Thursday, 8 November 2007

Millionnaire minister quits to drive racing car

If one had written this headline twenty or thirty years ago, the assumption would have been that the minister was a Conservative one. But Lord Drayson, who will be driving a bio-ethanol car in the Le Mans racing series, held unpaid posts in the business and defence departments. In fact, he has not left the posts altogether, but taken leave of absence, which is a new concept for me in relation to ministerial posts.

'Lord Who?' you might ask. As a millioniare Labour donor and the winner, via his former company, Powerjet, of a lucrative government contract, the 47-year old peer was the subject of controversy when Tony Blair awarded him a life peerage in 2004 and brought him into government a year afterwards. But he is regarded as having been a highly effective minister, pushing through reforms to a reluctant defence bureaucracy and insular industry.

What many in business circles sees as disturbing is that there is no replacement for him as a dedicated minister for better regulation. His role is being divided among existing ministers. This chimes with some rather contradictory messages about the 'regulatory state' arising from the Queen's Speech about which I will write subsequently.

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