THE new minister for Portsmouth has pledged to ‘champion’ the city across government and says he will continue to support its links with the Royal Navy.
Former armed forces minister Mark Francois was yesterday revealed by Downing Street as the politician to take the role in the next parliament.
Having spent time at the Ministry of Defence, including as armed forces minister, I have visited Portsmouth on a number of occasions and am well aware of the city’s importance to both the economy and the Royal Navy.Mark Francois, the new minister for Portsmouth
The Essex Tory MP’s appointment comes despite concerns over whether the position had run its course and whether it had been effective since being created in the wake of the loss of shipbuilding.
But the government has kept the role and Mr Francois has pledged to do all he can for the city and surrounding area – and says he will visit soon.
Mr Francois, who has also been appointed communities minister as part of the Tory government’s reshuffle, said: ‘As my late father served in the Royal Navy, I am delighted to be appointed as minister for Portsmouth.
‘Having spent time at the Ministry of Defence, including as armed forces minister, I have visited Portsmouth on a number of occasions and am well aware of the city’s importance to both the economy and the Royal Navy.
‘I plan to visit the city in the near future and am determined to champion its cause across government.’
Mr Francois was born in Islington in 1965 and moved to Basildon in Essex in 1971. He now lives in Rayleigh.
He served as an infantry officer in the Territorial Army, including with the local Royal Anglian Regiment, in the 1980s.
Councillor Donna Jones, Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, said she is pleased with the appointment given Mr Francois’ background in the services.
‘Being home to the Royal Navy, it makes us strategically important and David Cameron has demonstrated his belief Portsmouth is a key strategic city in the UK,’ she said.
‘I am delighted with Mr Francois’ appointment because he has a strong background in the armed forces.
‘He has a history of working with the prime minister and I am looking forward to speaking with Mr Francois.’
But Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said it undermines the roles of the city’s two newly-elected MPs.
‘It seems bizarre given the comments made by the MP for Portsmouth South (Flick Drummond) saying it wasn’t necessary,’ he said.