Strenghthening our national defences

The Strategic Defence and Security Review published yesterday set out a detailed plan to strengthen our armed forces. Our national security depends on our economic security. It is only because the Government has taken and is continuing to take difficult decisions to improve the economy that the Country can afford to invest more in our national security.

The plan announced yesterday set out how £178 billion will be spent over the next ten decade. The plan includes:

  • Creating two new strike brigades with forces of up to 5,000 personnel each who will be fully equipped to deploy rapidly and sustain themselves in the field.
  • Increasing the size of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by a total of 700 personnel.
  • Renewing the continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent – our ultimate insurance policy.
  • Investing in nine maritime patrol aircraft to protect our nuclear deterrent, hunt down hostile submarines and enhance our maritime search and rescue.
  • Extending the life of our multirole Typhoon aircraft for 10 extra years through to 2040, meaning we will be able to create two additional squadrons.
  • Accelerating the F-35 programme, by buying 42 jets by 2023.
  • Investing £1.9 billion over five years in our cyber security.

Today the House of Commons will be debating a motion tabled by the Scottish National Party which simply states : ‘That this House believes that Trident should not be renewed.’  It will be defeated.


Although politics this week is likely to be dominated by the Chancellor announcing the result of the Spending Review in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday today I understand the detail of the Strategic Defence and Security Review will be announced.

In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris the threat facing us here in the UK is all too clear. It is frequently said that the number one duty of Government is to defend the realm and we will learn later today how that is to be reflected in our defence and security services in an uncertain and dangerous    World.

I am travelling back to Westminster and in addition to Defence questions and the SDSR statement the main business is scheduled to be the Bill enacting welfare reforms in Northern Ireland.

Oldham by-election

I went over to Oldham yesterday to support one of our Bury North Councillors James Daly as the Conservative Candidate in the by-election to be held on 3rd December. James would make an excellent Member of Parliament. He contested Bolton North East at the general election.
I was canvassing rather than delivering leaflets so I was able to chat to the local residents. There was understandably a lot of sadness that their Member of Parliament had di so suddenly. Even voters who did not vote Labour spoke highly of him. Michael Meacher had represented the Oldham constituency in its various guises for 45 years. I remember studying articles he had written when I was studying politics in the Sixth Form and so it was rather a strange when I was sitting opposite him in the House of Commons. He was a principled politician who always stood up for what he believed in.
One other comment about my visit over to Oldham – it was cold, very cold.

Compulsory First Aid Education

Another Friday in the House of Commons yesterday and another worthy but, in my opinion, inappropriate Bill being brought forward. This time  a Bill to make it compulsory to teach emergency  first aid in state funded secondary schools.

I entirely agree it is a good thing for more people to learn first aid skills but to force schools into teaching it is not the right way forward.

I think it should be left to schools to decide what other subjects outside of the core subjects should be taught. Many schools already teach first aid skills. There were many problems with the detail of the Bill too. For example, it was not clear how long the lessons were expected to be or indeed whether there was to be any assessment as to whether the pupils had leant the skills and learnt them properly. There was no indication of the actual cost or indeed of where the money would come from.

There are many voluntary organisations which provide excellent training on first aid and hopefully after the publicity over the Bill more people will decide to learn first aid skills.

I did a first aid badge when I was in the Scouts but it was years ago and I am not sure I would feel confident today about using those skills now so periodical updating is also, I think, essential.

Northern Powerhouse

I noted a report on the BBC this week that a ComRes poll they had commissioned had found that whilst 46% of people understood what the Northern Powerhouse strategy was 44% had not heard of it and a further 20% had heard of it but did not know anything about it.

In the Business of the House Question yesterday I asked the Leader of the House if we could therefore have a debate to raise awareness of this issue. In the process raising awareness by simply asking the question!

In the afternoon we had an excellent three hour debate on International Men’s Day mainly focused on the issue of the number of male suicides but covering other issues too. As luck would have it the debate was responded too by our former Bury North MP now the Care Minister in the Department of Health the Rt Hon.Alistair Burt MP. Many thanks to all those who have contacted me to thank me for taking part in the debate.


International Men’s Day

Today is International Men’s Day and will be marked  for the first time by a debate in Parliament. I intend to use the debate to highlight the growing differential between the number of males committing suicide and the number of females.  Across the UK as a whole the Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2013 the suicide rate was 11.9 deaths per 100,000 but this figure masks the difference between the rate among males which was 19.0 and the rate among females was 5.1.

Some claim that the number of suicides is affected by changes to benefit rates and undoubtedly, financial problems will be a factor in why some people commit suicide but this does not explain the disparity between men and women. This gap is longstanding and growing. In every year since 1981 the rate has been higher among men than women. In the 5 years between 1981 and 1985 the average ratio was 1.78. In the 5 years to 2013 the average ratio was 3.21

More information can be found at

G20 Statement

Yesterday the Prime Minister made a statement following his attendance at the G20 meeting and on the terrorist attacks in Paris. It was clear from some of the questions from the Labour benches that there is disquiet in Labour ranks about the response of the Labour Leader to the threat we face. I was lucky enough to be called to ask a question to the Prime Minister and I asked for the new Investigatory Powers bill to be brought forward so that security services can have all the powers they need.

Prior to that in questions to the Department of Health I raised the question of the relative numbers of male suicides compared to female suicides. Figures from the charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) show that male suicide is the biggest single killer of men aged under the age of 45 and last year 76% of all suicides were men. This is a subject I hope to return to in a Westminster Hall debate tomorrow.