Digital agencies have yet another new politician in charge after Croydon South MP is moved on from the Treasury
Chris Philp has been named Cabinet Office minister in an exchange of roles with Edward Argar, putting him in charge of the government’s central digital and data units and civil service reform.
Philp (pictured above) becomes the fourth person this year – and the 14th in the last seven years – to hold ministerial responsibility for the work of the Government Digital Service and, latterly, its sister agency the Central Digital and Data Office. He takes on the remit from Brendan Clarke-Smith – who remains a Cabinet Office minister, with a brief including government inquiries and secondary legislation.
The new arrival joins the central department having been ousted from his role as chief Treasury secretary last week when the prime minister sacked chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. Argar joined the Treasury along with new chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who was brought in to help stabilise the economy in the wake of last month’s mini-budget.
The switch has been interpreted as a demotion for Philp.
The MP for Croydon South, who also takes on the title of paymaster general, will oversee delivery of the government’s efficiency programme, which is likely to entail significant cutbacks in the wake of the mini-budget and rising inflation.
As well as GDS and CDDO, his brief also includes Civil Service HR; oversight of the Crown Commercial Service; the Government Property Agency; the Government Communications Service; and the Places for Growth strategy to grow the civil service’s footprint outside London.
The move came ahead of Hunt’s statement yesterday announcing a U-turn on most of the tax-cutting measures Kwarteng announced in September.
Philp becomes the fourth Cabinet Office minister in just over a year, succeeding Michael Ellis, who took over from Steve Barclay when the latter was briefly promoted to health secretary amid a wave of resignations this summer that ultimately toppled Boris Johnson as prime minister. Before that came Michael Gove, who set out the Declaration on Government Reform last year before being named levelling up secretary in September 2021.
However, the civil service reform brief has not always stayed with the Cabinet Office minister, becoming the responsibility of then-government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg in February 2020. Rees-Mogg, who pushed for greater office attendance and stronger curbs on flexi-time, was appointed business secretary last month.
Philp held a number of ministerial roles before being named chief Treasury secretary in Liz Truss’s September reshuffle. Starting with a two-month stint as a junior justice minister in September 2019, he was quickly moved to the then-Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government before a joint post at the Home Office and MoJ in February 2020.
He was appointed a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in September 2021, before returning to the backbenches this summer.
Prior to Philp and Clarke-Smith, Heather Wheeler held ministerial responsibility for GDS and CDDO for seven months. She took over from Barclay, who began the year in charge of the digital agencies.
The digital government remit has been something of a hot potato in recent years. In the six years following the 2015 departure from the front benches of Francis Maude – under whose watch GDS was created – Matt Hancock, Ben Gummer, Damian Green, Caroline Nokes, Oliver Dowden, Simon Hart, Jeremy Quin, Lord Theodore Agnew, Julia Lopez all held the ministerial reins of the central digital unit.