Dr Andrew Murrison MP

31 Mar 2009 15:33:18

Will the UK have to deploy troops to Pakistan?

James Arbuthnot MP Defence Questions came around again yesterday. Conservative members dominated the session and exhibited excellent technical knowledge.

James Arbuthnot (MP for North-East Hampshire) chairs the Defence Select Committee. He asked about Pakistan:

"Does the Secretary of State accept that the events in Lahore today show that instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan extends far beyond the border region? While we have troops in Afghanistan, we do not have them in Pakistan. Is the Secretary of State, along with the United States, rethinking his entire strategy for the region? Will he make a statement and perhaps allow a debate and possibly even a vote in this House about that?

Mr. Hutton: Yes, we are looking very carefully at all these matters. I am sure that there will be an opportunity to have a proper debate in this place in the usual way, either on a statement or in another way. It is very important not just for the security of our operation in Afghanistan but for the security of the UK as a whole that we develop an approach that encompasses the security challenge that Afghanistan poses as well as the growing threat of instability and extremism in Pakistan. We very much welcome President Obama’s new strategy, which was published last week. It has the prospect of significantly improving the situation in that very troubled region and we stand ready to play our part."

Former Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was also concerned:

"Is the Secretary of State aware that the Afghan Taliban have recently been successful in persuading the Pakistani Taliban to defer some of their operations in Pakistan and to join their Afghan colleagues to help to try to deal with the expected American surge? If the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban can get their act together, is it not about time that the Afghan and Pakistani Governments were also able to do so? Will the Secretary of State speak to his Pakistani colleague and impress upon him that the security of Afghanistan is crucial to the security of Pakistan itself?

Mr. Hutton: I agree very strongly with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I have already had those conversations with the Pakistani Minister of Defence, and I have had those conversations regularly with the Afghan Minister of Defence as well. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman 100 per cent., and we are focused very clearly on doing exactly what he has just said."

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16 Mar 2009 11:58:19

Mental health of the armed forces another strike against localism

Andrew_murrison_mpDr Andrew Murrison is MP for Westbury, a Shadow Defence Minister and a former Surgeon Commander in the Royal Navy. He has drawn attention to the issue of the mental health of armed forces personnel through a written question:

"Dr. Murrison: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will provide psychological screening for those who have served in the armed forces (a) one year and (b) five years after discharge; and if he will make a statement. [261047]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Health care for veterans is the responsibility of the health departments and NHS and the 2009 NHS Operating Framework includes a section on veterans' services. NHS services such as screening are not decided centrally but commissioned in line with local needs and priorities. MOD, DOH and the third sector are working together to raise awareness of military issues among civilian health professionals and administrators and NHS-led veterans’ mental health services providing best practice assessment and treatment in an accessible acceptable way are being piloted at sites across the country. These pilots will run for two years with independent evaluation and analysis. Lessons learned will inform future service planning. For those veterans with mental health problems living outside pilot areas and who have served in operations since 1982, the Medical Assessment Programme at St. Thomas's hospital, London, provides a mental health assessment by an expert in the problems that arise from military service. Treatment recommendations are then made to the GP."

Yet again I am bound to cite this case as an example of the ill-advised nature of localism. Why on Earth shouldn't the Government implement Dr Murrison's suggestion? It should be standard practice, and is emphatically not best decided on a local level.

Tom Greeves