Rishi Sunak has appointed a new Tory party chairman and a dedicated Energy Secretary as he re-shuffled his cabinet and restructured Whitehall departments.
Greg Hands was appointed as new chairman of the Conservative party, replacing Nadhim Zahawi who was sacked following the storm over his tax affairs. He will attend cabinet.
The Prime Minister, who is trying to close Labour’s 20 point plus lead in the polls, dismantled the sprawling Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department (BEIS) to create a new dedicated energy department.
As part of the changes, International Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch was appointed the new Business and Trade Secretary, replacing Grant Shapps who will head up the new Energy Security Department.
Ms Badenoch remains as President of the Board of Trade, and Minister for Women and Equalities.
At the same time, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was broken up with the digital unit being merged with the science department.
Michelle Donelan, who is set to go on maternity leave later this year, was moved to be Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary.
Lucy Frazer takes over as Secretary of State for a slimmed down Culture, Media, and Sport department.
Mr Sunak did not use his reshuffle to move his deputy Dominic Raab, who is also Justice Secretary, from his post amid an investigation into eight claims of bullying.
The shake-up drew criticism from the former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries who said: “It would be “Sad to break up @DCMS because it works.”
She added: “Department has tragically lacked profile of late despite being most effective in Whitehall. Track record in tech, digital, gigabit roll out, telecoms, data speaks for itself.”
Meanwhile Labour’s Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband attacked the changes to BEIS, saying: “So seven years after the disastrous decision to abolish the Department of Energy, the Conservatives now admit they got it wrong, but a rearranging of deckchairs on the sinking Titanic of failed Conservative energy policy will not rescue the country.
“Britain’s energy bills are too high and our system too weak because of years of disastrous decisions: the ongoing onshore wind ban, blocking of solar, slashing of energy efficiency, disastrous regulation of the retail market and an unlawful net zero plan. All this must change.”
The reshuffle was prompted by the removal of Mr Zahawi who was sacked as Tory Party chairman last month after an inquiry by Mr Sunak’s ethics adviser found he had failed to disclose that HMRC was investigating his tax affairs while he was Chancellor.
The reshuffle comes as Mr Sunak, who has made halving inflation this year one of his five key priorities, is facing pressure from some Conservative backbenchers on the right of his party to lower taxes in next month’s Budget.
Two high profile interventions by former Prime Minister Liz Truss has threatened to reopen Tory divisions over tax and economic policy.
Senior Tory backbencher Sir Charles Walker criticised Britain’s shortest serving prime minister for speaking out at a time when Mr Sunak was trying to restore stability.
Sir Charles told the Standard: “All former Prime Ministers are entitled to have a point of view and air that view. Rarely, if ever, are former Prime Ministers helpful to their successors and this is the nature of politics.
“But over the last three months the world has moved on. Rishi Sunak has brought stability both in the party and more importantly the country. This is welcomed by many Tory MPs with a sense of great relief.
“My mother’s advice to me – and I have rarely followed it – was if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.”
But one of Ms Truss’s close allies, Iain Duncan Smith said: “The government isn’t against tax reduction, it’s about how much and when.
“The point Liz is making is we have to get the burden of tax down.
“It’s not about splits and divisions [in the party], it’s about taking early, decisive decisions.”