I am proud to represent the constituency which is home to the British Army. Troops have been stationed here since the Napoleonic Wars and Salisbury Plain is a tremendous asset for training soldiers.
It is very good news that the armoured brigades are coming home from Germany here to Wiltshire. I am impressed by what I have seen of the preparations - the new housing in particular - for the thousands of people coming to live here. I want to work closely with Wiltshire council and with the Army to ensure that the troops and their families are properly integrated into the local communities they are joining.
The days of soldiers’ families living ‘behind the wire’, apart from their civilian neighbours, are thankfully over. But we need to do more to make sure local services have the resources they need to cope with the additional demand.
We are learning more every year about the effects of combat on the human mind. I want to work with the Army, the NHS, and charities like Combat Stress to support the many soldiers and former soldiers living locally who suffer from PTSD. I am sure that the most important thing here is a strong community, which in turn supports the families who support the individuals affected.
I also believe in the need for strong communities in helping former service personnel make the transition to civilian life. Local employers do a great job recruiting ex-army staff and I want to see how I can help make this more common across the area. I welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all ex-forces applicants get an interview for any public sector post.
Our service personnel risk their lives to keep us safe. We need to ensure they are properly protected from the vexatious legal challenges that can pursue soldiers years after an operation. In particular, I believe the former British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles should be allowed to live out their retirements in peace, free of the threat of unnecessary and inappropriate prosecution. I welcome the Government’s commitments on this and I undertake to monitor the situation closely.
Finally, I am interested in the proposal to bring the Royal Artillery Museum to the Plain, if this can be done in a cost-effective manner, without major negative impact on the community. We need to celebrate the history, and the future, of the British Army and its connection with Wiltshire.