Public Services > Central Government

Cabinet Office ministerial shake-up leaves questions over digital government portfolio

David Bicknell Published 10 January 2018

David Liddington, Brandon Lewis, Oliver Dowden and Chloe Smith complete new Cabinet Office line-up; Matt Hancock's promotion at DCMS seen as significant boost to tech sector following Karen Bradley's support


The Cabinet Office has four new ministers as a result of Theresa May’s reshuffle – but which of them will have responsibility for areas such as digital government and the Government Digital Service has yet to be determined.

The new Cabinet Office minister is David Liddington, who was previously Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice from June 2017 to January 2018. His previous roles include being Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010, serving as Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) from May 2010 until July 2016, and being Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council from July 2016 to June 2017.

New Conservative party chair Brandon Lewis will also be resident in the Cabinet Office and be a minister without portfolio. Lewis was Minister of State for Immigration from June 2017 to January 2018.

Two new Parliamentary Secretaries have been appointed, one of which is more likely to acquire the digital government responsibility. Oliver Dowden is a former adviser to David Cameron, while Chloe Smith moves to the Cabinet Office from being a junior Northern Ireland minister and assistant whip.

Smith is steadily rebuilding her political reputation after suffered a bruising at the hands of Jeremy Paxman in 2012 in an interview over fuel duty. The affair led to questions of Downing Street and the Treasury over why, as an inexperienced minister, Smith had been left to tour television studios to explain Chancellor George Osborne's announcement that he would defer a 3p rise in fuel duty, when Osborne was said to be entertaining Tory MPs to dinner.

Although it is not yet clear who will have digital government responsibility, the tech sector has been boosted by the promotion of former Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock to Culture Secretary. The renaming of the Department for Culture Media and Sport to include ‘Digital’ is regarding by some as having pulled some ‘digital’ responsibility away from the Cabinet Office.

Some organisations, however, notably the Institute for Government, still want to see a minister for digital government appointed, and for Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond to be much more voluble in referencing the role of digital government.

While hailing Hancock's appointment, techUK has also praised the role of Hancock's predecessor, Karen Bradley, now at the Northern Ireland Office, in driving continued engagement with the tech sector.

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