Exclusive: Government scraps Faith Minister title

Mon 10 Aug 2015
By Desmond Busteed

The title of Faith Minister has been scrapped by the Government and subsumed into a junior ministerial role at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Following a lengthy investigation by Premier, Number 10 has confirmed that although the responsibilities have been passed on, the official title has been removed.

The position was first given to Baroness Warsi in 2012 and passed on to Eric Pickles following her resignation over the coalition's response to the conflict in Gaza.

However, since the general election, the title has not been allocated and instead Baroness Williams, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the DCLG has been given responsibility for "faith and integration".

Initially when Premier asked who the Faith Minister was after May's election, an official said it was now Lord Ahmed, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport.

Yet, the confusion continued, with a DfCLG spokesperson insisting their department, and not Transport remained in charge of the brief, but couldn't confirm who the new faith minister was, saying it was now a matter for Number 10.

In a statement to Premier, an official from Number 10 said: "Baroness Williams has responsibility for integration and faith issues. The title of 'Faith Minister' was a specific one given to first Baroness Warsi and then to Eric Pickles when she left the coalition Government."

The importance of the role to the government was outlined when Baroness Warsi, the first Conservative Muslim at cabinet said in a speech in 2013 that faith was being put back at the "heart of government".

Only in February, Baroness Warsi's successor, Eric Pickles said: "I actually have 3 jobs. I am the Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar, I am the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and I am also Minister for Faith.

"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."

Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Stephen Timms, a Christian, has criticised the move.

Speaking to Premier, he said: "The previous coalition government scrapped the Faith Communities Consultative Council that was in place in the Labour government. They swept that away saying they we shouldn't worry because there was going to be a (Faith) minister with specific responsibility, now they've abolished that as well.

"I think it's a mistake, I think they should recognise just how important these matters are in modern Britain and the current structure of government and of ministerial posts fails to recognise that."

Listen to Stephen Timms MP speaking to Premier's Des Busteed:

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