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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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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Business

Average UK price of diesel hits record of more than £1.80 a litre

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LESS than two months after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p a litre cut on the average price of fuel – diesel prices have reached a record high price of 180.29p a litre.
The previous high of 179.90p was recorded on March 23rd 2022 – the day of the Spring Statement from Sunak.

In recent weeks, the UK government has tried to move away from its reliance on importing Russian oil, following President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Worryingly for drivers of petrol cars, the price per litre is fast approaching the record levels of 167.3p per litre set on March 22nd.

This latest price rise adds another challenge to UK households, as the cost of living crisis continues to impact families across the country.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Sadly, despite the Chancellor’s 5p a litre duty cut the average price of a litre of diesel has hit a new record high at 180.29p.”

“Efforts to move away from importing Russian diesel have led to a tightening of supply and pushed up the price retailers pay for diesel.”

“While the wholesale price has eased in the last few days this is likely to be temporary, especially if the EU agrees to ban imports of Russian oil.”

“Unfortunately, drivers with diesel vehicles need to brace themselves for yet more pain at the pumps. Had Mr Sunak reduced VAT to 15% as we call on him to do instead of cutting duty by 5p, drivers of diesel vehicles would be around 2p a litre better off, or £1 for every full tank.”

“As it is, drivers are still paying 27p VAT on petrol and 29p on diesel, which is just the same as before the Spring Statement.”

“The average price of petrol is also on the rise having gone up nearly 3p a litre since the start of the month to 166.65p which means it’s less than a penny away from the all-time high of 167.30p set on 22 March.”

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