708: May hits the DECC in major reshuffle
Today’s entry reports on Theresa May’s shake-up of government departments and cabinet ministers.
On Wednesday and yesterday incoming Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new cabinet and only kept four of the previous 23 cabinet members in the same posts.
After appointing Hammond as Chancellor, May was looking for a Clarkson and found the next best thing by appointing Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
The following day this started to look like a plan to give the Brexit supporters the front-line interface with the European Union, to reap what they have sown. Theresa May’s main rival Andrea Leadsom was promoted to the cabinet to look after the environment, food and rural affairs. Thus fishing, agriculture and habitats will be within her remit.
Chris Grayling replaced Patrick McLoughlin as Secretary of State for Transport and will be entrusted with the future of HS2 and a new runway in the south-east of England (with Johnson and Greening in senior positions, is the new cabinet more Heathrow-sceptic?).
In a sketch in the Guardian today, John Crace characterises Chris Grayling as now being responsible for important things like ‘roadworks on the A303’. In fact the project to put the A303 into a tunnel as it goes past Stonehenge is one of Highways England’s three ‘complex infrastructure projects’ and is likely to be one of the more important things to appear in Chris Grayling’s in-tray.
Finally, of infrastructure-related departments, Greg Clark and Sajid Javid have done a near-swap. Greg Clark moves from communities and local government to a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, while Sajid Javid moves from business, innovation and skills to communities and local government.
One of Greg Clark’s final acts was to refuse a strategic rail freight interchange near Slough, which had been designed to avoid the Planning Act regime by covering 59.5 hectares when the threshold is 60. More fool them, I say! The Secretary of State for Transport might well have taken a different view, with more weight being placed on the transport benefits of the project than the planning adverse effects. The application has also taken nearly six years to get to this refusal.
Although their initials are nearly the same, BIS becoming BEIS (is that ‘bees’, ‘byes’ or ‘bice’?) is more different than it looks. The innovation and skills go back to the Department for Education, and the whole of the old, but not that long-lived, Department of Energy and Climate Change is swallowed up by the ‘E’ of the new department. Only one department is now the ‘Department of’ rather than ‘for’ – which is it?*
Although bemoaning the loss of DECC in the Times today, I do not expect any hiccups in the transition of infrastructure decisions moving from DECC to BIES, even though there are six at the three-month decision stage in the pipeline (two of which are in fact pipelines).
Two of them are due in the next couple of weeks (Meaford Power Station and the North Wales Wind Farms connection), but I expect them to be made on time, or if they aren’t (there being a current vogue for delay), it won’t be due to the change of departments.
Chris Grayling also has two decisions in his in tray, one of which is due next week (York Potash harbour facilities), but again shouldn’t be delayed by a change of Secretary of State.
Incidentally, ex-Secretary of State for DECC and now Home Secretary Amber Rudd started a blog just after the Queen’s Speech last year and I wished it well. It turned out that the first entry was the only one. These upstarts come and go, but the Planning Act blog celebrates its seventh anniversary on Sunday and continues serenely on.
15 July 2016