I am very pleased to have been asked by the Prime Minister to take up a new role as Minister of State for Energy in the Department for Energy & Climate Change. I am looking forward to supporting Amber Rudd as she takes on her new position as Secretary of State, and tackling the big energy issues our country faces.
I am grateful to the fantastic civil servants who have supported me as City Minister in the Treasury in my first government position. We had lots of achievements together, but there are some that really stand out for me.
I was delighted when we announced in December last year that the Government had recovered 85 per cent of our total claim against the Landsbanki estate in Iceland, which operated under the brand Icesave in the UK, following its collapse at the height of the financial crisis. The failure of the Icelandic banks cost our taxpayers billions of pounds, when the Government took the decision to fully refund British retail savers with Icesave when the Icelandic deposit insurance failed to meet its obligations, with no certainty of ever getting the money back. This had been a key priority for me in the autumn, and I pressed Ministers in Iceland to speed up the return of British taxpayers’ money. We have now recovered a total of £3.82 billion, and I know that the Treasury is committed to recovering the full outstanding amount of the taxpayer’s claim from the Landsbanki estate.
Financial inclusivity was an area I really focused on whilst City Minister, working to deliver basic fee-free bank account facilities to anyone who doesn’t already have a bank account or who can’t use their existing account due to financial difficulty. I was really pleased that, following extensive negotiations, nine high street banks and building societies covering over 90 per cent of the UK current account market agreed to offer a better deal to their customers.
Ensuring that the UK financial services sector remains globally-competitive and world-leading is vitally important. Last summer, I had the pleasure of opening trading at the London Stock Exchange as the UK became the first country outside the Islamic world to issue a sovereign Sukuk, or Islamic bond. The strong demand for the bond not only delivers good value for money for the taxpayer, but also cements Britain’s position as the western hub of Islamic finance and is a part of our long term economic plan to make Britain the undisputed centre of global financial services.
As a constituency MP, I am very aware that a key part of my role in South Northants is to listen to the concerns of my constituents and to do everything I can to resolve them and, where that isn’t possible, to explain this clearly and kindly. I had felt at the start of my tenure as City Minister that this approach was sometimes lacking and I am really pleased to have worked so constructively with our civil service team to make sure that empathy and understanding was at the heart of all of our engagements with those who seek our help.
I look forward to working with Amber and Nick Bourne (the Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) at DECC!
UPDATE [July 2016]
I was disappointed that two anonymous officials at the Treasury spoke in critical terms to the press about my time as City Minister during the recent Conservative Party leadership contest.
Having taken this matter up with Tom Scholar, the Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury, he has made clear that these two anonymous officials did not reflect the view of the wider Treasury team.
You can read a copy of his letter here.