Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament, 12th-16th October

This Week in Parliament, 12th-16th October

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12th-16th October

This was the first week back from the party conference recess. I spent the weekend in Stavanger, Norway at a NATO Parliamentary Assembly Conference.  This was followed by a busy week of meetings and parliamentary business.

MONDAY

Cannabis Legalisation

On Monday afternoon, in response to an e-petition signed by 222,000 people, the Commons debated the legislation of cannabis.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport west, stated that with the current legislation“we end up with all the problems that emanate from the abuse of drugs, but we gain none of the medical advantages that we would have if we liberated people so that they could use their medicine of choice.”

Conservative MP Graham Stuart added that his “his constituent…suffers from Crohn’s disease and psoriatic arthritis, and she is allergic to most of the pharmaceutical medicines that are prescribed…she has found effective pain relief only through cannabis…sadly, the current situation sees her forced into the company of illegal drug dealers.”

My position is perhaps more complicated. I am in favour of revising the legal status of cannabis for medicinal purposes; 
there is evidence that the drug can alleviate the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and nausea. However, I cannot support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use. I feel that it would be a betrayal of the government’s responsibility to safeguard the health of the population and to defend society against organised crime.

Although the excessive consumption of alcohol can be equally as dangerous, if not more so, over time it has become so engrained in Western culture that it would be impractical to attempt to ban its sale or use. This fact alone does not mean that we should legalise other dangerous drugs. Indeed, we should act to prevent the spread in the use of cannabis before it establishes a popularity akin to alcohol’s. 

 

Syria and UK Military Intervention

On Monday night Jo Cox, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, led an Adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the protection of civilians in Syria. As Chair of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Syria Group, Jo has argued for greater UK involvement in the country's civil war. Having already dominated foreign policy discussions for over four years, the crisis in Syria, and its implications for the wider region, will continue to shape  the UK's diplomatic and military agendas over the course of this Parliament.

I am not convinced that UK participation in air-strikes on ISIS targets in Syria, or any other kind of military intervention in the internal affairs of the country, would alleviate the humanitarian crisis or lead to a political resolution to the civil war. By targeting ISIS we would be inadvertently strengthening President Assad’s barbaric and murderous regime; this inescapable reality significantly complicates any decision to intervene. Although Jo's proposal for a 'no fly' zone is different from other forms of intervention, because we would have to commit to enforcing it militarily if it is violated, it could still result in British military personnel engaging Syrian government, Russian or ISIS forces in combat.

 
By intervening militarily, we would also be jeopardising our relationships and reputations with other governments in the region, including Iran with whom the West has only very recently re-established diplomatic ties and communications. Russia's intervention in support of the Syrian government further complicates the question of UK intervention. As of October 1st this year, the Russian military has been participating in strikes against opposition organisations in Syria, including but not limited to ISIS. Accusations have been made that Russian jets have targeted US-supported forces, putting considerable pressure on the relationship between the two superpowers. UK participation in airstrikes, or even a no-fly zone, would escalate tensions between Russia and the West, which are already running high due to Russian involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
 

You may be interested to listen to me debate Andrew Mitchell MP over UK military intervention in Syria on Radio 4's PM programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06grz1d (17:10). 

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TUESDAY

British Steel Interest

On 
Tuesday, the challenges confronting Britain's beleaguered steel industry came to a head in the Chamber of the Commons. Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar where the SSI steelworks were recently closed by their Thai owners, questioned Anna Soubry, the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, over the Government's failure to act to protect the works. Due to a combination of high energy costs, the predominance of cheap Chinese exports and an unsympathetic and reluctant Tory government, the steel industry in the UK is facing considerable difficulty and trade union leaders are worried for its future.

Anna put pressure on the Government to demonstrate its commitment to steel:  “Why did the Government refuse to intervene on 
environmental grounds to secure this site? …Why have they  pulled the plug before they had properly explored the options for developing foundry coke for emerging markets in western Europe?” Unlike other European governments, the UK Government has been unwilling to intervene to protect the industry or to guarantee financial support for the thousands who are set to lose their jobs.

The job security of many people in our area is tied to the fate of the British steel industry. I will continue to monitor both national situation and the TATA-owned steelworks in Port Talbot. 

 

Halloween Fire Safety

On Tuesday afternoon I attended an event to raise awareness about the flammability of dressing-up costumes in the build up to Halloween. I have many fond memories of dressing-up for festive parties and celebrations as a child. However, I also know from personal experience that the nylon fabric from which many commercial costumes are made can go up in flames at a terrifying speed. Be careful this Halloween to make sure that candles and pumpkin lanterns are out of the way when children are playing.


 

Immigration

On Tuesday night the Commons voted on the government's Immigration Bill. Described by Labour's Shadow Home Secretary as 'unpleasant and insidious', this was a Bill designed to exploit popular fear and anxiety about recent trends in migration, rather than to provide a robust but proportionate framework to manage illegal immigration. Together with the Prime Minister's furtive and feeble response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, this latest stunt further erodes the Tory's claim to have re-discovered 'compassionate conservatism'.

 

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WEDNESDAY

The Charter for Fiscal Responsibility

On Wednesday, the Commons debated the Charter for Fiscal Responsibility- the Chancellor's latest attempt to cloak his ideological and irresponsible policies in the language of credible economic management. The Charter, to which the Labour Parliamentary Party refused to assent, effectively enshrines austerity policies by ensuring that Government spending is below tax revenue while the economy is growing above 1%. 

As Chris Leslie pointed out in the debate, whilst a budget surplus is desirable, the Government's first priority should be to invest in our nation's defence and public services. This provides a secure foundation for the private sector economy needs to grow and flourish. Under the obligations imposed by the Charter, successive governments would be forced to cut public spending regardless of what is right for families and the wider economy.

 

Mental Health in the Armed Forces

On Wednesday evening an Adjournment debate was called to discuss the quality of mental health provision for members of the Armed Forces. Dr Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, described the 'unique risks' faced by service personnel in the course of duty and emphasised the importance of providing support for them during and following their service. Many of the personnel who have returned home from Afghanistan are presenting with the mental scars of war: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anger management. This can have a devastating impact on their families and severely restrict their ability to reintegrate into civilian life.

 

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THURSDAY

Armed Forces Bill

Following a fascinating meeting with a delegation from Norway's Parliamentary Defence Committee, I attended a Commons debate on the Armed Forces Bill. Since 1688 it has been an established constitutional principle that the executive branch cannot establish an army without the consent of Parliament. These Bills are therefore passed at regular intervals to re-establish the authority of the armed forces.

The latest Armed Forces Bill has the additional intention of establishing a Director of Service Prosecutions who will be able to charge service personnel without the consent of their commanding officer. This has the potential to improve accountability in the armed forces and protect victims from harassment and bullying, both practices which have been allowed to become pervasive in the military.

During the debate Maria 
Eagle MP gave first appearance as Shadow Defence Secretary. She made the important point, that I followed up in my intervention, that 'the Bill
 does not cover how UK disciplinary procedures apply to foreign troops trained by British service personnel on British soil'. This is a pertinent point in light of the rent incidents at Bassingbourn, Cambridge, when Libyan soldiers sexually assaulted members of the local community. The government's failure to include this provision in the Bill confirms my suspicion that it has failed to learn the lessons of Bassingbourn.

 

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