Monday, 17 May 2010

Junior ministers

The atrium at Nobel House, Defra headquarters in London. The part facing Millbank was formerly the headquarters of ICI.
Photo credit: Quintin Lake. Blog Quintin Lake Blog

Junior ministers are significant figures in the day-to-day life of a government department and they do take decisions that have consequences, but they are largely ignored by the press unless they say something foolish or apparently critical of the party leadership or are implicated in some kind of scandal. Once that happens, the whole future of a government is alleged to hand by a thread - well for 24 hours of the news cycle anyway.

I'm not sure yet that all junior minister appointments have been made, certainly at Parliamentary Under Secetary of State ('Pussy') level. Private Parliamentary Secretaries, who provide a link between the minister and Parliament, will come later. These are unpaid appointments: the most high profile is PPS to the prime minister. They have been overtaken somewhat by the role of SPADs (special advisers).

I have a particular interest in Defra and I was able to find their appointments (so far) by going to a very makeshift temporary website established by Nobel House.

The productionist (big farm oriented) emphasis at the new Defra reflected in the appointment of Caroline Spelman as secretary of state continues with junior ministerial appointments: Jim Paice, the Minister of State, was substantially involved in the Young Farmers' movement and has been connected with farming all his life. The 'Pussy', Richard Benyon, is MP for Newbury and is stated to be a local farmer. (As it so happens, I had lunch in the constituency on Sunday and my enquiries suggest that he is more a country landowner than a farmer, not that there is anything wrong that: they often tend to have stronger conservationist instincts).

However, Lord Taylor of Holbeach has not become the Lords minister as expected, the post going to Lord Henley.

The ministerial team would thus be an all Conservative one. However, I am uncertain what is happening to the fisheries portfolio and there were rumours that this was destined to be occupied by the Lib Dem MP for the west of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, Andrew George.

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