Written PQ – Welfare [19th July 2016]

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if he will make it his policy to ensure that his Department undertakes research into the potential merits of a universal basic income. (42464)

Tabled on: 12 July 2016

Answer:
Damian Hinds:

We have no current plans to conduct research on this topic.

The answer was submitted on 19 Jul 2016 at 12:17.

 

UK’s Nuclear Deterrent [18 July 2016]

Trident-180716

You can watch my speech and the full debate by clicking (here).

When I sit in the House of Commons, I talk to many Members who support Trident. I can tell them that those weapons can kill 100 million people, but they know that. I can tell them that watersheds will be poisoned, crops will fail and many people will die from famine, pestilence and plague, but they know that. I can tell them that weapons of mass destruction have not stopped wars across the globe, but they know that. I can tell them that WMD are no protection from terrorism or cybercrime, but they know that. I can tell them that the £179 billion could be spent on health, education, housing, transport and social welfare, but they know that. The difference between us is that they believe that WMD are a deterrent and that their existence has kept us safe. Let us look at those claims.

In the lead-up to today’s debate, the Henry Jackson Society was kind enough to send me a copy of its report, “Foreign Nuclear Developments: A Gathering Storm”. A better title would be “Be afraid: be very afraid”. The report makes it clear that it would be foolhardy of the UK to give up its nuclear weapons because North Korea, Russia, China and Iran either have nuclear weapons or are actively pursuing them.

It is a well-rehearsed argument on deterrence that to prevent other nations from striking us, we must have the ability to strike them. It is of course a flawed theory. I will however give the Henry Jackson Society credit for its bravery in issuing a report outlining bold theories about the imminent nuclear threat of other nations just a week after this House was asked to consider the findings of the Chilcot report. Chilcot reminds us that we should be cautious of second-guessing the military intentions of other countries.

In voting on the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system, we need to ask ourselves: who are these weapons deterring? Can those in favour of Trident genuinely foresee a situation in which China or Russia would commit such an act of economic suicide as a nuclear strike against a western power? The primary factor in establishing peace in an increasingly globalised world is the linked economic interests of nations, not the imminent threat of nuclear attack. To say the world is safer because of nuclear weapons is akin to saying that there would be less gun crime in the United States if there were more firearms.

General George Lee Butler, a former Commander in Chief of the US Strategic Command who was once in charge of all US strategic nuclear weapons, has said:

“Nuclear deterrence was and remains a slippery intellectual construct that translates very poorly into the real world of spontaneous crises, inexplicable motivations, incomplete intelligence and fragile human relationships.”

Nuclear deterrence requires an assumption that the Governments of our enemies will always act rationally. What deterrence are nuclear weapons to Governments or organisations that hold extreme or fundamentalist religious views and have no fear of death? What deterrence are nuclear weapons to a dictatorship on the brink of collapse that has nothing left to lose? The reality is that we cannot guarantee that such Governments will always act rationally. Trident therefore offers us no protection. So if it is not a deterrent, is it therefore nuclear revenge?

We are locked in our cold war mentality of maintaining weapons to counter threats that do not exist, telling ourselves that an imminent threat could emerge at any time. Spending billions on Trident renewal is paying a ransom to past fears when we should be investing in a hopeful future. The generations to come shall reap what we sow. I fear that if we continue down this road we may never be able to find our way back to a safe haven.

Westminster diary w/b 11th July

Monday

The internal party politics of the Conservative and the Labour parties have dominated life at Westminster recently. As a result debates are poorly attended and committee meetings have been cancelled. I stood for questions during work and pensions questions but was over looked. This job is full of frustrations.

I attended an event aimed at regenerating costal communities. It was interesting to hear stories from coastal towns around the UK that would be very familiar to the people of Inverclyde. The group was highly critical of the HS2 project and highlighted the lack of UK government investment in coastal towns.

Tuesday

My select committee took evidence from organisations that represent social care. The focus was the shortfall between patients being discharged from hospital too soon and into an environment which is not conducive to their recovery. The Scottish system, although not perfect, was highlighted as superior to the current system in England. I attended the all party group on Autism and shall be encouraging the Scottish Prison Service to examine the facility at Feltham prison which is leading the way in supporting prisoners on the autistic spectrum. I attended a drop in for BT broadband followed by an internal SNP constitution meeting and met with colleagues from Holyrood.

Wednesday

I attended the all party group on CND which had a particular focus on the upcoming vote to renew Trident. There is very strong cross party support to vote against such a plan but I suspect the internal arguments within the Labour Party will stop them uniting behind a no vote as it would be seen as uniting behind Jeremy Corbyn. Prime Ministers Questions was all about David Cameron. This was his last, following his declared resignation, and he was a man with the weight of the world lifted off his shoulders. He laughed and joked but we should never forget his legacy is one of austerity and increased food banks. I attended and spoke in the debate on the Chilcot enquiry. A massive report detailing the failures of the first Iraq war from which sadly we have learned no lessons.

Thursday

I had meetings with the SNP defence team in preparation for the Trident debate on Monday. I have my name on the list to speak but it shall be massively oversubscribed so I shall also be writing to the speakers office to make my case to speak. I was in the members tea room when the new prime minister Teresa May was handing out her cabinet jobs. It was a very interesting experience but I shall keep it for my memoirs. Needless to say there were lots of Boris impersonations and Top Gear jokes (May and Hammond).

Friday

I spent in Inverclyde carrying out constituency visits and business surgeries.

Report of the Iraq Inquiry [13 July 2016]

RCowanIraqInquiry-1

You can watch my speech and the full debate by clicking (here).

We now know that the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong—not just flawed but utterly wrong. This place was misled; not everyone was fooled, but sufficient to sway the vote. Meanwhile, across the UK, 1.5 million people marched in protest against the war. Their cumulative voice was drowned out by a single voice and its abuse of power. Tony Blair said that those who marched against the war would have “blood on their hands.” I do not know one single person who marched against this war who regrets their action, while apparently Mr Blair now regrets his. One hundred and seventy-nine British servicemen and women, along with 24 British civilians, were killed; and let us never forget the tens of thousands—hundreds of thousands—of civilians in Iraq who were killed, the 1.25 million orphans this war created, and the destruction of buildings and decimation of communities. The outcome was to radicalise a generation of angry, grieving Iraqis whose lives we turned upside down.

All based on what? There was no evidence of WMD. There was no evidence of Iraq having links to al-Qaeda. Evidence of contact between Iraq and Osama bin Laden was “fragmentary and uncorroborated”. However, Tony Blair still felt fine telling his pal, George W. Bush,

“I will be with you, whatever.”

How did we wage this war? We did as we always do—we sent in our troops with “wholly inadequate military equipment”. This was not new. We had known for years that we had poor vehicles and a lack of body armour. Equipment was identified in 2001 to

“not work well in hot and dusty conditions…The MoD had insufficient desert combat suits and desert boots for all personnel…Standard issue boots were unsuitable for the task; 4 Armoured Brigade’s post-exercise report cited melting boots and foot rot as ‘a major issue’.”

What do we do for those who lost loved ones? We make them wait 13 years for answers. How well do we look after the welfare of those who returned? Appallingly.

On Monday, we will vote to spend hundreds of billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction while campaign veterans are sleeping rough in towns and cities across the UK. Many more are physically or psychologically damaged, left by us without the support network they require. When will we put in place a package for our service personnel that looks after their long-term welfare? When will we ensure that everyone leaving the armed forces does so with a qualification or skill that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives?

In truth, so many mistakes were made that 2.6 million words are probably not enough. I will finish with a quote from a father who lost a son—a quote that is intelligent, informed, and dignified. Roger Bacon, whose 34-year-old son Matthew was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, said:

“Never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives and lead to the destruction of a country for no positive end.

We were proud when our husbands, sons and daughters signed up to serve our country. But we cannot be proud of the way our government has treated them.

We must use this report to make sure that all parts of the Iraq War fiasco are never repeated again. Neither in a theatre of war, nor in the theatre of Whitehall.

We call on the British Government immediately to follow up Sir John’s findings to ensure that the political process by which our country decides to go to war is never again twisted and confused with no liability for such actions.”