She gained an interest in politics having worked in the hospitals and orphanages of post-revolutionary Romania, for the year before and during her time at university.


She has a successful career in business and communications working in the private, public and charitable sectors. She supported British truckers during the French blockades while working for the Freight Transport Association. She is proud to have been a director of one of the top-performing local authorities in the UK - delivering excellent services for one of the lowest council taxes in the country.

She went on to be a director of a national lottery distributor and created the Veterans Reunited programme, enabling servicemen and women to visit WWII battlefields and be involved in commemorative events. In 2006 she became Director of Diabetes UK - the largest patient organization in Europe. She expanded the services of the charity and substantially increased its income, and set up services in developing countries particularly prone to diabetes. In 2004 she set up her own business which she sold on her election to Parliament in 2010.


Penny is a Royal Navy reservist at King Alfred on Whale Island. Penny ran the League of Friends visiting team at the Queen Alexandra Hospital for 8 years and now fundraises for several local charities.


She is a patron of Enable Ability, a Trustee of the Wymering Manor Trust and a Scouting Ambassador for Portsmouth.


In 2015, Penny was appointed as the Minister for Armed Forces and is the first female member of parliament to hold this position. 


In 2016, Penny was appointed as Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work. 


In November 2017, Penny was appointed as Secretary of State for International Development.


In May 2019, Penny was appointed as Secretary of State for Defence.

In 2020, Penny was appointed as Her Majesty's Paymaster General. 

Penny has lived in Portsmouth since she was 2-years-old. Her father, who was born in Hilsea barracks, was in the Paras before becoming a teacher at Oak Park school and later a youth worker for Hampshire Council. 
Her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1988, was a special needs teacher at several Purbrook schools, and her stepmother was also a local primary school teacher. Penny has two brothers, Edward and James, who is her twin. She was educated at Oaklands RC Comprehensive School and sixth form. 

She worked at the old Johnson and Johnson factory and as a magician's assistant for Paulsgrove resident and former President of the Portsmouth Magic Circle, Will Ayling, before becoming the first person in her family to go to university. 

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