AXED BROWNE 'VICTIM OF PM JOB-SHARE DECISION'

By Craig Woodhouse

Press Association – 9 October 2008

Former Defence Secretary Des Browne fell victim to the Prime Minister's

"half-baked, ill-judged and morale-sapping decision"

to burden him with the Scotland portfolio as well, Shadow Defence Minister Julian Lewis said today. Mr Browne was dropped from both jobs in last week's Cabinet reshuffle, and Mr Lewis today launched a stinging attack on the circumstances that had led to the Kilmarnock and Loudoun MP's frontbench demise.

During a wide-ranging debate on defence issues, Mr Lewis said "every working minute" of a Defence Secretary's time should be spent on that brief, and it was "not fair" that Mr Browne had also to find time for Scottish issues. And he said such a situation "must never happen again".

"The outgoing Secretary of State deserves credit for his promotion of the case for the next generation of the nuclear deterrent,"

Mr Lewis told MPs.

"This wasn't an easy thing for him to do in the context of Labour Party politics. On other issues, many on this side of the House have often challenged him - he always responded without rancour. It was his misfortune to fall victim to the Prime Minister's ill-judged decision to lumber him with a second ministerial portfolio at a time when the country is involved in two counter-insurgency campaigns abroad and a significant security issue at home.

Every working minute of the Secretary of State for Defence should have been focused on these threats, and the service, welfare and procurement issues which traditionally hamper the conditions and capabilities of our forces in the field. It was not fair to him and it was certainly not fair to our forces in the field that he had to spend up to 20% of his time on Scottish affairs.

Never before has a Prime Minister taken such a half-baked, ill-judged and morale-sapping decision decision on parliamentary job sharing. Where United Kingdom defence is concerned, it must never happen again."