On October 27th I took part in the Westminster Hall debate on the use of the Anti-Malarial drug Larium by the Army. I had been asked to represent the Shadow defence team on this occasion. This is an important issue as the side effects of this drug, which can include vivid and terrifying dreams. These can substantially add to the emotional and mental strain experienced by soldiers deployed in the field. It is suggested that up to 35% of Army personnel have been adversely affected by taking Larium. Because of the fear of such side effects, some soldiers choose not to take it, leaving themselves vulnerable to Malaria, a dangerous and often fatal disease. In addition, there is some evidence that resistance to the drug is growing in some parts of the world, particularly South East Asia. Whilst other countries are beginning to abandon the use of this prophylactic, the British army continues to use it. In my response I called for the Army to exercise its duty of care and for better testing of the drug, which is inexpensive and convenient to use, in adequately controlled test conditions which would better reflect the situation of military personnel.
To read the whole debate in Hansard go to https://goo.gl/C72YFz
On October 27th I summed up for the Shadow Defence in a Westminster Hall debate on Defence Expenditure.
You may well be surprised to learn that in spite of Conservative rhetoric about the importance of Defence, the UK’s contribution to the defence budget, which NATO recommends should be 2% of GDP, is in reality short of that mark. Only a sort of creative accounting, by which the MOD includes the entire services pension pot and the Intelligence Service budget, allows the UK to claim that it meets NATO’s target. Many of our NATO partners, particularly the US, are deeply critical of our contribution.
At a time of increasing conflict in the world, and when Russia in particular is flexing its muscles, it is important that our defence spending is both protected, and, more importantly, is good value for money. My commitment to fighting the proliferation of the arms trade might appear at first glance to be at odds with my belief that we should maintain our defence spending at or above 2%. In fact, I believe that value for money should be an important consideration in our expenditure and that spending on defence is a key element in keeping the peace in the modern world.