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Oliver Dowden gets Government digital services brief

15/01/18

Junior Cabinet Office minister takes on oversight of GDS along with responsibility for the Crown Commercial Service, cyber and resilience

One of the Conservative Party’s 2015 intake of MPs has been made the minister responsible for government digital services in the Cabinet Office.

Oliver Dowden portraitOliver Dowden MP (pictured) has been given oversight of the Government Digital Service (GDS), along with responsibility for cyber and resilience and other areas with a relevance to the digital agenda. These include the Crown Commercial Service, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, shared services and ‘What works’ and behavioural change.

He comes to the role with little obvious experience of digital issues, having worked for PR company Hill & Knowlton, the Conservative Research Department and as a special adviser and deputy chief of staff for David Cameron when he was prime minister.

His website provides no further clues of a particular interest in digital, instead highlighting concerns over improving transport, education and infrastructure, and defending the countryside.

Dowden’s appointment follows two short term tenures in the job, with previous incumbent Caroline Nokes having been moved to the immigration brief in the Home Office in last week’s Government reshuffle, and Ben Gummer having lost his parliamentary seat in last year’s general election.

Departmental control

While it remains to be seen whether Dowden will demonstrate a firm grasp of the digital issues – not seen from a minister since Matt Hancock’s brief tenure from 2015-16 – the Cabinet Office confirmation of his role indicates that it is retaining control of the issue. There had been reports of pressure to move it to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), where Hancock is now the senior minister.

Last week the DCMS announced that Margot James MP had been appointed as minister for digital, Hancock’s previous role in the department. The role involves a focus on the development of the digital economy and infrastructure, with the most high profile issue being the availability of high speed broadband in which local authorities have a significant role.

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