COMMONS

Chair nominations for Defence Committee

The nominations for Select Committee Chairs ran from 4-10 June and the ballot will be on Wednesday 17 June from 10am to 5pm. On this page you can find the full list of nominees for the Defence Committee, the Committee Chair will be a member of the Conservative Party.

Nominated by (own party) 

James Heappey, Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, Zac Goldsmith, Kit Malthouse, Mr Simon Burns, Nicola Blackwood, Mr Nick Hurd, Mark Spencer, Mr Geoffrey Cox, Antoinette Sandbach, Edward Argar, Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Simon Hoare, Derek Thomas, Mr Keith Simpson

Nominated by (other parties) 

Fabian Hamilton, Chris Bryant, Jon Cruddas, Kate Hoey, Danny Kinahan

Statement

The paradox of chairing a select committee is that you have to be both the servant of the Committee and its leader. I have served on two select committees; Home Affairs and Defence (and appeared in front of others). Both Chairs, John Denham and Rory Stewart, had different styles but were superb role models. They were collegiate, masters of their brief and let members have a free rein in pursuing lines of questioning. Neither believed in "grandstanding" and the committee was the better for it. A good Chair needs to be able to forge a good team from people with different political views. I hope I have proved that I can work well with people of all parties. We are all in politics to make a difference and I have the firm view that the Defence Committee has a great opportunity to do just that.

The Committee and its Chair should be fearless in exposing failures and incompetence when it has to but I believe it also has the ability to develop ideas and thinking that are much needed in the MoD. This country remains a hub for so much expertise on defence matters. The Committee can and must use such expertise to push policy in the right direction.

Priorities
Colleagues on all sides fixate (rightly) about maintaining the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on Defence. But the Committee should dig deeper into this issue by asking about the capability of our armed forces to face down threats and to defend our interests around the world.

I want to be assured that we are taking the threat of Russia to states on its western border seriously. We are treaty-bound to defend some of these states if they are attacked. There used to be real experts on Russia in the FCO and throughout our defence and intelligence institutions. The Committee should be asking about what detailed analysis is taking place on this emerging threat.

The battle against ISIL remains a vital priority. This is a matter of being a good ally not just in Iraq but in the various efforts to degrade and defeat all the various jihadist franchises around the Middle East and in Africa.

I could go into more details about what I believe the Committee's priorities should be but it is all laid out clearly in the last DSC report "Towards the next Strategic Defence and Security Review" (Twelfth Report of Session 2014-15).

I would only add that Trident is an area the Committee should look into. Like all the candidates for this post, I want Britain to continue to have an effective deterrent capability. However, there are many areas which the Committee should look at and I am happy to give more details of this if requested.

Experience
In my letter to colleagues I gave details of my military experience, my proven commitment to veterans and their families and my involvement in Defence issues in the House and with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Nominated by (own party)

Mr John Baron, Dr Liam Fox, Sir David Amess, Mr Charles Walker, Caroline Nokes, Mr Bernard Jenkin, Mark Field, Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chloe Smith, Jack Lopresti, Paul Maynard, Mr Philip Hollobone, Mr Peter Bone, Sir Gerald Howarth, Royston Smith

Nominated by (other parties)

Mr Kevan Jones, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Valerie Vaz, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell

Statement

Given the dangerous state of the world today, defence is far too low in our national priorities. The Defence Committee is well-placed to help remedy this deficiency.
 
In a by-election to chair the Committee last year, my five Labour nominators were Hazel Blears, Peter Hain, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Valerie Vaz and John McDonnell. Hazel and Peter have now left the Commons, so Kevan Jones and Jeremy Corbyn have nominated me instead – despite their own contrasting views on aspects of defence.

The 15 nominators from my own Party show a similarly broad range of opinion across the entire Conservative spectrum. They include a former Defence Secretary, a former Shadow Defence Secretary and a former Defence Minister.

Long before entering Parliament, I was professionally engaged in defence-related work. Earlier still, while studying the history of British defence policy, I served for three years as a Seaman on a minesweeper in the Royal Naval Reserve. Set out below, under four relevant headings, are the qualifications and qualities I would bring to the role of chairing the Defence Committee.

Experience

  • Shadow Defence Minister for more than six years, under four successive Shadow Secretaries of State (2002–04 and 2005–10). Shadow Minister for Cabinet Office (2004–05). 
  • Twice served as a member of the Defence Committee (2000–01 & 2014–15).
  • Five years' service on Intelligence and Security Committee (2010–15).
  • Four years' service as Secretary of the Conservative Backbench Defence Committee, arranging many seminars with visiting defence experts (1997–2001).

Expertise

  • Twice awarded 1st prize in Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) essay competitions, for papers on Nuclear Deterrence (2005) and Counter-Insurgency (2007).
  • Several specialist essays also published in RUSI Journal and RUSI Defence Systems on other defence subjects – e.g. designing future Royal Navy frigates, and countering jihadist propaganda.
  • Major paper on 'International Terrorism: the Case for Containment' published in leading US defence journal (2012).
  • Two books published on defence and military history (2003 & 2011).
  • Doctorate in Strategic Studies (1981); dissertation prize from Royal College of Defence Studies at end of course with senior officers (2006); Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, Kings College London (current).

Independence

  • Early advocate of a change of strategy in Afghanistan.
  • Campaigned against unwise plans to arm rebels in Syria.
  • Never a Government Minister – though serving as a Shadow Defence Minister for (slightly) longer than the Second World War.

Impartiality

  • Worked jointly with colleagues such as Jeremy Corbyn, on the opposite side of the Trident argument, to secure and deliver high-quality Backbench Business Committee debates (a) on the nuclear deterrent and (b) on nuclear non-proliferation.
  • Gave up right-to-reply in Trident debate, in order to give an anti-Trident Labour colleague the opportunity to speak.
  • Chaired many cross-party meetings and seminars on defence and security topics for groups including First Defence and the Henry Jackson Society.

For the past 35 years I have tried to help those who keep our country safe. Chairing the Defence Committee would be an especially effective way to promote this vital cause.

Relevant interests declared 

  • Former Seaman, Royal Naval Reserve
  • Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College London
  • Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme Member, Royal College of Defence Studies
  • Member, Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies
  • Former Parliamentary Chairman, First Defence


Nominated by (own party) 

Craig Williams, Mr Nigel Evans, James Cleverly, Kelly Tolhurst, Robert Neill, Henry Smith, Craig Mackinlay, Iain Stewart, David Morris, Paul Scully, Andrew Stephenson, Ben Howlett, Robert Jenrick, Andrew Bridgen, Johnny Mercer

Nominated by (other parties) 

Barry Gardiner, Conor McGinn, Chris Stephens, Chris Law, Christian Matheson

Statement

Although I believe most MPs from the last Parliament possibly know me that may not be the case for some people and certainly many in the new intake. 

I come from a military background.  My father was a decorated RAF officer and my mother, in the Second World War and for a short time thereafter, served in the Special Operations Executive within both Europe and the Far East.  I was born in 1949 and spent my early years with my parents in the Middle East – Jordan and Yemen mainly - before I was sent to boarding school at Chigwell in Essex.

Leaving school I was trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst for 2 years before I joined the Cheshire Regiment.  Thereafter I remained an infantry officer for 26 years.  I completed seven tours in Northern Ireland as a Platoon Commander, Intelligence Officer, Company Commander and Commanding Officer.  As a staff officer I was also: in Military Operations 1 within the MOD (Major); Military Assistant to the Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee in Brussels (Lieutenant Colonel); and Chief of Policy at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe at Mons (Colonel).

The worst experience of my life occurred on 6 December 1982 when, as Incident Commander, six of my Company were killed and over thirty were wounded in the Ballykelly Bomb in Northern Ireland.  Later, during 1992 – 93 I commanded my Battalion in Bosnia as the first British United Nations Commander when the war there was highly confusing and very intense.  We saved many lives but paid a large price; sadly three of my soldiers died and twenty were wounded.  The Bosnia experience has also marked me.  

The Army sent me to the School of International Politics at the University of Wales when I was twenty-four (1st - International Politics and Strategy).  At twenty eight I was sent back to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where I was an officer instructor for two years.  Later I graduated from the Army Staff College, Camberley and the Joint Services Staff College at Greenwich.  After the Army and before I became an MP I worked in private business. 

I have written two books which may have some relevance to the Defence Committee’s tasks; 'Broken Lives' about command in Bosnia during 1992 – 93 and 'Leadership under Pressure' which was printed in 2009 and was mainly about decision-making.

In 2010 I was elected as MP for Beckenham and so I have been in parliament for 5 years to date.  Since then I have been a member of the Select Committee for Defence as well as leading the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Army.

Having spent most of my adult life in uniform I obviously care very much about our Armed Forces.  However the other candidates for Chair of the Defence Select Committee are equally committed, good friends and would be excellent choices too.  But, if you think I am the right person to be Chair of the Defence Committee, please vote for me.