COMMONS

Chair nominations for Defence Committee

Nominations close for Chair elections.

Two nominations have been received for the position of Chair of the  Defence Committee. The Chair will be elected from the Conservative party.

A full list of candidates is published below with accompanying statements.

As set out by the Speaker, the election will be held in Committee Room 8 from 10am to 4pm on Wednesday 12 July. The results are expected to be announced by the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow, as soon as possible after the ballots close.

The candidates are:


Nominated by (own party)

Mr Andrew Mitchell, Mr Mark Harper, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Gillian Keegan, Mrs Maria Miller, Bill Wiggin, Mr Bernard Jenkin, Mr Owen Paterson, Richard Drax, Suella Fernandes, Alan Mak, Rehman Chishti, Jack Lopresti, Gareth Johnson

Nominated by (other parties)

Mr Kevan Jones, Mr Khalid Mahmood, Vernon Coaker, John Spellar, Ruth Smeeth

Statement

In my two years (so far) in the Chair of the Defence Committee, I have been pleased to initiate something quite new: each member of the Committee is being given the opportunity to conduct an Inquiry of his or her own, from beginning to end, by chairing the Defence Sub-Committee. 

So far, Madeleine Moon has overseen a Report on military exercises and the duty of care, Johnny Mercer has exposed the sick farce of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team, and James Gray has been developing his specialist study of Defence in the Arctic. When needed occasionally to keep the Sub-Committee quorate, I have served simply as one of its ordinary members. 

This innovation makes maximum use of the skills of every member of the full Committee, and ensures that he or she feels rightly valued and involved.

At any one time, the Committee and Sub-Committee are engaged in four concurrent Inquiries. Several were at advanced stages, when interrupted by the election, including a major study of our Defence relationship with the USA. I should expect the new Committee to find a way of ensuring this valuable work is not wasted.

As well as the three Sub-Committee Reports referred to already, the full Committee produced eleven Reports ranging from a checklist of potential threats and vulnerabilities, through detailed analyses of our Defence interests concerning Russia and our air campaigns in Iraq and Syria, to forensic dissections of trends – over decades – of our expenditure on Defence as a proportion of GDP in comparison with that on Welfare, Education and Health. Much of the data in our Reports has been derived from original research carried out by our highly professional staff under the direction of the full Committee.

One major study dealt with the wholesale prescription of the anti-malarial drug Lariam to our Armed Forces with insufficient regard to the important precautions emphasised by its manufacturers. Another charted the relentless decline in the numbers of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers, and the risks of further unacceptable reductions if the new shipbuilding strategy is mishandled. 

We have recommended the adoption of a Statute of Limitations to protect former security personnel from hounding in the courts of Northern Ireland whilst paramilitary mass-murderers walk free after derisory sentences or no sentences at all. My favourite Report title was that given to our denunciation of the impending loss of “open source intelligence” resulting from the cuts to the BBC Monitoring Service and the closure of its Caversham Park headquarters. We christened the Report: “Open Source Stupidity”.

As someone with 35 years’ experience of campaigning on Defence issues, an advanced degree in Strategic Studies, and (very modest) practical service as an RNR Seaman on minesweepers, I trust Colleagues feel that I have an appropriate mix of skills to continue to chair the Defence Committee for the next few years – and thus bring to fruition the integrated programme of Inquiries and Reports which were well underway until the General Election intervened.

Relevant interests

Former Seaman, Royal Navy Reserve

Royal College of Defence Studies (2006)

Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College London

Patron, Pilgrim Bandits (Military Amputees) Charity

Johnny Mercer MP

Nominated by (own party)

Alex Chalk, Chris Philp, Matt Warman, Edward Argar, Robert Courts, Maria Caulfield, Scott Mann, Heidi Allen, Mr William Wragg, Steve Double, Leo Docherty, Will Quince, George Freeman, Lucy Allan, Mr Gary Streeter

Nominated by (other parties)

Chris Bryant, Melanie Onn, Wes Streeting, Stephen Kinnock, Dan Jarvis

Statement

We are in critical times in this Nation’s long and proud relationship with her military. Are we, or are we not spending an ‘honest’ 2% of GDP on Defence? What do we want from our modern, agile, smaller yet apparently more capable Armed Forces? What does Brexit mean for wider defence policy and procurement, and how do we learn the painful lessons of poor post-conflict planning and resolution of the last twenty years? 

Why are so many of our constituents still writing to us about Service Families Accommodation? Does the Armed Forces Covenant really apply in all parts of the UK? Is Veteran’s mental health really a priority for this Government?   

I’ve done everything I can to get these questions answered from the back-benches and serving as a member of the Defence Select Committee. I have now decided to stand as Chairman.  

I served in the British Army as a Joint Fires Controller directing air and artillery strikes. I worked with tactical ground holding units through the hot Afghan summers, and the strategic level with United Kingdom Special Forces Task Group assigned to Afghanistan. After a 13 year career in uniform, I decided to leave in 2014 to stand for Parliament. I wanted to address clear shortcomings from Government in defence, of which I had acute experience of during my career conducting multiple combat operations. 

In my maiden speech I made clear that I was not prepared to accept current defence thinking within Government. I was subsequently elected to the Defence Select Committee and since then have worked tirelessly to hold the Government to account on all defence matters, from troop and family welfare, to learning the lessons of the painful Chilcot report.  

I led the inquiry into the abuses of the Iraq Historical Allegations Team which was subsequently shut down.  In another inquiry I made sure the Government finally took seriously the prescribing of anti-malarial drugs to those with pre-existing mental health conditions, which had caused so much misery to so many. I was a prominent participant in all of the other inquiries the Committee held into matters ranging from deaths in training, to equipment deficiencies, to the UK’s Ship building Strategy, to US, UK and NATO relations.  

In this parliament, the Select Committees bear a vital responsibility. With a Government majority so small, Select Committees take on an even more important role in how to tackle the critical challenges of this Parliament. The Defence Committee must be agile, contemporary and relevant. Parliamentarians are the final guardians for how our men and women are employed, equipped, looked after and deployed.  

In these important times, I have therefore decided to stand as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. I would be honoured if you would consider voting for me so that I can carry on this important work. 

Relevant interests

None

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