Madeleine Moon MP

Member of Parliament for Bridgend

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 I am shocked by the extent to which the Army neglected their duty of care at Deepcut Barracks. For over twenty years the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the deaths of Cheryl James, Sean Benton, Geoff Gray and James Collinson has compounded and prolonged the grief of their families. It is now clear that earlier investigations conducted by the Army and Surrey police had serious shortcomings and failed the victims. The verdict today represents hope for closure and relief for one of the families and the prospect of justice for the others.

The deaths of the four recruits reflected the culture in the Armed Services at the time. There was an undisciplined atmosphere at Deepcut, characterised by inappropriate sexual relationships between staff and instructors. Since then, the establishment of duty of care inspections in Armed Services training facilities and the creation of the Service Complaints Ombudsman, have dramatically improved safety, welfare and accountability in the Armed Services. Nevertheless, bullying and sexual harassment continue to be a problem in the armed services and personnel remain reluctant to come forward; the 2015 Army Sexual Harassment Survey revealed that only 3% of those who had an ‘upsetting experience’ made a formal complaint.

In the spirit of openness and accountability, the Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon must come to the House of Commons on Monday to make a statement so that MPs can ask questions on deaths at Deepcut. This is an opportunity for the Army and the MOD to restore public confidence in their commitment to the welfare of personnel and to demonstrate their willingness to recognise and learn from past mistakes.

My response to the Deepcut Verdict

 I am shocked by the extent to which the Army neglected their duty of care at Deepcut Barracks. For over twenty years the uncertainty surrounding the circumstances of the deaths...

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7th-10th March

This was another busy week of committee meetings and parliamentary debates. The week also saw a welcome defeat of the Government's 'Sunday Trading' proposals and a moving debate on International Women's Day. See what else I got up to below...

MONDAY

Royal Naval Deployment in the Mediterranean

On Monday afternoon Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, updated the House on the Prime Minister's decision to deploy naval vessels and troops to the Mediterranean in between Turkey and Greece. They will assist NATO forces in intercepting the human traffickers who are illegally ferrying migrants to Europe. Mount Bay, a Falmouth-based Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, a maritime Wildcat helicopter and three Border Force vessels will support NATO's monitoring and surveillance activity in the Aegean. Although this will be the focus of the mission, the personnel will inevitably encounter migrants in distress. I asked the Secretary of State to describe what arrangements are in place to protect the most vulnerable migrants if personnel are forced to conduct a rescue:


I appreciate that Mounts Bay will be on an observation and deterrence mission, but the chances are it will be involved in picking up migrants. What personnel will be there from the Home Office and what training will be given to staff in relation to working with vulnerable, isolated children and vulnerable adults who might well be picked up but whom we do not want returned into the hands of people traffickers?

The Secretary of State replied:

Those deployed on the Border Force cutters have that kind of training, but Mounts Bay is a much larger ship—16,000 tonnes—and will be operating in deeper waters to the west of Chios, so it is less likely, although not impossible, that it will be picking up large numbers of migrants; it is its helicopter that we hope will be identifying boats in distress, much closer to the shore, and working closely with the two respective coastguards.

Toby Perkins MP, the Shadow Minister for Defence, emphasised the importance of our membership of the EU in responding to the refugee crisis:

The fact that NATO has joined what was previously an EU role further demonstrates the extent to which our role in the EU enhances our global security. Does the Secretary of State agree with the Prime Minister that leaving the EU may bring refugee camps to the streets of Britain, and what more can he tell us about the ways in which he believes the EU helps us to keep Britons safe?

The Secretary of State agreed:

On his attempt to bring NATO and European Union membership into this, let me make this clear to him: the mission in the sea between Libya and Italy is a European Union mission, because in dealing with the new Libyan Government, it may need the legal authorities that the European Union can add; the group deployed in the Aegean is a NATO mission, because it of course involves a ship of the Turkish navy and is largely dealing with migrants from Turkey, which is a member of NATO. That perfectly illustrates that we need to be members of both NATO and the European Union, and that being members of both gives us the best of both worlds.

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TUESDAY

House of Commons Defence Committee

On Tuesday morning, the House of Commons Defence Committee met for the second evidence session of the inquiry, Russia: Implications for UK defence and Security. Tuesday's sessions uncovered the hidden political and strategic tools that the Kremlin deploys to exercise influence in foreign jurisdictions and to wage 'hybrid' or 'multidimensional warfare'. I asked the panel to comment on suggestions 'that the Russians are planting propaganda' about the Trans-Atlantic Trade Agreement, which has come under widespread criticism for undermining UK public services and weakening economic and environmental protections. Dr Bobo Lo, an associate fellow with both Chatham House and the French Institute of International Relations, replied:

Russians have been doing this kind of thing with various western initiatives over the years. You mentioned TTIP—another case is shale gas development in the United States. So for example in that case what the Russians did was they said that on the one hand shale gas development wouldn’t take off. It was just economically unsustainable; it would collapse and it was no threat. On the other hand, you then had Putin saying it was a disgusting way of producing energy—so Putin the environmentalist. Therefore you had this contrast between “We don’t care; it doesn’t hurt anyway” and then giving money to protest groups in the west.

Peter Pomerantsev, fellow of the Legatum Institute, elaborated further on this point:

In terms of the larger psychological information games, the Russians seem very good at picking out each country’s weak spots; so in Germany they play on anti-Americanism, guilt towards Russia from the second world war, and use that very effectively; in Britain there are things we talk about—Britain leaving Europe, and fear of Britain falling apart—but really they largely think it is about money. They can see our system and they see we are addicted to being a global financial hub, which is wonderful in so many ways but also leaves us open.

          So the recent response to the Litvinenko trial, where there was, I think, a very strong case to be made for sanctions against Russian companies involved in the murder—we kind of avoided that, because that is our big weak spot, and they have kind of worked that out.

International Women's Day

Tuesday was International Women's Day and I was thrilled to welcome Fion from Bryntirion school to Westminster. Fion left Bridgend in the early hours of Tuesday morning for a packed day of tours and workshops. Having spent the morning in Parliament attending hearing of the Women's and Equalities Select Committee, she spent the afternoon in Number 10 Downing Street. We also found time to have a cup of tea and a chat about her academic interests and career ambitions. 
On Tuesday afternoon there was a debate in the Commons Chamber to mark International Women's Day. Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, took the opportunity to focus the House's attention on the pervasive problem of domestic violence:

In 2015, a woman was murdered in the UK every three days—women murdered by men who they should have been able to trust. Commonly, women are murdered by their partners, husbands or boyfriends, but also in some cases by their fathers, sons or brothers. We wish to give voice to honour the women who died.

Today, I stand to honour every victim in the fight to end violence against women. Here are the names of the women who have died since International Women’s Day last year: Lucy Ayris, aged 25; Alison Wilson, 36; Janet Muller, 21; Sarah Pollock, 41; Jill Goldsmith, 49; Zaneta Balazova, 23; Cecilia Powell, 95; Marian Smith, 74; Violet Price, 80; Karen Buckley, 24; Susan Davenport, 63; Sandra Thomas, 57; Sarah Fox, 27; Bernadette Fox, 57; Aileen Bell, 60; Frances Cleary-Senior, 49; Tracey Woodford, 47; Mariola Cudworth, 36; Anna Rosenberg, 43; Wendy Milligan, 46; Gloria Perring, 76; Mahala Rhodes, 42; Marta Ligman, 23; Emma Crowhurst, 36; Joanna Doman, 55; Shigi Rethishkumar, 35; Neha Rethishkumar, 13; Niya Rethishkumar, 13; Grace Kissell, 33; Jan Jordon, 48; Ramute Butkiene, 42; Anne Dunkley, 67; Phyllis Hayes, 65; Nazia Akhtar, 31; Nadia Khan, 24; Jennifer Edwards, 45; Stacey Henderson, 35; Rita Stephens, 67; Jennifer Williams, 25; Amy Smith, 17; Anita Kapoor, 34; Linda Norcup, 46; Lisa Anthony, 47; Ava Anthony, 14; Lorraine Barwell, 54; Laura Davies, 21; Tracey Baker, 42; Florisse Corette, 81; Jill Moon, 62; Isobel “Becky” Parker, 23; Gillian Phillips, 54; Amal Abdi, 21; Jenny Foote, 38; Miriam Nyazema, 35; Denisa Silman, 25; Jennifer Dornan, 30; Jan Bennett, 67; Laura Holden, 36; Elife Bequ, 34; Katelyn Parker, 24; Elizabeth Nnyanzi, 31; Wendy Mann, 26; Lauren Masters, 20; Sam Ho, 39; Natalia Strelchenko, 38; Julie Collier, 55; Karen Reid, 53; Petra Atkinson, 42; Anne-Marie Cropper, 47; Nicola Cross, 37; Shelley Saxton-Cooper, 45; Sarrah Garba, 27; Jourdain John-Baptiste, 22; Maxine Showers, 42; Helen Lancaster, 54; Malgorzata Marczak, 29; Usha Patel, 44; Leighanne Cameron, 29; Imelda Molina, 49; Kerry Reeves, 26; Christine Tunnicliffe-Massey, 57; Bianca Shepherd, 58; Barbara Barniecka, 43; Kayleigh Haywood, 15; Susan Mitchelson, 45; Kelly Pearce, 36; Jean Robertson, 85; Wendy Goodman, 48; Josephine Williamson, 83; Sian Roberts, 36; Hilda Mary Oakland, 71; Ravinder Jutla, 43; Jackie Abbott, 54; Lija Aroustamova, 52; Mumtaz Member, 56; Sian Blake, 43; Kathleen Griffin, 57; Mambero Ghebreflafie, 22; Daria Pionko, 21; Katie Locke, 23; Rita King, 81; Marjorie Elphick, 83; Katy Rourke, 25; Katrina O’Hara, 44; Georgina Symonds, 25; Lisa Lyttle, 49; Andrea Lewis, 51; India Chipchase, 20; Guida Rufino, 38; Elidona Demiraj, 25; Geraldine Newman, 51; Caroline Andrews, 52; Sheila Jefferson, 73; Leanne Wall, 36; Jessica McGraa, 37; Maria Byrne, 35; Lisa Reynolds, 31; Natasha Bradbury, 28; Julie Hill, 51; and Rose Hill, 75.

It was a moving and powerful contribution and, unusually for the House of Commons, was received with applause. In my intervention in Mim Davies's speech, I reminded the House that the women's suffrage movement of the early twentieth-century secured political representation for working class men as well as women:

Everyone knows that women were given the vote at the end of the 1914-18 war, but that cloaked the fact that working-class men were also given the vote. Does the hon. Lady, like me, celebrate the fact that women, through their campaigning, also led to those men accessing the vote? That should never be forgotten.

Ms Davies agreed:

I always think that women campaigning do make things generally better for men. We must be reminded of the power that women have at the ballot box. 

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WEDNESDAY

Briefing Breakfast

Wednesday morning began with a fascinating briefing from Air Vice-Marshall Paul Atherton OBE, the Director of Operations in the Military Authority, on RAF operations in Sub-Saharan Africa. At half-past 9 I hurried off to a private meeting of the Beyond Endurance Inquiry which I am chairing.
Extended Sunday Trading

On Wednesday afternoon, the Chamber debated an amendment to the controversial clause of the Enterprise Bill which allows local authorities to extend Sunday Trading hours. David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield, Southgate,  tabled the amendment and led a Conservative back-bench rebellion against the proposal with the support of Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Parties. Mr Burrowes questioned why the Government was seeking to replace a settlement on Sunday opening hours that receives the broad consent of employers, workers and faith groups. Mr Burrowes said that his Conservative colleagues could not escape responsibility for the policy by hiding behind its 'localist' façade:

When we make this decision here in Parliament, everyone who votes against amendment 1 will have to agree with the premise that deregulation is good for businesses, families and workers. Members have to make this decision; we cannot simply devolve it to local authorities.

Jonathan Reynolds rose in support of the amendment and criticised the 'consultation' that the Government had conducted on the policy:

It has been described to me on numerous occasions as a whitewash. The consultation concludes that the majority of responses were in favour of the proposal to devolve the power, yet in answer to a written parliamentary question to me on Monday, the Minister could not tell me how many of the 7,000-plus responses were against the proposal. How can the Government conclude that the majority of respondents were in favour of the proposal when they cannot even give the House the numbers? I was very disappointed with that answer. It should not be beyond the capabilities of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to work out how many respondents are for or against a Government proposal. I hope the Minister will be able to rectify that from the Dispatch Box and provide some much needed transparency.

Following a chaotic division in which not even the Deputy Speaker knew how 'EVEL' (English Votes on English Laws) applied to the vote, the Government was defeated by 31 votes. 
Pilgrim Fathers (400th Anniversary), Adjournment Debate

On Tuesday evening John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, led an Adjournment Debate to mark the landing of the Mayflower boat in America in the autumn 1620. Mr Mann said that the anniversary in 2020 provides 'a historic opportunity' to 'reinvigorate' the shared history and values of the European towns from which the 'Pilgrims' originated and communities they founded on the Eastern Seaboard of America. 
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THURSDAY

Business Questions

In Business Questions on Thursday, Chris Bryant criticised the 'Brexit' campaign for 'trying to recruit members of the royal family to its cause', following the suggestion in The Sun newspaper that the Queen had confided in her Privy Councillors that she opposed Britain's membership of the EU.

I took the opportunity to draw attention to World Kidney Day:

As chairman of the all-party kidney group, may I say welcome to World Kidney Day? Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease accounts for one in four kidney dialysis patients and kidney transplants. I know that the Leader of the House is allergic to anything to do with Brussels, but a Brussels declaration calls for a debate on the need for a national co-ordinated approach to polycystic disease, clear funding of research, patient-centred care pathways, and information about, as well as access to, nephrologists, who are knowledgeable about polycystic kidney disease. May we have a debate on this urgent and important matter?

The Leader of the House replied:

I absolutely understand the need to provide high-quality services for patients affected. That is one reason why we continue to push up the budgets for the national health service. The important thing is to take the right decisions in the right ways for patients in this country, and that is what this Government are doing through the investment in healthcare.

 
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This Week in Parliament, 7th-10th March

7th-10th March This was another busy week of committee meetings and parliamentary debates. The week also saw a welcome defeat of the Government's 'Sunday Trading' proposals and a moving debate...

 This_week_in_Parliament_heading.jpg

This was a busy week of Departmental meetings, receptions and debates in the House. Although the question of Britain's future relationship with Europe continued to dominate political discussion this week, there were plenty of other issues up for debate. See what else I got up to below...

This Week in Parliament, 29th February- 3rd March

  This was a busy week of Departmental meetings, receptions and debates in the House. Although the question of Britain's future relationship with Europe continued to dominate political discussion this...


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