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I have for many years raised issues of health care in the House, and I am delighted to see in the document produced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, the coalition programme for Government, the attention that will be given to providing doctors and patients with more powers. I have been arguing that that should be the case for a long
time, and it is really important that we consider the issue of integrated health care with great care. Most people in this country want access to integrated health care, by which I mean alternative therapies such as Chinese medicine, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine and all the back treatments that are available. The issue is whether we have effective regulation. The last Government had a consultation period on the regulation of herbal medicine and acupuncture, but they did not decide on statutory regulation. It is important that the new Government do, and I encourage my right hon. Friends to examine the matter.
The former Member for Oxford West and Abingdon campaigned vociferously against integrated health care and complementary medicine. He lost his seat, and the word is that part of the reason for that was that he was so vociferous about the matter, and people were angry about it. In my constituency, I had a Science party candidate put up against me, to make publicity, specifically because I support complementary medicine. He could certainly use the publicity, because I polled 23,000 votes and he got 176. What kind of message does that send out? It shows that we must examine the matter seriously as something that can make a major contribution to health care.
It is always a delight to serve under you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I am grateful to you for calling me this evening. It is a great honour to me and my constituents for me to have been called in the Queen's Speech debate. I promised them in my acceptance speech that I would not duck the big issue of immigration, which affects and concerns them, and that I would raise the matter of schools in the county and other major issues. I have done that tonight, and I am most grateful to you.
David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): This is my first speech in the House, and I am extremely humbled to be here. I am the newly elected Member of Parliament for Morecambe and Lunesdale, a beautiful constituency backdropped by the Lake district across Morecambe bay and encompassing the area from Sunderland Point all the way up to Silverdale, across to the Yorkshire borders and diagonally through Lancaster back to Sunderland Point.
My predecessor, Geraldine Smith, is a lovely woman and shone particularly brightly in the cockle-picker disaster of about five years ago. I pay tribute to her and wish her well in her future endeavours.
It is strange to stand here after trying to get into the House for 11 years. I have always fought the corner of seaside resorts. A correspondent from The Times, whom I will not name, stated that even though David Morris is a landlubber from a seafaring family, he likes a seat by the seaside, and I have finally got one. On a serious note, I find that seaside resorts have the demographic of an inner city, with all its problems, but a much smaller population. Tourism in this country has declined rapidly over the past 20 years, and in its place there is a lot of deprivation. I should like the coalition Government to do something to address areas of deprivation and the fact that sometimes in the forgotten-about coastal areas, social issues slip through the net. I would like to be a champion for the town of Morecambe and its regeneration plans, and I wish to say here and now that I will always
fight the corner of the disadvantaged, not just in Morecambe but in all the other areas of the country that have similar problems.
There is an area in Sunderland Point, in my constituency, that used to be the main port of Lancaster where the slave trade flourished. It was because of an incident there, in which a cabin boy died and was buried in an unmarked grave, that the start of the abolition movement found its way to our House and we were one of the first countries to abolish slavery. The area is like a time capsule-one has to go across to it at low tide, and when one gets there it is like stepping back in time. Under the last Government, the Environment Agency had the criteria for historical recognition withdrawn from the "Hold back the line" coastal defence scheme. As a newly elected MP, I believe that it should be restored, and I will fight to see that it is. Once that area has gone-it is one of probably only two such areas in the whole world-it will be gone for ever. It should be a world heritage site, but it went unrecognised by the previous Government under their plans for coastal initiatives on stopping the tide.
One issue in the Queen's Speech that I should like to pick up on is the low-carbon energy policy. In my constituency, we have two nuclear power stations side by side, Heysham 1 and Heysham 2. The decommissioning of Heysham 1 has been ordered, and a new power station will, I hope, be built in its place. The power stations are the major employer in the Heysham area of my constituency, which accounts for 20% of the constituency's electorate. I am pro-nuclear power, as I said I would be from day one on the doorsteps. I will always fight the corner of the nuclear power industry, because I believe it is the future. The House should recognise that, because if we do not, in 10 years' time the lights will go out.
I also welcome from the Queen's Speech the fact that localism is starting to be recognised. Again in my constituency, Carnforth station, which some Members will probably know was the setting for the classic movie "Brief Encounter" by David Lean, was left to go to rack and ruin over a period of 30 years. A group of people there called the Carnforth Station and Railway Trust, headed by a gentleman called Peter Yates, started to raise money from the community to restore the station. What is ludicrous about the situation is that Carnforth station is the centre of the railway universe in this country. Everything goes through Carnforth, but it does not stop there. One of my campaigns as a candidate was to say that I would like the Virgin trains to stop there. It is a form of madness that the train stops there for 20 minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening but cannot take on passengers. We are trying to be more efficient in our transport policies in this country-we are trying to get more people on to trains and public transport of all kinds, yet that happens at Carnforth.
Localism has a strong part to play in not only rebuilding the station but amassing the passion to restore the link because Carnforth used to be a west coast main line link stop, but it is no longer one. In the upgrading of the lines that will be unveiled in the course of the Parliament, we should consider Carnforth. It used to be a railway town, where trains were built and serviced, and from where they ran. Its strong heritage should be recognised again.
In my constituency, we have the Lune valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty, yet for some inexplicable reason, wind farms will apparently be planted there if the planners and the companies have their way. I have nothing against renewable energy or wind farms, but I do not want to see them like Martians on the landscape in the middle of areas of outstanding natural beauty. Thankfully, sense has prevailed and wind farms are being placed more out to sea, where the wind comes in. That is common sense.
Much of what has been outlined in the Queen's Speech applies to my constituency. There has been much criticism of the coalition Government, but in diversity is strength. I represent a very diverse constituency and I repeat that there is strength in diversity. I would like to be the champion of that diversity.
When I was a young man, growing up the 1970s, my father, for whatever reason, could not afford to live in this country. He blamed it on the taxation of the day, so I ended up growing up abroad and I came back in the Thatcher years. In the John Major years, I set up my first business in a recessed town in the north of England, and I made a success of it. That is one of the reasons for my being in Parliament. I can see things that many people cannot-I can see entrepreneurial flair in areas where others might not see it in a month of Sundays. Under Major, I prospered. Over the years, I proudly fought as a candidate under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), who, in my opinion, was the best Prime Minister we never had, and I am proud to say that I am here in this Parliament with my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) as Prime Minister. The coalition Government are the product of the strength and diversity of this country.
Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): It is an honour to be re-elected for the great constituency and seaside town of Bournemouth East, and to be called on the first day of consideration of the Gracious Speech.
First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (David Morris) for an amazing maiden speech. We both represent seaside towns, and the passion with which he spoke about the importance of tourism and its demise in the UK shows that he will be an asset to his constituency. He will know that tourism is our fifth biggest industry, but successive Governments have ignored its importance. We are the sixth most visited place in the world, but we do not take advantage of that. The industry is worth £91 billion, and the authority, passion and wisdom with which my hon. Friend spoke about his constituency shows that he will serve his constituents well. I welcome him to the Chamber-what a fantastic maiden speech he made.
My hon. Friend's speech stands next to two other fine maiden speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Watford (Richard Harrington) and for Sherwood (Mr Spencer). My three hon. Friends have raised the bar exceptionally high for maiden speeches. Some of my hon. Friends from previous intakes are nodding. We have a fine intake in 2010, which bodes well for the House.
Any visit to Parliament by Her Majesty is, of course, a notable occasion, but after a change in Government,
the Gracious Speech is an exceptional occasion because it confirms the new direction on which the country is about to embark-not only the policy issues, but the change in style, attitudes and priorities, which underline the different relationship that will be struck between the state and the people, as we heard from the Prime Minister today. That relationship is all the more significant given the uncharted political waters we are entering. I refer not simply to the state of the economy, but to the fact that the Queen's Speech was tailored for and promoted by a coalition Government. It is a bold programme of legislation, and despite being drafted by two parties, not one, it is not a colourless compromise but a genuine programme of change, able to address the important issues of the day. It rebalances the power between citizen and state, returning responsibility to individuals and communities after 13 years of increasing state power and state surveillance, and it reforms Government structures, too. It also disbands other Labour creations, which so blatantly wasted taxpayers' money.
I was never sure exactly what the British Potato Council did, but it cost the taxpayer £6 million a year and I am glad to see it go. Likewise, I am pleased to see the South West regional development agency disappear. It costs us in the south-west around £300 million- [ Interruption. ] I am glad that my Liberal Democrat allies are nodding in agreement, considering that they spent so much time supporting the RDA. I am pleased that it is to disappear: it provided the people of Bournemouth with no assistance, and set unworkable housing targets for areas designated as floodplains.
This Gracious Speech also sows the seeds for improving our economy, reducing Government deficit and our country's debt, and restoring economic growth. That is something that the previous Labour Government, who had their last Budget as recently as March, signally failed to do. We have a busy year ahead as we seek to hand power back to our schools, hospitals and councils. We also want to reinforce our civil liberties, make our police forces more accountable, ease the regulatory burden on businesses, and introduce overdue reforms to how Parliament works.
Much of the Queen's Speech rightly focuses on domestic issues, but we are inheriting from Labour one problem that is in urgent need of attention-our involvement in Afghanistan. It is on that that I wish to focus the remainder of my speech.
I use the word "inherited" because we went into Afghanistan in 2002, and we took responsibility for security in Helmand province in 2005. More than half a decade later, we are still there, thanks to a flawed strategy, limited support for our troops and a complete failure to commit to post-conflict reconstruction and governance. We did enough not to lose, but never enough to win. Now we require the assistance of our US allies, and our once superior knowledge of fighting counter-insurgency operations has been overtaken by the Americans.
Lessons were not learned from what happened in Basra in 2003, when we failed to follow up a solid security position with immediate support for local governance and reconstruction. The people liberated in Basra at that time were very pleased to see the back of Saddam Hussein, but they were soon ganging up on us, their liberators, because progress was so slow.
Sadly, we are repeating exactly the same mistakes in Afghanistan all over again. The window of opportunity in that country disappeared between 2002 and 2005, when the irresolute failure to improve the lives of local people allowed the Taliban to regroup and get involved with the resident population. That has kept us there far longer than we expected.
When we look at how much our involvement in Afghanistan has cost the taxpayer, it becomes very clear that we did not properly support the operation's funding. In 2003-04, we provided a paltry £46 million for security operations in Afghanistan. By 2006-07, that had to be increased to about £750 million. Now we spend £5 billion on that operation annually. What a shame it is that we did not invest the amount of money required to do the job properly between 2002 and 2005 because, had we done so, I predict that our troops would be heading home. That is exactly what many people are calling for now, but we would have done the job properly and left Afghanistan in the state that we wanted it to be in. Another problem that we face is the death toll among our troops. The average is one death and four life-changing injuries per week.
Afghanistan is likely to dominate this Parliament. If we are serious about successfully concluding military operations in that country we must recognise the mistakes that we made, and not repeat them. The first of the basic schoolboy errors that were made was the poorly written blueprint for the governance of Afghanistan-the Bonn accord. It meant that we applied a Kabul-centric rather than a regional or local approach to helping the Afghan population. We poured funds into brand new Government ministries in the capital and expected those funds, and their associated ideas and support, to trickle down into the towns and villages in distant provinces, but that was never going to happen. We ignored the existing powerful tribal structures that make communities work at a local level and only now, very late indeed, are we beginning to recognise the importance of provincial and district support.
The second error was that Britain made a confusing offering to the overall mission. In counter-insurgency, the local population is always the prize, so why did we waste years going after territory rather than winning hearts and minds, which is what is what now happening under General Stanley McChrystal? Why did we not also have the forethought to avoid sending troops into a part of Afghanistan where our appalling reputation proceeds us? Those of us who have bothered to look at the history of Afghanistan will be aware that the treaty of Gandamak in 1879 was considered one of the most humiliating treaties ever signed by an Afghan leader, as it ceded huge chunks of that country to the UK. The battle of Kandahar just afterwards was the last major conflict of the second Anglo-Afghan war, but resulted in the defeat of the Afghans, involving a series of battles in the very areas into which we are now sending our troops. The Taliban are aware of this, and they use it as a basis for recruitment, offering people the chance to get their own back on the Brits who caused the nightmare of more than 100 years ago. It might have been better to send other members of NATO, with less dubious historical connections, to the RC South area.
Thirdly, why did our offering not come with any post-conflict reconstruction capability, consideration of training for local Afghan forces or proposals for the
development of local governance? Those are the simple factors that go back to Sir Gerald Templer and what he did in Malaya, as well as to the civil war in the United States. After that war, the military went in and set up the reconstruction organisations, sorted out the transport and even ran the elections. Why do we not learn from the past and ensure that we correct those things for today?
The attitude seems to be that reconstruction and development are somebody else's problem, and our military are not allowed to do it. It is suggested that it is done by the UN, an NGO or DFID-somebody else. Unfortunately, as soon as the situation becomes dangerous, those organisations disappear and the military are left to pick up the pieces.
What needs to change? My first recommendation is to stay the course and maintain momentum. We need to prove to the US, which has doubts about our capability, as well as the UK public and the Afghans, that we are intent on completing our mission. That means spelling out why we are there. We must be there, because if Kandahar were to fall to the Taliban, Pakistan-with its nuclear arsenal-is also likely to fall. That is a scenario that we cannot allow.
Secondly, we need to end the turf war in Whitehall, including the confusion over who is actually in charge. I hope that the National Security Council will enable us to do that. Thirdly, we need to get better at post-conflict operations. I am pleased to see that the need for a more integrated approach to post-conflict reconstruction made it into the coalition document published last week, on page 22. Before the election, I proposed a stabilisation and reconstruction force to bridge the gap between the military and the reconstruction effort. The US Marines in Helmand are already tasked with the full spectrum of comprehensive operations, and now see governance and development as the main effort of their campaign. They have overtaken us in dealing with counter-insurgency, and we have some catching up to do. We can do better than this. We have sent one brigade commander after another into Helmand province to reinvent the counter-insurgency wheel. We also need better equipment, and the strategic defence review that is shortly to be conducted must consider stabilisation ops as well as war fighting.
Fourthly, we need to take the issue of opium growth seriously. Half of the income of the Taliban goes on wages, and that income comes from the growth of poppies. If that income is cut, fewer foot soldiers will attack NATO troops and fewer improvised explosive devices will be planted. However, it is pointless to convince farmers to abandon poppies for wheat if they have no access to local markets. A comprehensive local plan is needed, not just to provide the wheat seeds but to create the market conditions to allow those individuals and families to put food on the table and make money.
Finally, we also need to think about the long term. The last time I visited Helmand province in March this year, I asked what the UN was doing there, but it has no presence there at all. I asked who was designing the plan for five, 10 and 15 years' time, to help that area to prosper in the future. It seems that no one is thinking like that. In the 1950s and 1960s, Helmand was one of the richest and greenest areas of east Asia. It actually exported more peanuts than California, believe it or not, and there are more marble deposits there than in any other area of south Asia. There is huge wealth
there, but nobody is considering how to allow the mechanics of the markets to be developed. We are doing security and thinking a little about reconstruction and development, but nobody is working out how to get an existing train line up to Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan in Kandahar. It is a distance of only 40 km, but nobody is even considering it. We must consider those things. We want to leave Afghanistan in a condition to look after itself.
In conclusion, we must get better at intervention operations. The nation will not tolerate winning a war in 10 days and then spending 10 years to consolidate the peace. We must improve our strategy, because we are likely to need these skills in the future. There are many other locations, including Iran, Yemen and Somalia, where we might require some form of intervention force. We cannot have a repeat of Afghanistan and Iraq, so the role of our armed forces needs to change. Let us not forget that it was a military force that went into Haiti after the earthquake; it was a military force that helped Britain with foot and mouth; and it was a military force that helped Indonesia when it was hit by an earthquake.
Today, military forces carry out reconstruction and development when the United Nations, DFID and other agencies find the scenario too dangerous. Let us legitimise the part that our armed forces can play in helping successfully to conclude our involvement in Afghanistan. The forthcoming strategic defence review provides a vehicle for this, but must include Foreign Office and DFID involvement as well. The economic, social and international challenges facing the UK are formidable. It is a tribute to the Prime Minister's energy and determination that Britain's first peacetime coalition for 80 years is already spelling out such a positive and ambitious yet responsible blueprint for change. We must all do our part for the sake of the nation to make this work.
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