A number of key issues have arisen in recent days following the ministerial changes made by the new Prime Minister:
- George Freeman MP, the Minister for Life Sciences, has been removed from office and is no longer part of the Government. This is a real surprise, given his enthusiastic and knowledgeable support for life sciences, and there seems no justification for it. As a consolation prize, he has been made chair of the Prime Minister’s Policy Board.
- At the time of writing, it appears that the position of Minister for Life Sciences no longer exists. If this is correct, his work will be split among other departments.
- In the Department of Health, there are three new ministers: Philip Dunne MP is the new Minister of State responsible for Community and Social Care. Nicola Blackwood MP and David Mowat MP are more junior Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State. Their responsibilities, including those for NICE and the pharmaceutical industry, have yet to be announced and this may take a while. It is worth noting that the last two have had a genuine interest in science.
- The Office for Life Sciences (OLS) has confirmed that it will be part of the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills having been abolished). Jo Johnson MP is continuing as Minister of State for Universities and Science in the new department, but will have to split his workload with the Department for Education, where he is now also Minister of State for Universities and Science. Whether he or another minister will be responsible for the OLS is not yet known.
- The publication of the Accelerated Access Review, already delayed until September due to the referendum result, may be further delayed as the new ministers will want to read the draft and amend it if necessary before signing it off.
- One of the last acts by George Freeman was to announce the creation of a Steering Group, to be chaired by GSK and AZ, to address regulatory and other problems facing the pharmaceutical industry following the decision to leave the EU. This decision and the group’s membership and terms of reference, will need to be confirmed by the new ministers.
A number of companies may want to consider the above points and how they might affect their Public Affairs strategy.