Jeremy Wright named DCMS secretary as Hancock is moved to health

Industry expresses regret as one of government’s most visible digital advocates is given a new job

Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire/PA Images

Jeremy Wright has been appointed as the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, with incumbent Matt Hancock being moved to the role of health secretary.

The new appointments were part of a wider reshuffle prompted by the resignations of Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson. 

Wright (pictured above) joins DCMS from his previous role as attorney general, which he held for four years. Prior to entering parliament in 2005, he worked as a barrister specialising in both the prosecution and defence of criminal cases.

Much of the online reaction (see below) to Wright’s appointment to the DCMS brief questioned his technology and digital expertise. Hansard data reveals that Wright has only ever used the word “digital” once in 13 years as an MP, during a discussion in March about a review of the disclosure obligations of the Crown Prosecution Service. The word cropped up once more as part of a URL included in a written statement he gave in 2013.

Wright’s Twitter account has just five posts – all of which were made in April 2015, shortly after it was set up.

The MP for Parliament for Kenilworth and Southam, does, however, actively maintain a website and Facebook page, through which he issued a brief statement in reaction to his appointment.

He said: “Very excited to be starting a new job this morning as Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, a department whose work has a huge impact on our heritage, the things we enjoy now and on our national future.”

Hancock – who famously launched his own app earlier this year – was well known for his enthusiasm for digital and data. He was appointed as DCMS secretary in January, after an 18-month stint as minister for digital.

Under Hancock’s stewardship, the department has this year gained a number of new digital and data responsibilities – most notably the remit for data policy, governance, and sharing formerly held by the Government Digital Service. It also took over the digital identity policy brief from GDS, while responsibility for digital signatures was migrated to DCMS from BEIS.

On Twitter, Hancock said that he had “loved the last two years” at the department.

He added: “Thank you to all the brilliant digital dynamos, artists, and mission-driven civil servants, who worked so hard to achieve so much.”

Jeremy Hunt, who has been named foreign secretary after six years at what is now the Department of Health and Social Care, saluted the tech credentials of his successor.

“Couldn’t ask for a better successor than Matt Hancock to take forward long-term NHS plan with his brilliant understanding of the power of technology,” Hunt tweeted. “The new NHS app will be in safe hands!”

Julian David, chief executive of techUK, said that the industry body “is very sorry to see Matt Hancock move on from the digital portfolio”.

“Matt has been a staunch supporter of the UK’s tech sector both in government and in other domestic and international fora,” David added. “His move to lead the work of the Department for Health and Social Care is a clear recognition of the passion, determination and drive we have seen him show at DCMS.  All of us here at techUK now look forward to working with Jeremy Wright and digital minister Margot James to continue to build on the success of our industry.”

Sam Trendall

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