13 August 2015
UK Minister for Faith scrapped with job’s duties passed downwards
The Government has effectively scrapped the role of Faith Minister with the job’s responsibilities passed to a junior Minister.
Baroness Williams of Trafford, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, has been given responsibility for “integration and faith issues” although her policy brief also includes the HS2 rail programme, Travellers and local government finance and policy.
A spokesman for the Communities Department explained she had been given responsibility for faith following the general election, although it appeared only to have emerged this week.
The Minister for Faith role was first held by Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi in 2012-14 who also had a ministerial position in the Foreign Office and a seat in the Cabinet.
However, the first Minister to be given responsibility for faith was Hazel Blears, Labour Communities Secretary in 2007-09. Following Baroness Warsi’s resignation, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, took on the role, saying at the time: “It’s a job I take very seriously, but it’s also a source of constant inspiration when I see time and again the contribution of faith to Britain today.”
Before Baroness Warsi was given the role, there had been faith advisers at the Communities Department advising on such issues as voluntary action, extremism, social enterprise as well as liaison with Number 10 and other government departments.
One of these advisers was Professor Francis Davis who, in response to the changes, said: “For faith to have its own Minister in any department is a positive thing. It is important, however, as Christians to remember that our relationship with government shouldn’t be narrowed to just one doorway,” he said.
Baroness Williams was born in Ireland and educated at La Sagesse school in Newcastle upon Tyne, run by the Daughters of Wisdom and now closed. When she was in power, Baroness Warsi and Cardinal Vincent Nichols worked together fruitfully. However, relations hit a low point when Mr Pickles pulled out of attending the 2014 consistory where Archbishop Vincent Nichols was made a cardinal. His decision not to attend came just days after the cardinal criticised the then Government’s welfare strategy.
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