Shapps replaces Wallace as defence secretary in mini-reshuffle

Claire Coutinho becomes secretary of state for energy security and net zero following Shapps’ move
Grant Shapps smiling with Rishi Sunak after the appointment. Photo: Simon Walker/No.10

By Tevye Markson

31 Aug 2023

Grant Shapps has been appointed as the government’s new defence secretary, replacing Ben Wallace, who resigned this morning.

Shapps, who was secretary of state for energy security and net zero, has been replaced by Claire Coutinho, who moves from a junior minister role in the Department for Education.

Coutinho’s position has also been filled in the mini-reshuffle following Wallace’s resignation. David Johnston replaces her as minister for children, families and wellbeing.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak appointed Shapps on Thursday morning as part of a mini-reshuffle triggered by Wallace’s resignation, which was trailed over the summer and follows his decision not to stand again as an MP at the next general election. Reports suggest the PM will carry out a wider cabinet reshuffle later this year.

It is Shapps's fifth cabinet role in the last year. He previously served as transport secretary, home secretary and business secretary. Shapps spent three years leading the Department for Transport, a week as home secretary, four months at the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Stategy and five months at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

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 four 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."

Shapps was one of Sunak's most high-profile backers when he ran to be leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister last summer.

His replacement at DESNZ, Coutinho, is another ally of Sunak, having been a special adviser for the then-chief secretary to the Treausry before being elected to the House of Commons in 2019. She was also Sunak's parliamentary private secretary while he was chancellor.

Johnston takes his second role in government, having previously been parliamentary private secretary at DfE from September 2021 until July 2022. He was one of dozens of ministers who resigned following revelations about then-prime minister Boris Johnson's handling of misconduct allegations against former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

Read the most recent articles written by Tevye Markson - Just four major departments meet threshold for strike action in PCS pay ballot

Share this page