My diary in this week’s Redditch Advertiser.
Last week I was privileged to spend a few days on a working delegation to the Falkland Islands, organised by the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with colleagues from across the House of Commons.
The purpose of this scheme is for Parliamentarians to understand at first hand the role of our armed service men and women, in particular, the conditions they serve in at home and abroad. It is essential for me as an MP to understand their critical role keeping us safe and free, so that I am in a position to make important decisions that affect them. Not only do I need to vote on budgets and resources that have a direct impact on the armed services, but I may also be required to vote on whether to deploy troops on active service.
I could not be prouder of our troops after spending time with them. They are brave, fearless and proud to serve and protect us at home and abroad. I have become much better informed about the conditions they live and work in, the training they undergo, and the challenges they face being separated from their families and loved ones for long periods. It is undoubtedly a unique way of life with its own difficulties but equally some fantastic career and development opportunities.
During our time on the Falklands we retraced the steps of our British troops on Mount Harriet, which was a pivotal scene in the Falklands conflict in 1982, involving combat divisions. It was poignant to view the relics of the battle including boots, bombs, weapons and artillery and understand just how challenging it would have been to fight in the severe conditions.
In addition I spent a night on HMS Clyde, a fisheries protection frigate, ably captained by Lt Cdr Hugh Harris, as well as experiencing an RAF helicopter flight over the island.
The trip was also an important opportunity to learn in much more detail about the strategic role of the Falkland Islands, and the integration of all three armed forces working together. According to the Commander of the British Forces for the South Atlantic Islands, Brigadier Nick Sawyer, the Mount Pleasant complex, close to Port Stanley, where we were based, is the best example of tri-service working in the British military.
It was clear from my working meetings with Members of the Legislative Assembly in the Falklands, that the UK’s relationship with the islands continues to be strong, and there are many opportunities for future collaboration across a wide variety of policy areas.
The UK is committed to the territorial integrity of the Falkland Islands, and their right to self-determination as demonstrated in their recent referendum where they voted by 99.8% to remain British.
Despite being a 20 hour flight and over 8000 miles away I have kept in touch with events back in Westminster. We return to more votes on Brexit, and I will continue to do my part to honour the referendum result, that the majority of my constituents voted for. No doubt the next few days and weeks will be challenging, but I welcome the outcome of recent constructive talks that the PM has held with her EU counterparts, on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop. It is within our grasp to leave the EU on the 29th of March, with a good deal, and this is the outcome I am focused on.