GDS to report to new appointment in Cabinet Office while senior minister Damian Green to retain oversight
Caroline Nokes has been named as the new minister with responsibility for digital government in the Cabinet Office.
The department has said that the Government Digital Service (GDS) will report to Nokes, who was a junior minister in the Department for Work and Pensions before the general election. The senior Minister for the Cabinet Office Damian Green, will retain oversight of government digital.
Nokes commented: "The UK Government is one of the most digitally advanced in the world, and I am excited to be playing a part in driving forward development in this area.
"It is vital that government continues to encourage more people to go online, so they can access the guidance and services they need – as well as reducing the cost of delivering public services. The Government Digital Service plays a leading role in making that happen."
Nokes takes over the responsibility from Ben Gummer, who lost his seat in Parliament in the general election earlier this month and was proving to be an evangelist for digital transformation in government. He reportedly wrote much of the Conservative Party election manifesto which, while being widely maligned, included a surprisingly significant section on commitments to digital initiatives.
While the move marks a change of policy from recent years, in which the senior minister for the Cabinet Office has had direct oversight over GDS – most notably Francis Maude – it is not a total surprise. Damian Green’s role as first secretary of state also gives him high level responsibilities, compared by some to those of a deputy prime minister, which made it questionable that he could take on a more active role on digital government.
There is also a precedent from the 2000s when, under the Labour Governments, oversight for the equivalents of GDS went to a series of junior ministers – among them Jim Murphy, Pat McFadden and Tom Watson. The issue of digital government has risen up the agenda since then, but there have been reports of other Whitehall departments reasserting their independence on digital strategies and it remains to be seen how the new regime will act in response.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0