Cabinet reshuffle: Who are Kier Starmer’s picks for the UK’s green economy?

Starmer chose his Cabinet this afternoon (5 July) after announcing his general election success in the small hours. Labour won by a landslide, with more than 400 seats, as the Tories lost more than 240.

The new Labour Government is expected to set more ambitious targets to scale renewable energy, boost energy efficiency and grow priority green manufacturing sectors like hydrogen. It will also enhance corporate climate transition plan requirements and continue the delivery of the 25-Year Environment Plan.

Starmer last reshuffled his Shadow Cabinet in September 2023, in preparation for the general election. As such, there are few surprises in his post-election picks for senior Ministers with touch-points to the UK’s green economy.

Here, edie provides a handy ‘who’s who’ of Labour Secretaries of State for readers.

Rachel Reeves – Chancellor

As expected, Reeves is the UK’s first female Chancellor. She has described her appointment as “the honour of my life”.

Reeves is best known in the green economy for making, then retracting, a commitment to unlock £28bn of investment each year. The commitment was watered down earlier this year with Reeves placing the blame at the Tories. Labour is now targeting £7.3bn for priority green manufacturing sectors, plus three times more private investment in these industries, as part of a forthcoming industrial strategy.

Reeves has served in the Labour Shadow Cabinet since October 2010 and held multiple roles on Select Committees relating to business, trade, innovation and skills.

Reeves will be flanked by Darren Jones as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Jones spearheaded the BEIS Select Committee until it was disbanded after Rishi Sunak created DESNZ.

Ed Miliband – Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net-Zero

Miliband is the Labour Party’s most experienced MP when it comes to senior climate roles. He was Secretary of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change from 2008 to 2010, when he stepped up as Labour Party Leader.

After losing the Party leadership in 2015, he held Shadow Secretary positions at BEIS and then DESNZ. In total, he’s served as a Secretary in a sustainability-related role for six years.

Miliband has been a regular feature at UN climate COPs and other regional and international sustainability events.

Leading DESNZ, he now has the challenging task of setting up a publicly owned renewable investment entity, Great British Energy, and charting a path to a decarbonised electricity system by 2030. He will also play a key role in delivering the Party’s commitments on phasing out North Sea oil and gas licencing, improving energy efficiency and mainstreaming electric heating.

Steve Reed – Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Croydon North MP Steve Reed was handed the Defra brief in the Shadow Cabinet last September, following experience in equivalent roles relating to justice, communities and local government. Reed succeeded Jim McMahon, who stepped down citing ill health.

Defra has a sizeable in-tray of policy carried over from the last Government. The department will need to produce a Land-Use Strategy, identifying how the UK could balance increasing demands for housing, nature restoration, energy production and infrastructure.

It will also be tasked with operationalizing the National Food Strategy, rolling out new post-Brexit farmer payment schemes and implementing the long-delayed Resources and Waste Strategy.

Labour has notably pledged to create three new National Parks and a series of ‘National River Walks’.

Peter Kyle – Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle was given the Science, Innovation and Technology brief within the Shadow Cabinet last September.

An MP since 2015, he sat on Select Committees relating to business, trade, innovation and skills until 2021.

Labour has promised to host fewer fiscal events and set out decade-long investment plans for bodies such as Innovate UK to provide more certainty to investors in fast-growing clean technologies.

Louise Haigh – Secretary of State for Transport

MP for Sheffield Heeley since 2015, Haigh has held the Shadow Transport Secretary post since late 2021.

She will now play a key role in activating Labour’s commitments to reinstate the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car and van sales; reform and electrify the rail network and encourage walking and cycling.

Jonathan Reynolds – Secretary of State for Business and Trade

MP for Stalybridge and Hyde since 2010, Reynolds has been an active Select Committee member with interests in business and innovation, and has held several notable Shadow Cabinet positions:

  • Business and Trade Secretary (since September 2023)
  • Business and Industrial Strategy Secretary (2021 to September 2023)
  • Energy and Climate Change Minister (2013 to 2015)

Angela Rayner – Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Angela Rayner retains the DLUHC position as she moves from the Shadow Cabinet to Cabinet. She has never held a Ministerial role directly related to energy or the environment, but her Department will have a task balancing the need to address the housing crisis and meet national nature, pollution and climate targets.

Rayner is also Labour’s Deputy Leader, meaning she, like Starmer, will be held accountable for the delivery of the Party’s manifesto commitments.

Rayner has been an MP consecutively since 2010 and held ten Shadow Cabinet positions in that time.

You can find all of edie’s coverage of the UK’s 2024 general election here.

WHO COULD FORM THE TORY SHADOW CABINET?

Rishi Sunak held his seat by a landslide. However, he’s indicated that he will step down as Conservative Party leader. The next leader will have some notable gaps to fill, but will largely have their pick of Sunak’s most recent choices on energy and the environment.

Jeremy Hunt, Sunak’s Chancellor, retained his Farnham Surrey seat by a narrower margin. At the 2024 Spring Statement, Hunt extended the oil and gas windfall tax but dodged calls to launch a subsidy package rivalling the US’s Inflation Reduction Act or EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan.

Claire Coutinho, Sunak’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net-Zero, has retained her seat as MP for East Surrey. She has spearheaded discussions on Sunak’s ‘pragmatic’ approach to net-zero by 2050, arguing that energy security is more important than decarbonisation. She is a proponent of North Sea oil and gas expansion, new gas-fired power stations and new large and small nuclear.

Steve Barclay, who replaced Therese Coffey as Secretary of State for Defra late last year, has held his North East Cambridgeshire seat. He has been this constituency’s MP since 2010.

Kemi Badenoch, Business and Trade Secretary, scraped a victory to retain her North West Essex seat, but her majority dropped by almost 25,000 votes as Labour and Reform UK made gains.

WHICH SENIOR TORY MINISTERS ARE OUT?

Grant Shapps’s 19-year stint as MP for Welwyn-Hatfield has come to an end after the seat was won by Labour. Lately Secretary of State for Defence, Shapps is also a former Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary (BEIS), Transport Secretary, Home Office Secretary and Department for International Development Minister.

Mark Harper, lately Secretary of State for Transport, lost the seat he has held since 2005 in the Forest of Dean. This constituency’s new MP is Labour’s Matt Bishop.

Michelle Donelan, lately Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, lost her Melksham and Devizes seat to Lib Dem Brian Matthew.

Gillian Keegan, lately Education Secretary, lost her Chichester seat to the Lib Dems.

Several further familiar faces chose not to contest this election, including:

  • Alok Sharma, Boris Johnson’s BEIS Secretary and COP26 President
  • Michael Gove, former Environment Minister and lately Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Levelling up
  • Caroline Lucas, the UK’s first Green Party MP
  • Dr Alan Whitehead, former Shadow Energy Minister and longstanding Labour MP for Southampton, Test

A total of 134 MPs stood down at this election. A full list can be found here.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie

Subscribe