Government responsibility for health and safety has passed to its fourth MP in the space of two years after Mike Penning was moved on after only nine months in the job as part of a government-wide reshuffle.
His replacement is the former immigration minister Mark Harper, who has sat on the Conservative party backbenches since he resigned in February. He is understood to have met with HSE chair Judith Hackitt on his first full day in the job.
Penning has now been made minister of state for policing, criminal justice and victims, a joint post in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. Harper resigned earlier this year after it emerged he had unknowingly employed a cleaner who did not have permission to work in the UK.
A chartered accountant and noted Euro-sceptic, Harper entered the House of Commons for the Forest of Dean in 2005. He served as minister for political and constitutional reform in the Home Office between 2010 and 2012, and as shadow minister for defence and shadow minister for disabled people while the Conservatives were in opposition.
Outgoing minister for disabled people Mike Penning held the post since October 2013. Prior to Penning, the position was held by Mark Hoban, but he only managed to hold on to it for a year before he was demoted to the backbenches. Chris Grayling, now the justice secretary, held the post between the coalition coming to power in May 2010 and September 2012.
The move comes at a time of upheaval for HSE, as it takes the first steps down the road to “meeting a much larger proportion of its costs from commercial activities” and before it appoints its new chief executive in the autumn.
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