None of the ministers in David Cameron’s newly-formed Conservative government have worked in technology or digital sectors, though Robert Halfon MP, newly appointed minister without portfolio, has spoken out in support of digital reform in Parliament.
Halfon is not a Cabinet minister but will attend some Cabinet meetings, according to the official announcement of minsterial posts in the new government. Some of the new Tory intake are tech savvy. Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, for example, was previously technology editor at the Daily Telegraph.
However fears remain that tech will not have a strong enough voice at the top table, both as a rapidly growing sector and for its potential to transform public services.
Although the startup community generally welcomed a Conservative administration, some civil servants who have been trying to drive digital transformation of government, have told ComputerworldUK of their fears that the government digital reform agenda will stagnate and drop down the list of priorities without ministerial backing.
Francis Maude, who led sweeping reforms to government digital and IT during his five-year tenure as Cabinet Office minister, stood down as an MP at the election.
The new Cabinet Office minister is Matt Hancock, previously minister of state at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) who will take over the role that Francis Maude had in the previous government, in overseeing the government's broad digital strategy. Before winning his seat as an MP in 2010 he was George Osborne’s chief of staff.
Maude has been appointed trade minister at the Foreign Office and BIS and is expected to be granted a peerage.
“A digital savvy minister – and sometimes the advisors that arrive with them – can have a big impact on their department’s attitude to digital, both positive and negative,” former digital head at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Health, Tim O’Lloyd, wrote on his blog.
Continuity is the watchword for many of the big IT-related schemes carried over from the last Parliament.
Work will resume on the beleaguered benefit reform project Universal Credit with Iain Duncan Smith confirmed as work and pensions minister, GP records database Care.data will carry on being rolled out and effort to get the Police ICT Company off the ground will continue.
Home Secretary Theresa May has hinted the government will try to push the Data Communications Bill (dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter) through Parliament again, although the SNP have said they will work to block the bill.
Nothing has yet been announced on the Government Digital Service although it is expected to remain largely unchanged, albeit with a renewed focus on building cross government platforms rather than just front end websites.