Speaking on Channel 4 News, Mark Reckless highlights the “extraordinarily impressive” national manifesto launched today.
Tag Archives: Armed Forces
Surely, humility and modesty should be our watchwords in this debate, if only because the reductions we have made to the size of our armed forces across the Army, Navy and, I am afraid, Air Force are so significant; yet we do not seem to have made the same reduction in our leading politicians’ desire to intervene across the world with the relatively modest armed forces that we still have.
I am pleased that there has been quite a strongly pro-American tone in this debate—both from the left and the right—and President Obama has found the words to describe very impressively what the Americans are trying to do. I wish them enormously well in that, but the size of their forces and their ability to intervene is one, if not two orders of magnitude bigger than ours.
We need to think about our record in previous debates. It is only a year ago that we were debating a Government motion to bomb the other side in Syria. It is only three years ago that 557 hon. Members from across the House voted for the intervention in Libya. It is very difficult to say whether anything is better in Libya as a result because it is so dangerous that people cannot tell us what is going there. That suggests the answer may not be the one that we would wish.
A week or two ago, I went to Calais and met a gentleman, Peter, who had come from Ethiopia through Sudan and Libya to Lampedusa and was then moved on by Italians and left at Bologna to get a train to Paris and then Calais. He is one of thousands of such people. One thing at least that Gaddafi did not do was encourage those boats. He had an agreement with Italy and defended their borders. The change that we have had has not helped us.
We talk of the legitimate, democratic Government in Iraq, but we have pretty much a sectarian Shi’a Government. A little less than perhaps half of the people vote for those parties. About a fifth of the country supports the Kurdish parties, which are happy to support the Shi’a regime, as long as they pretty much run things in Kurdistan. A fifth of the country is made up of the Sunnis who are disengaged, to put it at its mildest, from that process. The reason why we have this problem is that they prefer ISIL—or at least many of them do to one degree or another—to the Shi’a sectarian Government who were either persecuting them or not giving them a share of the spoils in that state.
Some people in the House—the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) is one; my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is another—have said that they regret their votes on the Iraq war in 2003, but I do not understand what the Prime Minister’s position is. I would feel perhaps more prepared to support the Government if I knew whether he thinks that he made a mistake in 2003. Does he regret that vote, given what has happened, or is it something from which he does not resile? An answer to that would help, and we need to be modest and humble in our decision today.
With a year to go until we mark the centenary of the UK entering the First World War, Mark Reckless MP is urging his constituents to consider applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for community projects to learn more about the First World War.
HLF is making at least £1million a year available until 2019 as part of the First World War: then and now programme for small, community grants. It will provide grants of £3,000 to £10,000 enabling groups right across the UK to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage and deepen their understanding of the impact of the conflict.
Mark Reckless MP urged his constituents to think about how they would like to mark the Centenary.
Successful projects will include:
- researching, identifying and recording local heritage;
- creating a community archive or collection;
- developing new interpretation of heritage through exhibitions, trails, smartphone apps etc;
- researching, writing and performing creative material based on heritage sources;
- conserving and finding out more about war memorials
Mark Reckless MP said:
“I’m delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is making this money available to local communities. Like many areas across the UK, particularly given our strong and historic ties with our Armed Forces here in Medway, the impact of the First World War on the people of Rochester and Strood was extensive. For those who want to find out more about its legacy or who wish to mark the Centenary, I would urge them to get in touch with HLF.”
“The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching and shaping every corner of the UK and beyond. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s new programme will enable communities to explore the continuing legacy of this war and help young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”
I am honoured to represent a number of members of the armed forces, notably from the Royal Engineers. One case which I have taken up this week strikes me as being particularly deserving, and makes me question whether we treat our armed forces as well as we should.
I hope that the letter below will make Annington Homes, who run much of the MoD estate, think again before evicting Kevin and Sam Bain and their two children (and two dogs) from their home in Chattenden on 14th August.
Mr James Hopkins
CEO, Annington Homes
1 James Street
London W1U 1DR
02 August 2013
Dear Mr Hopkins
Mr Kevin Bain of 29 Chattenden Lane, Chattenden, Rochester, Kent, ME3 8LE
I am writing on behalf of my constituents Mr Kevin Bain and his wife Sam, who have been your tenants at the above address since 2006. Mr Bain completed two tours of Afghanistan over this period, during which he received correspondence from you relating to their possible eviction. I am writing to ask you to reconsider allowing Mr Bain to negotiate directly with you to buy the property which he, his wife and two young children are currently living in.
I understand, of course, that you desire to maximise the income from the sales of your estate, but I would also expect you to consider indirect costs and benefits, as well as the reputation of Annington with the military and more generally. For instance, I believe that some consideration is due to Mr and Mrs Bain for remaining in the property and paying rent to you while other properties nearby were unoccupied and boarded up.
During this time I had a number of complaints from Chattenden residents that facilities were vandalised and there was significant anti-social behaviour because of the state to which the area was allowed to deteriorate. They also informed me that more action was taken on these problems by Land Securities, who are interested in developing nearby Lodge Hill, than by Annington whose responsibility it should have been. Mr and Mrs Bain were the only residents who continued to occupy their property during this period and I believe that the damage and deterioration to your properties and the surrounding area would have been greater if they had not remained resident.
Further, I believe that there would be some financial advantages to Annington in addition to the sale price were you to negotiate a sale with Mr Bain. For example you would not need to spend money refurbishing the house, costs which I understand may amount to £5,000 – £6,000, or pay estate agent fees when other sales, albeit initially stated to be for higher prices, have fallen through for you nearby. I am also concerned to learn that Annington appear to have a contract with the Ministry of Defence and / or tenants which requires unproductive expenditure, such as the cleaning and making good of carpets and other items which are only then to be stripped out of the house.
Please could something be done to give Mr and Mrs Bain a reasonable and fair chance to buy the house in which they have lived for so many years
Mark Reckless MP
Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood
On Thursday evening, Medway councillors unanimously agreed on a Community Armed Forces Covenant. The covenant is backed by a variety of organisations in Medway and is designed to recognise the hard work and bravery of the Armed Forces. The covenant pledges its support for all members, both past and present.
This is fantastic news for Medway, which is both an area steeped in military history as well as home to a thriving forces base. The covenant will be moulded so that it covers the wide range of issues which personnel face.
The Government is providing around £300 million to be awarded to community projects across the country over the next four years.
Medway Council’s Robin Cooper has been liaising with the Royal Engineers to establish a steering group which will work with the Armed Forces community as well as charitable and voluntary sectors to meet the aims of the Covenant.
The Covenant goes some way towards celebrating the huge achievement of the Armed Forces over the years and comes at a time when the Forces need our support more than ever. I would like to congratulate all who have worked on this project and think it forms a timely tribute to coincide with the 200th Anniversary of the Royal School of Military Engineering in Brompton, the Instution of which I am a proud to be an Honorary Member of.
I hope this opportunity for Medway to work with the Armed Forces will both reward them for their hard work and provide a chance for further uniting our communities.
For further information on the 200th anniversary of RSME, please click here
Mark Reckless MP took the opportunity to highlight the plight of Forces personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during today’s defence questions in the House of Commons.
Speaking during the debate, Mark asked Defence Secretary Liam Fox how GPs could do more to help our veterans;
Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): We have an unusually high proportion of veterans in the Medway towns, and one of our concerns is that too often they fall between the cracks when it comes to mental health services. I am delighted by what the Secretary of State has said about plans for proactive follow-up for cases of post-traumatic stress disorder; it might help those who might not otherwise present with symptoms. Is there more we can do to work with GPs to ensure that they consider whether someone coming into the surgery might be ex-forces and suffering from PTSD?
Dr Fox: My hon. Friend makes a useful point. We have, of course, been trialling our new website and are looking at examinations at the point when personnel leave the armed forces. One issue that I failed to mention and ought to have done is the need to get better information to GPs. I remember practising as a GP and having absolutely no education—[ Interruption. ] I meant in the specific, not the generic. I remember that when I first worked with the armed forces as a doctor it came as a surprise to me how little specific training I had had on their particular needs. I hope that that is now being redressed by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners, because if the doctors do not know what to look for, they are far more likely to miss the problems.
Today is the Parliamentary debate on Libya. MPs’ response to Friday’s statement by the Prime Minister suggests that there will be strong support for the military action. Our Armed Forces will know that they have the backing of the whole country.
It is also important that MPs exercise oversight of how our Armed Forces are kitted out. To do this we need appropriate information from the government, so we can seek to ensure that the right procurement choices are made.
On Friday I asked the Prime Minister about the decision to decommission our current aircraft carrier capability, and whether this should now be reconsidered:
Simon Hoggart wrote up the exchange as follows in his Parliamentary sketch:
Then the laudatory slathering. Labour’s Mike Gapes offered congratulations. So did the Tory Richard Ottaway, “as one of the doubting Thomases”, now praising a “remarkable diplomatic success”.
It was left to Mark Reckless, another Tory, to point out that the Ark Royal filled with Harriers would be the perfect weapon, except that they are being decommissioned. Mr Cameron had little response to that, except to say that other countries weren’t using aircraft carriers.
I was surprised to read in yesterday’s Sunday Times both that:
France, which had 20 aircraft in the air last night, will send its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, into acton today.
At RAF high command in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, senior officers concluded that the most flexible rapid response force would be aircraft stationed on a carrier off the Libyan coast. But there was no carrier nor any planes to fly off one since the Ark Royal’s Harrier GR9 jump jets had been retired in December. So the planners considered another possibility.
They wondered whether they could bring some of the Harriers back into service and deploy them on a former container ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus, making vertical take off and landings.