James Gray was first elected as MP for North Wiltshire in May 1997. He was educated at Hillhead Primary School and Glasgow High School and later read History at Glasgow University and Christ Church, Oxford. More recently he was a visiting Parliamentary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford and is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies.
Before entering Parliament, James’s career was in business. He worked for P&O, latterly as one of their shipbrokers on the Baltic Exchange, when he was also made a Freeman of the City of London. He helped devise the means for trading bulk shipping as a futures commodity, and wrote several books about it. After 15 years in the City, he became Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Howard, and his successor John Gummer.
After his election to Parliament in 1997, James served on the Environment and Transport Select Committees until his shadow ministerial career began with his appointment as a Conservative Whip and then as a Shadow Minister for Defence. He served as Shadow Minister for the Countryside and after the 2005 General Election briefly as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. James now serves as a Member of Mr Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen.
James’s military interest includes seven years in the Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest regiment in the Army Reserve, on whose Court of Assistants he also served from 2002 to 2007, and of whose Saddle Club he is life Vice-President. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and of the Royal College of Defence Studies. In 2010, James founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, which he has chaired since. In 2013, James became founding Chairman of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust, which seconds up to 35 Parliamentarians a year to the three services.
James has a particular interest in the Polar Regions, having travelled in both. He is Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Poles, and serves on the No 10 Advisory Committee on the environment.
James is a member of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Patron of Operation Christmas Box, and a Younger Brother of Trinity House. He sat on the Defence Committee and the Committee on Arms Export Controls, and chaired the Defence Sub-Committee on the Arctic from 2016 to 2017. Following the 2017 election, he was appointed by the Prime Minister to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy.
James has published several books including: Futures and Options for Shipping (Lloyds of London Book Prize), Crown vs Parliament (RCDS prize), Poles Apart (2014), Who Takes Britain to War? (2016), ‘Full English Brexit’ (2018) and most recently 'Wiltshire to Westminster' (2020).
He and his wife Philippa live on a farm in North Wiltshire.