In a major shake up in Whitehall, new Prime Minister Theresa May has created a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department – and put Greg Clark in charge.
Clark, who was previously the Communities and Local Government Secretary, takes control of the reshaped department from Sajid Javid who has swapped places with Clark and is now Communities Secretary.
Clark said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to lead this new department charged with delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, leading government’s relationship with business, furthering our world-class science base, delivering affordable, clean energy and tackling climate change.”
May has effectively merged two departments – the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (although some of the latter department’s responsibilities have been transferred to the Department of Education).
EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, backed the decision to roll Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into a new-look department with chief executive Terry Scuoler saying: “This is a welcome move and demonstrates a new, serious purpose to this government reflective of the times. Now that energy and business policy are merged, we have the makings of an industrial strategy that will focus on UK competitiveness and will provide support to our sector as it seeks to overcome the challenges and seize opportunities from the decision to leave the EU.”
But the decision to move energy policy into the Business Department angered Angus MacNeil, chairman of the energy committee in parliament, who said he was astonished to see the DECC abolished. “DECC’s disappearance raises urgent questions,” he said. “To whom falls the central statutory obligation, contained in the Climate Change Act 2008, to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% from their 1990 baseline? Which Department will take responsibility for the energy and climate aspects of negotiations to leave the EU? Who will champion decarbonisation in Cabinet? Who will drive innovation in the energy sector?”
And former Labour leader Ed Miliband was also not impressed, twetting “DECC abolition just plain stupid. Climate not even mentioned in new dept. title. Matters because depts shape priorities shape outcomes.”
In an interview with the Gazette in Middlesbrough in April last year, Clark, who was born in the city, revealed that he always carries a special Victorian medal of Henry Bolckow, an industrialist who brought coal and ironworks to the city. “It’s usually in my pocket or my rucksack,” he said. “My wife bought me it from eBay, it came from Australia.”