The recent use of chemical weapons in the dreadful and long running Syrian conflict is a very dangerous escalation. Deploying such weapons is also a clear violation of international law.
In the next few days, it is possible the Government will ask MPs to decide on potential military action in Syria. This is not a decision I or my colleagues, across the parties, would ever make lightly. My view is that in advance of any debate or vote, the Government should share with Parliament what evidence it has of the Syrian Government’s involvement, and that of their Russian backers. Secondly, the Government must present the objectives of any proposed action to Parliament, and it should be targeted at reducing the capacity of the Syrian regime to repeat these chemical attacks. I also firmly believe any response should be on a multilateral basis. A unilateral response by any one country, outside of a wider strategy, and without the support of allies would undermine the West cohesiveness toward taking a concerted position against such illegal chemical attacks. I also believe that a full debate and vote should be held in Parliament before military action is undertaken. It appears that President Assad has no qualms about breaching UN conventions on the use of chemical weapons, with or without the support of Russia, in direct rebuttal of international agreements banning their use. If this is proven it would be a mistake to ignore such actions. If we do the global communities’ resolve to draw a line in the sand becomes weaker and that could have far-reaching consequences which do not bear thinking about. These are not decisions I would choose to take but I am clear in my own mind that one of the key roles of a Parliamentarian is to protect the nation’s security, and to use their judgment based on the evidence how best to do that. Which I will do.
I was delighted to visit St Wilfrid’s Hospice to celebrate the second annual completion of an initiative called Young Clinical Volunteers. This is a six month programme designed to help young people learn more about the clinical environment, and to gain valuable skills whilst supporting patients. Most of them are already planning a medical career so it’s also an opportunity to gain first-hand experience. At the event the Young Clinical Volunteers were given the chance to share memories of their time on the ward and hear the words of praise from the hospice leadership and Rhiannon Wheeler, Voluntary Services Manager. St Wilfrid’s is such a wonderful place, doing so much fine work for our community and beyond. And like many of us, I have had the sad experience of close, dear friends being looked after there in the final days. I’m always touched by the kindness of the staff as well as the volunteers. This initiative with a group of local youngsters is another good example of our hospice connecting with the community. The youthful energy and inspiring dedication from each of these young people had, I am told, also helped many patients. All in all it’s a great scheme and I’m pleased that it is swiftly becoming a regular annual exercise. It’s a real plus for the youngsters, the hospice and our family and friends who are looked after. Well done to you all.
On a completely different subject, I do enjoy a good sausage (and crispy bacon for that matter!) and this week had the pleasure of being a judge in a sausage tasting competition. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! All for a great cause. The local Nat West Bank team lead by the redoubtable Ian Woodward held a sausage tasting competition to raise funds for respected Eastbourne homeless charity Matthew25, which my office works very closely with. The bangers from the Grand Hotel took the accolade with those from the Lansdowne a very close second. And most importantly £500 was raised. I was also touched to discover that the owner of Bay Tree Farm shop has committed to providing all the sausages free to Matthew25 for the next year. This is a very generous offer, so thank you Pat Pennington. Your shop may be just outside my constituency but I promise to pay you a visit soon. Visit www.baytreefarmshop.co.uk/
This weekend is the popular Eastbourne Artists’ Spring Open Houses and Studios exhibition. I think it’s a brilliant innovation which has become extremely popular, rightly, over many years. It’s where our most talented artists open their houses to exhibit their work. If you have never visited and explored the myriad of different talent I do urge that you do so. My schedule is a bit of a nightmare this coming Saturday and Sunday but I am determined to find a slot somehow, where I pop in and see at least a few of the artworks on display. Visit www.eastbourneartists.co.uk or pick up a brochure from the Eastbourne Tourist Information Centre, the Makery in the Enterprise Centre, Towner, and the town centre library.
That’s all folks. Have a great weekend and I hope to see you around town.