AFTER a long, passionate, and at times ill-tempered debate, on Thursday (Dec 2), MP’s voted on the Government’s motion on the beginning of airstrikes in Syria.
By 397 votes to 223, the House of Commons voted in favour of airstrikes.
The Herald asked each of our local MP’s to comment on the debate and the reasoning behind their personal votes.
In an open letter to his constituents, Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire) said: “Having listened carefully to the debate I supported the motion. But I would like to draw your readers’ attention to the speech made by Hilary Benn (Shadow Foreign Secretary) at the conclusion of the debate. The reasons I supported the debate are two-fold:
“Firstly, the threat to Britain’s national security. ISIS are motivated by an extremist religious philosophy which they wish to impose on the West. Their fighters have targeted and killed UK and other European citizens and they have tried to launch Paris style attacks on British soil – there have been 7 attacks foiled in the last 6 months alone. Innocent UK citizens are being targeted and killed now.
“Secondly, the UK, in coalition with others at the request of the Iraqi government, has for some time been taking action against ISIS in Iraq. What we voted to do was to extend our activity over Iraq (which has been happening for some time) across the border into Syria.
“Apart from the issue of national security, millions of refugees have fled Syria. Britain has been fulfilling a moral obligation to help them, both through paying for safe refugee camps in Turkey and the Middle East and by taking in thousands of refugees. If we have a moral obligation to look after Syrian refugees, then we have the moral obligation to intervene and take action to prevent more coming.
“We are already involved as we are attacking ISIS in Iraq. We have a high level of expertise in the use of targeted missiles and drones. In particular, we have missiles that are highly accurate against moving vehicles. In addition we have been asked by many of the UK’s most important allies to help. Defeating IS is a global challenge and we cannot stand back and expect our allies to defend our interests without any input from the UK.”
Stephen Crabb’s office directed us to comments made by the Secretary of State before the debate: “Having spent months reflecting on the increasing threat that ISIL poses to us both at home and abroad, I believe we must take action to eradicate this evil organisation.
“I have received a large amount of correspondence from my constituents on this issue. Many people have got in touch to let me know that they are in favour of action, and many people have told me that they are against. Those who are against are concerned primarily with the legality of military action, and the risk of civilian casualties.
“A number of people have also raised concerns that the extension of British air strikes will make Britain a target for ISIL terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, we are already a top-tier target for ISIL. The security services have foiled seven terrorist attacks in the UK in the last year alone. The threat is already here, and we must take action to tackle the source of that threat.
“Of course, air strikes alone aren’t going to solve this issue, which is why we want to take action as part of a wider diplomatic and humanitarian strategy, one which achieves a political solution to the conflict.
“There are no easy options here, and all carry risk. I believe that standing back and not taking action at this time is the worst option of all.”
Nia Griffith (Llanelli), Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, told The Herald: “I am disappointed at the outcome of the Syria vote, as I am fearful for innocent Syrian civilians, and still feel that the Prime Minister has no effective follow-up strategy. I sincerely hope however that he and the Foreign Secretary will have listened to the arguments, and will make sure that the UK really uses its influential position in the world to bring countries together to push for progress on cutting off the flow of resources to Daesh and finding a lasting political settlement for the area.
“It is understandable that in the wake of appalling atrocities in Paris, that we should want to do something urgently to combat Daesh / Isis and show solidarity with our allies, but we should beware of simply bombing places like Raqqa in Syria as a knee-jerk reaction, which, as fleeing Syrians have pointed out, would inevitably lead to civilian casualties.
“We all abhor Daesh with their barbaric acts, and their murdering of innocent people including many Muslims, but military experts have warned that air strikes alone are not sufficient to drive Daesh out of the territory it holds.
“Far more needs to be done to cut off their supplies of oil and weapons, and to prevent more young people being drawn into their hateful propaganda and radicalisation. But in terms of re-taking the parts of Syria they control, we need to have a strategy which includes how and by whom the peace can be secured. The Prime Minister talked vaguely about some 70,000 rebel forces, but they are scattered geographically, and composed of many disparate groups. The Prime Minister could not give us details about their commitment or capacity for taking and holding territory.”
Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East & Dinefwr) was at pains to spell out his opposition to UK engagement in the region: “The Prime Minister and others believe that an immediate airborne military response is required in Syria from UK forces to help defeat Daesh. I believe that it is likely to have little effect and could exacerbate the strategic problems western powers face.
“Speaking on December 2, the Prime Minister said nothing new that persuaded me to change my views. The big danger now is the absence of a clear exit strategy for UK forces.
“Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell told George Bush junior: ‘You break it, you own it’. It is a responsibility we will have to deal with.”
On the deployment of UK forces, Mr Edwards told our reporter: “We offer our full support to our forces, they are there as a result of a political decision. However, we will continue to scrutinise and challenge the government – as we did in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Where Mr Cameron’s case fell apart was on his 70,000 figure for forces on the ground. Nobody takes that seriously and what I – and others – are wary of is mission creep leading to the deployment of ground forces.”
Mr Edwards concluded: “If this is a new British foreign policy strategy – to intervene against Daesh wherever it is – where do we stop? The Sinai? Egypt? Tunisia?
“We could face perpetual war across the Middle East and North Africa.”
Station Road: Off-licence refused alcohol licence
AN OFF-LICENCE on Llanelli’s Station Road has been refused an alcohol licence by Carmarthenshire County Council after councillors decided it could add to the area’s crime and disorder problems.
The Licensing Committee’s decision has been upheld after the applicant, who runs the shop Kubus, appealed to the courts.
The applicant, Aram Mahmood, had asked the council for permission to sell alcohol at his shop between 9am and 9pm Monday to Sunday.
However councillors felt that granting the licence would contravene the authority’s Cumulative Impact Policy, which creates a presumption against the granting of premises licences in the Station Road area, due to anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled crime issues.
A Dyfed Powys Police representative said Station Road is still identified as a crime and disorder hot spot, and a Drinking in Public Places Order (DPPO) is in place.
During April 2017 and March 2018, 164 anti-social behaviour incidents were recorded in Station Road, over a quarter having occurred within licensed premises.
A fifth of all related crime and 13 per cent of all alcohol related anti-social behavior incidents recorded in Llanelli town occurred in Station Road.
Over 40 alcohol related violent crimes were also recorded there during the same period.
Although there are now fewer premises selling alcohol in Station Road, statistics show there is still a high level of alcohol related crime and disorder in the area.
The applicant told the committee that his main customers were families wishing to buy Polish and European foods and products.
He told councillors he had ordered a CCTV system and assured them that the management of alcohol would be well controlled by staff, though believed that his customers would not cause problems.
The licensing committee’s decision was upheld following the applicant’s appeal to Llanelli Magistrates Court.
Justices found that there was no evidence of exceptional reasons to justify departing from the Cumulative Impact Policy and were satisfied with the committee’s decision.
Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman
THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.
Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.
Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.
Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.
“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.
Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.
The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.
Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.
Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.
He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.
He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.
A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.
A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.
He is married with two children and three grandchildren.
‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’
LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.
Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.
During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.
Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”
“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”
Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.
Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”
Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.
“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”
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