Yesterday in the Commons Chamber
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): On the day when the whole House celebrates with pride and congratulates our servicemen on their valour in Afghanistan, would it not be appropriate to consider early-day motion 813?
[That this House records its sorrow at the deaths of 453 British soldiers in Afghanistan and notes the post-conflict judgements by Brigadier Ed Butler that the UK was under-prepared and under-resourced, by General Sir Peter Wall that the calculus was wrong, by Major General Andrew Mackay that the war was a series of shifting plans, unobtainable objectives, propaganda and spin, by former ambassador Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles that the UK operation was a massive act of collective self-deception by military and politicians unable to admit how badly it was going, and by General Lord Dannatt that the UK knew it was heading for two considerable size operations and really only had the organisation and manpower for one; and calls for an early inquiry into the conduct of the war in order to avoid future blunders.]
Early-day motion 813 lists the comments since the war of the generals who took part. They universally say that it was futile and an act of self-delusion in which lives were wasted. Is it not right that we consider what happened in that war and have a full inquiry as early as possible, in order to avoid other hubristic politicians sending young men to die in vain?
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Mr Hague: The hon. Gentleman often pursues this issue and we have discussed it before. These are important issues; it is always important to learn the lessons from any military conflict. I do not agree with his assessment, having been to Afghanistan many times. I have to reflect on the fact that international terrorist bases were operating in Afghanistan before the western military action which are not there today. Our national security has been improved as a result, and the lives of millions of people in Afghanistan have been improved by the action we took. We will disagree on that assessment, but no doubt it can continue to be debated over the years ahead.
SIR Jimmy Savile
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): On 11 different occasions, Savile attended new year’s eve parties at 10 Downing street. He was honoured, knighted and lionised by the establishment. They might not have known, but the unanswered question is: why did the intelligence and security services not warn? Why did they constantly give him clearance, allowing him not only to mix with Prime Ministers and royalty, but to prey on these defenceless innocents?
Mr Hunt: The reason, I think, is that the security services would not have known about this. What the report makes clear is that where people did speak out about concerns, nothing was done. That is what is so unacceptable and what we have to change. Savile was a national celebrity, who was treated as such by the establishment at the time, the establishment not having any idea of this evil abuse that was happening.
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Does the report recognise the unique character of the BBC, which has made a priceless contribution to Welsh culture and language and given us the most trusted news service because of its duty of balance, which must greatly irritate the Daily Mail and the Daily Express? Can we take it that the report is not influenced by the scurrilous accusation made against the hon. Gentleman in a tabloid newspaper when he was first appointed to work for Margaret Thatcher, in which he was described as “Maggie’s Toy Boy”?
Mr Whittingdale: I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is correct; it was a very long time ago and I had rather hoped that people had forgotten that particular headline. I did not mention this in my statement, but of course we recognise the BBC’s important role not only in providing BBC Wales and Welsh programming, but in supporting S4C, which was a creation of the Conservative Government. That is very important. The BBC’s reputation for accurate news reporting is absolutely essential, and no member of the Committee would ever want to see that put in jeopardy.
Paul Flynn: May I state that I have a close financial interest in this matter? I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was discussed at great length by the Public
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Administration Committee in the last Parliament. Does he have a formula, which is what we were looking for, that suggests who is responsible for losses made? Can we have a scheme that is consistent for all pension schemes that get in trouble, such as the Allied Steel and Wire scheme, which has still not been resolved? If he has such a formula, perhaps it could be agreed to between the parties now, so that what is national responsibility, personal responsibility and company responsibility is accepted and we have a resilient formula that can be used for Equitable Life, Allied Steel and Wire and all those that go broke in the future.
Bob Blackman: I note the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. The key point is that the Equitable Life policy holders have been through the courts and through the parliamentary ombudsman, and the matter has been found in their favour.