Since day one of her premiership, Theresa May’s aim has been to distance herself from George Osborne’s economic policy as far as possible. Not content on a mere reshuffle, May undertook a full change of Government and essentially pressed the reset button on the year that followed the 2015 general election, writes Ally Vivona of PPS Group.
One of her first announcements was the joining together of the Department of Energy & Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to create a Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Greg Clark leads the new department, having been replaced in his previous role at the Department for Communities & Local Government by Sajid Javid. DECC now essentially no longer exists and BIS has also seen some of its portfolio be redistributed to other departments.
It’s not only the ministers who have been switched around but the civil servants at BEIS are also playing musical chairs. Perhaps even more significant than Greg Clark’s appointment is the departure of Sir Martin Donnelly who had been Joint Permanent Secretary of BIS alongside Alex Chisholm since 2010. Chisholm is now confirmed as Permanent Secretary.
The aim of the bold and costly merger is to streamline two previously conflicting departments into having one centralised industrial strategy. It’s a bold move considering that Cameron shied away from meddling too much with established departments and it’s a strong hint of the change in mood and style of the current leadership.
We are now a few weeks into the new regime and junior ministers have had time to settle into their new roles. Now the vision has to be delivered.
The Government’s recent confirmation that Hinkley Point will go ahead with enhanced security will see the UK’s first new nuclear reactor built in two decades. Ministers for BEIS addressed the Commons for the first time in September with Greg Clark strongly hinting that there will be the rumoured new select committee, although this is still to be confirmed.
What is clear is that energy and not austerity is now at the forefront of Government policy. This influx of new people with new agendas presents a significant opportunity for businesses and developers to engage and develop relationships but the landscape has shifted and business needs to shape shift to take advantage of the new world. It’s time for a good hard look in the mirror and where needed, an autumn makeover before the Autumn Statement.