The Government must prioritise defence procurement practice and personnel to show global leadership
Representing one-quarter of the RAF, and with a track record on procurement, I believe I am the right person to chair the Defence Committee and hold government to account
After careful consideration, I have decided to put myself forward to be chair of the Defence Select Committee on Wednesday 29 January.
The next chair has huge boots to fill, with Julian Lewis having served the committee with distinction and principle since 2014. At the beginning of a new decade, with an uncertain global landscape before us, the need for Britain to display leadership on the international stage could not be greater.
If the UK is to fully demonstrate the global leadership a free world requires and our allies expect, we need to upgrade all levels of our nation’s defence and hard power, increasing investment to strengthen the size and capability of our armed forces. It also means addressing the inadequacies of our procurement processes and improving our offer to personnel before, during and after service.
The upcoming Defence, Security and Foreign Policy Review presents the Government with an opportunity to address all of these issues, ensuring a UK defence policy able to tackle the threats of the modern world and achieve our wider geo-strategic ambitions.
This work will need an effective Defence Select Committee holding the Government to account every step of the way, led by a chair with in-depth knowledge and tireless commitment – I believe I have these assets.
I have, in a relatively short time in Parliament, built a reputation for understanding the intricacies of procurement, being credited by the Commons Library with “leading the Parliamentary pressure” for a Combat Air Strategy in order to develop the next-generation aircraft to replace the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon multi-role jets. The Government announced such as strategy in July 2018 as Team Tempest.
I am also on record as calling for strategies for rotary aircraft and for the new aircraft carriers, believing that retaining essential sovereign capability requires a stable, sustainable industrial base – and that foreign policy goals need to precede, not follow, an assessment of the size and shape of our armed forces.
I have completed both the RAF and Royal Navy Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and am enrolled on the Royal College of Defence Studies course.
I represent the largest base in the Royal Air Force – RAF Brize Norton, home to the UK’s transport and air-to-air refuelling fleet – and approximately one quarter of the entire RAF. This gives me a uniquely valuable perspective: I represent a town that is intertwined with the RAF both in terms of economy and identity, enabling me to understand the challenges of housing, personnel retention, family welfare, and the Covenant in detail.
Furthermore, my background as a barrister would, I believe, be a helpful attribute for the chair. Not only because I am used to analysing complicated issues and asking the right questions, but because many of the key issues the committee will deal with – from procurement to historic allegation against veterans – are as much legal issues as they are military.
I hope colleagues from across the House feel that I would be an effective chair of this critical Committee and would be honoured if they offered me their support on Wednesday.
Robert Courts MP is Conservative MP for Witney
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