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.”
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.”
North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, has spoken of his delight that both Marsh Farm, Royal Wootton Bassett, planning appeals have been rejected.
In response to this announcement, Mr Gray said:
“I strongly welcome the good news that the application and appeals to develop the land at Marsh Farm have been rejected. I have long been opposed to these plans which would destroy the Wiltshire countryside and take business away from the thriving Royal Wootton Bassett High Street. Developments such as those proposed at Marsh Farm threaten independent shops and businesses and detract from community spirit.
We must never become an outskirt of Swindon and I will continue to fight to preserve our countryside and strong rural communities here in North Wiltshire.”
James Gray MP has called for greater ocean protections around Ascension Island, a British Overseas Territory, as part of the government's Blue Belt programme. Ascension Island's Council is currently considering a proposal to protect 100% of its waters but needs a funding commitment from the UK Government to support their plan.
The MP for North Wiltshire said, "Ascension Island provides a vital habitat for important marine species including sea turtles and some of the largest ever recorded Atlantic Blue Marlin. 85% of the critically endangered species we are responsible for are in British Overseas Territories like Ascension, and they need to be protected.
I hope that the Government will support the Ascension Council in its plans to protect this area by committing to fund it. We've already called for 30% of the world's oceans to be protected by 2030, and Ascension is the next step in this ambitious plan."
Ascension Island is currently working on plans to designate 50% of their waters as a Marine Protected Area (MPA). However, it would cost them less to designate the entire area as an MPA due to the additional costs from policing a partially protected area, such as regulating fishing permits. Creating a 100% MPA in Ascension waters would create a sanctuary twice the size of the UK at around 440,000 square kilometres, the largest MPA in the Atlantic.
Mr Gray is a member of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Caucus, which works to support environmental policies including those that promote ocean conservation. They recently met with Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the BLUE Marine Foundation to hear more about Ascension's plans and how they could help.
Adrian Gahan, Director of Policy at the BLUE Marine Foundation said, "It's very encouraging to receive the support of so many Conservative MPs and to hear Michael Gove make an important commitment to secure the funding for the Ascension marine protected area. This entire area could be protected for only £120,000 per year, which is some of the best value conservation on the planet."
Sam Richards, Director of CEN said, "In the last 40 years we've lost half of our marine wildlife, and marine protected areas are vital to reversing this trend and protecting these amazing creatures. Creating this protected area in Ascension would be a great example of the UK's international leadership on ocean conservation."
Find out more about the Blue Belt programme here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-blue-belt-programme
Speaking during Questions to the Prime Minister earlier today, North Wiltshire MP James Gray asked the Prime Minister to join him in reassuring the country that despite yesterday’s announcement that Dyson was to move its corporate headquarters to Singapore, their commitment to the UK , and to North Wiltshire remains undiminished as evidenced by their £240m combined investment into the UK.
Mr Gray said:
“Will the Prime Minister join me in reassuring the people of North Wiltshire and, indeed, the nation that, despite yesterday’s announcement that he is to move his corporate headquarters and two senior executives to Singapore, the commitment of Dyson to Britain remains undiminished, as evidenced by the £200 million he is investing in his research and development site at Hullavington and by the £40 million he is investing in the engineering and design college at Malmesbury? He is totally and utterly committed to Great Britain, and yesterday’s announcement has no effect at all on that commitment.“
Responding, the Prime Minister said Dyson would continue to have a long-term future in the UK having trebled their workforce over the last five years.
Mrs May said:
“Dyson is clear that it will continue to have a long-term future in the UK, and it has trebled its workforce to 4,800 over the past five years. Of course, what matters to companies like Dyson is having a Government who are unapologetically pro-business, which this Government are, and a Government who are ensuring that our balanced economic policy sees increasing employment, exports and foreign direct investment in UK companies at record highs.”
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