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Margot James takes over as digital minister after government reshuffle

Former minister for business succeeds Matt Hancock after his promotion to secretary of state

Margot James has been confirmed as the new minister responsible for digital economy issues after the previous incumbent, Matt Hancock, was promoted to secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in Theresa May’s recent Cabinet reshuffle.

James had been minister for small business, consumers and corporate responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy since July 2016, and now becomes minister for digital and creative industries.

Her remit covers issues such as broadband, telecoms, broadcasting, creative industries, cyber security, tech startups and the tech industry.

Hancock had been digital minister since July 2016, when he was appointed after May became prime minister, having previously been Cabinet Office minister, responsible for digital government strategy.

Under Hancock’s tenure, the government made a number of commitments to support the UK’s digital economy, including publishing a new digital strategy in March last year, putting £20m into educating children in cyber security, allocating £84m to boost the skills of 8,000 computer science teachers, releasing £350m to develop full fibre broadband and 5G in addition to more than £1bn promised in the Budget. He also oversaw investments in artificial intelligence, tech startups and digital skills.

One of Hancock’s last acts in the role was to introduce the legal right for everyone to get high-speed broadband by 2020, in defiance of BT’s preference for a voluntary arrangement.

Julian David, CEO of tech sector trade association TechUK, said James is taking on a vital portfolio for the UK economy.

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“Margot James will bring great energy and dynamism to the role,” he said. “It is a critical year for the tech sector as we continue to build on the government’s digital strategy, and Brexit negotiations move into phase two. A continued collaborative relationship with government and industry will be the key to success. We also look forward to continue working with Matt Hancock in his new role as secretary of state.”

The Cabinet Office has yet to announce who will take on ministerial responsibility for digital government, the government transformation strategy and the Government Digital Service after Caroline Nokes was moved to become minister of state for immigration at the Home Office.

David Lidington has taken over as Cabinet Office minister, supported by junior ministers Chloe Smith and Oliver Dowden, one of whom is likely to pick up the digital government remit.

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