We are at a pivotal time in UK defence policy. Some good: HMS Queen Elizabeth has recently left her dock for the first time to conduct sea trials. Some bad: questions over the 2% NATO spending pledge. Some ugly: the continued hounding of those who have served at this country’s behest facing historical allegations, some now as pensioners. Yet, rarely has Parliament had the opportunity to influence and scrutinise these aspects to the extent it does right now.
The Defence Select Committee is one aspect of this scrutiny function. Since becoming a member of the committee in 2015, I have been party to many inquiries that have conducted some excellent work. From examining the MOD’s duty of care following the deaths for three SAS reservists on Pen y Fan in 2015, to the use of Lariam for military personnel in response to concerns over its safety, to chairing an inquiry into personnel subject to judicial processes which led to the closure of IHAT. It has been a deep privilege to conduct this work and it has been couched in the aim of changing the lives of serving & former personnel for the better, eased the concern of military families and improved MOD policy making.
However, we are in changing times and as the security environment we are faced with changes and as technologies develop, so must the committee change to keep abreast of the sliding sands. It should be robust in order to continue the interrogative work it has conducted since 2015, yet be able to react to new challenges and hold true to being the back stop on ensuring the welfare of military personnel and their families.
I served 13 years in the British Army as a Joint Fires Controller directing air and artillery strikes. I worked at the lowest levels with tactical ground holding units, through to the strategic level as part of a United Kingdom Special Forces Task Force in Afghanistan going after some of our most ruthless enemies.
In 2014 I left the Army to stand as a Member of Parliament. During my military career I saw the good and the bad side of defence policy and I wanted to have an impact on defence matters in Parliament. Many of my comrades felt we had been asked to conduct the will of the country’s decision makers, almost as if we were considered ‘out of sight and out of mind’. I wanted to help change this and since being elected I have worked tirelessly to achieve that.
Now, I am standing in the election for Chair of the Defence Select Committee.
When I started this campaign, I thought that this would come down to a straight shoot out over which candidate MPs preferred. It is disappointing that an active campaign is being conducted by local Labour Party colleagues and ex-colleagues here in Parliament, to deny me a ‘platform’, with a view to winning my seat for themselves. Surprising too, given the Chairmanship of this committee is so important, that it doesn’t provide a platform for personal interests at all, and that I am not included in the 79 target seats the Labour Party are hoping to win.
I hope and believe that tomorrow, colleagues will vote for the best candidates in all of the select committee elections and so if my opponent wins good on him. I would implore all to seek what is best for the Country and by extension Parliamentary scrutiny, at a time of unique challenge.