With overall responsibility for the DTI, president of the Board of Trade Margaret Beckett, looks to be taking a slow but sure path as she sets out in her new role. Toughening up on competition law is likely to be an early priority, however.
Beckett has already fuelled fears in the City of a tightening up on merger and acquisition policy by appointing Dan Corry as one of her special advisers. Corry is a senior economist at the left-of-centre think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research. Nigel Griffiths’ appointment as competition and consumer affairs minister is also said to be a further sign of Labour’s tougher line on mergers.
John Battle, Labour’s former energy spokesman, has been given the thorny task of overseeing the Government’s shake-up of the utilities as part of his new role – minister in charge of manufacturing and services, science and technology. Energy, telecoms and environment issues have been added to his portfolio.
One of Battle’s first duties looks likely to be helping to push through a short bill on restructuring regulation of the utilities. Beckett has said that Labour wants the existing regime to be more open and accountable to both the consumer and business.
Geoffrey Hoon, Labour’s shadow telecoms and science minister, and spokesman on the millennium computer crisis, has been moved to the Lord Chancellor’s department.
Trade unions are likely to be pleased by the appointment of former T&G official Ian McCartney as minister in charge of the labour market, covering controversial areas such as the introduction of new legislation for the minimum wage and trade union rights. McCartney will also be responsible for the formation of the new Low Pay Commission which will advise the Government on the level of a minimum wage.
Stephen Byers, Labour’s employment spokesman in opposition, has been made minister for school standards, where he may receive a warmer welcome than was given to him by unions in his old role.
Continuing her campaign for Labour on behalf of small businesses, Barbara Roche retains her small business brief within the DTI. She will also assist McCartney on inward investment and Battle on industry matters.