Energy downgraded?

3 August 2003

The recent ministerial reshuffle in the UK government resulted in the transferral of the post of energy minister to be subsumed by the e-commerce minister, Stephen Timms. As a result, Timms will have responsibility for all aspects of government policy on energy, in addition to being responsible for e-commerce, postal services, and corporate social responsibility.

The resignation of the previous energy minister, Brian Wilson, was announced during the reshuffle. Wilson told NEI that his job as energy minister had "run its course" and that there was "no policy issue" over his resignation.

The publication of the UK's energy white paper in February this year, which left a decision on new nuclear to a future government, was seen as a blow to the nuclear industry. Wilson, whose Scottish constituency includes the Hunterston plant, is a supporter of nuclear energy. He denied there was any link between his resignation and the white paper, and pointed out that, though it did not actively support nuclear power, the white paper "did keep the door open." He said he believed nuclear power in the UK would "probably be necessary in the future." However, he added that it was unlikely new build would take place in Scotland as this would ultimately "be decided by the Scottish Executive," which could refuse planning consent.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said: "We've lost a minister. We had eight, now we have seven. The posts have been moved around to compensate for that. Timms is minister for energy, and that will take up a great deal of his time." Andrew Robathan, opposition spokesman on IT, said: "He's (Timms) got too much on his plate. He will either get no sleep, or not do the job properly." Industry opposition spokesman Tim Yeo said the government now had a "part-time" energy policy.

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