LIVE – Updated at 10:57
Grant Shapps reported to run new energy department, with Kemi Badenoch to run business and trade.
Back to the reshuffle, and this is from my colleague Pippa Crerar on the current state of play.
Kevin Brennan (Lab) asks Richard Sharp why he did not just say to Sam Blyth that he could not help him meet Simon Case to discuss helping Boris Johnson financially because he was in the middle of applying for a public post. He suggests that Sharp should have told Blyth: “What kind of idiot do you think I am?”
Sharp says he was just trying to ensure that due process was followed.
Q: Why didn’t you suggest that Blyth take it up with a member of the Johnson family, like Boris Johnson’s brother Jo?
Sharp says he does not know Jo Johnson well.
Richard Sharp told the culture committee that he told Boris Johnson he was arranging for Sam Blyth, a distant cousin of Johnson’s, to meet Simon Case to discuss how he might be able to support Johnson financially. But he disputed suggestions that this amounted to giving Johnson financial advice.
At the culture committee Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, is defending his decision to sit on the interview panel that chose the BBC’s head of news. The SNP MP John Nicolson told him that BBC staff were furious about this, because it looked like interference by the chairman in an editorial matter, and Sharp himself had no journalism experience when he was appointed chairman.
Sharp said that he was entitled to attend because the head of news also sits on the BBC’s board, and that he was chairman of the board.
Back to the culture committee, and Richard Sharp told the MPs on it that he told Boris Johnson that he would be applying to be BBC chairman.
That happened after Sam Blyth had suggested to Sharp over dinner, in September 2020, that he might be able to help Johnson out with his finances, but before Blyth had asked him to put him in touch with Simon Case to discuss the details.
Sharp said that when he had that conversation with Johnson, he did not mention anything about Blyth considering helping him out financially.
Sharp says cabinet secretary’s memo implying he had given Johnson financial advice badly worded
At the culture committee Richard Sharp started by saying that he had never given financial advice to Boris Johnson (which is not something he was accused of doing, in the original Sunday Times report about this).
And he set out his account of how he came to be involved in putting Sam Blyth in touch with Simon Case. (See 10.01am.)
He said Blyth first raised the issue of helping Boris Johnson financially as an “after-dinner party comment”.
Damian Green, the acting chair of the committee, asked why, if Sharp had never given Johnson financial advice, Case, the cabinet secretary, wrote a memo to Johnson saying:
Given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC chair, it is important that you no longer ask his advice about your personal financial matters.
Sharp said this wording was an “ambiguous construction that is open to misinterpretation”. He said the Cabinet Office had confirmed this to him unofficially. He had never given Johnson financial advice, he said.
He said Case wrote that memo to ensure that Johnson did not call Sharp, because if he had done so it would have created a conflict of interest. At that point Sharp was applying to be BBC chairman.
Green said that, in the light of what Sharp was saying, the wording of the memo seemed “unbelievably shoddy”.
Back to the reshuffle, and the Institute for Government thinktank, which is running its own reshuffle blog, has a useful “family tree” about the business and trade departments, showing how they have been reorganised over the years. It goes back to 1861.
Greg Hands reportedly set to be next Conservative party chair
And Greg Hands, an international trade minister, will replace Nadhim Zahawi as the new Conservative party chairman, Swinford reports.
BBC chairman Richard Sharp questioned by Commons culture committee about conflict of interest claims
The Commons culture committee has just started taking evidence from Richard Sharp, the BBC chairman, about claims that before his appointment he should have declared that he played a role in helping Boris Johnson get access to a £800,000 loan guarantee.
Sharp insists he did not need to declare this, because there was no conflict of interest. He says that all that happened was that when Sam Blyth, a personal friend for years, expressed interest in helping Johnson out with his finances (Blyth is a distant cousin of Johnson’s, is wealthy, and had read newspaper reports saying Johnson was short of cash), Sharp put him in touch with Simon Case, the cabinet secretary. Sharp was working as an adviser in No 10 at the time.
Sharp offered a full account of his involvement here.
Shapps reportedly set to be new energy secretary, and Badenoch set to replace him as business secretary
Back to the reshuffle, and Steven Swinford from the Times says that Grant Shapps, the current business secretary, is expected to be the new energy secretary, and that Kemi Badenoch, the current international trade secretary, is expected to be the new business secretary.
At face value, that might look like a demotion for Shapps, but No 10 might argue that the new department is so important that this is at least as important as being business secretary. For Badenoch, this would look like a promotion – even if the new business department no longer has energy.
Normally the opposition appoints spokespeople to shadow government ministers. But Labour already has a cabinet-rank spokesperson for climate change and net zero, Ed Miliband, and so if Rishi Sunak does create an energy department, you could argue he will be creating a cabinet post to “shadow” a structure Labour has in place already.
Miliband, who was energy secretary in the last Labour government, says what really needs to change as the policy. In a series of tweets, he makes the same argument as Greenpeace UK and Ed Davey, and even adopts the “deckchairs on the Titanic” simile used in the Greenpeace statement. (See 9.29am.)
Greenpeace UK has put out a statement saying that, without policy change, just creating a stand-alone energy department is pointless. It is exactly what Ed Davey was saying on the Today programme. (See 9.09am.) This is from Doug Parr, director of policy at Greenpeace UK.
As climate disasters intensify, energy costs spiral and the world continues to sink under rising seas, without other fundamental reforms, re-establishing a Department for Energy will be as helpful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s government policy and underinvestment that is holding back real action on the climate and energy crises, not the departments or ministers in place.
“Unless the new-look Department for Energy is given the freedom and funding to rapidly scale up renewable energy production – both offshore and on – to sure up domestic supply, as well as roll out a nationwide scheme to insulate the tens of millions of energy-wasting homes across the country, what’s the point?
Henry Zeffman from the Times has more on Rishi Sunak’s passion for science.
According to Sky’s Sam Coates, William Hague, the former Tory leader, Rishi Sunak’s predecessor as MP for Richmond in Yorkshire and one of the Tories whose advice Sunak rates most highly, has been calling for the establishment of a new government department to promote science and innovation.
Sunak neeeds to change energy policy, not just Whitehall machinery, says Ed Davey
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, was energy secretary in the coalition government, when energy and climate change was a standalone department. In an interview on the Today programme, asked about reports that Rishi Sunak is going to bring back that arrangement (see 8.38am), Davey said Sunak needed to change his policies, not just the Whitehall machinery.
He told the programme:
I do think bringing in energy department back is a positive step.
But, by itself, changing Whitehall machinery doesn’t get you better energy policy. Changing energy policy is also what’s needed. And we’ve not really seen anything to suggest that’s going to happen.
I think since 2015 their energy policy has been a disaster. We haven’t seen the investment in energy efficiency and installation that we should have done, or in renewables. Both of those would have meant that people’s bills would, still be higher because of Putin’s illegal invasion, but would be lower than they are now. That failure on energy policy has been an absolute disaster.
And my worry with this prime minister is while he might bring back a department focused on energy that could help deliver a change in policy, he’s announced some quite anti-renewable views during his leadership campaign. I just hope he drops those.
This is from TalkTV’s Kate McCann.
“Next hour or so …” We’ll see. Reshuffles often take longer than expected, because all it takes is one minister to say no, or ask for time to think, and then the whole process gets clogged up. There is already some evidence that this one is not going to be quite as quick as originally expected. (See 8.30am.)
The cabinet will meet at 3pm, Steven Swinford from the Times reports.
What Sunak said about creating new Department of Energy during Tory leadership campaign
When he stood for the Tory leadership in the summer, Rishi Sunak proposed re-establishing a department of energy as part of his “energy sovereignty strategy”. Here is an extract from the news release carrying the announcement. He said he would:
Bring in a new legal target to achieve ‘energy sovereignty’ by 2045 at the latest, ensuring the UK produces as much energy as it uses, with the aim of reaching the target even sooner. The new target will sit alongside the existing net zero emissions target to ensure there’s a balanced approach to driving down bills and protecting the environment.
Establish a new energy security committee to coordinate cross-government action ahead of the winter to keep critical power stations online and protect UK gas reserves. The committee will also be tasked with reforming the UK’s energy markets to cut bills.
Re-establish a Department of Energy by splitting up the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with a new secretary of state charged with delivering energy sovereignty.
Energy and climate change used to be a stand-alone department until it was merged with BEIS in 2016.
Andrew Mitchell, the development minister, has been on media round duties this morning, primarily to talk about the British response to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Asked about the reshuffle, and whether he wanted to be the next party chairman, he told GB News:
Well, these are matters way above my pay grade and they are matters for the prime minister, but I’m very happy indeed doing a job which I’ve done before and loved very much, which is the international development job and I’m going to do my best, particularly today, to see that Britain puts its shoulder to the wheel and that we save as many lives as we can.
The BBC’s Chris Mason has more on the proposed changes to the departmental infrastructure around Whitehall.
The three existing departments expected to face restructuring are business, international trade and culture.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is led by Michelle Donelan, is expected to keep responsibility for the online safety bill, even if a new science and digital department is created, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
Rishi Sunak to hold limited cabinet shuffle
Good morning. When Rishi Sunak became prime minister, he appointed a cabinet but, given that Liz Truss had done the same less than two months previously, he did not make as many changes as he might otherwise have done, and it looked like a cabinet crafted in the interests of party management, not to suit his own priorities. This morning he is expected to announce a limited reshuffle, partly to fill the vacancy created when he sacked Nadhim Zahawi as party chairman, and so we should end up with a cabinet with more of a Sunak flavour.
The Sun and the Times had the story last night. This is from the Sun’s Harry Cole.
And these are from the Times’ Steven Swinford.
The announcements are expected soon.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10am: Richard Sharp, chairman of the BBC, gives evidence to the Commons culture committee about his appointments, and claims of a potential conflict of interest.
10.30am: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.
11.30am: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.
3.20pm: Peers resume their debate at the report stage of the public order bill.
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Cabinet meeting ‘delayed until afternoon’, Sky reports
Today’s cabinet meeting has been postponed until this afternoon, Sky’s Sam Coates reports.
Normally cabinet starts at 9.30am, but overnight there were reports that it was being delayed until 10.30am, to allow new appointments to be made first. Either those reports were based on a duff briefing, or else Rishi Sunak may have concluded that the reshuffle will take longer than planned.
Here is our story by my colleagues Pippa Crerar and Jessica Elgot about the reshuffle.
And here is an extract.
The prime minister is also believed to be considering a shake-up of Whitehall by splitting the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy into two or three new departments to better reflect his priorities.
The changes are likely to take place on Tuesday morning, with sources saying the morning cabinet meeting has been moved back to 10.30am.
Sources suggested that there could be a new energy department, with business and trade merged and a separate science and digital department too, with responsibilities removed from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. However, the Guardian understands that cabinet ministers whose departments are affected do not appear to have been pre-warned.