Meet the ministers

 

Boris Johnson has appointed a new transport secretary and two new ministers of state at the Department for Transport (DfT), alongside two existing ministers and a rail-mad returnee. We look at the ministers, their sometimes controversial backgrounds and their briefs.

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Grant Shapps

At the helm as secretary of state, Grant Shapps MP has a colourful past.

Under the pseudonym Michael Green, he ran the How To Corp company, which offered self-help guides that promised to help people become ‘stinking rich’.

More recently, Mr Shapps was the self-appointed chair of the British Infrastructure Group of Parliamentarians (BIG), which had no standing membership but adopted a criticial view of the usefulness of traffic lights.

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Chris Heaton-Harris

Chris Heaton-Harris MP is a new minister of state, with the interesting combination of EU Exit Planning, rail, and cycling and walking in his portfolio.

His previous government roles were largely in support of HM Household, ie a government whip.

In 2017 he was accused of ‘McCarthyite’ behaviour after writing to university vice-chancellors to demand a list of tutors lecturing on Brexit.

Number 10 said he had not been acting in his capacity as a whip.

Another minister of state is George Freeman MP, who has the wider but perhaps more coherent brief of transport technology and innovation, Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, decarbonisation and environment, Office for Low Emission Vehicles, Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

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George Freeman

Also included are spaceports and freeports (but not airports or sea ports), devolution and housing, and the vague duties of East-West connectivity, which could keep him busy with at least half the department's workload.

Mr Freeman seems well-equipped for a role involving science. Before being elected to Parliament, he had a 15-year career across the life sciences sector.

In 2017, he launched the Big Tent Ideas Festival, dubbed the ‘Tory Glastonbury’. A year later he said he would stand for the Tory leadership, ‘if asked’.

In April, he wrote on his website: ‘No-Deal is not a destination: it is a failure to reach a destination. And it would be perceived rightly – by our international partners and investors - as a signal failure of sense, statesmanship, and strategy.’

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Baroness Vere of Norbiton

Baroness (Charlotte) Vere of Norbiton was appointed as parliamentary under secretary of state at the DfT in April. As well as being the DfT’s lead roads minister, she has responsibility for security, freight (excluding EU Exit and rail), drones, taxis and buses, light rail, community transport and all Lords business.

In 2016 she claimed that she had been sacked as executive director of the Girls’ Schools Association because she had been made a Conservative peer in David Cameron’s resignation honours list.

Also remaining as parliamentary under secretary of state, a role she has held since January 2018, is Nusrat Ghani MP.

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Nusrat Ghani

Her responsibilities are maritime, skills & apprenticeships, Year of Engineering (legacy), accessibility (all modes), lead minister for secondary legislation and ‘shadow roads minister in the Commons’.

Transport Network believes this last responsibility to mean that she will back up Baroness Vere from the Commons, rather than joining the opposition.

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Paul Maynard, second left, helping hold up a piece of cardboard

The former rail minister and rail enthusiast, Paul Maynard MP replaces rail minister Andrew Jones, and has a lot of rail, but not rail itself, in his brief: Northern Powerhouse Rail; HS2; Crossrail; East West Rail; the TransPennine route upgrade and…aviation including Heathrow expansion.

Mr Maynard was criticised in 2016 when it was suggested that a ‘See it. Say it. Sorted’ poster that he had launched bore a ‘shocking’ resemblance to Nazi propaganda.

In July he reweeted a comment from a conservative councillor describing him as a ‘passionate and informed rail minister’ who would ‘hit the rails running’ - although on his own Twitter profile he still describes himself as ‘Courts and Legal Aid Minister at Ministry of Justice’.

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