John Spellar MP (12/09/14)
I congratulate Mr Ward on securing this debate and for distancing himself from his party leader, although I do not know whether he needed to go so far as to sit on the Opposition Benches to do so. I hope his Whips will not take an unkind view of that. I also congratulate those who have spoken for their constituents and for the many communities that live in the beautiful but troubled land of Kashmir.
As has been mentioned by a number of Members, one issue that should focus us is the floods taking place in Kashmir and the devastation that they are causing there, as well as in the surrounding areas in India and Pakistan. The floods reinforce the need, which has been mentioned often in the debate, for co-operation between the two countries. We welcome the news that the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan have offered co-operation. Will the Minister tell us—I have given him notice of this question—what actions Her Majesty’s Government are taking in response? In 2010, the United Kingdom committed some £334 million to the relief and recovery effort, in addition to bringing forward a £10 million bridge project to replace some of those washed away. Private donations from the UK, co-ordinated via the Disasters Emergency Committee, totalled more than £60 million. Interventions included the flying in of 400 metric tonnes of aid—tents, shelters kits, blankets, water containers and food. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales established a major recovery fund to help support projects on health, education, livelihoods and reconstruction. Britain’s role was magnificent in that, and I hope the Government will follow that path.
John Spellar MP (12/09/14)
We welcome this opportunity, given that in recent days questions have been raised about how the Government have gone about setting out their approach to tackling ISIL. Mr Baron highlighted yesterday’s comments by the Foreign Secretary in which he ruled out British military action in Syria and the subsequent statement from the Prime Minister’s spokesman that all options remain on the table, so I am sure that the Minister will understand the House’s desire for clarification.
As President Obama continues to set out further detail about his strategy for combating ISIL, it is crucial that the British Government also recognise the need to provide reassurance to the British public about their approach. The Opposition have made it clear that we support the targeted airstrikes authorised by President Obama in Iraq and we strongly support the UK Government’s provision of arms and assistance to the Kurdish peshmerga forces that are the effective front line against ISIL. Of course, as the situation develops and the international community agrees its common approach to the threat, we will continue to seek assurances from the Government that if there is any change in their approach to Iraq, Syria or the wider region they will seek the appropriate endorsement of this House.
We welcome the lead taken by French President Hollande in setting up an international conference in Paris on Monday. Will the Minister confirm which regional partners will be attending and will he also set out whether Iran has been invited and what the UK’s position is on that? Given that the United Kingdom currently holds the chair of the United Nations Security Council, what more does the Minister believe that the UK can do to help co-ordinate these efforts?