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British minister defends trade role for ex-Australian PM Abbott

Britain's Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock arrives to attend a Cabinet meeting of senior government ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s health minister on Thursday said Australian former Prime Minister Tony Abbott would bring huge expertise to a role advising the British government on trade despite his suggestion that men might be better suited to authority than women.

Abbott, who led Australia between 2013 and 2015, has so far refused to deny or confirm that he will become a trade adviser for Britain, but some British lawmakers have taken issue with comments attributed to Abbott that they cast as “misogynist”.

A socially conservative Catholic who was born in England, Abbott has denied accusations of misogyny.

“I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love whoever that is, as you know,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky when asked if he supported the appointment of a man cast by the reporter as a misogynist and homophobe.

“But you know we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia, obviously Mr Abbott has a huge amount of experience,” Hancock said.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alistair Smout