Debating intervention in Syria

I have faced many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that wherever possible diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

I am also a mother of three children and am acutely aware that a decision to commit our armed services personnel will be putting another mother’s son or daughter in harms way. I know that during the Labour Government of Tony Blair, MPs were not always given accurate information upon which to base their decisions.

When I was elected in 2010, I joined colleagues calling for much greater Parliamentary scrutiny of national security policy and decision makers. I share the deep concerns arising from the Labour Government’s intervention in Iraq.

The Coalition Government led by David Cameron, put in place processes that are enabling far greater scrutiny of information about our national security, including intelligence, by MPs than previously.

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is composed of cross party members and its job is to scrutinise the work of those responsible for our national security.

The members of the committee are notified under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and are given access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The committee holds evidence sessions with Government ministers and senior officials.

The work of the committee is invariably conducted in secret, but its members do speak in debates in Parliament. I think that the work of this Committee provides MPs some assurance that decisions are being made on the best possible information.

Had this Committee with the new powers it acquired in 2013 been in operation during the Tony Blair years, I doubt so many MPs would have voted for military intervention in Iraq.

Most weeks in Parliament, we debate the UKs role in the world, including our involvement in the Middle East and Syria.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of Syrian Regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries and organisations, including NATO and the EU support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities the Prime Minister made her intensions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. 
This does not represent an escalation of UK or western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners and as members of the EU, we have tried non military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN have considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian Regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course every diplomatic effort must continue to be made to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the Falmouth Wave

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Military Action in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that, wherever possible, diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

This week we debated the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of the Syrian regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability the Prime Minister made her intentions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes minimising harm to Syrians were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or to effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. 
This does not represent an escalation of UK or Western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners, and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN has considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course we must continue our humanitarian and diplomatic effort to support the Syrian people and to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the West Briton 19/04/18

Intervention in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that wherever possible diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

I am also a mother of three children and am acutely aware that a decision to commit our armed services personnel will be putting another mother’s son or daughter in harm’s way.

When I was elected in 2010, I joined colleagues calling for much greater Parliamentary scrutiny of national security policy and decision makers. Along with my colleagues, I shared deep concerns arising from the Labour Government’s intervention in Iraq.

The Coalition Government, led by David Cameron, put in place processes that are enabling far greater scrutiny of information – including intelligence – about our national security by MPs than was previously the case. The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is composed of cross party members and its job is to scrutinise the work of those responsible for our national security.

The members of the committee are notified under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and are given access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The committee holds evidence sessions with Government ministers and senior officials. The work of the committee is invariably conducted in secret, but its members do speak in debates in Parliament. I think that the work of this Committee provides MPs some assurance that decisions are being made on the best possible information.

Had this Committee with the new powers it acquired in 2013 been in operation during the Tony Blair years, I doubt so many MPs would have voted for military intervention in Iraq.

This week, like most weeks in Parliament, we will be debating the UKs role in the world, including our involvement in the Middle East and Syria in particular. We will be debating the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian Regimes chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of Syrian Regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries and organisations, including NATO and the EU, support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities the Prime Minister made her intensions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. This does not represent an escalation of UK or western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN have considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian Regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course every diplomatic effort must continue to be made to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 18/04/18

Happy Christmas!

December has been a busy month not only in Parliament but working with constituents on a wide range of local matters.

I was pleased to visit A & P docks in Falmouth and to hear the good news about commercial, naval and fleet auxiliary vessels that are in the pipeline.  Since being elected I have worked hard to support the docks to win vitally important Ministry of Defence contracts. I was particularly pleased to hear that managers are planning on taking on more apprentices.

Neighbouring business, Pendennis Shipbuilders, has award-winning apprenticeship programmes partnering with the Falmouth Marine School and it is great to see the superb quality of their work celebrated around the world.

I was pleased to participate in a meeting of the organisations working to keep Falmouth town centre open for business during the road closure, which comes into effect on 6th January, enabling vital electricity infrastructure improvements. I hope you will join me in making an extra special effort to shop in Falmouth in the New Year. The Town Team are doing a great job and our local retailers deserve our support to keep them trading at this challenging time of year.

I am very grateful to The Poly in Falmouth for responding so positively to my request to show “Unrest”, a film about ME.  A constituent contacted me and asked me to take an interest in ME. I was happy to do so as a close family friend and member of the local life boat suffered from this much misunderstood condition. The film will be followed by a panel discussion to raise awareness, so do consider coming along to The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG, 01326 319461, info@thepoly.org on Saturday 27th January 2018 at 7.30 pm.

I have visited a number of schools and was pleased to see the progress at Falmouth School towards the much anticipated opening of the new community sports facilities in 2018. The leadership and determination of Brett Miners to deliver these new facilities that will benefit not only the school community but the whole community is to be commended.

We are very fortunate, thanks to teachers and parents working together, that all our local schools are now ranked as good or outstanding. The Roseland, Falmouth and Penryn are ranked the top three secondary schools in Cornwall. Well done to all concerned.

Before I was elected as the local MP, I was a volunteer at Falmouth Primary, listening and encouraging children with their reading. I am delighted that, as a result of government reforms to the teaching of reading, latest data shows more children are now confident readers. Like many families over Christmas we will enjoy reading to each other, including my favourite Cornish poet, Charles Causley, and his poem The Ballad of the Bread Man.

Finally, a huge thank you to the volunteers who will be staying in night shelters and providing community meals for people over Christmas. Also to our emergency services and all those working over the holidays. Happy Christmas.

First published in the West Briton 21/12/17

Remembering those who died defending our freedom and values

Like countless others, I spent time last week remembering the sacrifice of so many people who gave their lives or have been damaged defending our freedom and values. Values that we can too easily take for granted today.

The poignancy of participating in our communal act of remembrance is not diminished as the years pass. I am heartened each year by the increasing number of young people taking part, sometimes wearing the medals of their ancestors.

Next year we will commemorate 100 years of the ending of the First World War and plans to mark this special occasion are well underway. When a campaign for volunteers was launched in August 1914, thousands answered the call to fight. Among them were 250,000 boys and young men under the age of 19. A concert in Birmingham will remember their stories, they will be given a voice in words and music by 250,000 youngsters of today. What a memorable occasion that will be.

Some say our wearing of the poppy, participation in the collective acts of Remembrance or laying of wreaths is glorifying war. I disagree. It is essential that we remember and learn from the past. Sadly, there are always those at home and abroad who will seek to undermine or destroy the morals and values of our shared society, of freedom and justice, of compassion and fairness.

While we work for peace at home and around the world, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves and our allies. I am very grateful to members of our armed services who serve at home and abroad who are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. Their families too. I am also very grateful to the many local charities who support veterans and their families to recover from their experience.

First published in the West Briton

Defence and cooperation with our NATO allies

I was pleased to join crew from four naval ships, forming a NATO deployment, in Falmouth. Our Royal Navy vessel is working alongside three European naval vessels, including one from Estonia. This week they will be heading to the Baltic to undertake mine clearance and participate in NATO support for our allies.

120 soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles, including from Cornwall, deployed to Estonia this week to set up a UK headquarters in the country before the remaining 680 troops arrive in April.

The defence secretary said they would deter “Russian aggression”. The UK is taking a leading role in NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” operation, aimed at reinforcing the alliance’s eastern border.

Tensions between Estonia and Russia increased as a result of the Ukraine conflict, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

The UK-led Estonia battlegroup is one of four NATO multinational deployments to eastern Europe, which were agreed to at the 2016 Warsaw summit. Other NATO armies are sending forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where 150 UK personnel will also be sent as part of a rotating deployment.

Separately, the Royal Air Force has committed to providing Typhoon jets to bolster air defences in Romania for four months.

While it is understandable that Estonia is building a fence along its borders to defend itself against Russia, it is nonetheless sad. Also, an important reminder that it is important to both show our support for our allies in Europe and work hard to build the peaceful and secure Europe we all want to see.

Finally, it was an honour to join the 75th commemoration of the St Nazaire Raid from Falmouth with the Honorary French  Consul. It was a moving reminder of our countries long standing shared bonds of friendship.