Wednesday, 25 November 2015
At the beginning of next month the world climate change submit will be held in Paris. Called COP21 (Conference of Parties) it will be the latest gathering of world leaders, business, NGOs and civil society to address the issues of our changing climate.
Whatever people’s views on the causes, it is quite clear that our climate is changing. We can see the effects here in Cornwall with heavier rainfall, more frequent flooding and unpredictable weather patterns.
During the recent short Parliamentary Recess I took the opportunity to visit Kenya. The visit was organised and sponsored by Christian Aid in order for MPs to be able to see for themselves some of the impact of climate change and how the UK Government is involved in helping communities adapt to the change.
I have visited Kenya a number of times before in my previous charity work. But this time it was good to go with a different focus. We were in the country for 3 days and packed a great deal into the time – meeting members of the Kenyan Government, UK representatives, campaigners and charity workers.
The highlight for me was a visit to a very rural area where we met with the local farming community. This is where the impact of climate change is felt most sharply. Rainfall is now much less frequent but much heavier when it does rain. This creates significant challenges of soil erosion and flash flooding.
We visited one farm where a partnership of the UK and local Kenyan Government had helped fund the construction of water capture pits for the farmer. This enabled him to store water when it does rain, which can then last for several months in a time of drought. This has enabled the farmer to expand his farm and provide employment for local people.
I am aware that some people question the UK International Development budget. But visiting the sites where some of the money is being spent in Kenya has certainly helped me understand far more why it is necessary. The impact of climate change is being felt in the poorer countries of the world where people are less resilient and able to adapt. Whatever we may feel about our moral responsibility to help these countries, especially in our former Colonial and Commonwealth nations, I believe we also need to see that it is in our own interest.
It is clear that one of the biggest challenges facing the world will be the migration crisis. People are not only fleeing war and conflict, but also poverty. If people find as a result of our changing climate that life is not sustainable, especially in rural areas that are totally dependent on farming, then the likelihood of people migrating to Western Europe will only increase putting more and more pressure on our own country. Granting aid that can help communities to adapt and enable people to live a sustainable life in rural areas is not just the right thing to do it is the sensible thing to do.
Climate change is a global challenge and it will take agreement and working in partnership from all the major nations to face it. Let us hope that progress can be made in Paris next month. I know the UK Government will be playing a leading role in working to achieve this.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
The events in Paris last Friday night are a shocking affront to all who love peace and freedom. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost loved ones, the injured and the authorities who are dealing with the aftermath. As I write this the full extent of the loss is still not known and families remain concerned for loved ones who they cannot reach.
We all watched with horror as the events unfolded. And then we woke on Saturday morning to the news that over 120 were declared dead and many more injured. Since the attack against Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January, the threat of terror attacks has once more become real for all of us in Western Europe.
Friday’s terror attacks were an escalation from the previous attack. This time multiple sites were targeted, places where people had congregated to enjoy the end of the week, places where the attacks would inflict the maximum damage and create the maximum fear.
There have been calls for a response to stand with France and this is the position that the UK Government has rightly taken. But let us pray for wisdom for those to whom it will fall to decide the right course of action. We should not react out of a sense of retaliation. We need a considered response that in the end will be in the best interests of our nation and all who share our values around the world.
These are dangerous times but we need to be sure our actions do not make the world, or our country, a more dangerous place. It seems an escalation is inevitable. There are no easy answers. Peace for all must be our ultimate aim. But as we know from our own history there is a price to be paid to secure peace.
I have said before that the deployment of our Armed Forces is the gravest responsibility that a Government has, and I will continue to listen to all sides of the argument before casting any vote, should I be required to do so.
I am also aware that the events of this weekend have understandably raised concerns once again about immigration and the risks of people being able to come to our country intent on doing us harm. Our security services have already thwarted plans for several terrorist attacks. The Government has announced additional resources for our security services and clearly we need to have robust processes in place to maintain our security.
Many of us remember living under the threat of terror in the past, and it seems that shadow has been cast again. We must do what we have always done, be vigilant, but refuse to let those people intent on harm change the way we live our lives.
With Remembrance Day only two days before the Paris attacks, we should not forget that those who died in active service did so in the defense of our way of life. We should honour their memory as well as the victims of the Parisian attacks, by continuing with that life and refusing to live in fear.
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Today is Remembrance Day; it was at 11am on 11th November 1918 that hostilities ceased, marking the end of the First World War. The Armistice had been signed that morning, and the order went out immediately for all fighting to cease by 11am. We continue to mark that moment 97 years later.
Remembrance Day was established in 1919 and has continued since then, but now honours those who fell in the subsequent wars as well. The act of honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice is as relevant today as it was then. Indeed, to my knowledge, the latest name to be added to the names of the fallen from this constituency is that of Elijah Bond who fell in Afghanistan in 2011 and whose name is inscribed on the memorial at Mevagissey.
Our fellow countrymen continue to give their lives to secure a peaceful future for our children, and today we have members of our armed forces in harm’s way in combat situations across the globe. With the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, the dream of a peaceful world seems as elusive as ever.
As usual many communities marked Remembrance Sunday this weekend with parades and services. I was honoured to join the parades and then to lay wreaths at Newquay in the morning and St Austell in the afternoon. I was also very grateful to members of my team who represented me in Mevagissey, Fowey, St Columb Major and St Dennis. Despite the blustery conditions the turnout remains strong at each of these events and those who plan and organise each event do a fantastic job.
At the end of September, I wrote about Captain Agar-Robartes who was the sitting MP for mid-Cornwall when he died on 30th September 1915 as a result of injuries sustained in battle. The marking of these events has made me pause to think on the passing of time. Born 20 years after the end of the Second World War, I can only imagine what it must have been like to live through conflict, either as a combatant or at home, waiting for loved ones to return.
Like many people my grandfather served in the Second World War and experienced the horrors of war in the Navy. My thoughts are always drawn to him on Remembrance Day as I recall the few occasions he told us about his experiences.
I am very aware of the responsibility being an MP brings, to make the right and at times difficult decisions when it comes to the defence of our nation and protection of others in an ever more dangerous world. The decision as to when and how to deploy troops is brought home on Remembrance Day. This is a responsibility I intend to take extremely seriously.
Today is about remembrance. Let us remember the men and women who gave their lives for us in the past and honour those who continue to risk their lives today.
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