Nick Herbert has two ministerial jobs - but still finds time to stand up for equal rights

Holding one ministerial post is difficult enough, given the  relentless demands of modern government, so filling two requires  stamina, resilience and flexibility. It is lucky that Nick Herbert -  Minister of State at both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice -  is a hyperactive sort who is routinely seen pounding the pavements  between two offices half a mile apart. Because of the austerity drive in  Whitehall, he can't whistle up a government car. He says: "It's a  double job, it's a very big workload, physically it's difficult being in  two different places." So how does he cope? He deadpans: "I walk very  fast."

It isn't even as if Mr Herbert is marooned in a backwater. As the  Policing and Criminal Justice minister reporting jointly to Theresa May  and Kenneth Clarke, he faces one of the trickiest dilemmas for the  Coalition: how to keep crime levels on their downward trajectory while  cutting spending on police and the courts.

Although an instinctive  loyalist, Mr Herbert strays well beyond government policy in one area -  marriage equality. He shares Nick Clegg's view that same-sex couples  should be allowed to marry in church, rather than limited to the secular  settings proposed by the Government.

His attitude is not  surprising. The first openly gay candidate to be selected by a Tory  constituency party, he joined his partner, Jason Eades, in civil  partnership three years ago. He says it was the most important event in  his life, but wished they could have been offered the choice of a church  wedding. "It's always been a matter of regret to me that the same  options available to heterosexual couples were not available to me," he  says.

"My view is churches should be permitted to offer same-sex  marriages if that is what their denomination allows. I believe in  religious freedom. We should not be dictating what they do on their own  premises or in their own ceremonies."

The Home Office recently  completed a consultation exercise on the issue and is now working on its  final proposals with the aim of gay marriage becoming legal by 2015.  The move will be put to a free vote of MPs but looks certain to be  approved. Mr Herbert says: "The longer this debate has gone on, the more  strongly I have felt about this issue. Equal marriage is a  straightforward matter of equality."

There is little prospect of  respite for Mr Herbert after MPs head off for their summer break  tomorrow as the Home Office is at the heart of efforts to ensure the  Olympics runs smoothly - and will be on standby to cope with any  emergency that could arise. The department has been deeply embarrassed  by G4S's failure to provide adequate Olympic security but Mr Herbert  insists the Government's rapid response - deploying 3,500 soldiers - was  proof that it's able to cope in a crisis. "We are absolutely determined  to deliver a safe Games and an enormous amount of work and planning has  gone into that. The action we took to ensure the Olympic site was  properly guarded is a reflection that where we need to act, we will."

He  adds: "We have seen the torch relay being successfully run across the  country - that in itself has produced a big policing and security  challenge, much of it behind the scenes."

After the Games end, Mr  Herbert could soon find his two jobs replaced by one - in the Cabinet.  He is near the front of the queue for promotion and could have expected  to become a Secretary of State had the Conservatives won the last  election outright.

Appointed to the Tory front bench by David  Cameron just seven months after becoming an MP, he appeals to both wings  of the party - as symbolised by his two departmental bosses -  describing himself as a reformer who is also a "deep Conservative".

The  challenge the Prime Minister handed him two years ago was to take  direct responsibility for driving through parallel reforms to the police  and the criminal justice system designed to deliver more to the public  for less money.

For years governments have baulked at scrapping  the historic array of special payments and allowances enjoyed by the  police. But this time, the Coalition insists, it will be different and  is preparing to overhaul pay scales and recruitment. Today, Mr Herbert  will set out plans for the Police Professional Body, half drawn from  outside the force, to oversee standards.The stance has sent relations  plunging between the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file  officers, and Home Office ministers, with Ms May barracked and booed at  the Fed's recent conference.

Mr Herbert retorts: "I'm a fierce  defender of the British model of policing, but there are things that  have to change... I am not in office to be loved, I'm in office to take  those necessary decisions. It's important we have a sensible dialogue  about them and hurling insults is not going to deflect the Government."

He  adds: "I see my job as doing everything I can to free up police, to  promote professionalism, to make it easier for police to do their job,  to equip them as well as we can, to reduce bureaucr acy."

Wearing  his other departmental hat, Mr Herbert is trying to produce sweeping  changes in a court system he condemns as often arcane, cumbersome and  insensitive to victims.

He advocates greater use of technology in  trials, more magistrates sitting singularly rather than in groups of  three and - drawing from last year's experience of dealing with rioters -  holding more hearings at night and at weekends. "As in other walks of  life, flexible working is increasingly popular and necessary to meet  patterns of demand - criminals don't stop committing offences over the  weekend.

"A younger generation of magistrates might find it easier to sit in the evenings after work."

Nick Herbert: rise to power

From  being the first openly gay Conservative parliamentary candidate to the seat of Arundel and South Downs in 2005, Nick Herbert's political career  has been on an upward trajectory. He quickly rose to the Shadow Cabinet  under David Cameron and was appointed by the Coalition as minister for  Policing and Criminal Justice. Last week he announced plans for "swift  and sure" justice, involving flexible court hours and "neighbourhood  panels" to deal with low-level criminality. As a founder of the  centre-right liberal think tank Reform, he has campaigned for extending  choice and private sector involvement in the provision of public  services. He has criticised colleagues opposed to gay marriage and,  while describing himself as Christian, challenged the Church of  England's position.

Christopher N Howarth