Thursday, September 25, 2014

Motion before MPs tomorrow about action to confront ISIL

Tomorrow, Parliament is recalled to debate a motion tabled by Her Majesty's Government supported limited action against the brutal terrorist organisation, ISIL. It reads as follows;

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

Military Action on ISIL

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

Reflections on Scotland's Referendum.

In the end, the Scottish voters decided by a more comfortable margin than we expected that they preferred their nation to remain part of the United Kingdom. The canny Scots refused to follow the pied piper over the edge. Not enough of them joined in surfing the wave of emotion. Hopefully the repair work needed to mend the divisions created by such a ferocious debate will not be too difficult. This blog post is an early assessment of where go from here, and written from a Wales perspective.

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.