Diary - discussing the role of our carrier strike force

Another glorious day. Out into the park first thing and then into the House. There is no doubt that getting a test for COVID-19 is proving a problem for many. Health Secretary acknowledged this, saying that the testing system was facing an "enormous challenge". He added that it would take a "matter of weeks" to resolve the issues. He said No 10 would update its testing policy shortly to prioritise the most urgent cases. Test slots have been limited due to bottlenecks in lab processing of swabs. I was over the moon at the news that the council's planning committee had given the green light for a new car park at DCH. This the first move in a major redevelopment of the hospital site that is attracting more than £60 million of funding from the Government. A major part of this scheme is refurbishment of A&E, which is desperately needed. I would like to thank the councillors and their officers, senior management at the hospital and my friend and colleague Chris Loder, with whom I have worked very closely. A win all round. At 1315 we settled down for another fascinating session our Defence Select Committee. Today we looked at our F35 and carrier strike programme and capability. Three extremely well informed contributors answered our questions, which can be read on Hansard. They were Justin Bronk, the Research Fellow for Airpower in the Military Sciences team at RUSI. His particular areas of expertise include Western, Russian and Chinese fast jets, integrated air defence systems, UCAVs and novel weapons technology. Justin is also Editor of the RUSI Defence Systems online journal, a part-time doctoral candidate at the Defence Studies Department of Kings College London, and a private pilot. Nick Childs is Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, International Institute for Strategic Studies. He joined the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in June 2015 as Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, responsible for the Institute’s analysis in these areas. His specialist areas of interest are US Navy developments; NATO, European, and Russian naval capabilities; and maritime developments in the Middle East, South Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region. Before joining the Institute, Nick was a BBC journalist for more than 30 years, specialising in covering defence, security and international affairs. His last appointment was as a BBC World Affairs Correspondent. He was also the BBC's first Pentagon Correspondent. Dan Stembridge is a former Royal Navy fighter pilot and senior leader with significant operational and programmatic experience of the F-35, Carrier Strike and wider Combat Air. A qualified Air Warfare Instructor and operational test pilot, he has flown in multiple conflicts, amassing over 3000 hours and 1300 deck landings day/night and is an expert practitioner in the delivery of Combat Air power and Carrier Strike (UK and US). He has commanded an air station with 9 squadrons and over 3000 people and recently commanded the UK’s Carrier Strike Group air wing onboard HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, which included F-35Bs. An impressive line-up, I'm sure you will agree. At 1630 I met with my small team of colleagues for our weekly get-together. It's a private session. Votes came an hour earlier than expected, after which Sir Christoper Chope took on the Whips in the Chamber as he attempted to get a vote on the wearing of masks. To my surprise, my colleague Priti Patel said she would report those breaking the ridiculous "rule of six". She is Home Secretary, I suppose, and cannot really say anything else, although I wonder what she really thinks! So far as the economy is concerned, the Chancellor said that looking for new ways to protect jobs is his "number one priority" after the unemployment rate hit its highest level in two years. Rishi Sunak said finding innovative solutions was "top of mind" as figures showed unemployment rose to 4.1 per cent in the three months to July, up from 3.9 per cent. Finally, Donald Trump has hailed the "dawn of a new Middle East", amid Israel's landmark deals with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. Mr Trump spoke as the two Gulf states signed agreements fully normalising their relations with Israel.