North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, raised the issue of funding for young people in Armed Forces families in post-16 education.

He raised with Andrew Murrison, Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, why the Service Pupil Premium ends when children reach the age of 16.

Mr Gray stated during Defence Questions yesterday:

“My right hon. and gallant Friend will know that in Wiltshire alone we have 7,000 service children in our schools and that some 96% of all schools in Wiltshire have service kids in them, many of whom benefit from the services pupil premium. That is great, but it ends at age 16. Surely there is an argument in favour of continuing to help those children from 16 to 18, as we have changed the education system as a whole and education at 18 has become the norm.”

The Minister, also from Wiltshire, responded with:

“I am very grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend and near neighbour. He invites me to ensure that Wiltshire gets more cash, in particular the excellent Wiltshire College. That is very tempting indeed. I hear what he says, and nobody is keener than I am on improving skills, particularly post 16. I am more than happy to discuss the issue with him, but I suspect that what he suggests would have a significant price tag and our colleagues in the Treasury would rather I did not commit.”

I have this morning agreed to be one of those who signs Rishi Sunak’s nomination papers and will be supporting him in every way in the forthcoming leadership election. There is much to recommend Boris Johnson, but I cannot believe that now is the right time for him to return to Government. I was a strong supporter of Penny Mordaunt in the last round of the leadership election, but have concluded that she does not have the capabilities to be Prime Minister at this time.

Rishi Sunak was an outstanding Chancellor of the Exchequer, has kept his nose clean in the meantime and seems to me to have the ability to be an outstandingly good fresh-start Prime Minister.

On Tuesday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray asked the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs to provide an update on the Government’s vital Arctic Strategy during Oral Questions for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Before the debate, Mr Gray said:

“As Chair of the APPG for the Polar Regions, I have witnessed first-hand the impact climate change has on the Arctic and Antarctic as well as around the globe. It is therefore vital that we strengthen our contribution to Arctic science and environmental protection.”

In the House of Commons Chamber, Mr Gray further pressed:

“Central to our battle against climate change must be our relations with the Arctic countries and the Arctic circle in general. I understand that the Foreign Office Arctic policy update document is ready to be published. Can the Minister update the House about when that document will be published and perhaps even about what might be in it?”

​The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Vicky Ford MP, responded that:

“My hon. Friend is a true supporter of the Arctic region. Several of the Arctic states have published new Arctic strategies. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Middle East, who is the Minister responsible, was able on her visit to the region very recently to talk about the UK’s intention to publish a UK Arctic policy. We are looking forward to publishing a refreshed UK Arctic policy later this year. That will be an evolution of the existing framework, which is called ‘Beyond the Ice’.”

On Monday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray asked the Minister for Crime and Policing during Oral Questions for the Home Office what discussions he has had with the Ministry of Justice to review sentencing for perpetrators of domestic homicides and knife crimes.

Before the debate, Mr Gray said:

“Residents of North Wiltshire will remember the horrific murder of Calne native Ellie Gould, who tragically died in her home following a vicious knife attack by her then boyfriend. In the years since her murder, the Gould family and I have been campaigning to strengthen sentencing for crimes like these. I am pleased to say that we are seeing some results to this important work via the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, however, more needs to be done.”

In the House of Commons Chamber, Mr Gray added:

“Deterrence is more important than almost anything else, and the Minister knows well of the tragic case in my constituency of Ellie Gould, who was murdered by a knife-wielding boyfriend. People there are rightly of the view that we must find ways of improving and increasing the sentences for knife murder if we can. So what discussions has he had with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice, who are currently looking at guidelines for sentencing? When can we expect the results of that consultation to come out?”

​The Minister for Crime and Policing, Tom Pursglove MP, replied that:

“I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. We do have Ministers who are joint between the Home Office and the MOJ, which means that we have been able to look at some of these issues in the round. What I hope can give him some reassurance is the fact that, through serious violence reduction orders, which we are introducing through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, we are seeing a greater likelihood of people being caught, of being before the court and of receiving a custodial sentence. I think the whole House can welcome that.”

Following the recent announcement by Lloyds Bank that it will sadly be closing its branch in Royal Wootton Bassett in December due to the majority of its customers using alternative services, North Wiltshire MP James Gray stated:

“I am concerned that the closure of the branch will leave vulnerable and elderly people without in-person access to vital banking services and I would note that the nearest alternative Lloyds branch to Royal Wootton Bassett will be in Swindon – nearly six miles away”.

In a letter to the Post Office asking them to consider establishing a Banking Hub in Royal Wootton Bassett, Mr Gray added:

“I would advance the strongest possible argument that Royal Wootton Bassett – a Wiltshire market town of 10,000 people with a vibrant High Street – would be in huge need of such a hub”.

A Banking Hub of this kind would preserve basic in-person banking services at one central High Street location, jointly run by the Post Office and trained staff from all major banks. Mr Gray has offered his help to make this Banking Hub a reality in Royal Wootton Bassett and sincerely hopes that the Post Office will give due consideration to this proposal.