Simon Hart: Parliament UK/CC BY 3.0
The Cabinet Office has confirmed that Simon Hart’s full ministerial brief at the department includes responsibility for civil service HR and the Government Digital Service – one month after he was appointed as implementation minister.
Hart has been MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire since 2010, but the Cabinet Office role as part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s new administration, is his first government job.
He replaces Oliver Dowden who has been promoted from minister for implementation to the overall minister for the Cabinet Office.
It had been expected that Hart’s responsibilities would mirror those of Dowden under Theresa May, but confirmation only arrived this week.
In addition to looking after and civil service HR and GDS, Hart’s role covers oversight of the Geospatial Commission, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, government property, cybersecurity, and public appointments.
He will also hold ministerial responsibility for commercial models, shared services, and the Government Commercial Function.
Unlike his predecessor, there is no explicit mention of the Crown Commercial Service in Hart’s list of duties – nor in the specified responsibilities of any other Cabinet Office minister.
Prior to becoming an MP, Hart served as chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which seeks to “to promote understanding and acceptance of the rural way of life” and which led opposition to the New Labour drive to make fox hunting illegal.
He remained chairman of the alliance until his appointment as a minister, at which point he was required to relinquish the role.
Other Cabinet Office ministerial briefs have also been confirmed. Dowden will have responsibility for oversight of all Cabinet Office policies and will chair of Cabinet Office board, as well as supporting Johnson on implementation and delivery of government policy. He will also have oversight of two new areas of the Cabinet Office’s work – veterans issues and the cross-government equalities hub.
Chloe Smith remains the Cabinet Office minister for the constitution, with responsibilities including government communications and knowledge management, the UK Statistics Authority and other public bodies, and the Cabinet Office’s own HR. While she is on Maternity leave until October, the tole is being covered in an interim period by Kevin Foster, who is also a government whip.
Other ministerial portfolios that sit in the Cabinet Office include Michael Gove, who as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is leading the government’s planning for Brexit, particularity a no-deal departure from the EU, Jake Berry, the minister for the northern powerhouse and local growth, and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons. Earlier this month, Rees-Mogg lavished praise on his new civil service team, saying he had been “deeply impressed” with the civil service and had “immediately gone native” in the Cabinet Office following his July 24 appointment by new Johnson.
The comments are in stark contrast to his claims last year that Treasury staff routinely “fiddled figures”.