Express & Star

EXCLUSIVE: Gavin Williamson speaks of 'great honour' after being appointed Defence Secretary

Gavin Williamson says he has a 'massive challenge' on his hands as he spoke of his great honour at being named the Government's new Defence Secretary.

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Gavin Williamson

The South Staffordshire MP has been handed the top Cabinet position at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) by Theresa May, replacing Michael Fallon who resigned following allegations of sexual harassment.

He told the Express & Star that his appointment came 'completely out of the blue' and admitted he was expecting a 'baptism of fire' in his new role.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted when the Prime Minister brought me in and asked me to be the Secretary of State for Defence," he said.

"Few people can have such a great honour than to be responsible for overseeing the Armed Services of this great country and helping to formulate policy in terms of how we move forward.

"Walking through the doors of the MOD I immediately felt a real sense of responsibility on my shoulders. I am under no illusions that this is a massive challenge and a huge responsibility.

"It is one that I hope I will be able to meet.

"I am a firm believer in acting in good heart and with the best intentions. Hopefully I will be judged on the actions that I take."

Tory MPs including Sarah Wollaston criticised Mr Williamson's appointment, with some suggesting he had been promoted at the expense of more experienced colleagues.

But he has received strong backing from MPs in the West Midlands, while former military officers have also rallied behind him.

Aldridge-Brownhills MP Wendy Morton said: "In the short time I have been in Parliament I have seen in Gavin someone who is an example of an effective local MP and also an extremely effective Westminster MP.

"I think he is in a good position to take over at the Ministry of Defence and look forward to seeing him get on with the job."

Dudley South MP Mike Wood, said: "It is fantastic news for the region and it is a really good appointment for the Ministry of Defence. I don't think anybody who has ever worked with Gavin could doubt his ability and application.

"He is an excellent addition to the Cabinet team."

Stone MP Sir Bill Cash, said he was 'delighted' at Mr Williamson's promotion, while Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who is from Coseley, said: "He was a brilliant Chief Whip and he will bring the same pride to the job of Defence Secretary as he did as Chief Whip."

Conservative MP and former soldier Johnny Mercer said he backed the appointment, adding that Mr Williamson’s lack of military experience wasn’t necessarily a problem.

“It can sometimes be a blessing to have that strategic oversight,” he said.

The appointment continued the meteoric rise of Mr Williamson, who was first elected to Parliament in 2010 and has served as Government Chief Whip since Mrs May took office in September 2016.

He became one of the Prime Minister's most trusted confidants, having masterminded her rise to power as her parliamentary campaign manager.

On Wednesday night Mr Fallon resigned from the Cabinet role he has held for the last three years, after admitting that his previous conduct towards women had ‘fallen short’ of the standards expected by the UK military.

Mr Williamson’s deputy, Julian Smith, has moved up to be Chief Whip, with her place taken by backbencher Esther McVey.