UK: What The Reshuffle Means For Infrastructure

Last Updated: 7 September 2012
Article by Angus Walker

Today's entry looks at yesterday's front bench reshuffle.

Yesterday's reshuffle, supposed to be the only major one during the lifetime of this government, saw changes in all four infrastructure planning-related government departments and a new appointment from outside Parliament to lead infrastructure at the Treasury.

Here is a full list of the relevant ministers:

Treasury

  • soon to become Lord Deighton becomes minister for infrastructure and economic delivery

Communities and Local Government

  • Eric Pickles stays as Secretary of State
  • Nick Boles replaces Greg Clark as decentralisation, planning policy and cities minister
  • Mark Prisk replaces Grant Shapps as housing, local government and regeneration minister
  • [UPDATE] Don Foster replaces Andrew Stunnell as community cohesion minister
  • [UPDATE] Brandon Lewis replaces Bob Neill as planning, fire and resilience minister
  • Baroness Hallam stays as productivity and transparency minister

Energy and Climate Change

  • Ed Davey stays as Secretary of State
  • John Hayes replaces Charles Hendry as energy minister
  • Greg Barker stays as climate change minister
  • Lord Marland stays as performance and efficiency minister

Transport

  • Patrick McLoughlin replaces Justine Greening as Secretary of State
  • Simon Burns replaces Teresa Villiers as rail, aviation and London transport minister
  • Stephen Hammond replaces Mike Penning as roads, freight and maritime minister
  • Norman Baker stays as buses, cycling and walking minister

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • Owen Paterson replaces Caroline Spelman as Secretary of State
  • [UPDATE] David Heath replaces Jim Paice as agriculture and food minister
  • Richard Benyon stays as natural environment and fisheries minister
  • Lord Taylor stays as regulation and waste minister

Analysis

Paul Deighton, currently chief executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), will become a Treasury minister in January 2013, being ennobled in the process to ensure all members of the government are members of one or other House of Parliament. He has a different role from his predecessor Lord Sassoon, who was described as enterprise and productivity minister, and will be minister for infrastructure and economic delivery, focusing in particular on the National Infrastructure Plan. This is the first time a minister has had 'infrastructure' in his or her title (AFAIK) and a welcome indication that infrastructure is being taken seriously across the government. I hope he'll start reading this blog - perhaps being an Olympic volunteer was a good career move after all.

Four changes at CLG, reflecting Grant Shapps' promotion to party chairman, Greg Barker's to the Treasury and somewhat surprisingly, Andrew Stunell and Bob Neill's return to the back benches. Grant's replacement Mark Prisk was previously business and enterprise minister. Wikipedia says that he is the author of several pamphlets on urban design, but I haven't been able to find any of them. Lincolnshire MP Nick Boles has been siezed on by the Daily Mail for a speech made in January where he said 'it is essential that we press on with our planning reforms and do not allow the hysterical scare-mongering of latterday Luddites like Simon Jenkins to strangle developments that will boost living standards'. He could be fairly pro-development, then. Brandon Lewis is a new minister from the 2010 intake and Don Foster is a farily long-standing Lib Dem MP. Baroness Hallam now becomes the only woman in the list above.

A reasonably important change at Energy and Climate Change where John Hayes replaces Charles Hendry as energy minister, thus becoming responsible for the majority of nationally significant infrastructure projects. Another Lincolnshire MP, he was previously an education minister.  He has expressed opposition to windfarms in his constituency in the past, but may have changed his views.

Major changes at transport with only Lib Dem Norman Baker keeping his position.  Transport does seem to suffer from short-lived Secretaries of State - Justine Greening lasted for less than 11 months.  Rumours are rife that Justine Greening's move to International Development is to pave the way for a change in airport policy, which would mean that ironically, Ms Greening has lost her job for supporting government policy. Patrick McLoughlin is a long-time MP and was actually a transport minister, for aviation and ports, in the last Thatcher government. He noted at the time that he was afraid of flying and his constituency was the furthest from the sea (although I think that accolade goes to North West Leicestershire rather than the then West Derbyshire and now Derbyshire Dales). Changes at junior level mean that road, rail, freight, ports and airports projects will all have new ministers responsible for them. Patrick and Simon have one week to decide the Ipswich rail chord application.

Finally at EFRA, there's a new secretary of state and new farming minister. Owen Paterson was previously SoS for Northern Ireland. According to the Telegraph, he is pro-fox hunting and pro-shale gas. Tory Jim Paice is replaced by Lib Dem David Heath.

All in all a more pro-development lineup than before, except, perhaps for onshore wind.  With National Policy Statements in place (except for road, rail and airports) and ministers with a quasi-judicial role in deciding infrastructure project applications, this may not have an effect on the Planning Act landsacpe for a while.

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