I am delighted to be back on stand and writing this column again, after a brief summer hiatus.
After the It’s a Knockout! madness of July, the eagle-eyed readers of the Hereford Times will have detected one or two small changes in the political landscape during that period. Notably, a new government headed by a new Prime Minister.
The dust has started to settle in Westminster after the Referendum vote, and in Theresa May we now have a very serious person with great political experience leading the country.
She has already formed a new administration, significantly reshaped Whitehall, and set out a clear social justice agenda for the next four years. The issue of Brexit will be important, but she has rightly emphasized both that it must be made to work for everyone across the country, and that the government’s ambitions run much wider.
For my part, I was delighted when the Prime Minister appointed me as Minister for Industry and Energy. My portfolio includes oil and gas, renewables and nuclear energy, as well as some of the key industrial sectors and some regional coverage responsibilities. It is a big job in a fascinating new department and with a superb Secretary of State in Greg Clark.
On my first day in the job I arrived at the Department at midday, met the key civil servants, was briefed for an hour or so on a rather technical aspect of our climate change policy, and then took two pieces of minor legislation through committee in Parliament that afternoon. They don’t hang about!
Joining the Government meant I had to resign as Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. It was a wrench—I greatly enjoyed my year there, and during that time we did some really important things, including pushing BT to invest hundreds of millions of pounds a year more into fast broadband, and leading the way in reforming the board and governance of the BBC.
Best of all was that it really helped me to assist local people here in Herefordshire who are still struggling with poor broadband connections and bad service.
But energy policy and industrial strategy for the UK as a whole are challenges of an even bigger order. Hereford Times readers can rest assured that I will work to bring all the energy and industry of my own that I can to bear on them.