James Gray MP has welcomed the publication of the Etherton Report into the service and treatment of LGBT veterans who served prior to 2000 but pushes for the recommendations to be taken onboard without further delay.
In the Chamber on Wednesday, Mr Gray spoke in response to the Defence Secretary’s statement on the matter, saying:
“This is a very fine report, and Lord Etherton has done a first-class job in bringing it forward. I very much welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has made a real and heartfelt apology—as did my right hon. Friend in his statement—for this historic outrage.
However, would the House agree that the real outrage is that nothing at all has happened for 22 years? It has taken us as a nation 22 years, under all parties, to put this thing right. That is quite wrong. I therefore think that the sincerity of the Prime Minister’s apology will be judged not only by how well he does in achieving the 49 recommendations in the report but by how enthusiastically, how rapidly and how well he brings those things forward. The LGBT community are waiting to see what he does. We look forward to the debate in the autumn and we will judge him by the enthusiasm with which he adopts these recommendations.”
Mr Gray received strong support from the Defence Secretary, who mentioned he would also fight the cause from the backbenches in September when he steps down from his role as Secretary of State.
“I cannot answer the question of why it took 22 years. All I can say is that, from the authority I have in my office for now, having been able to commission this report and start this process is something that I am proud and pleased to have done, ably supported by the Veterans Minister and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, and by my colleague the Minister for Defence People, Veterans and Service Families, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison). I can only speak for that. As for the enthusiasm and support for getting this implemented, I will be sitting alongside my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) and I can hold whoever comes to this Dispatch Box to account to do it. I absolutely think we should do it with enthusiasm. At one stage we thought about just having a full debate on this today, but that would have involved coming here with no solutions. That would be the worst thing to do to the House. The best thing is to come here with this statement today and come back after the summer and hold the Government to account. I will be there, beside my hon. Friend, holding them to account on whether they uphold these recommendations.”
Mr Gray has worked alongside colleagues and, in particular, the charity Fighting With Pride, to ensure that LGBT veterans receive the recognition and support that they deserve and will continue to do so.