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Words: Paul Waugh
Pictures: Paul Heartfield
When Mark Francois lays a wreath at the Cenotaph this Sunday, it will be an act of private remembrance as well as public duty. Like many men his age, the recently appointed Minister for the Armed Forces has a direct, family link to the event.
“My dad was a D-Day Veteran, he served in the Royal Navy in World War Two,” he explains. “He died when I was 14, but one of the things he taught me is we should never, ever take anything in a free country for granted.”
A former Territorial Army officer (with the Royal Anglian regiment) himself, it’s clear that the armed forces are in Francois’ blood and his gut. His Commons office overlooking Whitehall boasts a big ‘Back Our Boys’ front page from his local paper and army books and mementos abound. Even the two Ordnance Survey maps of his Rayleigh constituency have a whiff of military precision.
When he was moved from the Whips’ Office to the MoD in 2012, more than one colleague told him he was ‘a round peg in a round hole’. Promoted last month by David Cameron from Veterans minister to his current role, Francois certainly considers himself fortunate to have landed the perfect brief.
As well as a direct remit over current operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, he is now in charge of military cyber security and ‘force generation’. Very much on the political front line, his big strategic job is to reshape the armed forces to meet the twin challenges of the age of austerity and a new generation of military threats.
Yet despite the very modern items in his in-tray, Francois knows that history is the golden thread of the military and commemoration and remembrance are vital in connecting the public to those who defend them.
2014 sees not just the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, it’s a key time to recall the Second World War too. “Next year we’ve also got the 70th anniversary of D-Day which is going to be quite a big event. It’s very important that we educate our young people to remember the sacrifices that were made so that they could grow up in a country that is free and democratic.”
Memories of his father Reginald will not be far away. “I went to the D-Day 69th anniversary this June. My father’s minesweeper helped sweep the beaches in the morning of D-Day and then they were moored off Omaha beach in the afternoon,” he says.
“I went to Omaha and our defence attaché very kindly took me around the beach after the ceremonies were concluded and I was able to stand on Pointe du Hoc [the cliff overlooking the Channel] and look out to sea where dad would have been moored 69 years ago. If I’m honest it was quite an emotional moment.”
He goes on: “What you often find with vets, they don’t talk about it. They talk about scrapes they got into and light hearted stories, whether they were late back from leave and so on. But they are often reluctant to talk about combat. And there is a pattern that you often find that they only open up in later life.”
Was his father like that? “He was very like that. On one occasion he’d been to a friend’s birthday and to use the phrase he’d had a couple of sherberts. And when he came back he just started chatting about it. It was the one time he opened up about it. I remember him saying when the battleships opened up for the preliminary barrage early in the morning before the landing craft went in, he said he’d never heard a noise like it either before or since. He said it was an absolute cacophony. Of course I would have loved to have had other chances to talk about it, but it wasn’t to be.”
As part of his role in connecting Parliament with the military, Francois personally organised a service of remembrance for ex-services MPs at the Guards’ Chapel on Birdcage Walk. The sheer number of those who served with the Army, RAF and Royal Navy may surprise some, he says. Francois decided that “rather than us trying to squeeze into our old uniforms”, it would be more appropriate to wear lounge suits with regimental or service ties and poppies and medals.
“It’s about allowing MPs who served in the armed forces to pay their respects. But also part of the point is to try and get across to service personnel the fact that there’s around 50 MPs in the House of Commons who’ve actually served in the forces, either regular or reserve. That’s not ‘they were in a cadet unit at school’ or they were in the OTC [Officer Training Corps], they actually did regular or reserve uniformed service.
“That ranges from the Bob Stewarts and Nick Soames of the world, who are very well known as ex-regular officers, right through to a number of guys like myself who served as TA officers. There is a cohort of ex-TA officers. Richard Bacon was in the intelligence corps, Greg Barker was in the HAC, Liddel-Grainger was a Fusilier, Selous was a Fusilier, Penning was a regular Guardsman, Hugo Swire was a Guardsman.
“Whenever I’ve mentioned this to serving personnel they’ve been rather taken aback. They think there’s just a handful of us. [50 out of 650 MPs], it’s not quite one in 10, but it’s not a million miles away.”
Remembrance is naturally a key theme for the MoD ministers. Lord Astor has responsibility for commemoration, Anna Soubry has general responsibility for veterans and Andrew Murrison, the PM’s former envoy on the WW1 commemorations, retains that role at the ministry.
As some polls show a lack of knowledge of who was even on which side in the Great War, Francois sees next year as a chance to educate the young.
“I’ve seen some exciting examples of work where schools are setting up projects. In my own constituency kids are encouraged to research the names on local war memorials – so they actually start to look at the history of individual soldiers, sailors and airmen and begin to learn what happened to them during the war. I think that’s a really good way of conveying to young people what happened.”
The Royal British Legion is hoping for another strong public response to the Poppy Day appeal this year. Does the minister think it could be the biggest ever?
“I’m not going to predict a total, in a way that’s down to the Legion. But what I do feel is we have tremendous support for the armed forces at the moment. The only thing I can compare it to in my lifetime is right in the middle of the Falklands War in 1982. So there is tremendous goodwill towards our armed forces.”
He sounds a warning note, however, about the Afghanistan withdrawal and its impact. “The risk though is that as we come to the end of operations, when we bring the boys home at the end of next year and it’s not on the television once or twice a week, public opinion could fade a bit. I absolutely hope it doesn’t but there’s a risk that it might. And that’s why I think that we have to put into practice now procedures that will endure well beyond the end of 2014.”
He singles out work on the Armed Forces Covenant, and the Community Covenant which encourages councils to make life easier for veterans and servicemen and women. Issues such as providing enough school places, housing allocation priority and doctor and dentist registration are all crucial.
“I think 372 local authorities have now signed up. That’s about 90% of the local authorities of Great Britain, we will have a few more in the run up to Remembrance [Sunday] and the Secretary of State was intimating today if there’s any defaulters after that we might start chivvying them quite hard."
When he was veterans’ minister, Francois started work on the Corporate Covenant, a new project to get companies large and small involved in helping the armed forces.
It involves companies agreeing to give job interviews rather than jobs, but Francois stresses “we know our people are of high quality, if we can get them in the interview room, they’ll often get the job”. It includes other rights such as sponsorship of units, consumer discounts and release from work for training.
Francois still keeps an eye on his brainchild, pointing out that major employers’ organisations have signed up including the British Chambers of Commerce, the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Venture Capital Association. The MoD is now in the next phase of getting individual companies to sign up to it as well, backed by a recent Downing Street reception.
National Express, Virgin Media, Barclays, BT and others have signed up. Francois wants a similar backing from smaller firms too. “We’ve got actually quite a lot of big firms but it’s also designed so that mid-size firms can sign it and even Bill Bloggs Engineering under the arches in the East End. If your heart’s in the right place and you want to do the right thing by our armed forces, we’d encourage you to sign the Corporate Covenant.”
Of course for personnel and their families, the recent round of redundancies has hit the armed forces hard. What’s morale like at the moment?
“Redundancy is a difficult process. I say this as an ex-serviceman myself, although a reservist. I think morale out in theatre is pretty high. We recently had the ceremony where we welcomed back 1 Mechanised back to Parliament. The feedback afterwards, talking to some of the personnel there and some of their COs was that the boys and girls were really pleasantly surprised by how many people were there to meet them. And the fact that the PM was there and said some words.”
But Francois is not naïve about the continuing pain felt at the job losses and the process. “One of the challenges has been that this process has taken some time. But we’ve now pretty much finished the redundancies in the Royal Navy and in the Royal Air Force.”
He also hints that there could be a reprieve for the Army. “We’ve had three tranches in the Army now. We may have one further tranche to come, Tranche 4, we are looking at the details of that now. And whether we are going to need a fourth tranche and what size it might be. We haven’t finally decided on that. We are looking at this very hard at the moment and we are not that far away from saying something about it.” When asked when that decision might be made, he is cagey, but says in “the next few months, certainly”.
“And then when we’ve been through that, we’ve got work to do to say to people ‘that’s it’, we are reconfiguring now and we want to persuade people that this is a very worthwhile career. We have to explain to people we are getting close to that process bottoming out now and we have got work to do to get on the front foot and to persuade people there’s still a very valuable and exciting career in the armed forces.”
Many MPs fear that the job cuts are being counterbalanced by an over-optimistic target to get more reservists in place. Liam Fox has warned of the dangers, and many Tories backed John Baron’s call to halt the programme recently. Philip Hammond and Francois again came under repeated friendly fire from fellow Conservatives this week over the issue. Francois admits that the redundancy “process we had was too bureaucratic”.
“We are actively addressing that, we are trying to take a lot of the bureaucracy out of the process in order to facilitate it and make it easier. There is a lot of work going on, on precisely that point at the moment.” He says that partners Capita are being worked on.
“We’ve had discussions with Capita directly about this, about getting them to be part of this process as well and they are actively engaged in putting this right. I think you’ll find that from the Secretary of State downwards we are on them.”
“On the wider point, and I say this as an ex-Reservist officer myself, I absolutely believe that we can do this. When I served in the 1980s admittedly during the Cold War, we had about 75,000 men and women in what was then the Territorial Army. The target is to get to 30,000 trained to phase two in what is now called the Army Reserve by 2018. We already start with around 19,000 trained to phase two so we are not starting from a cold start. So we’ve got to get a net 11,000 over the next four years or so. That’s around 20 on average in each parliamentary constituency in the UK over four years. When you look at it like that actually it’s not impossible is it?”
Francois stresses that financial incentives have been increased to firms to help cover costs of employees being away on duty. And he underlines the sacrifice made by the reservists.
“It’s also important to remember the contribution that the reserves have made,” he says. “In Iraq and Afghanistan over 25,000 reservists have been mobilised and have served in theatre. And 70 of those people were given gallantry awards. Twenty four of them made the ultimate sacrifice in combat. So they are now an integral part of the armed forces, they already are.”
The numbers of Westminster candidates from armed forces backgrounds is increasing too. Labour has ex-RAF operations officer Sophy Gardner lined up for Gloucester and last weekend Thomas Tugendhat won the selection for the safe Tory seat of Tonbridge and Malling. James Heappey has been chosen as the Conservative candidate for Wells while Afzal Amin will fight Dudley North for the Conservatives at the next election.
“I think it’s good that people with a military background still want to come into politics,” the minister says. “In some ways, having served in the military can be not a bad training for political life. The military teaches you to expect the unexpected and certainly you get that in politics!”
But does it make it harder to lay a punch on an opponent when they’re a fellow ex-serviceman or woman?
“Dan Jarvis, I’ve got a lot of time for. He was an ex regular paratrooper but he’s also just a very nice bloke...the fact we’ve got something in common because we both served in the armed forces is no bad bond. But it just means in politics that if he’s arguing one thing and I’m arguing another we can do it respectfully.”
As a straight-talking Essex Conservative (he grew up in Basildon), Francois is not afraid of political knockabout. His office has not just a signed photo of Mrs T but also a picture of Gordon Brown mocked up as Stalin (in that famous Vince Cable phrase).
His own Rayleigh constituency is home to several cadet units and last week he was at RAF Wethersfield in North Essex to present glider wings to four cadets who had gone solo. “What’s interesting is you can do it from when you are 16. One of these cadets hadn’t passed their driving test yet but they’ve flown a glider solo. So I think after that their driving test will be relatively straightforward.”
Francois says he’s “incredibly pro the cadet movement” and is proud of the programme to establish 100 new cadet units in state schools. “I actually think cadet units, particularly in inner city schools, can have a remarkable effect because sometimes you are taking kids who’ve come from pretty difficult backgrounds and putting them into a uniformed organisation and you get all of the benefits about teaching them discipline and respect for those in authority.
“All of that is really important, but actually in some cases the really dramatic bit is that someone respects them. If they’ve come from a background where maybe they’ve not had a lot of that growing up, maybe they’ve had a troubled family life perhaps, here they are put into an organisation which is meritocratic and they are treated with respect and they are encouraged to perform to the maximum of their ability.”
As for political rather than military threats, Francois believes that the Tories will surprise a few people by how they counter UKIP in next year’s Euro elections, and the general election. The PM’s In-Out referendum pledge has already helped convert those ‘on the cusp’ of UKIP in his constituency, he says.
And the minister also knows what it’s like to fend off high profile challengers himself. When he went for Rayleigh back in 2001, the local Conservative Association selected him rather than a more famous contender: Boris Johnson. Francois smiles as he explains:
“Perhaps I was lucky because when Boris went down for the selection interview from the [train] station there was torrential rain and he got absolutely soaked. So he went there, tried to towel his hair off and eventually he went in there looking like something out of The Lion King. Maybe that was fate intervening.”
Like Boris, Francois has a colourful heritage (or as Boris would say he’s like honey that is ‘the produce of more than one country’). “My mother was Italian...so you’ve got an Englishman called Reginald Francois who served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War but with a French derived surname and he marries an Italian woman called Anna Carloni, so that’s why my surname is French and my middle name is Gino. So you can see why they gave me the Shadow Europe job [in Opposition].”
But as he rushes off for a weekly operational briefing, the minister is keen to stress one more, final family link. The Admiralty’s Naval Historical branch has told him that “there was a Jean Francois at Trafalgar”. Fortunately, he was on the right side, in the Royal Navy. For Mark Gino Francois, the military really is in his blood.
FRANCOIS ON… RESERVIST TARGETS
“If we had 75,000 in the 1980s with a smaller population, I’ve got to believe we can get from 19,000 to 30,000 in four years.”
FRANCOIS ON…HIS OWN RESERVIST DUTY
“If the balloon had gone up, our job was to go and defend a bridge in West Germany against Russian paratroops. Fortunately we won the Cold War.”
FRANCOIS ON…CHINESE/RUSSIAN CYBER ATTACKS
“We have to make sure that our systems are secure against anybody, from wherever around the globe they might want to hack. We’ve got to make sure that we are well protected.”
“They save the lives of our personnel and other Isaf personnel. And when we use them everything we do is strictly in accordance with international law and the UN Security Council resolutions.”
FRANCOIS ON…GUARDIAN SNOWDEN LEAKS
“Margaret Thatcher once said ‘I believe in a free society under a rule of law’. We live in a free society but freedom has to be defended. Some of those leaks have been damaging.”
If you regularly read this column, the chances are you’ve already read more than a couple of missives on the relationship between the energy industry and politicians. You may have hoped never to read another word. Indeed, I may have hoped never to feel the need to write another line on the subject. Yet the current temperature of debate on the topic leaves me little choice.
Consumers’ energy bills are high, and increasing at a rate no politician would want to sanction. There’s no question that is true. The energy firms have a legacy of poor customer service, that is also true.
Many of the big six make profits that run into the hundreds of millions, and they are run by some very well paid executives. That is true, too.
But there are some other truths that it is worth pointing out if we are to have a proper debate about how to solve what is currently a problem that places pressure on consumers in the shape of high bills, and prevent a very serious problem with lack of supply.
The Government is not, despite some ministers repeating it as often as they can, legislating to make companies put customers on the lowest tariff. Despite the PM’s promise to put ‘everyone’ on the lowest tariff, that is not what is happening.
Ofgem is carrying on with the reforms they had already designed before that PMQs pledge, companies are cutting the numbers down to four tariffs, and some have already done so. Bills should therefore be more transparent, but there will be no one ‘lowest price’.
The understandable political fuss has already delayed and in some cases even led to some energy deals to build more supply being cancelled. Investors crave certainty.
With the possibility of a price freeze if Labour was to win the election, and already the prospect of changes to the green levies, some companies have already taken fright. One source says “there is no chance that any big ticket items will get signed off before the general election”.
However many pronouncements the Government or the Opposition make about creating jobs and building energy infrastructure, politicking is making that less, not more likely.
Even if politicians believe a quick dash for gas is a viable alternative, right now it doesn’t make economic sense to build gas power stations. In fact energy companies have been mothballing some plants – “no one makes money right now selling gas”.
If the Government really wants to get companies to provide gas power, therefore, they may have to tempt firms in, even with subsidy. The regulator is already talking to companies about bringing stations back online, but it would have to become financially tempting, right now it is not.
Whether you were with the protestors in their tents at Balcombe in spirit, or are an eager shareholder in Cuadrilla, shale gas is controversial because it has enormous potential. Despite all the difficulties with exploring in the UK there may be massive usable reserves that could change everything.
But nothing is going to happen quickly – optimists in the sector say it can’t make a difference for at least five years.
Considering switching providers makes sense, and can be a way of saving money.
There is not that much choice in the market with prices – even the smaller providers politicians are fond of recommending cluster around the same price levels. Despite their plucky image, they too have often put prices up so advocating faster switching won’t make the problems go away.
As one source suggested “it’s nice to think this is all about some bastard ripping you off, but it’s much more complicated than that”. For years we have ducked making bold decisions about energy and allowed the infrastructure to lag behind. It is far from clear that declaring war on the big six will actually start to dig us out of that hole. Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband must deep down know that. As their parties veer from one ‘solution’ to the next, they may have to accept there are no easy answers.
The Home Affairs Select Committee’s report, ‘Leadership and standards in the police: follow-up’, published on 3rd November, is certainly pretty hard hitting, as was its decision to recall two of the Police Federation’s witnesses two days later.
However, this is not a report into the original issue, the confrontation between Andrew Mitchell MP and a police officer at the entrance to Downing Street, which has joined the long and unsavoury group of gate-suffixed words which designate scandal, albeit with the partial excuse that it did at least involve a gate. This was an overture, not the main performance.
The report and the evidence sessions that preceded and now followed it were very bad for the reputation of the police. No one comes out of it with honour enhanced, not the various chief constables, not the Police Federation officials, not the IPCC, whose original decision not directly to investigate the matter has now been reversed, much too late.
And there is still no answer, more than a year later, to the main question as to who said what to whom at the gates outside the centre of the British Government.
But neither has it been a particularly elevating picture for the politicians involved. There was an uncomfortable element of grandstanding in the treatment by the Home Affairs Select Committee of junior officers unaccustomed to the daunting atmosphere of a parliamentary enquiry.
As the trio blinked in the camera lights, the question must have occurred to many as to whether this was the proper tribunal for an investigation into an actual police disciplinary case. These were not the CEOs of energy companies or multinationals and the Committee could have confined themselves to calling the relevant Chief Constables and IPCC Commissioners but chose not to.
By doing that, it is possible that some observers will question whether there is something unhealthy going on here: a display of outrage on behalf of a fellow MP that has not always been seen in relation to other legal scandals affecting ordinary citizens.
When this is accompanied by a chorus of political voices clearly assuming that Mr Mitchell was disgracefully ‘stitched-up’, when that has not yet been proven (although both he and to a much lesser extent all of us have a right to be extremely fed up that that is still unknown), then an impression of politicians being over-precipitate judges in their own cause could be the unsettling result. It may be time for a period of calm reflection.
For some they’re an increasingly vital part of our democracy, where the mighty and powerful, from government ministers to industry bosses, are put under the microscope. For others, they’re increasingly beginning to resemble coarse show trials, where unsuspecting witnesses are brought in to face publicity-hungry MPs seeking their own moment in the spotlight.
But one thing is certain – select committees are more powerful than ever.
The move to elected memberships in 2010 changed the parliamentary dynamic, releasing committees from the grasp of party leadership and the whip’s office, and placing them in the hands of one of the most restive cohorts of backbench MPs in a generation.
Ambitious MPs have been freed to carve a space, voice and alternative career for themselves on committee corridor, and the groups’ chairs, in particular, have seen their status and media profiles soar, with many now finding themselves more recognisable than most ministers.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” says James Arbuthnot we sit down in his spacious Portcullis House corner office, with its stunning views overlooking the Thames. The chair of the Defence Committee has now entered his ninth year in the post, having first been chosen in 2005 under the ancien regime before being elected to continue in the role during the 2010 shakeup. Over that time the hand of the committees has been “significantly strengthened”, he says, with members freed from party control and given the “confidence of having the House of Commons behind them”.
“It’s proper scrutiny. To appear in front of a select committee now you really do have to have done your homework,” he says.
“If you’re answering questions in the chamber of the House of Commons it’s easy to flick away a question with a quick, sometimes amusing answer, and the person can’t come back to you. But in a select committee the person asking the question can come back and back and back until they’ve established that you either don’t know the answer, or you’re not going to give the answer. Either of which is an important achievement.”
Since taking over in 2005, Arbuthnot has questioned six Defence Secretaries, and countless ministers, officials and military figures. But his first experience with the Committee came on the other side of the divide.
“It’s a job that I first thought I’d really enjoy doing when I was the Defence Procurement Minister and came in front of the Defence Committee, and thought that it was real scrutiny.
“And it is, in my experience, a much better job to have. You have a freedom to do what you think is right and to say what you think is in the national interest, without being bound by the Line to Take of everybody else around and above you in government. As the Defence Committee chairman I’ve got a freedom that I’ve never previously experienced in politics. It’s fantastic.”
Arbuthnot praises his members for avoiding the sort of “publicity-seeking” perhaps witnessed in other committees, and for being “fearless” in their questioning of the Ministry of Defence. While “having a soundbite on the news is no bad thing to achieve”, he says, the committee is more focused on holding ministers to account “than getting publicity for itself or individual members”.
It’s a task which, despite the growing influence of committees, is not getting any easier. Just last week Arbuthnot accused Defence Secretary Philip Hammond of seeking to suppress information and stifle the much needed debate about the department’s Armed Forces reforms. The Defence Committee, Arbuthnot says, is increasingly coming up against brick walls in its dealings with the MoD.
“Philip Hammond has really clamped down on discussions between politicians and journalists, on the one hand, and the military and Ministry of Defence on the other hand. I think that is a mistake.
“The committee does have difficulty getting information out of the Ministry of Defence. Those who give us a story from the MoD want to put the best light on it, always. It is the military mindset. The trouble is the Defence Committee needs to know not only where things are going well, but where things are going less well so they can get better next time round. But that’s not the military mindset, the military mindset is not to expose any failings to the glare of politicians, but to say what has been achieved. That’s sometimes very frustrating for us.
“However I have the impression that Philip Hammond is beginning to accept the need for an improvement in communications. I have a feeling there is a sort of chink or light at the end of the tunnel on this, and that would be really good news. It’s very important that it should happen.”
But one of the biggest problems still facing the MoD, Arbuthnot says, is the “great gap” between the public and the military who serve them. “I think what Philip Hammond needs to concentrate on is broadening the understanding within the country of what defence is for and what it’s all about. It’s a campaign of understanding that we need, because the best people to sell the issue of defence are those military men and women who do such a fantastic job.
“The world has become really unstable since the end of the Cold War, the threats have increased. The need for defence has not gone away, it’s got greater, and yet our understanding of defence has reduced.”
It’s a campaign Arbuthnot says he would “love to” get involved in after leaving his current role. The North East Hampshire MP, who has already announced plans to retire from the House of Commons at the 2015 election, says he will “certainly” step down from the Defence Committee in May of next year, before going on to seek employment in the industry when his Commons career ends.
“I’ll be in need of employment after I’m no longer a Member of Parliament and although there’s no rule to say that I should have a year’s gap between being chairman of the Defence Committee and looking for work, I think it would be the right thing to do,” he explains. “I would feel more comfortable without immediately throwing myself on the market after having been chairman of the Defence Select Committee.”
Despite devoting the lion’s share of his political career to matters of defence, Arbuthnot has never spent any time in the military himself. His passion for the issue, he says, came about by accident.
“Yes – that was a mistake,” he chuckles, before explaining his surprise appointment as Defence Minister in 1995. “John Major was looking around for a potential Cabinet minister, and chose Roger Freeman from the MoD. I’d only been in the job of pensions minister for a year and I wasn’t expecting to move at all. Then the call came.”
After just two years in the MoD the Conservatives were ejected from office, and Arbuthnot was moved on to the Whip’s Office. But by then it was too late, he says: he’s been bitten by the defence bug.
“Once you’ve tasted defence it’s very difficult to find anything else quite as exciting,” he explains.
“In fact it’s because I’ve enjoyed being chairman of the Defence Select Committee so much that I’ll be leaving Parliament at the next election. I don’t think anything else could be as good.”
“On reflection I think David Cameron may have been right, and I may have been wrong. By announcing the pullout date of 2014 he said to the British public: ‘this conflict has an end date, please support it until then’. If he hadn’t said that, support may have fallen off before 2014 and we’d have ended up with a rout, and that would have been catastrophic.”
ARBUTHNOT ON...PHILIP HAMMOND
“I am impressed by the way he’s got on top of the Budget. I think he’s really good on money and figures, and that was the strategic challenge that was facing the Ministry of Defence when he became Secretary of State. I think he’s the right person in the job.”
ARBUTHNOT ON...THE CHINESE CYBER THREAT
“Clearly we’ve decided we have to accept the prevalence of Chinese technology with our infrastructure, which sits strangely, frankly, with the huge amount of Chinese cyber-attacks that are happening on a minute by minute basis. It may be we’ve come to the conclusion we don’t have an choice - we’re not big enough to do what the US is doing and saying we won’t have it.”
ARBUTHNOT ON...HIS PROUDEST MOMENT
“The overturning of the decision on the Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre. It’s something that took 16 years to achieve, and a lot of us were working in the same direction. But I think my own role in helping to draft the Conservative policy of having it re-looked at before 2010 was essential. I think bringing people together and keeping the flame of hope alive was essential. That was my greatest achievement.”
Back row, from left to right: Sir Edward Leigh, James Gray, Gregory Barker, Andrew Selous, Kris Hopkins, Nicholas Soames, Julian Brazier
4th row, from left to right: Gregory Campbell, Andrew Mitchell, Richard Bacon, Simon Hart, Mark Lancaster, Desmond Swayne, Stephen Barclay
3rd row, from left to right: Jim Shannon, Bob Stewart, Richard Drax, Dan Jarvis, Sir Tony Baldry, Ian Liddell-Grainger, Richard Benyon, Tobias Ellwood
2nd row, from left to right: Andrew Murrison, Richard Ottoway, Julian Lewis, Jeffrey Donaldson, Jack Lopresti, Hugo Swire, David Tredinnick, Ben Wallace, Jason McCartney, Sir Gerald Howarth
Front row, from left to right: Mike Penning, Stephen Phillips, Sir Peter Tapsell, Mark Francois