Good afternoon and thank you all for coming here today
My name is Roger Mullin and I am both the SNP MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Explosive Weapons.
Before I say a little about why I feel it so important to become involved with the group and its aims, I would like to welcome and thank the Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood for being here, he and I have just shared an hour and half debate in Westminster Hall on the very sobering issue of the rise in suicide bombing numbers and in particular the repugnant use of children as bombers.
The Westminster Hall Debate is available now here.
I would also like to welcome our other speakers: Steven Smith the Chief Executive Officer of the charity Action on Armed Violence, who produced the recent report on suicide bombers which prompted the debate, and Rob Hyde-Bales, editor of the Counter IED Report who are kindly supporting this event.
Becoming Chairman of this group had not been uppermost in my mind when I agreed to join – in fact I was voted into the role at a meeting I wasn’t even at.
But now I am chairman I intend to give the role as much as my political diary will allow.
I am not new to the devastating impact of conflict and the use of unacceptable weapons on innocent civilian populations, between 1985 and 2012 I worked with a number of United Nations agencies around the world, including the Middle East and Africa.
I am also not new to the poverty and deprivation caused by such conflict and unrest – and explosive weapons such as landmines and remnants of war help to keep people in poverty. They are weapons of denial –they deny people access to water & arable land, access to facilities and infrastructure and access to some of the basic freedoms we take for granted, such as a walk in the countryside.
Without peace and security, without stable governance and without safety from being blown up, many people in the World will never see the benefits of any of the post 2015 Development Goals.
In the last Parliament this group focussed heavily on humanitarian mine-action, I would like the group to develop from this basis and perhaps not focus on the ‘Explosive Weapons’.
Instead, I would like us to concentrate on people.
Through a series of inquiries I would like the focus to be on four groups of people:
1) The people who use the weapons:
Why for example, are certain countries still using explosive weapons against civilians, or in a way that put civilians at harm and what is the rest of the world doing to stop this?
Why are explosives the weapons of choice for dissident and radical individuals and groups? And what is being done, or can be done we can do to stop or disrupt them?
2) The people who are harmed or whose lives are affected by explosive weapons:
Are they getting the full help and support they need? How are the post 2015 development goals being designed to ensure that peace and stability are at their very core?
3) The people who clear up the explosive detritus and who support the victims:
Are the NGOs and charities providing the best and most effective service for the available funding?
What is the role the commercial sector can play in the humanitarian agenda?
4) The people like us: The legislators and the policy-makers:
How can we as Parliamentarians play our part on the domestic and international arena?
Are our policies robust enough? And;
Are we putting enough scrutiny into how and where funding is spent?
The calendar for the group is already looking healthy. We plan to have regular meetings of inquiry, a couple of awareness raising events in Parliament and then, at the end of the year, a conference and published report to announce our findings and recommendations.
All of this will be announced in good time on our new website and through the Counter IED Report.
On that note I will now hand over to my Honourable friend the Minister for the Foreign Office, Tobias Ellwood.