The British Science Minister resigns in the cabinet reshuffle

The British Science Minister resigns in the cabinet reshuffle

British Science Minister George Freeman announced his resignation, saying it was time to “focus on my health, my family’s wellbeing and my life off the bench”, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reshuffles his cabinet.

In a letter to Sunak, Freeman says he informed the chief whip of his decision to step down “with a heavy heart” as far back as September.

“After 13 years of championing science and technology and the importance of an active industrial strategy for innovation, in five ministerial positions under four Prime Ministers, I am sure you will realize that this was not an easy decision to make, but it is clear that for me, it has “It’s time for me to focus on my health, the well-being of my family and my life off the bench.”

This is the second time that Mr. Freeman has resigned from his position. He was first appointed by Boris Johnson in September 2021 but resigned in the chaotic dying days of that administration just eight months later. He was reappointed by Mr Sunak in October 2022.

In his letter to Mr Sunak, Mr Freeman said his proudest achievements as Science Minister include establishing the Advanced Research and Invention Agency and the UK’s re-admission to the EU’s Horizon Europe funding programme.

He was widely seen by the university sector as a champion of UK research interests, having spent 15 years before joining politics in the biotechnology sector at Cambridge, where he founded and funded four biomedical start-ups.

Mr Freeman has been a strong advocate of the Government’s pledge to increase public investment in R&D to £22bn a year by 2026-27, and in recent months has hinted at announcing a new fellowships scheme that would allow the UK to attract leading scientific talent internationally.

However, the appointment last February of Michelle Donnellan as secretary of state in the newly formed Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, which Freeman joined, may have eroded his leadership on science issues in government.

“I firmly believe that supporting and harnessing innovation is the only path to the more productive, sustainable, prosperous and resilient economy and country we so desperately need,” Freeman wrote in his letter to Sunak.

“Your commitment as Chancellor and Prime Minister to this agenda has been transformative and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity you have given me to serve in your government, and I look forward to supporting you and this mission from the backbenches.”

Earlier in the reshuffle, Suella Braverman was sacked as Home Secretary and replaced by James Cleverley, in a move that could have major implications for the UK’s attitude towards international student recruitment. Former Prime Minister David Cameron replaced Cleverly as Foreign Secretary.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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