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Tue June 15 2021

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Infrastructure minister quits government

23 Sep 16 Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Jim O’Neill, the minister responsible for infrastructure, PFI, public private partnerships, the Northern Powerhouse initiative and business regulation, has quit not just the government but the Conservative Party to boot.

Jim O’Neill
Jim O’Neill

Jim O’Neill, former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, was recruited by the then chancellor George Osborne in 2015 to join the government. He was given a seat in the House of Lords as Baron O’Neill of Gatley.

Lord O’Neill has now resigned after just 16 months in the job, for which he drew no salary. He has also resigned the Tory whip and will sit in the Lords as a cross-bencher.

His resignation follows a decision by new prime minister Theresa May to drop plans to put the National Infrastructure Commission on a statutory footing. [See previous report here.]   Under the new post-referendum regime, the so-called Northern Powerhouse project appears not to be quite the priority it was when Chancellor Osborne was spearheading it.

He has been replaced in the Treasury by Lord Young, who as Sir George Young was transport secretary in the 1990s and occasionally known as 'the bicycling baronet'.

BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed speculated: “I doubt Lord O'Neill felt all that comfortable in a May-led administration, evidenced by his decision to quit the Conservative whip in the Lords and become a cross-bencher.”

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