Prime minister Theresa May fends off questions about Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt's two ministerial roles as defence secretary and equalities minister

Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Defence secretary Penny Mordaunt leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

PRIME minister Theresa May has seen off a seeming criticism over Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt holding two government jobs.

Ms Mordaunt was made defence secretary following the sacking of Gavin Williamson over the National Security Council leak about Chinese firm Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network.

She retains her role as minister for women and equalities.

Answering questions yesterday in the House of Commons, Mrs May said the Portsmouth MP is ‘absolutely the right person’ to hold both roles.

Tory MP for South Dorset Richard Drax had said: ‘May I congratulate the new secretary of state for defence on her appointment?

‘It is a highly privileged position to be in, and she will be responsible for sending our brave men and women into dangerous positions. ​To do that, she must gain their respect and get to know them. Does my right honourable friend agree that that is, in itself, a full-time job?’

But Mrs May shot back and said: ‘My honourable friend is absolutely right that, obviously, as secretary of state for defence my honourable friend friend will be needing to get to know the men and women of our armed forces.

‘I have to say that I think my honourable friend friend, as a former minister in the Ministry of Defence and a Royal Naval reservist, starts from a very good position to do that.

‘May I also say to my honourable friend, on the implication of his question, that there is a lot to be done in our armed forces on the questions of equality?

‘I think my right honourable friend is absolutely the right person to be dealing with that issue, as well as ensuring that she is speaking up for and promoting the best interests of the brave men and women of all our armed forces.’