Last night, it was with a heavy heart that I took the decision to vote against air strikes in Syria.
In the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, we face the greatest threat to peace and democracy in our time. The atrocious attacks in Paris confirmed that this terrorist organisation is not constrained by any shred of mercy, humanity, or reason. Its sole barbaric aim is to perpetuate a state of chaos and fear through indiscriminate murder. It must be confronted, and it must be defeated. I am as committed as anyone to achieving this.
At the outset of yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister was absolutely right to emphasise that the question is not about whether we fight terrorism, but about how best we do that.
This week, I attended a high-level briefing for Privy Councillors on the merits of extending strike action across the border from Iraq to Syria. I have also read the key documents including the report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and the Prime Minister's response.
Yesterday's debate was measured and well-reasoned on both sides of the House.
I do not have the certainty on this highly complex dilemma that some people profess, and I readily admit that this was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make as a Member of Parliament. I listened closely and weighed up the evidence at length, as I believe every MP has a duty to do on matters of such profound national and international importance. The arguments in favour of military intervention were persuasive. The question was whether bombing from the air made sense. Many of you will be aware that the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs voted in support of the Government’s plans, and I respect the view taken by my colleagues.
In the end, I was not convinced by the Government’s case. With the absence of ground forces and no clear long-term plan, there are serious doubts about whether air strikes will be effective as a means of degrading Daesh. My belief is that this old-fashioned and blunt instrument is not an appropriate response to a new and sophisticated threat. The force we seek to combat is dispersed in a civilian population, clandestine, and difficult to target with air strikes.
A bombing campaign is extremely likely to lead to large numbers of civilian deaths, greater instability in the region, and fuel the radicalisation of young people in a vulnerable population. These factors tie in with the apocalyptic narrative and recruitment strategy of Daesh. Critically, I could not be confident that the kind of action proposed by the Government would make people safer at home or in Syria.
I am not a pacifist: I firmly believe we must take decisive action to eliminate terrorism. But I concluded that this step was not the answer we need. The House reached a different conclusion, which I respect, and I fully back our military personnel who risk their lives on active service in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the battle against terrorism.
Norman Lamb opened the new library at Stalham Academy today. Ably assisted by a number of students, Mr Lamb declared the new resource officially open and congratulated the staff and pupils for some truly impressive achievements in this year's World Education Games.
The House of Commons will debate out of area mental health placements thanks to action by North Norfolk Member of Parliament, Norman Lamb.
Over the last few weeks, Norman Lamb has been speaking out in support of junior doctors regarding the ongoing dispute over the junior doctors’ contract.
The Conservative Government has recently proposed a number of changes to the pay and working practices of junior doctors, claiming that the current contract is acting as a barrier to a seven-day service in the NHS – even though there is no evidence that this is actually the case.
Junior doctors are extremely concerned that the changes proposed by the Government will disadvantage junior doctors who work regular weekend and night shifts, increase the risk of doctors being overworked, and discriminate against doctors who choose to work less than full time, including many women who choose to step back from full-time work in order to start a family. This is all happening at a time when the NHS is already suffering from staff shortages and low morale.
Norman spoke up for junior doctors during a debate in the House of Commons, criticising the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for pursuing these plans and warning that there may be a mass exodus of junior doctors from the NHS if they feel undervalued by the new contract. He added:
“I met some junior doctors yesterday and found them all to be very passionate and completely dedicated to the NHS. I found them to be not driven and motivated by pay. I have to say to the Secretary of State that junior doctors find it frankly insulting to be told that they have been misled by the British Medical Association [over the impact of the contract]. They are intelligent enough to make up their own minds, and they have done.”
You can read Norman’s entire speech here.
After the debate, Norman wrote to the Health Secretary to challenge his “pledge” that not a single doctor working up to 56 hours a week will suffer a pay in their cut. In his response, however, Jeremy Hunt refused offer any assurances for the many junior doctors who legally work beyond these hours.
You can read Norman’s letter, and the Health Secretary’s response, here.
Jeremy Hunt’s latest offer to junior doctors fell far short of addressing these concerns, and the BMA will now press ahead with balloting their members over potential strike action. Urging the Health Secretary to resolve the situation, Norman said:
“It is essential Jeremy Hunt takes meaningful steps to address the legitimate concerns of junior doctors. I sincerely hope that strike action can be avoided, and that the Government and the BMA Junior Doctors’ Committee can negotiate a new contract which offers the best deal for junior doctors and the public.
“In the long run, I am concerned that this dispute will lead to many hardworking and talented NHS staff leaving the NHS unless the Government is able to achieve a satisfactory resolution.
“This dispute reflects wider problems of staff and resource pressures in the NHS, which the Government must do more to resolve. In the debate in the Commons, I repeated my call for a non-partisan fundamental review of NHS and social care funding, as proposed in the Liberal Democrats’ 2015 manifesto. I hope that the other parties will work with me to ensure a sustainable future for our NHS.”
Norman Lamb is calling on the Government to take urgent action by investing extra resources in adult social care, following new research which highlights a serious care crisis for people with disabilities.
The new research released today by Scope, the disability charity, shows that some disabled social care users are waiting up to 14 hours to go to the toilet, sleeping in their clothes, and unable to eat or wash, while many are left socially isolated and unable to work or look for a job because of a lack of support.
More than half of disabled people using social care aren’t getting the support they need to live independently, while 83% said that they don’t have enough hours in their care package.
Commenting, Norman Lamb said: “It is simply unacceptable that some of the most vulnerable people in society are being let down and left to fend for themselves due to a lack of support.
“People with disabilities deserve to live with dignity just like anybody else. This means having the right support to allow them to participate in society and live as independently as possible.
“Carers up and down the country are doing a wonderful job, working long hours and often in very difficult circumstances. But we all know that the system is under severe strain as a result of chronic underinvestment.
“Now that the Conservative Government has abandoned the cap on care costs, which I secured as Care Minister at the Department of Health, many families are also worried about how they will be able to afford the spiralling costs of care over the next few years.
“Extra funding is critical to improve support for people with disabilities, and the Government must ensure a fair deal for social care in the upcoming Spending Review. I am also calling on the Government once again to reverse its u-turn and introduce a cap on care costs from April 2016.”
The full findings, together with the stories of disabled people using social care, are available at: www.scope.org.uk/social-care
There is a significant shortage of appropriate and suitable homes for older people and this needs to be a priority for the government, according to North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.
Neatishead resident Allison Bradnock will contest the South Smallburgh by-election for the Liberal Democrats.
Norman Lamb says he wants Britain to be a world leader in providing care and support for those dealing with mental health issues.
Norman Lamb has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer demanding that free school meals are not cut by the government.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has taken part in the Macmillan Question Time in Parliament with people affected by cancer. He heard first-hand about their experiences, and why the Government needs to prioritise improvements to cancer care.