James Gray MP: I will not use the Defence Committee post as a personal soapbox

Posted On: 
27th January 2020

The Defence Committee demands a strong and experienced chair who will speak up without fear or favour, writes James Gray MP

Royal Marines from 45 Commando during a ten-week winter warfare training exercise in the extreme cold conditions within the Arctic Circle at Innset, Norway
PA Images

We live in an ever-more dangerous world, in which Britain must play a leading role, especially post-Brexit.

We must counter increased threats across the Middle East; destroy Daesh and military Islamic fundamentalists; contain Russia; support Nato as the key cornerstone of our national defence; maintain the continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent; work closely with our main ally, America, and defend these shores and Britain’s interests around the globe.

To do all of that and so much more, we need stronger and better equipped Armed Services; we need technologies and capabilities for modern warfare, especially cyber; we need better procurement systems, and a sleeker Ministry of Defence.

The Defence Committee must play a key role in all of that. We must be tough and unrelenting in holding the Government to account; stimulating their thinking and standing up for our Armed Forces.

All of that demands a strong and experienced chair who will speak up with neither fear nor favour, and who will take the whole committee with him on a collegiate and cross-party basis.

It needs someone who will be wholly committed to the committee and to defence policy, who neither views the chairmanship as a stepping-stone to greatness elsewhere, nor as some kind of compensation for loss of office, nor as a personal soapbox.

I hope that I have those credentials. I offer total dedication to defence and our Service people. I spent seven (pretty undistinguished) years as a gunner in the Honourable Artillery Company.

I am the long-standing chair of the APPG for the Armed Forces, and of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust/Scheme.

A former shadow defence minister (I resigned over Iraq), I was a member of the committee for some years and chaired the inquiry into Arctic warfare.

I am a member of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies, and a former visiting Fellow of St Anthony’s College, Oxford.

The world is a dangerous and confusing place; Britain must punch above its weight from a military and diplomatic perspective. The Defence Committee has a crucial role in ensuring that we do; and its chair must be determined and committed to that task.

I hope that you will, for all of those reasons, be ready to vote for me to be chair.

James Gray is Conservative MP for North Wiltshire