Public Services > Central Government

Damian Green takes Cabinet Office Minister role

Neil Merrett Published 12 June 2017

Election losses force Theresa May to put in new minister to oversee GDS; most key departments retain existing leadership, such as health and defence; Hancock back at DCMS


Theresa May has appointed Damian Green as Cabinet Office Minister and First Secretary of State in a new Cabinet that retains a number of existing key roles relating to health, foreign affairs and Brexit policy.

Green’s appointment to the dual role, which reportedly makes him “second in command” to the prime minister, will also see him take over responsibility for Whitehall technology policy and the Government Digital Service (GDS).  He had previously been minister of state for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Green takes over from Ben Gummer, who lost his seat in last week’s General Election following a bruising campaign that saw the Conservative Party lose its parliamentary majority.  May had called the snap election as a means to strengthen her mandate for pursuing Brexit and other core policy such as school reform.

The vast majority of Cabinet places have been finalised over the weekend.  However, there are few details at present regarding the government’s core priorities for digital transformation and whether it will continue to pursue the broad aims for GDS set out in the Government Transformation Strategy published in February. Late on Monday evening, it emerged that Matt Hancock had been reappointed as Minister of State for Digital and Culture at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. He tweeted, "Delighted to be reappointed Minister of State for Digital & Culture by the PM. Big agenda, great people & lots to do. Can't wait to crack on."

Whether key objectives of the strategy may be reviewed in light of the post-election climate, or continue on as planned by May’s government prior to polling is yet to be formally ascertained, it is understood.

Rob Anderson, principal analyst for central government with GlobalData Public Sector, suggested that the delayed Government Transformation Strategy was itself a restatement of existing plans and policy and would not therefore be significantly impacted from the election fall out.

However, he argued that strong leadership would be required to push a clear centralised agenda for digital services across Whitehall without losing momentum, regardless of GDS’ perceived success or failures in recent years.

“Driving the more controversial of policies, such as pushing Verify as the single identity assurance platform across government, requires a strong central character (a la former Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude),” said Anderson.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Damian Green will take on that mantle. One possibility would be to appoint a junior minister with appropriate credentials to manage the digital programme within the Cabinet Office. If this doesn’t happen, then there is a real danger of GDS further haemorrhaging senior management and losing more credibility with operational departments, which will cause any coherent digital strategy to unravel.”

In terms of new appointments, David Gauke, formerly Treasury Chief Secretary, has taken over for Green at the DWP.  Michael Gove has returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

David Lidington has been appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.  There has been no appointment as yet for former Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock.

As it stands, May has opted largely for continuity with her previous Cabinet, with Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt staying in their roles.

David Davis remains Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, with Michael Fallon staying on as Defence Secretary.

Related articles:

Cabinet Office needs new leadership as May forms minority government

Delayed GDS strategy unveiled in wider Whitehall reform plan

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