But Sun reports suggest proposal for new 'super-ministry' is under consideration, prompting fears climate change would slip down government priority list
Proposals for a major Whitehall revamp that would merge the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) are being drawn-up by several cabinet ministers, according to reports.
The Sun newspaper claimed yesterday that plans for a major departmental reorganisation are being championed by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss.
But the proposals have not been approved by the Prime Minister Theresa May, who is said to be opposed to any major Whitehall revamp. A spokesperson for Number 10 this morning flatly denied that such plans were being considered.
"It is untrue and there are no plans to merge any departments," they told BusinessGreen.
Nevertheless, the story has prompted fears among green campaigners that such a merger of three major departments could see climate and environmental policy slip further down the list of government priorities just as the urgency to decarbonise the economy grows ever greater.
The reported plans would see the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) - which leads on climate and energy policy - folded into a single "mega-sized" ministry alongside the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
A second merger could also see the Department for International Development (DfID) subsumed into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to the newspaper, which claims the plans are part of a drive to streamline Whitehall operations, reduce staff, and cut costs.
Truss is reported to have been in talks over the Whitehall revamp project with Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, with a view to implementing the changes at around the time of the planned government-wide spending review in the autumn, which will set departmental budgets for the following four years.
Truss - a former Environment Secretary - is widely seen to favour smaller, streamlined government and a low-regulation post-Brexit Britain, and has previously attacked environmental regulations such as plans to restrict wood burning stoves and single-use plastics.
But an unnamed senior minister is quoted in the newspaper as saying her Whitehall revamp project "would need a new occupant in Number 10 to do this, because the current one doesn't want to take on the civil service".
In a bid to win support for her Brexit deal, the PM promised Conservative Party MPs before Christmas that she would not fight another election, fuelling predictions that pressure will mount on May to name her departure date once the UK has left the EU.
Environmental campaigner and Labour advisor Leo Murray suggested any move to merge BEIS with other departments would push climate action down the government's priority list.
Writing on Twitter he said such a scenario would see climate policy "sink even deeper down government priorities" and "disappear from view altogether beneath a new super ministry".
Climate to sink even deeper down government priorities, disappear from view altogether beneath new super ministry https://t.co/yf6GnHMskX— Leo Murray (@crisortunity) January 3, 2019
Similar fears were voiced by green groups and campaigners in 2016 when BEIS was first created from merging the former Department for Energy and Climate Change with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
However, some green economy figures supported the move, arguing that embedding responsibility for delivering on the goals of the Climate Change Act inside a larger department with wider infrastructure responsibilities could help drive more rapid decarbonisation.
Such arguments would likely be revived in the event of a merger between the departments responsible for energy, business, transport, and digital infrastructure, especially given DfT has faced repeated criticism for failing to introduce sufficiently bold decarbonisation policies.
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