In the discussion about the campaign of air strikes against ISIL guerrillas in Northern Iraq three key issues have not been fully addressed:
First, Turkey, the one Muslim state that is a member of NATO, must be helped to cope with the massive flow of refugees from Iraq and Syria, not only financially, but if the Turkish Government agrees, also, by volunteers with experience in the work of caring for them.
Second, the rules of engagement for forces involved in air strikes should make it clear that civilians must be protected as far as possible. More air strikes against people already terrorised by ISIL, such as the Kurds in Northern Iraq, will alienate those whose support is crucial.
Third, the US, the UK and France, along with Turkey and Jordan, must raise through diplomatic channels the need for Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to cease support for the Jihadis, whether through supplying arms to them or through madrasses training boys and young men to become recruits.
Having the scars on my back from attempts to reform the Lords, I know how inclined people are to declare constitutional reform ‘not thought through’. In the case of Lords Reform, this was patently ridiculous since introducing elections to the House has been the subject of more self-interested cogitation and political procrastination than just about any other subject.
Proposals for “devo-max” to Scotland are not ill-considered either. Our own redoubtable Menzies Campbell has produced two formidable reports on “Home Rule All Round”, setting out a federal future for the UK. Lord Strathclyde has produced a not dissimilar report on the subject for the Conservatives. Labour have their own similar (though moderately less ambitious) proposals. Even arch anti-devolutionist Michael Forsyth told the BBC he favours a federal solution now!
There is no haste on those issues, which are well-aired, and must now be addressed as promised. The panic measure is the Prime Minister’s desire to change the voting rights of Westminster MPs at the same ‘pace’ as further devolution to Scotland. I fear this tactic risks the success of both initiatives.
As the son of a dustbin man from a council estate in Huddersfield it was never in my wildest imagine that I would ever be in the House of Lords. Now that I have it is with a sense of both pride but just as important with a clear duty not to forget my journey in life and to fight for a more Liberal and fairer UK.
I know very well that the Liberal Democrats core aim to make sure all have opportunity to reach their full potential is a touch stone that makes us different from other parties. I wish to use my new role to fight to open opportunities and make sure that ladders for people to climb to reach their full potential are firmly planted for more people. I will make sure I shout up to ensure this happens. Also to fight with all my northern spirit those who seek to deny opportunities.
Lib Dem Peer Lord Loomba has announced that his international charity, the Loomba Foundation, will be providing sewing machines to help empower women in India. The project, which will provide sewing machines to help 5,000 widows, has been supported by the Punjab Chief Minister and regional government.
The women will undergo training for 2 to 3 months and will each receive their own sewing machine so they can make garments.This partnership means that the widows can earn money, become self sufficient, educate their children and lead a life of dignity.
The project also includes the set-up of a Rapid Advisory Group (RAG) in local bodies that will seek to address the problems that widows face such as violence and dealing with issues relating to inheritance rights. The RAG will provide counselling where necessary and assistance for approaching law enforcement agencies if deemed necessary.
Lord Loomba said:
“Having been born in Dhilwan, District Kapurthala and studying at the D.A.V. College in Jallandhar, I have always been connected to the soil of Punjab, no matter where my destiny has taken me. Even though I am a parliamentarian in the UK, and my Foundation works actively to bring widows out of abject poverty in different parts of the world, nothing gives me more joy than to see my own home state joining hands for this worthy cause.
“We celebrated India’s 68th Independence Day last week, but we are yet to ensure financial independence for millions of our widows. I hope that this partnership with the Punjab Government proves to be just the beginning of a long relationship that aims to completely eradicate the stigma and the hardships associated with widowhood across Punjab and the entire country. I therefore hope that other states in India will also come forward and join hands with The Loomba Foundation to empower widows.”
Government talk of returning jihadis and ‘western values’ won’t keep us safe. We need a coordinated international strategy to defeat those who threaten us
It is always easy to persuade frightened people to part with their liberties. But it is always right for politicians who value liberty to resist attempts to increase arbitrary executive powers unless this is justified, not by magnifying fear, but by actual facts.
On Friday, the government announced that the imminent danger of jihadi attack meant Britain’s threat level should be raised to “severe”. Then, from the prime minister downwards, Tory ministers took to every available airwave to tell us how frightened we should be and why this required a range of new powers for them to exercise. For the record, the threat level in Northern Ireland has been “severe” for the past four years – as it was in all Britain for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, when the IRA threat was at its greatest.
I say this not to deny the threat from returning jihadis – though as the former head of counter-terrorism for MI6, Richard Barrett said on Saturday, this should not be overestimated. But rather to make the point that this is not a new threat. It is one we have faced before and one we know how to deal with – effectively, without panic and without a whole new range of executive powers that could endanger our liberties. Indeed, when it comes to facing threats, it was surely far more difficult to cope with IRA terrorists slipping across the Irish Sea than it is to stop jihadis returning from Iraq?
Lib Dem Wales Office Minister Jenny Randerson is today visiting Portmeirion, the beautifully-crafted Italianate village and hotel in Porthmadog.
The village attracts visitors from across the globe – more than 200,000 in 2013 – and has a cult following from its role as the setting for television series The Prisoner.
The Minister will then visit the majestic Plas Newydd on the Menai Straits to tour the house and see its revolutionary marine source heat pump.
The innovative system pumps a small amount of sea water from the Menai Straits through pipes from a heat exchanger, up 30 metres of cliff face into the mansion’s boiler house. The system, installed earlier this year, will save the property around £40,000 a year in heating bills.
Baroness Randerson said:
Plas Newydd and Portmeirion are leaders in their fields and offer tourists a glimpse of something very special in the areas of architecture and science. They both draw visitors to this splendid area of Wales.
We need to encourage those visiting Wales for the NATO Summit to take the opportunity to explore all we have to offer. I look forward to promoting these and the many other fantastic venues across Wales to those I’ll be meeting at the forthcoming NATO-related events.