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Last Updated: Friday, 10 February 2006, 13:40 GMT
Minister's muesli jibe angers MP
Paul Flynn
Mr Flynn was questioning policies carried out in Afghanistan
An MP has criticised a Welsh Labour colleague, accusing him of "flippant" remarks during a debate about drugs.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn has tabled a Commons motion accusing Foreign Office minister Kim Howells of "schoolboy" comments about "life and death" issues.

Dr Howells mocked anyone who thought by eating muesli, reading The Independent and attending Pinter plays, "the drug barons of Afghanistan will go away".

But the Pontypridd MP said he took the issue "extraordinarily seriously".

In the motion, Mr Flynn said sending troops to Afghanistan was "potentially catastrophic", with five British soldiers having been killed in the country during the troubles.

It arose from an exchange in the Commons earlier in the week, when Mr Flynn had told the minister that sending more British troops to the country would lead to increased violence which could turn many Afghans to supporting the Taliban, the regime deposed in 2001.

Kim Howells
I answered [the question] in my own way and if he doesn't like it, he can do what he likes about it
Kim Howells MP

On heroin production in Afghanistan, Mr Flynn said: "A 20% decrease in the area cultivated but only a 2% decrease in the amount of heroin produced: are we not on mission impossible, sending troops into the Helmand province?

"Will that not result, perversely, in an increase of violence that drives local farmers into the hands of the Taliban?

"Are not our present policies leading to the Colombianisation of large parts of central Asia?"

In his reply, Dr Howells said Mr Flynn's policies would lead that way, adding: "It is not enough to assume that if people eat the right kind of muesli, go to first nights of Harold Pinter revivals and read The Independent occasionally, the drug barons of Afghanistan will go away.

"They will not.

"The poison that is being pumped into the veins of children in the UK is coming from Afghanistan and we must play our part to stop that happening."

Outspoken

Mr Howells told the BBC Wales news website: "I answered [the question] in my own way and if he doesn't like it, he can do what he likes about it.

""I take extraordinarily seriously the issue of Afghanistan and have been working very closely with my colleagues in DFID (Department for International Development) and the MoD (Ministry of Defence) to ensure that our troops have the maximum protection in Afghanistan."

Dr Howells has provoked strong reactions in the past with his outspoken comments.

While arts minister, he wrote on a comment slip that items shortlisted for the Turner Prize were "conceptual bullshit".

He also remarked during a Commons debate on licensing laws the idea of "listening to three Somerset folk singers sounds like hell".

He once described the royal family as "a bit bonkers".


SEE ALSO:
Minister attacks Turner art
31 Oct 02 |  Entertainment
Art lover's Howells of protest
31 Oct 02 |  Politics
Profile: Kim Howells
13 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Minister questioned by police
10 Jun 04 |  Wales


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