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James Gray MP

James visiting RAF Brize Norton and inspecting the A400M.

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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 at The Springfields Academy

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James Gray MP

James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament

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2012-04-05-easterI tend to the view - as did my clergyman Father - that religion and politics do not and should not mix. He was a proper Tory, but always argued that half the congregation was Labour, others of no political views, and that it was not his job to offend them. Similarly I would count myself as a (not particularly good) Christian, but recognise that a great many of the people I represent in North Wiltshire may not be, even if the bulk of us probably broadly subscribe to Christian behaviour.

The Winter Solstice at Stonehenge just before Christmas (a pagan mid-winter festival adopted by the Christians) looks forward to the end of cold and snow and death, and to spring and new life. Easter somehow symbolises that re-birth. It’s new and fresh and looks forward to nature in full bloom. Our geese produced three lovely little yellow goslings on Easter Day - they look just as if they had popped out of a chocolate egg.

We are close to the end of the old Parliamentary Session. The Bills promised in last May’s Queen’s Speech have been debated, amended, dropped, improved, and most of them now signed off by Her Majesty. There‘s a little bit of tidying up to do when we get back after Easter, and then we can look forward to the next Queen’s Speech and a raft of new legislation to take us through to the general election.

Before then we have the European Parliamentary elections on 22 May and the Scottish Referendum in September. Around those events, most of the year is likely to become more and more political with the various parties doing their best to set out their stalls. That is an important and central apart of democracy, and I will certainly miss no opportunity to argue the case for a Conservative majority government in 2015.

My good Labour friends and I would disagree on at least 75% of current affairs, but we do so in a friendly and intelligent way. I respect their views, at least partly because the areas they represent are very different to North Wiltshire. That intellectual debate about the raft of ideas and policies which will be best for Britain in the world should be the central core of our general election discussions. It should not be an opportunity for party political bickering, far less for personalised attacks as one or two of the minority parties, lacking any kind of real beliefs, sometimes tend to do. People can have different opinions about the best solutions to the world’s problems without making it into a barney.

So I hope that our good honest, healthy political discussions and campaigning over the next twelve months will be robust and active (our electorate demand and deserve no less), but that it will also be constructive and forward-looking and devoid of personal attacks. It should be about the future and finding new solutions to people’s problems.

Perhaps we politicians could indeed take could take some kind of a lesson from the fresh, new feeling of renaissance which typifies Easter.

2014-10-17-RoyalArthurQuestion: What do Dauntsey Lock, Royal Arthur and Solar Farms across Wiltshire all have in common? Answer: They are all highly controversial areas of development which combine causing outrage and inconvenience to many members of the public with having potential benefit for us all.

Network Rail have been working hard this week to sort out the problems associated with the electrification of the Great Western Rail line from Paddington to Swansea. We will all benefit from the faster and longer trains, and the environmental improvements which will come with the end of diesel. But there are 200 bridges to be raised to accommodate the wiring, each of which will entail 4/6 months’ closure of many key roads, with the attendant diversions, losses to businesses and other irritations and inconveniences. I called them in to Parliament last week, and gave them a bit of a kicking over the first problem in this area - at Dauntsey Lock. As a result, they came at very senior level to Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council the following evening, and are committed to doing all they can to keep local people informed and involved, and to try to minimise disruption in a variety of ways. I shall keep a sharp eye on them over the next couple of years and return to the battle with them and with Wiltshire Council if they do not.

Royal Arthur is a disused and much vandalised ex-RN base hidden away in the woods behind Rudloe. I was glad to turn the first sod of a multi-million pound development of what they describe as a senior persons’ village. (Rather disturbed to hear that I will be eligible by the time they get it finished!). A large number of one-bed flats for the over-sixties, together with central facilities in the most lovely of rural settings. What a brilliant way to recycle a derelict site. I was especially keen to support it in contrast to the very many greenfield applications we are seeing at the moment, including several a few fields away in Rudloe. We must preserve our countryside yet allow sensitive and sustainable development. Royal Arthur does just that.

Applications for (and development of) solar farms seem to be popping up all over the place too. I had been taking a bit of a laissez faire approach to them – “if they can’t be seen by too many people, then why not let them make their contribution to carbon reduction?” had been my line. But there are now so many of them that I am becoming concerned about their cumulative effect. A driver across Wiltshire might easily pass 50 such sites, giving the real impression of urbanisation and industrialisation of our green and pleasant county. And should not productive agricultural land be used for food production rather than slightly questionable ‘renewable’ energy? Agriculture and landscape arguments seem to me to trump green energy ones, and I shall therefore be taking steps to oppose these applications before Wiltshire becomes like a giant mirror.

Industrial, energy and housing development must always be a delicate equation balancing out perceived benefits against wider considerations of preserving our rural environment. Rail electrification and brownfield housing development are all on the virtuous side of that equation, but I am becoming more and more of the view that solar farms are not.

Latest from the Chamber

Energy and Climate Change: Energy Efficiency - 27/02/2014
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. ...
Statement: Army Basing Plan - 05/03/2013
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...

More news

10 April 2014, 17.05
MP meets Network Rail bosses to discuss road and bridge closures
“I was pleased to host an extremely constructive meeting with Network Rail’s directors in my Westminster office yesterday to discuss their £1 billion project to electrify the Great Western line,” said North Wiltshire MP James Gray this morning. “In particular, I wanted to raise the multiple road and bridge closures that have resulted from the works, which are causing difficulty and disruption for my constituents.” “Network Rail ackno...
10 April 2014, 07.00
Clegg vs Farage Show
Did you see either of the two Nigel vs Nick Shows? Hardly a magnificent fight to the death between two gladiators, I fear. I felt there was something rather sad about Mr Farage's obvious delight at national coverage of this sort, and at last being taken (semi-) seriously; and something even sadder about Mr Clegg's desperate clinging to the dim memory of his life's great triumph - outshining Messrs Brown and Cameron during the TV debates four years...
08 April 2014, 12.19
MP speaks out against opportunistic developers
North Wiltshire MP James Gray pressed Planning Minister Nick Boles on the role of the Planning Inspectorate in the absence of a local plan. Mr Gray expressed the widely shared fear that the Inspectorate tended to use outdated central figures in informing their work. Speaking during yesterday's questions to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Mr Gray said, "I feel that where there is no local plan in place, as is the cas...
03 April 2014, 10.08
An MP's life
All MPs face a delicate balance - and vitally important linkage - between local and national matters and actions. Monday to Thursday in Parliament is crammed with demanding activities - speaking, writing, meetings of all sorts. Yet what one says and does in Westminster must always be influenced in a parliamentary democracy by what one hears about local views and thoughts and the way of life of the constituency which one experiences at the weekends...

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