Secretary of State for Defence


The secretary of state for defence, also referred to as the defence secretary, is a secretary of state position within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The office forms part of the British Cabinet.

Secretary of State
for Defence
Incumbent
Ben Wallace

since 24 July 2019
Ministry of Defence
Style
StatusSecretary of state
Minister of the Crown
Member of
Reports toThe Prime Minister
SeatWestminster
AppointerThe Crown
on advice of the Prime Minister
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's Pleasure
Constituting instrumentDefence (Transfer of Functions) Act 1964 section 1(1)(a)
Formation1 April 1964
First holderPeter Thorneycroft
DeputyMinister of State for the Armed Forces
Websitewww.gov.uk

The post of Secretary of State for Defence was created on 1 April 1964 replacing the positions of Minister of Defence, First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, while the individual offices of the British Armed Forces were abolished and their functions transferred to the Ministry of Defence. In 1997, Michael Portillo was filling this post at the time of the Portillo moment.[1] In 2019, Penny Mordaunt became the UK's first female defence secretary.[2]

The postholder is supported by the other ministers in the Defence Ministerial team. The corresponding shadow minister is the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence.

The current secretary of state for defence is Ben Wallace MP, since his appointment by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July 2019.[3]

Responsibilities


Corresponding to what is generally known as a defence minister in many other countries, the Defence Secretary's remit includes:

History


Minister for Co-ordination of Defence (1936–1940)

The position of Minister for Co-ordination of Defence was a British Cabinet-level position established in 1936 to oversee and co-ordinate the rearmament of Britain's defences. It was established by the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin in response to criticism that Britain's armed forces were understrength compared to those of Nazi Germany. When the Second World War broke out, the new Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain formed a small War Cabinet and it was expected that the Minister would serve as a spokesperson for the three service ministers, the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for Air; however, political considerations resulted in all three posts being included in the Cabinet, and this role proved increasingly redundant. In April 1940 the position was formally wound up and the functions transferred to other Ministers.

Minister of Defence (1940–1964)

The post of Minister of Defence was responsible for co-ordination of defence and security from its creation in 1940 until its abolition in 1964. The post was a Cabinet level post and generally ranked above the three service ministers, some of whom, however, continued to also serve in Cabinet.

On his appointment as Prime Minister in May 1940, Winston Churchill created for himself the new post of Minister of Defence. The post was created in response to previous criticism that there had been no clear single minister in charge of the prosecution of World War II. In 1946, the post became the only cabinet-level post representing the military, with the three service ministers – the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Air, now formally subordinated to the Minister of Defence.

Secretary of State for Defence (1964–present)

The post was created in 1964 as successor to the posts of Minister for Coordination of Defence and Minister of Defence. It replaced the positions of First Lord of the Admiralty, Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, as the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry were merged into the Ministry of Defence (the Secretary of State for War had already ceased to be a cabinet position in 1946, with the creation of the cabinet-level Minister of Defence).

Principal political leaders of the English/British Armed Forces:
The Royal Navy The Army The RAF Co-ordination
1628 First Lord of the Admiralty (1628–1964)
1794 Secretary of State for War (1794–1801)
1801 Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (1801–1854)
1854 Secretary of State for War (1854–1964)
1919 Secretary of State for Air (1919–1964)
1936 Minister for Co-ordination of Defence (1936–1940)
1940 Minister of Defence (1940–1964)
1964 Secretary of State for Defence (1964–present)

Secretaries of State for Defence (1964–present)


Secretary of State for Defence
Portrait Name
(birth–death)
Term of office Length of term Party Ministry
The Right Honourable
Peter Thorneycroft
MP for Monmouth
(1909–1994)
[5]
1 April
1964
16 October
1964
6 months and 15 days
(was Minister of Defence immediately before)
Conservative Douglas-Home
The Right Honourable
Denis Healey
MBE
MP for Leeds East
(1917–2015)
[6]
16 October
1964
19 June
1970
5 years, 8 months and 3 days Labour Wilson
(I & II)
The Right Honourable
Peter Carrington
6th Baron Carrington

KCMG MC PC DL
(1919–2018)
20 June
1970
8 January
1974
3 years, 6 months and 19 days Conservative Heath
The Right Honourable
Ian Gilmour
MP for Central Norfolk
(1926–2007)
[7]
8 January
1974
4 March
1974
1 month and 24 days Conservative
The Right Honourable
Roy Mason
MP for Barnsley
(1924–2015)
[8]
5 March
1974
10 September
1976
2 years, 6 months and 5 days Labour Wilson
(III & IV)
The Right Honourable
Fred Mulley
MP for Sheffield Park
(1918–1995)
[9]
10 September
1976
4 May
1979
2 years, 7 months and 24 days Labour Callaghan
The Right Honourable
Francis Pym
MC
MP for Cambridgeshire
(1922–2008)
[10]
5 May
1979
5 January
1981
1 year and 8 months Conservative Thatcher I
The Right Honourable
John Nott

MP for St Ives
(born 1932)
[11]
5 January
1981
6 January
1983
2 years and 1 day Conservative
The Right Honourable
Michael Heseltine

MP for Henley
(born 1933)
[12]
6 January
1983
7 January
1986
3 years and 1 day Conservative Thatcher II
The Right Honourable
George Younger
TD

MP for Ayr
(1931–2003)
[13]
[14]
7 January
1986
24 July
1989
3 years, 6 months and 17 days Conservative
Thatcher III
The Right Honourable
Tom King

MP for Bridgwater
(born 1933)
[15]
24 July
1989
10 April
1992
2 years, 8 months and 17 days Conservative
Major I
The Right Honourable
Malcolm Rifkind
QC

MP for Edinburgh Pentlands
(born 1946)
[16]
10 April
1992
5 July
1995
3 years, 2 months and 25 days Conservative Major II
The Right Honourable
Michael Portillo

MP for Enfield Southgate
(born 1953)
[17]
5 July
1995
2 May
1997
1 year, 9 months and 27 days Conservative
The Right Honourable
George Robertson

MP for Hamilton South
(born 1946)
[18]
3 May
1997
11 October
1999
2 years, 5 months and 8 days Labour Blair I
The Right Honourable
Geoff Hoon

MP for Ashfield
(born 1953)
[19]
11 October
1999
6 May
2005
5 years, 6 months and 25 days Labour
Blair II
The Right Honourable
John Reid

MP for Airdrie and Shotts
(born 1947)
[20]
6 May
2005
5 May
2006
11 months and 29 days Labour Blair III
The Right Honourable
Des Browne

MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun
(born 1952)
[21]
5 May
2006
3 October
2008
2 years, 4 months and 28 days Labour
Brown
The Right Honourable
John Hutton

MP for Barrow and Furness
(born 1955)
[22]
3 October
2008
5 June
2009
8 months and 2 days Labour
The Right Honourable
Bob Ainsworth

MP for Coventry North East
(born 1952)
[23]
5 June
2009
11 May
2010
11 months and 6 days Labour
The Right Honourable
Liam Fox

MP for North Somerset
(born 1961)
[24]
[25]
12 May
2010
14 October
2011
1 year, 5 months and 3 days Conservative Cameron–Clegg
(Con.L.D.)
The Right Honourable
Philip Hammond

MP for Runnymede and Weybridge
(born 1955)
[26]
[27]
14 October
2011
15 July
2014
2 years, 9 months and 1 day Conservative
The Right Honourable
Sir Michael Fallon
KCB

MP for Sevenoaks
(born 1952)
[28]
[29]
15 July
2014
1 November
2017
3 years, 3 months and 17 days Conservative
Cameron II
May I
May II
The Right Honourable
Gavin Williamson
CBE

MP for South Staffordshire
(born 1976)
[30]
[31]
2 November
2017
1 May
2019
1 year, 5 months and 29 days Conservative
The Right Honourable
Penny Mordaunt

MP for Portsmouth North
(born 1973)
[32]
1 May
2019
24 July
2019
2 months and 23 days Conservative
The Right Honourable
Ben Wallace

MP for Wyre and Preston North
(born 1970)
[3]
24 July
2019
Incumbent 1 year, 10 months and 22 days* Conservative Johnson I
Johnson II

* Incumbent's length of term last updated: 15 June 2021.

References


  1. "BBC Rewind: Michael Portillo loses Enfield Southgate". BBC News. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2021. One of the most high-profile victims of the Labour party landslide in the 1997 general election was John Major's Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo.
  2. "Penny Mordaunt - the UK's first female defence secretary". BBC News. 2 May 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2021. Penny Mordaunt has become the UK's first female defence secretary after Gavin Williamson was sacked.
  3. "Ben Wallace Named New Defence Secretary". Forces Network. 24 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  4. "Secretary of State for Defence - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk.
  5. "Mr Peter Thorneycroft". Hansard 1803–2005. UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  6. "Lord Healey". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  7. "Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  8. "Lord Mason of Barnsley". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  9. "Lord Mulley". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  10. "Lord Pym". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  11. "Rt Hon Sir John Nott". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  12. "Lord Heseltine". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  13. "Rt Hon Sir George Younger". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  14. George Jones (27 January 2003). "Thatcher's ally George Younger dies at 71". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  15. "Lord King of Bridgwater". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  16. "Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  17. "Rt Hon Michael Portillo". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  18. "Lord Robertson of Port Ellen". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  19. "Mr Geoffrey Hoon". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  20. "Lord Reid of Cardowan". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  21. "Lord Browne of Ladyton". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  22. "Lord Hutton of Furness". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  23. "Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  24. "Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  25. "Who's who in the coalition cabinet". The Guardian. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  26. "Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  27. "Liam Fox quits as defence secretary". BBC News. 14 October 2011. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  28. "Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  29. "Reshuffle at-a-glance: In, out and moved about". BBC News. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  30. "Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  31. "Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as defence secretary". BBC News. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  32. "Gavin Williamson sacked over Huawei leak". 1 May 2019. Retrieved 2 May 2019.