Anger as en­ergy brief given to ju­nior min­is­ter Nor­man

Tories ac­cused of turn­ing their backs on in­dus­try in cri­sis

The Press and Journal (Highlands & Islands) - - News - BY LIND­SAY RAZAQ WEST­MIN­STER RE­PORTER

The UK Gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of down­grad­ing the po­si­tion of en­ergy min­is­ter amid ques­tions around its com­mit­ment to the in­dus­try.

Tory MP Jesse Nor­man has re­placed Con­ser­va­tive peer Baroness Neville-Rolfe, whom he pre­vi­ously sup­ported in the role.

While she was a min­is­ter of state he is a lower-rank­ing un­der- sec­re­tary of state.

North­ern Isles MP Alis­tair Carmichael called it a

“It dis­plays that the en­ergy in­dus­try sim­ply doesn’t mat­ter”

“dis­grace­ful de­mo­tion” at the end of a year in which the en­ergy brief has gone from hav­ing an en­tire depart­ment to be­ing rep­re­sented by the most ju­nior level of min­is­ter.

He added: “More than any­thing else it dis­plays that the en­ergy in­dus­try sim­ply doesn’t mat­ter to this cur­rent gov­ern­ment.

“The fact this has been down­graded sends a sig­nal to the rest of gov­ern­ment and White­hall that this pol­icy area is not a pri­or­ity.

“It will re­quire par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion from the sec­re­tary of state if the in­dus­try is go­ing to get the at­ten­tion that it needs and de­serves.”

SNP en­ergy spokesman Cal­lum McCaig said it was “high time the an­nual draw­ing of min­is­te­rial names out of ahat” came to an end.

The Aberdeen South MP added: “I am sure there will be a num­ber of peo­ple across the coun­try sigh­ing at the prospect of hav­ing to ex­plain the in­tri­ca­cies of their in­dus­try to the 18th en­ergy min­is­ter in 19 years.”

For­mer shadow Scot­tish sec­re­tary Ian Mur­ray said there had been con­fu­sion since the Depart­ment for Busi­ness, En­ergy and In­dus­trial Strat­egy (BEIS) was cre­ated.

The Labour MP added: “This con­stant chop­ping and chang­ing of min­is­ters does not help. The new ti­tle sug­gests this is a down­grad­ing of the role, but more im­por­tant than the ti­tle is that the min­is­ter gets on and does some­thing.”

A BEIS spokesman said the gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to the “vi­tal” oil and gas in­dus­try re­mained as strong as ever.

He added: “Jesse Nor­man has been com­mit­ted to the en­ergy port­fo­lio ever since the depart­ment was formed.

“He vis­ited Aberdeen only two months ago to see how re­silient and adap­tive the oil and gas in­dus­try has been in re­spond­ing to the chal­lenges brought by the low global oil price,” added the spokesman.

Mr Nor­man has served on var­i­ous Com­mons com­mit­tees but has no pre­vi­ous front bench ex­pe­ri­ence.

LOWER PRI­OR­ITY? Jesse Nor­man is in con­trol of the en­ergy brief de­spite be­ing an un­der-sec­re­tary of state and not a full min­is­ter

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