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Charities seek reassurance after radical Cabinet-reshuffle

22 July 2016


New broom sweeps in: Theresa May, with her husband, Philip, arrive in Downing Street on Wednesday of last week

New broom sweeps in: Theresa May, with her husband, Philip, arrive in Downing Street on Wednesday of last week

WHILE Archbishop of Canterbury prayed for wisdom in the Government, Christian charities urged MPs to “retain commitments”, as Theresa May reshuffled the Cabinet last week, in her first hours as Prime Minister.

Of the 22 Cabinet positions available, seven were filled by Leave campaigners. Seven women joined the Prime Minister. Archbishop Welby said on Twitter: “We pray for @theresa_may and her new government over the coming days — for wisdom as they lead for the common good of the country.”

The first to be appointed was the Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, as Foreign Secretary, while his predecessor Philip Hammond was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. The former Chancellor, George Osborne, and the former Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, returned to the back benches.

Only four members of the previous Cabinet remained in position: Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary; Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary; Alun Cairns as Welsh Secretary; and David Mundell as Scottish Secretary.

Mrs May gave significant promotions to Brexit supporters, including two newly created positions: David Davis became Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and Liam Fox is Secretary for International Trade.

The former Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Grayling, was appointed Transport Secretary, while Mrs May appointed her former rival for the leadership, Andrea Leadsom as Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary.

Priti Patel, the former Minister of State for Employment, was appointed Secretary for International Development, even though she called for the department to be scrapped in 2013.

World Vision UK urged Ms Patel to make a “no-cuts” pledge to preserve the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of its Gross National Income on overseas aid.

The charity’s public-affairs officer, Rob Henderson, said: “People question what impact a Whitehall department has on children’s lives thousands of miles away. The answer is ‘massive’. The UK punches above its weight — championing children abused by war, ending child marriage, and restoring dignity to children in the world’s toughest places. Our influence on the world stage makes this country a force to be reckoned with.”

Another development agency, Tearfund, also said that Ms Patel must give “an early signal” that she wished to retain the commitment to tackle global poverty, “at a time when the world will be watching to see whether the nation turns inwards”.

Her in-tray would be “heaving”, the advocacy director at Tearfund, Paul Cook, said; but she must prioritise helping developing nations respond to the impact of climate change. “The poor communities Tearfund is working with around the world are experiencing more extreme storms, flooding, erratic seasons, and growing deserts, all of which are devastating to every aspect of their lives.”

Despite this, the Department of Energy and Climate Change was disbanded in the reshuffle, eight years after it was created. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will now take on energy policy, under the new name the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under Greg Clark. The previous Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has swapped with Mr Clark at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Christian Aid expressed concern at the loss, but acknowledged that it was an opportunity for the new department “to play a vital role in shaping a sustainable, low-carbon economy for the UK”.

The head of advocacy at Christian Aid, Laura Taylor, said: “We hope that Greg Clark will put tackling climate change right at the heart of the new Government’s agenda, and fulfil his predecessor Amber Rudd’s commitment to produce a low-carbon plan for the country.”

Ms Rudd has succeeded Mrs May as Home Secretary. Two more women, the former Environment Secretary, Liz Truss, and the former International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, were appointed to Justice Secretary and Education Secretary, respectively.

The Education department is now also be responsible for universities, further education, skills, and apprenticeships, transferred from the former Department for Business.

The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that he was pleased with the appointment of Ms Greening. “Clearly she understands the power of education to transform lives for the good. We look forward to working with Justine and her colleagues to ensure that all our young people are given the opportunity to flourish academically, socially, and spiritually within school communities that are free to focus on the whole child and not just their test results.”

Karen Bradley, the former Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime, has taken over from the deposed John Whittingdale as Culture, Media and Sport Secretary; Damian Green is the new Work and Pensions Secretary; and James Brokenshire is the Secretary for Northern Ireland.

A prayer for the new Prime Minister and Government was published last week on the Church of England website: “Sovereign God, give grace to those who lead our Government and nation that they may use their gifts and abilities to serve the common good, and to seek that unity which is your gift and your will; through him who came not to be served but to serve, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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