Liz Truss holds first Cabinet meeting after sweeping changes

New UK PM gives top jobs to loyal supporters Kwasi Kwarteng, James Cleverly and Suella Braverman

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New British Prime Minister Liz Truss held her first Cabinet meeting on Wednesday before she faced Labour leader Keir Starmer in Parliament.

Pictures of the first meeting show members gathered around a table, including Tom Tugendhat, a security minister in the Home Office, Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor, and Ms Truss.

Ms Truss announced her new Cabinet on Tuesday night, which included a brutal cull of rival Rishi Sunak’s allies and top jobs for her own supporters.

Mr Kwarteng, James Cleverly and Suella Braverman became chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary, respectively. The new appointments mean for the first time in history none of the great offices of state will be held by white men.

James Cleverly, a former minister for the Middle East and the country’s new foreign secretary, was an early backer of Ms Truss. The army reservist said supporting Ms Truss was an easy decision because of her small-state rhetoric and her willingness to stand up to Iran and Russia.

UK Cabinet appointments — in pictures

Former work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey — regarded as Ms Truss’s closest confidante at Westminster — is the new health secretary and deputy prime minister.

Former Cabinet members Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, George Eustice and Steve Barclay have all been sacked. Mr Sunak was also not awarded a role in Ms Truss's top team.

Her press secretary insisted the changes would “unify” the Tory party, pointing to senior roles for five leadership rivals, Penny Mordaunt, Mr Tugendhat, Ms Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and Nadhim Zahawi.

Speaking on Sky News on Wednesday morning, Ms Coffey said Ms Truss is not only focused on appointing her supporters.

“She is focused on a government of all the talents,” she said.

“The rest of the government will continue to be appointed during today and I think people will be able to see we will continue to focus and have a broad church of people in our government.”

Former Middle East minister and new Foreign Secretary James Cleverly arrives in Downing Street for the first Cabinet meeting after Liz Truss took office. Getty

Members of the new Cabinet gathered as ministers prepares an emergency package to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Later, during her first session of Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons, Ms Truss clashed with opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer over her refusal to slap a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies.

Sir Keir slammed Ms Truss's rejection of such a levy, saying she had opted to “leave these vast excess profits on the table and make working people foot the bill for decades to come.”

In a sign of the political battles to come, Sir Keir said: “There’s nothing new about the Tory fantasy of trickle-down economics, nothing new about this Tory prime minister who nodded through every decision that got us into this mess and now says how terrible it is, and can’t she see there’s nothing new about a Tory prime minister who, when asked who pays. says ‘it’s you, the working people of Britain’?”

Ms Truss shot back: “There’s nothing new about a Labour leader who is calling for more tax rises.”

Ms Truss said she would announce a package of measures to help households deal with rising energy costs on Thursday, while also reiterating her vision to see oil and gas production in the North Sea increased.

A government source confirmed to the Press Association a report stating the energy bill freeze will be about the £2,500 ($2,874) mark — more than £500 above the current price cap but £1,000 less than the limit due to be imposed in October.

The plan is based on the current £1,971 energy price cap plus the £400 universal handout announced under Boris Johnson’s government.

Help is also expected to extend to business customers struggling with bills not covered by the existing energy price cap in England, Scotland and Wales.

It is thought the £150 billion package will be funded by government borrowing.

New chancellor Mr Kwarteng has summoned the bosses of major banks to discuss the new plan.

In her first speech to the public since becoming prime minister on Tuesday night, Ms Truss pledged to tackle the issues “holding Britain back,” which include ensuring people do not face unaffordable energy bills.

“We need to build roads, homes and broadband faster,” she said. “We need more investment and great jobs in every town and city across our country. We need to reduce the burden on families and help people get on in life. I know that we have what it takes to tackle those challenges.

“I will take action this day and action every day to make it happen. I will take action this week to deal with energy bills and to secure our future energy supply.”

She said she planned to pursue three early priorities: imposing tax cuts and reforms to grow the economy; the war in Ukraine; and problems facing the National Health Service.

Ms Truss’s first call to a foreign leader was to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. She accepted an invitation to visit his nation soon.

Ms Truss later went on to speak to Joe Biden. The White House said the US President stressed the need to come to an agreement with the EU over post-Brexit legislation on Northern Ireland.

Former prime minister and Conservative leader Mr Johnson has pledged to give Ms Truss “nothing but my most fervent support”.

But suspicion has been raised he is planning a comeback due to his reference to the Roman statesman Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus in his farewell speech on Tuesday.

Other Cabinet appointments

Brandon Lewis has been appointed Lord Chancellor and justice secretary.

Ben Wallace has been reappointed as defence secretary, Downing Street said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been appointed secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.

Simon Clarke becomes secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities.

Kemi Badenoch has been appointed as international trade secretary and president of the Board of Trade.

Chloe Smith has been appointed work and pensions secretary.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan becomes transport secretary.

Kit Malthouse becomes education secretary.

Michael Ellis QC has been appointed attorney general and will attend Cabinet.

Tom Tugendhat will attend Cabinet as security minister in the Home Office.

Alok Sharma has also been reappointed as Cop26 president.

Nadhim Zahawi has been appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, minister for intergovernmental relations and minister for equalities.

Michelle Donelan becomes secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport.

Chris Heaton-Harris has been appointed as Northern Ireland secretary.

Alister Jack has been reappointed as Scottish secretary.

Robert Buckland has been reappointed as Welsh secretary.

Penny Mordaunt has been appointed leader of the House of Commons.

Ranil Jayawardena becomes secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs.

Ms Truss also appointed Wendy Morton as chief whip, Downing Street said.

Lord True has been appointed leader of the House of Lords.

Chris Philp will attend Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

Political observers suggested it was not the potential “unity Cabinet” that might have ended the bitter infighting witnessed during the Mr Johnson years.

Liz Truss's political career — in pictures

Updated: September 07, 2022, 12:55 PM
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