Osborne turns to City insiders as he finally picks own team

The Times

Kathryn Hopkins, Philip Aldrick and Nic Fildes

George Osborne with the red box outside No 11 Downing Street
George Osborne has begun his second term as chancellor with only one member of the ministerial team at the Treasury still present five years on.

After the Conservatives won a majority in the Commons, setting themselves free from the coalition with the Liberal Democrats, Mr Osborne has been able to bring in his own people.

One key post yet to be filled is chief of staff, after Rupert Harrison decided to leave government for the private sector. Coming the other way is Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs chief economist, while extra city experience is provided by Harriett Baldwin, formerly of JP Morgan. The chancellor’s team must hit the ground running — with a budget called for July 8, the post-election honeymoon may be shortlived.

Greg Hands, chief secretary

Despite being a key architect of the Conservatives’ plans for the economy and banks in the 2010 election campaign, Mr Hands was not rewarded with a ministerial position because Mr Osborne needed to make room for the Lib Dems. Instead, the American-born Mr Hands worked as the chancellor’s parliamentary private secretary before being appointed the Tories’ deputy chief whip.

After being given the plum position of chief secretary of the Treasury, the MP for Chelsea and Fulham is likely to embark on a serious amount of cost-cutting. The first act in his new office was to see if Danny Alexander, his Lib Dem predecessor, had left any messages. Liam Byrne, the outgoing chief secretary in 2010, famously left Mr Alexander a note telling him that there was no money left. Mr Alexander left no note, with Mr Hands tweeting a picture of an empty drawer.

Unsurprisingly, two former members of the Treasury select committee had very different views of Mr Hands: Mark Garnier, the Tory MP, described him as “an enormously competent individual” with lots of experience; John Mann, the Labour MP, said that “he’ll do whatever Osborne will do”.

David Gauke, financial secretary

The only junior minister that entered the Treasury in 2010 to still be there. Mr Gauke was rewarded by David Cameron and Mr Osborne for doing a respectable job as exchequer secretary when they promoted him to financial secretary in July last year. Mr Gauke, who lives in Chorleywood and has three sons, is responsible for the European Union budget and European and international tax issues. Rumours had been circulating that he was about to be made pensions minister, but that job was given to Ros Altmann.

Damian Hinds, exchequer secretary

One of the 2010 intake, Mr Hinds has served as an assistant whip and sat for two years on the education select committee. A contemporary of Mr Osborne at Oxford University, he has been given responsibility for tax affairs.

Mr Hinds, 45, has solid Tory pedigree. Like Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, he was president of the Oxford Union. He was also chairman of the Bow Group, a Conservative think- tank. Businesses are hoping that Mr Hinds, who is married with a daughter, will simplify the tax system.

Stephen Ibbotson, director of business at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, said: “We would like the new exchequer secretary to focus on tax simplification and deregulation, including adopting a ‘one in, two out’ approach to tax legislation.”

Harriett Baldwin, economic secretary

A former banker at JP Morgan, Ms Baldwin, 55, became an MP in 2010. Building on her Oxford degree in modern languages, French and Russian, she was named the prime minister’s trade envoy to Russia.

She joined the government in February last year as an assistant whip and was promoted to Lord Commissioner last July.

As economic secretary to the Treasury, she will be responsible for the government’s relationship with the City. Her career at JP Morgan should stand her in good stead. She joined the bank in 1986, becoming a managing director and head of currency management in 1998 before leaving in 2008. “She certainly knows her way around the City and she’ll know where a few skeletons are buried,” Mr Garnier said.

A spokesman for the British Bankers’ Association said: “The big issue for the City minister to look at is the competitiveness of the UK as a place for banks to do business. The recent hikes in the bank levy are causing many banks to think about relocating certain business lines and jobs out of the UK. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Jim O’Neill, commercial secretary

The most well-known of the intake. The former Goldman Sachs chief economist identified the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China and even coined the term Bric nations. The son of a postman from Manchester, he also put together a fan-based bid for Manchester United FC and most recently has spearheaded a government-backed commission to help the pharmaceuticals industry to tackle the rise of drug-resistant superbugs.

Made a Conservative life peer to take up the ministerial role, he will be charged with pushing forward the government’s devolution programme to cities and “help make the northern powerhouse happen”, the chancellor said. Mr Mann said: “I think he’s quite a good appointment on paper, but I think that, like many outsiders, he’ll find that the Treasury is immovable.”

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