Ben Wallace (politician)

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Ben Wallace

Official portrait of Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP crop 2.jpg
Wallace in 2020
Secretary of State for Defence
Assumed office
24 July 2019
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Preceded by Penny Mordaunt
Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime
In office
17 July 2016 24 July 2019
Prime Minister Theresa May
Preceded by John Hayes
Succeeded by Brandon Lewis
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
12 May 2015 17 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Andrew Murrison
Succeeded by Kris Hopkins
Member of Parliament
for Wyre and Preston North
Lancaster and Wyre (2005–2010)
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Hilton Dawson
Majority16,781 (31.7%)
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for North East Scotland
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
6 May 1999 31 March 2003
Preceded byconstituency established
Succeeded by Nanette Milne
Personal details
Robert Ben Lobban Wallace

(1970-05-15) 15 May 1970 (age 50)
Farnborough, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Liza Cooke(m. 2001)
Residence Penzance
Alma mater Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Website Personal website
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Branch/serviceFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Years of service1991–1998
Rank Captain
Unit Scots Guards
Battles/wars The Troubles
Awards Mentioned in dispatches

Robert Ben Lobban Wallace (born 15 May 1970) is a British politician serving as Secretary of State for Defence since 24 July 2019. He previously was the UK’s longest-serving Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime from 2016 to 2019. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wyre and Preston North in Lancashire since the 2010 United Kingdom general election. Wallace was first elected as the MP for Lancaster and Wyre in the 2005 United Kingdom general election, having previously served as a captain in the Scots Guards regiment of the British Army, and as a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland. [1] [2]


Early life and career

Wallace was born on 15 May 1970 in Farnborough, Kent. [3] [4] He attended the independent school, Millfield in Somerset. [5] After school, Wallace became a ski instructor with the Austrian National Ski School in the village of Alpbach in Austria. [6]

Wallace attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, before he was commissioned in 1991 into the Scots Guards. [7] From 1991 to 1998, he served in Germany, Cyprus, Belize, and Northern Ireland, rising to the rank of Captain. During his time in Northern Ireland, he was mentioned in dispatches in 1992 for an incident in which the patrol he was commanding captured an entire IRA active service unit attempting to carry out a bomb attack against British troops. [2] [8]

Political career

Scottish Parliament

After leaving the Army, Wallace decided to enter politics in part because of the experience he had commanding men from some of the UK's most economically deprived areas which he believed could be improved by promoting a more aspirational society. [8] Wallace became a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, as a list MSP for North East Scotland. [9] [7] He stood down in 2003, as he sought selection for a Westminster constituency in England. [9] [7] Wallace was the Scottish Conservatives' shadow health spokesman during that time. [7]

From 2003 to 2005 he was overseas director of the aerospace company QinetiQ, the UK's former Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). [5]

Member of UK Parliament

Wallace was elected as MP for the Lancaster and Wyre constituency in the 2005 general election. He won 22,266 votes with a majority of 4,171 (8.0%). [10] The seat had previously been held by the Labour Party's Hilton Dawson. [11] The constituency was abolished in 2010 and in the 2010 general election he was elected as MP in the new seat of Wyre and Preston North with 26,877 votes and a majority of 15,844 (30.9%). [12] Wallace was re-elected at the 2015, 2017 and 2019 general elections. [13]

From 2005 to 2010 Wallace was a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. [14] From 2006 to 2010 Wallace was the Shadow Minister of State for Scotland. He was Chairman of the British–Iran Parliamentary Group from 2006 to 2014. On 13 November 2008, Wallace was awarded Campaigner of the Year in the Spectator /Threadneedle Parliamentarian awards, for his work promoting transparency of MPs expenses. [15] [16]

Wallace faced criticism locally after it was revealed he had the fourth highest expenses claim of any MP in the UK in 2008, claiming £175,523 on top of his £63,000 salary. However, he defended the costs by arguing that the constituency has an electorate that is nearly 20% larger than the average one in England. [17]

Junior ministerial roles

Following his re-election to Parliament in 2010, Wallace was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then-Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, and later Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, Ken Clarke MP.[ citation needed ] On 4 September 2012, Wallace turned down a position as a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury during the cabinet reshuffle [ citation needed ] to remain Clarke's PPS. [18] He voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales. [19]

In July 2014, as Clarke returned to the back benches, Wallace was again offered a job in Government as a whip. This time he accepted. In May 2015 he was promoted to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office.

In January 2016, the Labour Party unsuccessfully proposed an amendment in Parliament that would have required private landlords to make their homes "fit for human habitation". According to Parliament's register of interests, Wallace was one of 72 Conservative MPs who voted against the amendment who personally derived an income from renting out property. The Conservative Government stated that they believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it. [20]

After the EU referendum, the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, promoted him to Minister of State for Security in the Home Office. In December 2017 the Ministerial portfolio was extended to include Economic Crime. He was the Security Minister during the terror attacks of 2017 and the Salisbury attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal. Wallace was appointed to the Privy Council for his role in coordinating the government response to the 2017 Westminster attack. [21]

Wallace supported the UK remaining within the European Union (EU) prior to the 2016 referendum. [22] He voted for then Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal agreement in early 2019, and voted against any referendum on a Brexit withdrawal agreement. [23]

In February 2018, Wallace was criticised by political opponents for promoting unfounded smears on the leader of the Labour Party. The Sun newspaper had alleged that during the 1980s Jeremy Corbyn had colluded with a Communist spy. In response to the allegations, a spokesman for Corbyn stated that any suggestion that the Labour leader had been an agent, asset or informer was "an entirely false and a ridiculous smear". [24] Amidst these allegations, Wallace was criticised for tweeting: "'Jeremy has been interested in foreign policy issues his entire political career' [sic] - Labour MP Louise Haigh, BBC Daily Politics - yup so was Kim Philby". Wallace later defended his tweet, and said he "wasn't comparing, just saying that being interested in foreign policy isn't an answer to the allegations being made". Wallace told Sky News: "It was a light-hearted dig at Louise Haigh's excuse that Corbyn was interested in foreign affairs ... I was simply saying Kim Philby was also interested in foreign affairs". [25] [26]

Secretary of State for Defence

Wallace meeting with the United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at Horse Guards in September 2019. DDC-20190906-318-093.jpg
Wallace meeting with the United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at Horse Guards in September 2019.

On 24 July 2019 Wallace was appointed Secretary of State for Defence by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, succeeding Penny Mordaunt. [27] In August 2019, he was overheard discussing Prime Minister Johnson's controversial prorogation with Florence Parly, the French Minister of Armies. Wallace suggested that the reason for the prorogation of parliament for five weeks was to prevent MPs from blocking the government's Brexit plans rather than the government's official position that it was to introduce new legislative agenda. The government responded to his comments by stating that he had "misspoken". [28] [29] This prorogation was later deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court on 24 September. [30]

On 13 October 2019, Wallace defended Turkey's offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces in north-eastern Syria in a NATO meeting. He commented, "Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself". His comments were condemned by other delegates at the meeting. [31] [32]

On 12 January 2020, in an interview with The Sunday Times , Wallace said that the UK "must be prepared to fight wars without the US", one of the UK's key allies. He stated that the upcoming Defence Review "should be used to make the UK less dependent on the US in future conflicts". His comments were made in response to US President Donald Trump's America First isolationist policies. Wallace also said that the next Defence Review would be the 'deepest review' of Britain's defence and foreign policies since the end of the Cold War in 1991. [33]

Personal life

He married Liza Cooke in 2001 and they have three children. [3] His wife worked as a part-time parliamentary assistant in his office until 30 April 2019. [34] They met when she was a researcher in the Scottish Parliament and Wallace was a MSP. [35]

Wallace resides near Lancaster and in London. [36] [37]

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  1. "New defence secretary Ben Wallace has defended Stracathro Hospital and fox hunting". The Courier. The Courier. 26 April 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2019.
  2. 1 2 Sabbagh, Dan (8 September 2019). "Defence secretary under fire for appearing to condone torture". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  3. 1 2 "Wallace, Rt Hon. (Robert) Ben (Lobban)". UK Who's Who. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  4. Thomson, Alice; Sylvester, Rachel (9 June 2018). "Ben Wallace: we don't set out to kill terrorists". The Times.
  5. 1 2 "Ben Wallace: Electoral history and profile". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 September 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  6. "Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime - The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP". Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Farewell to the parliament". BBC News. 2 April 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  8. 1 2 "The Ben Wallace One". BBC. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
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  11. "Mr Hilton Dawson". Retrieved 15 October 2019.
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  13. "Wyre & Preston North". BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  14. "Mr Ben Wallace MP – UK Parliament". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  15. "Matthew d'Ancona's Parliamentarian awards speech". 13 November 2008. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
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  25. "Andrew Neil Clobbers Tory Minister Steve Baker For 'Outrageous Smears' Against Jeremy Corbyn". HuffPost UK. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  26. "Tory MP deletes Corbyn spy claim after threat of legal action". Sky News. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
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  34. "Register of Members' Financial Interests" (PDF). p. 460. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  35. "Outrage at ban threat on MP family workers". Lancashire Post. 1 February 2008. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  36. "About Ben". Personal website. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  37. "IPSA record". IPSA. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
News articles
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hilton Dawson
Member of Parliament for Lancaster and Wyre
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Wyre and Preston North
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Murrison
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Kris Hopkins
Preceded by
John Hayes
Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime
Succeeded by
Brandon Lewis
Preceded by
Penny Mordaunt
Secretary of State for Defence