An axed Liberal Democrat minister has criticised Nick Clegg’s decision to give up the Liberal Democrat ministerial presence at the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.
Nick Harvey, MP for North Devon, said he had been “knocked for six” at losing his job as armed forces minister in last week’s reshuffle and expressed fears over future of the key review he was overseeing into the UK’s future nuclear deterrent.
David Laws now has responsibility for the report into alternatives to renewing the Trident system – a major area of disagreement between the two coalition parties.
But Mr Laws, brought back two years after being forced out by an expenses scandal, is also an Education Minister and has a wide-ranging Cabinet Office-based policy brief.
“He’s got an awful lot else he’s going to be doing,” Mr Harvey told the Sky News Murnaghan programme.
“He is a very able man, he has got a very empirical mind but I hope that that isn’t going to suffer from having somebody not actually on the case.”
Mr Harvey joined wider criticism of Mr Clegg’s decision to swap ministerial posts at the MOD and Foreign Office for positions at International Development and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
“There are other issues coming up on the international agenda which Lib Dems are going to have to work very hard now without a minister either in Defence or the Foreign Office to keep abreast of.
“Getting the withdrawal from Afghanistan right is absolutely vital and we don’t want to cut corners in order to save a few bob and then have the whole thing go horribly wrong.
“Equally there is all the unrest with Iran and the possibility of Israel or the US taking steps against Iran.
“I think that having a Lib Dem in the two international departments would have given us a say in framing the agenda that we won’t now have.
“Of course the bigger decisions do come to the National Security Council and across Nick Clegg’s desk as Deputy Prime Minister but to my mind it would have been better to have a foot in the Cabinet.”
Asked about his own dismissal, Mr Harvey said: “To be candid, I hadn’t seen this coming so I was rather knocked for six by it, nobody likes this sort of thing happening to them. That said, of course, the process of government is much bigger than individuals and...I will continue to support the Government.”
And he defended his acceptance of a knighthood – one of several controversially recommended for departing ministers by Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Frankly I think it would have looked very churlish and petulant to have turned it down and I am pleased to receive an unexpected recognition of the work that I’ve done.”