The situation in Afghanistan is very serious and Parliament has been recalled to discuss it. In my view it is regrettable that a tapered withdrawal has not been affected under which vulnerable people have options other than hoping for the good faith of the Taliban. While British forces were broadly withdrawn a decade ago, friends and colleagues as well as many constituents were involved in operations there and I know how dangerous and harrowing the whole engagement was, and how disappointing it is to see those on the ground in distress.
Serious questions need to be asked of the security assessment that anything other than a swift Taliban takeover was likely, and I have been in touch with both the Foreign and Defence Secretaries on this. In the end I hope that the western alliance can learn from its experiences in the Middle East, and that we do not repeat past mistakes as we try to ensure that the vulnerable are protected and the region does not again become a breeding ground for terror on our shores.
Equipping our armed forces properly and ensuring we and our allies can prepare effectively for what happens after we engage if we do so are essential. We also perhaps need a more realistic attitude towards what is possible in cultures very different to our own and a more nuanced and informed approach to our dealings with different groups and their histories.
In the UK over the weekend, it was announced that all 16- to 17-year-olds will be offered their first Covid jab by Monday 23rd August ahead of their return to school or college. Achieving immunity by means of vaccination remains very much less dangerous than by contracting the disease and I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated if called upon so that the virus causes as few problems as possible as it becomes endemic.
The success of our vaccine programme is also allowing us to support other countries and it was very encouraging to see that Malawi has now received 119,040 doses of the Oxford vaccine from the first tranche of our donations overseas. This is part of our essential pledge from last month’s G7 to share 100 million vaccines within the next year.
The cost of COVID tests for travel is something I have been urging the Government to take action on so I was pleased to see the price of testing has now been reduced, although I would like to see this go further especially for the fully vaccinated.
The Government has just published its new hydrogen strategy which is welcome as it is key to achieving carbon reduction goals. Another welcome announcement is the Blue Planet Fund which will deliver £16.2 million for five programmes to tackle climate change, restore ocean health, and reduce poverty in developing countries.
Finally, with many local people having raised the issue with me recently I am delighted to say that hen harriers are now bouncing back following their most successful breeding year in modern times. Well done to all those working so hard locally to protect our bird life.
As always, if I can be of help or if you would like to contact me on any of these issues, please do call 01935314321 or email email@example.com