Following a flurry of ministerial resignations and under intense pressure from his party, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced his intention to step down from government. But how will this political upheaval affect the landscape sector?
On Thursday 7 July 2022, Boris Johnson announced that he would resign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Johnson’s premiership has coincided with some significant policy shifts in planning, infrastructure, design, environmental protection, ecosystem restoration, and more.
The news about Johnson follows multiple resignations from senior and junior ministers, including several personnel from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – former Environment Minister Rebecca Pow among them. Most notably, the prime minister has sacked the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, Michael Gove. Greg Clark – a one-time DCLG secretary and planning minister – has since replaced him.
With these key government positions in government now in a period of transition, the future of some important policy initiatives is in question.
Key among these is the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which Defra first introduced to Parliament on 11 May 2022. The Bill is still at committee stage in the House of Commons, and without ministers available to work on legislation, its progress could slow or stall.
My Bill Committee for tomorrow has been cancelled. No Ministers available to work on legislation. They can’t run the Government.
— 💙Rachael Maskell MP (@RachaelMaskell) July 6, 2022
Rachael Maskell, Labour and Co-operative MP for York Central, is a member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee that is responsible for scrutinising the Bill
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has also seen multiple resignations – although Environment Secretary George Eustice has remained in post. This could have implications for a number of live policy issues, including the implementation of the Environment Act and related secondary legislation.
Can the government still function?
As of Friday 8 July, Boris Johnson has appointed a new cabinet and will act as a ‘caretaker’ prime minister until the Conservative Party chooses a new leader.
Johnson has reportedly told his new cabinet that he will not implement a ‘major change in direction’, and that there is ‘no excuse to take your foot off the pedal’. Since then, the contest to replace Johnson as Conservative Party leader has begun, with results expected in September after the upcoming parliamentary recess.
According to Dr Catherine Haddon, senior fellow at the Institute for Government think tank, a caretaker position is ‘not supposed to stop you dealing with the business of government’. But the prime minister ‘won’t be able to continue as normal and will face some restrictions on what he’s allowed to do’.
There have since been a number of ministerial appointments to fill vacancies in government departments and help progress legislation through parliament.
At Defra, Steve Double MP has taken on the role of parliamentary under secretary of state, covering two briefs: nature recovery and the domestic environment; and agri-innovation and climate adaption.
At DLUHC, Paul Scully MP and Marcus Jones MP have joined as ministers of state. Jones has taken on the housing portfolio, while Scully’s brief is yet undecided. (Scully also remains minister for London.) Lia Nici MP has taken on the role of parliamentary under secretary of state. There remain a number of vacancies.
The LI will continue to monitor the progress of important landscape-related legislation and champion the importance of landscape to policymakers – whatever shape the new government might take.