BIA blog | Government reshuffle 2021

As many of you will have spotted on the news, Boris Johnson held a major reshuffle last week. While the headlines have mainly focused on the departure of Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson, there are also some important changes for life sciences. 

Nadhim Zahawi has been rewarded for his excellent work as Vaccines Minister with a promotion to Cabinet as Secretary of State for Education. His previous role spanned the Health and Business Departments in recognition of the important partnership of industry, academia and the NHS in responding to COVID-19. Although it is an appropriate time to transition from pandemic crisis management and there will no longer be a joint BEIS/DHSC Minister responsible for vaccines, we will be keen to see that level of engagement continuing.

Among his many achievements Nadhim Zahawi co-chaired the Life Sciences COVID-19 Response Group, along with Lord Bethell, who is also standing down from his role as the Health Department Minister for Innovation. The BIA worked closely with Lord Bethell on the COVID-19 response, the UK/EU relationship and particularly on the Life Sciences Vision. He was a dedicated and engaged partner for the life sciences sector. We look forward to working closely with the incoming Innovation Minister, former MEP Lord Kamall.

In the Business Department, George Freeman has taken over from Amanda Solloway as Minister for Science, Research and Innovation. Freeman will be familiar to many of you, having previously been Minister for Life Sciences (2014-2016). He knows the BIA well and has attended many of our events in the past. We will build on this existing relationship and look forward to working with him in his new role.

Lee Rowley takes over from Nadhim Zahawi as BEIS Minister for Business and Industry, with responsibility for the Vaccines Task Force and Life Sciences. Before becoming an MP, Rowley worked in financial services. He is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups for ovarian cancer, brain tumours and data analytics, indicative of his interest in health and innovation.

While Sajid Javid remains Secretary of State for Health there have been new appointments in his Department. Maggie Throup has been appointed Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care. She will oversee some key COVID-19 related areas such as vaccine deployment as well as health improvement. Throup has a background in Biomedical Science and formerly sat on the Health Select Committee (2015-18). Gillian Keegan was appointed as Minister for Care, overseeing the COVID-19 test and trace programme in the newly established Joint Biosecurity Centre.

While Nadine Dorries has been promoted from Health, she will still oversee the key areas of data and digital in her new home of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Dorries will oversee the implementation of the National Data Strategy which was published last year. Hopefully this cross-departmental experience will give her an appreciation of the vital role of data and digital technologies in healthcare. At the Treasury, Jesse Norman who had an excellent understanding of life sciences, has stood down as Financial Secretary.

Building relationships with Parliamentarians is a year-round activity that underpins our response to the turning of the wheel of political fortune at reshuffle time. As our recent very successful Parliament Day, at which 35 members met two ministers, 13 MPs and 21 officials in 24 different meetings showed, there is a great appetite among policymakers to engage directly with the biotech industry. We will continue to establish and foster productive relationships with MPs and Peers that will translate into delivering on the ambition of the Life Sciences Vision to make the UK the best place for life sciences innovation.