DTI, back from the dead
Here’s a funny thing. Years ago Gordon Brown made it clear to me that he would bury the Department of Trade and Industry, as and when he had the power to make or break government departments. But now that he has that power, he has decided to endeavour to redeem it as a proper ministry for business (though it may lose its battered “DTI” moniker).
It’ll lose its responsibilities for science, innovation and skills – which as I wrote here yesterday will be merged with the relevant bits of the Department for Education to create some kind of ministry for improving the qualifications of the workforce and the capacity of British companies to translate research into saleable products and services.
But it will gain the deregulation unit from the Cabinet Office and will retain its pro-competition, trade and pro-consumer mandates. Also, slightly against expectation, it will keep its energy responsibilities.
In the end, the new Prime Minister concluded that creating some kind of climate-change super-ministry – to include energy, transport and chunks of environment – would not be particularly efficient. Environmental campaigners may not agree, although the CBI probably will.
I don’t know who will run either the new business department or the skills/science ministry. There’s been lots of talk of his adviser on business issues, Shriti Vadera, going to the Lords and becoming a minister – though my sense is that she’d prefer to work in international development if given the choice.
Interestingly, however, the Chancellor’s closest adviser, Ed Balls, seems set to become Secretary of State for the slightly remodelled Department of Education – which will be a big job, given that Brown finds it difficult to complete any sentence without saying how important he thinks education is to the future of the UK.
The other Brown priority is health – which is apparently going to Alan Johnson. I’m minded to ask what harm Johnson ever did to Brown, since health is a bit of a graveyard for politicians.
Of the two Miliband wonderboys, one becomes the new “Boy David” as foreign secretary and the other, Ed, will have the daunting challenge of endeavouring to give coherence and shape to all Government policies as a senior minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.
The Chancellor, as has been widely expected for weeks, will be Alistair Darling – whose hair actually turned white during his many years of unstinting loyalty to Brown and Blair.
UPDATE 16:15 So now we have a name for the reconstructed DTI: it’ll be called the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, or DBERR for short. Which is not a moniker that trips off the tongue and leads me to only one conclusion: as and when Gordon Brown moves on from No.10, I won’t be employing him as a brand consultant.
That said, whether by chance or design, DIUS – or the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, the other new business-focussed ministry – has a certain faux-classical gravitas.