New Forest East



By Peter Henley, Political Editor, South of England

BBC News – 24 January 2017

The Hampshire MP Julian Lewis has a logical, methodical approach. But don't mistake that for timidity. When his sense of order is offended he strikes back, hard. He is probably the strongest defender of Britain's nuclear deterrent in the House of Commons, and when reports of a failed Trident missile test appeared to have been kept secret within government he moved swiftly.

Dr Lewis, member for New Forest East, is the newly-elected chair of the Defence Select Committee and mobilised his firepower to call Admiral Lord West and the weapons expert Professor Michael Clarke to give evidence.

As a former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead knows his stuff. As a Labour peer he owes no favours to a Conservative government and came out strongly against what he saw as a lack of transparency over the misfire. The British side of the operation worked perfectly he stressed, the issue was wholly with the American missile, and should have been made public at the earliest opportunity.

Prof Clarke agreed with the assessment, but said the failure was more serious, referring to reports that the missile was heading for Florida when it was deliberately ditched in the sea.

While the Ministry of Defence had preferred to resort to the D-notice to limit details coming out, perhaps under pressure from the Americans, Dr Lewis' one-man mission for clarity gave us the widest discussion we've yet seen in Parliament.

He's proving his independence – perhaps something we should have anticipated given that one of those who nominated him for Defence Committee Chair was one Jeremy Corbyn MP ...