UK defense chief to step down, become British peer

AP News
Posted: Oct 27, 2010 7:16 AM
UK defense chief to step down, become British peer

The head of Britain's armed forces will step down this week and be appointed to the House of Lords, Britain's prime minister said Wednesday.

Air Chief Marshall Jock Stirrup will leave his job on Friday and hand over to Gen. David Richards, formerly head of the British Army and an ex-NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Stirrup, who has served in the post since 2006 _ overseeing the U.K.'s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, will become a nonpolitical, or cross-bench, member of the country's upper chamber.

His term had not been due to end until April 2011, but was cut short after the new Conservative-led coalition government took office in May. Stirrup was appointed by the previous Labour government.

"I applaud him for his excellent leadership throughout his time as chief of the defense staff, which has seen a particularly demanding tempo of activity during the withdrawal from Iraq and ongoing operations in Afghanistan," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox, who had announced in June that Stirrup would be replaced, said his appointment to the Lords would allow him to contribute to debates on policy.

"This is appropriate recognition for the dedication he has shown in public life and his contribution to the armed forces," Fox said.

Stirrup previously served with the Sultan of Oman's air force and spent a spell with the U.S. military, flying Phantom jets.