Iraq: Coalition Against ISIL Question

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I support the Prime Minister’s motion. I also think that, in the end, we will have to deal with ISIL in Syria as well. Did I hear him correctly a moment or two ago? Did he say that if there was an urgent humanitarian need, he would take the action and then get subsequent support from the House? Surely it should be the other way round.

The Prime Minister: No, no. To be absolutely clear, the right hon. Gentleman heard me right the first time round. If there was the need to take urgent action to prevent, for instance, the massacre of a minority community or a Christian community, and Britain could act to prevent that humanitarian catastrophe—if I believed we could effectively act and do that—I am saying I would order that and come straight to the House and explain afterwards.

Let me be clear: I think the convention that has grown up in recent years that the House of Commons is properly consulted and there is a proper vote is a good convention. It is particularly apt when there is—as there is today—a proposal for, as it were, premeditated military action. I think it is important to reserve the right that if there were a critical British national interest at stake or there were the need to act to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, you could act immediately and explain to the House of Commons afterwards. I am being very frank about this because I do not want to mislead anybody.

Former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain challenges David Cameron over impact of spending cuts on councils

Western Mail,

David Cameron has been warned by former Welsh Secretary Peter Hain that continuing to slash budgets for local authorities will have irreversible consequences and leave councils with the bare minimum of services.

Mr Hain’s intervention comes as local authorities look to make further savings to plug their budget deficits with Neath Port Talbot alone looking at a cut of between £50m and £60m on top of the £30m already taken out in the last five years.

In a stinging letter to the Prime Minister, the Neath MP said: “I am deeply perturbed by the devastating effect your Government’s swingeing cuts are having on the ability of local authorities to carry out their functions.

“Difficult decisions have already been made to cut highly-valued services and to reduce the size of the workforce to enable the council to meet the budget shortfall. Only through the hard work of the councillors, officers, trade unions and staff have compulsory redundancies been avoided, which is vital given the high unemployment rate in the constituency.

“If cuts of this magnitude continue to be passed down from Westminster, which is what local authorities are anticipating until 2020, it will effectively reduce them to the bare minimum of providing the statutory functions required of them. Local services will be decimated and no longer meet the taxpayer’s own expectations.”

Mr Hain went on to tell the Prime Minister that questions would be asked over the role of councils with reduced functions and services, adding: “I fear this is the Government’s long-term aim – to reduce the functions and role of local authorities to the point that they are no longer viable or necessary.”

He said substantial cuts had already been made to Neath Port Talbot’s budget with many of the visible services affected, libraries closed or transferred to local groups. The once “gold standard” service of school crossing patrols had been reduced to national standards, funding to third sector groups cut and jobs lost.

The letter goes on to say: “The further cuts of between £50m and £60m are a fifth of Neath Port Talbot’s total budget. The trajectory of these cuts emanating from Westminster is unsustainable. Cuts of this magnitude are forcing councils to think of costs and changes are being driven by savings, which is not what local representatives were elected to do and not what many of the workforce came into public service for. For many it is heartbreaking not to be able to provide the standard of service they would like.

“At a time when you and the Chancellor laud that the economy is growing these continuing cuts are out of step with your own proclamations. If the economy is doing as well as you profess then I fully expect the Welsh settlement to increase.

“If on the other hand it continues to be reduced I fear that very soon local authorities will reach a crisis point in delivering services and will not be able to meet the demands placed on them. The implications for the future will be major and it is questionable whether the effects can even be reversed.

“Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in Neath is the decimation of the mining communities. Yours will be the decimation of all communities with the dismantling of local government and the services they provide. Quite simply the continuation of the callous cuts by the Government will leave local authorities, including Neath Port Talbot, with skeleton services and this cannot be allowed to happen.”

The Prime Minister’s response is awaited. Ministers challenged about the impact of cuts invariably refer to the need to cut the deficit.

Labour Breaks Coalition and Bedroom Tax

After a successful vote in the House of Commons Peter Hain MP has congratulated Labour MPs on landing a hammer to the Tory Lib-Dem dreaded Bedroom Tax, heaping further embarrassment on David Cameron and stretching coalition relations to breaking point.

Since April 1st of 2013 the Bedroom Tax has felt like a cruel joke by many hard-working families and individuals who have been penalised by its punitive costs, some being forced to relocate from their families and communities as a direct consequence.

In Wales 31,692 people have been affected by the tax, and across Britain almost two-thirds of those affected are either disabled or carers.

The Labour Party has been campaigning against the Bedroom Tax since its introduction, pledging to scrap it should they form the next government.

The veteran MP said: “this is a fantastic achievement and it could not have been done without the work of Labour leader Ed Miliband and Rachel Reeves the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary.”

“In Neath I know of many families and people who have borne the brunt of this government’s disastrous welfare program. As a former Secretary of State for the DWP I cannot express how much it has anguished me to see such havoc wrought on ordinary people.”

“We cannot let this government forget that they are responsible for this misery, and more needs to be done to make sure the Bedroom Tax is relegated from people’s lives altogether.”


Peter Hain and Rachel Reeves

ISIL Will Not Be Beaten Without Air Strikes In Syria

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is not the truth that ISIL will not be beaten without air strikes in Syria as well, and that means engaging with the Assad regime and Iran—however unpalatable—as well as with the Saudis? Perhaps that is also a route to resolving the bitter and dangerous Shi’a-Sunni conflicts in the region, because ultimately ISIS poses a bigger threat to nations in the region than it does to us.

The Prime Minister: I will make two points to the right hon. Gentleman, whose views on this matter I respect. First, I would argue that Assad’s brutality has been one of the things that has helped generate the appalling regime that ISIS represents. Secondly, what we want to see—we are consistent across the piece on this—is democratic Governments that are pluralistic and represent all their people. We want to see that in Iraq, which is why we support Prime Minister al-Abadi in his attempts to build an inclusive Government, and we should support attempts in Syria to have a democratic transition to a regime that can represent everyone in Syria.

Peter Hain tells David Cameron air strikes are needed in Syria to defeat Islamic State terrorists

Western Mail

Speaking in a packed Commons chamber on the eve of the Nato summit in Wales, the Neath Labour MP suggested that such concerted action could help address the deadly divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the region.

He challenged the prime minister: “Isn’t the truth that Isil won’t be beaten without air strikes in Syria as well? And that that means engaging – however unpalatable – with the Assad regime and Iran as well as of course the Saudis – perhaps also a route to resolving the bitter and dangerous Shia/Sunni conflict in the region.

“Because, ultimately, Isis poses a bigger threat to the nations in the region than it does to us.”

Read the full article here and click here to read the Parliamentary exchanges