The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace remains, as does the Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, albeit with an added responsibility for Veterans, elevating this role to a Cabinet attendee. Inside No10, two political appointees from the previous administration remain: John Bew, architect of the Integrated Review; and Sheridan Westlake, inimitable Super SpAd and leader of the ESG policy for industry.
While the removal of the dedicated Veterans’ Affairs minister Johnny Mercer from the Cabinet has not been universally well received, the merging of the position with the Armed Forces brief under MOD shows a continued commitment to prioritising the issue, but in the more efficient, streamlined way Liz Truss has been promising throughout her leadership campaign. It is also understood that the newly appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Sarah Atherton will support Veteran’s Care as a part of her brief.
Atherton is replacing Leo Docherty (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Defence People and Veterans until the latest reshuffle this July, and Minister for Defence People afterwards), who has been appointed Minister for Europe in the Foreign Office.
Many will also be disappointed to see the back of Jeremy Quin as Minister for Defence Procurement, who has provided some much needed stability after doing the job for the last 2 years and 7 months (2 years and 4 months longer than his predecessor). Much has changed for industry in this time, not least the publication of the Integrated Review, DSIS and the ongoing war in Ukraine which has required industry and government alike to rethink much of the way equipment is procured and delivered.
Alec Shelbrooke, the new Minister of Defence Procurement, similarly to Jeremy Quin, does not have a background in the Armed Forces and this will be his first Ministerial position. However, an engineer by trade, and Leader of the UK Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for the last two years he has an understanding of the mechanics and the machinations that make the global defence industry tick.
The Government’s defence business in the Lords will continue to be handled by Baroness Goldie, who has been reappointed Minister of State, a position she has held since the 2019 General Election.
The immediate job ahead of the Defence ministers is to deliver, together with other departments, an updated review of UK defence, security, development and foreign policy, led by the above-mentioned Professor Bew. It will build on the Integrated Review and Defence Command Paper from 2021 enriching them and reflecting the lessons learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other recent events.
This comes as we are witnessing a Russian attempt to partially mobilise to counter the successful Ukrainian campaign and with Liz Truss and Ben Wallace strongly reaffirming the UK’s commitment to assist and support Ukraine in the effort to liberate her occupied territories.
The last few years have seen some enormous successes from the Ministry of Defence, including the successful introduction of training programmes, the delivery of vital support to Ukraine and a willingness to embrace modern, technology-based solutions to the threats facing us today. But, it has not been without its problems either. Well publicised issues such as AJAX continue to rumble on, while elsewhere the country is facing an enormous problem with their existing stockpiles of military equipment and the pipelines required to correct this are often either difficult to re-invigorate or lost altogether.
The Defence Secretary has shown himself to be very capable, with an understanding of the issues facing our Armed Forces today and a willingness to address many of them head on. The role of the new MinDP will be not just get to grips with the challenges ahead, but to engage with the UK Defence Industry, from the biggest to the smallest firms, to find innovative solutions for the bumpy road ahead. Ben Wallace’s firm hand at the rudder and oversight of everything facing his department will be an invaluable insight to the new Minister for Defence Procurement.