Civil service reformer Michael Gove named housing secretary in PM's reshuffle

Moves also include Dominic Raab moving from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to the Ministry of Justice
New housing secretary Michael Gove. Photo: Han Yan/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

Cabinet Office minister and keen civil service reformer Michael Gove has been moved to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, where he will lead the levelling-up agenda, in a cabinet reshuffle that has also seen Dominic Raab lose his post as foreign secretary.

Steve Barclay, formerly chief secretary to the Treasury, has taken over Gove’s brief at the Cabinet Office and as Duchy of Lancaster. There he will be responsible for civil service reform, but it is unclear whether he will champion the issue as enthusiastically as his predecessor.

This summer, Gove set out the Declaration on Government Reform, a plan that included having 50% of senior civil servants working outside London by 2030, and steps to make the civil service more open to external talent.

It came a year after his Ditchley Lecture, in which he said that for decades, ministers had “neglected to ensure that senior members of the civil service have all the basic skills required to serve government, and our citizens, well” and promised to “drive change”.

A high-ranking cabinet member told CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome they were “disappointed” Gove had moved.

"The Cabinet Office is overworked and tired and desperately needs long-term vision, which under Gove seemed possible,” they said.

"Some colleagues would prefer the civil service to run itself rather than have it's steering moved in a totally different direction under a less connected minister."

As housing secretary, Gove will also take on the Union brief after taking over from Robert Jenrick, who has left government after being demoted to the backbenches. 

Liz Truss got the biggest promotion in the long-anticipated reshuffle, taking over from Raab as foreign secretary. Raab, who faced calls to resign over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, has a new tripartite role as justice secretary, lord chancellor and deputy prime minister.

Robert Buckland, who has been justice secretary since 2019, has been sacked in the reshuffle.

Former international development secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan, who lost that job when her department merged with the Foreign Office last year, has made a return to government, taking over Truss’s job as trade secretary.

Nadine Dorries has been appointed culture secretary, taking over from Oliver Dowden, who has replaced Amanda Milling as new co-chair of the Conservative party.

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