With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Permanent secretary, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
What was your highlight of 2016?
This year has been a really exciting year for me. It started with my move from the Competition and Markets Authority and appointment as the permanent secretary of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Then there was my subsequent appointment as permanent secretary at BEIS, which meant I had to take on a much broader portfolio than I was expecting in my tenure at DECC. Lastly, my family and I are moving back to the UK after 17 years in Ireland.
What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
My departments have been through radical change in 2016! Nine days after my appointment as perm sec of DECC I found myself jointly running the newly formed BEIS. The bringing together of the DECC and Department for Business Innovation and Skills portfolios has given us an excellent opportunity to bring together complementary agendas and create a new department that is more than just the sum of its parts. It is also the first time that there has been a department with “industrial strategy” in its title and our department is now at the heart of the government’s ambition to revitalise our economic performance.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The biggest challenge will undoubtedly be defining and delivering a comprehensive industrial strategy, whilst also working to get the best deal for our stakeholders from Brexit. The prime minister and our secretary of state have made it clear the strategy will be critical to delivering an economy that works for all. In BEIS we have appointed a really great team to work with businesses and other departments on the industrial strategy and will be publishing a white paper early next year outlining what and how we are planning to deliver. We will be working closely with the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade to identify the needs of UK businesses as we develop our EU exit strategy.
What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
The best Christmas present I ever received was a Hornby locomotive; the worst was a back-scratcher. This was before I worked in the civil service.
More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017