The arrival of a new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, into Portsmouth last week was a clear and confident sign that the United Kingdom remains fully committed to maintaining our presence on the world stage.
Weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy. Capable of hosting a crew of 1,600, servicing 14 F-35 jets and four helicopters, she truly is a demonstration of British military power.
Over the course of the last three years, I have seen this military power first-hand. I secured a place on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which gives MPs the opportunity to get real experience of the military. 2017 is the centenary of the Act of Parliament establishing the Royal Air Force, and last month I was proud to graduate from the RAF scheme.
One of the highlights was visiting RAF bases, such as RAF Brize Norton and the RAF base in Cyprus, meeting personnel from Wealden – in Cyprus, the Diplomatic Attaché is a Frant resident. I am immensely proud of everyone in Wealden who has served, is serving or has family currently serving. I will use the experiences and knowledge I have gained to make sure our service personnel and their families are properly represented in Westminster.
Working with the RAF Benovelent Fund, I have met with Hailsham residents who have secured homes, work and support after they have left the service. For those seeking a career in the RAF, the Cadets are based in Hailsham and Crowborough, where I am honoured to be the President.
The quality and the calibre of the people who serve their country allows the military to perform at such a high level consistently. Meeting so many dedicated and hard-working servicemen and women was a wonderful opportunity to see exactly why the British Armed Forces are so well regarded on the international stage.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is just one example of British military power. The people who give up so much to serve in the Armed Forces are the real source of our strength, and I will do everything I can to make sure we protect and support them.