In my Message From The Bridge in the May 2010 edition of Sea Breezes, I bemoaned the ‘constant changing of the guard’ – at least in transport terms – at ministerial level within the UK Government.
My view has always been, that constant ministerial changes have highlighted the need for the transport portfolio to be afforded a greater level of respect and importance than its current position as a rung on the ladder either for the aspiring politician on his/her way up or the unlucky politician on his/her way down.
The recent ministerial reshuffle within the UK Coalition Government has only served to reinforce my view. Not unexpectedly, David Cameron the Prime Minister exited Justine Greening from the Department for Transport (DfT). This was a particularly strange appointment in the first place, given her history of unequivocal opposition to expansion of Heathrow Airport – thus prejudicing her ability to objectively handle one of the most contentious issues facing the Department at this point of time. So step forward the Rt Hon Patrick Mcloughlin to become Secretary of State No 3 in little over two years since Cameron & Co took over.
Of four ministers at the DfT only the Lib Dem junior minister Norman Baker remains. This means we have a new Shipping Minister, with Stephen Hammond stepping into the shoes of Mike Penning who had held the brief since 2010. Hammond is the MP for Wimbledon and was formerly a shadow Transport Minister so at least has some subject matter background. It was interesting to note that Mark Brownrigg, Director General at the Chamber of Shipping, warmly praised the contribution of the outgoing Minister over the last two years, noting that Penning had recognised that “the shipping sector can be a conduit for economic recovery as the country seeks to trade its way to prosperity”. I hope that Stephen Hammond will immediately reach the same conclusion.
Although Hammond’s role is considered to be one of the lesser ministerial jobs within the transport department, his portfolio is still very substantial. He holds responsibility for the highways network, freight, Crossrail (one of the biggest construction projects in the UK) and London transport issues as well as shipping. No small challenge then, but we wish him well. We also note that the new Secretary of State McLoughlin was a junior transport minister in the Thatcher and Major governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Let us hope that this new team settle in quickly and promote the vital importance of transport in general and shipping in particular to the UK economy.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR