Neil Parish’s column for the Express & Echo

Parliament has returned after what can only be described as an eventful summer.The Libyan conflict has entered its penultimate stage with the taking of the capital Tripoli and the international efforts are now shifting to the transition to a democratic post-Gaddafi Libya. More worrying are the revelations, gleamed from documents found in Tripoli, that the previous Government gave active assistance to Gaddafi's security services in crushing dissidents. The Prime Minister has announced an investigation into these allegations which I fully support.We have also seen riots on the streets of London that spread to other major cities. We need to be clear that these riots were in no way politically motivated and no demands were made.Shortly after the break-up for the summer, I was compelled to return to Westminster when Parliament was recalled to debate the scenes we saw on our streets and what actions should be taken next. I believe the Prime Minister was right to recall Parliament and help communicate to the public what action the Government was taking. This was criminal opportunism of the very worst kind; those responsible must face the consequences of their actions. Devon & Cornwall Police were actively involved in restoring order and sent 27 officers to London to assist their colleagues in preventing further criminality. I would like to thank them for the speed of their response and for their unstinting professionalism.We must not allow those engaging in theft and destruction of property to be treated as victims of circumstance. These criminals must be held to account for their actions.What is clear from those already being charged is that poverty is not the cause of this and commentators who have attempted to politicise and even justify this \\flash-mob\\ criminality have shown poor judgement. Events of this nature occur within a set context. This must be examined and understood if we are to prevent further widespread disorder.This summer was an opportunity for MPs to catch up with their pastoral duties in the constituency. I have been meeting constituents at surgeries, visiting local manufacturers to see the good work small businesses are doing to promote real economic growth. I even judged the competition at the Tiverton & Honiton Dog Show. I was especially pleased to thank volunteers in Mid Devon who give their time to provide emotional support for those suffering from depression and anxiety. I presented the Approved Provider Standard certificate to Sue Matthews and other Voluntary Support Scheme volunteers.The charity is about to launch a new website and I would like to wish them all the best for the future.Last week I hosted a meeting in Westminster with Animal Asia, an animal conservation charity which I have worked with for many years. It campaigns to stop the cruel and unnecessary practice of bear-bile farming in China.The Asiatic Bear, also known as the \\Moon Bear\\ is intensively farmed for its bile which is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Bile is extracted from the bear's gallbladder twice a day through a surgically implanted tube. Often farmers push a hollow steel stick through the bear's abdomen. The bile runs into a basin under the cramped cages they are kept in. Half of these bears die from infections caused by bile leaking back into the abdomen, along with infections in the open wounds. In 2006, I went to China with a delegation from the European Parliament to see bear farms and visit the bear sanctuary run by Animal Asia founder Jill Robinson MBE. Last November I met Chinese officials from the Sichuan Forestry Department, along with Animal Asia and the China Wildlife Conservation Association in the House of Commons to discuss the process of ending bear-bile farming in China. The meeting I hosted last week was attended by experts in Chinese medicine from China, the United States, Spain and Australia. The meeting was to inform practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine of the bears' suffering and of the dangers bear bile presents. Farming causes the animal extreme pain and should be stopped, especially when there are cheaper and safer herbal and synthetic alternatives.Bear bile can harm human health; it is often filled with pus from the wounds it is taken from. I will continue to press for an end to bear bile farming.Neil ParishYou can read Neil Parish’s monthly column in the Express & Echo