The reading of the names of the 37 soldiers and miliatary personnel who have given their lives was too much for me ; may God bless them all. I can’t make further comments on today’s PMQs.
House of Commons
Wednesday 14 October 2009
The Prime Minister was asked—
1.  Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 14 October.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before listing my engagements, and on behalf of all parts of this House and the leaders of all political parties, it is right that we should pause to pay our full respects to the members of our armed forces who have given their lives on behalf of our country in Afghanistan.
This is a solemn moment for this House and our country. It is the day on which we put on record in the House of Commons our gratitude and our commemoration of the sacrifice made by 37 of our armed forces serving our country in Afghanistan: from the Royal Marines, Sergeant Lee Houltram; from the Light Dragoons, Trooper Phillip Lawrence; from 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, Trooper Brett Hall; from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, Warrant Officer Sean Upton; from 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, Lance Bombardier Matt Hatton and Bombardier Craig Hopson; from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Guardsman Jamie Janes; from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, Guardsman Chris King and Lance Corporal James Hill; from 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Private Kevin Elliot and Sergeant Gus Millar; from 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, Kingsman Jason Dunne-Bridgeman; from 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Fusilier Simon Annis, Fusilier Shaun Bush, Fusilier Louis Carter, Lance Corporal James Fullarton, Corporal Joseph Etchells and Sergeant Simon Valentine; from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, Private John Young; from 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, Private Gavin Elliot, Private Jason Williams and Acting Sergeant Mike Lockett MC; from 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, Private Richard Hunt and Private James Prosser; from the Parachute Regiment, Private Kyle Adams, Lance Corporal Dale Hopkins, Corporal John Harrison and Corporal Kevin Mulligan; from 2nd Battalion the Rifles, Rifleman Aminiasi Toge, Rifleman Daniel Wild, Acting Sergeant Stuart McGrath, Sergeant Paul McAleese and Captain Mark Hale; from 11th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, Captain Daniel Shepherd; from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Craftsman Anthony Lombardi and Lance Corporal Richie Brandon; and from 34 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment Acting Corporal Marcin Wojtek.
Nothing can erase the pain for their families. Nothing can be greater than the pride that we take in their contribution to our country, and our sadness at their loss. I know that the thoughts and prayers of the whole House are with the families and friends of all these brave men. Their lives live on in the influence that they will have left behind on other people, and they will not be forgotten.
We should also pay tribute to all those who have been wounded and who face rehabilitation, and assure them that they will have our full support at all times.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and I shall have further such meetings later today.
Ann Winterton: All Members will wish to associate themselves with the Prime Minister’s expression of sympathy for the families and friends of those who have fallen in Afghanistan since the House last met for Prime Minister’s questions.
When the Lisbon treaty comes into force, the Council of the European Union will become a formal institution of the European Union, and the United Kingdom will be a member of that institution. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he is bound by its rules, and is thus obliged to further the objectives of the European Union in preference to those of the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Lady for her tribute to those brave men who died in Afghanistan, and I hope that the message will go out today that all political parties—every Member of this House—want to send their sympathy and condolences to every family concerned.
We joined the European Union in the 1970s, and we hold by our obligations to the European Union, but that does not prevent us from representing the national sovereignty of this country.
2.  Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend what he thinks is more dangerous: politicians becoming generals, or generals becoming politicians?
The Prime Minister: I think that I know what my hon. Friend is thinking about. Let me put on record my thanks to the Chief of the General Staff, Richard Dannatt, for the work that he did for our country.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The list that the Prime Minister has read out of those who gave their lives over this summer in the service of this country is a very sombre reminder of the incredible sacrifices that the armed forces make on our behalf. Those 37 men have left parents, wives, partners, children, brothers and sisters. Those loved ones feel the loss not just today, or on the day when their loved one fell; they will feel it for the rest of their lives, as they think about the lives that could have been lived.
We must be clear about what has happened in our country. Two wars over eight years have seen thousands of people serve, hundreds killed and many more wounded, and whole communities affected, as they have celebrated the success of our armed forces but also mourned the losses. I know that the Prime Minister has looked at these issues before, but is it not now time for a more fundamental re-examination of every aspect of the military covenant, and everything that we do for those brave men and women and for their families, who wait for them at home?
The Prime Minister: Again, I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman associates himself, as I knew he would, with the commemoration of those people who have died during the course of the summer. It has been a particularly difficult summer for our armed forces, and also for the families of those members of our armed forces, with their worries about their loved ones who are serving in Afghanistan.
What we have tried to do over the past few months is make sure, first of all, that all military men and women on service in Afghanistan, and in any place around the world, are fully and properly equipped for the tasks that they have got to undertake. I am happy to share with the House, in a statement in a few minutes from now, the extra measures that we are taking to protect our troops in Afghanistan, particularly against electronic devices, which have been the cause of 80 per cent. of the deaths over the past few months.
I also want to assure the House—again, I am very happy to go into this in more detail in the statement on Afghanistan—that we stand by the military covenant with all military families in this country and all serving members and former members of our armed forces. That is why we published a White Paper only a few months ago looking at the range of services, from education and health to the possibility of jobs after members leave the armed forces and help that is given when people are on location in the different countries in which they serve. I believe that that White Paper is an indication—I think that it had all-party support—of the determination of all of us to stand by our military.
If there are further suggestions about what we could do, I am very happy to look at them. We have an in-service allowance. We have increased the facilities available to members’ families for phone calls. We have done what we can to make sure that the pay of the armed forces rises faster than the pay of the rest of the community. We have done what we can at Selly Oak and Headley Court to make sure that we give the succour that we can to those people who have been injured. I believe that if we build on that record, we will be doing the right thing, but obviously I am happy to listen both to members of the other parties and to the Select Committees on what more we can do.
Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister mentioned Selly Oak and Headley Court. What we do there is remarkable. There is no doubt about that, and because of the advances in battlefield medicine, many people who previously would have died of their wounds are surviving. That is obviously fortunate, though they have to live with those injuries for the rest of their lives. Soon the issue will become how we help them as they grow older. So-called recovery centres proposed by organisations such as Help for Heroes are excellent proposals. There are some concerns that the Government are a slightly slow-moving partner in this endeavour. Can the Prime Minister update us on what is being done to help more recovery centres get going?
The Prime Minister: Let me pay tribute to the medical facilities that are available both at Camp Bastion and in Britain. I have visited them myself, as I know other Members have. These are the most advanced medical facilities available to our troops and it is right that they are the best in the world. At Selly Oak, which I also visited recently, I saw the care that goes into helping those who are injured, many with very severe injuries indeed. When I visited Afghanistan a few weeks ago and then went to Selly Oak only a day or two afterwards, I saw how quickly treatment was given, as people had been moved with speed from Afghanistan back to Birmingham. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the work at Headley Court. We are anxious to continue to support that and are investing more in it.
With reference to members of the forces who retire or are not able to serve longer in the armed forces, I am concerned that compensation arrangements are satisfactory. That is why, after the recent court cases, the Secretary of State for Defence has set up a review headed by a former Chief of the Defence Staff to look at those issues of compensation. On future employment and some of the projects that have come forward to help armed forces—men and women—who are looking for alternative opportunities after they recover from their injuries, we are determined to do everything we can. I believe, and it is right to say, that there is all-party support for this extra work.
Mr. Cameron: As well as the physical injuries, there are of course the mental scars. It is estimated that after the Falklands war, more service personnel committed suicide than died in that conflict. We must not make the mistake that has been made in the past of brushing this under the carpet. In the United States veterans are contacted regularly, even decades after they have served. Does the Prime Minister agree that that should happen here as well?
The Prime Minister: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have a Minister nominated as the Veterans Minister. We try to keep in touch with all the veterans organisations. I met the Royal British Legion recently. In the White Paper, where we itemised the services available to soldiers, armed forces members and former armed forces members, we talked about the mental health services that are available for the future. We wanted to ensure that those people who are members of the armed forces and former members of the armed forces had priority in health service treatment. That was the purpose of the White Paper and the recommendations in it. Again, I believe there is all-party support for that.
Mr. Cameron: I hope the Prime Minister will look at that specific proposal as well.
We will discuss Afghanistan in a moment, but I want to ask the Prime Minister a specific question about the Territorial Army, an organisation that plays a vital role in our armed forces and has lost many people in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have had a specific case of a serving officer who is due to go to Afghanistan in October 2010. He has been told that of the training days that he should have between now and then, he will be paid for only half of them. Let us be clear about what is happening. Volunteers—they are volunteers, being asked possibly to lay down their life in the service of their country—are not getting the basic training that they need. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is totally unacceptable?
The Prime Minister: I shall look at everything the right hon. Gentleman says about the matter and I shall write to him about the individual case that he has raised. I can tell him also about what we have done in the Territorial Army, which has been celebrating its 100th anniversary. We have tried to make sure that the effort of the Territorial Army can be linked to the work that we are doing in Afghanistan, so we have given priority in the work of the Territorial Army to what it can do to help the effort in Afghanistan. I will write to the right hon. Gentleman with the details of what we are doing in that respect.
Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister told us in an answer that he gave at the beginning of Prime Minister’s questions that in his statement he will say that we must not send armed forces personnel into battle without the proper training. Two things appear to be happening. One is that basic training for all TA members is being cut. Also, I have the specific case of someone who knows that he is going to Afghanistan in October 2010 having his training cut. A conversation is going on between the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister. I think they need to have a conversation after Prime Minister’s questions in which he says that that is unacceptable and must stop.
The Prime Minister: The reason why the Defence Secretary was talking to me was to assure me that the Territorial Army work that is directed towards Afghanistan is properly resourced and will continue to be properly resourced. If the right hon. Gentleman has an individual case that he wishes to raise with me, or if any Member has, I shall look at it in detail, but our determination is that every member of our armed forces who is in or going to Afghanistan is both trained and equipped for the work that they undertake. The right hon. Gentleman will see from the statement that I make later this afternoon that we are doing everything in our power to make that happen. I hope that he will then look at the statements that are made by the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Defence Staff, which will support exactly what I am saying.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Last Saturday, I was joined by the Porthcawl Guides to celebrate 100 years of Guiding. A year’s celebration is taking place throughout the world to celebrate that wonderful movement. Will the Prime Minister join me in sending congratulations to the Porthcawl Guides, to all Guides who have taken part in the movement over the past 100 years and to those men and women who have supported Guiding throughout that period?
The Prime Minister: I think that all parts of the House will want to congratulate the Guides on 100 years of service to our country, and congratulate those officers and leaders of the Guides who have done so much to encourage young people and young women, in particular, to make sure that they can make a very big contribution to the community. Our best wishes go to the Guides on their 100th anniversary.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I should like to add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the families and friends of the 37 British servicemen who tragically lost their lives serving in Afghanistan over the past three months. We all owe them an immeasurable debt of gratitude for their bravery, their professionalism and their sacrifice. We also owe it to every single one of them to ask the difficult questions about what we are doing in Afghanistan. Are we doing the right things to succeed, as I strongly believe that we must?
Many people in the country today will be simply asking themselves why British soldiers are fighting and dying for a Government in Kabul who are deeply corrupt and have presided over widespread electoral fraud. I know that the Prime Minister is giving a statement later about troop numbers, but does he not owe it to those troops to say clearly where he stands on an Afghan Government whom he is asking British soldiers to defend?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for supporting the message of condolence and sympathy that we are sending to all the families of those who have been bereaved as a result of what has happened this summer, and I appreciate his direct comments on that.
On our presence in Afghanistan, let me say first—I shall talk about this in more detail later—that no one can be satisfied with what happened during the elections in Afghanistan. Every one of us has questions that have to be answered, not so much about the security that was attached to the election, because a huge amount of work by our troops and forces went into that, but about the amount of ballot rigging that appears to have taken place. Everybody knows that 1 million votes are being examined out of the 6 million or 7 million votes that happened, but they are the subject of the international commission’s examination of the issues. So I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will wait until we have the final conclusion from the electoral commission and then accept that we will have to follow its verdict. I believe that the commission, which is half Afghan and half international, has looked at the issues in a great deal of detail, and I believe that it will report very soon.
But I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that, facing an insurgency, it is remarkable that elections took place at all; and it is remarkable that 6,000 polling stations were open at all. That is a tribute to our forces and other forces making it possible for this infant Afghan democracy to hold an election, organised by itself, in the first place. We are there, and I tell him why we are there: we are there to protect the streets of Britain; we are there because al-Qaeda poses a threat to us as well as to other countries; and we are there because, if al-Qaeda took control again or had an influence in Afghanistan under a Taliban Government, the people of this country would not be safe.
Mr. Clegg: I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his reply, but we cannot live in denial about the total lack of legitimacy of the present Afghan Government. General McChrystal himself has said that the job of our troops is becoming more difficult because of corruption in Government. Hundreds of thousands of votes were given to President Karzai by block votes from a warlord accused of war crimes. So if President Karzai is declared the winner of this flawed election—can I be precise?—will the Prime Minister urge Karzai immediately to form a Government of national unity bringing in opponents from other political groups and other ethnic groups, because otherwise he will risk losing the support of the international community?
The Prime Minister: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s comments, but the whole purpose of the commission that is looking at the conduct of elections is to eliminate those votes where there has been ballot-rigging or fraud. That is why it has taken so much time to examine these issues. I hope that he will wait until he sees the report of what the commission has done, what it recommends and what it proposes, whether it is for a second round or whether it has come to a conclusion about who is the winner.
As for President Karzai, and the future, I will also talk about this in a few minutes, but I talked to President Karzai yesterday. I also talked to Dr. Abdullah, who is the second candidate in the elections. I asked them for an assurance that they will sign a contract with us and the other allied powers about the elimination of corruption, the proper conduct of Government, the appointment of governors who can actually manage in the provinces, and the appointment of junior officials who can do that as well. I also asked him, as I will report later, to support our forces with a proper number of Afghan forces working with them.
3.  Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Two years ago, we lost blue light accident and emergency services in Burnley and everything went to Blackburn, 25 miles away from where I live, at the furthest edge of the patch. People in Burnley and Pendle, members of all political parties and none, want accident and emergency back in Burnley. As a first step, will my friend commission an independent review by clinicians from outside the area with no axe to grind, which is what people want?
The Prime Minister: Of course I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns and those of his constituents, and I will ask the Health Secretary to meet him to talk about these issues—but as he knows, the reconfiguration of national health services is a matter for the NHS locally. I understand that the review concluded in July and that it has been accepted by both primary care trusts and by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. I understand that a programme implementation board is in place, and that the board is confident that this will not undermine services locally. However, he will want to have that meeting with the Health Secretary and he can come back to me afterwards.
4.  Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The Prime Minister will appreciate that falling mortgage rates are of no value to most pensioners, while falling savings rates are leaving them out of pocket. At the same time, the costs of the things that pensioners spend their money on, such as council tax, food and fuel, are rising rapidly. Does he accept, therefore, that a 2.5 per cent. pension rise in April will leave many pensioners out of pocket, and what is he planning to do about it?
The Prime Minister: First of all, in the light of what we knew was happening to interest rates—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it is important that interest rates are low, not high, at this stage—the Chancellor made proposals in the Budget to improve the individual savings account, and proposals for people to be able to invest more in that individual savings account tax free. At the same time, the hon. Gentleman knows that we have taken measures to ensure that the pension credit is available to 2 million pensioners and that the winter fuel allowance will be paid to pensioners in the next few weeks, with a higher rate for those who are over 80; and we are determined to do our best to ensure that, even in a low-inflation environment, the pension will rise by at least 2.5 per cent. So we are taking the measures that are necessary to ensure that pensioners are protected against a recession that is hitting every country, but in our country we have taken special measures to help the unemployed, home owners, and pensioners as well.
Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that the best way to resolve the Royal Mail dispute would be to get the parties around the negotiating table? If he does, will he tell Lords Young and Mandelson to start to concentrate on that and stop attacking the Communication Workers Union?
The Prime Minister: We want a settlement of this dispute, and we want to say that this dispute is not in the interests of anybody. I have to say that if Royal Mail starts to lose major contracts such as those of some of the major firms in this country, it will be difficult for it to regain those contracts over a short period of time. I know that Ministers are working actively to ensure that the parties—the management and the work force—are negotiating. I hope that they will do so, and I hope that this unnecessary strike can be prevented.
5.  Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): Carter-Ruck, experts in reputation management, are reported as saying that their original injunction gave them the power to prevent what was said in Parliament from being reported. No court should grant such an order and I intend to report the solicitors to the Law Society for asking for the injunction.
Will the Prime Minister see whether it is possible that any court that grants a secret injunction or emergency injunction should have a copy placed in the Library of the House of Commons and the Press Gallery, if necessary hiding the name of a child or details of grave national security?
Will the Prime Minister also ask whether any such emergency order can be reviewed the next working day at the Court of Appeal?
The Prime Minister: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised this issue, because I think it is important that I and the Justice Secretary can say something to him about the concerns that he has raised. This is an issue where an injunction has been awarded, but it has been awarded in the context that it has to remain secret and people are not told what the outcome is generally. The Justice Secretary has talked to the parties concerned and is looking into this issue. He will discuss the matter personally with the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that on the basis of what he suggests progress can be made not just in this case but more generally, to clear up what is an unfortunate area of the law.
Ms Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that the Scottish National party Government have put a proposal for a coal power station at Hunterston in the planning framework in Scotland. Can he confirm that no such coal power station will be allowed to go ahead without carbon capture being in place?
The Prime Minister: I think my hon. Friend would agree that any new coal power station has got to be carbon capture-compliant. That is what we wish to ensure happens in every area of the country in the future. We are planning major investments in carbon capture and storage. I have talked to people throughout the country who wish to make those investments, and it is important that we go ahead on that basis in the future.
6.  Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I know that the Prime Minister is aware of the extent of the affordable housing crisis across rural Britain and many of the innovative ways in which local authorities are trying to address the problem through section 106 agreements. Does he share the sense of bewilderment and anger of many of my constituents that despite the bail-out of the banks, many mortgage providers are still operating a very belligerent attitude, not giving sufficient mortgage offers to mortgagees and offering them incredibly high and unaffordable deposits, and would he—
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister: I do agree with a lot of what the hon. Gentleman said. Building societies and banks have an obligation under the agreements that they have signed with the Government to make available mortgage finance as well as small business finance, at affordable rates, to members of our community. However, I think he will also agree that we have put aside £1.5 billion to build another 20,000 extra affordable homes over the next period of time, for rent and for low-cost home ownership.
We are doing what we can as a Government to give local authorities more powers to build and to ensure that the private sector responds with offers such as shared purchases and shared equity, as well as the new public investment that we are making. We are doing what we can and will continue to pursue a policy that we hope over time will give everybody an affordable home in this country.
7.  Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast, South) (SDLP): The Prime Minister will recall that some months ago I raised serious concerns with him about banks now fleecing small businesses to recover the monies that they lost through foolish and reckless deals. Is he aware that things are getting worse in many cases? Indeed, the Halifax, which is part of the Lloyds group and was effectively nationalised, is one of the worst offenders. Credit has been withdrawn and refused, but worse still I have a note here that says that currently, small overdraft facilities are costing £13 a month, even for £2,000, and that is going to go up on 6 December—
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think that the Prime Minister has got the gist of it. The Prime Minister.
Dr. McDonnell: Can the Prime Minister—
Mr. Speaker: Order. I think the Prime Minister knows what the question is.
The Prime Minister: We have signed agreements about lending with these banks, and we are determined to impose them. Our evidence is that large companies are able to get money at the moment and that medium-sized companies are generally able to get money, but there are specific sectors in which it is very difficult. Small businesses need additional help, and that is what we are trying to make available through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
I can also say that 200,000 companies have been able to get help with their cash flow through the measures that we introduced to help small businesses, and £4 billion has been deferred by the Treasury. That is a measure that we have taken, as we have helped home owners and the unemployed, but it depends on our being willing to spend money to take us out of recession. That is our decision, and that is our choice. It is unfortunate that it does not have all-party support in this House.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): On behalf of my party and my hon. Friends in the Scottish National party, may I associate myself fully with the words of condolence and sympathy expressed by the Prime Minister?
On the military covenant, for some 12 months or so I have been trying to obtain information from the Government. Could the Prime Minister tell me now, please, how many ex-service personnel are currently in prison?
The Prime Minister: I do not have the exact figure and I will write to the hon. Gentleman on that specific matter, but more help is available now than ever before for people who leave the services, so that they avoid either being homeless or, alternatively, being without jobs or opportunities. If he reads the White Paper in which we put forward our proposals, he will see that more is happening than ever before to help those people. Of course, that has got to be improved over the years, and we will do so. I hesitate to say what the figure is at the moment, but I will write to him immediately after Question Time.
8.  Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): The Prime Minister has been a great champion in the fight against child poverty and under this Government child poverty has fallen, but there are still far too many children living in poverty, and in Wales, too many children living in workless households. What further measures can he propose to bring down child poverty?
The Prime Minister: We are committed to eradicating child poverty in this country. We have taken half a million children out of poverty as a result of child tax credits, child benefit and other measures that we have taken. I hope that there is an all-party consensus on removing child poverty, but I have to say to the House that we cannot cut child poverty if we cut child tax credits, we cannot cut child poverty if we cut educational maintenance allowance, we cannot cut child poverty if we cut Sure Start, and we cannot cut child poverty if we deny young people the chance to get both the best education and the best opportunity for work.
9.  Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): The RAF has identified the need for three further aircraft to replace Nimrod R1 spy planes. New Nimrods, built in my constituency in Woodford, in which the Government have already invested £3.6 billion, are ideal for the task. Will the Prime Minister therefore explain why his Government have chosen instead to buy 40-year-old American aircraft and how that ties in with his commitment to British jobs for British workers?
The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in future work for his constituents—that is why he is raising this question. I can tell him that we have not made a final decision on the next stage of orders and I will write to him when we do so.
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the ever-increasing exploitation in the construction industry, in which foreign workers are driving wages down and where people are not complying with certain safety regulations. The matter comes up in my surgery on a regular basis. Both foreign and indigenous workers are being exploited by the employers. Do we need stricter regulation?
The Prime Minister: That is exactly why we are bringing in the agency workers directive and giving it legislative power through the House of Commons. I can also say that there is a helpline for vulnerable workers, which we set up after we had the vulnerable workers commission. The helpline is available to anybody, on a confidential and anonymous basis, to put their complaints, and we will deal with those complaints. It is in nobody’s interest that vulnerable workers are left without the help that they need, and I hope that we can do everything possible to support them.
10.  Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire) (Con): Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will soldier on to the bitter end?
The Prime Minister: We have got a programme for Government. Unfortunately, the other side do not.
There is a kind of obscene haste at the moment with politicians from all three major parties in what seems to be a new game of boasting about future cuts in public spending. The public sector has become a whipping post a target for plans for pay freezes, pension reductions and unemployment. Let us recall this recession began with the selfish, greedy bonus seekers in the banking sector who appear to be able to continue their bad habits regardless that their jobs were saved by taxpayers money. The fact we are £805 billions in debt is the sole responsibility of the UK banks. The banks must be made to pay back every penny they have gobbled up and no one should be given a penny in bonuses.
The world’s media was treated to a bizarre spectacle last week in the wake of an EU delegation visit to Harare. There before our eyes blabbering anti-European and racist sentiments was the world’s number one cretin Robert Mugabe; self appointed president of a country he has led into total ruin. He lies about the personal sanctions that have been imposed upon him and his fellow zanu pf gangsters. He claims all Zimbabwe’s problems are due to plots outside the country. He ignores the tremendous amount of food aid, educational aid and health aid that has been given by the governments he blames for the economic and social crisis facing Zimbabwe.
There is one man to blame for economic failure in Zimbabwe and that is Robert Mugabe we must also include the gangsters in charge of zanu pf.
Personal targeted sanctions must remain, there has not been sufficient change, Zimbabwe is still an authoritarian state.
Given that New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell was warned about the dangers of trying to contact the Taliban in Kunduz to gather information about the recent bomb attack on two oil tankers and the subsequent deaths of Taliban terrorists was it wise to rescue him? There appears to be various journalists on TV news reports this morning who appear instead of being grateful for the rescue of one of their colleague instead have become hostile to rescues.
One British soldier died during Stephen Farrell’s rescue – was he worth it – no! No journalist is worth the life of a British soldier. Perhaps the next time an idiotic journalist wants to dance with the Taliban terrorists he or she should not be rescued.
So some of the gurus at the BBC want to be nice and liberal and allow nazi thugs access to air their views on BBC Question Time! This will be a disgraceful decision. Giving the BNP the oxygen of publicity is no way to defeat their views. The BBC is playing with fire. How come a party which campaigns on race hate and has exclusive membership to one section of the population is to be given free aair time to publicize its poison. The BBC officials who are promoting this idea are misguided.
“Home news | credit: The Sunday Times by Marie Woolf on: Sunday, 6 September 2009
Source: Click here for original article
THE BBC has provoked controversy by giving the British National party a platform for the first time on Question Time, its top current affairs programme.
Nick Griffin, the BNP leader who was elected to the European parliament in June, is expected to be on the show in October. The corporation has decided that the far-right party deserves more airtime because it has demonstrated “electoral support at a national level”.
The move has caused consternation among politicians, with some Labour MPs and at least one cabinet minister pledging to boycott Question Time. They fear the BNP will use the publicity to promote a racist agenda.
The change in policy has also triggered dissent within the BBC. One senior correspondent, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s barmy … Public servants can be sacked for membership of the BNP and yet the BBC wants to give them airtime with the main political parties.”
The BBC changed its position after the party won two seats at the European elections. Its share of the national vote at that poll was 6.2%. “They got across a threshold that has given them national representation and that fact will be reflected in the level of coverage they will be given,” said Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief adviser on politics. “This is not a policy about the BNP. It’s a policy about impartiality.”
The decision was approved by Mark Byford, the deputy director-general. David Dimbleby, the show’s host, backed the change.
This weekend the mainstream political parties were divided in their reaction. The Tories and the Liberal Democrats have told the BBC they are prepared to share a platform with the BNP, arguing that its policies must be confronted.
Labour is considering its position. “The custom is that Labour does not share a platform with the BNP, but given the impact of the BBC’s guidelines on our and other mainstream political parties’ position, we are reviewing this,” it said.
One cabinet minister said he would refuse to sit alongside Griffin or other BNP representatives on any BBC panel show: “Nobody’s happy about this. I don’t imagine anyone would be content to go on with them.”
John Mann, Labour chairman of the all-party group on anti-Semitism, said: “It’s absurd to give the BNP any space. This is how Hitler came to power and these people have got the same objectives. It’s typical BBC intellectualism giving them airtime.”
Whilst the IMF rushes to assist Mugabe with millions of dollars worth of loans; it is very clear that in reality Mugabe and his thugs still continue as if no settlement (the GNU) had been agreed. It seems that once again Mugabe’s charm offensive still fools heads of government and overeas agencies.
SOKWANELE: “Zimbabwe Inclusive Government Watch (ZIG Watch) is tracking articles and reports which provide examples of violations of the agreement between Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Formations signed in Harare on 15 September 2008.
August saw the continuation of the chaos in Zimbabwe, with ever more breaches of the GPA being recorded, the majority of which fell into the following categories:
- wanton politically motivated violence, or violence driven by politicians or petty officials,
- harassment, and deprivation of freedom, of individuals through contrived arrests on spurious charges,
- widespread corruption involving senior public and uniformed figures,
- the deprivation of the right to Freedom of Expression, and the abu se thereof,
- violent, unconstitutional, invasions and seizures of property and farms, and
- deliberate attempts to derail the Constitution-making process.
The month of August has seen a notable increase in breaches in these two areas:
- open subversion of legal or administrative processes for political benefit, and
- deliberate non-cooperation with the other parties to the GPA agreement, or the deliberate undermining – or abuse of – other persons or parties for political ends.
Zanu PF’s favourite political tool – violence – stills plagues Zimbabwe’s populace to the extent that it is almost accepted as a norm by the majority. Our first listed breach in Issue 8 reveals that the government has! turned deaf ears to the warnings by the Kimberly Process that the sales of Zimbabwean diamonds may be suspended internationally after the international body directed that Zimbabwe’s diamond fields should be demilitiarised. The troops are still there, and rights abuses and smuggling continue unabated.
On a more local level, a young man was murdered by seven Zanu PF thugs in Macheke after going to the home of a local Zanu PF chairman to ask for his outstanding wages. He was subjected to a brutal beating and torture before he died, and his body dumped on a road to make it look like an accident. One wonders how an ‘accident’ explains wounds made by redhot iron rods through the stomach. It is alleged that Minister Didymus Mutasa aided the release of the perpetrators, who only received a fine as their punishment…”
The Prime Minister has presented a speeech at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London. It is a clarification of the government’s position.
Labour MP Eric Joyce, a parliamentary aide to the defence secretary, resigned saying a time limit should be set on troop deployment.
The prime minister said he would not walk away, adding: “A safer Afghanistan means a safer Britain.”
He also said British military spending in Afghanistan was increasing.
Downing Street has been keen to stress that the speech was not a response to Eric Joyce’s resignation and had been planned for some time..”
Channel 4 News has released a copy of a resignation letter issued by the parliamentary private secretary to the defence secretary Eric Joyce. Clearly this will be a blow to Brown’s conduct of the war in Afghanistan. Eric Joyce rightly criticises government policy for failing to do its duty towards our military personnel.
As you may know, I told Bob Ainsworth some weeks ago that I intended to step down as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Defence Secretary before the start of the new parliamentary term. This seems to me the least disruptive time to do that. I have been privileged to work as PPS to four senior Labour ministers in four government departments and now feel that I can make my best contribution to the Labour effort in parliament by concentrating on helping, as a regular back-bencher, to show that Labour remains sound on matters of Defence.
Labour was returned to power in 1997 on the back of your great success in turning the Economy from a weakness into a strength for Labour. Our continuing success in helping people from all parts of society become more prosperous, while helping the least well-off most, is built upon that. More quietly, during the 90′s, Labour’s then shadow defence team showed how Labour had become, after the disaster of the early 1980s, ‘sound’ on Defence. It seems to me that your personal success on the economy won the deal in 1997, while colleagues at Defence sealed it.
We are now, I think, once again at a critical time for Labour and Defence. The Conservatives, of course opportunistically, think they can convince the public that we have lost our empathy with the Defence community. We must not allow this to happen. I know that you have great commitment to our armed forces and this was clear when you visited Afghanistan this week, yet there seem to me to be some problems which need fixing with the greatest urgency.
As you know, two Black Watch soldiers gave their lives during your visit. I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets. Nor do I think we can continue with the present level of uncertainty about the future of our deployment in Afghanistan.
I think we must be much more direct about the reality that we do punch a long way above our weight, that many of our allies do far too little, and that leaving the field to the United States would mean the end of NATO as a meaningful proposition. The British people have a proud history of facing such realities. They understand the importance of the allied effort in Afghanistan/Pakistan and I think they would appreciate more direct approach by politicians. We also need to make it clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is high but time limited. It should be possible now to say that we will move off our present war-footing and reduce our forces there substantially during our next term in government.
We also need a greater geopolitical return from the United States for our efforts. For many, Britain fights; Germany pays, France calculates; Italy avoids. If the United States values each of these approaches equally, they will end up shouldering the burden by themselves. The first place to start is an acceptance this week by them, and by the Afghanistan electoral authorities, that there must be a second round in the elections there. I do not think the British people will support the physical risk to our servicemen and women unless they can be given confidence that Afghanistan’s government has been properly elected and has a clear intent to deal with the corruption there which has continued unabated in recent years.
Most important of all, we must make it clear to every serviceman and woman, their families and the British public that we give their well-being the highest political priority. Behind the hand attacks by any Labour figure on senior service personnel are now, to the public, indistinguishable from attacks on the services themselves. Conversely, in my view we should allow our service personnel greater latitude to voice their views on matters which make distinctions between defence and politics pointless.
I believe the next election is ours to win, thanks greatly to your personal great economic success. But we cannot win unless we grip defence. Above all, Labour must remember that service folk and their families are our people. We say that we honour them for their risk, bravery and sacrifice and we must at literally all costs continue to show by our actions that we mean it.
I intend to do what modest amount I can to help from the back-benches.
Eric Joyce MP”
Why on earth was the NHS allowed to hire a bunch of costly consultants to produce a review of the NHS promoting job cuts? How come the ministry could not intervene then to halt this project?
THE GUARDIAN: “The NHS will have to shed around 137,000 jobs – almost a tenth of its workforce – if it is to meet planned efficiency savings of £20bn, the Department of Health has been warned.The severity of cutbacks needed by 2014 was contained in advice presented by management consultants McKinsey to the government this spring.The content of the document, obtained by the Health Service Journal, was not disputed today but the health minister Mike OBrien insisted the government had already rejected the proposal.He said: “In core frontline services, like maternity, nursing and primary care, we need more staff rather than fewer.”Attempting to distance themselves from the report, ministerial sources suggested the review had been commissioned without full ministerial authority…”
This is difficult, Has Cameron got a point, are we bending over backwards to dance to Gaddafi’s tune? I know there is some controversy over this issue but we usually expect terrorists to claim a triumph in terrorist outrages the strange thing is if there were others they have remained remarkably silent so we could asumme that Megrahi is guilty. Nick Robinson discuses the impact of this most strange decision that an SNP government minister has apparently taken.
If we are going to begin to sup with the devil then that spoon is going have to be very, very long!
David Cameron: “I think this is wrong and it’s the product of some completely nonsensical thinking in my view. If there’s a view that the conviction is in some way unsafe, then the proper process is an appeal and the presentation of new evidence. But if this is about genuine release on compassionate grounds I think it is wrong. This man was convicted of murdering 270 people. He showed no compassion to them. They weren’t allowed to go home and die with their relatives in their own bed and I think this is a very bad decision.”..”