Cabinet reshuffle “a farce”

Michael Fallon visits the Total Elgin platform
Michael Fallon visits the Total Elgin platform

Prime Minister David Cameron was accused of presiding over an “absolute farce” on Tuesday night after appointing the 15th oil and gas minister in 17 years.

Matt Hancock became the fourth energy minister in the four years of the coalition as part of a Westminster reshuffle.

The Conservative MP for West Suffolk replaces Dundee-raised Michael Fallon, who has been promoted to defence secretary after less than 16 months in his former role.

Hancock will also take over Fallon’s two other jobs as business minister and minister for Portsmouth.

In a further blow to the North Sea industry, the Prime Minister also moved Nicky Morgan, the Treasury minister in charge of offshore tax, to education secretary.

The changes were made despite a previous pledge from the Tory leader to end the ministerial merry-go-round at the energy department.

It prompted a furious response from his political opponents and concern among industry leaders.

“The oil and gas industry is being taken for a ride by Westminster. They clearly have no understanding of how it works and seem to put energy very low on their priority list,” said Kevin Stewart, SNP MSP for Aberdeen Central.

“Another minister, the fourth in four years, is an absolute farce and shows the UK government’s complete disregard.”

A close ally of Chancellor George Osborne, Hancock became skills minister in 2012, adding an enterprise brief to his responsibilities last year.

David Gauke, former exchequer secretary to the Treasury, has been promoted to replace Ms Morgan as financial secretary to the Treasury.

“We congratulate Matthew Hancock on his appointment,” said Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK.

“Today marks the appointment of the fourth energy minister in less than two years and Nicky Morgan’s promotion means that we will have the fifth Treasury minister responsible for oil and gas in less than three years.

“This change in government leadership comes at a critical time for our industry and must be managed to result in the least disruption to the conduct of policy initiatives now in train.”

Sir Robert Smith, Liberal Democrat MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said: “The new ministers in the Treasury and Department for Energy and Climate Change will need to recognise how important the oil and gas industry is for both jobs in the north-east and for revenue that benefits the whole of the UK.

“They should continue to take forward the recommendations made by Sir Ian Wood in the Wood Review and listen careful to the submissions made as part of the Treasury consultation on the tax regime for North Sea oil and gas.”