Diary - oral evidence from the Chief of the Defence Staff

Back home as today was a one-line whip. After an early start and a morning spent on casework, I dialled into our weekly Defence Select Committee, today taking evidence from Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter GCB CBE DSO ADC. He joined the Army in 1977 as an 18 year old and commissioned from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst into the Royal Green Jackets. During his early career he served in Germany during the Cold War, in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, in Cyprus with the UN and in command of a battalion on operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. Latterly he has had tours of duty in Iraq as a brigade commander in 2003/4 and repeated tours of Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013. He was responsible on his first tour for the initial design of Provincial Reconstruction Teams and the Afghan National Army. He commanded 55,000 NATO troops in Regional Command South during the Afghan ‘surge’ and in his last tour led the transition process with the now President Ghani as the Deputy Commander of the NATO mission. Between these deployments he has had appointments in personnel policy and training, running the Army’s Resources and Programme in the Ministry of Defence, as the Director of Land Warfare, and he led the team that reorganised the Army following the 2010 Security and Defence Review – what is known as Army 2020. He was the Chief of the General Staff, the professional head of the British Army, from 2014, leading it through the most recent Security and Defence Review in 2015. He assumed the appointment of Chief of the Defence Staff in June 2018. After the Sunday Times published an article claiming the army was going to be cut by another 20,000 troops, we were keen to hear this was not the case. The General emphatically said it was not. That will bring relief to the Royal Marines, who were yet again in the firing line. He gave evidence for two hours and answered the questions well. I felt there was some tetchiness when probed on one or two areas, but being grilled by a select committee is not easy for those unaccustomed to it. You can see the session on Hansard. Interestingly, the General was my generation and to get to the very top of his profession is no mean feat. The Prime Minister came under attack after saying "too many care homes didn't really follow procedures" over coronavirus. Labour called the PM's comments "crass" and said government advice to care homes had been "conflicting". In regard to coronavirus, we learnt that several pubs in England had shut after customers tested positive. At least three establishments closed their doors again just days after re-opening at the weekend. Tomorrow, Rishi Sunak will announce a £2 billion "kick-start scheme" to create more jobs for young people. The fund will subsidize six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit, aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.