desperate and scared, sometimes opening their own home to them when they had nowhere else to go. I have seen first hand the truth in those personal stories beyond the divisive narrative peddled in some media reports. But I also know it isn't straight forward and that our immigration system has been broken by the Conservatives.

    Their damaging new rules mean British employers can’t recruit the people they need and families are separated by unfair, complex visa requirements. Their dysfunction has made the asylum backlog soar. Public confidence in the system is shattered. The Home Office is not fit for purpose. The Governt=ment has literally stopped processing asylum applications!

    The UK is the only country in Europe that locks people up indefinitely for immigration purposes. Detaining people for months on end – without giving them any idea how long they’ll be there – is not only inhumane, but also extremely expensive and ineffective.  By reducing detention to an absolute last resort, the Liberal Democrats will save both misery and money.

    We will:

    • Introduce a 28-day time limit on detention, with judicial approval required to detain someone for more than 72 hours;
    • End the detention of children for immigration purposes;
    • End the detention of vulnerable people, including survivors of torture, victims of trafficking and modern slavery, and people who are pregnant; 
    • Ensure that everyone in immigration detention – especially those at risk of deportation – has access to high-quality legal advice.

    The Conservatives have consistently focused the nation's attention on what is essentially the result of their failure to tackle the asylum system: Desperate people crossing the channel in boats. The Conservatives have closed down safe and legal routes to sanctuary, leaving people to make perilous attempts to cross the Channel in small boats – often in the hands of criminal smugglers and traffickers.

    Liberal Democrats are fighting for a fair, effective immigration system that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

    We will:

    • End the Conservatives’ Hostile Environment and invest instead in officers, training and technology to tackle smuggling, trafficking and modern slavery.
    • Transfer policy-making over work visas and overseas students out of the Home Office and into other departments.
    • Scrap the Conservatives’ Illegal Migration Act and their Rwanda scheme, uphold the Refugee Convention, and provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees, helping to prevent dangerous Channel crossings.
    • Tackle the asylum backlog by establishing a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making, introducing a service standard of three months for all but the most complex asylum claims to be processed, and speeding up returns of those without a right to stay.
    • Lift the ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for a decision for more than three months, enabling them to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute to the economy.
    • Work closely with Europol and the French authorities to stop the smuggling and trafficking gangs behind dangerous Channel crossings.

    I believe passionatley in human rights, equality, and fairness, Every person matters. Liberal Democrats believe that basic rights and dignity are the birthright of every individual, to be respected, cherished and enhanced.- this is why I am a LIberal Democrat, and this is the voice I want South East Cornwall to have in parliament. 

  • I believe that access to nature is good for us all, and in Cornwall we are surrounded by some of the UK's most beautiful coaslines and countryside. 

    But I also know from my conversations with local farmers and landowners that allowing public access across private land can carrry a cost. Some people drop litter and trample crops, whilst others allow their dogs to attack livestock. So, whilst I want to see greater access for people to access nature responsibly, I believe it is important that farmers and landowners are given proper financial support to cope with the consequences.

    Liberal Democrats have a bold plan to restore the UK’s natural environment, and give everyone access to a clean and healthy natural world.

    We will ensure everyone has access to a healthy natural environment, regardless of where they live, by significantly increasing the amount of accessible green space, including protecting up to a million acres, completing the coastal path, exploring a ‘right to roam’ for waterways and creating a new designation of National Nature Parks.

    For more detail on our plans for the Natural Environment, see chapter 12 of our manifesto

  • There are several parts to this answer:

    1. Why is "tactical voting" even a thing?
    2. Is Labour targetting South East Cornwall?
    3. What are the differences between the Lib Dem and Labour candidates and Manifestos?
    4. Who can win the support of former Conservative voters?

    Let's address each one of those points:

    1. Why is "tactical voting" even a thing?

    The UK's unfair "first past the post" voting system means that an unpopular MP can be re-elected if the opposition is divided between two or more parties. So whilst it's very clear that more than 50% of voters in South East Cornwall want to get rid of Sheryll Murray, she may still win unless opponents unite behind one candidate. This leads to endless arguments about which opponent is "best placed" to win, but that misses a bigger point: We need to change the voting system to Proportional Representation so that EVERY vote counts. (e.g. A party with 15% of the votes gets 15% of the seats) Unfortunately Labour Leader Keir Starmer says changing the voting system is "not a priority".

    So, if you're worried about wasted votes and a fair voting system, you should VOTE STRATEGICALLY: i.e. Vote for a party which is committed to Proportional Representation. (i.e. Lib Dem, Green or Reform, but not Labour or the Conservatives).

    2. Is Labour targetting South East Cornwall?

    Labour's national and Cornwall leadership have been clear and consistent: They are targeting TWO seats in Cornwall, and ours is not one of them!

    • An online list and map shows Labour's "battleground" seats. This does not include South East Cornwall.
    • Their website asks volunteers in South East Cornwall to travel to Truro and Falmouth.
    • No national funding has been provided for Labour's SE Cornwall campaign
    • They have delivered significantly fewer leaflets than in 2019
    • Party HQ deliberately delayed the selection of their candidate in order to encourage local volunteers to help out elsewhere

    But the local party is not following orders

    • Two potential Labour candidates who have lived in the constituency for many years were blocked from selection because they refused to sign the "Candidate Contract" which obliged them to focus their efforts in "battleground" seats.
    • The eventual candidate (who has only lived in the area for a few months) has caused confusion among local activists and voters by telling them she has a "plan to win", despite clearly lacking the resources to do so. This lack of discipline makes a Conservative victory more likely both in South East Cornwall and in Labour's "battleground" seats.

    What are the differences between the Lib Dem and Labour candidates and Manifestos?

    • I have a long track-record of campaigning on the specific issues which affect our area: 
      • Affordable housing (particularly taking action to control the spread of holiday homes)
      • Tamar Tolls (Labour's candidate is following party orders not to ask for a single penny of Government funding for anything, whilst I have successfully campaigned to change national Lib Dem policy to support full Government funding for the crossing so that the tolls can be abolished)
      • Safety on the A38 (I have worked closely with SAFE38 for over seven years and have had many detailed discussions with Council Officers, National Highways and a Secretary of State, but the Labour candidate hasn't even lived here long enough to figure out which bits need fixing!)
    • Perhaps more importantly, I have shown that I am not afraid to challenge my own party when I think they are not on the right track (e.g. opposing putting taxpayer's money into subsidising Newquay Airport) whereas Labour's candidate appears more concerned about being "on message" than in saying what really needs to be said.

    Finally, our manifestos clearly demonstrate that Labour is not interested in the issues affecting South East Cornwall:

    • Our manifesto has a twenty-point plan to support farming; Labour's has just five sentences!
    • Our manifesto calls for the creation of a Cross-departmental Minister for Rural Communities to ensure that extra funding is provided for rural broadband, rural housing, rural buses, rural doctor's surgeries and even rural abattoirs. Labour's manifesto doesn't even mention the word "rural".
    • Our manifesto commits to stronger measures to prevent homes being turned into holiday accommodation, such as allowing councils to charge 500% Council tax on second homes and creating a new "use class" for second homes so that they cannot be converted without planning permission. Labour's manifesto doesn't even mention holiday homes.

    Many Labour voters are also disappointed that under Keir Starmer, the party has turned away from some core principles, whilst the Liberal Democrats have stayed true to their values:

    • Labour under Keir Starmer has abandoned its £28 billion per year "Green Investment Fund". The Liberal Democrats have consistently been stronger than either Labour or the Conservatives on Climate action
    • Labour under Keir Starmer has adopted the Conservative party's plan for £18 billion of further austerity measures. The Liberal Democrats have committed to raising taxes on big business to fund investment in essential public services
    • Labour under Keir Starmer supports the two-child cap on benefits which leaves millions of children in poverty, and forces parents to choose between heating and eating. The Liberal Democrats have committed to ending this unfair rule.
    • Labour under Keir Starmer has ruled out ever rejoinin the Customs Union or Single Market. This will inevitably mean higher prices on imports (especially food) and fewer opportunities for UK exporters (including our hard-pressed farmers and fishers). The Lib Dems have set a clear long-term goal to rejoin the Customs Union, the Single Market, end eventually the European Union (though this will not happen within the next five years)
      Labour under Keir Starmer would not renegotiate the Australia and New Zealand Trade Deals which allow food produced to lower standards to be imported to the UK. Not only does this undercut UK farmers, it also makes it necessary for everything our farmers export to the EU to be accompanied by paperwork to provie that it isn't from Australia or New Zealand. The Liberal Democrats are committed to renegotiating the Autralia and New Zealand Trade Deals to protect UK food and farming standards, and to withdraw from those deals altogether if those standards cannot be achieved.

    Who can win the support of former Conservative voters?

    Whilst many former Conservative voters are considering voting for a different party this time around, many of them still consider Labour to be a "red line" that they will never cross. On the other hand, many of them have previously voted for the Liberal Democrats (Labour have never won in South East Cornwall).

    As a well-known, hard-working local Liberal Democrat, I have been told by many people who support all the other parties that they would be happy to wake up on 5th July and discover that I am their new MP:

    • Conservative supporters know that I will work hard for everyone and treat all voters with respect (unlike Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner who referred to "Tory scum")
    • Labour supporters know that Keir Starmer is going to be the Prime Minister, and that I will support him when he proposes measures which are good for our area, but oppose him when he is in the wrong. I will not face any compromise between doing what's right for South East Cornwall vs getting in Keir Starmer's good books in the hope of becoming a Government Minister.
    • Green party supporters know that I have a stronger record of action on Climate Change than any other candidate (including their own!)
    • Reform party supporters who simply "don't want Conservatives or Labour" will be happy with a Lib Dem, especially as we will fight for Proportional Representation at the next election.

    So, for all these reasons, the Liberal Democrats in South East Cornwall are fighting for every vote on 4th July. If we unite, we can win.

  • Campaign Group SAFE38 say:

    ‘The current A38 in South East Cornwall between Carkeel and Trerulefoot has a killed and seriously injured rate three and a half times the national average for a road of its type, severs  communities, causes toxic air quality issues, forces oversized vehicles on to unsuitable country lanes, suffers regular flooding and is a barrier to economic growth and prosperity. In July 2023 the Carkeel to Trerulefoot safety package was delayed by the department of transport until post 2030.

    SAFE38 ask Colin:

    If elected as our MP what will you do to get these vital safety measures delivered before 2030 and what will you do to see a modern fit for purpose A38 delivered which will save lives and secure livelihoods for generations to come?’

    To see Colin's full response, click here

  • The UK is one of only two countries in Europe to use the outdated "First Past The Post" voting system. The other is Belarus!

    This system is comletely unsuited to multi-party democracy and means that MPs can be elected with as little as 30% of the vote, whilst most people's votes are "wasted". It forces voters to consider "tactical voting" (i.e. voting for your 2nd or 3rd preference because you're worried that voting for your 1st choice might allow your least-favourite candidate to win). 

    This would be totally unnecessary under a system of Proportional Representation where a party receiving 10% of the vote would win 10% of the seats in Parliament. 

    The latest polls suggest that Labour could win 39% of the vote but get 70% of the seats in Parliament!! This is obviously undemocratic.

    The majority of Labour party members support Proportional Representation, but this is being ignored by their Leader.
    This week, Keir Starmer has categorically defended First Past The Post and ruled out Proportional Representation 😡

    If you want every vote to count, and put an end to tactical voting, please vote for a party which supports Proportional Representation (Liberal Democrat, Green or Reform) 

  • My Dad was a worrier.

    He spent a lot of time thinking about the future and worrying about what could go wrong. He was like this his whole life, and it was really debilitating, but as he got older, it got worse. Because on top of worrying about the day-to-day issues, he started to worry about developing a serious illness. "What if I get stuck with an unbearable condition and I don't have the option to die on my own terms?"

    To cut a long story short, at the start of 2020, my father took his own life at the age of 72. He didn't have any physical problems at that time, but I think that worrying about the possibility of a slow and unpleaseant death was a significant factor in his decision to end his own life. So, ironically, if Assisted Dying was legal, I think he would have lived longer.

    And to add insult to injury, when the paramedics got to him, they restarted his heart and rushed him to the hospital. His brain had been deprived of oxygen and he had no chance of recovery, but when the time came to remove him from the ventilator, he didn't just pass away peacefully. Instead his body struggled for breath for several agonising hours whilst we sat at his bedside. I won't go into the details, but it was unpleasant and undignified, and definitely not what he wanted. And while we waited for him to slip away, the nurses kept coming in to do things to help keep him going! I tried to make them understand that what he really wanted was to go as quickly and peacefully as possible, and although they didn't say anything explicit, I think they may have given him something to "help him relax", before he finally passed away.

    It was agonising for the family (who just wanted him to be at peace); awkward for the staff (who were clearly stuck between what was "kind" and what was legal); and expensive for the hospital (two days in an ICU bed costs thousands of pounds). But above all, it was not what my Dad wanted! I'm glad that he wasn't consious for those two days in the ICU, but it pains me to think about the emotions he must have experienced as he went through with the act of killing himself without assistance. 

    I dearly wish that I could have had him in my life for another ten or twenty years, and that if he ever got a serious illness which made his life unbearable, that we could all have gathered together to celebrate his life before letting him die in dignity with proper medical assistance.

    To be honest I think that most MPs have a lot of sympathy for this position, but there are some important matters which need to be addressed:

    • How will we ensure that people don't feel pressured into ending their lives before they really want to?
    • Where should we draw the line about who is allowed to access this service? (Is it only for people with terminal diseases? What about people who are experiencing great physical suffering but are not terminally ill? What about people who want to die because their mental illness makes their life unbearable?)
    • If we allow some people to end their lives because of a serious disability, how will that affect the way we think about people who want to keep living with these conditions? 
    • How do we protect those who cannot speak for themselves?

    Part of the answer is

    • to ensure that health and care services are properly resourced so that people don't feel that their choice to live is coming at the expense of someone else who needs a hospital bed or a care package 
    • to ensure that the cost of social care doesn't have a significant effect on inheritance (for example by making personal care free to everyone, and by putting a cap on the total amount any individual would ever have to pay towards their own care)
    • to ensure that palliative care is properly resourced so that people don't feel the need to take their lives early to avoid an unbearably painful end.
    • to ensure that we build a society where physical limitations do not disable people from living a full and active life

    However the truth is I don't think we can ever be 100% certain that we've done enough to prevent those negative possibilities listed above.

    But in the spirit of "not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good"; I think the right way forward is to open the door to legalise assisted dying, not by pretending that these problems don't exist, but by acknowledging that they do exist and that we must remain mindful of them in every individual case. 

    If we build proper checks and balances, I think that legalising assisted dying is the right way to go.

    The Lib Dem manifesto promises to: "Give Parliament time to fully debate and vote on legislation on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults with strict safeguards, subject to a free vote."

  • The UK already has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we must always be careful to avoid unintended consequences: Food must remain affordable, and we don't want to substitute relatively high-welfare home-grown food with cheaper imports produced to lower standards.

    But rather than using these concerns as an excuse to do nothing, the Lib Dems want to continue improving animal welfare standards whilst solving those other problems from the opposite direction:

    • Increasing the minimum wage; ending the two-child benefit cap; and expanding eligibility for free school meals so that people on low incomes can still afford to buy decent food.
    • Broadening and strengthening the "Grocery Code Adjudicator" to make sure that everyone in the food supply chain is paid fairly
    • Renegotiating (or even withdrawing from) the Australia and New Zealand trade deals to ensure that food produced to lower welfare standards cannot be imported to the UK
    • Providing an extra £1bn per year to support farmers to adopt more humane and sustainable farming practices

    The Lib Dem manifesto also promises to:

    Ensure Britain continues to be a world leader in animal welfare and standards by:

    • Passing a comprehensive new Animal Welfare Bill to ensure the highest standards possible.
    • Ensuring that no animal product that would be illegal to produce in the UK can be sold here, including foie gras and food produced with antibiotic growth promoters.
    • Developing safe, effective, humane, and evidence-based ways of controlling bovine tuberculosis, including by investing to produce workable vaccines.
    • Improving standards of animal health and welfare in agriculture, including a ban on caged hens, and preventing unnecessarily painful practices in farming.
    • At least matching the EU’s stricter rules on preventative use of antibiotics, and introducing a comprehensive plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance in farm animals.

    Dozens of people have written to me with a list of ten priorities from Compassion in World Farming. I am sure there are details which I would need to understand before giving a final answer on some of these, but I will share my initial thoughts alongside each point:
    I support Compassion in World Farming who, along with other animal protection organisations across the country, are calling on candidates in the upcoming General Election to make pledges on ten key animal protection issues: 

    1. Animal Protection Commissioner: Appointment of a commissioner and cross-government animal protection strategy to benefit people, planet and animals. This seems like a sensible suggestion.
    2. Trade: Bans on trading in cruelty, including stopping imports of fur, foie gras and hunting trophies, trading in live animals for food, and adopting core welfare standards in trade. This is already in the Lib Dem manifesto
    3. Intensive farming: Use of subsidies to support farmers to transition away from factory farming including cages and crates, and towards food production that is healthier, kinder, and more sustainable. This is a sensible aim, as long as people understand transitions take time
    4. Wildlife: Stronger protections including a complete UK ban on snares and glue traps, updated laws to protect marine animals, tighter laws on zoos and exotic animal keeping and trade and extending maximum sentences for wildlife offences.  This sounds sensible, but I am always cautious about "complete bans" as there are sometimes exceptional circumstances. But of course, in principle I am against inhumane methods of pest control
    5. Animal testing: A government-led roadmap with an ambitious plan to end all experiments on animals, alongside strategic funding to accelerate the uptake and development of non-animal methods in research and testing. I welcome any technological advances which can reduce the need for animal testing, but having done a degree in Medicinal Chemistry, I struggle to imagine that we would ever give a new drug to a person without having tested it first.
    6. Hunting: Strengthening the Hunting Act 2004 by banning trail hunting and removing exemptions that enable hunting. Trail hunting is clearly being used by some as a cover for fox hunting. The Lib Dems support drag hunting, but would seek to ban Trail hunting and close other loopholes where they are being abused.
    7. Badger cull: An end to the ineffective and unscientific badger cull, and investment in an effective bovine TB plan that prioritises animal welfare. As a scientist, I always want to follow the evidence. Bovine TB is a serious problem and badgers are clearly the source. But if other methods can be proven to be effective (e.g. by developing better vaccines and better testing), then of course culling would no longer be necessary
    8. Aquatic animals: Increased legal protections for fish in existing farms, and suspension of permissions for new salmon farms pending an independent welfare inquiry; addition of decapod crustaceans and cephalopods to the Animal Welfare Act and ending sales of live crustaceans to the public. I am stunned by how many people have written to me specificaly about the issue of decapod crustaceans! If I am elected, I will definitely look into these matters in further detail.
    9. Shooting: A ban on the cruel and environmentally harmful industrial production and release of pheasants and partridges for shooting. Shooting plays an important role in the rural economy of South East Cornwall, but it must be done sustainably and responsibly (for example, phasing out lead shot).
    10. Dogs: Stronger laws to stop puppy smuggling and a review of the Dangerous Dogs Act to improve public safety and dog welfare through sensible dog control legislation and promotion of responsible dog ownership. The Lib Dem manifesto commits to tighter controls to prevent puppy and kitten smuggling. The Dangerous Dogs Act is notorious for having been written in a hurry, so I am open to the idea of reviewing it. However, when training plays such an importatnt role in the demeanour of a dog, it is very hard to come up with black and white rules which will work reliably in practice.
  •  if elected as an MP, you would commit to:

    1.     stop discrimination against baby girls by supporting a law change to clarify that sex-selective abortion is illegal.
      This seems so obvious that I'm amazed it's not law already
    2.     bring UK law closer to the laws in the majority of EU countries by voting to lower the gestational time limit for abortion.
      I would like to see as few abortions as possible, and for those which do take place to happen as early as possible. Clearly it is perverse to terminate a healthy pregnancy which is so far advanced that the child could actually survive as a premature baby, but as neo-natal care advances, we need to keep those limits under reveiw
    3.     support women in the workplace by backing policies designed to stop pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
      Liberal Democrats strongly oppose discrimination in all its forms and have proposed significantly more generous terms for both maternity and paternity leave.
  • Whilst the Conservatives and Labour indulge in headline-grabbing promises about the number of hospitals they will build and the number of appointments and operations they will provide; the Liberal Democrats have taken a difference approach to Health and Social Care.

    There are two fundamental pressures on our hospitals: Too many people coming in and too many people taking a long time to leave!

    Our plan will tackle the crisis at both the front door and the back door to the NHS: investing in public health and early access to community services, including GPs, pharmacists and dentists, so fewer people need to go to hospital in the first place, and fixing the crisis in social care to stop so many people being stuck in hospital beds.

    Liberal Democrats understand that we need to fix social care to save our NHS.

    We will:
    • Give everyone the right to see a GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need to, with 8,000 more GPs to deliver on it.
    • Guarantee access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care, ending DIY dentistry and ‘dental deserts’.
    • Improve early access to mental health services by establishing mental health hubs for young people in every community and introducing regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable to mental ill-health.
    • Boost cancer survival rates and introduce a guarantee for 100% of patients to start treatment for cancer within 62 days from urgent referral. • Help people to spend five more years of their life in good health by investing in public health.

    For more details on our plans for Health, please see Chapter 6 of our manifesto

    Many people have also written to me about a wide range of specific diseases. I haven't had time to research them all during this busy campaign period, but these emails make clear that every different condition has its own unique challenges and that a good MP has an important role to play in ensuring that our National Health Service meets the needs of every different group of patients.

  • This one is personal for us. Our Leader Ed Davey has been a carer for most of his life.

    If you haven't already seen it, please watch Ed's story

    Everyone deserves high-quality care when they need it. Liberal Democrats want everyone to be able to live independently and with dignity, and receive any care they need in their own home wherever possible. Carers – paid and unpaid, young and old – do a remarkable and important job. They deserve far more support, but are too often forgotten and ignored. But social care services in this country are in crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people are waiting for care. Many are stranded in hospital beds because the care isn’t in place for them to leave, putting even more strain on the NHS. The Conservatives promised to “fix” the crisis in our social care system, that no one would have to sell their house to pay for personal care costs, and that they would not raise taxes to do it. They have broken all these promises. We will empower care users, and support care workers and the millions of unpaid carers looking after loved ones. We will forge a new consensus on funding to ensure that no one has to sell their home to pay for their personal care. We will invest to save, recognising that providing care reduces demand on more expensive NHS services.

    We will:
    • Introduce free personal care based on the model introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government in Scotland in 2002, so that provision is based on need, not ability to pay.
    • Create a social care workforce plan, establish a Royal College of Care Workers to improve recognition and career progression, and introduce a higher Carer’s Minimum Wage.
    • Establish a cross-party commission to forge a long-term agreement on sustainable funding for social care.
    • Give unpaid carers a fair deal so they get the support they so desperately need, including paid carer’s leave and a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks.
    • Develop a digital strategy to enable care users to live tech-enabled lives.

    For more details on our plans for Care, please see our "Fair Deal on Care"

  • Brexit has been a disaster. It has failed to deliver any of the claimed benefits, but it has damaged thousands of businesses and denied millions of us the freedom to live, love and work freely across the European Union.

    Barriers to trade have been created, especially for plant and animal products, making food more expensive, creating shortages in supermarkets and destroying the livelihoods of thousands of family farmers.

    The difference between the Lib Dems and Labour is crystal clear. Labour are still trying to "have their cake and eat it too". They say their top priority is economic growth, but they are cutting off our economy from its biggest potential source of investors, customers and workers. They have categorically ruled out rejoining the customs union or the Single Market, let alone rejoining the EU itself:

    With Labour, Britain will stay outside of the EU. But to seize the opportunities ahead, we must make Brexit work. We will reset the relationship and seek to deepen ties with our European friends, neighbours and allies. That does not mean reopening the divisions of the past. There will be no return to the single market, the customs union, or freedom of movement.
    (Labour Manifesto, page 117)

    They say that they will "seek to negotiate a veterinary agreement to prevent unnecessary border checks and help tackle the cost of food" but this is simply impossible so long as we have trade deals which allow food produced in countries like Australia and New Zealand to enter the UK. This food does not meet EU sustainability and welfare standards, so cannot be allowed into the EU. Therefore as long as the Australia and New Zealand trade deals remain in place, every piece of British produce will require a vet certificate to confirm it is genuine British product rather than the sub-standard stuff from Australia and New Zealand.

    In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have clearly declared our intention to renegotiate those trade deals, withdrawing from them altogether if necessary so that we can ensure no sub-standard produce enters the country. This is the first step to rebuilding our broken relationship with the EU by following our four-stage roadmap:
    • Taking initial unilateral steps to rebuild the relationship, starting by declaring a fundamental change in the UK’s approach and improving channels for foreign policy cooperation.
    • Rebuilding confidence through seeking to agree partnerships or associations with EU agencies and programmes such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, Erasmus Plus, scientific programmes, climate and environment initiatives, and cooperation on defence, security and crime.
    • Deepening the trading relationship with critical steps for the British economy, including negotiating comprehensive veterinary and plant health agreements and mutual recognition agreements.
    • Finally, once ties of trust and friendship have been renewed, and the damage the Conservatives have caused to trade between the UK and EU has begun to be repaired, we would aim to place the UK-EU relationship on a more formal and stable footing by seeking to join the Single Market. All these measures will help to restore the British economy and the prosperity and opportunities of its citizens, and are also essential steps on the road to EU membership, which remains our longer-term objective.

    For more details on the Liberal Democrats plans for international relations, see chapter 22 of our Manifesto

  • Poverty leads to illness and disability...
    Illness and disability lead to worklessness...
    Worklessness leads to poverty...

    Experts agree that this is a vicious cycle, and the Government's recent announcements about cutting Personal Independence Payment and replacing the money with vouchers are clearly just designed to sound tough rather than to actually help people get back to work.

    I raised these points with a speech and a motion at May's meeting of Cornwall Council.

    The way to break the cycle is to invest in public health and buid more flexibility into the benefits regime so that people can "dip their toe" back into the employment market gradually rather than being forced to make a binary "all or nothing" choice.

    Having fought these proposals in Cornwall Council, I would of course fight them in Parliament if you give me the chance!

Please click on the question to reveal the answer!

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