Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Letter from Andrew Dismore regarding Matthew Offord MP's visit to Belize

The following letter was received by the Barnet Eye from Andrew Dismore, Labour GLA Candidate for Barnet and Camden and former Hendon MP
Hendon’s Conservative MP justifies his absence from the constituency during the aftermath of the riots and his failure to return for the recall of Parliament, because he was in Belize on the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme.

When I was MP, I was invited to join the scheme. I was offered all kinds of foreign travel: the Caribbean with the Royal Navy, ski-ing in Norway with the Royal Marines, jetting off with the RAF. However, I decided not to participate for two reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, the time commitment. I could not justify spending the almost one month per year in total away from Hendon the scheme requires to meet its demands, and still be able to honour my obligations to Hendon residents.

Secondly, whilst the MP states the scheme is privately funded, what he does not say is that this funding mainly comes from three major defence contractors. Personally, I did not feel it was right to take such hospitality and at the same time be free to raise defence matters without a potential conflict of interest. Indeed one Conservative MP was thrown off the scheme for challenging this very issue. Hendon’s Conservative MP has no such qualms. He has raised questions about promoting defence exports, increasing diversity in the defence market, and sustaining the defence industry in equipment procurement decisions. No doubt within the rules, I understand that he did not declare an interest when asking them.

Personally, I found the full and  detailed briefings on offer from the armed forces at Westminster more than adequate; Scotland Yard also were very co-operative when I was championing the campaign against extremism in Westminster; and the local police were well informed about the local crime issues ( including drugs).

I am sure the MP enjoyed his visit to Belize (as no doubt he did his previous jaunt to the South Atlantic) whilst other MPs answered the call back to Westminster, but he should not overplay his hand. The drugs operation for which he proudly claims credit would of course have happened without him.

The scheme has some value. But In the end, it comes down to priorities. Subsidised overseas travel for whatever reason should come behind an MP’s  duty to his or  her constituency  and constituents should come first ( as indeed the Hendon MP pledged at the time of the election, adding another to the growing list of his broken promises). When faced with such a choice myself  (when schoolboy  Kiyam Prince was murdered a few years ago), I decided to cancel a recess study visit to the Caribbean I had been  nominated to lead, so I could be available in  Hendon . Hendon’s Conservative MP yet again made the wrong call.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Dismore, Labour MP for Hendon 1997 -2010, Labour’s Candidate for the London Assembly for Barnet and Camden

1 comment:

button55 said...

I had a beer with a good friend of mine last evening who served in 45 commando (RM).He explained to me that in the time he was on special opps it would of been totally out of the question for civilians to get involved or put in harms way amid these operations,he went on further to say that even high profile ministers namely Liam Fox (defence secretary) would need special dispensation to attend these "gigs" (sic),and would have to be on strictly on government business (not on holiday).He finally went on to say if this was the case he will question the MOD on their security arrangements or Offord must of been doing a "back hander" to go for the ride to big himself up.He is going to look into it i will let you know ofthe outcome....