North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, joined colleagues from all Parties for a short ceremony in Parliament this morning. Mr Gray, wearing blue and yellow to show support for Ukraine, signed the Book of Solidarity being sent to Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament of Ukraine).
Mr Gray stated:
“It is so important that we demonstrate our support for Ukraine during this time in any way that we can. I am sure that many, like myself, have watched the events of the past few days unfolding with horror. We must do all in our power to help those having to flee their country, providing refuge and aid wherever possible. We stand with Ukraine.”
On Tuesday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray asked the Foreign Secretary to clarify what role British troops could play to aid Ukraine against possible Russian aggression during Oral Questions for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Before the debate, Mr Gray said:
“Ukraine has of course been on our radar for a very long time - long before Crimea. It is possible that Putin will act at any moment; but then on the other hand he may not act at all. Sabre rattling is at least as much a part of the Russian inventory as is invasion. In any case, the UK Government needs to be prepared for all eventualities and stand behind our allies in Europe as well as NATO to do all we can to aid Ukraine in this most difficult time.”
In the House of Commons Chamber, Mr Gray added:
“I very strongly welcome the strength and determination of the message that the Foreign Secretary is sending to Mr Putin to deter any possible aggression against Ukraine; it is just right. However, are there any circumstances under which she could foresee British troops being deployed in a combat role, defending Ukraine?”
The Foreign Secretary, Elizabeth Truss MP, replied that:
“As the Defence Secretary said, it is unlikely that that would be the circumstance, but we are working very hard to make sure that Ukraine has the defensive weapons that it needs; that it has the training that it needs—we have trained 20,000 Ukrainian personnel—and that it has the support of the international community. We are pushing our allies very hard to make sure that they are offering similar defensive support.”
North Wiltshire MP and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, James Gray, praised both the British research vessel the RSS Sir David Attenborough and the work of the British Antarctic Survey in both Polar Regions.
During Oral Questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy yesterday, Mr Gray asked the Minister:
“Does the Minister agree that she (RSS Sir David Attenborough) is the epitome of all that is best about British science, and that the British Antarctic Survey, through its work in both the Antarctic and the Arctic, leads the world in research on climate change in particular, and in so many other areas of science?”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman, firmly agreed with the Mr Gray, stating
“My hon. Friend is right, and he is also a powerful envoy for the Government in terms of our polar science. The royal research ship Sir David Attenborough is something of which all of us in the House can be proud. It is an incredible platform, and it embodies the very best of British leadership in science and innovation, with international scientists working on global challenges.”
The North Wiltshire MP set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions in 2015 and has since been a powerful advocate for the better education of parliamentarians about the scientific importance of these areas and the devastating effect of climate change upon them.
During Oral Questions for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in the House of Commons on Monday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray highlighted how important it is to let local people decide how many new homes should be built in their area.
Before the debate, Mr Gray said:
“I recently attended a meeting with Malmesbury Town Council in my constituency, discussing local planning concerns and how strengthened neighbourhood planning would prevent opportunistic planning applications by developers. It is my sincerest hope that the upcoming housing White Paper will address this issue and reform the planning system to give a bigger voice to local residents”.
In the House of Commons Chamber, Mr Gray added:
“I am sure that the Minister would agree that by far the best people to decide how many homes we want and where they should be are local people. Would he therefore agree with me and the town of Malmesbury in my constituency, which raised the point that the neighbourhood plan, which this Conservative Government brought in, is currently being trumped by the so-called five-year housing land supply figures, which are handed down by central Government? Will he give me a hint as to whether greater importance will be given in the forthcoming housing White Paper to neighbourhood planning, thereby allowing local people to decide how many houses they want and where?”
The Minister for Housing, Christopher Pincher MP, praised Mr Gray’s contribution, responding that:
“I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, because it gives me the opportunity to make it clear that it is for local communities to determine how many homes they want and need in their vicinity. Local housing need numbers are not an end point; they are a starting point. It is for local authorities to determine what constraints they may face to determine the numbers of homes that they need in their area. They then agree those numbers with the Planning Inspectorate to set a sound plan, and that is then the number that the local authorities build toward. Local authorities that fail to set an up-to-date plan leave their constituents at risk of speculative development, so it is for local authorities to set the numbers and make their plans.”
James Gray MP chaired the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly on 1 December 2021, convening over 40 parliamentarians from 24 countries - including China, the USA and the UK - in a virtual conference to discuss the challenges facing Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty.
“Bringing such a large group together just weeks after COP26 to discuss the melting ice sheets in Antarctica shows that climate change is still top of the international agenda” said Mr Gray after the half-day conference.
“Direct access to scientists whose first-hand accounts of the impact of climate change in Antarctica facilitated important discussions that will enable parliamentarians to press their governments into action.”
Expert speakers from seven countries delivered sessions on topics ranging from the impact of covid-19 on Antarctic science, to marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean, and monitoring penguin colonies from space.
The conference followed on from the hugely successful inaugural Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly held in London in 2019 and organised by James Gray as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. (The covid-19 pandemic forced the international delegations to meet online this year, but it is hoped that the third event in two years’ time will be held physically and in the Southern Hemisphere.)
“With the Antarctic Treaty System under increasing pressure to address new challenges, the Assembly provided an opportunity for parliamentarians, rather than governments, to learn more about Antarctica and press their legislatures to support and prioritise the work of the Treaty.”
“I am delighted with the success of the Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly, gathering parliamentarians and representatives from China, the USA and Russia among many others, to discuss contentious issues that governments and diplomats often cannot."
© 2021 Promoted by Nick Botterill, on behalf of James Gray, both of North Wiltshire Conservatives, 12 Brown Street, Salisbury SP1 1HE.