PM carries out Whitehall shake-up as he reshuffles ministers

Wednesday, Feb 08, 2023

LONDON: Rishi Sunak has carried out a sweeping shake-up of Whitehall, creating a new department for energy security and net zero amid promises to cut household bills and halve inflation.

The creation of four new Government departments, aimed at boosting economic growth and addressing the energy crisis, marks a major reshaping of some key Government departments.

Mr Sunak also replaced sacked Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi with Greg Hands, who had been trade minister. “The Government needs to reflect the priorities of the British people and be designed to deliver for them,” the Prime Minister tweeted. “These changes will focus teams on the issues that will build a better future for our children & grandchildren.” Downing Street admitted the changes will not be a “silver bullet” to address the problems facing the UK but said the moves have been “worked on for some time”.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which will be tasked with securing the UK’s long-term energy supply, will be headed up by Grant Shapps, who had been business secretary. Mr Shapps tweeted that he was “delighted” to lead the new ministry. “My focus will be securing our long-term energy supply, bringing down bills and thereby helping to halve inflation,” he said.

Full details of the responsibilities of the new departments are expected to be set out later on Tuesday, No 10 said. But Downing Street pointed out that linking energy and net zero more explicitly made sense.

Kemi Badenoch, who was international trade secretary, will now lead the joint Department for Business and Trade. Lucy Frazer joins the Cabinet as Culture Secretary in a department which has been shorn of its responsibility for digital technology, but will instead focus on the creative arts and sport. Michelle Donelan moves from culture to the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

Downing Street said that the creation of four new departments would “ensure the right skills and teams are focused on the Prime Minister’s five promises”.

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology meanwhile will “drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy”, while the new Department for Business and Trade will “support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad”.

Responsibility for the Online Safety Bill, a major piece of Government legislation currently being debated in the House of Lords, will remain with Ms Donelan as she moves to the new department.

Mr Hands, who takes on the role of party chairman ahead of local elections in May, said he is “excited” to get started in his new role. Lee Anderson, the Ashfield MP who has become one of the most outspoken “red wall” backbenchers, was made deputy chairman.

Meanwhile, Labour hit out at Mr Sunak, accusing him of failing to prioritise industrial strategy amid the splitting up of Beis. Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said Mr Sunak’s “decision to remove the Industrial Strategy from his Government’s priority list shows quite clearly that he has no plan to drive growth in our fantastic industries”.