Published: 21st May 2013
WITHOUT any shadow of a doubt, we live in a global economy. There is an important debate to be held about the cost of living based on the domestic policies.
However, an escalation of issues in the Middle East would have a very detrimental effect on the cost of living in this country. Many MPs have talked about the cost of energy – oil and gas – in this country and the increase in fuel poverty.
The stark truth is that that could increase only if we were to move towards a more militarised conflict across the Middle East. There are serious concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but that does not mean that we should take a unilateral decision, or a decision with any other nation, to take military action against that country. The mere suggestion of moving forward there could result in oil price rises across the world that would have a deep impact on the people of this nation, without a single bullet being fired.
We do not get any oil from Iran; we got only two per cent before the EU embargo came in. However, a vast majority of the oil coming into this country comes through the Straits of Hormuz, and if the oil traders believe that there is a threat to those shipping lanes, oil prices will inexorably rise.
We must remember that oil is bought three months in advance of when it is sold. If the oil traders believe that there may be difficulty in getting that oil out of the Gulf and into our country, oil prices will increase, and that will affect every aspect of the cost of living in this country. It is not just about the straightforward issue of fuel prices. If we are on a bus we have to get a bus ticket, or if we are on a train the electricity has to be generated to run it.
The price of oil affects the price of food in our shops, which has to be transported there using fossil fuels. That shows why we should have discussed the effects of international affairs on this nation during our debates on the Queen’s Speech.
I do not think I am the only Government MP who seriously questions the wisdom of relaxing the EU arms agreement on Syria. If history has taught us anything over the past 10 years, it is that picking a side and arming it will rarely lead to a useful outcome for world stability.
If we side with the opposition in Syria, who are we actually siding with? Many companies in this country that employ many people are now banking with Israeli banks, and that has a direct influence on their strategic fiscal capability.
Do we seriously want to empower an opposition that has some, let us say, interesting people on the Islamic fundamentalist side who are right next door to a country that the vast majority of Arab countries would like to see removed from the face of the map? That instability, linked with Iran talking to Hezbollah and a change in the dynamic in Syria, could have a direct consequence on the ability of companies to operate in this country.
That is not to say that we should shirk our responsibilities towards humanitarian aid. More than one million refugees are flooding out of Syria into Jordan alone, a country that is ill-equipped to deal with that number.
We will eventually be called upon to help with that humanitarian crisis and it is important that we will, again, be there for our fellow man. I come back to the point that, when we debate the cost of living in this country and the Government’s programme over the next year, we should also discuss international issues, because, importantly, they are inter-linked with everything we do.
In 1983, when I was a child of just six or seven years of age, the film Threads was made. I watched it againn recently. It is set in Sheffield in the 1980s in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. It is a sobering film and it should be watched.
What struck me about it is that those who made the decisions that caused the wars to take place did not feature in the film. Indeed, given that it was set in Sheffield, the decisions were being made 190 miles away in London and elsewhere in the world. That is the point I am trying to make: we have to take notice of the innocent people on the ground and of the impact of our decisions.
We live in a highly volatile world and have to be very careful about how we move forward, and it is regrettable that the debate on the Queen’s Speech did not give us the opportunity to address these issues, which could have such a fundamental impact on our cost of living.