Rishi Sunak has promoted the trade minister, Greg Hands, to replace Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative party chair as he carried out a mini-reshuffle to try to reassert his grip over his divided party and reshape the government to reflect his priorities. To coincide with the reshuffle, No 10 has published a 15-page report explaining how the machinery of government changes will work.
The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, revealed at a briefing that Rishi Sunak told him at a recent meeting that he regarded respect for the rule of law as “absolutely non-negotiable”. This came as Sunak appointed Lee Anderson as Conservative party deputy chairman. Anderson recently suggested to Tory MPs in a WhatsApp exchange that officials opposing the government’s Rwanda deportation policy on human rights grounds might be guilty of “treason”.
Richard Sharp, the BBC chair, has revealed he personally informed Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak that he wanted the job before he applied, as he underwent a sometimes brutal interrogation from MPs over alleged conflicts of interest.
Peers vote to remove clause from public order bill saying 'slow walking' could count as 'serious disruption'
Peers have also voted to remove a clause from the public order bill that would allow the police treat “slow walking” as a form of “serious disruption”, which would make it easier for them to stop or arrest the protesters engaged in it.
The provision was voted down by 254 to 240 – a majority 14.
This measure was only introduced to the bill in the Lords and so cannot return during parliamentary ping-pong as it was not in the original legislation that went before the Commons.
Poll suggests half of Scots back UK government's decision to block Holyrood gender recognition bill
SNP supporters cautioned against over-interpreting the weekend’s YouGov polling that showed a dip in support for the party as evidence the ongoing trans prisoners row is cutting through to the Scottish public. (See 4.08pm.)
But another poll today from Ipsos finds that 50% of those surveyed support the UK government’s decision to block Holyrood’s gender recognition bill, a pretty significant result given the constitutional implications of the move by Westminster to stop the legislation going for royal assent.
The party breakdown is interesting too; despite Scottish Labour (and indeed all parties bar the Scottish Conservatives) supporting the bill to simplify how an individual changes gender, 65% of Scottish Labour voters believe the UK was right to block it.
Even amongst younger voters, who have been most supportive of the changes in previous polling, those aged 16-34 are split on this question – while 40% say the UK government should have blocked the bill, 38% say it should not have done so.
This poll suggests that Nicola Sturgeon - who continues to face a barrage of criticism over the accommodation of transgender offenders in Scottish prisons – has a lot of work to do persuading voters that challenging the UK government through the courts on this issue is the right thing to do and the best use of her government’s time and resources.
My colleague Peter Walker has a good profile of Lee Anderson, Rishi Sunak’s surprise choice for Conservative party deputy chairman. It’s here.
Peers vote to remove clause from public order bill giving police significant extension of stop and search powers
The government has lost another voted in the House of Lords on the public order bill. As PA Media reports, peers voted by 284 to 209 – a majority 75 – for a Labour amendement that will remove from the bill a measure that would allow police officers to search people without suspicion in a designated area to look for items that could be used in offences such as “locking on”.
Explaining why he was supporting the Labour amendment, Lord Paddick, a Lib Dem peer and former police officer, said:
These are a significant expansion of police powers at a time when confidence in the police is waning. There is potentially an endless list of objects that could be made, adapted or intended for use in the course of or in connection with protest offences.
Coupled with the power to stop and search without suspicion, this could result in many innocent people being stopped, searched and potentially arrested for being in possession of commonplace objects.
Today is the second day of the bill’s report stage in the Lords and further votes are due as the debate goes on.
The government was defeated several times on the bill last month during the first day of report stage.
Here are comments from two thinktanks, from the left and the right, welcoming Rishi Sunak’s decision to create a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.
This is from Ryan Wain, director for politics at the Tony Blair Institute.
Creating a Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is a step in the right direction for government. But we need a leap.
The transformative impact of technology cannot be overstated. Akin to the Industrial Revolution, it is fundamentally reshaping how we live our lives, the jobs we’ll do, the skills we need and how government should be run. Its potential to revolutionise public services and to underpin an industrial strategy remains untapped.
It is an enabler that has to run through every aspect of government, remaining accountable to the highest level. This should be supported by investment in research and development, and the UK should signal its intent to bring the best minds into the heart of government.
And this is from Sebastian Payne, director of Onward.
PA Media has some good statistics about today’s reshuffle. PA says:
Lucy Frazer is the 12th person to be appointed culture secretary in the past 13 years.
Since 2010, the post has also been held by Jeremy Hunt (2010-12), Maria Miller (2012-14), Sajid Javid (2014-15), John Whittingdale (2015-16), Karen Bradley (2016-17), Matt Hancock (2017-18), Jeremy Wright (2018-19), Nicky Morgan (2019-20), Oliver Dowden (2020-21), Nadine Dorries (2021-22) and Michelle Donelan (2022-23).
In the 13 years from 1997 to 2010, the UK had only five culture secretaries: Chris Smith (1997-2001), Tessa Jowell (2001-07), James Purnell (2007-08), Andy Burnham (2008-09) and Ben Bradshaw (2009-10).
Kemi Badenoch has become the ninth business secretary since 2010.
Six people have held the role in the past four years.
The full list for the past 13 years is: Vince Cable (2010-15), Sajid Javid (2015-16), Greg Clark (2016-19), Andrea Leadsom (2019-20), Alok Sharma (2020-21), Kwasi Kwarteng (2021-22), Jacob Rees-Mogg (2022), Grant Shapps (2022-23) and now Badenoch.
The UK has its third incarnation of a department for energy.
The first existed from 1974 to 1992 and was run by the secretary of state for energy.
Ministers who held the post included Labour’s Tony Benn (1975-79) and Conservative Nigel Lawson (1981-83).
The second version lasted from 2008 to 2016 and was headed by the secretary of state for Energy & Climate Change, who included Labour’s Ed Miliband (2008-10) and Liberal Democrat Ed Davey (2012-15).
The third, and latest, will be led by Grant Shapps as secretary of state for Energy Security & net zero.
Lucy Frazer’s appointment as culture secretary means there is a vacancy for housing minister.
Whoever replaces her will be the 15th person to hold the role in the past 13 years.
They will also be the fifth housing minister in the past 12 months.
Salmond claims trans row has set back cause of Scottish independence and reduced Sturgeon to 'incoherence'
This morning the Daily Telegraph splashed on a story about Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, claiming that Nicola Sturgeon’s “self-indulgent nonsense” on trans rights has set back the cause of Scottish independence by years. The report is based on what Salmond told a Burns supper in Dundee on Saturday.
Salmond has given interviews to the World at One and Times Radio today repeating the same point. In his Times Radio interview, which is being broadcast later this afternoon, he said Sturgeon should abandon plans for the Scottish government to challenge Westminster’s decision to block its gender recognition reform bill.
He also claimed that Sturgeon had been reduced to “stumbling incoherence” on this issue. Referring to what Sturgeon said at her press conference yesterday, where she seemed uncomfortable defending her decision to describe the trans woman rapist Isla Bryson as “her”, Salmond said:
When you’re in a hole, as the SNP are at the present moment, you stop digging, and therefore abandoned all thought of having a court battle over this because all it will do is prolong the publicity.
And the difficultly of the publicity is exemplified by Nicola Sturgeon’s own performance. I mean, Nicola’s one of the most gifted communicators in politics but on this issue, and trying to defend self identification, she has been reduced to stumbling incoherence.
And a nationalist leader in Scotland, you know, has many things said about them by Westminster, but you know, when you get to the stage that people are starting to laugh at you, then that is the stage of what you should realise you’re trying to defend the indefensible.
Salmond and Sturgeon were very close. He was her mentor and she was his deputy, but their relationship broke down after the allegations emerged that led to Salmond being tried (and acquitted) on various sexual assault charges.
Sam Coates from Sky has received a message from a Tory MP who is not a Lee Anderson fan.
Scottish teachers announce further strike dates
Scotland’s teaching strikes are to escalate with the constituencies of the first minister, education secretary and others targeted by a further six days of action at the end of February and early March.
The constituencies of Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow Southside), her deputy John Swinney (Perthshire north), education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville (Dunfermline), Dumfries and Galloway councillor Katie Hagman, resources spokesperson for council umbrella body Cosla (Mid Galloway and Wigtown West), and Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer (East Dunbartonshire) will be affected.
A national strike is already scheduled to take place on 28 February and 1 March, with plans for 20 days of rolling strikes across all local authority areas from 13 March until 21 April.
Andrea Bradley, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said that escalation had been forced by the Scottish government: ““The response from the Scottish government and Cosla has been, essentially, nil.”
Rishi Sunak has dismissed claims that the appointment of Richard Sharp as BBC chairman was an example of “establishment cronyism”. Sunak used to work for Sharp when they were both at Goldman Sachs, and in an interview with ITV it was put to him that what came out at the select committee hearing this morning showed cronyism in action. Sunak said the appointment was made before his time, and that it was carried out properly. He said:
This is obviously about an appointment made by a previous prime minister before I took this job so it’s hard for me to comment on the details of it.
What I do know is that his appointment process was conducted rigorously and transparently; it was approved by a panel of experts and indeed a cross-party select committee in parliament.
But it is right that people have confidence in the process and that’s why the independent commissioner on public appointments is relooking at the process to make sure that everything was done correctly.
Here is my colleague Peter Walker’s story about Sharp’s appearance before the culture committee this morning.
Lee Anderson's appointment as Tory deputy chair - verdict from Twitter commentariat
Here is some comment from journalists on the appointment of Lee Anderson as the Conservative party’s deputy chair. (See 2.19pm.)
From my colleague Pippa Crerar
This is a reference to Anderson claiming last year that people could make meals for 30p a day. He was arguing that people were resorting to food banks because they could not cook properly.
From Josiah Mortimer from Byline Times
From my colleage Richard Partington
From Prospect’s Sam Freedman
From Charlotte Gill from GB News
This is a reference to how Anderson recently posted on Twitter a picture of a woman who works for him, saying she earns less than £30,000, lives in central London and does not need to use food banks. He was defending another Tory MP who said nurses should not need to use food banks.
From the Spectator’s James Heale
From my colleague Rafael Behr
Lee Anderson appointed deputy chair of Conservative party
This may turn out to be the most interesting appointment of the reshuffle. It is certainly the most surprising. Lee Anderson has been appointed deputy chair of the Conservative party.
The Conservative party normally has plenty of vice-chairs, and those positions are not deemed significant. But the deputy chairmanship is a considered a proper job.
His appointment is surprising because Anderson is best known as a controversialist with a talent for saying things that offend liberal opinion and get him positive coverage in tabloid papers. Despite being a former Labour councillor, he is very rightwing on topics such as welfare and immigration, and firmly pro-Brexit. He won Ashfield from Labour in 2019 and is the archetypal “red wall” Tory.
Anderson is not a Sunak loyalist, and only last month it was reported that he told a private WhatsApp group for Tory MPs that the government was like the “band on the Titanic”. (He was complaining about the small boats policy, which he thought was insufficiently draconian.) But Sunak has not really got any authentic “red wall” voices in cabinet, and so Anderson will fill a gap.
His appointment will also mean that there is someone at CCHQ capable of enthusing grassroots Tory rightwingers. Greg Hands, the new chairman, is seen as a competent administrator, rather than a partisan Labour-basher, he is relatively centrist (in Tory terms) and he voted remain. He also speaks German, among various other languages, which to someone like Anderson would not necessarily be seen as a virtue.
Hunt and Reeves clash over Labour's claim BP's £23bn profits show need for more extensive windfall tax
Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, and Rachel Reeves, his Labour shadow, clashed at Treasury questions over the announcement today from BP that its annual profits more than doubled to $28bn (£23bn) in 2022.
Reeves said this showed why the scope of the windfall tax should be extended. She said:
Last week Shell announced profits of £32bn, the highest in their 115-year history. Today BP announced profits £23bn, the highest in their history. Meanwhile in April energy bills for households are going to go up by £500.
The cost-of-living crisis is far from over, so will the government follow our lead and have a proper windfall tax to keep people’s energy bills down?
In response, Hunt said the government’s current windfall was raising more money than what Labour was proposing in the autumn.
Reeves than accused Hunt of protecting the oil companies. She said:
There we go again the government shielding the energy companies and asking ordinary families and businesses to pay more. Shell has spent more on share buybacks than they’ve invested in renewables.
Last year BP’s dividends and share buybacks were 14 times higher than investment in low carbon energy, so the government are allowing energy companies to make profits that are the windfalls of war whilst ordinary families and business pay the price. Isn’t it the case that Tories can’t solve the cost-of-living crisis because they are the cost-of-living crisis?
No and the total tax take from that sector is £80bn over five years which is more than the entire cost of funding the police force.
Now she can play politics but we will be responsible because we want lower bills, more investment in transition and more money for public services like the police.
Nick Turton, external affairs director at the Energy Institute, was part of the team that set up the previous Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2008. He says the new version will have to show that it has real clout around the cabinet table to be effective. He says:
Energy security and net zero is the right mandate for our times. The big question is whether this is simply moving deckchairs around or putting real clout where it’s needed.
At its inception, DECC was insurgent and, under its various Secretaries of State [including LibDem ministers during the 2010-2015 coalition], managed to use its political capital to challenge colleagues around the cabinet table.
Success for the new department in terms of energy security and the transition to net zero will be heavily dependent on decisions taken elsewhere in Whitehall. It needs to wield influence over Treasury spending, planning and building policy, farming and land use – and of course back into trade and industry policy.
At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson said he did not “recognise” the Lib Dem claim that the Whitehall reorganisation would cost at least £60m. (See 11.43am.) The spokesperson said:
It’s worth stressing obviously the teams are already in place.
This is about bringing together teams under the priorities of the prime minister. So we wouldn’t expect there to be significant additional costs to this.
George Osborne, the former Tory chancellor, is pleased about Greg Hands’ promotion.
At the lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson did not deny reports that Michael Gove was originally lined up to be the new science secretary. (See 11.50am.) Asked about the story, the spokesperson said he would not comment on what might have been considered.
At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson said combining the business and international trade departments made sense because they “naturally go together”. He told journalists:
This is a recognition, I think that’s been put forward from a number of individuals, that business and trade naturally go together and that when you’re planning trade deals to benefit UK business it makes sense to link them together under one secretary of state so there’s a clearer lines of responsibility.
Sebastian Payne, the former FT journalist who now runs Onward, a conservative thinktank, agrees.
Rishi Sunak is certainly thinking long term. He says the reshuffle will help the government to address the issues necessary “to build a better future for our children and grandchildren”.
And here are two tweets from two opposition MPs who sit on the Commons culture committee. They don’t sound won over by Richard Sharp either.
From the SNP’s John Nicolson
From Labour’s Kevin Brennan
The culture committee’s hearing with Richard Sharp is over. Judging by what some journalists are saying on Twitter, he did not make a great impression. Here is some of the reaction.
From the Sunday Times’ Gabriel Pogrund, who broke the original story about Sharp’s involvement in the offer of a loan guarantee to Boris Johnson
From my colleague Peter Walker
From Tortoise’s Cat Neilan
From the Guido Fawkes website
According to the Times, Rishi Sunak wanted Michael Gove to be the new science, innovation and technology secretary, but he asked to stay at levelling up.
Nick Macpherson, a former permanent secretary at the Treasury, says Rishi Sunak’s Whitehall reorganisation is very similar to Gordon Brown’s in 2007.
And Grant Shapps has tweeted about his new job.
According to a report by the Institute for Government, setting up a new government department costs at least £15m, “with a further estimated cost of up to £34m when including loss of productivity as staff adjust to the new organisation”. The Liberal Democrats say that means today’s reorganisation will cost at least £60m and that it’s [£60m] a waste of money.
Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, said:
Rather than fritter away tens of millions of taxpayers’ cash on costly vanity projects, [Rishi] Sunak should spend the money where it’s most needed. This cash [£60m] could fund 25m free school meals.
Greg Hands says he is “excited” to be the next Conservative party chairman.
Rishi Sunak waited more than a week before he announced a replacement to Nadhim Zahawi, who was sacked a week ago on Sunday. With the party more than 20 points behind Labour in the polls, and expected to do badly in the local elections in May, Sunak was said to have difficulties finding someone to take on the job.
John Stevens from the Mirror says all the new cabinet ministers represent seats in the south of England.
Rishi Sunak represents Richmond in Yorkshire and it has been said he sees himself as the senior representative of the north of England in cabinet. In some respects he is, but he was born in Southampton and educated in the south, and most Britons do not think of him as a northern.
Lucy Frazer was responsible for housing at the levelling up department before her promotion to culture secretary. As the BBC’s Alex Partridge reports, her replacement will be the sixth housing minister in a year.
No 10 explains reasons for creation of 'four new departments'
This is what Downing Street is saying about the reasons for the Whitehall reorganisation announced as part of the reshuffle.
The No 10 statement says Rishi Sunak has “created four new departments”, although it would be more accurate to say he has created two new ones (energy security, and science, innovation and technology), abolished one (international trade), and reorganised two (business and culture).
Downing Street says:
A new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, has been tasked with securing our long-term energy supply, bringing down bills and halving inflation. The move recognises the significant impact rising prices have had on households across the country as a result of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, and the need to secure more energy from domestic nuclear and renewable sources as we seize the opportunities of net zero.
A dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy. Having a single department focused 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.
A combined Department for Business and Trade will support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade.
Finally, a re-focused Department for Culture, Media and Sport will recognise the importance of these industries to our economy and build on the UK’s position as a global leader in the creative arts.
Downing Street also says the changes will “ensure the right skills and teams are focused on the prime minister’s five promises: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats”.
But in fact the reorganisation does not affect health or the Home Office, which are responsible for the final two pledges. And although the new departments have an economic role, the Treasury (which, again, is not affected by the reorganisation) is the government’s main economic department, and hence the lead department for the first three promises.
No 10 confirms five new appointments, with Lucy Frazer promoted to culture secretary and Greg Hands to Tory chair
Downing Street has confirmed five appointments.
Grant Shapps will be the new secretary of state for energy security and net zero. He was business secretary.
Michelle Donelan will be the new secretary of state for science, innovation and technology. She was culture secretary.
Kemi Badenoch will be the new secretary of state for business and trade. She was international trade secretary, but she will retain the “president of the board of trade” title she currently has (although it is little used) and she will remain minister for women and equalities.
Lucy Frazer is the new secretary for culture, media and sport. She was a levelling up minister.
Greg Hands is the new Conservative party chair. He was an international trade secretary.
Frazer and Hands are both being promoted to cabinet-level jobs. The other three were already cabinet ministers.
Back at the culture committee, Julie Elliott (Lab) is asking the questions. Richard Sharp says he “can see with the benefit of hindsight” why the committee is suggesting that he should have mentioned the Blyth affair when he gave evidence to it prior to his appointment as BBC chairman. But he says that his view was that there was no conflict of interest, and that the issue had been resolved.
Q: But did you not think, even if he did nothing wrong, that people might be interested?
Sharp says he regrets this has caused embarrassment to the BBC.
Q: But the fact that you were involved in this loan arrangement, in any respect – why did you not think you should be transparent about this? It just does not add up.
Sharp says he thought passing it on to Simon Case was the end of the matter.
Q: Did you not think you were hiding something?
No, says Sharp.
Back to the reshuffle, and this is from my colleague Pippa Crerar on the current state of play.
Kevin Brennan (Lab) asks Richard Sharp why he did not just say to Sam Blyth that he could not help him meet Simon Case to discuss helping Boris Johnson financially because he was in the middle of applying for a public post. He suggests that Sharp should have told Blyth: “What kind of idiot do you think I am?”
Sharp says he was just trying to ensure that due process was followed.
Q: Why didn’t you suggest that Blyth take it up with a member of the Johnson family, like Boris Johnson’s brother Jo?
Sharp says he does not know Jo Johnson well.
Richard Sharp told the culture committee that he told Boris Johnson he was arranging for Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson’s, to meet Simon Case to discuss how he might be able to support Johnson financially. But he disputed suggestions that this amounted to giving Johnson financial advice.
At the culture committee Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, is defending his decision to sit on the interview panel that chose the BBC’s head of news. The SNP MP John Nicolson told him that BBC staff were furious about this, because it looked like interference by the chairman in an editorial matter, and Sharp himself had no journalism experience when he was appointed chairman.
Sharp said that he was entitled to attend because the head of news also sits on the BBC’s board, and that he was chairman of the board.
Back to the culture committee, and Richard Sharp told the MPs on it that he told Boris Johnson that he would be applying to be BBC chairman.
That happened after Sam Blyth had suggested to Sharp over dinner, in September 2020, that he might be able to help Johnson out with his finances, but before Blyth had asked him to put him in touch with Simon Case to discuss the details.
Sharp said that when he had that conversation with Johnson, he did not mention anything about Blyth considering helping him out financially.
Back to the reshuffle, and the Institute for Government thinktank, which is running its own reshuffle blog, has a useful “family tree” about the business and trade departments, showing how they have been reorganised over the years. It goes back to 1861.
Sharp says cabinet secretary's memo implying he had given Johnson financial advice badly worded
At the culture committee Richard Sharp started by saying that he had never given financial advice to Boris Johnson (which is not something he was accused of doing, in the original Sunday Times report about this).
And he set out his account of how he came to be involved in putting Sam Blyth in touch with Simon Case. (See 10.01am.)
He said Blyth first raised the issue of helping Boris Johnson financially as an “after-dinner party comment”.
Damian Green, the acting chair of the committee, asked why, if Sharp had never given Johnson financial advice, Case, the cabinet secretary, wrote a memo to Johnson saying:
Given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC chair, it is important that you no longer ask his advice about your personal financial matters.
Sharp said this wording was an “ambiguous construction that is open to misinterpretation”. He said the Cabinet Office had confirmed this to him unofficially. He had never given Johnson financial advice, he said.
He said Case wrote that memo to ensure that Johnson did not call Sharp, because if he had done so it would have created a conflict of interest. At that point Sharp was applying to be BBC chairman.
Green said that, in the light of what Sharp was saying, the wording of the memo seemed “unbelievably shoddy”.
Greg Hands reportedly set to be next Conservative party chair
And Greg Hands, an international trade minister, will replace Nadhim Zahawi as the new Conservative party chairman, Swinford reports.
Shapps reportedly set to be new energy secretary, and Badenoch set to replace him as business secretary
Back to the reshuffle, and Steven Swinford from the Times says that Grant Shapps, the current business secretary, is expected to be the new energy secretary, and that Kemi Badenoch, the current international trade secretary, is expected to be the new business secretary.
At face value, that might look like a demotion for Shapps, but No 10 might argue that the new department is so important that this is at least as important as being business secretary. For Badenoch, this would look like a promotion – even if the new business department no longer has energy.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp questioned by Commons culture committee about conflict of interest claims
The Commons culture committee has just started taking evidence from Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, about claims that before his appointment he should have declared that he played a role in helping Boris Johnson get access to a £800,000 loan guarantee.
Sharp insists he did not need to declare this, because there was no conflict of interest. He says that all that happened was that when Sam Blyth, a personal friend for years, expressed interest in helping Johnson out with his finances (Blyth is a distant cousin of Johnson’s, is wealthy, and had read newspaper reports saying Johnson was short of cash), Sharp put him in touch with Simon Case, the cabinet secretary. Sharp was working as an adviser in No 10 at the time.
Sharp offered a full account of his involvement here.
Normally the opposition appoints spokespeople to shadow government ministers. But Labour already has a cabinet-rank spokesperson for climate change and net zero, Ed Miliband, and so if Rishi Sunak does create an energy department, you could argue he will be creating a cabinet post to “shadow” a structure Labour has in place already.
Miliband, who was energy secretary in the last Labour government, says what really needs to change as the policy. In a series of tweets, he makes the same argument as Greenpeace UK and Ed Davey, and even adopts the “deckchairs on the Titanic” simile used in the Greenpeace statement. (See 9.29am.)
Henry Zeffman from the Times has more on Rishi Sunak’s passion for science.
According to Sky’s Sam Coates, William Hague, the former Tory leader, Rishi Sunak’s predecessor as MP for Richmond in Yorkshire and one of the Tories whose advice Sunak rates most highly, has been calling for the establishment of a new government department to promote science and innovation.
Greenpeace UK has put out a statement saying that, without policy change, just creating a stand-alone energy department is pointless. It is exactly what Ed Davey was saying on the Today programme. (See 9.09am.) This is from Doug Parr, director of policy at Greenpeace UK.
As climate disasters intensify, energy costs spiral and the world continues to sink under rising seas, without other fundamental reforms, re-establishing a Department for Energy will be as helpful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s government policy and underinvestment that is holding back real action on the climate and energy crises, not the departments or ministers in place.
“Unless the new-look Department for Energy is given the freedom and funding to rapidly scale up renewable energy production – both offshore and on – to sure up domestic supply, as well as roll out a nationwide scheme to insulate the tens of millions of energy-wasting homes across the country, what’s the point?
This is from TalkTV’s Kate McCann.
“Next hour or so …” We’ll see. Reshuffles often take longer than expected, because all it takes is one minister to say no, or ask for time to think, and then the whole process gets clogged up. There is already some evidence that this one is not going to be quite as quick as originally expected. (See 8.30am.)
The cabinet will meet at 3pm, Steven Swinford from the Times reports.
Sunak neeeds to change energy policy, not just Whitehall machinery, says Ed Davey
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, was energy secretary in the coalition government, when energy and climate change was a standalone department. In an interview on the Today programme, asked about reports that Rishi Sunak is going to bring back that arrangement (see 8.38am), Davey said Sunak needed to change his policies, not just the Whitehall machinery.
He told the programme:
I do think bringing in energy department back is a positive step.
But, by itself, changing Whitehall machinery doesn’t get you better energy policy. Changing energy policy is also what’s needed. And we’ve not really seen anything to suggest that’s going to happen.
I think since 2015 their energy policy has been a disaster. We haven’t seen the investment in energy efficiency and installation that we should have done, or in renewables. Both of those would have meant that people’s bills would, still be higher because of Putin’s illegal invasion, but would be lower than they are now. That failure on energy policy has been an absolute disaster.
And my worry with this prime minister is while he might bring back a department focused on energy that could help deliver a change in policy, he’s announced some quite anti-renewable views during his leadership campaign. I just hope he drops those.
The BBC’s Chris Mason has more on the proposed changes to the departmental infrastructure around Whitehall.
The three existing departments expected to face restructuring are business, international trade and culture.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is led by Michelle Donelan, is expected to keep responsibility for the online safety bill, even if a new science and digital department is created, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
What Sunak said about creating new Department of Energy during Tory leadership campaign
When he stood for the Tory leadership in the summer, Rishi Sunak proposed re-establishing a department of energy as part of his “energy sovereignty strategy”. Here is an extract from the news release carrying the announcement. He said he would:
Bring in a new legal target to achieve ‘energy sovereignty’ by 2045 at the latest, ensuring the UK produces as much energy as it uses, with the aim of reaching the target even sooner. The new target will sit alongside the existing net zero emissions target to ensure there’s a balanced approach to driving down bills and protecting the environment.
Establish a new energy security committee to coordinate cross-government action ahead of the winter to keep critical power stations online and protect UK gas reserves. The committee will also be tasked with reforming the UK’s energy markets to cut bills.
Re-establish a Department of Energy by splitting up the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with a new secretary of state charged with delivering energy sovereignty.
Energy and climate change used to be a stand-alone department until it was merged with BEIS in 2016.
Cabinet meeting 'delayed until afternoon', Sky reports
Today’s cabinet meeting has been postponed until this afternoon, Sky’s Sam Coates reports.
Normally cabinet starts at 9.30am, but overnight there were reports that it was being delayed until 10.30am, to allow new appointments to be made first. Either those reports were based on a duff briefing, or else Rishi Sunak may have concluded that the reshuffle will take longer than planned.
Andrew Mitchell, the development minister, has been on media round duties this morning, primarily to talk about the British response to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Asked about the reshuffle, and whether he wanted to be the next party chairman, he told GB News:
Well, these are matters way above my pay grade and they are matters for the prime minister, but I’m very happy indeed doing a job which I’ve done before and loved very much, which is the international development job and I’m going to do my best, particularly today, to see that Britain puts its shoulder to the wheel and that we save as many lives as we can.
Here is our story by my colleagues Pippa Crerar and Jessica Elgot about the reshuffle.
And here is an extract.
The prime minister is also believed to be considering a shake-up of Whitehall by splitting the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into two or three new departments to better reflect his priorities.
The changes are likely to take place on Tuesday morning, with sources saying the morning cabinet meeting has been moved back to 10.30am.
Sources suggested that there could be a new energy department, with business and trade merged and a separate science and digital department too, with responsibilities removed from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. However, the Guardian understands that cabinet ministers whose departments are affected do not appear to have been pre-warned.
Rishi Sunak to hold limited cabinet shuffle
Good morning. When Rishi Sunak became prime minister, he appointed a cabinet but, given that Liz Truss had done the same less than two months previously, he did not make as many changes as he might otherwise have done, and it looked like a cabinet crafted in the interests of party management, not to suit his own priorities. This morning he is expected to announce a limited reshuffle, partly to fill the vacancy created when he sacked Nadhim Zahawi as party chairman, and so we should end up with a cabinet with more of a Sunak flavour.
The Sun and the Times had the story last night. This is from the Sun’s Harry Cole.
And these are from the Times’ Steven Swinford.
The announcements are expected soon.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Richard Sharp, chairman of the BBC, gives evidence to the Commons culture committee about his appointments, and claims of a potential conflict of interest.
10.30am: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.
11.30am: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.
3.20pm: Peers resume their debate at the report stage of the public order bill.
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