Nick Herbert: The gay Tory minister who wishes he'd had the chance to get married in church

Nick Herbert has two ministerial jobs – but still finds time to stand up for equal rights

Holding one ministerial post is difficult enough, given the relentless demands of modern government, so filling two requires stamina, resilience and flexibility. It is lucky that Nick Herbert – Minister of State at both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice – is a hyperactive sort who is routinely seen pounding the pavements between two offices half a mile apart. Because of the austerity drive in Whitehall, he can't whistle up a government car. He says: "It's a double job, it's a very big workload, physically it's difficult being in two different places." So how does he cope? He deadpans: "I walk very fast."

It isn't even as if Mr Herbert is marooned in a backwater. As the Policing and Criminal Justice minister reporting jointly to Theresa May and Kenneth Clarke, he faces one of the trickiest dilemmas for the Coalition: how to keep crime levels on their downward trajectory while cutting spending on police and the courts.

Although an instinctive loyalist, Mr Herbert strays well beyond government policy in one area – marriage equality. He shares Nick Clegg's view that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in church, rather than limited to the secular settings proposed by the Government.

His attitude is not surprising. The first openly gay candidate to be selected by a Tory constituency party, he joined his partner, Jason Eades, in civil partnership three years ago. He says it was the most important event in his life, but wished they could have been offered the choice of a church wedding. "It's always been a matter of regret to me that the same options available to heterosexual couples were not available to me," he says.

"My view is churches should be permitted to offer same-sex marriages if that is what their denomination allows. I believe in religious freedom. We should not be dictating what they do on their own premises or in their own ceremonies."

The Home Office recently completed a consultation exercise on the issue and is now working on its final proposals with the aim of gay marriage becoming legal by 2015. The move will be put to a free vote of MPs but looks certain to be approved. Mr Herbert says: "The longer this debate has gone on, the more strongly I have felt about this issue. Equal marriage is a straightforward matter of equality."

There is little prospect of respite for Mr Herbert after MPs head off for their summer break tomorrow as the Home Office is at the heart of efforts to ensure the Olympics runs smoothly – and will be on standby to cope with any emergency that could arise. The department has been deeply embarrassed by G4S's failure to provide adequate Olympic security but Mr Herbert insists the Government's rapid response – deploying 3,500 soldiers – was proof that it's able to cope in a crisis. "We are absolutely determined to deliver a safe Games and an enormous amount of work and planning has gone into that. The action we took to ensure the Olympic site was properly guarded is a reflection that where we need to act, we will."

He adds: "We have seen the torch relay being successfully run across the country – that in itself has produced a big policing and security challenge, much of it behind the scenes."

After the Games end, Mr Herbert could soon find his two jobs replaced by one – in the Cabinet. He is near the front of the queue for promotion and could have expected to become a Secretary of State had the Conservatives won the last election outright.

Appointed to the Tory front bench by David Cameron just seven months after becoming an MP, he appeals to both wings of the party – as symbolised by his two departmental bosses – describing himself as a reformer who is also a "deep Conservative".

The challenge the Prime Minister handed him two years ago was to take direct responsibility for driving through parallel reforms to the police and the criminal justice system designed to deliver more to the public for less money.

For years governments have baulked at scrapping the historic array of special payments and allowances enjoyed by the police. But this time, the Coalition insists, it will be different and is preparing to overhaul pay scales and recruitment. Today, Mr Herbert will set out plans for the Police Professional Body, half drawn from outside the force, to oversee standards.The stance has sent relations plunging between the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, and Home Office ministers, with Ms May barracked and booed at the Fed's recent conference.

Mr Herbert retorts: "I'm a fierce defender of the British model of policing, but there are things that have to change… I am not in office to be loved, I'm in office to take those necessary decisions. It's important we have a sensible dialogue about them and hurling insults is not going to deflect the Government."

He adds: "I see my job as doing everything I can to free up police, to promote professionalism, to make it easier for police to do their job, to equip them as well as we can, to reduce bureaucr acy."

Wearing his other departmental hat, Mr Herbert is trying to produce sweeping changes in a court system he condemns as often arcane, cumbersome and insensitive to victims.

He advocates greater use of technology in trials, more magistrates sitting singularly rather than in groups of three and – drawing from last year's experience of dealing with rioters – holding more hearings at night and at weekends. "As in other walks of life, flexible working is increasingly popular and necessary to meet patterns of demand – criminals don't stop committing offences over the weekend.

"A younger generation of magistrates might find it easier to sit in the evenings after work."

Nick Herbert: rise to power

From being the first openly gay Conservative parliamentary candidate to the seat of Arundel and South Downs in 2005, Nick Herbert's political career has been on an upward trajectory. He quickly rose to the Shadow Cabinet under David Cameron and was appointed by the Coalition as minister for Policing and Criminal Justice. Last week he announced plans for "swift and sure" justice, involving flexible court hours and "neighbourhood panels" to deal with low-level criminality. As a founder of the centre-right liberal think tank Reform, he has campaigned for extending choice and private sector involvement in the provision of public services. He has criticised colleagues opposed to gay marriage and, while describing himself as Christian, challenged the Church of England's position.

peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players