This prestigious international event will see heads of state from all over the world converge on this beautiful corner of the country and it will be a truly historic occasion for Cornwall.
For those who don’t know, the G7 is an intergovernmental organization which allows the heads of state from highly influential countries to hold close-knit talks on matters that effect the whole world.
The seven members - UK, USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy (plus the EU) - are all bound by shared values as open, democratic and outward-looking societies. The UK has invited other countries including Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa as guests to this year’s G7.
In past years the G7 has taken action to strengthen the global economy and combat tax evasion, save 27 million lives from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and supported the education of millions of children in the poorest countries. In 2015 its members led the way in helping secure the historic Paris Climate Agreement to limit global emissions.
As you can imagine, the focus of this year’s event – the first to take place in-person for almost two years - will be how we can all build back better after the global pandemic that has turned everyone’s lives upside down over the past 18 months.
Our policing colleagues, as well as more than 5,000 officers joining us on mutual aid from all over the UK, have been working flat out on this prestigious event for many, many months now and the level of detail and height of security is remarkable – all while hopefully having as little effect on the lives of locals as possible.
However, it’s inevitable that there will be some disruption. If the past 12 months has taught us anything it’s that protesting is still a popular and effective means of expressing opinion – and I, for one, completely support people’s right to conduct peaceful protests.
The emphasis, though, should be on the word peaceful. While I understand how passionately protestors feel, there is no excuse for breaking the law. Not only does it dilute the message of the protest, it can also result in non-participants feeling intimidated and fearful in their own communities.
I stand side-by-side with the police on this matter. Devon and Cornwall has a long and proud history of supporting peaceful protest – and we shall continue to do so. However, should this veer into unrest or criminality, those responsible will be dealt with robustly.
G7 offers a huge opportunity for the region and should give many local businesses a much-welcome boost ahead of the summer season. My office will also be seizing the opportunity this summit provides by heavily promoting our Vision Zero South West road safety partnership this week.
Vision Zero aims to cut the number of fatal and serious crashes on the roads of Devon and Cornwall by half by 2030 – and ultimately to reduce them to zero. This is no mean feat, but the partnership consists of a wide-ranging panel of experts who are committed to stopping the unnecessary suffering caused by road traffic collisions.
As we know all too well, the roads of Devon and Cornwall become much busier in the summer season, with the potential for increased incidents on our roads.
Not only does this cause huge personal misery and sorrow, it also has a massive effect on the economy. A motorway closure costs well over £1m for just a few hours, but it has a huge knock-on effect to the local economy as well.
G7 gives us the opportunity to promote our road safety agenda on a global platform and we will be doing everything we can to raise the profile of Vision Zero South West and get our plans in front of eyes that have worldwide significance.
As scrutiny of the police force provides the backbone to the OPCC’s work, we also plan to keep a close eye on policing performance during G7.
One of the most interesting and perhaps lesser-known ways we do this is through our Independent Custody Visitors (ICV) scheme. These groups of local volunteer members of the community can arrive unannounced at any custody suite across Devon and Cornwall to check on the treatment of detainees, the conditions in which they are being held and to ensure that their welfare, rights and entitlements are being observed.
These visits form an important role in reassuring the public and myself and will be crucial during the G7 summit. A huge increase in visitor numbers this weekend will result in the eyes of the world being on the region. It’s vital we make sure that our stringent standards and welfare commitments are being maintained.
In short, I see this weekend as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to welcome the most important and influential world leaders to Cornwall – and to show off the wonderful communities we have the pleasure of living in.