Public Affairs Update – Life Sciences: Ministerial Responsibilities

In the Department of Health, Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, is the key Minister. His responsibilities include medicines and industry; cancer drugs fund; life sciences industry; specialised commissioning; academic life sciences centres; and NHS procurement.

Although he does not have a science background, as a Health Minister in the House of Lords since 2015 he has to answer all healthcare issues raised in the Lords, including life sciences. He is sensible and level headed, and has spoken seriously about the science research challenges in the UK after the referendum.

Nicola Blackwood, also Under-Secretary of State, is focussing on Public Health England, which alone is pretty much a full-time job. With the remainder of her time she has to cover sexual health, mental health services, prison health services, and global health security, as well as R&D, life sciences innovation, genomics and anti-microbial resistance. This is a formidable list, so it would be sensible to expect Lord Prior to take the overall lead for life science issues.

In the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, is the key person. His responsibilities include research funding, public engagement in science, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills; open access/research data and relations with Government Office for Science. He is seen as ambitious, steady and hard-working, eschewing much personal publicity. However he has further responsibilities for higher education, and innovation and commerce, and is also based in the Department of Education, so he has limited time for life sciences.

The Office for Life Sciences (OLS) has confirmed that it remains part of the Department of Health as well as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. At present, its is still based in the latter department.

 

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Published 2. August 2016 in News UK