As many of you will have spotted on the news yesterday, David Cameron held a major reshuffle of his government – one of the biggest in recent years. Whilst the headlines in the papers have mainly focused on the Foreign Office, with Philip Hammond being promoted to Foreign Secretary and William Hague leaving, the key moves which matter most to our sector involve the middle and junior ranks.
The top news for our sector is that George Freeman MP has been appointed as a junior minister (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department of Health (DH). This new appointment mirrors the re-organisation of the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) to sit across the two departments and I imagine George, as Minister for Life Sciences, will lead on this policy area. George has followed the life science agenda ever since his election to parliament and, as he likes to say, lost his hair raising VC in biotech, so he knows our sector well. This is a key appointment and means the sector has an informed and engaged advocate in the ministerial team. George also knows the BIA well and he has attended a number of our events, including the Early Access to Medicine Scheme event in April and our annual Parliament Day.
Sadly, after an excellent four years in the position, David Willetts MP has stepped down as Minister for Science and Universities. I paid tribute on behalf of the sector to his work, saying “David Willetts made his mark globally as a minister through championing the UK life sciences sector. He won the BIO International Leadership Award for his commitment to advancing UK biotechnology by delivering this government’s life science strategy, truly understanding what it takes to turn the UK’s fantastic science into the jobs, health and wealth the UK needs in the coming decades”.
Greg Clark MP has been named as the newly appointed Minister for Science and Universities. He has a strong understanding of cities, clusters and planning from his previous brief at the Cabinet Office and has HM Treasury experience. It is expected that Greg Clark and George Freeman will work together closely in their new roles.
At the Treasury, David Gauke MP who has engaged on the Patent Box, R&D Tax Credits and has visited BIA members, has been promoted to Financial Secretary, while Priti Patel MP joins George Osborne’s Treasury team replacing David as Exchequer Secretary.
Another important move is that Lord Hill is to be the Prime Minister’s nomination for European Commissioner. We will watch to see if he gets a brief that encompasses competitiveness or other portfolios relevant to our sector.
For those of you who are interested, a more general brief on changes in the government is available from the BBC.