During Questions for the Secretary of State for the Home Department at the House of Commons on Monday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray spoke up for long-term care workers. Mr Gray stated:

“The National Health Service depends on nurses of course, and we must welcome the Government’s announcement of the removal of the £30,000 pay cap from nurses. That makes a great deal of sense, but does the Secretary of State also agree that the long-term care industry equally depends, to a very significant degree, on people from the European Union? Will he not consider, equally, removing the cap for long-term care workers?”

The Home Secretary, Sajid David supported Mr Gray’s statement, responding that:

“I hope that my hon. Friend welcomes a change that we have already made to the tier 2 system for non-European economic area workers, when, last year, we exempted nurses and doctors from that cap. As far as the new system is concerned, he is right to raise this issue, and that is why, as we set out in the White Paper, there is a process of engagement over this year to make sure that we are listening, including to the care industry.”

Speaking after the debate Mr Gray further added that:

“I feel strongly about supporting long-term care workers from both the EU and around the world. EU citizens are an important part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and their rights needed to be secured. I am therefore very keen to make sure that the new immigration system ensures that EU nationals can continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector.”

The sight of twenty two naked buttocks superglued to the glass screen which protects the Chamber from the Public Gallery will stick with me for a very long time. They were climate change protestors, and of course I decry their action. Yet the point they were making had some resonance with me.The sight of twenty two naked buttocks superglued to the glass screen which protects the Chamber from the Public Gallery will stick with me for a very long time. They were climate change protestors, and of course I decry their action. Yet the point they were making had some resonance with me.

Day after weary day we debate, wrestle, plot over Brexit. We ego-trip over our detailed knowledge of the Withdrawal Agreement; our super-clever control of obscure Parliamentary procedures; over the precise meaning and import of Clause 23 sub-section 4, and whether or not the Lisbon Treaty supercedes it. But where has it all got us? Absolutely nowhere at all, after three years of wrangling.

The fact of the matter is, and always has been, that four competing pressure groups are trying to get this thing sorted out and they are at loggerheads. The people voted to leave. The Government broadly agrees with them. Parliament seems not to, but cannot decide what else it wants. And the EU are determined to make the whole thing as difficult as they possibly can. The chances of reaching a sensible settlement amongst those interests was pretty much nil from the start.

It seems to me that we are now faced with a direct binary choice. Either Parliament agrees to the Withdrawal Agreement (and at 286 votes, more people voted for that than for any of the other options available either this week or last); or if they do not do so, by definition we do not have a Withdrawal Agreement, which means that we will leave a week on Friday without one. So I hope that some mechanism can now be found for one final heave for the Withdrawal Agreement, failing which we must climb out of the cess pit, and leave the EU with our heads held high having tried to sort out a pre-nup with them, and having failed.

Most of the details have been agreed anyhow, and could be taken forward on a bilateral basis- airlines, medicines, nuclear fuels etc. etc. are all agreed. Do we really need a super-deal to fix them in place? I suspect not.

What we must now do is simply get out of the EU, either with the WA, or with No Deal, and then sort ourselves out thereafter.

If nothing else, that would give us all clarity and certainty, and allow us to start focusing on something other than Brexit- like the Climate Change Crisis of which the naked buttocks did rather a good job of reminding us.

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?”

What a shambles. The House has voted for ‘indicative votes’ tomorrow. There are three fundamental problems with that. One, there is a very good chance that no clear conclusion will come from it. Two, in the unlikely event that there was an agreement, it would neither necessarily reflect the determination of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave, nor would it reflect the Manifesto commitments of both the Labour and Conservative parties at the last election. And third, even if it passes the first two hurdles, you must question what the likelihood is that the European Commission would possibly agree to it.

These are indicative votes and very probably a complete waste of time. I am now concerned that we are hurtling at break neck speed towards no Brexit at all, which would outrage both those who voted for it but also a good number of Remainer democrats. It could potentially even result in a General Election. (Did I hear Brenda from Bristol saying ‘not another one?’)

Despite its many deficiencies, and assuming that the PM will not allow us to leave with ‘no deal’ on the 12th April, then the only viable option now available to us is to support her otherwise obnoxious deal. My instinct is that most of the ERG are coming to that conclusion, although the DUP have not yet reached it. A small group of Conservative die-hard remainers would vote against it, but I hope that a reasonable number of sensible Labour MPs would now support it, if they realised that it was going to succeed.

If we want to avoid either no Brexit, or a general election, and if no deal really is off the table, then the only small window of opportunity will be to support Mrs May’s deal, if and when it comes back to the Commons, (which, I hear, may now be next Monday.)

This remains a fast moving scenario and I will try to keep you up to date with all the twists and turns.

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.”