Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 9th December 2015

The decision to support air strikes in the House of Commons last week was one of the hardest I have had to make in my time as a Member of Parliament. I listened to a number of Parliamentary statements about this and I read as much as I could about it too.

I was in the Chamber for many hours for the debate, and there were many excellent points made by all sides. I would like to thank everyone who contacted me about this issue, no matter what their view was.

Sadly, negotiating with Daesh is not a possibility and by not taking action against them we would only allow their evil to continue to spread. Their infrastructure would carry on expanding, their goal of creating a caliphate would move ever closer, they would recruit more British citizens to commit atrocities and their capabilities of organising terrorist attacks would only grow. More importantly, their barbarity would continue to propagate. We would see more children enslaved, more women raped, and many more people displaced.

This is not a repeat of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, or Afghanistan, or even Libya. This is not even a new departure. In September 2014, we voted overwhelmingly to take action against Daesh in Iraq. This is an extension of that, over, what is now, a meaningless border. We are not looking to overthrow a regime, or rebuild a state from scratch. As someone who vehemently opposed the Iraq war, I do not believe that our past is a reason not join our allies in Syria this time.

I think that our strategy is clear – it is the degradation of Daesh and with the technology we possess, we have the capacity to do so with pinpoint accuracy. Morally, we also have responsibility to do what we can to create a better future for Syria. As for civilian casualties, if we do not launch air strikes on Daesh in Syria, even more civilians will be killed and even more monstrous actions will take place.

We cannot hold back because of a fear that they will strike back at us. Daesh have already tried to attack this country and will continue to try even if we do not intervene. We have to thank our magnificent intelligence services for preventing this, but we need to do more to help them. Daesh hate our way of life and if we were not to militarily intervene, there capacity to launch attacks would only flourish.

I accept that we cannot stop ISIS with military action alone and, of course, it must go hand in hand with a diplomatic process. The Vienna talks, the Kerry initiative, the Lavrov/Assad dialogue and the ongoing negotiations for a nationwide Syrian ceasefire will continue, and this situation will only get better without Daesh.

On Monday, I attended another important debate in Westminster Hall relating to a recent online petition that calls for a ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops. Neonicotinoids are pesticides in agricultural use that control pests such as aphids and grubs, although I have been contacted by lots of residents who are concerned about the effects of these pesticides on bees and other pollinators.

I share these concerns, because bees play a vital role in our countryside when it comes to pollination of our crops and flowers, and I listened to the debate very carefully. As my friend and colleague George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, mentioned during the debate, bee populations have been in decline since the mid-1950s, which can be attributed to a number of factors including loss of habitat and disease.

I am pleased that the Government is committed to helping our bees through its National Pollinator Strategy which lays out plans to improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators over the next three to five years, and identify any additional actions needed to protect them. It also describes actions that can be implemented now, building on initiatives already under way. 

Just a few weeks ago, the Minister launched an implementation plan to start moving that strategy forward. It includes a range of issues, such as commissioning new evidence so that we can better understand the pressures on our bees, and looking at integrated pest management. I look forward to the outcome of the debate which will be published this week.

I was delighted that I went to last Thursday's Annual Special Christmas Concert at Citifaith, in which many of our special schools took part, including Chalet, Robert Le Kyng, Brimble Hill, Westlea & Uplands School. My thanks to all the staff and Swindon Music Service for ensuring that it was another memorable and uplifting evening, which for me and many others marks the start of the Christmas season.

Please pop by to see me this Friday at the Lawn Community Centre 3.30-5 if you have a local or national issue that you would like to raise. If you can’t make this date, I’ll be hosting a Wroughton street surgery outside Ellendune Community Centre 12-1.30 this Saturday. As ever, you can also contact my constituency team on 01793 533393 if you would like to arrange an alternative date to see me.