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  • Feb 26, 2015:
    • National Parks | Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what discussions she has had on the inclusion of proposals to introduce direct elections to National Park authorities through the draft Governance of National Parks (England) and the Broads Bill; and with which people or organisations those discussions have taken place.

  • Feb 23, 2015:
  • Feb 12, 2015:
  • Feb 10, 2015:
  • Feb 9, 2015:
    • Asylum: Syria | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many local authorities have (a) applied for and (b) received funding from her Department for the purposes of resettling Syrian refugees; and what the total value was of that funding.

    • Asylum: Syria | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate she has made of the number of Syrian refugees resettled by local authorities in the UK to date.

  • Feb 4, 2015:
    • [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair] - Dairy Industry | Westminster Hall debates

      I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans). Dairy farming is integral and vital to the economy, culture and landscape of Cumbria. Across the UK, over the past four Parliaments, we have seen a more than 50% drop in the number of dairy farm holdings and a more than 10% reduction in milk-producing capacity because of the lopsided, counter-productive, unfair and unfree market.

      It is an outrage and a great shame that it has taken this crisis to prove right those of us who wanted the groceries code adjudicator to have more powers and more teeth. We should have got it right at the beginning, but the power to fine is right. As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) rightly said, we should ensure that the adjudicator can look beyond the direct relationship with supermarkets to the indirect relationships, because that is where farmers are being done over most regularly and most heinously. We must look at the processor monopoly within the market, too, and consider putting the code of practice on a statutory footing.

      I challenge the notion abroad that, somehow, the supermarkets are using milk as a loss-leader, which is not the case. Nearly 50% of the average price of a litre of milk in the supermarket goes into the supermarket's pocket. There is room within the supermarkets' profit margins to deal with this situation, and we must not let them hide behind the idea that this is all about world commodity markets when it is not. Poverty and hardship is now rife among dairy farmers. The inability of dairy farmers to reinvest in their future and their stock is now commonplace, and we see the loss of family farms on at least a daily basis.

      John Maynard Keynes once said:

      "Markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent."

      That is absolutely the case within the farming and dairy sectors, and we must recognise that we have to save the supermarkets from themselves before they completely lose the producers on whom they rely. It is an outrage and an irony that we can go down a supermarket aisle to buy fair-trade coffee and tea from Nicaragua and Colombia, but down the next aisle, getting the milk to put in that tea and coffee, we find milk ripped from the hands of a Cumbrian dairy farmer for less than it cost them to produce. We are passionate about fair trade for farmers from Colombia, but equally passionate about fair trade for farmers from Cumbria.

  • Feb 3, 2015:
    • Bank branches in Sedbergh | Petitions | Commons debates

      I present a petition of more than 1,000 residents of Sedbergh in my constituency, which was collected by local volunteers led by Councillor Evelyn Westwood, against the plans of both NatWest and Barclays to close their branches in the town.

      The Petitioners declare that,

      the closure of both the Barclays and NatWest branches in Sedbergh would leave the town without any bank branch, causing an inconvenience for small businesses, vulnerable residents and the community of Sedbergh as a whole. The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage the Chief Executives of both Barclays and NatWest to retain their branches in Sedbergh.

      And your Petitioners remain, etc.

      [P001424]

  • Feb 2, 2015:
  • Jan 29, 2015:
    • Backbench Business - Iraq Inquiry | Business of the House | Commons debates

      That is why we need Chilcot, to tell us these things. My assumption is that that is what happened, but I would like to get to the bottom of it, which is why the Chilcot report must come out soon.

      I strongly suspect that we will also find from the report that the enthusiasm of, dare I say it, Labour and the Conservatives to stand with George W. Bush in a

      wrong response to the 9/11 outrages, irrespective of the evidence, was a major factor in why we went to war with Iraq. Among other things, the assurances by the United States that ordinary Iraqis would welcome western intervention with open arms now strike me as having been as faulty as the intelligence on the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of assisting Afghanistan in its fight against the Taliban, we diverted our resources and attention to an Iraqi state that had nothing to do with the 9/11 outrages, although 97% of the US population at the time believed that it did-because, one assumes, the likes of Fox News and George W Bush and his friends said so.

      The United Kingdom focused on a lengthy Iraq campaign, before shifting its attention back to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan in 2006, two wars that pushed our military resources to breaking point. The Iraq war was a shameful blot on our country's history and indeed the biggest foreign policy disaster since the Suez crisis. As a country and a Parliament, we are now in a position in which legitimate intervention will be much harder. I am proud of my party's stance against the Iraq war, but I am just as proud of my party's stance in favour of intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s. I am no pacifist: I am in favour of wise intervention when necessary. But we have been denuded of our ability to get involved in legitimate action when necessary, largely because of this appalling error.

      I am proud of my right hon. Friends the Members for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy), for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) and, of course, for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) for their leadership of the opposition to the Iraq war. But I am proudest of all of the brave men and women who fought in Iraq. We owe them more than this. We owe their families an explanation and we owe our country the right to hold its leaders to account. We must sort out the delays and publish the Chilcot inquiry before the election.

    • Backbench Business - Iraq Inquiry | Business of the House | Commons debates

      One would hope not. One would hope that in any relationship, one good friend tells the other when they are making crass mistakes, rather than just nodding their head and going along with it. The hon. Gentleman's analogy is useful, and I hope it is not the case, but I suspect that, as he says, we will find out that it was the case in the Iraq process.

    • Backbench Business - Iraq Inquiry | Business of the House | Commons debates

      My hon. Friend and neighbour makes a very good point. In many ways, the lessons to be learned from Iraq are about how we exert soft and hard influence throughout the world in a wise way, using methods of diplomacy but acting in concert with regional powers as well as those we have traditionally worked alongside.

      It is important to state that I support our relationship with the United States. It is important, and we do have a special relationship. I believe that the United States thinks of the United Kingdom in a specific light, just not as being nearly as significant as we would perhaps like to believe. Our emphasis on the relationship with the United States has been at the cost of our relationship with Commonwealth countries and, particularly, with our colleagues, friends and neighbours in the rest of Europe.

    • Backbench Business - Iraq Inquiry | Business of the House | Commons debates

      I share with most Members of all parties a deep disappointment at the postponement of the release of the Chilcot report. It is massively disappointing to us, but emotionally exhausting for the families of those who lost their lives in Iraq as they wait for closure and for the answers to which they are entitled.

      The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), sanctioned the report in 2009 and, as we have heard, advised that there should be a report within one year. We are now six years on. Motions in the last Parliament on an earlier inquiry into the Iraq war were voted down by the Labour Government, including the current Leader of the Opposition, so it would have been entirely possible for the process to be concluded sooner. As things stand, the next general election after the Chilcot report is released will be in 2020-17 years after the Iraq war. As the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) said, that is an affront to democracy.

      I have absolute sympathy for Sir John Chilcot and his inquiry team, not least because of the difficulties that they have experienced with the illness of some team members. I support the rigorous and forensic way in which Sir John has gone about the process and insisted on the fairness of allowing those who are likely to be criticised in the report the right to respond-the process that is referred to as Maxwellisation. That strikes me as fair.

      It is worth the House reiterating and getting behind the offer that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made last week of additional resources for the inquiry team's secretariat. That would ensure that Sir John Chilcot could speed up the process of communications between the team and those given the opportunity to respond if they are mentioned in the report. I have written to senior witnesses including the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to give them the opportunity to clarify that they have responded in a timely fashion to the letters from Sir John. That would enable them to make it clear that any hold-up is not their responsibility. That is important, and I hope that they will take the opportunity to do so.

      I do not believe that the House needs to wait to know that the Iraq war was a disastrous episode in British and international history. We have heard that something in the region of 100,000 to 150,000 civilians in Iraq lost their lives as a result of the conflict, and that 179 British servicemen and women died in it. I strongly suggest that the narrative that Islamic State is able to hide behind and run with has been hugely fuelled by the illegal intervention by the United States and United Kingdom in Iraq from 2003 onwards. International law and international institutions were undermined as a consequence of that attack, and in these dangerous and unstable times, the importance of maintaining the integrity of

      those institutions could not be greater. British interests and influence overseas have been set back by our involvement in that illegal war.

      I suspect that the Chilcot inquiry will confirm that the Labour Government were obsessed with the special relationship with the United States and allowed their judgment to be not just clouded but eclipsed, out of a desire to be part of the maybe exhilarating experience of being at one with the leader of the free world. I suspect that it will show that UK foreign policy, going back decades, has tended to be simplistic in simply snuggling up to the United States.