London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Tuesday announced the creation of four new or re-purposed ministries to create an energy-focussed department as he undertook a mini reshuffle of his Cabinet.
The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is tasked with securing long-term energy supply for the UK, bringing down household bills and halving inflation.
A new dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, merging of the business and trade departments to create a combined Department for Business and Trade and a “re-focused” Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are among the other changes in his government.
It came as Sunak replaced Nadhim Zahawi, sacked as a Cabinet minister without portfolio and Conservative Party chair for breach of the ministerial code, with former trade minister and ally Greg Hands.
Grant Shapps has been appointed as the new UK Secretary for Energy Security and Net Zero, Michelle Donelan takes charge of Science, Innovation and Technology and Lucy Frazer becomes Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport in a new streamlined DCMS.
Meanwhile, UK Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch stays in her job while taking additional charge of business and industry in a new combined department.
“A combined Department for Business and Trade will support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade,” Downing Street said in a statement.
“The changes will ensure the right skills and teams are focussed on the Prime Minister’s five promises: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats,” it said.
The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero is said to recognise the significant impact rising prices have had on households across the UK as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the need to secure more energy from domestic nuclear and renewable sources as we seize the opportunities of net zero.
The new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has been tasked with driving the innovation that will deliver “improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy”.
“Having a single department focussed on turning scientific and technical innovations into practical, appliable solutions to the challenges we face will help make sure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world,” Downing Street noted.
Greg Hands took Twitter soon after to express excitement at his appointment as the man in charge of the governing Tories ahead of a general election expected next year.
“I am excited to be asked by Rishi Sunak to be chairman of the Conservatives,” said Hands, who was a trade minister in the erstwhile Department for International Trade (DIT) until now.
“I joined the party in 1986 – a ward chairman in 1992, a councillor in 1998, a group leader in 1999, an MP in 2005, a minister in 2011 – an honour to chair it in 2023! The work starts right away,” he said.
The mini reshuffle was in the works since Zahawi was sacked at the end of last month after an ethics inquiry into his tax affairs found he committed a “serious breach” of the ministerial code.
The Opposition has been critical of the latest changes with Labour’s shadow climate and net zero secretary, Ed Miliband, saying “rearranging of deckchairs on the sinking Titanic of failed Conservative energy policy will not rescue the country”.
But the government insists the changes will help focus on the top government priorities laid out by Sunak, who had promised a standalone department for energy while campaigning against Liz Truss in the Conservative Party leadership election last year.
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