James Gray was first elected Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire in May 1997, with a majority of 3,475. He was re-elected in 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2017 when he increased his majority to 22,877.
Born in Scotland in 1954, he is the son of the late John R. Gray, Minister of Dunblane Cathedral and the 1977 Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and Dr Sheila Gray. He has three children – John (b.1984), Olivia (b.1986) and William (b.1991).
Education & Business Career
James was educated at Hillhead Primary School and Glasgow High School and later read history at Glasgow University and Christ Church, Oxford. Before entering Parliament, James’s career was in business. After Oxford, he worked as a graduate management trainee with P&O for a year. In 1978, he was appointed as a Shipbroker and Department Manager at Anderson Hughes Ltd and was made a Freeman of the City of London. In 1984, he moved to GNI Freight Futures Ltd as Managing Director until 1992. Simultaneously, he held posts as a Senior Manager at futures broker GNI Ltd (1989-92) and as a Director of The Baltic Futures Exchange (1989-91).
Political work prior to entering Parliament
At the 1992 General Election, James was the Conservative candidate for Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye. Before winning North Wiltshire in 1997, he was a special advisor to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Howard, and to his successor John Gummer. His particular responsibility was to the Ministers of State for Housing, Local Government and the Environment from 1992 until 1995, when he became a Director of the public affairs consultancy Westminster Strategy. He also served as governor of two schools in Balham in the London Borough of Wandsworth and in 1994, he was elected as the Vice-Chairman of Tooting Conservative Association.
Shadow Ministerial Posts
After his election to Parliament in 1997, he served on the Environment and Transport Select Committees until his shadow ministerial career began with his appointment as a Conservative Whip in October 2000 and then as a Shadow Minister for Defence in 2001. He served as Shadow Minister for the Countryside from 2002 to 2005 and after the 2005 General Election, he served briefly as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.
James served on a variety of Parliamentary Committees. In the last Parliament, he was a member of the Defence Committee, Procedure Committee, Committee on Arms Exports Controls, and the Speaker's Panel on Chairmen. In previous Parliaments he sat on the DEFRA Select Committee and from 2006-07 he was the MP on the Conservative National & International Security Policy Group chaired by Baroness Neville-Jones. He was a member of the DETR Select Committee (1997-2000) and Chairman of the Conservative Rural Action Group (2002-5).
All-Party Parliamentary Groups
James is the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces, the largest APPG in Parliament, and Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. Previously, he was a Chairman of the All-Party Group for Multiple Sclerosis and a founding Chairman of the All-Party Group for the Army. He used to be a Treasurer of the APPG for Suicide Prevention, a Vice-Chairman of the APPG for Agriculture & Food for Development and was a founder and member of the APPGs for Historic Churches and Dairy Farmers. He was also a member of the APPGs for: Financial Markets and Services; Middle Way (hunting and animal welfare); Minerals; Racing and Bloodstock Industries; Solvent Abuse; China; and Mongolia.
His military service includes seven years in the Honourable Artillery Company, the oldest regiment of the Territorial Army (1977-84) on whose Court of Assistants he also served from 2002-07, 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 2013, James set up the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust and became it's founding Chairman. The Trust now administers the revamped Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.
James is a published author. Financial Risk Management came out in 1985, and Futures and Options for Shipping in 1987, which won the Lloyds of London Book Prize. Shipping Futures was published in 1990, and his prize-winning thesis “Crown versus Parliament: Who decides on going to war?” was published as a Seaford House paper in 2003. In 2013 he publised Poles Apart, and in 2014 Who Takes Britain to War?
Other posts and interests
He was a visiting Parliamentary Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford in 2005-6, is currently President of the Association of British Riding Schools, an Honorary Associate of the British Veterinary Association, a Pro Bono member of the Baltic Exchange, Patron of Mutual Support (the Armed Services MS Support Group), and Patron of the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum.
Locally, James is President of Chippenham Constitutional Club, a Member of the Royal Wootton Bassett Conservative Club, an Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of the Wiltshire Vale, President of the MS Society’s Chippenham Branch, Patron of the Devizes Branch, Patron of the Woodshaw Residents Association in Royal Wootton Bassett and Patron of Chippenham Sailing Club.
James and his wife Philippa live near Box in Wiltshire.