FT: UK Energy Minister ‘Expected To Prioritise Shale Development’

  • Date: 13/05/15
  • George Parker, Financial Times

Britain’s new energy secretary is expected to prioritise the development of shale gas in Britain, following the chancellor’s request last year to ministers to reduce planning delays.

The Conservatives’ final haul of 331 seats not only swept the Lib Dems out of government but gave the chancellor an unexpected chance to pursue an ambitious second-term economic agenda on his own terms.

Mr Cameron swiftly made Mr Osborne his “first secretary of state” — effectively his deputy — formalising the chancellor’s primacy in the ministerial ranks and his status as the prime minister’s preferred successor.

Then Mr Osborne went to work; his fingerprints were all over Mr Cameron’s reshuffle that created the first fully Conservative cabinet since John Major’s ejection from Number 10 in 1997.

As usual, the promotion of Mr Osborne’s allies was portrayed as an attempt by the chancellor to put in place powerful figures who might one day support him for the leadership.

But it was also a strong policy signal: Mr Osborne wants to remodel the British economy and has put in place ministers whom he feels will help to deliver his writ across Whitehall.

In an interview with the Financial Times in March, the chancellor said that apart from fixing the deficit, his biggest challenge was fixing the supply side of the British economy: “We’ve got a big productivity problem, we’re not exporting enough as a country.”

Mr Osborne is expected to set out his economic vision in a summer Budget, while across government “Osbornite” ministers get to work. So who are the key players in delivering the chancellor’s plan?

SAJID JAVID, business secretary: Mr Osborne’s former parliamentary private secretary (PPS) has a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on his wall and is committed to sweeping away obstacles to wealth creation. Mr Javid has promised a drive to abolish red tape, review employment legislation, create 3m apprenticeships, raise the bar in strike ballots and give further impetus to export promotion.

AMBER RUDD, energy secretary: another Osborne PPS, Ms Rudd is expected to prioritise the development of shale gas in Britain, following the chancellor’s request last year to ministers to reduce planning delays. “I would love fracking to get going in the UK and I am doing absolutely everything I can to encourage it,” Mr Osborne said in 2013. The chancellor’s allies say the Tories went quiet on fracking during the election campaign for fear of upsetting the shires but Mr Osborne now wants to “get on with it”.
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