Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
That this House;
Condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq, including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christian and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis it is causing;
Recognises the clear threat that ISIL pose to the territorial integrity of Iraq, and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support;
Further recognises the threat ISIL pose to wider international security, and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and it's murder of a British hostage;
Acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq, including countries throughout the Middle East;
Further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq and it's citizens, and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq;
Notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign, and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament;
Accordingly supports Her Majesty's Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including use of UK air strikes to support Iraq, including Kurdish security force's efforts against ISIL in Iraq;
Notes that Her Majesty's Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations;
Offers it's wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
This is an email I sent to those constituents whose email addresses I have. Well over a hundred responded, with around 90% leaning towards accepting that UK involvement in air strikes against ISIL may be inevitable. Very few were totally opposed. We all have concerns of course. Unfortunately three responders were so offensive that I must ensure I do not email them again - and that is a pity. It's a few days late but here it is;
Last summer, the House of Commons was recalled following the gassing of innocent civilians by the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad. At the time, I anticipated being asked by the Prime Minister to support a military strike on Damascus. I emailed those constituents I was able to, inviting opinions on what they considered to be the best way forward. Most of the replies reinforced my personal view that the case for military action had not been made. I could not see how it would improve the position. I and many other like-minded Conservatives informed the government of our opinion and the motion finally put to the recalled House of Commons after much negotiation did not sanction a military strike. I considered the final motion to be acceptable and was very disappointed when it was defeated. It felt to me that the UK, a leading NATO country was turning its back on the world, an act that would only encourage those with evil intent. The reality was that the UK and the US did stand back, and have allowed events in the Middle East to play out as they have done. The current position is far more worrying than it was last year.
This email once again shares with you the decision I may face in the near future. It's rumoured that there may be a sudden recall of Parliament this week or next to consider becoming involved in air strikes against ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. At this stage, we do not know what military action would be involved. However I would expect it to involve air strikes against ISIL, though perhaps not in Syria and not involving troops on the ground. This, of course, may change.
This time, I am personally more inclined to support military involvement. The scale of ISIL's advance, its incredible brutality, its mass killings and beheadings, and threat it poses to us here in the UK seem to me to be increasingly serious. At this stage I feel we cannot continue to turn our backs on what is happening. It is important that I keep in touch with my constituents’ views on such an emotive and controversial issue. Entering military conflict is an extremely serious matter, full of uncertainty, and it seems right that I should invite my constituents to share any thoughts they have on the matter.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
We have learned that commitment to the United Kingdom by its member nations cannot be taken for granted. Leaders of the three main Westminster parties decided they needed to make a last-minute offer to Scotland before the vote. This 'Vow' must be delivered. No ifs or buts. And we now have to answer the West Lothian Question, which I've always thought best not asked. This all has a significant impact on the future governance arrangements for Wales, even though I expect this to be of only passing interest to the rest of the UK. But it matters to me.
The most concerning part of the 'Vow' was the commitment to an unreformed Barnett Formula, which gives Scotland significantly more than 'needs ' dictate she should have. While Wales receives more per head than England, it does not receive the level of funding justified by her 'needs'. Difficult to know the precise size of Wales underfunding, but a figure of £300 million per annum is usually used. It's very much my view that the Wales Office and the Treasury need to find a satisfactory way of addressing this Barnett deficit. It's not a huge sum of money in the greater scheme of things.
There will be a significant change in the tax arrangements/powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament. In future 100% of income tax will be devolved. A huge change with no referendum, though there was one on the principle of devolved tax-raising in 1997. We are just going to do it. I very much agree with this change. To devolve powers without matching financial accountability is a recipe for division between the Scottish and UK Parliaments. It allowed the Scottish First Minister to play the victim card to great effect. It almost destroyed the United Kingdom. The same situation exists in Wales. My view is that we should transfer responsibility for 50% of income tax to the Welsh Assembly without any referendum. We have seen just how destabilising a devolved government without fiscal accountability can be. We need to act on this now. If it's decided there must be consultation with the people of a Wales, this should be done through our 2015 manifesto rather than a referendum. I fully expect the Labour Party in Wales to do everything possible to stop this happening, thus retaining the happy position of only taking responsibility for one side of the ledger.
My final observation in this post is the proposal to prevent Scottish MPs voting on laws that apply only to England. Unfortunately, the anti-English tone of the Yes campaign in Scotland has made this inevitable. Personally, I do not like it one bit, believing it to be far more complex (to the point of being unworkable) than is thought. But it is much better than the appalling prospect of an English Parliament. I am not at all sure it can be applied to Wales in the same way, because the level of shared services across the border is so much greater. Again, Labour will do everything possible to prevent this happening. Already we see much discussion about a constitutional convention - a fairly blatant tactic to avoid anything at all happening.
I'd better stop. This post could become a long essay. I have just written as the words tumbled out. It's probably a bit jumbled, and I'll probably edit tomorrow. Inevitably, so soon after the referendum, all of our thoughts are a 'work in progress'. Writing it down helps firm me things up.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
One year ago Parliament was recalled from summer recess to consider what Britain should do in response to the gassing of innocent civilians in Syria by their President, Bashar al-Assad. It was thought that Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama were seriously contemplating military action to punish Assad. It was the most difficult issue I have faced since being elected MP for Montgomeryshire in 2010. After much discussion with, and advice from many constituents, I decided that the case had not been made for a military strike against Damascus. I could not see how it would improve the situation, or what clear purpose dropping bombs and firing missiles would have. But I did agree with David Cameron that we should not completely 'close the door' on intervention if circumstances in Syria changed.
After a long impassioned debate, I was on the losing side of the vote. The House of Commons decided to completely rule out military intervention no matter what. I thought that was the wrong course, and a very bad day for world peace. I felt that forces of evil would have been watching, and realising that the NATO powers were no longer willing to even consider acting to prevent the worst atrocities of evil regimes against innocents. And sadly, that is where we are today.
In Syria, around 200,000 people have been killed, with perhaps another 8million made refugees. It's likely that many of these will have been gassed. Because Western media is banned, this reign of terror hardly features on our news channels - a shocking and disgraceful failure of our free press. On the border of Eastern Ukraine, a Russian war making machine is gathering, almost certainly to invade the free country of Ukraine, no doubt on some trumped up pretext of a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission. Its likely thousands of innocents will die. In Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, whole populations of minorities are being slaughtered simply because they are who they are. Christians are being given the choice of converting to Islam, fleeing the country or being killed. Yazidis are being treated even worse, reported to be being buried alive in their hundreds. The barbaric cruelty of the Islamic State (Isis) knows no limits.
In Britain and the United States, our Governments are waking up to the reality that we cannot turn our backs on the world. For evil to prosper all it needs is for good people to do nothing. President Obama has been forced to act to save the lives of innocents being crushed before the Islamic State. The UK is also sending humanitarian aid to save Christians trapped on Mount Sinjar. The UK is also sending Tornados to help with surveillance work. I fully support all this, but it does seem very little, very late. We must always retain the hope that it turns out not to be too late.
Two weeks ago I called for Parliament to be recalled to debate these issues, alongside the Gaza crisis, which has featured prominently in the British media. Thankfully, as I write this column for the County Times the ceasefire in Gaza is holding. We can only hope the worst of the violence is over. Over the last few days, several news channels have contacted me, asking me to go to London to share my views on recall on national television. But I've left that to other MPs who live nearer, and who now share my opinion. I am desperately keen to return to Westminster though, not for TV interviews, but to take part in a recalled House of Commons debate. We are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, with innocents being killed on a massive scale. It seems now to be accepted that Parliament would indeed be recalled if Government decided to embark on military action. Personally, I believe MPs should be given the opportunity to represent the views and concerns of their constituents, even without any decision to put "boots on the ground". Because doing nothing could be an even worse option, we should be recalled to Westminster immediately.
For many years now, I've been President of the Montgomeryshire Branch of Parkinson's UK. Although I've not had any direct personal or family brush with this cruel disease, I have known people who have. Invariably I find sufferers to be determined to make the best of life. There was some publicity about Parlinson's last week, following the death of Robin Williams. Our Chair, John Day was inspired to write a letter which I think deserves a wider readership. Here it is;
Parkinson's - It’s difficult to always look on the bright side of life
“I was very saddened by the news that Robin Williams had died last week, he was a very talented actor and comedian who had the ability put a smile on the faces of people of all ages. He had been diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s.
It has prompted me to pass on some of my thoughts and experiences of Parkinson’s to enable others to gain a better understanding. Both I and my wife Sue have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for over 10 years. In some cases diagnosis can be a confusing and uncertain time. Much of the information at that time of our diagnosis came from the internet. We have always had good support from our fantastic family, great circle of friends and from medical professionals in Powys and Shropshire.
Many people think that it affects only the elderly; unfortunately this is not true it affects people of all ages. Most of the people who are diagnosed are over 50; however one in 20 is under the age of 40. Roughly 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s, with over 300 people in Powys.
Actor Michael J Fox, who was himself diagnosed with the condition in 1991, spoke of his shock at learning that his friend Robin Williams had also been suffering from Parkinson’s. In the year 2000 he established the Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in America. It is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s and ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson's.
In the UK we get outstanding support from Parkinson’s UK, a registered charity, which has a well established support network throughout the country, together with a central help line and online access to a wealth of information on all aspects of Parkinson’s. They have a number of trainers who run a range of specialist courses for health care professionals in hospitals, care homes and health centres.
I feel honoured to be the Chairman of Montgomeryshire Branch of Parkinson’s UK and always look forward to our monthly meetings with a great bunch of people. We have guest speakers come along and talk to the group on a variety of interesting topics and have coach trips and a range of other activities. We have many fund raising events throughout the year and much of the money raised goes towards research and making life a little easier for people with Parkinson’s and their families and carers.
We enjoy the support of our Welsh Assembly Members, especially Russell George who supports many of our events. We have met on several occasions to lobby and create awareness of the needs of Parkinson’s sufferers. I must express my gratitude to Glyn Davies, MP who is President of our Branch and frequently attends our events, as long as they do not clash with his Westminster duties, he has a good understanding of health related matters and understands the needs of people with Parkinson’s and the various ways it affects patients and their families.
The support we have received from our Medical Practice in Welshpool has been excellent, together with a Parkinson’s Specialist Nurse and a host of other local health care professionals. Last year I was admitted to Welshpool Hospital, I had never stayed in hospital before and was quite concerned and anxious. I am so grateful to all the staff for their help and encouragement and getting me on the road back to recovery, they are a very dedicated professional and caring team.
Parkinson's can be a very difficult condition to diagnose, as no two people with Parkinson's are the same, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms and the order in which they appear and their severity also differs from person to person. The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease relate to movement. Rigidity can cause cramps and stiffness of muscles. There are other functions that are also affected, including dizziness, pain, fatigue, in addition to a number of health problems like depression and anxiety.
A tremor, or the involuntary shaking of a body part, is sometimes the first sign of Parkinson’s and it can spread from a finger in one hand into the arm or even into the foot on the same side of the body, not all people have tremor. In my case it started with a small twitching of my left side little finger, followed months later by my toes, some days I have a very visible tremor especially when tired or under stress.
It can limit facial expressions, make the task of walking extremely difficult, and can make repetitive movements such as brushing teeth also hard. It means that simple activities such as eating or getting dressed become increasingly difficult. It can be very frustrating when simple tasks like doing up shirt buttons and belts take so long. It can take quite some time to get out of bed in the morning. When I take my medication it takes a while to get “switched on” and get those rigid muscles going again.
For all Parkinson’s patients it is very important that they take the medication on time. Where suitable, most hospitals will allow patients to administer their own medication.
Parkinson’s itself does not cause people to die, but symptoms do deteriorate over time. Though there is no known cure for the condition, treatments to help control the symptoms of Parkinson’s include medications and physical therapies.
Drug treatments can help control some of the problems associated with the condition. One of the main drugs is Levodopa which is effective at improving mobility and motor function. There is a great deal of ongoing research into a cure and improving medications that will help to replace the reduced dopamine levels.
Neurosurgery is sometimes used to treat those who have had Parkinson’s for a long time and whose condition is not responsive to medication.
We have been referred to the National Exercise Referral Scheme which is funded by Welsh Assembly Government and has been developed over the last few years to target clients who have a chronic disease or are at risk of developing chronic disease. We attend the one at Maldwyn Sports centre in Newtown, these exercise sessions are available throughout the county.
With the right medication and exercise, many people continue to live a full and active life with Parkinson's.
The Montgomery Branch meet at 2pm on the last Thursday of each month in the Welsh Chapel, Mount Street, Welshpool.
Chairman Parkinson’s UK, Montgomeryshire Branch
Tynwtra, Bwlchyffridd, Newtown, Powys, SY16 3HX
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Unlike the Shadow Secretary of State, I do not think this a dry debate at all. Debates about the constitution tend not to jokey or light hearted. But as someone who is deeply embedded in Welsh politics, I find a debate about a Bill concerning the future governance of my nation hugely interesting.
I declare my enthusiastic support for the Wales Bill. It is a significant step forward in the devolution process, even if there are aspects with which I do not agree. In this disagreements I may be in a small minority, but I should refer to them alongside my general support for the Bill, putting my opinions on the record for the benefit of anyone in my constituency and indeed the rest of Wales who might want to know what they are.
I have listened to most of the debate; I missed some of it owing to other meetings. My general impression is that Labour’s position in particular is thoroughly confused. Clearly, Members on this side of the House are pleased that Labour will be supporting the Wales Bill—that is a positive move—but the contributions of many Labour Members suggest that they just do not accept the principle of financial accountability underlying the devolution of income tax raising to the National Assembly for Wales. Some of their language has sounded more as though they oppose the Bill than being in support of it.
The Plaid Cymru contributions have been ‘churlish’—that is the word that I will use. During this Parliament it was a Conservative Secretary of State who introduced, with very great determination, the Bill that created law-making powers in Wales. I do not believe that it would have been introduced if it had not been a Conservative Secretary of State; I think that a Labour Secretary of State would probably have chickened out. It was a Conservative Secretary of State who established the Silk commission, which has done very good work. Like several other Members, I commend it for its work. It is a Conservative Secretary of State who has introduced this Bill. I perfectly accept that it does not go as far as Plaid Cymru Members may want—one would not expect that—and, indeed, there are differing views on the detail of the Bill across all parties, but nobody can disagree that granting tax-raising powers to the National Assembly for Wales, and the borrowing powers that go with them, is anything but a huge constitutional step forward. On that basis, it might have been at least fair of Plaid Cymru to congratulate the Conservative party on taking us down the road, not as far as it would want, but certainly in a positive direction.
Mr Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman said that he had been in and out of the debate, and I accept that—so have I. My colleagues were generous about various parts of the Bill, but nevertheless there are parts about which we are concerned, and that is the nature of politics. Do not call us churlish because we find fault in some way with the Bill. That is just politics, is it not?
Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He has been a friend for a long time. It is reassuring that he has decided to intervene and say how supportive he is of what the Conservative Government have delivered in the past few years. I shall read today’s debate in Hansard to pick out all those individual bits that he speaks so enthusiastically about.
There are several elements to the Wales Bill, the most important one by a long way being the tax raising powers and the commensurate borrowing powers that go with them. There will be continuing debate about this matter. It may well feature in the manifestos of the various parties leading up to the next general election, and I believe it will be revisited in the next Parliament. That is naturally the way of things with constitutional issues when. There will be a next step in this process, and I look forward to being a part of it after the next general election.
Another issue that is causing a lot of excitement is the removal of the ban on dual candidacy. Labour today is describing this change as political gerrymandering. If there has been any political intent to gerrymander, it was on the part of the Labour party when it introduced the ban. No independent body in Wales, including the Electoral Commission, thinks that it is any way partisan to scrap the ban on dual candidacy. It was brought in by the Labour Government in this place with the support of Labour in Cardiff, with the view that it would benefit the Labour party in Wales, and it is truly ironic that it did not. The Opposition should welcome what is a right and proper constitutional change being brought in by this Government.
Personally, I am not in favour of a referendum. In general, I do not like them. Political parties should tell the people what they intend to do and if the people vote for them at a general election they can carry it out without a referendum. I accept that I am in a minority in relation to a referendum on tax-raising powers in Wales. The Silk commission recommended one and there was a referendum in Scotland before tax raising powers were introducing. On this specific issue, I will have to sneak back into my box rather quietly.
I am also not in favour of introducing a five-year term between Assembly elections. Again I might be in a minority. I generally think that four-year terms are right for Parliaments. We have a five-year term here at Westminster, and I realise that there is a lot of support for a five-year term for the National Assembly. Again, that involves another little box that I will have to crawl into.
But let us not forget what the Bill will do if, as I hope it will, it receives its Third Reading today. This Westminster Parliament is granting to the National Assembly for Wales the power to raise taxes, including a significant proportion of income tax — delivering financial accountability. In future a Welsh Government will be accountable to the people whom they represent. There is further to go, but this is an important principle. A Bill put forward by a Conservative Secretary of State is making a significant contribution to the process of devolution in Wales.