Rob Butler MP, Conservative MP for Aylesbury, and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP Labour for Slough are in the Falklands as part of the UK Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, a program ongoing for more than thirty years with the purpose of better-educating Members of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and others in military matters.
The aim of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme is to give Members, the vast majority of whom have no experience of UK Armed Forces, an insight into military life that would not otherwise be available to them. It is then hoped that they will be able to make a more informed and useful contribution to defense debates in their respective Houses.
Observers in Parliament, the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces agree that the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme has been an enormous success and that the level of understanding of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces is significantly higher as a direct result of the Scheme.
The Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme is administered from within Parliament under the chairmanship of James Gray MP and one full-time employee. The Scheme is fully endorsed and resourced by the Ministry of Defense in the form of a staff officer from each of the three single Services. In addition, a Ministry of Defense 2-star officer provides military direction to the Scheme on an annual rotation across the three Services.
The Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust is the overarching body that provides governance in the form of a board of trustees and financial support is generously provided from industry.
Robert Butler MP wrote piece of his experience in the Falkland Islands where together with Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP they had a full round of meetings with elected and government officials as well as the private sector, and obviously with members of the three services stationed at MPA.
For the past few days, I've been in the Falkland Islands with the cross-party Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. The key mission of the British Forces South Atlantic is to deter any military action that could undermine British sovereignty and the Islanders' right to self-determination.
We saw how all 3 services have crucial roles, both separately & working together. Most visibly, the Royal Air Force has 4 Typhoons which provide a quick reaction response, alongside a new Atlas A400M & a Voyager for refueling.
HMS Medway is currently patrolling the waters around the Falklands, providing more reassurance. It was a memorable experience to be aboard as she set sail for South Georgia. The ship has recently arrived from the Caribbean where she was involved in counter-narcotics operations.
The current Army presence is C Company, 1st Battalion, Scots Guards. Its soldiers train & carry out operations across the rugged terrain in all weathers. Experiencing some of their activities alongside them reinforced my admiration for their profound sense of duty & patriotism.
The most memorable & poignant moment in the Falklands was a short, simple memorial service led by members of the Scots Guards at the summit of Mt Tumbledown - the scene of a vital battle for the Regiment as British forces took back the Islands in 1982. We will not forget their sacrifice.
Discussions with the Falklands Government highlighted the diversity of the population: ~80 nationalities live here. There are strong plans for the economy & environment; tourism is growing; there is a real sense of purpose for the sustainable development of these beautiful Islands.
Meeting members of the Falklands Government Legislative Assembly underlined the absolute & unwavering determination of Islanders to decide their future for themselves. This is their fundamental right, unequivocally backed by the UK government. The Falklands are & will remain British”.