Today's debate in the Commons. Only 28 MPs voted for the Government pouchy and fives times as many voted against.
The hon. Gentleman ignores the fact that we went for 20 years without doing anything, as has been suggested. We did not interfere. I do not believe that the cull will do any good, because the evidence suggesting that is overwhelming. The hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) complained about the geek manifesto, which asks for science-based policies in the House, which are rare. He went on to say, “I have absolutely no evidence for this, but…” before putting forward a preposterous claim.
The trouble with the House is that so often we have no evidence for what we do. We are rich in prejudice in what we do. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the way that we treat farmers. As far as the Conservatives are concerned, we know that what the NFU wants, the NFU gets. I suggest that those Members should start to do a little more thinking for themselves, stand up to farmers—I and many other Members have many farmers in our constituencies—and tell them when they are wrong. They are certainly wrong on this.
We went through a long period during which bovine TB being was not a special problem. Why is the concern always about bovine TB, because 10 times as many animals die on the farm as a result of other diseases and no compensation is paid? Why are the farmers no desperate about that? Why do we concentrate on this one disease?
The turning point when the disease became out of control and a major problem was the epidemic of foot and mouth disease. The controls were laid off because the focus was on eliminating the foot and mouth disease and the other problem was restocking. Cattle were moved to different areas, and we suddenly had a massive problem with bovine TB, which was mostly the result of cattle-to-cattle or soil-to-cattle infection. Some people want to seek a simple solution, but the solution is a false one. We should look at the geek manifesto and have policies that are rich in science and in the truth. Otherwise, we will do nothing now to solve a problem that will evolve. In the near future, vaccination will become a practical solution. I believe that the decision taken by the Welsh Government is the right one.
Let us look at what is going on. I believe that last week the coalition Government grabbed the statement by the NFU as manna from heaven because they knew that they were politically embarrassed. They are redefining themselves as a new party that is nastier than ever before. The public do not see the justification for a mass slaughter of a beloved animal as being reasonable or practical. In a year’s time, when the coalition Government have done everything they can, having enthusiastically blamed the previous Government, the European Union and civil servants for everything that goes on, and if they get another year and a half to build the incredible ineptocracy that they are creating, where will their courage be then? Will they tell the public, “We need a badger cull now”? Will they get deeper into unpopularity? Will they advertise themselves again as the even nastier party, by attacking defenceless living creatures?
A group of people in my constituency have been caught indulging in badger culling. I think that many of us would agree that there is an element of sport in this that, sadly, many people enjoy. They enjoy killing wild animals. It is not part of the growing civilisation of this country, as we go from decade to decade and treat other living species with greater respect, not contempt.
The entire House is grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee for adding a dose of reality to the myths that have surrounded this topic. Our efforts have been well-intentioned but ludicrously over-ambitious in that we have tried to change a 13th century society into a modern state. Is not the message of the report that we cannot win hearts and minds with bombs and bullets and that we must do our best not to raise hopes—particularly for women—that will be sadly and cruelly dashed in the future? We should see what we can do not as soldiers and a military force, but as people offering aid, to rescue what we can from the wreckage of the past 11 years of failed policies.
I accept part of what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not entirely accept his apocalyptic version of events. Real progress has been made; we should not underestimate that. Although Committee members’ opportunities to travel and engage were limited, we were impressed that people, especially women, told us, “Please be in no doubt that what you’ve done has dramatically improved the quality of our lives, and please don’t abandon us when your troops withdraw.” That is a crucial point.
May we have a debate on early-day motion 607?
[That this House notes that Ministers have recently repeated the claim that the lives of British soldiers should be put at risk in Afghanistan to counter the alleged Afghan Taliban terrorist threat to the UK; believes that there is no truth in this claim and that the lives of British soldiers should not be sacrificed when no threat to the UK exists; and calls on the Coalition Government to adopt an independent foreign policy.]
Canadian and Dutch soldiers have returned to their own countries from Afghanistan with their heads held high after large sacrifices in blood and treasure. We have heard today the dreadful news of two further deaths of British soldiers. There will be many tributes to them that will be sincere and heartfelt, but will not history judge that their epitaph should be, “They died to protect the reputation of cowardly Ministers”?
The House knows not only that we will pay heartfelt tribute to service personnel, including the two who it was announced yesterday have tragically died in Afghanistan, but that the people of this country and this House will take the view that they have died in defence of the interests of this country and to protect this country and that we are in Afghanistan to combat a terrorist threat and, alongside that, to help put in place in Afghanistan a sustainable and more democratic country for the future. That is why they are there and we should honour and value the contribution that service personnel make.