Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle - three top ministers sacked
13 February 2020, 10:17 | Updated: 13 February 2020, 10:32
Boris Johnson's first cabinet reshuffle since the UK left the European Union has seen two female ministers removed from their roles.
The Northern Ireland Minister, Julian Smith, was the first to be sacked as Boris Johnson met with some MPs in his House of Commons office to save them having to face the press in Downing Street.
His departure comes just weeks after brokering the deal which restored the powersharing administration in Stormont, a move which some have said "blindsided" the PM.
Shortly afterwards the PM fired two of the female members of his cabinet, with Housing Minister Esther McVey tweeting she was "very sorry" to have lost her role.
She tweeted: "I'm very sorry to be relieved of my duties as Housing Minister I wish my successor the very best & every success I'm very grateful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity to serve in his government & he will continue to have my support from the back benches."
Solicitor General Michael Ellis fielded questions at Attorney General's questions from MPs in place of Geoffrey Cox.
Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers revealed she was sacked "to make way for someone new".
Two of the first three sackings are women. Leadsom out too. Both went for the Conservative leadership last year. https://t.co/TWrgvYiZqf— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) February 13, 2020
Andrea Leadsom was also a casualty as Mr Johnson removed her as Business Secretary.
Universities minister Chris Skidmore has left Government, saying he would have "more time to spend" with his family.
He tweeted: "Got a promotion in the #reshuffle to be a better Dad with more time to spend with this gorgeous little one.... Thanks everyone who I've had the chance to work with and the civil service teams that have supported me- you have all been amazing."
Serving the people of Northern Ireland has been the biggest privilege. I am extremely grateful to @BorisJohnson for giving me the chance to serve this amazing part of our country. The warmth & support from people across NI has been incredible. Thank you so much.— Julian Smith MP (@JulianSmithUK) February 13, 2020
The Prime Minister intends to "promote a generation of talent" in a reshuffle aimed at preparing the Tories for the future.
While the Prime Minister has removed two prominent female members of his Cabinet, it is not expected there will be a reduction in the overall number of female ministers.
The PMs top four ministers are thought to be secure with Chancellor Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab are expected to remain in place while Downing Street has confirmed that Grant Shapps will stay on as Transport Secretary.
Female MPs in line for promotion during the reshuffle process include defence minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, former Brexit minister Suella Braverman and Gillian Keegan.
Alok Sharma is expected to be promoted from his current Cabinet post at International Development, while Paymaster General Oliver Dowden - who attends Cabinet - is also in line for a bigger job.
A Number 10 source said: "The Prime Minister wants this reshuffle to set the foundations for government now and in the future.
"He wants to promote a generation of talent that will be promoted further in the coming years.
"He will reward those MPs who have worked hard to deliver on this Government's priorities to level up the whole country and deliver the change people voted for last year."
The most junior ministerial rank - parliamentary under-secretary of state level - is likely to have a 50-50 gender split after the reshuffle.
By the summer, Mr Johnson also aims to ensure that at least 60% of ministerial aides - the parliamentary private secretaries - will be women, up from 18% at present.
In a sign that male ministers could pay the price, Chris Skidmore indicated he had left his post as Universities Minister to have "more time to spend" with his child.
"Thanks everyone who I've had the chance to work with and the civil service teams that have supported me - you have all been amazing," he said.