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MPs and military chiefs question ‘yes man’ Shapps as new defence secretary - UK politics live

Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the Armed Forces, says Shapps knows ‘very little’ about defence

Matt Mathers,Adam Forrest
Friday 01 September 2023 06:02 BST
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Who is new defence secretary Grant Shapps?

Former military chiefs and opposition MPs have questioned the suitability of “yes man” Grant Shapps for his new role as defence secretary.

Mr Shapps, the former energy secretary, was Rishi Sunak’s surprise choice to replace Ben Wallace this morning as the prime minister carried out a mini cabinet reshuffle.

Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the Armed Forces, expressed his concern that Mr Shapps had been given the job to “support” Mr Sunak rather than “make the case” for defence budgets.

He also suggested it would take Mr Shapps “some time” to get up to speed with the defence brief, which he knows “very little” about.

Claire Coutinho, a former education minister, replaced Mr Shapps in a major promotion for the East Surrey MP. A close ally of Mr Sunak who previously worked as his adviser, the 38-year-old is the first MP from the 2019 intake to join cabinet.

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James Cleverly pays tribute to outgoing defence secretary

The foreign secretary has paid tribute to Ben Wallace, describing him as a "rock solid figure for our country".

James Cleverly wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: "Ben, you’ve been a rock solid figure for our country, our party and for the Ukrainian people.

"You’ve defined what it means to serve your country. Thank you."

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 11:05
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David Johnston replaces Coutinho

Tory MP David Johnston has been appointed parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Education, replacing a promoted Claire Coutinho.

Mr Johnston, who was first elected in December 2019 and represents Wantage, takes on the vacated role in Rishi Sunak’s mini-reshuffle.

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 10:50
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Breaking: Claire Coutinho confirmed as energy secretary

Claire Countiho has been confirmed as the new energy secretary as Rishi Sunak carries out a mini-reshuffled.

Ms Coutinho, outgoing education minister, replaces Grant Shapps, who took over from Ben Wallace who resigned as defence secretary.

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 10:30
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Shapps visited Ukraine last week

With no experience in the military or department, the appointment of Grant Shapps as defence secretary may have come as a surprise to many.

But it appears the former energy secretary may have already started building relationships in Ukraine, which will be at the top of his in-tray when he starts at his latest government department.

He visited Kyiv last week. “What I saw in Kyiv… was a people resolute in their defiance against Putin’s tyranny and Russia’s aggression,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“And a nation standing strong and powering ahead in spite of constant attacks.”

Mr Shapps’s visit was an official trip as the energy secretary and he met with “senior government ministers” and energy company leaders.

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 10:25
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‘A personal toll to me and my family’: Read Ben Wallace’s resignation letter in full

Ben Wallace has officially resigned as defence secretary having spent four years in the role, overseeing the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and the UK’s response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

In a letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday morning, Mr Wallace said it had been an “honour” to serve alongside colleagues in the Ministry of Defence and thanked the prime minister for his leadership.

You can read his resignation in letter in full below:

‘A personal toll to me and my family’: Read Ben Wallace’s resignation letter in full

Ben Wallace says it has been an ‘honour’ to serve alongside Ministry of Defence colleagues and thanks Rishi Sunak for his ‘leadership’ as prime minister

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 10:15
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Shapps ‘honoured’ to become defence secretary

Grant Shapps has said he’s “honoured” to become defence secretary after replacing Ben Wallace.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution Ben Wallace has made to UK defence & global security over the last 4 years,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Mr Shapps has never held a role in the Ministry of Defence before but is taking on his fifth role in the cabinet in the last year by becoming its secretary of state.

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 10:05
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Who will replace Shapps as energy secretary?

Prime minister Rishi Sunak will now need to find a new energy secretary, after replacing defence secretary Ben Wallace with Grant Shapps.

Claire Coutinho, the education minister, was seen entering No 10 this morning after Mr Shapps, the former energy secretary was confirmed in the defence brief.

Ms Coutinho is considered a rising star in the Conservative Party, having entered the ministerial ranks just a few years after getting elected to parliament in 2019.

Claire Coutinho

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 09:54
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Grant Shapps confirmed as defence secretary

Grant Shapps has been confirmed as the new defence secretary, replacing Ben Wallace.

Mr Shapps was seen entering No 10 Downing Street earlier this morning and was among those tipped overnight to replace the outgoing Mr Wallace.

Adam Forrest has more details below:

Grant Shapps replaces Ben Wallace as defence secretary in mini-reshuffle

Energy secretary moves roles after Wallace formally steps down

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 09:44
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Wallace urges Sunak not to ‘hollow out’ defence budget

Ben Wallace has now left the stage – but he had a familiar parting message for Rishi Sunak on defence spending, Adam Forrest reports.

“I know you agree with me that we must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out,” he said in his letter.

Warning the PM not to cut the budget, Mr Wallace added: “I genuinely believe that over the next decade the world will get more insecure and more unstable. We both share the belief that now is the time to invest.”

Britain Defense

Matt Mathers31 August 2023 09:31
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Grant Shapps pictured entering No 10

Grant Shapps has been pictured entering No 10 Downing Street after Ben Wallace officially resigned as defence secretary.

Mr Shapps, the energy secretary, is among those tipped to replace the outgoing Mr Wallace. According to the Daily Telegraph he will be confirmed as the new defence secretary later today.

Mr Shapps has previously served in the business, transport and international development departments. You can also watch Mr Shapps entering Downing Street in the clip below.

Grant Shapps arrives at Downing Street to be appointed as defence secretary
Matt Mathers31 August 2023 09:15

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