Roger and his views > World Issues
Gale`s View – Wednesday 3rd September, 2014

The House of Commons is sitting again during this week and the next before rising for the Party Conference season. 

This interruption, at vast expense to the taxpayer, in the deep maintenance programme for the Palace of Westminster, was originally introduced by Mr. Blair to seek to persuade the media that Members of Parliament had been taking “a three month holiday”.  Distinct from the recall of parliament for matters of National crisis it was tokenism of the worst kind and fools nobody. The reality of course is that MPs do take a short summer holiday and devote the rest of their time when the House is not sitting to constituency work and the relentless caseload of constituents needs that quite properly takes no account of Christmas or Easter or any other “holiday “period.  Usually, to have to reinstate the working House, open catering facilities and libraries and all the services that make the place tick while preventing those who have the unenviable task of trying to keep an historic building in something approximating working order has, for the sake of perhaps six sitting days that used to be added to the other sessions (we sit for no longer now that we ever used to) is a waste of time and money. 

This year, however, matters are rather different.  While the pre- scheduled sitting programme contains little or nothing that could not have been dealt with either earlier in July or later in November it has to be the case that World affairs are so serious that had we not been due to sit these weeks then parliament would almost certainly have been recalled. 

The situation developing in Ukraine, which if left unchecked and unresolved could engulf most of Western Europe and much of the former Soviet Union, has to be addressed.  Whether the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the forty-seven States of the Council of Europe and includes, at present, Russia and many former Soviet Republics, will have the determination to send a clear message to Mr. Putin I rather doubt. German dependence upon Russian gas supplies, French arms sales and the vested interests of other Member States suggests that the best that is likely to emerge will be a further slap on the wrist akin to the very limited suspension of voting rights applied three months ago. As the European Union and the Council of Europe are unlikely to step up to the mark it will be left to NATO, and in particular to the United Kingdom and a hitherto supine President of the United States, to come up with a sufficiently robust response to halt the creation of a New Soviet Republic. So that is one item that publicly and more particularly privately, Members of Parliament will be engaged in. 

Gaza, and the potential for full-scale war in the Middle East has, notwithstanding a fragile series of ceasefires, not faded from the radar and the rise and rise of the extremist terrorism waged by the Islamic League (ISIL) has the potential to reach out into the streets of Britain. 

Unlike Blair`s “40 minutes notice” and the threat of what turned out to be non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction” ISIL poses a very real threat to the heart of civilisation as we know and choose to live it.  As we speak there are young British-born men and women who are in Syria and Iraq and Iran prepared and willing to carry out the most hideous of atrocities both in the Middle East and right here in the United Kingdom.  Dealing with this kind of threat is going to require every ounce of skill and courage that The Prime Minister, the Home, Foreign and Defence Secretaries, our armed forces and Members of Parliament can muster.    After our experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya it is understandable that we in Parliament, reflecting the views of the British public are, in tandem with our colleagues in the United States, unwilling to commit `boots on the ground` to a further adventure in what seems superficially to be somebody else`s problem. 

Unlike last year`s recall and the debate on Syria though (and contrary to the mis-representation there was no vote on whether or not to commit our military to intervention in that Country) we are now, whether we like it or not, effectively already at war with an enemy that may be far away and to a large extent unseen but that is no less real for all that. Failure to boldly deal with this danger now will result in terrible consequences for the future that will impact upon the lives of our children and our grandchildren.  It is an awesome responsibility and I hope that in these few days while the House is back we shall rise to the occasion.

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