Gavin Williamson named defence secretary after Michael Fallon resignation

Chief whip moved to MoD after Fallon says his conduct had ‘fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces’

MoD permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove (centre) and vice chief of defence staff Gordon Messenger welcome new defence secretary Gavin Williamson to the MoD Photo: MoD

By Emilio Casalicchio

02 Nov 2017

Gavin Williamson was today named as the new Defence Secretary after Michael Fallon quit the government last night.

Fallon was the first scalp of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal after he apologised for touching a journalist’s knee in 2002.

There were rumours Fallon had warned Theresa May fresh allegations about his past could surface.

Williamson had served as chief whip since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July last year.


He had previously served as David Cameron's parliamentary private secretary for three years, having been elected as MP for South Staffordshire at the 2010 general election.

He has been replaced as chief whip by Julian Smith, another 2010 intake MP who has served as deputy chief whip since after June's general election.

Smith has been replaced by Esther McVey, who served as Employment minister in the coalition government before losing her seat at the 2015 general election.

She returned to Parliament at the snap election earlier this year after being selected to represent George Osborne's former seat of Tatton.

Today's mini-reshuffle came as the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warned the “dam has broken” and it is time to clean up politics in the wake of the Westminster sex abuse scandal.

Speaking after the shock resignation of the defence secretary, the Scottish Conservatives leader said the “boys’ locker room culture” in politics had to stop. 

As he quit his Cabinet post last night Fallon told the prime minister his conduct had “fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces”.

Later he told the BBC: “The culture has changed over the years, what might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now.

"Parliament now has to look at itself and the prime minister has made very clear that conduct needs to be improved and we need to protect the staff of Westminster against any particular allegations of harassment."

In her letter to the Sevenoaks MP, the Prime Minister paid tribute to his "long and impressive ministerial career.”

Questions still remain about the past conduct of ministers Damian Green and Mark Garnier – both of whom are being investigated by the Cabinet Office for claims of inappropriate behaviour.

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