Last week was a busy one in the Commons. We held a good debate on the problem of Iran and nuclear weapons. I am urging Ministers to be part of western diplomatic efforts to tackle the problem out by talking. There is no obvious military solution on offer, and the United Nations is not about to sanction military action anyway. The UK has done more than its fair share of shedding blood and spending treasure on Middle Eastern wars, so the UK should not rush into action here. Iran has several powerful neighbours with an interest in ensuring compliance with international nuclear requirements. They should take the lead in proposing further action.
I attended an interesting meeting on water supply. I have been warning for some years that we have expanded the population of London and the south east rapidly but have not made sufficient provision for water and some other facilities. As soon as we have a period of relatively light rainfall we get into trouble. I am pressing for a more energetic response to the possible shortfalls, and for more recognition in national planning policies of the need to ensure water – and transport, energy and telecommunication capacity – are expanded to keep pace with any required growth in population. The government is now bringing forward new legislation, which will include some increases in water competition. I will be pursuing this interest further.
We were told of more disappointing results from the state owned RBS. The bank recorded more losses, paid taxpayers no dividends. The share price remains a long below the previous government’s purchase price. I am proposing to Ministers a change of tack towards this unhappy conglomerate. The government should split the bank up, to further its sensible aim of promoting more banks on the High Street. If we had more competition small and medium sized business might get better deals. I remain uneasy about the state owning a large investment bank within the RBS Group. Last year they put up the salaries of some of the highly paid people, at a time of general wage restraint. Taxpayers are still running large risks by owning such a bank. The government should remember taxpayers have to pay the losses if they get it wrong.
I have raised with Ministers the issues of cycling safety and the planned changes to Child Benefit which have worried some constituents. I am expecting Ministerial statements on these in the weeks ahead.