Visit to The Rock to show Solidarity with Gibraltarians

In the second week of September Bob was invited to Gibraltar by its First Minister The Hon Fabian Picardo QC.  Bob and the First Minister are friends and Bob has been visiting Gibraltar since his early twenties when he led Army diving teams to the Rock for training expeditions. Now, as an MP, Bob is an active member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gibraltar and he speaks in the House of Commons in support of its British citizens frequently - especially to denounce Spain's frequent violations over border controls.  The photograph shows Bob aboard HMS Scimitar off Gibraltar in British waters.

Postcard from the Summer Recess

On Monday 1st September BBC Radio 4's PM Programme asked Bob to broadcast a brief 'postcard' in which he was asked to explain some of what he had been doing during Parliament's Summer Recess.  His broadcast words are repeated below. On 29th July I flew to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and was briefed on the role of our troops there.  I have always considered Cyprus to be a strategic jewel in our defence crown and that was, once more, confirmed by my visit.  Some don’t realise that two large areas of the island, containing our air base and several garrisons, are legally as much a part of the United Kingdom as is, say, Beckenham.  Our bases in Cyprus are also the places where British service personnel ‘decompress’ for a day or so en route home from Afghanistan.  That short stopover – a buffer if you like between war and peace - is invaluable. I was home by 4th August; the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.   In early July I had in fact visited some World War 1 battlefields.  I was particularly conscious that the Cheshire battalion I would command some 80 years later had been decimated at the Battle of Mons on 24th August 1914.  The CO at the time, Colonel Dudley Boger, was the first officer to be helped by Nurse Edith Cavell – herself executed by the Germans in 1915 for aiding British soldiers. I marked the 4th August by visiting Beckenham’s War Memorial and then attending a vigil in St George’s Church.  At such times I suppose it is inevitable that my mind goes back 32 years. Tragically on 6th December 1982, in Northern Ireland, six of my soldiers were killed and over 30 wounded by a bomb at a place called Ballykelly.  I remain marked by the Ballykelly Bomb.   Forgive me if I have concentrated on memories but in this anniversary year I think that may be understandable. Of course in addition I lived and worked in my constituency of Beceknham for most of the parliamentary recess - apart from a week's holiday with my family.  But now all MPs are back at Westminster.  We have very serious matter to debate - p\articularly what to do about the situations in Ukraine and the Middle East.  Pray God we get things right.

Bromley Young People doing National Citizen Service visit Westminster

On Wednesday 9th July 2014, fifty nine young people (aged 15-17) from Bromley visited the House of Commons and met Bob to discuss voting and having their voices heard.The visit formed part of National Citizen Service, a government funded scheme which brings young people together from different backgrounds and teaches them what it means to be responsible and contribute to their communities  Bob gave the young people a tour of the Houses of Parliament and informed of the history of the building. They also sat in the Public Gallery of the House of Commons and listened to live topics being discussed.

Visit to St. Symphorian First World War Military Cemetery in Belgium

On Friday 4th July and in remembrance that the First World War which started almost 100 years ago Bob visited several First World War Military Cemeteries in Belgium.  In particular he sought the last resting places of officers and soldiers of our local regiment, The Royal West Kent Regiment.  The photograph shows him at the grave of twenty year old Lieutenant D.C.C, Sewell who died on 10th September 1914.

Visit to Coloma Court

On Friday 27th June 2014  Bob visited Coloma Court, the nursing and residential home on Layhams Lane.  On the estate pf the Daughters of Mary and Joseph the home has 68 bedrooms and sits in a beautiful location overlooking lovely countryside.  Bob talked to residents and also spent some time with the Resident Sister and Matron Manager.  The photograph shows Bob with Maria Covington, the Matron Manager and Sister.

Visit to HMS Somerset

As part of his parliamentary duties as a member of the Defence Select Committee between 20 - 22 June Bob visited HMS Somerset on operational patrol returning from the Arabian Gulf.  The ship had been away from the United Kingdom for almost 6 months.  In the photograph Bob is seen with crew members and a Scan Eagle device being trialled for possible use by the Royal Navy.

Defence Committee Visits Frontline NATO States in the Baltic

As a member of the House of Commons Defence Committee Bob visited Latvia and Estonia between 9th - 11th June 2014.  The purpose of the visit was to assess just how great was the threat to the security of the Baltic States from an apparently resurgent Russia. All the Baltic states, including the third one, Lithuania, have their security guaranteed under the NATO Charter which means that if they were invaded the United Kingdom would be treaty bound to defend them.  This visit occurred as a direct result of recent Russian expansion into Ukraine.  Bob was photographed outside NATO's Cyber Warfare Centre in Talinn, Estonia.

Defence Committee Visits Frontline NATO States in the Baltic

From 9th - 11th June 2014 Bob visited first Latvia and then Estonia with the House of Commons Defence Committee.  The purpose of the visit was for MPs to assess just how great was the threat from Russia; bearing in mind that both countries are on Russia's borders and the United Kingdom is expected to defend them under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Obviously recent events in Ukraine worry the Baltic States greatly.  Bob is pictured outside NATO's recently established Cyber Warfare Centre in Talinn, Estonia.  

Hayes Fair 2014

Despite the fact that a thunderstorm had occurred just prior to Hayes Fair opening the weather luckily turned out to be warm and sunny. As usual the fair was a great success.  Bob spent several hours at the fair and was very impressed by the enthusiastic and very professional displays put on by local children in the arena.  In particular he really enjoyed the jazz played by Hayes School Jazz Band which he thought to be of a very high standard.  Bob is photographed with two friends - Steve (left) and Pete (right) - who he seems to meet at the fair every year! 

Shortlands Station Supporting Demelza Hospice Care for Children

Shortlands Station staff closed their car park and opened a small fair instead on Saturday 7th June 2014.  The station staff wanted to support the work of Demelza Hospice Car for Children which is a charity looking after children across Kent, South East London and East Sussex.  Bob visited the stalls, bouncy castle and inspected the stocks designed for the Station managers.  Sadly the weather was not ideal but nonetheless it was really good effort by the railway staff and showed how just how much Shortlands Station is a part of the local community.  In the photograph Bob is shown with two of the staff - holding a rather exotic flower which he had purchased for his wife!