» Thursday, June 28, 2007

Government Reshuffle

The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) informed assembled journalists about the recent Cabinet reshuffle. The new Prime Minister was Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer was Alastair Darling, Foreign Secretary was David Miliband. The new Secretary of State for Justice and the Lord Chancellor was Jack Straw, Secretary of State for the Home Department was Jacqui Smith, Secretary State for Defence and Secretary of State for Scotland was Des Browne. Alan Johnson would become Secretary of State for Health and Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was now Hilary Benn. Secretary of State for International Development was Douglas Alexander, and Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform was John Hutton. The new Leader of the House, Minister for Women and Labour Party Chair was Harriet Harman, Secretary of State for Pensions and Secretary of State for Wales was Peter Hain, and Secretary of State for Transport had bee given to Ruth Kelly. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was Hazel Blears and the new Chief Whip was Geoff Hoon. Ed Balls had been appointed as Secretary of State for Schools, Children and Families (DCSF), and the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was Ed Miliband. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was James Purnell, and Shaun Woodward was the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council was Baroness Ashton, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was Andy Burnham. Secretary of State for Innovation, Unviversities and Skills was John Denham.

The PMS said that also attending Cabinet were Minister for the Olympics, and London and the South East was Tessa Jowell, the Lord Chief Whip Lord Grocott, the Attorney General Baroness Scotland, and the Minister for Housing Yvette Cooper. Lord Mark Malloch-Brown was appointed as Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN Beverley Hughes would be Minister for Children, with new responsibilities for youth justice and who would attend Cabinet discussions of social policy issues. The two Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Prime Ministers would be Ian Austin and Angela E Smith.

The PMS said that Ed Balls’ new department, the Department for Children, Schools and Families would take on the responsibility of educational policy for children up to the age of 19 from DFES. Funding for 16-19 education would in future go to schools and colleges via the local authority education budget, rather than through the Learning and Skills Council. The new department would take on responsibility including parenting from the Home Office, and it would have a greater role working with the Department of Work and Pensions and the Treasury on taking forward the Government’s strategy for ending child poverty. The new department would also have greater budget control alongside the Department of Health for tackling child obesity as well as alongside the DCMS for the promotion of youth sport. In addition, the Respect unit would be located in the DCSF. The new Department was clearly focused on the needs of children, as we were taking adult skills and universities out of the DFES, and we were bring in a number of policy areas which affected children. We were also giving the Department more responsibilities for policies affecting children, for example the Youth Justice Board and the Respect agenda. The PMS said that there was a focus very much on what people might describe as behavioural issues, youth crime etc being brought together in this new Department. We were also announcing today the establishment of a new Business Council for Britain. The Council would meet twice a year and would be chaired by a senior business person. It would report to the Government and to Parliament, and the names would be announced tomorrow. The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) had been abolished, with its responsibilities for skills and universities, moving to a new department. In its place, we were creating the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. This would assume the DTI’s policy responsibility for productivity and enterprise across Government, as well as responsibility for energy policy. The Better Regulation Unit would move from the Cabinet Office to the new Department. The Department would also have joint responsibility with DFID on trade policy and with the Foreign Office on trade promotion. The PMS said that the third new Department was the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, headed by John Denham. It would take responsibility from the DTI on science and innovation, and would oversee the science budget. There would be a new office of the Chief Scientific Advisor created with the Department, as well as taking responsibility from the old DFES for universities, higher education and further education. The PMS said that the Government Olympic Executive would remain within the DCMS, but it would report to Tessa Jowell as Minister of Sport for the Olympics based in Cabinet Office. The Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit would report jointly to the Prime Minister and to the Chancellor, and it would be based in the Treasury.

The PMS said that there would also be new Ministers for each region announced soon. They would be sharing portfolios, but they would also have responsibility for different issues relating to individual regions.

Asked how many Ministers had left the Cabinet today, the PMS replied that Tony Blair, John Prescott, John Reid, Margaret Beckett, Patricia Hewitt, Hilary Armstrong, Lord Falconer, Lord Goldsmith, Stephen Timms, Baroness Amos and Ian McCartney had all left, giving a total of eleven people.

Put that the DTI was losing half of its budget, and would it therefore be a downgraded department, and also, how would the Olympic Minister’s role work if Tessa Jowell was based in the Cabinet Office, but the actual main base was the DCMS, the PMS replied that the staff had to be based in the DCMS building, for pay and ration purposes. It was primarily a bureaucratic issue, as the staff would report to Tessa Jowell, as she had policy responsibility for the Olympics. With regards to the DTI, the fact that we were putting in a heavy hitting Minister in John Hutton who had a very strong track record from Health, and more recently, in pushing forward pensions reform at DWP, therefore signalled the importance we attached to the relations between business and the Government.

Asked why had Gordon Brown not appointed a Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), the PMS said that he had a very strong Cabinet. He was showing a strong leader as Prime Minister, and he had taken the position that it was not necessary to have a DPM.

Asked who would do PMQs when the Prime Minister was away, the PMS said that that would be something that would be decided when it arose.

Asked for further information about Ed Miliband’s role, as in the past, that post had been regarded as rather low in the pecking order, and was it now, therefore, an enhanced role, the PMS replied that Ed Miliband’s responsibility would be that he would have Departmental responsibility for Social Exclusion and the Voluntary Sector. He would also be responsible for working across Government with other Cabinet Ministers to develop and formulate the Government’s longer term policy agenda.

Asked if Ed Miliband would be backed up by more of a secretariat coming out of Downing Street into the Cabinet Office, the PMS replied that there was a stronger role for the Cabinet Office, under the team put together by Jeremy Heywood, although this would be in relation to Ed Miliband’s Governmental responsibilities.

Asked if we recognised the idea of people moving from No10 into the Cabinet Office, the PMS replied that the key thing was that we were strengthening the role of the Cabinet Office.

Asked if the Cabinet Office was going to be the Department of the Prime Minister, the PMS said that it was not the Prime Minister’s Department. Rather, it was the Cabinet Office, and its function was to ensure the smooth and effective function of Cabinet.

Asked if all of the reshuffle had been conducted from the Prime Minister’s office in the House of Commons, and was this a different style to other reshuffles, the PMOS said that the reshuffle had been conducted from the House of Commons office, and most of the meetings took place last night and during the course of this morning. Clearly, a number of the members of the previous Cabinet had resigned in advance, which therefore freed up some vacancies and made the planning process easier.

Asked if the people who left Cabinet saw the Prime Minister in person, the PMS replied that he did not want to get into individual Ministers, but the Prime Minister saw as many people in person as possible.

Put that there was not much evidence of reaching out beyond the party, the PMS replied that as he had said yesterday, it was only when people saw the composition of the full Government tomorrow that one might be able to form a view as to whether or not this was a Government of all the talents. The Prime Minister also emphasised yesterday that it was more about calling on people of goodwill to come together to work in public service.

Put that there was no attempt to get someone in from outside of the party like Paddy Ashdown, and was the Prime Minister disappointed that he was not able to, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was very happy with the Cabinet he had.

Put that there had been talk recently about the problems with social mobility, so would universities not have a problem getting more working class people in as a result of dividing the Department, the PMS said that what we were doing with the creation of this new Department was to bring together in one place the policy issues relating to children and young people. The fact that we were bringing together children and education and giving them more of a say over, for example, the role of the Youth Justice Board and more budget control over issues over obesity and sport should help address issues of social mobility, which as people knew often started at a very early age.

Asked for further information regarding Mark Malloch Brown’s role, the PMS replied that he would be a member of the House of Lords, and the PMS’ understanding was that he would take the labour Whip there, and that as he was coming from abroad, he would have use of a Grace and Favour home for an initial period.

Asked why the name of the DTI was being changed, when it was doing the same thing, the PMS said that the new Department was not responsible for science and innovation, which was around half of its budget. It had also taken on responsibility from the Cabinet Office for the Better Regulation Executive.

Asked if the PMS could explain further the trade aspect of the DTI, the PMS replied that there was a key development issue angle for trade policy, and the fact that DFID was being given joint responsibility for trade policy reflected that.

Asked what credibility Hilary Benn had as the new Secretary of State for DEFRA being a vegetarian, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought that he would make an excellent Secretary of State for DEFRA.

Asked if there was any change in the role of the Attorney General, and were there discussions with Lord Carlile and why was the Respect agenda going into the Youth Department, implying that all ASBOs were being slapped onto young people, the PMS replied that with regards to Lord Carlile, he was not aware of any talks, but we would not comment on individual discussions in any case. In terms of the future role of the Attorney General, clearly there was a wider and longer term debate that had to be had on the context of wider constitutional reform. These were issues in which we would have more to say over the coming days and weeks.

Asked if there were any added responsibilities for the Housing Minister, the PMS replied that it was his understanding that they stayed the same, but the fact that the Housing Minister attended Cabinet was a reflection of the importance of the role.

Asked about the advisory roles for the LibDems such as Lord Leicester, Baroness Williams etc, the PMS replied that he was not able to say anything about on this.

Asked why Jack Straw had also got the Lord Chancellor job as well as the Secretary of State for Justice role, as it was thought that the old fashioned title of Lord Chancellor would go, the PMS replied that the journalist should check with the Cabinet Office and Ministry of Justice who were the experts. There was a need for someone to have the title of Lord Chancellor.

Asked who would be in charge when the Prime Minister was out of the country, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was in charge wherever he was. That was always the position.

Asked if Shirley Williams would be on the payroll and was she acting in an advisory role, and would she be working in the FCO, the PMS said the he had nothing to say on Baroness Williams. If there was anything to say on other wider Governmental Ministerial or advisory posts, then we would do that tomorrow.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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