Last month, James Gray, MP North Wiltshire, led a cross-party group of MPs and Peers on a visit to Greenland to learn more about how a combination of environmental, economic and geopolitical changes are transforming the country’s prospects.
The group comprised members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, which Mr Gray chairs. In addition to Mr Gray, they were Stephen Hepburn MP, John Mann MP, Mark Menzies MP, Brendan O’Hara MP, Rt Hon Baroness Neville-Jones, Baroness Smith of Newnham and Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP.
The group’s trip began in Copenhagen where meetings were held with the Danish Government and Greenland’s Representative in Copenhagen. Greenland remains an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark although the Self Government Act of 2009 has put the world’s largest island on the path to eventual independence, if it can build a large enough economy to end its financial dependence on a block grant from Denmark.
In Greenland, the group travelled first to Kangerlussuaq where British scientists from Loughborough University and the University of Sheffield were working to understand how Greenland’s environment is being altered by climate change. Mr Gray said: “British Arctic science is often overshadowed by what we do in Antarctica and we must do more to ensure that Britain’s world-class science in the Arctic has the visibility it deserves”.
The group then spent a busy two days in Nuuk, meeting with “Inatsisartut” (Greenland’s Parliament) and Greenlandic government officials. In Nuuk, the group also met with Denmark’s Joint Arctic Command (responsible for Greenland’s defence and security), local and national business associations, local scientists and the newly opened WWF office. Mr Gray said: “After visiting Nuuk, I would say that Britain needs to pay more attention to what is happening in Greenland. The Americans are there, the Chinese are there, but Britain needs to do more. Brexit could be just the opportunity to re-examine our relationship with Greenland”.
After visiting the capital, the group headed north to Ilulissat to learn more about the benefits and challenges brought about by tourism in Greenland. Mr Gray said: “Tourism is increasingly important to Greenland, which looks to Iceland as a model. However, questions remain over who is benefitting. For example, the rising number of cruise ships in Greenlandic waters are contributing very little to Greenland’s coffers”.
Following the trip, Mr Gray said “We were delighted to have had the opportunity to visit Greenland and meet such a diverse range of stakeholders. Greenland is important to Britain for many reasons, most notably science, but in the future potentially also for business. We really must do more to build-up Britain’s relationship with Greenland”.
North Wiltshire MP James Gray praised the emergency services, the Armed Forces and the intelligence services for their role in dealing with the fall-out from the Salisbury Novichok poisoning in March in the House of Commons yesterday. Speaking during the Prime Minister’s statement, in which she condemned the despicable attack and outlined the conclusion of the forensic investigation following which the independent Director of Public Prosecutions decided to bring charges against two Russian military intelligence service operatives, Mr Gray said:
“In joining the Prime Minister and the whole House in warmly congratulating and thanking our armed services, intelligence services and police on all they have done, I hope that she will understand if I pay particular tribute to the Wiltshire constabulary, which has played an extraordinarily important role in this operation, and the NHS staff at Salisbury hospital.”
“She will also forgive me if I ask two rather local questions. First, will she confirm that the costs borne by the Wiltshire constabulary will be given to the Home Office rather than the people of Wiltshire? Secondly, will she reconfirm to my constituents and people across Wiltshire that there is now no risk of any kind whatsoever from any remnants of the Novichok poisoning?”
Responding, the Prime Minister said:
“I understand that the Home Office is indeed assisting the Wiltshire constabulary with the costs and that some payments have already been made. My hon. Friend is right to commend the actions of the police officers, ambulance personnel and fire service personnel who were early on the scenes and faced situations in which they did not know exactly what was happening, but they dealt with things professionally and we should commend them for their professionalism.”
“As for the situation in the surrounding area, the message continues to be that there is a low risk. The police have put out a public appeal today, which includes CCTV footage, so if anybody has any information about having seen the individuals in any particular place, they can bring that information forward. Of course, the police have conducted fingertip searches of all the areas of concern, and, as I say, the risk to the public is low.”
James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire spoke yesterday in response to Alex Burghart MP’s Westminster Hall debate about the proposed road alterations around Stonehenge. Mr Gray spoke of the importance of protecting such an historic site, whilst making improvements to ease the heavy flow of traffic around the area and make it suitable for modern life. It is a fine and delicate balance between preserving the heritage of the area and ensuring it is fit for modern purpose.
Mr Gray stated:
“Of course we have to preserve the archaeology, but we have to do so in a way that modern people can appreciate, and in such a way that they can live their lives. At the moment, that is not happening.
Something has to happen and people have been considering the matter for generations now. The proposal we have come up with seems to me to be the least bad of the options available to us. Of course, there may be some downsides and a bit of impact from the weight of the flyover and one or two other things, which we will try to make better, but we have got to do something.”
“In considering my hon. Friend’s very fine and important archaeological points, it is also necessary to consider at the same time how those things can be sustainably maintained—in other words, kept in their pristine condition in a way that allows modern people to live their modern lives.”
Last night, James Gray, MP North Wiltshire, welcomed Sir David Attenborough to Parliament to hear an update on Britain’s new polar research ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
The meeting was organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, which Mr Gray chairs. The meeting was attended by over 100 guests from across Parliament and the wider UK Polar Community.
Mr Gray said: “It is vital that Parliament gets to see the very best that British science and engineering has to offer, especially where tax-payer funded projects are concerned.”
The Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough was commissioned by the Natural Environmental Research Council to maintain Britain’s position at the leading-edge of polar research. Costing £200 million to build, the ship will be one of the most advanced scientific research vessels in the world. It has also been a catalyst for upgrading the rest of the UK’s critical polar infrastructure in Antarctica, and creates exciting opportunities for UK polar science in the years ahead.
Next week, the RRS Sir David Attenborough’s hull will enter the water from Cammell Laird’s shipyard in Birkenhead where it is being built. That will allow the final modules to be added ahead of the official naming ceremony in the autumn. Sea trials will follow with a view to having the ship ready for use in 2019.
Mr Gray added: “This ship demonstrates the very best that Global Britain has to offer, first and foremost in terms of polar science and logistics, but also because it demonstrates that British ship-building is back. As well as producing a cutting-edge ship, this project has been an investment in skills and expertise right across the UK maritime sector, which we can export to the rest of the world.
From 2019, the RRS Sir David Attenborough will provide a state-of-the-art platform from which scientists will tackle some of the most important issues facing humanity, including climate change, future sea-level rise, and marine biodiversity.
This week, James Gray, MP North Wiltshire, has been hosting a week-long exhibition in Parliament to celebrate the Government’s Year of Engineering campaign. The exhibition consists of displays created by the Royal Navy and the British Antarctic Survey.
Mr Gray said: “I am delighted to have been able to help the Royal Navy and the British Antarctic Survey showcase their incredible contributions to British engineering as part of the national Year of Engineering”.
The Royal Navy is showcasing its key role in promoting careers in engineering and the role it plays in everyday life. Approximately a third of the Royal Navy’s personnel are engineers and technicians, who serve as the ‘beating heart’ of operational capability.
The British Antarctic Survey, meanwhile, is displaying an incredibly detailed model of the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough, Britain’s new polar research ship. The ship was commissioned by the Natural Environmental Research Council, is being built by Cammell Laird, and will be operated by the British Antarctic Survey. From 2019, it will provide a state-of-the-art platform from which scientists will tackle some of the most important issues facing humanity, including climate change, future sea-level rise, and marine biodiversity.
Mr Gray, who, is Chairman of both the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions, added: “It is important that Parliament gets to see the very best that British engineering has to offer, especially where tax-payer funded projects are concerned.”
© 2018 James Gray MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA