Portsmouth is at the very centre of Britain’s defence so when I became an MP it was a priority to learn as much as I could about the military and particularly the Royal Navy.
Luckily, being elected to Westminster allows me to join the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme – an initiative that gives politicians a chance to learn about service life from the inside.
So earlier this month I donned some fatigues and proudly spent five days doing just that. I visited HMS Collingwood and Sultan and Whale Island to see how naval training is carried out and to talk to commanders.
A visit to the fleet diving unit at Horsea Island required me to get into a dry suit and dive into the lake. I also heard about the valuable and sometimes dangerous work these men and women do.
Afterwards it was time to head to Portsdown Hill and to discover how different departments work together at the National Maritime Information Centre monitoring movements of shipping and the analysing of intelligence about maritime security.
This gave me some food for thought into how threats to Britain and its way of life are ever-changing.
Intelligence and cyber warfare will be as much of a threat as conventional weapons in the future so I was very interested to hear a few days ago that our new Type 26 frigates, some of which will be based at Ports-mouth, will be designed to meet that cyber threat.
These types of technological challenges need to be at the heart of the Strategic Defence and Security Review which is coming up in the autumn.
Spending time with the armed forces really has given me a great knowledge into what they need from the review and what I can campaign on to support them.