Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 3rd - 7th November

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In the last week before the one-week November recess, Parliament was as busy as ever. Questions were posed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, as well as a statement by the Home Secretary on the current state of the wide-ranging inquiry into child abuse. I was able to ask a question about the “toilet tax” to the Leader of the House in Business Questions  on Thursday, and attended meetings of the Defence Committee. 

MONDAY

Child Abuse Inquiry Statement

On Monday the Home Secretary, Theresa May, gave a statement to Parliament where she updated Members of Parliament on the current situation with the Child Abuse Inquiry. The Inquiry had lost a second chair to links with potential witnesses or alleged perpetrators and the Home Secretary had to explain why this had happened and what she would do about it.

Yvette Cooper (Shadow Home Secretary): Two years ago this month, the Home Secretary came to the House to announce investigations into abuse in North Wales care homes. I asked her then if she would set up an overarching inquiry into child abuse. In July this year, she rightly agreed to do so and said that she wanted it to start as quickly as possible. Four months later, that inquiry has not started and has been mired by confusion. I therefore welcome the changes she has announced today and her apology to survivors of abuse for the things that have gone wrong.

This House will be united in our determination that this inquiry should get back on track. For too long, children have not been listened to when they called for help. From the BBC to the National Health Service, from care homes to the police, from local councils to national Governments of all political parties, no institution or organisation should be complacent about how they may have failed in the past, or might be failing even now, to make sure that children are heard and protected, that criminals are brought to justice, that problems are not covered up, and that survivors get the support they need. No one should be in any doubt about the deep damage that abuse causes to those survivors for the rest of their lives. To get the inquiry back on track, we also need to recognise the things that went wrong, because it is vital that it does not fail again.

First, much more work is needed to involve survivors. I welcome the further announcements the Home Secretary has made today. The Home Secretary was specifically asked in July by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk) how survivors would be involved. In July, she said that that was up to the chairman of the inquiry. However, I think that that approach from the Home Office has been what has caused some of the current problems. As she has recognised today, Ministers need to engage directly themselves with survivors on the impartiality of the chair and the work and purpose of the inquiry before it starts. I welcome her commitment now to meet survivors, in particular to develop additional support and counselling, and to establish a survivors’ forum or liaison group to ensure that their voices are heard. She will know how important it is that this liaison group or forum works effectively. Will she specifically consult with survivors in those meetings on the terms of reference and on the issues the inquiry should focus on before it starts?

Secondly, on the choice of chair, I welcome the Home Secretary’s proposals to consult more widely. Will she ignore those siren voices who say it is not possible to find someone who is not a close contact of those whose decisions may be investigated by the inquiry? She will know that other sensitive inquiries have managed to do important work without going wrong and without being derailed, including the Hillsborough and Soham inquiries, and including the current Northern Ireland inquiry into child abuse.

Thirdly, on transparency, the inquiry has to address concerns about whether there have been institutional cover-ups. Does the Home Secretary therefore agree that it was very unwise of Home Office officials to become involved in redrafting Fiona Woolf’s letters? Fourthly, on the progress of the inquiry, I welcome the Home Secretary’s agreement to getting the panel moving before the chair is appointed and to keeping open the need for it to be a statutory inquiry, because it is vital that it can get access to all the information and testimony it needs.

This is an extremely important inquiry. The Home Secretary has done the right thing to recognise that things have gone wrong, and we will support her in the action needed and whatever it takes to get things back on track and ensure that the inquiry works. However, let me also urge her not to forget the scale of the problem of child abuse and exploitation happening right now and the weaknesses in the child protection system today. We need a fearless and robust examination of how children have been let down, and we will support her in making sure that happens; but we also need strong action to protect children and make sure they are heard in future. She is right that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity; it is important, not just for survivors but for our children today, to make sure that this historic opportunity is not lost.

Theresa May (Home Secretary): I thank the right hon. Lady for the tone and approach she has taken to this matter. As I said in my statement, across the House we all feel that we have an opportunity to do something that can deal with the terrible abuses and crimes that have taken place in the past and to learn the lessons that are necessary for the future. As we have seen with the recent reports into Rotherham and the report about Greater Manchester from the hon. Member for Stockport, these issues have not gone away. We continue to see abuse taking place and we continue to see failures, sadly, in our institutions—some of them the very institutions that children should expect to be able to trust to protect them from these sorts of crimes.

The right hon. Lady asked a number of questions. On engagement with survivors, as I indicated, I will be meeting with survivors groups. The secretariat to the panel inquiry has also started some separate meetings with survivors groups already. As I indicated, there will be further opportunities for such meetings and for some open forums in different parts of the country, where it will be possible for people to come forward. I recognise the importance of that process; it is an important part of the work that the panel inquiry will be undertaking.

I believe it will be possible to find an individual who is able to chair the inquiry. Of course, it is necessary that that individual has the confidence of the survivors and the skill set required to lead a team, which is what the panel inquiry is all about. This is not about one person as chairman making decisions; it is about a team of people with different expertise and experience—some on the panel are survivors of child abuse themselves, as I have said—coming together to ensure we can get to the truth.

The right hon. Lady asked a question about the drafting process for the letters and whether I was aware of it. I was not. I have checked with my special advisers; they were aware only that a letter was being written. They had no knowledge of its different iterations and had no part in drafting or redrafting the letter.

The right hon. Lady made reference to the need for transparency in a number of areas and in relation to the National Crime Agency as well. The work that the National Crime Agency has been doing—particularly the now over 700 arrests we have seen in Operation Notarise—is an important sign of the seriousness with which it takes these issues. As she will be aware, the director general of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, has made a number of comments about the significance and the size of the potential problem we face in this country. It is shocking. I am sure every Member of this House is appalled by the scale and nature of these crimes. I believe the National Crime Agency is being open about the work it is undertaking on that.

We owe it to the survivors of historic child abuse, as well as to those who might be subject to child abuse today, to ensure not only that the panel inquiry is doing its work, but that those involved in criminal investigations today are bringing perpetrators to justice.


http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141103/debtext/141103-0001.htm#14110323000002
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TUESDAY

Treasury Questions

 
Tuesday saw the last set of Treasury Questions before the Autumn Statement, scheduled for early December. As well as fielding questions from Members of Parliament on his plans for the so-called “Northern Powerhouse”, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, clashed with his Labour counterpart Ed Balls over the UK’s payment of £1.7bn to the EU.


Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative): By raising the personal allowance, the Chancellor has pulled 3.2 million people out of tax altogether. At the same time, however, he has dragged 1.6 million people into paying the higher rate of 40p. It is the marginal rates that matter, and that is a massive disincentive to wealth creation in this 
country. Does he acknowledge that, as soon as the fiscal room to do so is available, it will be essential to act to take as many people as possible out of higher-rate taxation altogether?

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): As my hon. Friend knows, people earning up to £100,000 who are paying the higher rate have seen the benefit of the increase in the personal allowance. They have seen their income tax bills fall. He is right to say that more people have been pulled into the 40p rate, however, and that is why we are proposing to increase the threshold to £50,000. That will be in our election manifesto, and it is something that we can deliver in the next Parliament so that people on middle incomes, as well as those on lower incomes, can benefit from a tax-cutting Conservative Government.


Chris Leslie (Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury): The Chancellor did not give us the small print relating to the promises that he has just repeated: terms and conditions apply. Will he acknowledge that there is a price tag attached to those promises, and will he tell us specifically what the cost of those commitments would be?

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): What I would say to the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury is—

Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer): What is the answer?

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): It is around £7 billion when we add it all up. That would be paid for by lower public expenditure. These are tax cuts that are paid for. I note that that is not the approach taken by the Labour party, which would increase tax, increase borrowing and increase spending, sending the economy back into the mess that it left it in.

Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer): The whole country was shocked to learn on the night the Prime Minister arrived at the European Council that the European Union is demanding from the UK a back-payment of a staggering £1.7 billion. The Prime Minister was unclear on this last week, so may I ask the Chancellor just how long before the Council meeting did he and his Ministers and officials learn that the UK was going to be asked to pay more, and why on earth did he not tell the Prime Minister?

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): First of all, may I say that it is very good to see the Shadow Chancellor in his place? We had heard disturbing rumours that there was going to be a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. We waited nervously by the phones, but we are absolutely delighted that he is still in his place. Let me answer the Shadow Chancellor’s question directly. There was a meeting at the Commission on Friday 17 October. On Tuesday 21 October, Treasury officials prepared advice for me, and the Prime Minister was aware of the advice on Thursday 23 October. That is very similar to the timetable that the Dutch Government have set out.

Ed Balls (Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer): The revisions of the Office for National Statistics came months beforehand and the Financial Secretary knew weeks before. The Chancellor knew only two days before and he still forgot to tell the Prime Minister. Was he not just asleep on the job? Let me ask the Chancellor another question about the way in which Europe is affecting the public finances. The Government promised to get net migration down to the tens of thousands. According to the latest figures, net migration is 243,000—up 38% on the previous year. Will the Chancellor confirm that his Budget forecast for net migration has been revised not down, but up? What is his assumption for net migration for the 2015 public finance forecasts?

George Osborne (Chancellor of the Exchequer): The reason there has been an increase in European migration is that the British economy is succeeding while the economies in Europe sadly are not. That is why we want to seek a different relationship with the European Union, to take into account that and other features of our relationship. I notice that the last Labour Chancellor now supports a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, but the Shadow Chancellor does not. The truth is this: we will set out our forecasts to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, but the idea that Labour would get a better deal in Europe is total fantasy, alongside the Shadow Chancellor’s fantasy that Labour left us with a golden economic legacy and that he has been right all along and everyone else is wrong. The right hon. Member for Lewes has resigned, so there is now a vacancy for a conspiracy theorist at the Home Office—the Shadow Chancellor should apply.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141104/debtext/141104-0001.htm#14110439000004
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WEDNESDAY

Prime Minister’s Questions

The final session of Prime Minister’s Questions before the November recess took place on Wednesday, with Labour Leader Ed Miliband choosing to ask the Prime Minister for more information about the UK’s payment of £1.7bn to the EU, as well as saying that he had lost trust with people over immigration. In turn, the Prime Minister accused Labour of the same.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): The Prime Minister is nearly two years into his renegotiation with the European Union. He has to get 27 countries to agree with him. How many has he got so far?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): What we have is a set of things that we want to sort out in Europe. We want to sort out safeguards for the single market. We want to get out of ever-closer union. We want reform of immigration. But here is the difference. We have a plan. He has no plan. And we have a plan that will be put to the British people in an in/out referendum. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us, why is he frightened of the British public?

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): My position on the referendum is exactly the same as his was before he lost control of his party. I think we can take it from the answer to that question that the answer is none; he has no allies. He says that his “admiration for Angela Merkel is enormous.” After the last couple of days, we can see that the feeling is mutual. If it is going so swimmingly, why does he think that Chancellor Merkel has already rejected his proposals?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): On that the right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong as well. She has herself said that there are problems in terms of free movement that need to be dealt with. He talks about support for a European referendum. Perhaps he would like to address this. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has decided to leave the House of Commons—about the only person on the Labour Benches who had any economic credibility—has said that a European referendum is inevitable. He says: “It’s a boil that has to be lanced.” If it is inevitable, why is the Leader of the Opposition so frightened of the British public?

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): We know about the boil that has to be lanced—it is his divided party. The right hon. Gentleman should listen to what his own MPs are saying. The hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay, the one who has not defected yet, says: “vague promises about a better deal for Britain will not wash.” They know his renegotiation is going nowhere. Two years ago, the Prime Minister gave an interview to The Daily Telegraph, and this is what it said: “Mr Cameron will not countenance leaving the EU and says that he would never campaign for an out vote in an EU referendum.” Is that still his position?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I think Britain is better off in a reformed European Union. But the point is this: I have a plan for renegotiating our situation and holding a referendum. The right hon. Gentleman has absolutely no plan whatsoever. He talks about the views of backbenchers. I have the new view of one of his frontbenchers. This is the Shadow Deputy Leader of the House, the man he appointed to the Front Bench, and I am sure the House will be interested. He said: “the Labour Party…right now is…in a dreadful position. And we’ve got to be honest about ourselves. We have very low esteem with the electorate. The electorate looks at us and has no idea what our policies are. We have a moribund party”. That is not the view of the commentators. It is not the view of the backbenchers. It is the view of the frontbenchers. It is official. It is a dead parrot.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): Let us talk about his party: defections, rebellions, demands for a pact with UKIP, and that is before the Rochester and Strood by-election. Everyone will have heard he did not answer this fundamental question that matters to businesses and families. He used to say he would never be for leaving the European Union. That was his position two years ago. [Interruption.] Tory Members ask what my position is. I want to stay in the European Union. The right hon. Gentleman cannot even answer the question. That was his position then. I am just asking him to repeat the same words as he used then; that he would never campaign to leave the European Union. Yes or no?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I answered that question the last time round. I want Britain to stay in a reformed European Union, but we need the reform. We have a plan. The right hon. Gentleman has no plan. We say it is time to get out of ever-closer union. What do the Opposition say? Nothing. We say, “You have to safeguard the single market.” What do they say? Nothing. We say, “You have to reform immigration.” What do they say? Nothing. Absolutely feeble. That is why he faces a crisis in his leadership: because he has nothing to say about the deficit; nothing to say about the economy; nothing to say about welfare; and nothing to say about Europe. And the whole country can see they have a nothing Leader of the Opposition.

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): There is no point in the Prime Minister giving us the “fight them on the beaches” speech, because the last time he tried that was over Jean-Claude Juncker and he lost 26 votes to two. That is his leadership in Europe. Everyone will have heard his weasel words. He will not be straight with his backbenchers and he will not be straight with the British people. He had a referendum on the alternative vote, and his position was crystal clear—he was for no. He had a referendum on Scotland, and his position was crystal clear—it was no. He wants a referendum on the EU. No ifs, no buts: is he for in or for out?

David Cameron (Prime Minister): The right hon. Gentleman is asking me about a referendum that he will not support; the Labour party is so chicken when it comes to trusting the British people. His position is completely unbelievable. We say renegotiate, hold the referendum and let the British people make their choice. He will not even support a referendum. He also says that we should listen to backbenchers. Perhaps he should try listening to the hon. Member for Dudley North who, on immigration, said: “Let’s be honest about it.” He said: “If you make a mistake you should say sorry.” So let me ask again: why will he not have a referendum, and will he apologise for the mess on immigration?

Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition): British business will be holding their heads in their hands about a Prime Minister who cannot say that he wants to stay in the European Union. His renegotiation is going nowhere. He is caught between his backbenchers who want to leave and our national interest that demands we stay. That is why on Europe, he dare not say yes and he dare not say no. He is a “don’t know” Prime Minister.

David Cameron (Prime Minister): I am afraid Mr Speaker that this is what happens if we write our questions before we listen to the answer. I could not be clearer: I want Britain to stay in a reformed European Union. Unlike the Labour Party, we have a plan to get that reform and hold that referendum. This comes at the end of a week when the last Labour Chancellor said that the Tories are right over a referendum; the Shadow Deputy Leader of the House said that Labour is in a dreadful position; and John Prescott said that Labour had a problem communicating in English. [Interruption] That is it. When you get a lecture from John Prescott on the English language, you are really in trouble. Everyone can see it: a leader in crisis and a party with nowhere to go.


http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141105/debtext/141105-0001.htm#14110548000008

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=16246&st=12:00:42
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THURSDAY

 Business Questions

I had the chance to ask a question at Thursday’s regular Business Questions, where I raised the “toilet tax” problem of a call-centre worker in my constituency losing pay for every time they used the toilet. Although I was not promised a Parliamentary debate on the issue, it did catch the attention of the Welsh media, and I will continue to pursue the issue in Parliament. 

Angela Eagle (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons): I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. May I take this opportunity to congratulate the Deputy Leader of the House on his promotion in the fallout from the spectacular exit from the Home Office of the right hon. Member for Lewes?


A week on Monday, we will debate the remaining stages of the Childcare Payments Bill. The Bill is too little, too late for parents for whom child care costs have risen five times faster than pay since 2010. They do not want to wait until after the next election for the Government to do something about it. Surely the answer is to nearly double the hours of free child care for three and four-year-olds.

Every week in Wallasey, I meet people struggling to feed their families at the end of the month, despite the fact that they are in work. Thanks to this Government, more than 12,000 people were forced to rely on food banks in the Wirral last year alone. This is living wage week, which Opposition Members are proud to support. Twenty-eight Labour councils are now accredited living wage employers, and Labour-run Brent council is putting our policy into practice early by incentivising local employers to pay the living wage. Does the Leader of the House remember his fight to prevent the introduction of the lower but statutory minimum wage, and does he remember declaring that it would price people out of work? Will he now apologise for getting it so wrong, and will he tell us why he is proud of an economic recovery that is leaving so many hard-working people behind?

As Tory backbenchers continue with their never-ending plots to drive Britain out of the European Union, it is clear that the German Chancellor is losing patience with the Prime Minister’s desperate attempts keep his party together. She let it be known this week that tinkering with free movement was a point of no return for Britain’s membership. Yesterday, all the Prime Minister could do was to attempt an in/out hokey cokey that fooled no one. Before the Leader of the House is tempted to follow in the Prime Minister’s footsteps and quote extensively my deputy, my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty), will he tell us if he agrees with his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), who this week wrote that “the anti-immigration and EU minority tail, is wagging the majority British dog”?


I understand that after business questions last week the Leader of the House and his fellow Tories travelled to the Prime Minister’s constituency to shed the accusation that they are out of touch and privileged by recreating the Bullingdon club at a £200-a- night hotel. Apparently, it was billed as a “How to beat UKIP summit”, but the campaign effort appeared to consist of knocking back free champagne and cognac until 3 am. The Chief Whip played a special game of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue”, but we know that already. The right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton unveiled an excruciating painting of the Chancellor naked and brandishing a carrot, and some after-dinner jokes were in such dubious taste that Bernard Manning would have been embarrassed to use them. I know the Leader of the House is a man of the people, so will he confirm that he had his usual 14 pints?



Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): A constituent of mine found that his payslip showed a deduction of £50. When he asked why, he was told that it was for making toilet visits. It appears that call centre staff, who are provided with copious amounts of water to keep their voices lubricated, are also being fined for going to the toilet. May we have a debate on the toilet tax
?

William Hague (Leader of the House of Commons): Well, that is a new proposition for the House. I am sure that the hon. Lady will wish to pursue the matter directly with the company concerned—


Madeleine Moon (Bridgend, Labour): Indicated assent.

William Hague (Leader of the House of Commons): I see that she is doing so. If this were a widespread problem, there might be demand for such a debate, but I hope that she will be able to resolve the matter for her constituent without us having to debate it on the Floor of the House.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141106/debtext/141106-0001.htm#14110630000002


 
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Speaking to Channel 4 News on MOD's Libyan Recruit Training Scheme
 
On Thursday evening I spoke to Channel 4 News regarding the disastrous attempt made over the past few months to train Libyan army recruits at a British Army base in Bassingbourn in South Cambridgeshire.

Several years ago the UK pledged to train up to 2000 hand picked Libyan army cadets as part of a G8 initiative to rebuild Libya's institutions in the wake of the revolution that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. The first 300 arrived in the UK in June, however the programme fast descended into chaos with widespread discipline and even criminal behaviour from out of control recruits.

With the programme eventually cancelled this week following the revelation that 5 cadets had been charged with sexual offences, I spoke to Channel 4 alongside the local MP Andrew Lansley on what went wrong, why, and where we go from here.
Monday 3rd November - Air Polution Debate

On Monday in the House of Lords, Lord Whitty moved to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce air pollution. This is an issue which affects every single member of the British population whether they choose it or not; the effects of air pollution are wide-ranging and relevant to health, the environment, and even the maintenance of buildings.
  
Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, the Government have invested billions of pounds in measures to reduce air pollution, including incentives for low-emission vehicles and sustainable transport. Local authorities are also required to review and assess air quality under the local air quality management system. We support them in seeking to deliver local measures to meet national air quality objectives. We also work with the devolved Administrations to improve air quality across the United Kingdom.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply, but does she recognise that there are still 29,000 people whose deaths are attributable to air pollution, mainly induced by traffic? Does she also recognise that the UK is in clear breach of EU limits in large parts of the country, particularly urban areas; that the WHO found a lot of the assessed areas were at dangerous levels, particularly for nitrogen dioxide; and that the Government’s own forecasts suggest we will not reach EU limits for London, Yorkshire and the West Midlands until 2030, 15 years after the deadline?


Does the Minister accept that the Government have virtually abandoned previous local and national air quality strategies and the development of low-emission
zones, and have ignored the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendations? When are we going to see a proper government strategy on air quality?


Baroness Northover: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we take this extremely seriously and I would refute the latter part of his question. He will know that we have managed to limit most pollutants and these are now below the legally binding EU limit values. The outstanding one is nitrogen dioxide, which has been a challenge not only for the United Kingdom but for 17 of the 27 EU states. We are working very hard to combat this.

Baroness Parminter (LD): My Lords, many local authorities are starting to introduce low emission zones to tackle air pollution. If they are led locally, these will have different criteria and be introduced at different times. What are the Government doing to ensure an effective network of low-emission zones, right around the country?

Baroness Northover: We work very closely with local authorities to provide support when they seek to introduce low-emission zones. One factor here is that there may be different reasons for air pollution in different areas, and it is therefore important that decisions on how to identify and then tackle it are taken on a local basis. However, we are working very hard to support local areas in introducing appropriate measures.

 
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldhansrd/text/141103-0001.htm

 
 
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Defence Select Committee takes evidence on FutureForce 2020
 

In the Defence Select Committee on Wednesday, we took evidence from Admiral Sir George Zambellas, General Sir Nicholas Carter, Air Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, and General Sir Richard Barrons, on the Future Force 2020 initiative and on the issues surrounding the Bassingbourn training camp this week. This is obviously a key issue and one which will be important to continue investigating in the coming months as the situation in Libya evolves. The following is a brief excerpt from the evidence we received from General Sir Carter.

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/future-force-2020/oral/15144.html

QMs Gisela Stuart: Would you reflect that the perimeter fences ought to have been more effectively controlled?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: The Bassingbourn site is not a prison camp; it is extraordinarily difficult to control in that sense. From our perspective, we have done everything we can to motivate them to be entirely focused on training. Indeed, we have run an extremely tough walking-out policy in conjunction with the Home Office, which has helped us in all of this. The upshot of it is that it is absolutely regrettable that this has occurred.

QMs Stuart: On reflection, you may wish to use a slightly stronger word than just “regrettable”, but let’s leave that for the moment. Given that training the Libyan forces on UK territory was one of the key elements of the Government’s long-term strategy, where do we go from here?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: Well, I think to be fair to me as the service chief who provides the trainers, I was not involved in the making of the policy that suggested that Bassingbourn was the right solution to all of that. I suspect that it would be more appropriate for that question to perhaps be directed at the centre of Defence rather than me as the service chief.

QMs Stuart: So if the Prime Minister rings you up and says “This didn’t quite work, what do you suggest we do now?” what will you tell him?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: Again, I don’t think I am that well qualified to advise. What I do is provide troops to these sorts of tasks. I am not involved in the policy judgments and decisions that are made inside and about Libya.

QMs Stuart: We have got the four Service Chiefs in front of us. A major decision has been made in terms of Britain’s foreign policy and how we respond. It involves the training of Libyan troops. We now have to send them back early, when their training is not complete. Who do I ask what we do next if it is not you?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: I think the problem in Libya is essentially a political problem.

QMs Stuart: No, no. These trainees come over to the UK. They are in a UK military base. They are supposed to be performing a training programme. Some of them go AWOL and commit sexual offences. Some of them are now seeking political asylum. Something has gone seriously wrong. May I suggest, given that you were organising this, it somehow happened under your watch?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: I don’t deny that. We are working very closely with the police force up in Cambridge to try to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. The answer to all of that will be resolved quite soon, I am sure.

QMs Stuart: Are you aware that some of them have sought political asylum?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: Yes.

QMs Stuart: And would you think that would be appropriate?

General Sir Nicholas Carter: No, probably not.

 

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