EARLIER in the year, the Prime Minister took the decision to involve British troops in armed conflict in Syria.

The fact that she chose to do so without a debate or vote in Parliament understandably caused huge amounts of controversy.

For several days it looked like Parliament would be recalled and MPs asked to vote on whether or not to send our armed forces into conflict.

I have to tell you, in those days, I barely slept.

For a few days the burden of being asked whether our service personnel go to war or not really hit home to me the importance of MPs understanding the roles, responsibilities, challenges and pressures our armed forces face.

That’s why I’ll shortly be embarking on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme.

The scheme sees MPs undergo military training and go on exercises alongside armed forces personnel to help inform decision-making on defence issues in Parliament.

I’ll be spending around 22 days over the next year serving alongside the Royal Air Force, starting in Oxfordshire at Shrivenham, but going to RAF bases and on exercises around the country and spending time with serving personnel at all levels.

I have long been an advocate of evidence-based policy and believe that the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme is a fantastic opportunity to experience and understand how the service system operates.

The Government’s Spending Review next year will be looking at whether our defence personnel need an increased share of the pie when it comes to money available to all different government departments.

I recognise the vital role the UK’s armed forces play in the defence of the nation and believe that it is the role of government to safeguard the interests of service personnel and veterans.

I am also hoping that by getting a better understanding of day-to-day challenges of the armed forces, I will be able to contribute more usefully to the debate about whether we spend enough on our defence forces or not – and, crucially, what type of defence spending we need to meet the threats of the future.

Being asked to send armed forces personnel to war is undoubtedly the most important decision that MPs can be asked to take – not just for the countries we send them too, but for the brave men and women who we send.

I sincerely hope that we don’t face that decision again any time soon, but if we do, I want to be able to take it with a knowledge and understanding of the vital work that our armed services do on Britain’s behalf day-in, day-out. I’ll keep you updated about my time with the RAF over the coming months.