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Grant Shapps Has Replaced Ben Wallace As Defence Secretary

Grant Shapps, the new defence secretary (Alamy)

3 min read

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

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appointed Shapps on Thursday morning as part of a mini-reshuffle triggered by Wallace's resignation. He is expected to carry out a wider Cabinet reshuffle later this year.

Shapps, a longtime ally of the Prime Minister, leaves his role as secretary of state for energy security and net zero, which he has held since February.

Wallace served as defence secretary for four years but said earlier this summer that he planned to quit Cabinet at the next reshuffle, and not stand at the general election.

Shapps has been replaced as energy security and net zero secretary by another staunch ally of Sunak: Claire Coutinho, the junior education minister, who has been given a major promotion.

Coutinho, the Tory MP for East Surrey, served as an advisor to Sunak before being elected to the House of Commons in 2019 and then as his private secretary while he was chancellor.

Shapps said he was "honoured" to be appointed defence secretary and paid tribute to Wallace's "enormous contribution" to "UK defence and global security over the last 4 years".

He added: "I am looking forward to working with the brave men and women of our Armed Forces who defend our nation’s security. And continuing the UK’s support for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s barbaric invasion."

The Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield, has held numerous ministerial positions since being elected to parliament in 2005, including home secretary and transport secretary. 

He was one of Sunak's most high-profile backers when he ran to be leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister last summer. 

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey congratulated Shapps on the appointment, but was critical of the government's record on defence and did not believe Shapps would deliver significant change. 

“The first duty of any government is to keep our country safe and I will always work with the new Defence Secretary on this basis, especially on military support for Ukraine and standing against Russian aggression," he wrote in a statement. 

“But after 13 years of Tory defence failings, a change at the top will not change this record. On further cuts to the Army, growing concerns over the UK’s NATO commitments, and billions of pounds being wasted through defence procurement, the Defence Secretary has serious questions to deal with in the days ahead.

“By fulfilling our NATO obligations in full and renewing the nation’s moral contract with our Forces, only Labour will secure Britain’s defences for the future.”

The Liberal Democrats said Shapps appointment was part of a "Conservative government merry-go-round", with defence secretary being his fifth Cabinet job in less than a year.

"A year ago, Grant Shapps admitted in his failed Conservative leadership campaign that he thought our armed forces should be strengthened. Now, the Prime Minister has instead put him in charge of slashing troop numbers by 10,000," said the party's defence spokesperson Richard Foord MP.

"At a time when the armed forces need someone to stand up for them, Rishi Sunak has appointed a yes-man."

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