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CSR minister disappears as coalition shifts ground

June 2010

The CSR minister is no more in UK government. The Conservatives, who in opposition had indicated they would do without the role in power, have ditched it in agreement with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, although some related responsibilities are shared among ministers.

The move comes ten years after Tony Blair’s Labour government made the UK the first country to have a minister specifically responsible for CSR. Since then there have been seven ministers fulfilling that brief.

The role was originally heralded as evidence of the UK’s international leadership in the area, but after a series of unenthusiastic and even inactive appointees in the middle of the decade, the post’s status had diminished. The most engaged and committed holder of the title was Stephen Timms, who oversaw a flourishing of the role between 2002 and 2004. But after his departure, the idea of having a CSR minister appeared increasingly unimportant for the Labour government.

With a new administration, some of the responsibilities formerly given to the CSR minister have gone to others in the Department for Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS). Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs, has been given the lion’s share, including oversight of corporate governance, social enterprise and consumer affairs.

Mark Prisk, the minister for business and enterprise, will take on duties relating to carbon emissions and deregulation, while Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne succeeds Ed Miliband as the secretary for energy and climate change. Jonathan Djanogly, the former shadow corporate governance minister, has been appointed to a newly created legal aid ministerial post.

The new government has yet to fully outline its plans on CSR, but Djanogly said before the election that ‘in cutting state control we wish to expand responsible business practice as an alternative’. The Conservatives have also said that a number of their government-brokered ‘responsibility deals’, which commit companies to CSR measures in return for a lighter regulatory regime, are ready to be put in place.

The demise of a specific CSR minister will  be lamented in some quarters, especially as a number of European countries now have ministers with strong CSR briefs. But Lord Michael Hastings,  international director of corporate citizenship at KPMG and a former policy advisor at Downing Street, told EP: ‘The proposition of incorporating CSR into the philosophical core of government’s approach to the private and public sectors is  stronger than having it as the responsibility of one minister. We might have had a CSR minister before, but not a lot happened... now responsibility will be built into the framework of government.’

see editorial, page 12




Department for Business Innovation and Skills | UK & NI Ireland | Government role

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