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Syria: Local MP’s speak to The Herald

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The PM has no effective followup strategy: Nia Griffith

The PM has no effective followup
strategy: Nia Griffith

AFTER a long, passionate, and at times ill-tempered debate, on Thursday (Dec 2), MP’s voted on the Government’s motion on the beginning of airstrikes in Syria.

By 397 votes to 223, the House of Commons voted in favour of airstrikes.

The Herald asked each of our local MP’s to comment on the debate and the reasoning behind their personal votes.

In an open letter to his constituents, Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire) said: “Having listened carefully to the debate I supported the motion. But I would like to draw your readers’ attention to the speech made by Hilary Benn (Shadow Foreign Secretary) at the conclusion of the debate. The reasons I supported the debate are two-fold:

“Firstly, the threat to Britain’s national security. ISIS are motivated by an extremist religious philosophy which they wish to impose on the West. Their fighters have targeted and killed UK and other European citizens and they have tried to launch Paris style attacks on British soil – there have been 7 attacks foiled in the last 6 months alone. Innocent UK citizens are being targeted and killed now.

“Secondly, the UK, in coalition with others at the request of the Iraqi government, has for some time been taking action against ISIS in Iraq. What we voted to do was to extend our activity over Iraq (which has been happening for some time) across the border into Syria.

“Apart from the issue of national security, millions of refugees have fled Syria. Britain has been fulfilling a moral obligation to help them, both through paying for safe refugee camps in Turkey and the Middle East and by taking in thousands of refugees. If we have a moral obligation to look after Syrian refugees, then we have the moral obligation to intervene and take action to prevent more coming.

“We are already involved as we are attacking ISIS in Iraq. We have a high level of expertise in the use of targeted missiles and drones. In particular, we have missiles that are highly accurate against moving vehicles. In addition we have been asked by many of the UK’s most important allies to help. Defeating IS is a global challenge and we cannot stand back and expect our allies to defend our interests without any input from the UK.”

Stephen Crabb’s office directed us to comments made by the Secretary of State before the debate: “Having spent months reflecting on the increasing threat that ISIL poses to us both at home and abroad, I believe we must take action to eradicate this evil organisation.

“I have received a large amount of correspondence from my constituents on this issue. Many people have got in touch to let me know that they are in favour of action, and many people have told me that they are against. Those who are against are concerned primarily with the legality of military action, and the risk of civilian casualties.

“A number of people have also raised concerns that the extension of British air strikes will make Britain a target for ISIL terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, we are already a top-tier target for ISIL. The security services have foiled seven terrorist attacks in the UK in the last year alone. The threat is already here, and we must take action to tackle the source of that threat.

“Of course, air strikes alone aren’t going to solve this issue, which is why we want to take action as part of a wider diplomatic and humanitarian strategy, one which achieves a political solution to the conflict.

“There are no easy options here, and all carry risk. I believe that standing back and not taking action at this time is the worst option of all.”

Nia Griffith (Llanelli), Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, told The Herald: “I am disappointed at the outcome of the Syria vote, as I am fearful for innocent Syrian civilians, and still feel that the Prime Minister has no effective follow-up strategy. I sincerely hope however that he and the Foreign Secretary will have listened to the arguments, and will make sure that the UK really uses its influential position in the world to bring countries together to push for progress on cutting off the flow of resources to Daesh and finding a lasting political settlement for the area.

“It is understandable that in the wake of appalling atrocities in Paris, that we should want to do something urgently to combat Daesh / Isis and show solidarity with our allies, but we should beware of simply bombing places like Raqqa in Syria as a knee-jerk reaction, which, as fleeing Syrians have pointed out, would inevitably lead to civilian casualties.

“We all abhor Daesh with their barbaric acts, and their murdering of innocent people including many Muslims, but military experts have warned that air strikes alone are not sufficient to drive Daesh out of the territory it holds.

“Far more needs to be done to cut off their supplies of oil and weapons, and to prevent more young people being drawn into their hateful propaganda and radicalisation. But in terms of re-taking the parts of Syria they control, we need to have a strategy which includes how and by whom the peace can be secured. The Prime Minister talked vaguely about some 70,000 rebel forces, but they are scattered geographically, and composed of many disparate groups. The Prime Minister could not give us details about their commitment or capacity for taking and holding territory.”

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East & Dinefwr) was at pains to spell out his opposition to UK engagement in the region: “The Prime Minister and others believe that an immediate airborne military response is required in Syria from UK forces to help defeat Daesh. I believe that it is likely to have little effect and could exacerbate the strategic problems western powers face.

“Speaking on December 2, the Prime Minister said nothing new that persuaded me to change my views. The big danger now is the absence of a clear exit strategy for UK forces.

“Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell told George Bush junior: ‘You break it, you own it’. It is a responsibility we will have to deal with.”

On the deployment of UK forces, Mr Edwards told our reporter: “We offer our full support to our forces, they are there as a result of a political decision. However, we will continue to scrutinise and challenge the government – as we did in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Where Mr Cameron’s case fell apart was on his 70,000 figure for forces on the ground. Nobody takes that seriously and what I – and others – are wary of is mission creep leading to the deployment of ground forces.”

Mr Edwards concluded: “If this is a new British foreign policy strategy – to intervene against Daesh wherever it is – where do we stop? The Sinai? Egypt? Tunisia?

“We could face perpetual war across the Middle East and North Africa.”

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Community

Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire

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FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.

One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.

One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.

“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”

The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.

The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.

Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.

Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.

John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future. 

 ”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”  

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Family of power station worker calls on former colleagues to help with asbestos claim

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THE WIFE of a Carmarthenshire man, who was just 66 when he died of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1970s to help understand where and how he contracted the disease.

Peter Colton, from Llanelli, died in July 2021 after being diagnosed with the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma.

He worked as a conveyor and weighbridge operator for the CEGB at Carmarthen Bay Power Station. During his time at the power station, his duties included offloading coal wagons and conveying coal to the boilers.

It is possible that Mr Colton was exposed to asbestos during those years and now his family has sought the help of local asbestos specialists J.M Parsons, to investigate a claim for compensation.

Ann Colton, Mr Colton’s wife, wants answers. She said: “Peter was diagnosed with mesothelioma and died just six weeks later. He had been suffering from shortness of breath and just had no quality of life.

“It was devastating to see someone who had been so healthy and active slowly get worse and worse. We just want to know where and how he was exposed to asbestos and hope someone out there can help us.”

According to data from the Health and Safety Executive, annual mesothelioma deaths in Britain increased steeply over the last 50 years, a consequence of mainly occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

Amanda Jones is one of the specialists at J.M Parsons, which is owned by Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons has paved the way for asbestos litigation in the UK ever since it brought about the first successful asbestos disease claim to the House of Lords in 1972, 50 years ago.

She said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working with Peter Colton in Carmarthen Bay Power Station in the 1970s or anyone who worked in the same field as Peter beyond the 1970s.

“Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Colton’s family as they may be able to add important information that will assist us in building a civil claim. We hope that we will then be able to answer questions about the conditions that Mr Colton worked in during his working life.”

Anyone with information should contact Amanda Jones on 01554 779940, or via email at amanda@jmplaw.co.uk.

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Business

Carmarthenshire cheese maker secures Co-op listing

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Caws Cenarth award

A CHEESEMAKER from Carmarthenshire has secured its first listing with the Co-op as part of the retailer’s continued focus on local and community sourcing.

Family-owned Caws Cenarth, which has cheese making in the family dating back to 1903, will now see two of its cheeses listed in more than 20 Co-op stores across the region.

Made on farm in Glyneithinog, Caws Cenarth will supply Co-op with its Organic Caerffili – which has a light and lemony taste with hints of sea salt – and, one of its best known cheeses the Organic Perl Las Mini – which is described as a blue cheese, golden in colour, with a creamy, gently salty taste that grows stronger with maturity.

Carwyn Adams, whose parents rekindled the family tradition for cheese making in 1987 with the creation of Caws Cenarth, said: “We are absolutely thrilled. I shop in our local Co-op and regularly thought how nice it would be to see our cheese on the shelf and, now that is to become a reality. Working with Co-op will support our business development, and raise awareness of our cheeses, not only across the region, but also further afield as visitors to the area often look for local produce to take back home with them as gifts or to remind them of their stay in the area.”

Jo Wadsworth, Co-op’s Community Buying Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome Caws Cenarth onto our shelves. We know that our Members and customers value the quality and provenance of locally produced food and drink and, here at the Co-op we are focussed on supporting local suppliers as part of our commitment to creating value and making a difference in our local communities.”

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