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Syria: Local MP’s speak to The Herald

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The PM has no effective followup strategy: Nia Griffith

The PM has no effective followup
strategy: Nia Griffith

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.”

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Antisocial behaviour falls as police operation continues

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POLICE said that they saw a reduction in antisocial behaviour involving young people in Carmarthenshire over the weekend, following weeks of increased activity.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers proactively patrolled areas which have recently become hot spots for teenagers to gather and drink alcohol as part of an ongoing operation.

A police presence was also maintained on trains between Llanelli and Carmarthen to identify how many youngsters were travelling in the area and where they were getting off.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “Over the weekend we continued our work to target, deter and deal with antisocial behaviour and underage drinking in hot spots identified primarily in Llanelli and Burry Port.

“Section 34 dispersal orders had been put in place ahead of the weekend, meaning we could move on anyone likely to cause antisocial behaviour, but thankfully they were not required. This is an improvement on previous weekends when we have had to exercise these powers.

“A significant number of young people were spoken to, with the vast majority being pleasant, not under the influence of alcohol, and not causing any trouble.

“Members of the public acknowledged the high police presence, as did the young people, and this might have deterred underage drinking.

“We are very pleased to have seen the change in attitudes and behaviour this weekend.”

The force received just one call reporting youngsters gathering at Burry Port harbour, with no offences or antisocial behaviour identified by attending officers.

Of the young people spoken two over the weekend, two were found with alcohol which was seized. Follow-up antisocial behaviour letters will be issued, and home visits will take place shortly.

Groups were also reminded of the dangers of swimming near the harbour and were encouraged to take their rubbish home.

Officers on the rail network removed one drunk adult from a train.

Sgt Davies said: “I would like to thank all officers involved in the operation over the weekend, as well as the young people who made sure they stayed within the law while enjoying the weather.

“We will be out and about again next weekend and throughout the summer, making sure the area is enjoyable for all who visit.”

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Lord Lieutenant visits Mass Vaccination Centre

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Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sarah Edwards, has paid tribute to all those involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme during a visit to the Y Ffwrness Mass Vaccination Centre in Llanelli.

During the visit on Wednesday 9th June she was joined by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Lt Col David Mathias, and the High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mr.Jonathan Gravell. They met and spoke to the centre’s vaccinators, NHS staff, security staff and volunteers.

To date, the collective efforts of mass vaccination centres, GP practices and community pharmacies in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, have resulted in the Hywel Dda University Health Board delivering over 431,850 vaccinations. This means 266,785 of the eligible population have now received a first vaccine, and 165,056 have received both doses.

The Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed said: “It was wonderful to see first-hand the incredible work being undertaken by the vaccinators, NHS staff and volunteers. They have played a crucial role in the success of the vaccine rollout programme. I would also pay tribute to the public for their overwhelmingly positive response to getting vaccinated.”

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: “On behalf of the health board, I was delighted to welcome Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Dyfed, Miss Sara Edwards, the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Lt Col David Mathias, and the High Sheriff of Dyfed, Mr Jonathan Gravell. I am deeply proud of everyone involved in the vaccination programme and I’m glad they got to see for themselves the incredibly work being undertaken to help get us through this pandemic.”

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Alcohol seized and teenager arrested as police deal with antisocial behaviour

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POLICE seized large amounts of alcohol and arrested a teenager as they continued to deal with antisocial behaviour over the weekend.

Dyfed-Powys Police had proactive plans in place to deal with ongoing issues of groups of youngsters gathering in Carmarthenshire following rising reports of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour over the past two months.

Dispersal orders were in place across Llanelli and Burry Port, giving police the powers to move anyone believed to be causing a nuisance, harassment or distress out of the area.

Officers patrolling the rail network in Carmarthenshire on Saturday noticed a large amount of young people getting off the train at Ferryside, where an additional dispersal order was put in place and alcohol was seized.

Officers were also required to deal with children trespassing on the railway tracks.

Sergeant Gemma Davies said: “We had received reports of children with alcohol running across the tracks, which posed a huge danger to themselves and others, and had to be stopped as a priority.

“One boy who was detained became abusive towards officers and could not be reasoned with. Officers had no choice but to arrest him for his own safety and to prevent further offences from being committed.

“This incident goes to show that the kind of behaviour we are dealing with goes beyond groups of young people meeting to have a good time, and is putting people in highly dangerous situations.”

A 17-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of trespassing on the railway and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He has been released under investigation pending further enquiries by British Transport Police.

Early intervention was taken in the Trostre area of Llanelli, where officers noticed groups of children meeting on Saturday.

Sgt Davies said: “More than 60 young people were moved on from both locations and a large amount of alcohol was seized.

“Out of these groups, four notices were issued to those causing the most trouble in the Trostre area which prevented them from returning, and each of these youngsters were taken home.

“This swift action was a deterrent to other young people who were planning on joining the groups and were still travelling to the area.”

“We will continue to put plans in place each weekend and over the summer holidays to deal with antisocial behaviour, using all powers available to us to put a stop to it.”

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