On Monday evening, James Gray MP joined Sir David Attenborough CBE and International Development Secretary Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP in parliament to speak out on tackling plastic pollution across the globe. 

The event, co-hosted by the Coalition for Global Prosperity, Plastic Oceans UK and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Prevention of Plastic Waste, brought together parliamentarians from across the political spectrum and senior stakeholders for a discussion on British leadership combatting plastic waste on the international stage, as well as domestically.

At the event, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt doubled UK aid support for plastic recycling in developing countries and called for solutions to clearing plastic waste from the world’s oceans and rivers.

The issue of plastic pollution is escalating and unavoidable; far from remaining beyond our shores, it is washing up there daily. From microplastics disrupting our fishing industry and sparking concerns about public health, to beautiful stretches of British coastline being ruined, it is essential that this issue is confronted with coordinated efforts around the world.

This event put a spotlight on the UK’s commitment to reducing plastic waste across the world, and the opportunity for Britain to be at the forefront of these global conservation efforts.

Sir David Attenborough CBE said: “Now the world globally is producing every year 400 million tonnes of plastic and 10 million tonnes of that goes into the oceans…The consequences of this both to humanity and life in the seas upon which we depend is hideous.”

Mary Creagh MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, of which James is a member, said: “The UK uses an astonishing 13 billion plastic bottles each year, and our throwaway society means 5 and a half billion of them are landfilled, littered or incinerated. Plastic bottles end up in our streets, on our shores, and in our seas - polluting our water and choking wildlife. We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back this plastic tide.” 

Jo Ruxton, co-founder of Plastic Oceans UK, said: “We must change the way we use plastic.  It is a remarkable product that has saved nature many times over, its use has revolutionised the way we live and its contribution to the medical practice has saved millions of lives.  But our addiction to unnecessary, single-use items and ridiculous over-packaging must stop.  We need to re-educate ourselves and ensure that our children grow up knowing that plastic was never designed to be ‘disposable’.  It was designed to be indestructible so what were we thinking?”

The Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, James Gray recently met with young volunteers involved in the Our Bright Future programme in Parliament; and pledged support for ensuring that more school time is spent learning in and about nature.

Our Bright Future is an ambitious and innovative partnership led by The Wildlife Trusts and funded by the UK’s largest community funder, The National Lottery Community Fund, The parliamentary event highlighted the programme’s work to empower young people to lead positive change in their local environment and community.

At the event, the MPs heard from some of the inspiring young volunteers on the key changes they want to see for the environment and their lives, including ensuring schools have at least one hour per day of lesson time outdoors.

James Gray MP said:

“I was delighted to hear about the experiences of the determined young people I met, like Tyler Tobin, a North Wiltshire local, who together, are helping to shape their local environment. Through their passion and courage they are making a real difference in their local communities and contributing to a greener economy.”

“I also had the pleasure of meeting with a group of local children from the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in my surgery and I share their passion for encouraging children to get outdoors, to explore and learn about wild places.”

“I fully support their call for schools to have at least one hour per day of lesson time outdoors. We all learn best from first hand experiences and by being outdoors we develop a stronger connection with the natural world.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts said:

“The future of this and future generations will depend on us developing a totally different relationship with the natural world. Today’s generation of young people recognises the environmental crisis we face and does not see this as separate from societal challenges such as poor mental health. They are determined to have an education system that helps generations to come support nature’s recovery.”

“Our Bright Future is working with young people across the UK fuelling the creativity and resilience they need to lead environmental and social change. Our Governments will be failing this generation if they do not listen and support them to create a brighter future’.

Peter Ainsworth, Chair of The National Lottery Community Fund, said:

“It’s fantastic to see how young people across the UK have been motivated and encouraged by this project. Thanks to National Lottery players, nearly 100,000 young people have played an active role in shaping the future of their local environment. An investment like this is a great start to empowering and inspiring young people to help make their own futures brighter and their communities thrive.”

During Questions for the Secretary of Defence at the House of Commons on Monday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray spoke up for veterans. Mr Gray stated:

“It is anecdotally alleged, although not necessarily backed up by statistics, that a disproportionate number of prisoners are veterans. What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to making better use of the MOD prison estate—particularly Colchester Prison, for example, which I understand is relatively empty at the moment? Would that not be more appropriate housing for soldiers and veterans who are in civilian prisons?”

Defence Minister, Mr Ellwood supported Mr Gray’s statement, responding that:

“I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the experience that he brings to the Chamber. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and I would like to pursue these conversations—perhaps with the Prisons Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart)—to see what more can be done.”

On Wednesday, in response to Greg Clark’s ministerial statement on Honda, North Wiltshire MP James Gray showed his support for those affected by Honda’s Swindon closure. He also highlighted the strength of the local economy and growth of other sectors across the region. Mr Gray stated: 

“I am confident that I speak on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Robert Buckland), my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) and my hon. Friends the Members for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) and for Salisbury (John Glen). The constituents of all of them may be affected by this matter, but they are all unable to take part in this statement because of their roles as Ministers. 

Across Wiltshire, we are deeply concerned about the 3,500 job losses and potentially more in the supply chain. May I therefore volunteer to take part in the excellent taskforce that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced? I think that is a very useful step forward. Will he join me in rejoicing at the fact that the economy of Wiltshire is actually extremely strong at the moment? The unemployment figures announced this morning are the lowest there have ever been, and we have had huge growth particularly in electric car manufacturing and our high-tech industries across the M4 corridor. I hope he will join me in thinking that we will therefore be able to find useful employment for all these people in good time before the plant closes.”

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, reinforced Mr Gray’s statement, adding that: 

“Like my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to our colleagues, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon and my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, whose commitment to the success of the economy in Wiltshire is unflagging. My hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) is absolutely right to refer to the fact that the success of Swindon and the whole of Wiltshire has been notable. In fact, one of the problems that Honda has occasionally discussed with me in the past is its struggle to recruit the volume of labour that has been required. It is a matter of sadness that that will not be a problem for the future, given this decision. He is right to emphasise that the demand for the kind of skilled labour that exists in that county is very strong. Through the taskforce, we will do everything we can to make sure that employers are matched with people with skills.”

Speaking during yesterday’s Cabinet Office Questions in the House of Commons, North Wiltshire MP James Gray raised the complex nature of the Government procurement process and asked how the Cabinet Office could find better ways to ensure SMEs were able to win Government contracts.

Mr Gray said:

“The Government give a very welcome emphasis to the employing of small and medium-sized enterprises in Government contracts, and that is very good stuff, but does the Minister not agree that in reality, Government procurement processes are so complex, so difficult, so massive and so expensive that it is actually companies such as the defence primes that get the contracts and then hammer down the prices ​they pay to their subcontractors? How can we find better ways to ensure that the SMEs win some of those valuable contracts?“

Responding, the Cabinet Office Minister, Oliver Dowden CBE MP, highlighted that the Government had abolished complex pre-qualification questionnaires and added that if major companies were not paying small providers on time, they would be excluded from government schemes.

Mr Dowden said:

“My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the issue of SMEs winning contracts. This is why we have abolished complex pre-qualification questionnaires on small-value contracts, for example, and in November I announced that if major strategic suppliers were not paying their small providers on time, they could face being excluded from Government contracts.”