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James Gray MP

James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation

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James Gray MP

James visiting RAF Brize Norton and inspecting the A400M.

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James Gray MP

James at The Springfields Academy

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James Gray MP

James with the Prime Minister visiting the UK Aid Disaster Response Centre at Kemble Airport

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Who takes Britain to War?


parliament-07“They came to my village and destroyed it and killed all the people – men, women and children – for no reason but being Kurdish,” said an old man to me on a visit to Iraq last week. I was there with the House of Commons Defence Committee visiting troops and government in Kurdistan, Baghdad and then Jordan. It was odd to be there so close to Christmas – hearing all the old names and being so close to Christ’s birthplace. The wicked murders across the North of Iraq – in Mosul, Tikrit and in so many little towns and villages brought to mind Herod’s villainous massacre of the first-born in an attempt to pre-empt any possible new ‘King of the Jews.’ Politics in the Middle East has not changed much in 2000 years.

We were there to visit British troops on the ground – training the brave Peshmerga fighters; to speak to the Kurdish and Iraqi Governments about the war with ISIS, or Da’ish as they prefer to call them, which is a mild insult in Arabic; and then for various meetings in Damman, including with the impressive king, HM Abdullah II.

I came away with a few clear thoughts. There can be no doubt, first of all, about the evil which is the Da’ish. Their pretence at religion is a cover for some of the worst atrocities known to mankind. They are an abomination, and if they are not dealt with they will change the pattern of history for the next generation, most certainly in the Middle East, but also through terrorism, of the West as well. They are without doubt the greatest threat which any of us have faced at least since the Second World War, and we must be in no doubt about that in our determination to deal with them.

Second, however, they must be destroyed not by any kind of Western coalition, as we so foolishly tried in 2003 against Saddam. This must be a Muslim war - a war of Muslim good against extremist evil. Western troops in combat would allow it to become an Islam against the infidel war, which is exactly what Da’ish would like us to do.

But short of that we must be ready to do all we can to help the courageous Peshmerga, who have halted Da’ish in their tracks, using in many cases only ancient weapons and the most basic of equipment and tactics. They need supplies (we have given them  40 heavy machine guns so far, but they need so much else, including basics like helmets and body armour); and they need training. That is both in basic infantry skills, which I was glad to see being trained near Sulaymaniyah with the expertise of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; but also in counter-roadside bomb skills which we have learned so well in Afghanistan. One tactic of the Da’ish is to take over villages and then apparently withdraw, allowing the population to return to what they discover are terribly booby-trapped homes.

And they also need help with the million refugees in Kurdistan, and similar numbers elsewhere. The weather will turn cold very soon, and we could be facing a humanitarian crisis of Biblical proportions.

We in the West simply cannot stand by and watch these terrible events unfold. As we think of Christmas and all it means, we owe the descendants of Christ’s friends and relations whatever help and relief we can provide them. That will be the true spirit of this Christmas time.


The mysteries of the nation’s finances are quite beyond any normal person’s understanding. I think I was pleased to see the final costs of the First World War being paid off in last week’s Autumn Statement. But what about the national debt? What about the Second World War?

The most eye-catching (and readily understood) announcement was about Stamp Duty. The changes will be of benefit to everyone seeking to buy any house worth less than £1 million. It should be of particular benefit to first time buyers, and should free up the whole housing market in an area like ours. Those who are buying more expensive houses will have to pay more. But then perhaps it’s rather like a Rolls-Royce: “If you have to ask how much it is, then you cannot afford it,” as they used to say. No-one can similarly object to Google, Starbucks and Amazon now having to pay tax at 25% of their notional profits.

Most of the other announcements, modest as they may be, will be broadly welcomed.  Raising the income tax threshold to £10,600 takes a large swathe of people out of taxation altogether. The abolition of Air Passenger Duty for children will help many people, as will the new rules about ISAs - where an ISA-holder dies, their spouse will inherit that ISA’s tax-free status. Action on business rates for small businesses will be very widely welcomed, as will funding for post-graduate students.

Yet it is also important at a time like this that the Chancellor was not tempted into any kind of pre-election ‘giveaway.’ If we are to get out of the terrible financial mess we inherited from Gordon Brown, then we have to stick to the long-term economic plan, tough as that may be.

We do seem to be turning the economic corner, and are firmly on the way to greater prosperity - with higher growth (3% this year), falling unemployment, a record number of jobs, the deficit cut by 50%, incomes rising, and inflation firmly under control. Yet times are still very tough around the world, and we have still not ‘balanced the books’ which any sound economy really does need to do. There will be further spending cuts to come, no matter who may form the government after the next election.

Nonetheless, as we face Christmas, I really do think that we can all have a degree of warm satisfaction that the economy is going firmly in the right direction, and that we can have greater confidence in the future for ourselves and our families.

Latest from the Chamber

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Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): One of the groups most deserving of benefit, from the warm home scheme in particular, are those who live in park homes, of which we have many in North W...
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Food Adulteration - 07/03/2013
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): Cross-contamination by horsemeat in every part of the United Kingdom could be stopped if we prevented the killing of horses in multi-species abattoirs. ...
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Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): I very much welcome the extra stability that the announcement will make in the lives of service personnel and their families. The people of Wiltshire wi...

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