I am sure most readers would expect my Letter from Westminster for August to cover the fact we have a new Prime Minister. But I write before the result is known, so think better not to make much comment.
We do, however, know the new Prime Minister will have the monumental task of delivering Brexit and managing a minority government with the skills needed to deliver for people across the country.
The leadership election has brought appropriate focus to some issues where the government needs to act. And one issue that has arisen recently is the growing concern about the treatment of veterans, in particular those who served in Northern Ireland, who have been subject to allegations of historic wrongdoing. This has been championed by some national newspapers and concerned MPs.
As a former Defence Minister, proper treatment of our veterans is important to me, though it was never directly part of my ministerial responsibilities. I firmly believe that those who volunteered to join our Armed Forces must be treated fairly during their time in service, and once their service is done.
While not the only issue facing veterans, the impact of historical allegations has brought this issue to the forefront of public debate. I know that it is affecting veterans across the country, including here in Shropshire. I have spoken to some who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who are deeply concerned that they may face lengthy legal procedures, decades after the event, despite the fact they may have been previously cleared, even if no new information may have come forward.
I sincerely hope that whoever becomes the next Prime Minister will take forward recent suggestions how to resolve these cases as a matter of priority. It is vital service personnel and veterans feel the government will back them, just as they backed us when serving their country.
The House of Commons does not normally sit in August, allowing MPs to spend more time in our constituencies and possibly fit in a family holiday. I am taking my family to Ireland this year – barring any recall of Parliament.
I expect and hope the new PM and Brexit Secretary, with a fresh negotiating team, will be working tirelessly throughout August to ensure that we do everything possible to prepare for leaving. This means preparing as best we can to mitigate the potential impact of leaving without a deal, while doing everything we can to secure a deal that can pass through the House of Commons.
We know some elements of the economy are particularly vulnerable to tariffs should a No Deal situation occur – like agriculture and the automotive industry, both of which are large primary or secondary employers in the Ludlow Constituency. So I shall be doing everything I can to ensure the new Prime Minister takes these concerns seriously, and plans appropriately.
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