Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Defence Secretary On 'Incredibly Challenging' First Eight Months In Office

Gavin Williamson said he could not believe how much he has had to learn but that it was, in his view, the “best job in government”.

The Defence Secretary has described his first few months in office as "incredibly challenging".

Speaking exclusively to Forces News on a trip to visit troops in Kenya, Gavin Williamson said he could not believe how much he has had to learn but that it was, in his view, the “best job in government”.

It was his first visit to Africa, where the British military has deployments across 11 countries, working on a range of missions from anti-terror to tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

UK Troop Deployment Africa
The British military has deployments across 11 African countries, working on a range of missions

Mr Williamson said: “As part of my visit I’m going not just here to Kenya, but also to Somalia and to Ethiopia and what we are wanting to do, is we want to be much more active right across the continent of Africa.

"Britain’s always had and played a leading role in Africa, a lot of people look to our country as having the world’s very best military and look to us for support and training.

"But some of the challenges over the next few decades are also going to be coming out of Africa, with an increasingly large population in many nations, we’ve seen issues to do with extremism and also shifts in migration.

Gavin Williamson Kenya Military Dignitaries

"Britain needs to be involved on the ground, having a real understanding of some of the issues in so many African nations and supporting those governments to deal with them.”

He also spoke about the role of women in militaries across the world, “armed forces right around the world are opening themselves up, providing those opportunities.

"We do need to be getting more women onto the frontline.”

When asked about the families of British service personnel and the challenges of being apart he said:

"Having had family in the armed forces who have been stationed abroad, I know what challenges it puts on them and their families, especially when they've got young families.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that family life works as well as possible especially if someone is away on operations.

"You don’t want to be worrying about the accommodation that your family are in back home, it’s something we can never do enough on and certainly a big focus for me.”

WATCH: Gavin Williamson speaking to our political correspondent Laura Makin-Isherwood, the only reporter granted special behind the scenes access to the visit, in full.