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Secretary of State
for Defence
Flag of the British Secretary of State for Defence.svg
Flag of the Secretary of Defence
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Royal Arms of Her Majesty's Government
Ministry of Defence
Official portrait of Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP.jpg
Incumbent
Ben Wallace

since 24 July 2019
Ministry of Defence
Style
  • Defence Secretary
    (informal)
  • The Right Honourable
    (UK and the Commonwealth)
Status Minister of the Crown
Member of
Reports to The Prime Minister
Seat Westminster
Appointer The Crown
on advice of the Prime Minister
Term length At Her Majesty's Pleasure
Constituting instrument Defence (Transfer of Functions) Act 1964 section 1(1)(a)
Formation 1 April 1964
First holder Peter Thorneycroft
Deputy Minister of State for the Armed Forces
Website www.gov.uk

The Secretary of State for Defence, also referred to as the Defence Secretary, is a senior Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The office forms part of the British Cabinet.

The post of Secretary of State for Defence was created on 1 April 1964 replacing the three separate Cabinet positions of 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.

The current Secretary of State for Defence is Ben Wallace, MP. since his appointment by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in July 2019.[1]

Responsibilities[]

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

  • Strategic military and defensive operations
  • Relations with international partnerships, including NATO
  • Defence policy (Trident nuclear weapons programme), resourcing and planning
  • Communications on defence[2]

History[]

The post was created in 1964 as successor to the posts of Minister for Coordination of Defence (1936–1940) and Ministry of Defence (1947–1964). 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).

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. The criticism had been led by Winston Churchill and many expected him to be appointed as the new minister. Baldwin's choice of the Attorney General Sir Thomas Inskip for the post provoked widespread astonishment. The appointment is now regarded as a sign of caution by Baldwin who did not wish to appoint someone like Churchill who would have been interpreted by foreign powers as a sign of the United Kingdom preparing for war, as well as a desire to avoid taking on board a controversial and radical minister.

In 1939 Inskip was succeeded by First Sea Lord Lord Chatfield. When the Second World War broke out, the new Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain formed a small War Cabinet and it was expected that Chatfield 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 Chatfield's 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.

Secretaries of State for Defence (1964–present)[]

Secretary of State for Defence
Portrait Name
(Birth–Death)
Term of office Length of term Party Ministry
Peter Thornycroft.jpg The Right Honourable
Peter Thorneycroft
MP for Monmouth
(1909–1994)
[3]
1 April
1964
16 October
1964
Expression error: Unrecognized word "october".
(Cont. from above)
Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Douglas-Home
Denis Healey.jpg The Right Honourable
Denis Healey
MBE
MP for Leeds East
(1917–2015)
[4]
16 October
1964
19 June
1970
Expression error: Unrecognized word "june". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour Template:Party shading/Labour |Wilson
(I & II)
Peter Carington 1984.jpg The Right Honourable
Peter Carrington
6th Baron Carrington

KCMG MC PC DL]]
(1919-2018)
20 June
1970
8 January
1974
Expression error: Unrecognized word "january". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Heath
The Right Honourable
Ian Gilmour
MP for Central Norfolk
(1926–2007)
[5]
8 January
1974
4 March
1974
Expression error: Unrecognized word "march". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
The Right Honourable
Roy Mason
MP for Barnsley
(1924–2015)
[6]
5 March
1974
10 September
1976
Expression error: Unrecognized word "september". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour Template:Party shading/Labour | Wilson
(III & IV)
Fred Mulley.PNG The Right Honourable
Fred Mulley
MP for Sheffield Park
(1918–1995)
[7]
10 September
1976
4 May
1979
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour Template:Party shading/Labour | Callaghan
Francis Pym (cropped).jpg The Right Honourable
Francis Pym
MC]]
MP for Cambridgeshire
(1922–2008)
[8]
5 May
1979
5 January
1981
Expression error: Unrecognized word "january". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Thatcher I
John Nott.jpg The Right Honourable
John Nott

MP for St Ives
(born 1932)
[9]
5 January
1981
6 January
1983
Expression error: Unrecognized word "january". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Lord Heseltine (6969083278).jpg The Right Honourable
Michael Heseltine

MP for Henley
(born 1933)
[10]
6 January
1983
7 January
1986
Expression error: Unrecognized word "january". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Thatcher II
George Younger.JPEG The Right Honourable
George Younger
TD

MP for Ayr
(1931–2003)
[11]
[12]
7 January
1986
24 July
1989
Expression error: Unrecognized word "july". rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Thatcher III
Official portrait of Lord King of Bridgwater crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
Tom King

MP for Bridgwater
(born 1933)
[13]
24 July
1989
10 April
1992
Expression error: Unrecognized word "april". rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Major I
Malcolm Rifkind.jpg The Right Honourable
Malcolm Rifkind
QC

MP for Edinburgh Pentlands
(born 1946)
[14]
10 April
1992
5 July
1995
Expression error: Unrecognized word "july". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Major II
Michael Portillo by Regents College cropped.jpg The Right Honourable
Michael Portillo

MP for Enfield Southgate
(born 1953)
[15]
5 July
1995
2 May
1997
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Official portrait of Lord Robertson of Port Ellen 2020 crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
George Robertson

MP for Hamilton South
(born 1946)
[16]
3 May
1997
11 October
1999
Expression error: Unrecognized word "october". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Labour | Blair I
Geoff Hoon Headshot.jpg The Right Honourable
Geoff Hoon

MP for Ashfield
(born 1953)
[17]
11 October
1999
6 May
2005
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour
Template:Party shading/Labour | Blair II
Official portrait of Lord Reid of Cardowan, 2020.jpg The Right Honourable
John Reid

MP for Airdrie and Shotts
(born 1947)
[18]
6 May
2005
5 May
2006
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Labour | Blair III
Official portrait of Lord Browne of Ladyton crop 2, 2019.jpg The Right Honourable
Des Browne

MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun
(born 1952)
[19]
5 May
2006
3 October
2008
Expression error: Unrecognized word "october". rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour
rowspan=3 Template:Party shading/Labour | Brown
Msc 2009-Sunday, 11.00 - 12.30 Uhr-Zwez 005 Hutton detail.jpg The Right Honourable
John Hutton

MP for Barrow and Furness
(born 1955)
[20]
3 October
2008
5 June
2009
Expression error: Unrecognized word "june". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour
The Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth MP (4799292710).jpg The Right Honourable
Bob Ainsworth

MP for Coventry North East
(born 1952)
[21]
5 June
2009
11 May
2010
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". Template:Party shading/Labour | Labour
Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP (4799289920).jpg The Right Honourable
Liam Fox

MP for North Somerset
(born 1961)
[22]
[23]
12 May
2010
14 October
2011
Expression error: Unrecognized word "october". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative rowspan=3 Template:Party shading/Coalition (UK) | Cameron–Clegg
(Con.–L.D.)
The Secretary of State for Defence, Rt Hon Phillip Hammond MP MOD 45153293.jpg The Right Honourable
Philip Hammond

MP for Runnymede and Weybridge
(born 1955)
[24]
[25]
14 October
2011
15 July
2014
Expression error: Unrecognized word "july". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Official portrait of Sir Michael Fallon crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
Sir Michael Fallon
KCB

MP for Sevenoaks
(born 1952)
[26]
[27]
15 July
2014
1 November
2017
Expression error: Unrecognized word "november". rowspan=4 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Cameron II
Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | May I
rowspan="3" Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | May II
Official portrait of Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
Gavin Williamson
CBE

MP for South Staffordshire
(born 1976)
[28]
[29]
2 November
2017
1 May
2019
Expression error: Unrecognized word "may". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Official portrait of Penny Mordaunt crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
Penny Mordaunt

MP for Portsmouth North
(born 1973)
[30]
1 May
2019
24 July
2019
Expression error: Unrecognized word "july". Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative
Official portrait of Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP crop 2.jpg The Right Honourable
Ben Wallace

MP for Wyre and Preston North
(born 1970)
[1]
24 July
2019
Incumbent Expression error: Unrecognized word "november".* rowspan=2 Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Conservative Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Johnson I
Template:Party shading/Conservative (UK) | Johnson II

* Incumbent's length of term last updated: 26 November 2021.

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ben Wallace Named New Defence Secretary". 24 July 2019. https://www.forces.net/news/politics/breaking-penny-mordaunt-leaves-role-defence-secretary. 
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/ministers/secretary-of-state-for-defence
  3. "Mr Peter Thorneycroft". UK Parliament. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/people/mr-peter-thorneycroft/. 
  4. "Lord Healey". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-healey/979. 
  5. "Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Lords/member/2606. 
  6. "Lord Mason of Barnsley". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-mason-of-barnsley/1062. 
  7. "Lord Mulley". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Lords/member/2977. 
  8. "Lord Pym". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Lords/member/3257. 
  9. "Rt Hon Sir John Nott". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Commons/member/926. 
  10. "Lord Heseltine". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-heseltine/94. 
  11. "Rt Hon Sir George Younger". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Commons/member/969. 
  12. George Jones (27 January 2003). "Thatcher's ally George Younger dies at 71". The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1420172/Thatchers-ally-George-Younger-dies-at-71.html. 
  13. "Lord King of Bridgwater". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-king-of-bridgwater/254. 
  14. "Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/Sir-Malcolm-Rifkind/1191. 
  15. "Rt Hon Michael Portillo". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Commons/member/187. 
  16. "Lord Robertson of Port Ellen". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-robertson-of-port-ellen/672. 
  17. "Mr Geoffrey Hoon". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/Commons/member/357. 
  18. "Lord Reid of Cardowan". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-reid-of-cardowan/617. 
  19. "Lord Browne of Ladyton". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-browne-of-ladyton/620. 
  20. "Lord Hutton of Furness". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/lords/lord-hutton-of-furness/494. 
  21. "Rt Hon Bob Ainsworth". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/bob-ainsworth/306. 
  22. "Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/dr-liam-fox/223. 
  23. "Who's who in the coalition cabinet". The Guardian. 13 May 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/may/13/coalition-cabinet-list-profiles. 
  24. "Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/philip-hammond/105. 
  25. "Liam Fox quits as defence secretary". BBC News. 14 October 2011. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15300751. 
  26. "Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP". UK Parliament. http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/sir-michael-fallon/88. 
  27. "Reshuffle at-a-glance: In, out and moved about". BBC News. 15 July 2014. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28303854. 
  28. "Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP". UK Parliament. https://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/gavin-williamson/4108. 
  29. "Gavin Williamson replaces Michael Fallon as defence secretary". BBC News. 2 November 2017. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41844320. 
  30. "Gavin Williamson sacked over Huawei leak" (in en-GB). 2019-05-01. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-48126974. 

External links[]

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