Manchester economist Lord Jim O’Neill has resigned from his position as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse, saying that his time in Government “has come to its natural end”.
O’Neill was appointed as Treasury secretary after the general election in May 2015 by then Prime Minister David Cameron, to support Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, and to chair a review on antimicrobial resistant.
Following the Brexit vote in June and Cameron’s replacement with Theresa May, O’Neill’s position in Government was rumoured to have become tenuous, with reports that he threatened to quit in July over May’s delay in accepting Chinese investment in relation to the Hinckley power plan project.
In his resignation letter, he cited the conclusion of the antimicrobial resistance review as a natural end to his time in Government.
He said: “I joined the Government with the AMR Review already well developed in terms of our ideas and influence, but entered office, believing its goals would be enhanced by being a Minister. I primarily joined however for the specific purpose of helping deliver the Northern Powerhouse, and to help boost our economic ties with key growing economies around the world, especially China and India and other rapidly emerging economies.
“The case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention. I am leaving knowing that I can play some role supporting these critical initiatives as a non-governmental person.”
In her response, May acknowledged O’Neill’s “significant contribution” to growth outside of the South East, “through the Northern Powerhouse and on promoting stronger economic links with emerging economies, including China and India. You have laid important foundations in these areas, and the Government will build on them.”