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25 Sept 2022

Prime Minister scraps science policy body in cabinet shake-up

Prime Minister scraps science policy body in cabinet shake-up

A ministerial body intended to accelerate scientific research in the UK appears to have been scrapped barely a year after it was set up.

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) was established by Boris Johnson in June 2021 as a cabinet committee that the then-prime minister said would help cement the UK’s position as a “global science superpower”.

But less than three weeks after taking office, Liz Truss seems to have abolished the council, which does not appear on the list of cabinet committees published on Friday.

In August 2022, a House of Lords committee said the NSTC had met only three times since it had been established and urged it to meet more regularly to “drive progress towards science and technology targets”.

The scrapping of NSTC appears to be part of a wider effort to slim down Government, with the number of cabinet committees falling from 20 in October 2021 to just six.

Ms Truss also appears to have abolished the National Space Council, set up in 2020 to provide ministerial leadership on developing the UK’s space sector.

Both the National Space Council and the NSTC were chaired by Mr Johnson and included senior ministers such as then-chancellor Rishi Sunak, then-business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Ms Truss herself, then foreign secretary.

Other bodies to be abolished include cabinet committees focused on the Covid-19 response and those intended to promote policies to keep the Union together.

The Union committees appear to have been folded into a wider Home Affairs Committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, Therese Coffey, as have the Crime and Justice Taskforce and the Health Promotion Taskforce.

The National Security Council also appears to no longer be a separate body, but has been combined with other foreign policy committees to become the Foreign Policy and Security Council.

The Afghanistan Resettlement Committee has also been abolished.

While Mr Johnson chaired 11 of his 20 committees, Ms Truss now chairs just three, reflecting her main priorities.

These are the Economic Affairs Committee, the Foreign Policy and Security Committee and the sub-committee focused on security and the nuclear deterrent.

Unlike her predecessor, she has no seat on cabinet committees dealing with home affairs or climate change, having abolished the Climate Action Strategy Committee.

The Climate Action Implementation Committee remains, chaired by Cop26 President Alok Sharma and attended by the Chancellor, Business Secretary and other senior ministers.

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