Theresa May concluded a cabinet reshuffle by sacking an MP at the centre of a sex toy storm and promoting younger colleagues to the ministerial ranks, including the leader of a Eurosceptic group of MPs who has voiced support for a no-deal Brexit.
Downing Street said the new ministerial team is more diverse and will “better reflect the country which it serves” after the Prime Minister sacked a number of middle-ranking white, male ministers.
One of those appointed in their place is Suella Fernandes, the chair of the European Research Group, who was elected in 2015 and is the daughter of immigrants from Kenya and Mauritius.
Ms Fernandes joins the ministerial team at the Department for Exiting the EU following demands from Brexiteers for a ‘minister for no deal’ as a sign of the government’s Brexit resolve.
Downing Street said that as a result of the reshuffle there are now more women attending Cabinet, more female ministers and more members of the Government from a black and minority ethnic background than before.
Mrs May said: “This Government is about building a country fit for the future - one that truly works for everyone with a stronger economy and a fairer society.
“This reshuffle helps us do just that by bringing fresh talent into Government, boosting delivery in key policy areas like housing, health and social care, and ensuring the Government looks more like the country it serves.
“It also allows a new generation of gifted ministers to step up and make life better for people across the whole UK.”
Casualties of the reshuffle included Mark Garnier, who lost his job as trade minister just weeks after being cleared by an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a female member of staff, including asking her to buy a sex toy.
No 10 sources insisted the incident had nothing to do with his departure.
Tory backbencher Philip Davies, who sits on the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, said the reshuffle had created “a legitimate concern that some people may feel they have been hoofed out or not promoted simply because they are a white male”.
But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is about getting the right Government in place to deliver for the British public.
“That also includes delivering a Government that better reflects the country which it serves.”
Mrs May’s Cabinet met for the first time since a misfired reshuffle of top jobs on Monday, which saw Justine Greening walk out as education secretary rather than accept a move to work and pensions, while Jeremy Hunt turned down the PM’s offer of the business brief, insisting instead on an expanded health and social care role.
Africa minister and former diplomat Rory Stewart has gone to the Ministry of Justice - a shift which was criticised by Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Soames who questioned why a “really knowledgeable” foreign policy expert was being moved to a domestic role.
Also among those joining the ministerial ranks for the first time are Richmond MP Rishi Sunak at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi at the Department for Education and South East Cambridgeshire’s Lucy Frazer, who is joining the Justice team.
Shailesh Vara returns to the Government after a spell on the backbenches as parliamentary under secretary in the Northern Ireland Office.