By Joseph Willits
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In yesterday's Adjournment debate before the start of the Christmas recess, a mix of topics were raised by MPs.
Chris Skidmore MP (Kingswood), who also wrote on ConservativeHome yesterday about making history a compulsory subject for under-16s, spoke of the study of history reaching a record low. Skidmore said that "in 77 local authorities fewer than one in five pupils is passing history GCSE". Despite these figures already being low enough as it is, there was a need to break them down, he said, "because in places such as Knowsley under 8% of pupils are passing history GCSE".
"Often it is the Daily Mail or academics who discuss what type of history should be studied in schools, whose history should be studied, how history should be studied in the curriculum, whether we should have a narrative form of history or a more interpretive form of history that looks at sources, and whether history should be seen as a framework of facts."
Whilst this debate was important, he warned of history "becoming a subject of two nations" and Britain's isolation in Europe, if people were not united in the view "that history is a crucial subject that binds us as one nation".
"Future generations will have every cause to thank him, and some of the French politicians behaved with less than great dignity."
Amess covered a whole host of issues in the adjournment debate, but asked the house to think of the refugees in Iraq's Camp Ashraf, "as the deadline for its closure draws ever nearer".
"If protection is not given to the people there, Iraqi forces might attack them. It is our duty to put pressure on the Iraqi Government to postpone the deadline, and to ensure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is allowed to evacuate the refugees safely."
On the issue of the family, Amess said that "the way in which single parents are left isolated by what was the Child Support Agency" was something which "astounded him". He accused the agency of a "an absolutely disgraceful" attitude in the way in which it responds with "a general line" to individual cases. He continued:
"The break-up of families is unfortunately an increasing phenomenon in today’s society. I commend the family justice review’s report, which mentions giving more power to grandparents."
Amess, the owner of a rescued pug called Lilly, also reiterated the message of a dog being for life, and not just for Christmas, asking people to think carefully before giving pets for Christmas. He said that "11,500 pets were dumped last Christmas".
Kris Hopkins MP (Keighley) spoke of the need to increase business capacity in the north. He said:
"The north wants to make a positive contribution to the economy of this country and to change the dependency on the public sector and promote businesses. I therefore fully support the high-speed train link and want it to expand to Birmingham as soon as possible and then up to the north. Councils and MPs of all parties very much support this, and I give it my 100% backing."
Hopkins also described the impact of public sector cuts, "particularly in the north". He recalled his time as a council leader, and spoke of "the enormous commitment by public sector workers in delivering key services". Hopkins also welcomed the "positive response by the majority of the trade unions—a response that I have come to respect, as will many other people."
Bob Blackman MP (Harrow East) said it was "appropriate that we should pay due tribute to our excellent emergency services: our doctors, nurses, ambulance crews, paramedics, firefighters and, of course, our wonderful police." He also recalled the experience of four police officers from Harrow, "four brave police officers who laid their lives on the line just a month ago when they were stabbed". Following on from their stabbing, Blackman said "it is appropriate that the police service should review the quality of the equipment issued to our police".
Blackman also raised the issue of ethnic monitoring in the police service. Whilst it was "absolutely crucial that we monitor our services to make sure that we provide them appropriately", he described the fact "that when someone is arrested, they and the police officer arresting them get the right to say to which ethnic minority the person arrested belongs" as "nonsensical". Pressure was increasing on the police, Blackman said, in the run up to 2012's Olympics, and from an "overload resulting from the riots last summer".
Harriet Baldwin MP (West Worcestershire) praised the Government for embracing "parliamentary and constitutional reform with great enthusiasm". Baldwin said:
"I would go so far as to say that all I want for Christmas is a West Lothian commission."
Despite the Government sharing her "enthusiasm", Baldwin listed numerous times where a West Lothian commission had been anticipated.
"The first occasion in this Parliament was when the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) said in July 2010 that he anticipated that the commission would be set up by autumn 2010. That was confirmed again later that July by the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who said that he would bring forward proposals in the autumn."
"In the debate on my private Member’s Bill on 9 September, we again heard that the Government were keen to address this thorny constitutional topic as soon as possible. It is a problem that could become quite serious if it is not addressed. It has taken 100 years to get this far towards establishing a commission on the West Lothian question, and we must welcome the enormous progress that has been made. I was delighted when the Deputy Leader of the House was able to confirm last week that the announcement was to be made shortly. I am therefore pleased to be able to give him this additional chance today, while we are still in 2011, to embrace this issue with the enthusiasm that I know he shares and to announce the establishment of the West Lothian commission. So, without further ado, I shall sit down and eagerly await that announcement."