Cabinet reshuffle: Grant Shapps ousted from DESNZ and appointed Defence Secretary
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has completed a mini Cabinet Reshuffle, in which Grant Shapps has been moved from his post relating to energy and net-zero into the Defence Secretary position.
There have been murmurings regarding a potential Cabinet reshuffle for weeks, but today (31 August) is finally the day, as MPs return from their summer holidays.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace submitted his resignation this morning. He Tweeted “that’s all, folks”” and posted a copy of his resignation letter to Sunak, which states no reason for his departure other than a desire to spend more time on his personal life.
The letter states: “The investment you made in Defence as Chancellor and the continued support you have shown as Prime Minister has been key to enabling the Ministry of Defence to deliver for Britain. I am personally very grateful for your leadership.
“As I finish my tenure, I can reflect that the Ministry of Defence that I leave is now more modern, better funded and more confident than the organisation I took over in 2019.”
Sunak has selected Grant Shapps as the new Defence Secretary, moving him on from his role at the Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) after just six months on the job. Shapps has stated that he is “honoured” to be appointed in his new role.
Shapps was first appointed to DESNZ at its creation in February. Sunak selected him following his work on transport-related decarbonisation at the Department for Transport, and his advocacy for clean energy at the Department for International Development.
He has been extremely vocal in his role at DESNZ, frequently slamming Just Stop Oil on social media. He has been a strong advocate for the expansion of the British nuclear sector and has supported Sunak’s plans to expand North Sea oil and gas.
He has broadly stuck to party lines on renewables, promoting offshore wind and low-carbon hydrogen. But he also oversaw a U-turn on solar, in which the Government accepted Chris Skidmore MP’s Net-Zero Review recommendation to target 70GW of solar capacity by 2035.
Working with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Shapps has been in post for the unveiling of new energy efficiency targets through to 2035 and new post-2025 funding to deliver these aims.
Hunt has also, in the last six months, pledged £20bn for carbon capture and storage. He is now under pressure to work with DESNZ to launch a more comprehensive rival to cleantech subsidy packages in the US and EU.
Claire Coutinho has been selected as the new Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net-Zero. She has been the MP for East Surrey since 2019 and will be moving on from her post as Minister for Children.
David Johnston, also elected in 2019, will replace Coutinho at the Department for Education.
TheyWorkForYou records show that Coutinho generally takes the Party lines in votes and has rarely rebelled. This means she is regarded as having generally voted against new climate policies proposed by opposition parties, including a net-zero remit for the Financial Conduct Authority and a net-zero stress test for agricultural subsidy schemes.
Coutinho does not mention energy, climate, environment or net-zero on her website. All in all, there is scant information available publicly at this time regarding her track record in the green economy.
Reacting to the appointment, Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs Dave Timms said:”Good riddance to Grant Shapps. He seemed to be more concerned with playing childish politics on social media than the serious policies needed to address the greatest challenge of our time. He has promoted new drilling for oil and gas against the advice of his own climate advisors, allowed speculation about whether vital deadlines for the transition to electric vehicles and heat pumps would be stuck to, and failed to invest in home insulation.
“The country needs a serious Secretary of State who will step up to give the certainty and support that businesses and people need to invest in the changes that will cut both emissions and the cost of living. We hope Claire Coutinho will be that person.”
Labour’s Attorney General Emily Thornberry has told the media that Sunak appears to be “giving jobs to his friends” and stated that the reshuffle will not save his Party from failure at the next general election.
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