BAE recruits former Defence Secretary Portillo to board

Michael Portillo, the former Secretary of State for Defence who lost out in the Tory leadership battle a year ago, was yesterday appointed to the board of BAE Systems, the world's second biggest defence supplier.

This is Mr Portillo's first non-executive directorship since he decided to quit national politics following his defeat in the Conservative leadership race last September at the hands of Iain Duncan Smith. It is also the first time that BAE has had a former defence secretary on its board.

Mr Portillo said he had decided to join BAE because defence was an area which interested him but he rejected suggestions that he would be active in helping the company to win orders. "I do have some expertise in parts of the world where BAE operates but this is a company with such experience and expertise that it is hardly on the lookout for a door-opener," he added. "Sir Dick Evans [BAE's chairman] has a contacts book which is a great deal weightier than mine."

One of his more memorable and controversial speeches in office was his address to the Conservative Party conference in 1995 when he invoked the spirit of the SAS and its famous motto: "Who dares wins." Mr Portillo said: "It is not a speech I strive to recall."

He remains the Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea but he has given up his ambition to become prime minister in favour of building a career in industry and the media. He is tipped as a future BBC presenter and has already fronted a number of radio and television programmes including one about the Spanish Civil War and one about his other great passion – the music of Wagner.

He will be paid £36,000 at BAE where he has replaced the former ICI chairman Sir Ronald Hampel, who retired as a non-executive earlier this year.