Theresa May has made some bold changes to the mechanics of government during her first full day as Britain’s new Prime Minister, merging the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
She has also appointed her top team, with a number of familiar faces departing the Cabinet.
It has long been rumoured that DECC could be folded into BIS, but until this morning there was very little in the way of open speculation that it might happen so soon into the new Theresa May government.
By mid-afternoon, it was confirmed that DECC and BIS would be merged into a newly created Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to be headed-up by Greg Clark.
Clark relinquishes his previous role as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and is replaced by former BIS Secretary of State, Sajid Javid.
Meanwhile, Amber Rudd, the previous Secretary of State at DECC was moved to the Home Office with former Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom promoted to Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Leadsom replaces Liz Truss, who now is the new Justice Secretary.
The reaction to news that Theresa May had ordered DECC and BIS to be merged has been mixed.
Green MP, Caroline Lucas, Ed Miliband and Friends of the Earth have all claimed it’s a mistake. Beyond these voices, most have been cautiously optimistic about what the future might hold.
Bringing together the areas of business, energy, climate and industrial strategy makes a great deal of sense. They are all inextricably linked, and by folding them into a single government department, we may now start to see a more joined-up approach to policy.
There’s no point pursuing climate policies that make British industry uncompetitive and doomed to failure, for example, but, equally, it’s not possible to ignore the business impacts of climate change. The new department should be better placed to manage these related policy areas whilst maintaining just the right amount of tension between them.
Many will remember that, although the departments were separate, it’s not actually that long ago that we had a single MinisterÂ of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change – first in the shape of Michael Fallon (now Defence Secretary) and then Matt Hancock. A departmental merger is a logical step.
Does it matter that the word ‘climate’ no longer features in the departmental name? It doesn’t seem so. Greg Clark, the Secretary of State at the new department said earlier: â€œI am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading governmentâ€™s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.â€
It certainly sounds like climate change remains a key focus.
Richard Black, former BBC environment correspondent and now director of the Environment and Climate Intelligence Unit, had this to say: “Creating this new department opens up the exciting option of an innovation and industry strategy that enables companies in the clean energy supply chain, including steel, to expand and thrive together. But theyâ€™ll need a strong British market. Within the last few months, the National Infrastructure Commission and energy industry big cheeses, through Energy UK, have said that the UK should continue building a smart, flexible low-carbon grid â€“ so thereâ€™s a clear pathway laid out for ministers, and the rationale for following it hasnâ€™t changed a bit.â€
What do you think? A sensible, welcome move or unbridled environmental disaster-in-waiting? I’d love to hear from you!Â