Decc abolished and all change at Defra

4th August 2016

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Isla Davidson

In the political turmoil that engulfed the UK after the vote to leave the EU, Decc merged with the business department to form the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and prominent Leave campaigner Andrea Leadsom took over at Defra.

The changes were unveiled by prime minister Theresa May. The decision to merge Decc and BIS and exclude climate change from the new department’s title was criticised.

The first energy and climate change secretary, former Labour leader Ed Miliband, tweeted: ‘Climate not even mentioned in new department title. Matters because departments shape priorities, shape outcomes.’

James Thornton, chief executive at environmental law group ClientEarth, said: ‘At a time when the challenge of climate change becomes ever more pressing, the government has scrapped the department devoted to tackling it. It sends a terrible signal at the worst possible time, undermining efforts to secure a clean, safe energy future.’

However, BEIS secretary Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells since 2005, claimed the merger would help deliver affordable, clean energy and tackle climate change.

A statement from the department stressed that climate change would be key focus: ‘This merger will enable a whole economy approach to delivering our climate change ambitions, effectively balancing the priorities of growth and carbon reduction.’ It added that reducing carbon emissions without jeopardising economic growth would be a principal challenge.

Lord Deben, chair of the independent Committee on Climate Change, welcomed the creation of BEIS. He said it would ensure the UK exploited its strengths in low-carbon industries and delivered the carbon budgets.

He called on Clark to produce strategies that incorporated tackling climate change as a key driver of future business success. ‘The new department should be well placed to ensure the UK’s strong research base in climate change and technology supports that vision alongside domestic and international progress to tackle climate change,’ Deben said.

MPs Margot James, Jo Johnson, Nick Hurd and Jesse Norman, as well as Baroness Neville-Rolfe, support Clark at BEIS.

At Defra, Brexiteer Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire since 2010, replaced Liz Truss, who has become justice secretary. Between May 2015 and July 2016, Leadsom was an energy minister at Decc. In addition to having overall responsibility for Defra, Leadsom’s specific responsibilities include EU and international relations.

Her team comprises George Eustice, who remains parliamentary under-secretary of state for farming, food and the marine environment, Thérèse Coffey and Lord Gardiner.

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