The despicable attacks in Paris last week were a telling reminder of the threat we face from terrorism, and of the need to take all steps necessary to ensure the safety and security of the United Kingdom. The unprecedented show of solidarity with France across the world is a sign of the resolve and determination that we will need every inch of if we are to prevail against Daesh (ISIS).
Understandably, the prospect of UK military intervention in Syria has again been raised by the Prime Minister. We do not yet know what he will propose and of course I will listen to any case he makes, but to date I have been sceptical of the Government's position. In 2013, MPs were asked to approve airstrikes against the Assad regime and in support of his opponents. The House of Commons refused to do so, on the grounds that the outcome would have been similar to that in Libya – the collapse of the state – but with much more bloodshed and the prospect of Assad’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of the jihadis fighting to depose him.
Now we will be asked to support the use of air power on the opposite side in the Syrian civil war – against Daesh. This feels like a step in the right direction. However, there is vital question that must be answered: who will supply the credible ground forces without which airstrikes cannot be decisive? Government Ministers frequently state it isn’t logical to refuse to bomb Daesh in Syria when we are bombing them in Iraq, but the answer to this is straightforward: in Iraq we have allies on the ground, in the form of the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga. In Syria no such allies currently exist, unless we are to find common cause with the Assad forces we were seeking to bomb just two years ago, and who have murdered and displaced by far the greatest number of Syrian civilians.
A credible ground force is the only way to drive Daesh from Syria. This will require the agreement of both Russia and the current Syrian Government, and in all likelihood this force will have to remain for several years to stabilise the country. For this reason, and to prevent a further cycle of violence and recrimination against so-called ‘infidel’ occupying forces, I believe this force needs to drawn from regional states.
Such a multi-national force can be assembled – but it will require a coalition with the regional powers who are willing and able to mount the required military effort on the ground. Bombing on its own will not be effective, no matter how appalled we are by the atrocities of our enemies.
If such a strategy to win is presented, it could command my support and my vote. But if not, I would oppose airstrikes on the basis they would not help us defeat Daesh. I therefore await the proposals the Prime Minister has indicated he will bring forward in the next few weeks.
Photo credit: Freedom House (Creative Commons license)
This week I questioned the Prime Minister on his hypocritical approach to austerity measures when dealing with Oxfordshire Council, the Local Authority responsible for service provisions in his own constituency of Whitney.
In answering the question the Prime Minister invited Tameside Council to meet with him to discuss the ongoing cuts. I have accepted his invitation and have wrote to Downing Street saying:
"Tameside Council has had to enact over £104 million in cuts since 2010, with a further £90 million planned in response to the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review. In light of this, I am sure the Leader of Tameside Council, Councillor Kieran Quinn, would be delighted by the opportunity to discuss this with you."
These cuts to local services create life changing challenges for the people of Stalybridge and Hyde, and I will do everything I can to make sure the Prime Minister understands how his Government's decisions are affecting this constituency.
I will update you once I receive a response from Downing Street.
For those of you who would like to see my question to the Prime Minister and his response, you can watch it here:
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting Stalybridge Archery Club which has been successful in securing a share of the £10 million of National Lottery Funding from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund. During my visit, I met Paul Carney, Committee Member for the club, Milan Koria, Chair of the club and Margaret Shorrock, who runs the vibrant junior club. I even had-a-go and managed to hit the target few times!
Since 2011, Inspired Facilities has been helping to breathe new life into community sports facilities and improve existing venues for grassroots sport.
The archery club will receive the funding to upgrade of their facilities at Cheethams Park (Mottram Road entrance) in Stalybridge. The improvements will include the installation of modern toilet facilities, making the grounds safer and more accessible, levelling the range and shooting areas and increased parking and security.
I believe this award by Sport England is fantastic news for the club. It has a long tradition in the town stretching nearly 60 years with members holding regional and national records, and the vibrant Junior Club regularly achieving great results at the highest level.
This investment will help ensure that Stalybridge Archery Club is at the heart of the local sports community for years to come, creating the champions of the future.
If you would like to find out more about the club or wish to join, then please visit www.stalybridgearcheryclub.co.uk
Jonathan is pictured with Margaret Shorrock from Stalybridge Archery club.
Recently, I attended an Usdaw lobby of Parliament to oppose the Government’s proposal to devolve Sunday trading regulations.
Usdaw members, who work in retail, met with MPs to explain how extended opening in large stores will lead to even more retail staff being pressured to work longer hours on Sundays, which is why over 90% of shopworkers oppose any extension to Sunday trading hours.
The Sunday Trading Act is a great British compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.
I am convinced that shops are currently open long enough for people to do their shopping and that Sunday should remain a special day, different to any other. I oppose devolving Sunday trading because it will lead to longer opening hours.
I believe that Extending Sunday trading does not mean customers have more money to spend, it would not create jobs and is likely to lead to the closure of smaller stores. So this is not a way to boost the local economy or help town centres. It would be detrimental to shopworkers and their families, as well as wider society, so I am pleased to be supporting Usdaw’s campaign.
John Hannett – Usdaw General Secretary who was also at the event said Usdaw members are delighted to have the support of MPs in valuing the special nature of Sunday and want to protect it. There is no great desire from shopworkers, customers, retailers or local authorities for these changes and many oppose them. We fear that devolution of Sunday trading is a solution looking for a problem.
Mr Hannett said it is not yet clear whether the Government will seek to introduce legislation, but if they do I hope that they will abide by their promise of a proper consultation and a full parliamentary process. That would mean publication of the consultation responses and a considered reply from the Government, demonstrating that they have listened, before the introduction of any legislation to change Sunday trading.
It was great to be in Newton on Saturday (3rd October) to unveil Hyde's first lifesaving heart defibrillator, installed outside Muscle Freaks Gym, opposite St Mary's Church.
This was all part of a family Fun Day & Barbeque which included Tombola, Raffles, a CPR training demonstration and a Bouncy Castle and an Air Juggling machine, along with a visit from firefighters from Hyde Fire Station.
You can read the full story on the Hyde Community Matters website here: http://www.hydecommunitymatters.com/hydes-first-lifesaving-heart-defibrillator- unveiled/