Weekly Column

Small things but mine own

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Sometimes one’s week is filled with great events of State. Sometimes it’s pretty much local constituency stuff raised in Parliament. This week’s been a few little campaigns and events.I have for a year or more been fighting a battle on behalf of homosexual soldiers sailors and airmen who were court marshalled, imprisoned, had their rights, their dignity and their pensions removed for no reason other than their sexuality. Homosexuality was legalised in 1967; but it remained an offence in the Armed Forces until 2001; and many of those injustices have still not been addressed to this day. So inspired by an outfit called Fighting with Pride, Labour MP Luke Pollard and I have been doing what we can to make the Government listen. In answer to my oral Parliamentary Question to Defence Ministers on Monday, they indicated that there would be an announcement shortly; and all the hints are that we are winning this little battle to right what is without doubt a cruel injustice. I was able to bring Fighting with Pride up to date on it all at a breakfast on Tuesday.I sent much of Tuesday in St James’s Palace taking part in the Chief of the RN’s Sea Power Conference, but also fitted in meetings about Space which is very important in this area- especially around Corsham; and took some constituents to a talk about Venture Capital before a formal RN dinner.With the PM overseas, PMQs was taken by Oliver Dowden and was a pretty lacklustre event followed by meetings about the Committee of enquiry into the Arctic environment which I am currently chairing, a talk from the St Helena Government about the environment at the other end of the world; and a dinner with Bristol-based MBDA whose Storm Shadow Missiles are now going to be deployed to Ukraine. My military connections are sometimes useful locally as well. I was glad to help a Ukrainian lady refugee staying in Calne who had discovered that her 20-year-old son- whom she had not seen for two years had joined the Ukrainian Army and was coming to the UK for his training. She was naturally desperate to see him, and I was glad to pull a few military strings to make such a visit happen. I hope to join them for the reunion.On Thursday I took part in a very good ITV West debate (broadcast around 10PM, so precious few viewers) about the renters bill (about which I have some concerns), farming (the PM’s Farm to Fork Farming Summit), and the local government election results (our vote in the Cotswolds went up from 39% to 45%, albeit we lost some very good Councillors). Thursday evening saw me at another dinner- this time for the so-called “Cirencester Society in London”. It’s a 1701 formed charity designed to help local causes and apprenticeships. (All right, James. All very worthy, but too many dinners, ed.)Saturday sees the Freedom of Malmesbury being granted to IX Supply Regiment from Hullavington’s Buckley Barracks (I have been asked to present them with the “Malmesbury Medal”), and a musical evening near Tetbury.None of these things are of huge earth-shattering importance, but I hope that they will mount up in aggregate to a fair week’s work doing what I can for local people and local causes.“Small things but mine own.”

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James Gray
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Published Date
May 19, 2023