Monday, 18 February 2019

Paul Flynn: my personal tribute to a radical political warrior

A week ago a very fine socialist politician had his 84th birthday. He was still a Labour MP, but had missed most of the Parliamentary session since last July with increasingly  deteriorating rheumatoid arthritis and then pernicious anaemia.

On Sunday morning he died. He was a great colleague and comrade in arms for the nearly thirty five years I worked with and for him,  against a pompous, puffed-up establishment, secrecy and the pollution of politics by money use to  influence MPs’ decisions.

The late, great Parliamentary profiler, Andrew Roth ended his pen picture of Paul with this pithy observation “Perhaps the rheumatoid arthritis, which makes him limp, makes it difficult for him to bend the knee in deference to New Labour.”

Paul’s arthritis  forced him to use first a hand pushed -and then an electric - wheel chair, to wiz between meetings in Parliament ( at one time he was on three separate select committees, on which his persistent, forensic  inquiries  made him one of the most feared and fearsome inquisitors of witness before the committees on which he served).

Paul had many and varied political interests which pursued  in and outside of Parliament, although he always put the interests of his constituents in Newport West first, ably helped  by many diligent staff members in Newport, including his wife Sam, and in Westminster, where Jayne Bryant ( who later became Labour Assembly Member for the same Newport  constituency at the Welsh National Assembly) and his brilliant final researcher in London, Cathy Devlin, whose wedding Paul attended with Sam a few summers ago.

Here is Paul’s potted political summary of his likes and  dislikes in politics, taken from his marvelously innovative website, for which he won an award.

Married to Samantha, three surviving grown-up children, elected to parliament for Newport West in 1987. The seat was previously held by a Conservative. Won the seat six times with majorities varying from 2,000 to 14,000.

Former Labour Party Shadow Commons Leaders and Shadow Welsh Secretary (July to September 2016), Shadow Minister for Welsh Affairs and Social Security (1988-90), described in Parliamentary Profiles:

"Hyper-assiduous, Welsh-speaking, green-leaning off-beat semi-hard Leftists, fears Labour Party is being taken over by 'Midwitch Cuckoos', said in 1995 'We will win the election but lose the Labour Party", A Member of the Gorsedd of Bards, won 1991 Parliamentary Freedom of Information awards, and 1996 Spectator 'Backbencher of the Year', succeeded in forcing 'Next steps' agencies to publish their Parliamentary answers in Hansard, verbally resourceful, well-furnished bilingual mind.,

Pro: Britain in the EU, proportional representation, selling council houses, the peace movement, legalised cannabis, alternative energy, Welsh language, devolution, modernisation of Commons, power to backbenchers, hi-tech, reducing the number of peers in the House of Lords and a constitutional convention

Anti: The drug trade, nuclear power, the Drugs Czar, cigarette smoking, honours, Lord Lieutenants, exploitation of mortgage lenders, animal experiments, lobbyists, overuse of medicinal drugs (especially in care homes and prisons), bull bars."

Author of Television in Wales (1973), Commons Knowledge: How to be a Backbencher (1997), Baglu 'Mlaen (1998), Dragons led by Poodles (1999), How to be an MP (2012), The Unusual Suspect (2012), Clockwinder Who Wouldn’t Say No: The Life of David Taylor MP (2012).


On 18 February in Parliament the Speaker John Bercow paid Paul a fond and fulsome  tribute, which was endorsed by many MPs of different parties in subsequent defence questions and follow up Parliamentary business. Many admitted Paul tome Commons Knowledge had been an invaluable primer in their first weeks in Westminster. It regularly  tops the list of the most borrowed book from the House of Commons Library.

Here is what the Speaker said of Paul’s  contribution to Parliament across nearly 32 years as Newport West’s representative in Parliament:

18 February 2019

Death of a Member

“It is with great sadness that I have to inform the House of the death of the hon. Member for Newport West, Paul Flynn. A dedicated, principled, fearless and award-winning parliamentarian, Paul represented and championed the Newport West constituency and the wider interests, as he saw them, of Wales for 31 and a half years in this House. From drugs policy to pensions, from animal welfare to Europe, from parliamentary reform to the war in Afghanistan, Paul Flynn spoke with conviction, with total commitment and without fear or favour. He was every inch the exemplar parliamentarian whom he strove over three decades to be.

As many colleagues will know, Paul spent the vast majority of his career as a Back Bencher. I often teased him, affectionately and with respect, about that well-thumbed tome that he penned, “Commons Knowledge: How to be a Backbencher”. He was a fine parliamentarian, a dedicated socialist, and much loved in his constituency and beyond.

I hope that I speak for the House, in concluding my tribute to that very fine man, to whom I last spoke on Saturday 26 January, when I say this. Paul Flynn was a standing rebuke in his parliamentary service to two categories of people. The first are those who think that the only point of coming into politics is to become Prime Minister or a Minister—at the very least that shows a lack of imagination. Paul knew that there were so many other ways in which you could achieve real gains and derive fulfilment.

Secondly—I am sure that there are people on both sides of the House, who sit in certain positions, who will recognise the veracity of what I am about to say—Paul was a standing rebuke to those who thought that it was vital always to be in the closest possible regulatory alignment with one’s Whips Office. It was not. He spoke his mind. He did it his way. He did it with eloquence, with knowledge, with character, and often, as we all know, with mordent wit.

Paul will be greatly missed by his wife of the last 34 years, Sam, and by the wider family. We respectfully remember him, and I hope we always will.”


Speaker pays tribute following the death of MP Paul Flynn

18 February 2019

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has made a statement following the death of Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West.

Flynn was a Member of Parliament for over thirty years, having first been elected in the 1987 General Election. In this time, he sat on many different select committees and was a Shadow Health Spokesperson from 1988 to 1989. In 2016, he joined the Shadow Cabinet briefly as Shadow Leader of the House and Shadow Welsh Secretary.

The Speaker told Members in the House of Commons Chamber:

“He spoke his mind, he did it his way, he did it with eloquence, with knowledge, with character and often – as we all know – with mordant wit. Paul will be greatly missed by his wife of the last 34 years, Sam, and by the wider family. We respectfully remember him and I hope we always will”.

Andrew Roth’s political profile of Paul Flynn

Newport West (1987-2019)

Ask Aristotle about Paul Flynn

Guardian, Mon 19 Mar 2001

Bearded Paul Flynn is an unlikely Welsh-speaking pixie with bags of Irish charm. The charm coats a tolerant left of centre MP who has served for years as a one-man awkward squad. His well furnished mind enables him to quote poetry in Chaucerian English as well as Welsh. He uses his wit as a cattleprod, pushing for answers to his most persistent questions.

Using the platform as MP for Newport West Paul Flynn asks why healthy people are allowed to poison themselves with tobacco, whisky and painkillers when people suffering from MS cannot ease their pain with cannabis. He uses all his wit, brains, (and professional training as an industrial chemist) to press recent governments to follow the more liberal route of the Netherlands.

Decriminalising dope is only his latest crusade: he has protested against 4x4 bull bars, nuclear weapons and energy and in favour of a Severn barrage. Simon Hoggart dubbed him "the thinking man's Dennis Skinner" but Mr Flynn is more constructive than that.

He is a product of the ethnic mix attracted to south Wales when its working mines drew in manpower from all over British Isles. His Irish father was a postman shot in the first world war and embittered by the pittance allowed him by the War Office. His Welsh-speaking mother, Katherine (Williams), brought him up with the Welsh language so well that he later became a member of the Gorsedd of Bards and a pioneering agitator for a Welsh-language TV channel.

His lack of enthusiasm for abortion is attributable to his having been educated at Catholic schools: St Patrick's school and St Illtyd's college before going on to University College, Cardiff. He was almost deafened working in a nail factory on the Cardiff docks before he went to work for 27 years as an industrial chemist in the south Wales steel industry.

He entered politics at 10, standing guard outside Jim Callaghan's car to prevent the tyres being slashed. At 37 he was elected to Newport borough council, then to Gwent county council. In the three years before winning back marginal Tory-held Newport West in 1987, he worked as a researcher for the fundamentalist leftwinger, Llew Smith, then a MEP.

Once in the Commons, he proved to be one of its most assiduous questioners of the executive. His abilities were recognised as a junior shadow spokesman on Wales and social security.

Mr Flynn never warmed to Tony Blair and "New Labour", deriding them as "a malign alien force [which] could infiltrate a political party with beautiful people reared in public schools [and] fed an idealism-inhibiting diet".

Perhaps the rheumatoid arthritis, which makes him limp, makes it difficult for him to bend the knee in deference to New Labour.

So, Paul had many political campaigns. The one I think he felt most strongly about was making transparent the name, personalities and  the personal stories of the British servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan ( an invasion and occupation he  vehemently opposed) as successive Governments  tried to hide. He found a Parliamentary technique that circumvented rules banning the on reading out lists in the House of Commons chamber by tabling a succession of Early Day Motions including all the names collectively, then in Business Questions he made specific reference to these EDMs, calling a for a debate, which resulted in the full text of each EDM being printed in Hansard next day, thereby publishing all the names of the British fallen in the Afghanistan war.


Here is an article Paul wrote for the Institute for Welsh Affairs on this.

Continued war in Afghanistan result of self-deluding optimism

Paul Flynn explains why he was glad to be expelled from the House of Commons this week

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September 20, 2012

Paul Flynn is Labour MP for Newport West.

Something was certain to blow. Seven days of hot churning emotion led to my expulsion from the Commons on Tuesday for the first time in 25 years. Last Thursday, Minister Justine Greening demeaned and insulted the Commons with a saccharine flavoured quarterly report on Afghanistan. It was stuffed the culpable self-deluding optimism that has led to the deaths of hundreds of our soldiers. Justine sweetly looked forward to a happy-ever-after corruption and drugs-free Afghanistan.

Green on blue attacks? Sorted. Rampaging corruption? No worries. Mass exit of the troops of our allies? Never heard of it. The UK’s exit from the hell of Afghanistan is being delayed so that it can be spun as a victory for politicians.

On Sunday I attended the Merchant Navy memorial service. One in four of them died in World War II – a higher proportion than any other service. Admiral Lord West was there. No Government Minister or royalty turned up. Ingrates.

By Monday three more British soldiers had been killed. Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond was dragged to the House by a backbencher’s urgent question. He patronised and postured. He would never fall for the Taliban’s trick of trying to divide the International Security Assistance Force from Afghan trainee soldiers. Not our Philip. John Redwood and I urged him to bring our troops home by Christmas. The Dutch and Canadians have already pulled out of the mission impossible. France and New Zealand are leaving earlier than planned.

Hammond offered a despicable justification for more war. “Four hundred and thirty British service personnel have given their lives, and we intend to protect that legacy by ensuring that the UK’s national security interests are protected in future by training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces,” he said.

To justify the waste of 430 lives by foolish politicians, more lives should be lost. Since the expulsion of Al Quaeda there has been no threat to British Security from Afghanistan. The Taliban attack us because we are occupying their county not because they plan terrorism on the streets of the UK.

Later Monday afternoon I began to read the list of the fallen in Afghanistan. Twenty five of my Early Day Motions have filled 13 pages of the Common motions paper for the past two weeks. I previously sought an arrangement for the full lists to read in the Commons. The Speaker courteously stopped me:

“Mr Flynn raised with me his view that there should be a formal oral recording, periodically, of lives lost, and asked me to look into the matter. I said that I would, and I am doing so, and I think it wise to proceed on the basis of consultation. I intend to speak very soon to the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader of the House and various others about the matter, and then to revert to the Hon. Gentleman.”

I was delighted with that assurance and ended the reading. Tuesday dawned with the news that ISAF had fallen for the Taliban trick that Hammond said he would never fool him. Humiliated, he was dragged back again to the Commons. I asked:

‘The role of our brave soldiers is to act as human shields for Ministers’ reputations. The danger to our soldiers has been prolonged by those on the Front Bench who have the power to stop it. Other countries have removed their soldiers and are not doing, what we are doing, arming and training our future enemy. Is this not similar to the end of the First World War, when it was said that politicians lied and soldiers died, and the reality was, as it is now, that our brave soldier lions were being led by Ministerial donkeys?’

The Speaker asked me to make clear if I was saying a Minister was lying. There was only one possible answer. My head was full of the deceptions of vain ministers since 2006, the avoidable 430 deaths and 2,000 soldiers who have returned home broken in mind and body.

“Yes, ministers had lied’ I said. Exclusion was inevitable and a price worth paying. The total number of British deaths in Afghanistan now number 430.



But he issue on which I worked most with Paul was nuclear power and weapon dangers, costs and secrecy.

For me, the most important single  political intervention on this was just over ten years ago in a debate he initiated in Westminster Hall, the debating chamber that runs in parallel with the  main House of Commons. In this debate Paul attacked the duplicitous way the Gordon Brown-led Labour Government tried to hoodwink Parliament and surreptitiously sneak through a deal in the 2008 summer Parliamentary recess, that would have given a privatised management contract for Sellafield to a US-led consortium, Nuclear Management Partners, who would have secured  a  very large management fee from the taxpayer, but under which all the liabilities would  have been socialized with taxpayer. The then energy minister Mike O'Brien, went ballistic in his response, detailed in extracts below

The minister lost his seat at the next election, NMP lost the contract through utter incompetence under the Coalition Government, and Paul  several years later  went on to be promoted to the shadow cabinet for the first time at 81.


Westminster Hall debate, 19 Nov 2008 : Column 123WH


4.28 pm


The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): This issue arose as a result of an administrative error by a junior official in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. That official was told that the letter to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee on this matter needed to go in the Library. It did not go in the Library. When it was checked, some months later and after the parliamentary recess, whether that letter had gone in the Library, it was found that it had not gone in. On that day, that letter was put in the Library.


In the last 15 minutes or so, I have heard references to cover-up, to conspiracies and to contempt of Parliament, and I say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn): his concoction of conspiracy theory, innuendo and hyperbole has reached new heights in the House. ...

He exaggerated, went way over the top in his condemnations and traduced my right hon. Friend (the late Malcom Wicks, the former energy minister) who was seeking to be open with him and other Members, not, as he suggested, to form some sort of cover-up.

This EDM describes the background:

EDM on Sellafield mismanagement and Nuclear Management Partners

Paul Flynn MP

That This House notes the Committee on Public Accounts 24TH Report of Session 2012-13 on managing risks at Sellafield critically states “we are not yet convinced that taxpayers are getting a good deal from the [Nuclear Decommissioning] Authority’s arrangement with Nuclear Management Partners. All payments to Nuclear Management Partners and, indeed to their constituent companies, [ for managing Sellafield] need to be strictly controlled and determined by robust, verified assessments of the value gained, so that payments are not made which would seem to constitute a reward for failure;” recalls that when the contract was awarded to Nuclear Management partners in October 2008, the Hon  Member for Newport West raised detailed questions with ministers at DECC over the probity of such an award without due Parliamentary scrutiny, the concerns over which he set out in EDM 2321 of  22 October 2008, which gained the support of  nearly 40 honourable  members; recalls EDM 2321 observed accurately the NMP agreement would  “privatise the profits of the Sellafield management contract leaving the potentially multi-billion pound liabilities with taxpayers”; acknowledges that a subsequent release of internal memoranda and e-mails between DECC and NDA officials  exposed the deliberate cover- up from Parliament; recalls that DECC ministers criticised  the Hon. Member for  his impertinence in challenging  ministerial judgment on this matter;  and now invites current  ministers at the Department for Energy and Climate Change to explain why Nuclear Management Partners have made such a pig’s ear of  mismanaging Sellafield safely and within budget

And here is the full debate:


Westminster Hall Hansard, 19 November  2008 : Column 119WH



Nuclear Industry Finance


4 pm


Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): This is a lamentable saga of a breakdown of parliamentary accountability on nuclear industry finances. It is a matter of the gravest importance, involving the most hazardous nuclear site in the country and huge sums of money. Initially, the contract was worth about £7 billion—£1 billion a year—but eventually it could cost up to £93 billion.


The Government have been bewitched by the pied piper of nuclear power, just three years after deciding that nuclear power was financially an unattractive prospect. They are now uncritically embracing it as a panacea. That might explain the disgraceful events that have taken place. It may also be a subterfuge to bury embarrassing news on the continuing saga and the enormous cost of the nuclear legacy, and also to disguise the fact that the Government are dumping a potential multi-billion pound liability on the taxpayer in a wholly unwarranted and possibly illegal new subsidy for the nuclear industry.


All hon. Members except two have been denied any chance of commenting on the policy, which is a parliamentary outrage. Early-day motion 2321, which was signed by more 30 hon. Members, asked for action on the matter.


On 14 July, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North (Malcolm Wicks)—I am delighted to say that he is in his position today—wrote to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and sent a copy to the Chairman of the Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee, in which he set out the proposed arrangements for a public sector supported nuclear indemnity for the winner of the competition for the parent body organisation to take over the management of the massive Sellafield site. He inserted, inter alia:


“Given the low probability of a claim being brought, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has assessed that the benefits of engaging a contractor will far outweigh the small risk that the indemnity may be called on.”


He said, “small risk”. That is a key issue. The risk was so serious that the main contractor said publicly that without the indemnity his company would withdraw from this very lucrative contract. He said that it was not prepared to take on the insurance risk. The Minister’s letter also said:


“I am placing a copy of this letter and the Departmental Minute in the Library of the House.”


The Minister placed the letter in the Library, but not on 14 July. It appeared in the Library on 15 October —75 days after the final date on which hon. Members could object. As hon. Members have only two working weeks in which to comment on such departmental minutes, that effectively meant that no MP, other than the two Committee Chairmen, had sight of the minutes within the specified period. That alone should invalidate any subsequent attempt by Ministers to push ahead with the concluding transfer of the management contract for Sellafield. None the less, they concluded the contract on 6 October, the first day that Parliament resumed after the summer recess.


Yesterday, in our splendid debate on the feed-in tariff, I heard the Minister talking about how slowly Parliament moves on many desirable objectives. However, in the
19 Nov 2008 : Column 120WH
case of nuclear, the Government move with the speed of a striking cobra. When it comes to renewables, their actions are very similar to that of an arthritic sloth, yet speed was of the essence in this matter.


By coincidence, I tabled a detailed question to the Minister on 14 July. I asked him


“what recent communications or discussions (a) he, (b) other departmental Ministers and (c) officials, have had with (i) the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and (ii) consortium applicants for the Sellafield decommissioning contract on the indemnification of the contract holder against claims arising from property damage, the cost to human health, or the cost of measures of reinstatement of any significantly impaired environment in the event of an on-site accident or other incident resulting in the dispersal of radioactive materials off-site.”


Therefore, the Department should have been well aware of my interest and possibly that of other hon. Members. The reply came back, which said, inter alia:


“It would not be viable for any of the bidders to proceed without an indemnity because any fee earning benefits of the contract would be overwhelmed”—


interesting choice of words—


“by the potential liabilities. The NDA has assessed that the benefits of engaging a new contractor far outweigh the remote risk that an indemnity might be called upon”—[Official Report, 14 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 76W.]


The Minister chose not to inform me at that time—this was in July again—that he had written to the Chairmen of the two Select Committees and that he had not put the departmental minute in the Library. Perhaps the Minister could explain why that was the case.


I pursued my inquiries. I tabled a question on the insurance indemnification and asked what the financial value was of the insurance indemnity. The answer said:


“While the impact of any call on the proposed nuclear indemnity could be very high, there is an extremely small possibility only of the indemnity ever being used, and it is therefore not possible to put a meaningful financial value on the indemnity.”—[Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 1146W.]


May I gently suggest to the Department that the reason why it cannot put a value on the risk is not because the risk is small, but because the liability is enormous, given the cost of clearing up after any nuclear accident? Now, that responsibility is being put on the backs of taxpayers, because neither the contractor nor commercial insurers will accept the risk.


On 28 August, during the recess, I again wrote to the Secretary of State to find out what was happening with the PBO transfer. I said:


“When does the Government intend to place a similar departmental memorandum”—


to the one that accompanied the Drigg PBO transfer in February—


“before Parliament.”


I also asked him whether he would place into the public domain


“all the correspondence”—


including letters, e-mails and memorandums—


“between ministers or officials in BERR and the NDA in regard to the indemnification for Sellafield.”


That has never been done. I ask the Minister to do that now.


In response to my further inquiries and to my point of order on 22 October, I received a further reply from the Minister. He talked about the schedule for evaluation
19 Nov 2008 : Column 121WH
of the PBO bids provided for the announcement of a preferred bidder on or around 11 July. He went on to talk about the rigour of the programme that had been carried out. He was not very convincing. The Minister also said that there was no scope for slippage in the contract, because it would cause problems if a new contractor had to be found for Sellafield.


The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform circumvented the usual procedures in place to inform Parliament, and privately wrote to the two Select Committee Chairmen instead, and failed to lodge the minute. On the same day as the Minister’s letter to me, 27 October, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—a greatly respected senior MP—wrote to the Secretary of State saying that the guidance to Ministers in the manual “Managing Public Money” is unequivocal. He cited the relevant extract:


“It is essential to give Parliament prompt and timely notice of any significant commitments, including contingent liabilities into which the Government intends to enter.”


The Chairman also said that the Public Accounts Committee will feel that the period for objection should be reopened. That is the same view as that of those who signed the early-day motion.


Mr. Andrew Smith (Oxford, East) (Lab): I commend my hon. Friend’s forensic work on the issue and support his call for full and transparent accountability in respect of Sellafield, as well as for any financial support from taxpayers or consumers for future nuclear power, whether through subsidies or more covertly through indemnities or guarantees, none of which, on his evidence, would be in the public interest.


Paul Flynn: I am grateful for that intervention, and I agree entirely with the points made.


Things get even more worrying in the rest of the Secretary of State’s letter of 3 November. He admitted that hon. Members had not been informed due to “an administrative error”, but then went further, seemingly denying his own claim and—this is rather alarming—attempting to justify the strategy of circumventing appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. He said:


“‘Managing Public Money’ sets out two procedures for notifying an impending indemnity—notifying the House or writing to the Chairs of the relevant Committees. These are alternates.”


That is the letter that he wrote challenging the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.


I believe that what the Secretary of State said and his interpretation lay down a precedent for future policy. We must resist the idea that something of enormous cost and importance—a huge burden on taxpayers now and in the future—need not go through parliamentary scrutiny, but that one or two Select Committee Chairmen can place a tick on it. It is an extraordinary usurpation of the rights of parliamentarians to suggest it, but that is what he is saying:


“These are alternates. In this case we wrote to you”—


that is, to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee—


“instead of notifying the House, undertaking to withhold final approval to proceed”


until there was a reply.


19 Nov 2008 : Column 122WH


Of course, there was a reply. The Chairman did not object, and so the process continued. The Secretary of State said:


“No objections were raised and you confirmed in your letter to Malcolm Wicks of 22 July...that you had no objection to the Department’s proposal”.


What about all the rest of us? Many of us did have objections. It was clear from the flow of parliamentary questions—I have quoted mine alone, but other people have been involved—that we had no opportunity whatever to object, because we did not know that the minute was there until 75 days after the period of objection. I am sure that hon. Members present will agree that that is an utterly unacceptable rationalisation of something that was at best a foul-up, but looks more like a cover-up.


I would like to draw attention to the question of risk and how serious it is. The Washington-led management consortium URS was reticent to take over the insurance for Sellafield because, as its representatives said in a public meeting, it is highly hazardous and a very dangerous nuclear site. Who says so? In October 2006, Justice Openshaw presided at the trial of British Nuclear Group for a processing accident at its Thorp site. His conclusion about the hazards of Sellafield was:


“By reason of its huge scale, its nature and its complexity the most significant and potentially the most hazardous nuclear site in this country.”


Even the British Nuclear Group’s own board of inquiry report on the incident, which involved something called a feed clarification cell, stated:


“Given the history of such events so far, it seems likely that there will remain a significant chance of further plant failures occurring in the future”—


I stress this—


“even with comprehensive implementations”


of the report’s recommendations. BNG decided to change the system, but said that the risk was still there.


There are extraordinary statistics, including in the memorandum submitted to the Select Committee on Defence in January by the international nuclear safety expert Dr. Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies. He said that


“the B215 facility at Sellafield...houses 21 steel tanks”.


4.15 pm


Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.


4.25 pm


On resuming—


Paul Flynn: From the evidence given by Gordon Thompson, the nuclear specialist, to the Defence Committee, I want to give one example of the danger of Sellafield. He described the amount of high-level radioactive waste there as containing


“about 8 million Terabequerels...of caesium-137”.


He went on to say that, by comparison,


“the 1986 Chernobyl reactor accident released to the atmosphere about 90,000 TBq...of caesium-137”.


At the time of the Chernobyl accident, we were assured that it was a mild risk, and yet the sheep in north Wales that were contaminated 22 years ago are still under
19 Nov 2008 : Column 123WH
control orders now. To put it another way, there was 27 kg of caesium-137 at Chernobyl; there is 2,400 kg at Sellafield.


No doubt the company that took over these consortiums exercised due diligence before reaching the conclusions that it did. Hon. Members of all parties should collectively regard what has taken place since then as unacceptable, sharp and evasive practice in a modern parliamentary democracy.


I urge the Minister when he replies to put away any prepared notes that he has and just respond to these points: I ask him to commit Her Majesty’s Government to suspending the current contract between the Nuclear Commissioning Authority and the new USR Washington-led parent body organisation, or PBO; I ask him to look again at the subsidy that is being paid and to check that it is within European rules; I ask him to postpone the planned go-ahead on 24 November until such time as the House has had the opportunity to scrutinise in detail all the financial implications for taxpayers of this indemnification procedure; and I ask him to set up a fully independent examination of Sellafield’s risks and insurability.


Finally, the series of events that I have just described besmirches the good name of Parliament by contemptuously disregarding the rights of parliamentarians. The Government and the nuclear industry cannot bury the true cost of nuclear power. It is our responsibility to clear up that mess, but they must be open and transparent. In their plans for future nuclear operations, they have tended to disregard the vast cost of nuclear waste and, in this case, the insurance that is an essential part of that cost. I urge the Government and the nuclear industry to face up to their demons and ensure that the industry pays its full costs.


Mr. Peter Atkinson (in the Chair): Order. Before I call the Minister, I inform hon. Members that this debate will now end at 4.42 pm, subject to there not being another Division in the House.



19 Nov 2008 : Column 123WH—continued


4.28 pm


The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): This issue arose as a result of an administrative error by a junior official in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. That official was told that the letter to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee on this matter needed to go in the Library. It did not go in the Library. When it was checked, some months later and after the parliamentary recess, whether that letter had gone in the Library, it was found that it had not gone in. On that day, that letter was put in the Library.


In the last 15 minutes or so, I have heard references to cover-up, to conspiracies and to contempt of Parliament, and I say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Paul Flynn): his concoction of conspiracy theory, innuendo and hyperbole has reached new heights in the House. It is the case that there was a minor error by a junior official, who should not be crucified for that error by my hon. Friend; that would be unworthy of my hon. Friend.


This happened within the Department. There was no requirement on the then Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North (Malcolm
19 Nov 2008 : Column 124WH
Wicks), to place the letter in the Library. He took the view that that was necessary in order to be open about this matter. An error was made by a junior Department official—humans are fallible—but I expect better of the hon. Gentleman than to talk about cover-ups and conspiracy. This attempt to manufacture a mountain out of such a tiny molehill is ridiculous.


The idea that the letter was secret is complete nonsense; it is a farce. Letters to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Public Accounts are not secret documents. They belong to the Committee, and members of the Committee can see them and refer them to the press. Far from trying to mount some sort of cover-up, as my hon. Friend suggests, my right hon. Friend was trying to be open with the House of Commons and to make sure that Members knew what was going on. I utterly refute the allegations, innuendo and concoctions that my hon. Friend has put forward. It is unworthy of him, and I expected much more from him.


Paul Flynn: Will the Minister explain why the Members who were interested in this matter were not informed? There is a great deal more to this. The Department tried to blame the Library, saying that it had not told the truth. The Department also said, in a press release to the Western Mail, that the reason why it was done was that it was a rushed procedure and it did not have any time. The Department has been wholly consistent on that, but it has given two versions. The first is that it did not have time and had to rush things through, and the second is the one that the Minister is giving now, that there was a failure.


Mr. O'Brien: I am sorry that my hon. Friend believes that he should be specifically informed of such matters above other Members. The two people who were informed were those who were clearly in a position to get the letter. The Public Accounts Committee Chairman was to receive the letter and would therefore clearly be informed. The letter was put in the Library to make it available to anyone who wanted to read it.


If my hon. Friend has a long-term opposition to nuclear, that is fine. I have no problem with that. Many people in the House have long-term oppositions to nuclear, but they do not concoct stories, conspiracies and cover-ups out of nothing as he has done. I have seldom felt so worried by the way in which stories are made up out of nothing as when I was listening to him today. There has been a regrettable error, and the Department regrets that things were not done as they should have been. My right hon. Friend wanted things to be done properly and ordered them to be done. He took a decision, not because the procedure required him to, but because he wanted things to be done openly. My hon. Friend suggests that the opposite was the case, but he is simply wrong.


My hon. Friend accuses the Government of dumping liability on the public, but who on earth does he think owned those nuclear power stations? Does he think that they were somehow owned by a private company when they were created? They were owned by the public—he knows that. No liability is being dumped on anyone, secretly or otherwise; there is a public liability. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has been set up to deal with the public liabilities that we have as a country and as a Government. We are trying to deal with those
19 Nov 2008 : Column 125WH
liabilities in a sensible, coherent way, and to ensure that that is done openly and with full consultation. There has been widespread consultation on this matter. The idea that something is happening secretly is nonsensical, as this matter has been addressed in the blaze of publicity.


The nature of the indemnity is very clear. There is a legislative restriction, in terms of the Government’s liability, so that they are able to deal with those liabilities if an incident happens in the UK. Under the Paris and Brussels conventions, other countries have signed up to agreements on how nuclear incidents might be dealt with, but the United States is not a signatory to some of those. My hon. Friend says that we are failing to put a value on the indemnity, but what is the indemnity about? It concerns the remote possibility that, if an incident happened in the UK, an American court might take a view about a court fine or settlement over there.


All the companies that bid in the process said that they were quite to happy to undertake the task, but that they would not be responsible for a liability that some American or other court, which has not signed the Brussels and Paris conventions, might impose. The NDA therefore decided, quite properly and openly, that it would have to come forward with the indemnity. When that was done, my right hon. Friend wrote to the Public Accounts Committee, and that letter was to go into the Library. An administrative error, and nothing more, resulted in that not happening. The day that we found out that it had not happened, it was immediately corrected. That is what happened, and all the other claims do not add up to a hill of beans, if we are talking about hills and mountains.


Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): I am gratified by the way in which my hon. and learned Friend is dissecting the incoherent concoction that has been put before him. Much has been said about the speed with which the process has been carried out, but does he agree that speed was of the essence? The regulator, the NDA and the Government all wanted the process to be addressed with speed, and speed was essential for operations at the Sellafield site to remain both smooth and safe.


Mr. O'Brien: That is the case. We had to undertake the process, for which negotiations and bids were received, and the letter of indemnity had to be agreed at the end of that process. As soon as it was agreed, it was decided that Parliament should be informed and that a copy of the letter to the Chairman should be put in the Library.


I want to make it clear that it is the Government’s responsibility to deal with and to pay for decommissioning and to clean up our historical civil nuclear liability. The NDA’s mission is therefore funded from the public purse, and is subject to parliamentary approval for expenditure and funding in the normal way. Since its creation, significant resources have been allocated to decommissioning. The NDA’s total spend was £2.4 billion in 2005-06, rising to £2.8 billion in 2007-08. Its budget for the next three years is set to rise to more than
19 Nov 2008 : Column 126WH
£8 billion, which is the largest amount ever spent on UK civil nuclear clean-up programmes over that sort of period.


The competition at the heart of this issue was also at the heart of the NDA’s mission to deliver fast, cost-effective clean-up. In March, the competition for the low-level waste facility near Drigg was completed, and the Sellafield competition is on course for completion on 24 November. I am letting my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West know that. Those are significant milestones, and indemnity is a common feature in those sorts of commercial contracts.


In the case of the NDA’s estate, the decision whether to grant a nuclear or other form of indemnity to a contractor is a commercial matter for the NDA. It approaches each competition on a case-by-case basis. If giving indemnity represents good value for money, it will consider giving it on sensible commercial terms—I should like to emphasise that point.


Paul Flynn: Will the Minister give way?


Mr. O'Brien: I have given way already. It is about time that I set out my case to my hon. Friend, because I would like him to listen to one or two things. We have listened to his views at some length, so perhaps he would care to listen to some of my replies to his points.


In the UK, claims relating to third-party damage arising out of nuclear occurrence are exclusively regulated by the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, which implemented the principles long established in the Paris and Brussels conventions on third-party nuclear liability. The NIA restricts compensation claims to personal injury and property damage caused by a nuclear incident in the UK. It also excludes from making claims those who are not UK citizens or from other Paris and Brussels signatory states. The United States is not part of that arrangement.


Therefore, there is an extremely small risk—I emphasise that—of non-eligible victims taking their claims to courts elsewhere, possibly the country of the contractor, such as the United States. The NIA and the Paris convention place a financial cap on the liability of the operator, currently £140 million for standard sites, in return for the acceptance of strict and exclusive liability. Therefore, claimants do not have to prove fault, and all claims are channelled to the operator, not to his supply chains. However, any contractor whose home country is not party to the convention risks unlimited liability if an action is brought in courts in their country, for instance the US. Parties cannot obtain insurance against that. An indemnity was therefore considered appropriate against the risk of such claims arising from a nuclear incident that falls outside the protections of the Nuclear Installations Act and the Paris and Brussels conventions. There are no insurance facilities available for that risk.


I say to my hon. Friend that the matters in question have been dealt with appropriately. I apologise for the error of a junior official in the Department, and he was right to take us to task, but not in the way in which he did. He exaggerated, went way over the top in his condemnations and traduced my right hon. Friend who was seeking to be open with him and other Members, not, as he suggested, to form some sort of cover-up.




According to the Parliamentary Archives data base, Paul asked 1410 parliamentary questions on nuclear issues during his time as an MP. (

Indeed his very first three questions a san MP (in July 1987)were posed on nuclear safety.

Nuclear Installations

HC Deb 17 July 1987 vol 119 cc646-7W 646W

asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to make a response to the recent report by the advisory committee for the safety of nuclear installations.

The recent report of the independent Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations does not require an immediate response from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I note, however, that in his foreword to the report, the chairman welcomed the Government's recent decision to increase salary scales for the NII.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make it his policy to invite safety inspectors from the International Atomic Energy operational safety review team to assist the nuclear installations inspectorate until such time as the latter has fulfilled its full desired complement of inspectors.

The NII of the HSE is able to carry out all its essential statutory functions with its existing complement of staff. The operational safety review teams of the IAEA were never intended to perform the role of the national regulatory authorities of member countries.

Nuclear Safety (Report)

HC Deb 17 July 1987 vol 119 c647W 647W

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what response he has made to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's nuclear energy agency report, "Electricity, Nuclear Power and Full Cycle Data in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Countries"; and if he will reappraise his nuclear safety programme in the light of the report.

As this report is of a purely statistical nature, compiled from data supplied by each member country, no response is called for.

Here are just a very small sample of some of  the nuclear issues he questioned.

Electricity Generation

HC Deb 09 December 1988 vol 143 cc621-6 621

§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Garel-Jones]

This is very much a story of a man of our time, of Thatcher's man—homo Thatcherus. He is the inevitable result of elevating competition to the level of the supreme virtue, the view that dominates and corrupts the thinking of the Government. My constituency has just had a merciful deliverance from the excesses of homo Thatcherus in the shape of Mr. Angelo Casfikis who planned to reopen a polluting, clapped-out power station under the terms of the Energy Act 1983. Other areas may not be so fortunate because I understand that Mr. Casfikis still has interests in two other sites.

Under the Energy Act 1983, the Central Electricity Generating Board will do business with anyone so long as he has the money. There is no provision in the Act to guarantee that power stations are sold to people who are responsible and have good reputations except in the case of nuclear power stations. We are told that we must rely on the protection of the watchdog—the pollution inspectorate.

The pollution inspectorate is not a watchdog. It is a pussycat without teeth or claws.



HC Deb 11 May 1989 vol 152 c521W 521W

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if his departmental library has on order the monthly magazine Sanity produced for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.


Nuclear Non-proliferation

HC Deb 23 January 1990 vol 165 c604W 604W

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information the Department has concerning the policy of(a) India, (b) Pakistan, (c) Israel, (d) Argentina, (e) Brazil and (f) Libya towards (i) the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and (ii) the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Of the countries listed in the hon. Member's question, Libya is a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), and its nuclear facilities are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The other countries are not parties to the treaty. All of them have nuclear installations, some of which are under IAEA safeguards while others are not.

BNFL (Contracts)

HC Deb 02 February 1990 vol 166 c383W 383W

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what recent export contracts have been awarded to British Nuclear Fuels plc; and what permissions have been sought by British Nuclear Fuels plc under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 to carry out exports.

Within the past two years, British Nuclear Fuels plc has been awarded export contracts amounting to some £80 million for providing a variety of nuclear services including uranium processing and enrichment, design and engineering work, and transport of spent fuel. Following the increase in capacity available to overseas customers for the first 10 years of reprocessing in its thermal oxide reprocessing plant (THORP), the company has also secured orders for over 80 per cent. of this additional capacity. Of these exports only those which involve the disposal of fissile material require approval by the Secretary of State for Energy under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.

All exports of nuclear materials, equipment and technology are made within the guidelines set out in the statement by the then Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, on 31 March 1976 at columns 514–16.

Nuclear Defence

HC Deb 14 January 1992 vol 201 cc817-911



There is a link missing from the logic of the Government's case. They say that we must keep nuclear weapons, but they do not relate that assertion in any way to the present crisis. The most compelling metaphor about politics is that we live in a saucer-shaped world. We are obsessed by our own affairs. The rim of the saucer, over which no one can see, is the date of the next general election. This is all about general elections. But those who look over the rim of the saucer see a nuclear abyss more threatening than any we have ever known.

In the early 1980s, there was a strong case for British unilateral disarmament. At that time there were two men with their fingers on the nuclear button. One of them—Andropov—was on a life-support machine; the other was Ronald Reagan. One of them was dead from the neck down; the other was dead from the neck up. That was a great peril to the world.

Nuclear technology is now half a century old. There is no secret about the technology itself. It has been denied to many nations, but in that regard there has been only 890 partial success. We know that it is available. In the end, the only answer is political persuasion. In the long run, that will form the basis of international non-proliferation policy. We see on the Government side a group of confused, old cold war warriors without a clue about how to deal with the present situation, and no idea how to deal with the new threat. They are raking coals that are long dead.




10 Sep 2014 : Column 618W


Nuclear Weapons

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answers of 3 July 2014, Official Report, column 725W, on nuclear weapons and of 10 July 2014, Official Report, column 358W, on nuclear weapons, if he will publish the titles of reports requested for the longest most recent period of time that will not incur disproportionate cost. [206421]

Mr Dunne: Responsibility for the transportation of warheads was transferred to the Warship Support Agency (now part of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S)) from the RAF in 2002. Titles of reports that relate to the risks of the transport of nuclear warheads that are held by DE&S are shown below. To conduct a search of the archived files held by the RAF could be carried out only at disproportionate cost.

Threat Vulnerability Assessment/Peer Review dated 14 April 2014.

Review of security arrangements across Nuclear Weapon Lifecycle Phases (LCP) 1-3, dated 18 July 2012.

(Project Armoured Nuclear Transporter) Truck Cargo Heavy Duty Mk3 Transport Operational Safety Case (OSC) Issue 2 dated October 2011.

Nuclear Weapons Security—Op DANSK Final Report dated 29 April 2010.

The Future Role of the Ministry of Defence Police (known as The Woolley Report) 3 September 2009.

Transport and Base Security Study dated 8 May 2006.

Operational Safety Case for the Transport of Nuclear Weapons, Issue 2 dated January 2005.

Director Nuclear Movements and Nuclear Accident Response Group Safety Statement for the Modification of the Nuclear Weapon Convoy task to Continuous Running including running in the hours of darkness dated 16 December 2004.

Review of Nuclear Weapon Road Convoy Security Arrangements, by Brig J H Thomas dated 19 February 2003.

Movements by Sea of Nuclear Weapons dated 17 December 1996.

Management Services Organisation Study No. 774 Nuclear Road Convoys, dated October 1993.

A number of reports have been identified that relate to the effects of the use of a UK nuclear weapon, where the titles could be provided without incurring disproportionate cost. This information is, however, being withheld to safeguard national security, because its release would prejudice the defence of the UK, and because it relates to the formulation of Government policy.


11 Nov 2010 : Column 449W


Nuclear Weapons

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence at what location on his Department's website the text of its value-for-money review of the nuclear weapons systems can be accessed; which (a) Ministers, (b) officials and (c) external experts participated in the review; how much it cost to conduct; and if he will publish each submission made to it. [20727]

Mr Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff of his Department were employed on the Trident value-for-money review (a) on a part-time basis and (b) on a full-time basis; and what estimate he has made of the cost of the review under each category of expenditure. [21381]

Dr Fox: The value for money review's outcomes were published as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review which can be found at the following link:

Because of the classified nature of much of the supporting paperwork there are no plans to publish anything further.

The Ministry of Defence agreed the conclusions of the value for money review before it was passed to the Cabinet Office for consideration by the National Security Council. The Secretary of State, Minister of State for the Armed Forces and the Minister for Defence Equipment, Science and Technology were also closely involved in the review.

The review was conducted by Rear Admiral Philip Mathias and Mr Ian Forber, a senior civil servant from the MOD, both working full time, and a number of other MOD staff provided significant input to the review within the scope of their existing posts. The final staff cost is estimated to be approximately £120,000. In addition, there has been some expenditure on external assistance and technical consultancy for the value for money review which has totalled some £200,000. Overall, the value for money review produced savings of £1.2 billion and deferred spending of up to £2 billion over the next 10 years.

Nuclear Weapons:Written question - 223040


Asked by Paul Flynn

(Newport West)

Asked on: 03 February 2015

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Nuclear Weapons



To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what the date and agenda are of the meeting in London on nuclear weapons of the Permanent Five Security Council members to be hosted by the Government; and if he will publish on his Department's website a list of all attendees at and the minutes of the meeting.


Corrected answer by: Mr Tobias Ellwood

Corrected on: 26 March 2015

hide corrections show corrections

An error has been identified in the written answer given on 09 February 2015.
The correct answer should have been:

The London P5 Conference took place at Lancaster House, 4-5 February, and covered a wide range of issues relevant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, encompassing disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Conference included outreach with a number of non-nuclear weapon states – Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates – as well as civil society. P5 delegates also visited the Atomic Weapons Establishment; this was part of our efforts to enhance transparency, but appropriate measures were put in place to ensure that our national security interests were protected.

The P5 Heads of Delegation were as follows:

- China: Wang Qun, Director General, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament
- France: Hélène Duchêne, Director for Strategic Affairs
- Russia: Grigory Berdennikov, Ambassador-at-Large
- UK: Peter Jones, Director for Defence and International Security
- United States: Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

The P5 issued a statement on conclusion of the Conference, which is available here: [link to be inserted once live]. This captures the key outcomes of the meeting.









Paul sufferd a huge family tragedy in 1979 when his 15 year old daughter, Rachel, committed suicide at home. This is his incredibly moving account of the terrible experience,  extracted from his autobiography, The Un usual Suspect.


Life can hold no worse pain... Paul Flynn MP on the day he lost his beautiful teenage daughter


By Paul Flynn
Daily Mail, 27 February 2010

It was April 4, 1979. I had worked a night shift at Llanwern Steelworks. There was also a local authority election campaign in progress and I was candidate for my Newport ward seat of Alway.

The election was a week away. Labour was not popular and defeat was possible. A few hours' sleep in the morning, council meeting in the afternoon and then an evening's canvassing.

My daughter Rachel was 15 and had grown up to be a beautiful young woman.

Paul Flynn's daughter Rachel, aged 15, at home with the family cats<img src="" height="465" width="468" alt="Paul Flynn's daughter Rachel, aged 15, at home with the family cats" class="blkBorder"/>

Unendurable loss: Paul Flynn's daughter Rachel, aged 15, at home with the family cats. Rachel died in April 1979

She had had a couple of boyfriends. One was a school pal. She had dumped him for her current one, an older boy who was a motorbike enthusiast. 'She left me for a motorbike,' her previous boyfriend complained.

I warned the new boyfriend about the precious person who was riding pillion with him. It was another nagging doubt to add to the ceaseless anxiety that all parents suffer throughout the lives of their children.

For understandable reasons, Ann - my then wife and Rachel's mother - was Rachel's best friend, guiding her through the difficult years of dawning womanhood.

Ann told me they had no secrets from each other until the final fortnight. But Rachel was also always close to me.

She was a gifted artist and had a close circle of school friends whom she had known since infants' school. She had painted the walls of her large, sunny bedroom with pictures of her hero, the racing driver James Hunt. She had passed one O-level a year early and was set to do well.

That day, she was unwell and was off school. I kissed her goodbye and went to my council meeting.


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I returned home at about 3.30pm. Ann had been watching a film on television. After a while, she made a cup of tea. She took one upstairs to Rachel. I heard Ann scream and whimper: 'God, God, God.'

'She can't be dead,' Ann sobbed as I ran into the room.

Rachel was lying on her bed. Her face was red, mottled with blue marks. She was warm but did not seem to be breathing. I begged her not to die. I pounded her chest to get her heart beating.

Distraught and cursing my own ignorance of what to do, I rang 999 and shouted at the operator: 'I think she's dead.'

Probably minutes later, I rang again and demanded to know why they had not arrived. Never had I felt so helpless and inadequate. The one I loved more than life itself was dying and I did not know how to stop it.

The paramedics moved her now-cold-body to the floor and tried oxygen. Ann and I held each other in a brief moment of false hope. A paramedic stared at us and shook his head. Ann lay on the floor and hugged Rachel's body.

The paramedic tried to pull her away. I stopped him. The warmth of life was leaving her. Ann, who had brought Rachel into the world, was holding her as she left it.

The phone rang. It was Rachel's previous boyfriend asking if he could speak to her. 'I really wish you could,' I said. 'Dear God. I really do, but she's dead.' I could give him no explanation. 'She just died.'

Paul Flynn<img src="" height="357" width="233" alt="Paul Flynn" class="blkBorder"/>

Looking back: Paul Flynn

The house was full of people. A doctor, the police and the men from the mortuary with a body bag. I protested that her body should be left at home. To no avail.

As her body was being taken out of the house, our 14-year-old son James came in. He had taken the dogs out for a walk. He asked what the body bag was. 'It's Rachel,' I said, 'she's dead.'

Our Rachel. Dead? How could that be? James stared back at me, blank.

As ever, phone calls were coming in. A chirpy fellow councillor with a joke about that evening's canvassing. A constituent angry about a minor housing matter.

There was a great gulf between us and everyone else. They were still in the world. We were in hell.

A policeman wanted a statement. A statement? What was I to tell him? Life that had been full and sweet an hour ago was now an agony that will go on for ever. That the loveliest person I have ever known is no more. How could he write down my howl of torment in his notebook?

Ann, James and I stayed close. Hugging, touching each other for reassurance. If we held on to each other, we could not lose anyone else.

The policeman kept asking me stupid questions. I imagined his face to be blue and blotched as Rachel's was. I suddenly laughed. Irrationally, I felt a thrill of relief.

Nothing worse than this could ever happen to me, I thought. Life can never hurt me so painfully again as I am hurt now. I was suddenly strong, untouchable. I smiled. The policeman asked if I was all right. No explanation was possible.

There was a note from Rachel saying sorry and goodbye. She had taken her life. Why?

There was no reason. Ann said there had been a mild row earlier in the day. She was having her second period. The first was when she was away on an exchange visit in France and that upset her greatly.

Was that the explanation? Ann said that she was angry and had stormed off upstairs. But there had been no warning. No threat. Never had she hinted that the possibility of suicide had ever occurred to her.

Normally, before she took any tablets, she first asked Ann's permission. This day she had stuffed a handful of painkillers down her throat.

We all had our own bedrooms. The three of us spurned the doctor's offer of oblivion through sedatives. Without a word being said we all moved to one bedroom and spent the night together.

'Don't either of you do anything stupid,' said James.

We needed to be close. Only sleep stopped the pain until we woke next morning to be bereaved once more. We tried to look after each other as best we could to lessen the pain.

Together we took Rachel's ashes to be buried in the village of Malestroit in Morbihan, Brittany. There she had found happiness with her French exchange friend from the Guegan family in their beautiful old water mill.

There was a funeral ceremony in the village church attended by many children from the local St Julien School. It was twinned with Rachel's Lliswerry High School.

We were touched to see friends from Newport attending, including her art teacher who admired her work. Her gravestone is inscribed with the words 'Rachel Flynn 1963-79 - Une Galloise qui aime cette ville.'

Ann, James and I found different ways to live through our grief.

I found help by becoming a counsellor for the bereavement group Compassionate Friends. All the members had lost children. A fellow member of the Broadcasting Council For Wales, Beryl Williams, sent me a touching note - 'The pain does get less.' Beryl had lost her son in the Aberfan Disaster of October 21, 1966.

Before that disaster, Beryl's life was that of an unassuming housewife. The tragedy was the trigger to Beryl's transformation. She shared the experience of many. She gave the rest of her life to community work in Aberfan. After Rachel's death, I spent many hours in Beryl's company. A few months later I attended her funeral at Llwydcoed.

Beyond sense or reason, I was bereft.


Neil Kinnock hissed: 'Watch your tyres don't get slashed'

Neil Kinnock<

Outburst: Neil Kinnock

In 1979 there was a referendum on Welsh devolution. The battle between comrade and comrade grew increasingly bitter.

It hit a trough for me - a councillor for Newport Council at the time - during a debate for sixth-formers in Cardiff.

I was making an innocent point about the difference between public transport in Wales and in London.

'The valley trains are still the main form of transport, but those who live in London, in, say, Richmond, they use their cars to get ... ' Neil Kinnock, then an MP, leapt to his feet and angrily interrupted me.

'It's nothing to do with you, Paul Flynn, or to this audience or to anyone else, where I live or where I send my children to school.'

The audience was taken aback by the force and venom of this outburst. There was no conscious reason why I had chosen Richmond as an example. But I had unwittingly hit a sensitive spot because Neil's home was there.

There had been some criticism of his choice of school that I had missed. Possibly it was because he did not have his main home in his valley constituency. He thought I was about to repeat some criticism that had scorched him.

When I finished my speech, Neil leant backwards in his chair and said to me behind the chairman's back: 'You had better watch your tyres don't get slashed.'

I tried to persuade the chairman to relay to the audience Neil's comment. He refused. It was a dangerous trait: the future leader of the Labour Party had lost his case with his temper.

In future Neil treated me with great kindness and generosity.

He saved our party from a descent into suicidal factionalism and has earned his honoured place in our history.


Retire? After a mere 23 years in Parliament, I'm only settling in

Having passed 70, retirement is a consideration. Tony Banks urged me to follow his example and leave Parliament in 2005.

Sadly he had only one year liberated from constituency chores. Tony's clincher argument was to insist that I should think of all the things I could do when I retire.

Tony was a wise and good friend. We had much in common. I did my thinking. What is the idyllic life at 70-plus?

It should be full, packed with thinking, fun, stimulating company, the buzz of fresh ideas, pulse-racing new technologies plus a daily fix of the heart-stopping drama of politics.

Occasionally it would be fulfilling to make a minute ripple in British and Euro politics. Getting the odd bon mot or joke across to an audience of millions via the media provides a warm glow.

An adequate salary would be a comfort that distanced me from the distractions of the low incomes that I have had for most of my life. Trips now and again to politically exciting places would be wonderful stimuli. The company of like-minded consenting political aficionados to fill the spaces between the meetings would be bliss.

Added zing would come from having the worry cells creatively throbbing. I'd need the daily fix of the worthy, wild and mad demands of my constituents. Occasionally, some of them would be helped and show appreciation.

Satisfaction would come from working with my dedicated staff, the family of the Labour Party and even a rare flicker of understanding from the media that my intentions are worthy.

The Tory Press would daily stoke up my reservoirs of outrage and indignation to keep me angry and hungry for retribution and reform.

Retirement would mean painful withdrawal symptoms. No chance to tell the Prime Minister face to face how he is failing. No smug select committee witnesses to be humbled. No unsung heroes to be celebrated. My constituency under-promoted by a novice.

Unlike Tony Banks I came to Parliament in middle life and I have been in the job for a mere 23 years. I'm just settling in.

Like most megalomaniacs I suffer the delusion that I am a little bit indispensable.

I recall an MP's wife saying: 'Who could represent this place better than my husband?'

I hear the same question in my head. The answer, of course, is 'Thousands of people'. But we cling to our fantasies.

Last December, The Wales Yearbook awarded me the 'Welsh MP Of The Year' prize. The citation was written in the generous terms that are usually confined to obituaries:

'The panel of judges were particularly impressed by Paul Flynn's record as an extraordinary and effective backbencher and his willingness to challenge difficult issues irrespective of convention or the whips. The award is less "for the year" but recognising Paul Flynn's service to Newport and a wider constituency throughout Britain, over many years.'

Parliament's most underrepresented group is the over-75s. Whose shame of wartime poverty spurs them on? My enthusiasm for speaking, questioning, writing and blogging multiplies yearly.

The post-2010 General Election Labour Party will seek a renaissance. We cannot wash the memory of recent failures out of our heads with a cocktail of rhetoric. New Socialism can be nurtured into fresh life from the detritus of New Labour.

As a late developer, I sense the best is yet to be.

• The Unusual Suspect, by Paul Flynn, is published by Biteback tomorrow, priced £19.99. To order your copy at the special price of £14.99 with free p&p, call The Review Bookstore on 0845 155 0713 or visit

YOUR MP WRITES: Paul Flynn, Newport West

South Wales Argus, 3rd September 2018

Paul Flynn MP joined workers at a picket line to protest about possible job losses at the Ministry of Justice.

Paul Flynn MP joined workers at a picket line to protest about possible job losses at the Ministry of Justice.

TRUMPS’ response to war hero McCain’s death was characteristically vulgar and petty minded. Trump has no respect for the power of argument. He believes and relies on the argument of power.

Whilst not always agreeing with McCain’s politics, his idealism served as an inspiration. Poseur Trump should take example from his ability to work separate the personal arguments from the political and embrace bi-partisanship.

Supporters and critics alike recall McCain’s honour in his service and dignified presidential campaign. The best of American politics contrasts with the worst that we now endure.

- Theresa May has declared she is not a fan of the new tv drama ‘Bodyguard’. The show tells the story of an Afghanistan war veteran now serving as protection to a Home Secretary. it is a necessary watch. Every MP should be confronted by the horrors that we imposed on our soldiers.

The arrogance of military leadership and the gulf between heroic fantasy of a politician’s war and the full reality of a soldier’s war has not changed. One MP recently described Passchendaele as a “wonderful battle”. Not to my father, my uncle and millions of others whose lives were damaged or ended by a futile WW1 that achieved nothing but WW11.

- The best of Newport has been beheld in the search to find a bone marrow donor for six-year-old Marley Nicholls. Marley has been diagnosed with aplastic anaemia and is in need of a bone marrow transplant. Sadly, no current donor on the worldwide register has been a match.

Through the herculean efforts of his family and their growing ‘Marrow for Marley’ campaign hundreds have been tested for a match.

The search continues to find a donor for Marley and the thousands of others waiting for a match. You can find out more about becoming a donor by contacting the Anthony Nolan Trust.

- This week the Boundary Review Commission submits its final recommendations for Wales.

The number of MPs will be reduced from 650 to 600. Reform of constituency sizes is necessary but current proposals are a messy piecemeal approach.

By reducing the number of MPs and not reducing the number of Ministers, the Government are strengthening their power at the expense of Back Benchers.

If the number of MPs is to go down and MEPs are to disappear, the work of an already overstretched Assembly will increase exponentially.

Meanwhile the cost of politics is soaring with the Government continuing to overstuff the Lords with cronies and donors.

The Boundary review is the only part of the democratic system that could be reformed to the Governments advantage. Overall root-and-branch reform is needed.

Six reasons Paul Flynn's decision to stand down is a huge loss to politics, Parliament and Wales

The maverick backbencher has never been afraid, never sought safety in a crowd, never stayed silent when it was important to speak


David Williamson, Political Editor

WEstern Mail, 12:26, 26 OCT 2018 West's Paul Flynn has said he will not stand at the next election (Image: Andy Commins)

Paul Flynn is not the average MP.

He an 83 year old who has stalked Parliament railing against cronyism, war and cannabis legislation - among other things.

In the years since arriving in the Commons in 1987, the lifelong Labour Party member and former steelworker has attacked vested interests from nuclear power to lobbying while championing causes like the Welsh language and cannabis.

His decision to announce to his constituents that he will not seek re-election due to ill health brings to an end a memorable three decades representing Newport in Parliament.

A former Newport borough and Gwent county councillor, he has spent most of his 30 years on the backbenches with two short stints in the shadow cabinet - two years under Neil Kinnock from 1988 to 1990 and then three months under Jeremy Corbyn.

He has demonstrated courage both in battling arthritis - a condition he has lived with since the age of nine - and in his readiness to stand out from the crowd.

In 2010, he said: “Being controversial means everyone agrees with every word I say 20 years after I say it.”

Here are six ways he showed his character:

1. Fighting for drugs decriminalisation long before it became fashionable

Mr Flynn is spearheading efforts to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Back in 1999, when New Labour was at the height of its power, he argued that "regulated decriminalisation reduces all drugs problems".

Then he often appeared a voice in the wilderness challenging the orthodoxy that cannabis had no medical value.

He used his role as vice-chair of an all-party committee on drugs misuse to champion the cause for reform, repeatedly declaring: "Cannabis is the forgotten medicine used by millions for pain relief for thousands of years in all continents.

“Prohibition has poisoned public opinion against its beneficial values."

Despite never having used an illegal drug, he railed against the decision to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug in 2008 and hailed those who defied the law to use cannabis to treat their illnesses.

"People should be allowed to use it freely and have access to markets instead of those operated by criminals," he would say.

He fulminated against the "innate cowardice of British politicians over the last 50 years".

And finally, as he predicted in 2010, the world seems to be catching up with him.

From November 1, doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis-derived products.

2. He fought his own party on the Iraq War

Paul Flynn was a relentless critic of British action in Afghanistan

In 2009, then aged 74, he stood up in Parliament to make a point.

Raucous MPs fell silent as he read out the name of all 176 British soldiers who had died in Iraq.

He had campaigned against the conflict since the outset in 2003, when he wrote to Tony Blair to warn that the invasion made terrorist attacks more likely.

He would make the same stand over Afghanistan.

His anger at ministers compelled him in 2012 to abandon parliamentary etiquette to force his point home.

He compared the dangers facing the armed forces in Afghanistan to the days of World War I when “politicians lied and soldiers died”.

The Speaker shot to his feet, urging him to “make it clear that he is not suggesting that any Minister is lying to the House of Commons”.

But Mr Flynn said: “That is precisely what I am saying.”

Mr Flynn was suspended for 24 hours.

3. His hatred of cronyism made him a pitiless when the Kids Company scandal unfolded

Kids Company had been founded to support inner city children.

Yet it would emerge that huge sums - a total of £42m - had been handed over the charity with no monitoring of how it was being spent or the benefits it was having.

In the wake of the closure of the once-respected children’s charity chaired by the BBC's Alan Yentob, he destroyed founder Camila Batmanghelidjh by patient questioning in Parliament.

The transcript of the memorable encounter is available on his blog.

After she prevaricated, he vented his anger, telling her:

"We want to know what happened with this organisation which has collapsed, damaging many people, possibly the results of it will do a great deal of harm to the clients you had.

"But you have given a non-stop spiel of mostly psychobabble; you do not answer the questions. I asked you how do you measure unmet need in the boroughs, and we have had this torrent of words since—verbal ectoplasm—but no answer."

The grilling was so memorable that the hearing was dramatised with a performance at London’s Donmar Warehouse.

Mr Flynn was portrayed by Anthony O’Donnell, who recently played the Labour MP Leo Abse in A Very English Scandal.

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4. That integrity made him speak up when others stayed silent

People who have worked in Whitehall can make lucrative use of their contacts (Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

Mr Flynn is appalled that people would see politics as a stepping stone to an even better paid job.

He is one of the few to speak about how the "revolving door" could affect decisions made by “top civil servants, generals, admirals, prime ministers” and ministers.

He said: “There is a grave danger that they can distort their decision-making in order to feather their nest for a future retirement job, and they could be taking the wrong decisions while they are taking those jobs.”

In 2016 he decried how MPs are “allowed to prostitute their insider knowledge to the highest bidder” and called for a ban on them being hired by companies to “oil the wheels”.

5. When it was needed, despite being almost crippled and in his 80s, he took on his most demanding roles for his party

Jeremy Corbyn turned to Paul Flynn when he needed a new Shadow Welsh Secretary and Leader of the House but reshuffled him back onto the backbenches (Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

The mass resignations from Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team in 2016 prompted the embattled Labour leader to give 81-year-old Mr Flynn not just one job but two.

He became Shadow Welsh Secretary and Shadow Leader of the Commons.

Mr Flynn joked about taking part in the Labour leader's "job creation scheme for geriatrics".

The MP delivered one of the most memorable speeches at that year’s Labour conference.

In a plea for party unity, he urged the party to welcome back those who had quit in an ill-fated bid to oust Mr Corbyn, saying: "It took courage for many of them to resign, it’s going to take greater courage for many of them to come back and we must make it possible for them to return with dignity and respect."

To cheers, on the conference stage he displayed the eloquence that had won him recognition on the backbenches.

He said: “Take the bile and the hatred together, put it in a box, bury it deep underground, put six feet of concrete on top and then put a sign saying ‘never should the last 12 months be unearthed from its dishonest grave'."

6. He does not kowtow to authority

Mr Flynn questioned the role of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York (Image: Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Decades in Westminster have not left him spellbound by royalty.

In 2011 he vented his frustration that he could not question Prince Andrew’s role as a trade envoy in Parliament.

He wrote: “Thrice I have tried to raise the subject of the unsuitability of Prince Andrew as our trade envoy. In our infantilised parliament I was thrice forbidden to criticise him.

“It’s a scandal, but MPs mouths are bandaged into silence.”

He is also no fan of Lord-Lieutenants.

In 2012 he said during a session of the Public Administration Committee: “I applied for the job description once... I was a steelworker at the time and I asked whether it was absolutely essential, from my studies of the Lord-Lieutenants in my area, to live in a large house in its own grounds. Was it essential to be so rich that you could do a full-time job without a salary...

“To have been a Freemason, to be a gentile, male and white? Or was this just how things had gone? I know things have improved since then but we have a system of Lord-Lieutenants that is hugely politicised and does not represent society.”

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·         Age is nothing but a number for this 81-year-old Welsh MP making waves

6. He would fight passionately for important causes from pain relief to nuclear power

Paul Flynn is worried that pills are used too readily

One of his big concerns is the “overuse of medicinal drugs", particularly in care homes and prisons.

He has special credibility on the subject of pain, having struggled with rheumatoid arthritis for decades.

In 2009 this critic of the pharmaceutical industry said: “We must look at the way in which lives have been damaged by our belief that for every moment of boredom, distress, grief, pain or discomfort, there is an answer in a pill; it is not true... Pain is a construct, and the least successful way of dealing with it is to take a pill..."

He is also a vociferous opponent of new nuclear power stations such as the Hinkley Point project and was alarmed to see new projects getting the green-light in the UK despite the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In 2008 he said: “The nuclear industry has never paid its way; it has always been an economic basket case. Why are we so committed to future nuclear power technology when we know that it will fix another financial albatross around taxpayers’ necks?”

He has also mocked the Trident nuclear missile system, saying: “We are clinging to this virility symbol as a gesture of our old national pride when it is not relevant.”

This is what Jeremy Corbyn said about Paul Flynn standing down

Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to Paul Flynn (Image: Liverpool EchoJames Maloney)

Mr Corbyn said: "I’m sorry to hear Paul has announced his intention to stand down from Parliament due to ill health. Paul has served his constituents with distinction for more than 30 years; he has been a passionate campaigner against the Iraq War and for the medicinal use of cannabis.

"From the backbenches to the shadow cabinet, his commitment, grace and humour shone through. I want to thank him for his dedicated service to the people of Newport West and for his devotion to parliamentary accountability. I wish him all the best for the future."

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Here is what Paul Flynn told Labour colleagues

Mr Flynn said in a letter to party officers and members: “Thank you for your patience and understanding over the past few months. My health has deteriorated to the point when it is not possible for me to fully represent you in Parliament.

“A by-election would be expensive to the public purse, disruptive and possibly unwise in the likelihood of an early General Election. However, it is only fair to tell you that I will not offer myself as a candidate in the future. I will continue for as long as possible in the best interests of the people of Newport West.

“I am extremely grateful to my fellow Newport MP, Jessica Morden, for undertaking some of my constituency duties in Westminster. However, this is not a satisfactory situation long term and with great reluctance, I have decided that it would be unreasonable to continue as your MP for the next three and a half years.

“I can continue providing the full service of my staff who undertake to ensure a ‘business as usual’ approach to casework and enquiries. Other than my presence in Parliament, we are fully engaged in promoting the interests of the constituency.”

Paul Flynn at the despatch box

He told the South Wales Argus: “I am confined to my bed at the moment. But my staff are working away like steam, and I am looking at all correspondence and writing letters.

“The other MPs are taking on some of the case work and raising things in Parliament. So it’s all being covered.”

Under proposals to cut the number of MPs, the two Newport seats would merge.

Mr Flynn said: “I would to see Newport represented by two MPs for as long as possible. Whether that will happen with the government reforms I don’t know.”

He expressed his sadness to the Argus that he would not be able to carry on in the role as long as he had hoped.

“I do regret this,” he said. “Unfortunately there is no other choice. I was happy to carry on – I thought I’d be able to do it for the full three years.

“But unfortunately this is more severe than anything I’ve ever dealt with. I greatly regret that.”




NFLA media release, for immediate release, 18th February 2019

NFLA gives tribute to Paul Flynn MP – a true advocate for a nuclear free world


The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) pays tribute to Paul Flynn MP, who has sadly died today after a long battle with illness.


The MP for Newport West since 1987, after 15 years as a councillor, Paul was a strong advocate and supporter of the NFLA, speaking at a number of our meetings over the past three decades. He was a politician of great integrity, as the tributes from MPs of all political parties today emphasise.


Paul Flynn was a consistent opponent of both nuclear power and nuclear weapons throughout his political career. He was an indefatigable peace campaigner and a real pleasure to work with.


He was a strong supporter of the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and consistently challenged the need for Trident replacement in Westminster debates. He was a principal speaker at the annual Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorative services at Tredegar Park for over 30 years. For example, he said:

“I cannot think of any conceivable use that nuclear weapons could have, apart from the prestige they give us. They also undermine our position in international talks. How dare we tell Iran not to develop nuclear weapons, when we are going ahead with updating ours?" (1)


On nuclear power, Paul Flynn shared the NFLA’s concerns over new nuclear build, the problems associated with radioactive waste and nuclear safety, and the safer, cleaner and cheaper renewable energy alternatives that now exist. As a Gwent County Councillor he was a core part of the local campaign to oppose building a nuclear power station in Portskewett, south Wales in 1979, which was cancelled shortly after the ‘Three Mile Island’ nuclear accident in the United States. He was also the Press Secretary to the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance, playing a prominent part in getting all 22 local authorities in Wales to sign up to the aspirational ‘Nuclear Free Wales Declaration’ in 1982. 


He has also been a consistent opponent of the Hinkley Point C new nuclear project, just across the Bristol Channel from his constituency in Newport. On that project he commented:

“The nuclear industry has never paid its way; it has always been an economic basket case. Why are we so committed to future nuclear power technology when we know that it will fix another financial albatross around taxpayers’ necks?” (2)


Paul spoke at a number of NFLA Welsh Forum and Annual Policy Seminars, and made a fulsome tribute at the memorial service to our renowned former Welsh Forum Co-Chair, Councillor Ray Davies, at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, remembered well by all those who attended it.


Paul would be greatly concerned about the negative turn in the nuclear weapons debate with the United States and Russia suspending the INF Treaty; and he would be continuing to advocate for renewable energy in the UK, particularly after the recent decisions by Toshiba and Hitachi to halt new nuclear projects at Sellafield Moorside and Wylfa.


NFLA passes on our deepest sympathy to his family and to his many friends in the peace movement.


NFLA Welsh Forum Chair Cllr Ernie Galsworthy said: "Paul Flynn was one of the great Welsh politicians of the past thirty years. He stood up for many causes that at times were not seen as particularly fashionable, such as opposition to both nuclear power and nuclear weapons. He was right on both issues. We agreed with him on the need to divert energy policy away from nuclear power to safer, cleaner and cheaper renewables as well as to move on from the irrationality of possessing nuclear weapons – as he called them a ‘virility symbol of national pride’ which is quite irrelevant these days. I pass on my deepest sympathy to his family. We need more independent minded and principled politicians like him and he will be sadly missed."


Ends - for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.


Notes for editors:

(1)  Paul Flynn’s blog, 16th October 2005 

(2) Wales Online – ‘Six reasons why Paul Flynn’s decision to stand down is a huge loss to politics, Parliament and Wales’, 26th October 2018 


MP's guide to life in the Commons and how not to sleep with your secretary

A Labour MP has written a book which tries to explain why Commons secretaries and researchers are attracted to his “superficial, unattractive, mis-shapen” colleagues.

By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor

Daily Telegraph, 3 August 2011

Paul Flynn’s book - an updated version of his original 1997 book “How to be a Backbencher” - also tells how he uses the discipline of Tweeting to ask Parliamentary Questions in fewer than 140 characters.

It includes new chapters on “How to defuse sexual magnetism”, “How to Tweet”, and “How to cultivate enemies”.

He said he wanted to advise newer Commons colleagues of the dangers the job presented to anyone in a long-term relationship.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “For reasons that are inexplicable, MPs - even the most superficial, unattractive, mis-shapen ones – are attractive to the other sex.”

Mr Flynn, 76, who has been married to his second wife for 26 years, said it was very difficult for MPs to “keep longstanding relationships going”. He said: “It does present serious problems of going astray. There is a magnetism to this.”

The chapter suggests a number of tongue-in-cheek ways for MPs to remain on the straight and narrow.

They include taking regular cold baths, going to bed “thinking of the immediacy of death” and recognising the “transitory nature” of sexual relations, against serving one’s constituents.

Mr Flynn’s book also includes a chapter on the best use of the social networkings site Twitter called “How to Tweet”. The Labour MP for Newport has 2,474 followers on his page.

He said he uses the discipline of tweeting in only 140 characters to edit his oral questions in the chamber of the House of Commons.

Last week he asked, in fewer than 140 characters: “Is not this big society, badger-slaughter spree a combination of bad science and animal cruelty by the nasty party?”

Mr Flynn said: “If you do it this way your questions are much more pithy. You make every word count, without any verbal Polyfilla.

“In the future Erskine May [the Commons’ rule book] will say that any questions in the House of Commons cannot be longer than 140 characters.”

Mr Flynn has now stopped issuing press releases, preferring to blog and Tweet to tell the media and his constituents what he has been doing.

Another new chapter in the book, which is published this Autumn, “How to cultivate enemies” tells how he has found making enemies in politics kept him on his toes and made him a better and more successful MP.

He said: “This place is full of pitfalls. It makes you a better MP if you have people you loathe. I don’t know where I would be without mine.”


Paul Flynn is thrown out of Commons for calling Philip Hammond a 'liar'

Paul Flynn has been suspended from the House of Commons after accusing defence ministers of 'lying' about events surrounding the deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan.

Paul Flynn was ordered out of the Commons and suspended for a day 

Rosa Prince

By Rosa Prince, Online Political Editor

3:42PM BST 18 Sep 2012

The Labour MP was ordered to leave the Chamber and suspended from the Commons for 24 hours after comparing statements given by Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and his ministerial team to the First World War when "politicians lied and soldiers died".

John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, told the left-winger that he was behaving in a "grossly disorderly manner". Mr Hammond added that the claims were "scandalous".

But the Newport West MP refused to withdraw his comments.

Mr Flynn made his incendiary remarks as the Defence Secretary appeared in the Commons chamber for the second day in a row to answer questions about the "green on blue" deaths of British soldiers at the hands of Afghan forces.

This morning, it was announced that, as a result of a spate of similar attacks by rogue soldiers, Nato troops would no longer routinely patrol with their Afghan counterparts.

Mr Hammond had been criticised for failing to disclose the apparent change of policy when he appeared before MPs yesterday.

As he delivered his emergency statement, Mr Hammond that the policy remained "unchanged" and that the decision to cancel patrols had been taken as a "prudent but temporary measure" following the angry response across the Muslim world and beyond to the anti-Islamic video which has appeared on YouTube.

In the debate which followed, Mr Flynn claimed that ministers were using soldiers as "human shields for ministers' reputations".

"The danger to our soldiers is being prolonged by those on that (front) bench who have the power to stop it," he added.

"Other countries have removed their soldiers from this dangerous area where they are not doing what we are doing which is arming and training our future enemy.

"Isn't this very similar to the end of the First World War, when it was said that politicians lied and soldiers died and the reality was, as it is now, that our brave soldier lions are being led by ministerial donkeys."

MPs are barred from calling other "honourable members" liars, and Mr Bercow immediately intervened to ask Mr Flynn if he had really intended to use the word.

Mr Flynn replied: That's precisely what I am saying. I believe we have had lies from the minister and I believe that our soldiers are being let down."

When the Speaker intervened for a second time, ordering Mr Flynn to withdraw his remarks, he refused, saying: "I have to insist on retaining my accusation of lying.

"That is far more important than a lying group of people who send our soldiers to die in vain in a war which we should withdraw and from which the country wants us to withdraw. ‘I accept the consequences of what I am saying.’"

Mr Bercow then used the arcane parliamentary procedure to "name" Mr Flynn, calling him by name rather than by his title, and moved a motion suspending him from the Commons.

He said: "I'm sorry to say you are ignoring the ruling of the chair and in so doing you are behaving, whatever your motives, in a grossly disorderly manner and in those circumstances I am obliged to name Paul Flynn, the MP for Newport West."

Mr Hammond said: "My response was going to be simply to note that Mr Flynn's accusation was scandalous."

Paul Flynn obituary

Veteran Labour MP who campaigned against nuclear weapons and was a strident critic of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Mon 18 Feb 2019 17.48 GMT

Paul Flynn was an ardent republican. In 1996, he proposed a private member’s bill for a referendum to abolish the monarchy.

Paul Flynn was an ardent republican. In 1996, he proposed a private member’s bill for a referendum to abolish the monarchy. Photograph: Richard Maude/Labour party/PA

In many respects the Labour MP Paul Flynn, who has died aged 84 after nearly 32 years in the House of Commons, was the quintessential backbencher of his generation. He was an admirably energetic constituency MP, a tireless campaigner on a vast range of issues and fearless in the face of authority. It was thus a measure of his success that he was as much an irritant to his own party in government as he was to the Conservative frontbench, and that this was indubitably countered by the personal affection he generated among his Newport electorate.

Born in Grangetown, Cardiff, and raised with his brother, Michael, by their widowed mother, Kathleen (nee Williams), he experienced the heady days of the post second world war Attlee government. As a 10-year-old lad, he cheered the election of James Callaghan as the local Labour MP in 1945 and recalled hearing Aneurin Bevan speak in the city in 1948, as the minister of health, establishing the new NHS.

It was a topic of close family interest. His Irish father, James Flynn, had gone to the trenches of Belgium as a teenager in the first world war and had been shot and subsequently captured as a prisoner of war. He survived and returned home to work as a postman, but the family finances were defined by means-testing and doctors’ bills before his early death in 1940.

Paul Flynn speaking at a legalise cannabis tea party outside parliament in 2017.


Paul Flynn speaking at a legalise cannabis tea party outside parliament in 2017. Photograph: Mary Turner/Reuters

Paul was raised as a Roman Catholic by his Welsh mother, and won a place at St Illtyd’s college, Cardiff, which was then a Roman Catholic boys’ grammar school. He qualified as an industrial chemist at University College, Cardiff, and in 1955 began work in the steel industry, first in the docks area of Cardiff, where he suffered serious hearing loss working in a nail factory, and subsequently at Llanwern, in Newport.

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In 1983 he was made redundant, and after a brief period in broadcasting started work the following year as a researcher for the MEP Llewellyn Smith. His election to Westminster as MP for Newport West came in 1987. He had joined the Labour party in 1956 and was elected as a member of Newport borough council (1972-81) and of Gwent county council (1974-82). He fought the second general election in 1974 in the safe Conservative seat of Denbigh.


In the Commons Flynn’s brief experience of the frontbench came at the very beginning and end of his career. Neil Kinnock made him a junior spokesman for Wales shortly after his arrival in the house, aged 52. In 1988 he was moved to social security for two years, but then began his long sojourn on the backbenches, where he rejoiced in being described by the Guardian’s Simon Hoggart as “the thinking man’s Dennis Skinner”, a soubriquet he felt was suitable for his epitaph.

Few could have been more surprised than he when, aged 81 in 2016, he was appointed by Jeremy Corbyn as shadow leader of the house and then also shadow Welsh secretary. They were temporary posts after a wave of frontbench resignations had hit the Corbyn leadership, and while Flynn spoke approvingly of his leader’s job creation for older people he found himself retired once more after three months to a less prominent parliamentary role.

It was never one of obscurity. Flynn had strong opinions on most things and a vivid vocabulary with which to articulate his views. He had the eloquence of his Welsh and Irish forebears, which he could exhibit in both his native English and the fluent Welsh he learned in his teenage years. He could also do an unintelligible, but apparently accurate, rendition of Chaucerian English. A passionate advocacy of the use of the Welsh language was one of his lifelong concerns and he was a member of the Gorsedd of the Bards.

Other topics with which he was very much involved included the medicinal use of cannabis, for which he started campaigning in 1999, and the dangers of overdosing from the use of paracetamol. He was opposed to nuclear power and nuclear weapons, , and a strident critic of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On one occasion in 2009 he recited to the Commons a list of the 176 names of the UK military personnel who had been killed serving in Iraq. He was suspended in 2012 for accusing the Defence ministerial team, then headed by Philip Hammond, of lying about Afghanistan.

He was a republican who, in 1996, proposed a private member’s bill for a referendum to abolish the monarchy. He believed in an elected second chamber and opposed the honours system. Other concerns included mis-selling of pensions, public corruption, ferry safety, daylight saving for road safety and the use of bull bars on cars, which he opposed.

He was always near the top of any list of diligent parliamentary questioning, topping it in 1991 with a total of 928 parliamentary questions, costing an estimated £46,000 to answer. He won an award for campaigning for freedom of information that year and in 1996 was named the Spectator’s Backbencher of the Year.

He was a member of the select committee on Welsh affairs and on transport, and was a delegate to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. He was a passionate European, regarding Brexit as “the biggest political disaster of my lifetime”, and was not afraid to say so although his constituency voted 56–44 % in favour of leaving Europe. Before election to parliament he was a member of the Broadcasting Council for Wales (1975-80), the South Wales Docks Board (197680) and the National Museum of Wales (1978-82).

Flynn suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which was first diagnosed when he was nine years old. Although he recovered from a mini-stroke in 2007, his health had recently deteriorated with the onset of pernicious anaemia and he announced in October that while he wanted to go on being an MP “for ever”, he would stand down as soon as possible. He was a highly competent user of all forms of digital technology, having won awards for his MP’s website, and continued to work from his bed.

He published a number of books about politics, including a guide to being a backbencher (1997), updated as How to Be an MP (2012). It includes the somewhat cynical advice for aspirant ministers: “Cultivate the virtues of dullness and safety. Be attuned to the nation’s lowest common denominator of conscience, idealism and cowardice. At all costs avoid any appearance of humour, originality or interest in your speeches.” It was advice he, of course, ignored himself.

In 1962 he married Anne Harvey and they had a son, James, and daughter, Rachel, the latter of whom predeceased him in 1979. He and Anne divorced in 1984, and the following year he married Samantha Morgan (nee Cumpstone). She survives him, as do James, a stepson and a stepdaughter.

• Paul Phillip Flynn, politician, born 9 February 1935; died 17 February 2019



Labour MP Paul Flynn dies aged 84

Jeremy Corbyn pays tribute to MP who had represented Newport West since 1987

Press Association

Sun 17 Feb 2019 23.58 GMT

Paul Flynn

Paul Flynn at a ‘cannabis tea party’ outside parliament in 2017. He was a strong advocate for medicinal cannabis. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, has died, his local association has announced. He was 84 and had served his constituency since 1987.

The association said on Twitter: “It’s with great sadness that we let you know that our MP, Paul Flynn, has died today.

“Paul is a hero to many of us in the Newport Labour family and we mourn for his family’s loss. We would ask that the privacy of Paul’s family is respected at this difficult time.”

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said Flynn would be “greatly missed”. He tweeted: “I’m very sad at the passing of my good friend Paul Flynn. He had such love for Newport, knowledge of radical South Wales history and a dry wit.

“He was an independent thinker who was a credit to the Labour Party. He will be greatly missed.”

Flynn, who represented Newport West for almost 32 years, held shadow cabinet posts during his parliamentary career but had not been active in the Commons in recent months.

The MP, who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, was a strong advocate for the medicinal use of cannabis. He had announced in October that he intended to stand down for health reasons, telling Press Association he would “wait for a convenient time to go” and had “loved every minute” of his time in Westminster.

He said at the time: “It’s been a great, wonderful, rich experience. I lasted 31 years.”

The Welsh secretary, Alun Cairns, tweeted: “Very sorry to hear of Paul Flynn’s passing. My thoughts & prayers are with his family.

“He was an exceptional constituency MP & it was a privilege to work with him taking the Wales Bill through Parliament when he was Shadow SoS for Wales. We always had a warm & friendly relationship”.

Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn dies aged 84

He represented his constituency since 1987



·     Wales on Line, 23:47, 17 FEB 2019

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Paul Flynn MPNewport West MP Paul Flynn (Image: PA Archive)

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Paul Flynn, Newport West's MP of more than 30 years, has died aged 84.

The sad news was confirmed late on Sunday night by his Labour association.

A statement from Newport West Labour said: "It's with great sadness that we let you know that our MP, Paul Flynn, has died today.

"Paul is a hero to many of us in the Newport Labour family and we mourn for his family's loss. We would ask that the privacy of Paul's family is respected at this difficult time."

The maverick backbencher was never afraid to speak out and never sought safety in a crowd.

He fought for the decriminalisation of drugs long before it became fashionable and fought his own party on the Iraq war.

And in 2011 he vented his frustration that he could not question Prince Andrew’s role as a trade envoy in Parliament.

He wrote: “Thrice I have tried to raise the subject of the unsuitability of Prince Andrew as our trade envoy. In our infantilised parliament I was thrice forbidden to criticise him. It’s a scandal, but MPs mouths are bandaged into silence.”

He spent most of his 30 years on the backbenches with two short stints in the shadow cabinet - two years under Neil Kinnock from 1988 to 1990 and then three months under Jeremy Corbyn.

In October, it was confirmed that the lifelong Labour Party member and former steelworker would not stand for re-election due to ill health.

He said he was confined to his bed and, in a letter to party officers and members, said: "Thank you for your patience and understanding over the past few months. My health has deteriorated to the point when it is not possible for me to fully represent you in Parliament."

Tributes were quickly paid to the well-respected Labour politician.

First Minister Mark Drakeford paid tribute to a politician "of real courage and integrity".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I’m very sad at the passing of my good friend Paul Flynn.

"He had such love for Newport, knowledge of radical South Wales history and a dry wit. He was an independent thinker who was a credit to the Labour Party. He will be greatly missed."

Jo Stevens, Labour MP for Cardiff Central, said: "So very sad to hear that my lovely colleague Paul Flynn MP has died. A kind, principled, fascinating man who was devoted to his constituents & constituency. Sending deepest sympathy to Sam, their family & to all our comrades in @nptwestlab".

Remembering Paul Flynn

All of us at Stop the War Coalition are very saddened to hear of the death of Paul Flynn MP. Paul was a great friend of Stop the War and a very warm, gentle man who will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Mr. Flynn refused to kowtow to those in his party who wanted to respond to the events of 9/11 by waging unjust wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He was a persistent anti-war voice throughout his 32 years as MP for Newport West and spoke at a number of Stop the War events, including a meeting in Manchester in 2012 where he can be seen
speaking, alongside his friend Jeremy Corbyn, about the tragedy of the Iraq War.

Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time. RIP Paul Flynn MP (09/02/1935 - 17/02/2019).



The Seven Dwarfs who resigned as Labour MPs the day after Paul died  included the following waffle in their mini –manifesto:


Labour now pursues policies that would weaken our national security;

Our aim is to pursue policies that are evidence-based, not led by ideology, taking a long-term perspective to the challenges of the 21st century in the national interest, rather than locked in the old politics of the 20th century in the party’s interests.”

Paul would have robustly pointed out that renewing Trident to combat the increasing 21st  century security risk was complete nuclear nonsense. He would have had no truck with these turncoat  rebels who betrayed the Labour cause for personal political gain.


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