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Support for Island Communities

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 27 October 2022

Island communities are important to the United Kingdom, which is why the previous Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), chaired the inaugural Islands Forum meeting in Orkney last month. This forum brought together council leaders, chief executives and other island representatives from across the UK to share challenges and best practice on net zero. The forum will continue to meet to work together on shared opportunities and challenges in other areas, and I look forward to seeing the real difference it will make.

Cornwall is not quite an island, but if the River Tamar was a couple of miles longer it would be, and many a proud Cornishman has considered taking their shovel and finishing the job. But being a remote peninsula, we bear many of the hallmarks of island communities. That has shaped our proud, independent identity and culture but also created challenges in our economy and in delivery of public services. What consideration is given to Cornwall’s unique geography when considering funding public services and in levelling up the Duchy?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and declare a bit of an interest in having a grandmother from Devon. Cornwall’s geographical position at the far end of the south-west peninsula is well known, and the challenges are well understood by the Government. The Government have committed £99 million across four Cornish towns through the future high streets fund and stronger towns funding, which will be invested in a range of projects to create community hubs, green transport, affordable housing and commercial flexible workspaces. We have also allocated to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly £132 million from the UK shared prosperity fund so that Cornwall can decide what to invest in locally in order to best target the funding. We are also negotiating a historic devolution deal with Cornwall Council, recognising the distinctive characteristics of Cornwall, and empowering strong local leadership by taking a county deal approach to devolution.

Does my hon. Friend agree that island communities have unique characteristics that are best represented by having a dedicated Member of Parliament, which is why Ynys Môn has been granted special protected status in this Government’s recent boundary changes? Ynys Môn has been deprioritised under the Welsh Labour Government’s plans to increase the size of the Senedd from 60 to 96 Members and Ynys Môn will no longer have an MS with specific responsibility for it.

I agree with and understand what my hon. Friend is saying. She has worked hard to ensure that Ynys Môn is given protected status by the UK Government, and I understand her concerns about the island and that it must not be deprioritised. I understand her point about MSs as well. My Conservative colleagues have done a brilliant job, despite the Welsh Labour Government, which is propped up by Plaid, and I thank her for her hard work.

Last Thursday the main telecommunications cable between Shetland and the mainland was damaged, leaving most of my constituents in Shetland with no access even to landline or broadband services. It was really fortunate that we were able to get services restored much better and more quickly than we expected, but it is surely apparent that the system does not have the necessary resilience. Will the Minister bring together the different stakeholders—the companies involved, the local authorities, the Scottish Government and UK Government Departments —and see what can be done as soon as possible to ensure that any repetition of what happened does not leave us stranded in the way that we were?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and I am glad that the situation has been resolved. As I said in relation to the Islands Forum, the Government are committed to ensuring that island communities are fully represented. I am sure that we will be more than happy to continue with the meetings, and I am certainly happy to meet any stakeholders to discuss how we can improve the situation and continue to work together.