9 Oct 2013 : Column 263

6.51 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): I have tried to sit through most of the proceedings on this Bill but unfortunately yesterday I had to stay at home because I had to have an MRI scan. I do not know whether any other Member has had an MRI scan. Part of the patient’s body goes into a magnetic field and it is very noisy; there are moans and groans, bangs and clangs, whistles and whines to the extent that they give the patient a pair of headphones. Fortunately I had enough sense to take along with me the “Essential Bob Dylan” CD, and I lay there for 40 minutes and I was just getting into “Maggie’s Farm”, which is a tune I really enjoy at any time.

When I was listening earlier today to the Deputy Leader and the Leader of the House I wished to God I was back there with the headphones on, because they were making such a noise in order to try and hide what is going on here. They are the people who should be scanned, and they will be scanned very clearly about what has gone on here today and over the past few weeks, because this is not a mistake. Instead, this is part of a pattern of abuse that the two coalition parties have undertaken since this Parliament started.

There has been a range of constitutional changes for one reason and that is to get the two parties through the 2015 general election. That is not how constitutional matters should be handled. Constitutional matters should be about making this Parliament respond properly to the people of this country, not purely seeking electoral gain.

We should look at the record. What about the boundary changes? If that fix had gone through, what would we have seen? They tried to reduce the numbers to give themselves electoral advantage. They tried to put in a mathematical formula which every professional electoral registration officer said would not work, and thankfully it fell down.

They also fell down on Lords reform, which again would have given them an advantage, but they bounced back on that one. As the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said earlier, they have stuffed the other place with hundreds of people who should have been subject to this Bill’s provisions on the cash for questions issue. They have stacked the other place with people like that. Money for ermine; that is what was done.

They had the alternative vote referendum. Thankfully, that was thrown out, too. What was it for? It was for one thing and one thing only: to try to give the Liberal Democrats a constant seat in power, which they will never achieve on their own. They need to get some sort of cobbled constitutional fix which will keep them in their positions.

Now we have come to this: they have realised they are not going to be able to beat the people so they are going to try and get rid of stroppy campaigners. They want to shut people up, put them in the dark, and stop them campaigning when the people of Britain are tuned in for probably the only time in the whole Parliament—when the people want to hear what is being said, and what has been done in their name for the previous five years. They are trying to shut up the people who really know: the campaigners, the students, the Royal British Legion, the voluntary organisations, the pro and anti-hunt lobbies, and, in particular, the trade unions. They do not want

9 Oct 2013 : Column 264

them to have their say. They do not want them to expose what has been going on in their name for the previous five years.

The truth is the people have not been fooled by this. The Government must not think they have got away with this if the Bill passes tonight, goes along the corridor and comes back here in a few weeks. We know that this is being rushed through because they want it signed, sealed, delivered and stamped by the Queen before 8 May next year so there will be a full year before the election on 7 May 2015 when they can get away with hiding the facts from the nation and stopping people complaining. It will not work because the people will not forget this. They will not be forgiven for what they have done. This is not just abuse of this House, it is abuse of genuine accountable democracy.

6.54 pm

Tom Brake: I wish to make a few brief comments. First, I say to the hon. Members for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) and for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) that the problem with someone dusting down their Second Reading speech is that they miss changes made to the Bill in the interim. I would, however, like to thank all hon. Members for their contributions to this debate. I appreciate that organisations from all walks of life have expressed views—sometimes strong views—about the Bill, and I am grateful that so many have taken the time to share them.

The Bill is about transparency and giving the public confidence in our political system. I am sure that no Member would disagree that we must ensure that all those who impact on our democracy do so transparently, accountably and fairly—these measures will do that. This debate has covered a wide range of viewpoints. There is not time to address every point that has been raised, but I will quickly recap what this Bill will do, as that should address points raised. It will introduce a statutory register of consultant lobbyists to complement our existing transparency regime; it will fill a specific gap where it is not certain on whose behalf consultant lobbyists are lobbying; it will ensure that third parties campaigning at elections do so in a fully transparent manner; and it will give the public reassurance that trade unions which influence public life beyond their own members know who those members are. The Bill will bring greater transparency to our political system, as we promised to do, and I therefore commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 304, Noes 260.

Division No. 95]


6.56 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Davey, rh Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Farron, Tim

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howell, John

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Claire Perry


Mark Hunter


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

Davies, Philip

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Main, Mrs Anne

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Mearns, Ian

Miller, Andrew

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Mulholland, Greg

Munn, Meg

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Reeves, Rachel

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Ward, Mr David

Watson, Mr Tom

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Susan Elan Jones


Tom Blenkinsop

Question accordingly agreed to.

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9 Oct 2013 : Column 267

9 Oct 2013 : Column 268

Bill read the Third time and passed.

9 Oct 2013 : Column 269

Business without Debate

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Climate and Energy Policies in 2030

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 8096/13, a Commission Green Paper: A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies; and further notes the Government’s support for an ambitious EU emissions reduction target for 2030, delivered in a cost-effective, flexible, technology-neutral way, supported by a robust, reformed emissions trading system, and underpinned by a global climate agreement in 2015.—(Mr Evennett.)

Question agreed to.

Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill (Joint Committee)


That, notwithstanding the Resolution of this House of 16 April, it be an instruction to the Joint Committee on the Draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill that it should report on the draft Bill by 18 December 2013.—(Mr Evennett.)

Question agreed to.

9 Oct 2013 : Column 270

Mobile Army Surgical Hospital

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Evennett.)

7.14 pm

Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con): I never thought I would see the day when the words “Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” would be the title of a debate of mine. I grew up watching the television series “MASH”, which partly inspired me to become a doctor. I want to make a serious proposal about a capability that this country should be able to deploy abroad. I started thinking about the issue following the Syria vote in August. I voted against both motions before the House that day. After that, I thought that I should come forward with a constructive suggestion for our engagement with the crisis in Syria. This is my suggestion.

I will present a history of field hospitals in general—just a brief one; don’t worry—and discuss the humanitarian response capability that we need. I shall then mention the challenges of bringing that about and, perhaps more importantly, the details of the facility.

I became a doctor for a number of reasons, but a couple of things spring to mind. One is a book called “The Red and Green Life Machine” written by a commander in the Royal Navy, a chap called Rick Jolly. The title refers to a field hospital in the Falklands war, set up in a disused abattoir in San Carlos bay. I read the book when I was about 13. I watched every single episode of “MASH” and developed desire and ambition—initially, to become a trauma orthopaedic surgeon. I subsequently went to medical school and decided that I would be a GP. What inspired me was the desire to do something to help people in distress.

However, I stress that I am no pacifist. I did not vote in August against the intervention lightly; in fact, I am in favour of quite significant intervention if it is well thought through, coherent and backed up with a strategy for the region. However, I am against the wilful, somewhat reckless destruction of assets in a small way because that can breed more problems going forward.

We are experiencing the ongoing crisis in Syria through our TV screens. I first visited the country in 1998 and I went back as vice-chairman of the Conservative middle east council in February 2011, about three weeks before the civil war started. I have a sense of association with the country. I enjoyed both my visits—particularly the first one, when I was backpacking around as a medical student. I visited Homs, Hama and the beautiful parts of Aleppo that I fear are no longer intact. When I came back from my second visit, I was gripped with a sense of foreboding that trouble was about to start, although not as quickly as it did. I also felt the sense that Britain’s engagement with the country in its crisis should be constructive and trying desperately to bring about a peaceful end to the war.

The problem is that since then there have been more than 100,000 deaths and more than 2 million people have migrated away from the chaos. There has been one public use of chemical weapons, and it has been suggested that there have been others. We have all had to endure some pretty appalling footage of death and destruction, primarily affecting innocent civilians—women and children. It is pretty shocking to have to endure it.

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Our response should be multi-pronged. We could foresee a situation in which hard power is wielded, but soft power should also be considered. This is where I come to the MASH or mobile surgical hospital facility that I envisage for Britain. The history of field hospitals goes back to the Napoleonic wars and the gentleman called the father of combat medicine, Baron Dominique Jean Larrey. From that concept of forward surgical hospitals bringing medical support to combatants at the front line, things developed slowly. I guess that the fastest development took place during the Korean war in the early 1950s; the “MASH” TV series is based on that war, although it was always associated with the Vietnam war because of when it was made. During the Korean war, major developments were made in pushing field hospitals closer to the front line. There was the famous image of a Bell helicopter with two casualties strapped into stretchers on either side, with the purpose of bringing people back to be treated very quickly. The dictum was, “Life takes precedence over limb, function over anatomical defects.”

Since then, there have been massive advances. I have not yet visited the hospital at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, but I am told that it is a remarkable facility delivering the very best trauma care. Of particular note to Britain is our experience in Kosovo in 1999, where the British Army managed to create, in effect, a tented village for a load of refugees as well as medical facilities. It was a fantastic success, and proof of what our military are capable of.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this innovative idea to the House for consideration. I have a Territorial Army ambulance unit in my constituency and they are renowned for the good work that they have done and can do. Does he see the MASH unit being staffed by regular soldiers or TA soldiers, because I believe that both could do the job equally well?

Dr Lee: I was going to come to that. I see it as being a reserve force, not part of the regular Army, although I suspect that there will be some logistics staff maintaining the kit and the facility.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I had a field surgical team under my command in Bosnia in 1992-93. It was absolutely vital, and it was operated by a mixture of regulars and territorials. We must not think that this is necessarily soft power, because it needs security and it needs to be guarded.

Dr Lee: I thank my hon. Friend, who of course has a wealth of experience in the field in this matter. I was also going to come to the need for security. In the discussions I have had since I first mentioned this at Defence questions, there has been some disagreement about the level of security required.

The broader point is that this is about the re-tasking of our armed forces. Clearly a lot of change is going on at the Ministry of Defence and there are some cuts to regiments and to forces, but there is also a need to reconfigure forces so that they are interested in delivering not just hard power but softer power. Ultimately, in any

9 Oct 2013 : Column 272

response to a crisis—it could be a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake as well as the civil war in Syria—there needs to be joined-up thinking across all the parts of Government that would be involved.

Jonathan Lord (Woking) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and on the excellent idea that he is putting forward, which has my full support. There have been big increases in the budget for our international development funds but quite severe decreases in the defence budget. Perhaps this is a question for the Minister rather than my hon. Friend, but is there not a strong argument that when the Army is deployed on humanitarian grounds the money should come out of DFID’s budget rather than the Ministry of Defence’s budget?

Dr Lee: Yes, I was going to come to that. There should be a DFID-funded capability.

The capability needs to be constructive. A friend of mine has talked about having blue overalls, not blue helmets. In other words, we have a United Nations force with blue helmets, so why do we not have a force of people in blue overalls? Our intervention should not necessarily be military in appearance—we can also intervene in other ways. The capability should be resourceful. We are good at this stuff. We can draw on our experiences in the Balkans and the Falklands—I mentioned Rick Jolly’s field hospital—and prior to that. We are very good at this; we have the clinical expertise, in particular. The capability should be able to be expeditionary—that is, to go abroad. In the case of Syria, I foresee a situation where it could be located in a friendly country such as Jordan. It should also have a domestic application. God forbid that there is ever a chemical attack in this country, but the facility could also be deployed here.

The core goal should be to try to develop a stable world that we all appreciate, and that can be brought about by making friends and influencing people. The Arab street is not necessarily with the British or the Americans. We need to persuade civilians on the ground that we do not always have a malign, vested interest—a sense that we are just doing it for ourselves—in our approach to the middle east, but that we are there to do constructive and good things and to genuinely help people.

Turning to details and capacity, as a result of the conversations I have had I envisage a facility with at least 50 beds, perhaps more. If it is as successful as I think it will be I suspect we will extend it, but 50 beds is a good starting point. I think it should include a CT scanner, which is often not available in more rural areas and far-flung destinations. It is possible to put CT scanners in containers and companies such as Marshall Land Systems in Cambridge make container hospitals. There is no reason why we cannot do this. We need to consider whether the facility should also have paediatric and obstetric services, because it is not just soldiers such as those in the “MASH” television series who will be coming in, but children who have been affected by a neurological agent—such as those we saw in that dreadful footage—and pregnant women who have sustained injuries.

Cost is always relevant when it comes to Government spending and there are some figures available. Apparently the Finns purchased a hospital for deployment for about £5 million. I envisage that my proposal will

9 Oct 2013 : Column 273

probably cost between £5 million and £10 million. I think it should be a military asset, because the military is best placed to run it, but it should be staffed primarily with reservists, not regulars. Military logistics are important: the army are the best people to get this facility quickly into the field, and Kosovo is an example of that. The army’s command and control systems are relevant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) has rightly referred to the facility’s security, which is of paramount importance. I think it would be a target. The facility would focus on hearts and minds and on delivering care on the ground, and if I were an Islamist jihadist I would think, “We need to knock that out, because it’s going to start changing minds and attitudes.” The facility’s security would need some thought. For example, RAF Akrotiri is stationed close to Syria and the deployment of troops may need to be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Clarity of funding is clearly important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Jonathan Lord) has said. The politics of international aid are tough on the doorsteps of Bracknell—trust me: I experience it quite often. This proposal would be one way of using DFID funds for something that is demonstrably humanitarian and of leveraging in some funds to a defence asset that would be used primarily for humanitarian purposes, but—this would always be at the back of my mind—that could also be deployed if we ever go to war.

Jim Shannon: We are discussing examples of armed conflict in places such as Syria and Kosovo. Does the hon. Gentleman also see this MASH unit playing a role in responding to humanitarian crises or disasters?

Dr Lee: Yes, I do. In fact, the last American MASH unit was deployed in response to the 2006 earthquake in Pakistan and it was then given to the Pakistanis. I would hope that the facility would be used less for military purposes. There are likely to be future crises and I think it should be used in response to them.

Bob Stewart: I am sorry to intervene a second time, but it strikes me that, if this facility is going to work, the way to demilitarise it would be for it to be connected to the British Red Cross or the International Committee of the Red Cross. That way it would certainly get some kind of international protection in terms of security.

Dr Lee: I have detected in conversations that there are difficulties with non-governmental organisations being associated with military assets, so that needs some thought.

Bob Stewart: We did it.

Dr Lee: I am personally not against it, but I gather that there are difficulties.

Why do we not have such a facility? I wonder about that. DFID has global respect and does good work. There are issues with DFID funding—I am thinking of audit trails in sub-Saharan Africa and the like—and concerns have been expressed on where the money eventually ends up. In this situation, we can spend the money here at home for humanitarian aid. As I understand the definition of international development funding, that is acceptable. Indeed, we could use Marshall of

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Cambridge—my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) has joined us in the Chamber. We could buy the facility new at home, and DFID money could, as I understand it, be used for such a humanitarian purpose.

Why is that not happening? Is it silo thinking? Is it to do with DFID not talking to the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office? If that is the case, we have a responsibility to try to overcome such bureaucratic hurdles. I recognise that the MOD has concerns about the long-term liability of cost and staffing. I am sure the NHS will have questions, such as, “You’re taking my orthopaedic consultant. Who’s going to do his list?” There are problems, and I have not come to the Chamber with a perfect project outlined and ready to go, but I see no reason whatever why the project cannot be brought about. If we could establish a British MASH unit with a Union Jack on the side of it, it would be fantastic for this country. Our reputation would be enhanced, and such a facility is clearly desperately needed in Syria and the surrounding countries. We are dealing with a significant humanitarian crisis. I know the Minister and his Department are responding in a good way, but that added capability would be much valued. We can do it and do it well.

I shall conclude with a quote which, of course, has to be from “MASH”—I was expecting to turn up in the Chamber to hear hon. Members humming the tune. The quote is from Hawkeye Pierce, the primary character in the series.

“I’m very impressed now with the terrible fragility of the human body and the unbelievable resiliency of the human spirit.”

By creating such a capability, we would display the best facets of that human spirit—we are all human beings. The quote comes from an episode titled, “Our Finest Hour”. If we were to bring that capability about, it would play a part in creating a further finest hour in the history of this country.

7.32 pm

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr Alan Duncan): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) for introducing this debate on such an interesting topic. Put simply, I entirely agree that military field hospitals could play a vital role in any international humanitarian response. Indeed, the Department for International Development has collaborated with UK forces in humanitarian responses over many years, for instance in Bosnia, which is well known to my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), East Timor, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Haiti, to name some of the more notable examples.

DFID, the MOD and the armed forces continue to co-operate closely. Since 2007, that co-operation has been codified in a memorandum of understanding that sets out how DFID and UK forces will work together. Its main principles are that DFID will lead the UK response to overseas disasters, that it can ask the MOD for military support if necessary, and that the MOD will charge DFID only the additional operating costs for, for example, ships or aeroplanes, and not the full capital costs. In requesting military support for overseas disasters, it is clearly understood that UK defence requirements will always take precedence.

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Alongside that established framework of co-operation, the two Departments have made explicit provision to use military field hospitals if required. DFID has agreed with senior military medical colleagues that, subject to defence priorities, military field hospitals may be deployed as part of a humanitarian response by DFID. To that end, DFID has visited the Army’s 34 Field Hospital at Catterick garrison, which is the MOD’s designated rapid response field hospital. DFID has held detailed practical discussions with it and has contributed to its humanitarian training and preparedness.

Importantly, it must be understood that the deployment of a military field hospital requires substantial logistical support. It might also require a considerable force protection package, which would have a bearing on the location and appropriateness of the facility. Our experience is that the use of any military asset is expensive. Issues around permission to operate and the command and control of such a facility would need to be agreed with the receiving nation, which would inevitably prove more complicated with a military facility than a civilian one.

Stephen Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con): The Marshall facility in Cambridge specialises in building modular medical equipment. Is it not a key point that the initial funding for the equipment could come from the DFID budget under the existing definitions, which might ease the concerns of other countries about the military aspects of the facility?

Mr Duncan: Spending on humanitarian matters is official development assistance, so in that respect my hon. Friend is right. However, we must also show that there is value for money and we must know that the assets can be appropriately deployed. I will discuss that issue further.

DFID has worked on the ground alongside UK forces in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. DFID has also used Royal Air Force aircraft and helicopters in earthquake and flood relief in Pakistan, and in sending search and rescue teams to Indonesia. The Royal Navy was able to make its Royal Fleet Auxiliary Largs Bay ships available to help with relief after the Haiti earthquake.

So far, UK military field hospitals have not been deployed under the auspices of DFID. However, the way it would work is that DFID would request the support of the MOD in response to a natural disaster, in accordance with United Nations guidelines known as the Oslo guidelines. Those guidelines stipulate that support should be provided in line with the humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality, humanity and independence. They also state that military assets should be requested only where there is no comparable civilian alternative. That implies that the military asset must be the only way of meeting the particular need and that its use should be a last resort.

DFID has to design its humanitarian responses carefully according to the specific humanitarian needs that they face and based on what responses are best provided by the UK and by other donors. Very often, what works best is help to restore and rebuild an afflicted country’s own health system. If a field hospital is needed, there

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are already well established civilian organisations that are used to providing such hospitals in humanitarian crises, notably the International Red Cross, which has been mentioned.

A civilian response will usually be what is needed in a delicate and complex situation, rather than a foreign military presence which, however well intentioned, is still military and may not be welcomed. For example, in Pakistan, which has also been mentioned, it was a difficult, finely balanced, decision to include RAF aircraft in the NATO relief airlift, when extremists had explicitly threatened the foreign relief effort and relief workers if NATO were to operate in that country. Like other international donors, therefore, while we are glad to have military field hospitals available, we will use them as a last resort, when it is too difficult or dangerous to use civilian measures and if the circumstances permit a military medical unit to be deployed.

DFID has also been building a UK civilian medical response capability. UK surgeons and other medical staff performed heroically in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, saving lives and limbs which might otherwise have been lost. Building on that experience, DFID is supporting a programme of training and regional workshops for NHS doctors and other medical staff to equip them to deal with the additional challenges of surgery in a conflict zone. That is underpinned by an arrangement with the Department of Health and the national health service to deploy surgical trauma teams drawn from the British health service. Many of those personnel will also be military reservists, thus further exemplifying good civilian/military co-operation across Government.

My hon. Friend specifically mentioned the Syria crisis. As the House is aware, the UK Government’s relief response is considerable. The UK has so far pledged £500 million, making us the second largest donor. Much of that relief is to provide health and medical care. Through our funding we are supporting vital medical help on civilian channels and with civilian medical personnel, not all details of which can be openly revealed. I can say, however, that the range of services provided by DFID is wide and big. It includes ensuring the running, supply and necessary specialist training for a large number of emergency surgical facilities, including in remote areas. For example, we are supporting primary health care centres to help look after vulnerable groups such as women and children, as well as the elderly, who often have chronic unmet health needs. In Syria’s neighbouring countries, which now host more than 2 million refugees between them, DFID-supported health programmes provide medical evacuations and ambulance services, widespread primary health care facilities, mental health and psycho-social services, and highly specialised facilities for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

We provide specialist training courses for health professionals, many of whom are specialist staff seconded into emergency departments to reinforce their capacity and specialist care. We provide health services for refugees, as well as for vulnerable resident populations that are hosting huge numbers of refugees in their communities. DFID and MOD officials are in frequent touch in London and the region, and the need for and suitability of mobile field hospitals is often discussed. While options remain open, it is agreed that deploying a mobile field

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hospital at the moment would not be the most effective way to reach the diverse needs faced by so many people in so many different locations.

DFID’s new civilian surgical trauma facility also remains an option, but so far it has not been necessary to deploy a surgical team in any of the refugee-hosting countries. Inside Syria, the level of conflict makes access to health care difficult in many areas, and unfortunately the security challenges also prevent the deployment of a field hospital or a civilian UK surgical team. DFID will therefore continue to support existing health facilities on the ground, and constantly review the situation.

Bob Stewart: Does DFID have the capacity to deploy not just a surgical team, but the equipment and some primary buildings in support of that team? Is that what my right hon. Friend is referring to?

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Mr Duncan: I like to think that DFID is well prepared always to procure and lay its hands on any such equipment, to which end many framework contracts permit us to draw at short notice on many companies’ equipment so as to do whatever is appropriate in whatever humanitarian situation we face, be that an earthquake, a tsunami or a conflict.

In conclusion, the Government value their ability to deploy military surgical teams as an important option, additional to other means of response. DFID’s response is based on the needs of the affected population, and so far the need for a UK military field hospital has not arisen. If it does, we remain ready to respond as required in the best and most appropriate way.

Question put and agreed to.

7.44 pm

House adjourned.