Cabinet Reshuffle Briefing Activity

February, 2023

After surpassing 100 days in post as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak undertook his first reshuffle on 7th February, which was accelerated following his sacking of Nadhim Zahawi as Conservative Party chair.

The most significant element of this reshuffle was the reorganisation of Whitehall to create four new departments. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) was broken up, with energy separated into its own department – the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Fulfilling a leadership election pledge on the new energy department, Rishi Sunak appointed Grant Shapps to the helm, in a clear signal of the Government’s priorities in this area ahead of the next General Election.

The breakup of BEIS also saw the creation of a new dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), which Michelle Donelan will lead. The move to create this new department was broadly welcomed by the business community and highlights another area of government in which Rishi Sunak wishes to make his mark in.

The business element of BEIS was integrated into the Department for International Trade (DIT) to create a new Department for Business and Trade headed up by former Secretary of State for DIT Kemi Badenoch. With the Prime Minister keen to stress the opportunities of Brexit, this new department will be tasked with “backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade.”

And while the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities remained intact as a department, Rachel Maclean became the new housing minister following the departure of Lucy Frazer, which meant she became the 15th since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 and the sixth to hold the post in the past 12 months.

Finally, a re-focused Department for Culture, Media and Sport (with the digital element ciphered into the new DSIT) will look to champion these industries and build on the UK’s global position as a leader in the creative arts.

With a general election expected in late 2024, the Prime Minister has made the decision to re- wire certain government departments and their relationship with one another, which he hopes will deliver on his five promises made in January. And with no sackings resulting from this reshuffle, he will hope he has avoided ruffling the feathers of the majority of his backbenchers.