Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives at his headquarters in London, Britain, November 2 2017. Picture: REUTERS
Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives at his headquarters in London, Britain, November 2 2017. Picture: REUTERS

London — Prime Minister Theresa May has named Gavin Williamson as Britain’s new defence secretary after his predecessor Michael Fallon was forced to step down over a sexual harassment scandal sweeping parliament.

It represents a significant promotion for the 41-year-old, a trusted ally whose former job as chief whip involved enforcing discipline for May’s Conservative Party in parliament.

Williamson, who was elected to parliament in 2010, is best known for having a pet tarantula, Cronus, he keeps in a glass-sided tank on his desk.

"The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Right Honourable Gavin Williamson as Secretary of State for Defence," Downing Street said.

The job is one of the most challenging in the British government, and some questioned Williamson’s expertise.

According to "TheyWorkForYou", an online record of parliamentary activity, Williamson has asked only seven questions on defence since 2010.

Fallon announced his resignation late on Wednesday, the first casualty of a deepening scandal over sexual harassment at Westminster.

He had apologised this week for touching a journalist’s knee in 2002, but reports suggest there were other allegations that had not yet been made public.

"I accept that in the past, I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the Armed Forces I have the honour to represent," Fallon said.

Williamson was May’s parliamentary campaign manager when she ran successfully to become the Conservative Party leader, and was rewarded with the job of chief whip.

BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that a minister had told her May was "so weak, she has let Williamson appoint himself — this is appalling". The move raised questions about whether the whip’s office had a role in preparing the dossier on the ministerial scandal.

AFP

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