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George Freeman claims ‘only one science minister’ appointed

Freeman says he is the only UK science minister and “portfolio isn’t being broken up”

Indications that two science ministers have been appointed by the new prime minister Rishi Sunak may be inaccurate, Research Professional News has learned.

On 26 October, Nusrat Ghani—who was first appointed as science minister under Liz Truss—wrote on Twitter that she was pleased “to be reappointed and continue my work” at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis).

On the same day, former science minister George Freeman also tweeted to announce his appointment to the science brief.

The announcements led to speculation that the science brief was to be split in two, prompting a positive reaction from experts in the sector.

But late on 27 October, a spokesperson for George Freeman told Research Professional News that “there will only be one minister” in charge of the science brief—suggesting a miscommunication has taken place between the two ministers and No 10.

A case of crossed wires?

The spokesperson said: “Whilst portfolios are still awaiting final confirmation once this ongoing reshuffle is completed, I can confirm that there will only be one minister with responsibility for science and R&D. That is George Freeman MP, who has been appointed minister of state for science, technology and innovation.”

Freeman himself also told Research Professional News: “I can confirm that I’m the science minister and the portfolio isn’t being broken up.”

But at the time of writing, Ghani was listed as minister of state for science and investment security on the Beis website, and described as such on her official Twitter account.

Meanwhile, Freeman’s portfolio was not yet given on Beis website, though his Twitter account said he was now minister for science, technology, innovation plus space.

The development comes after several R&D experts welcomed the move to split the brief in two. But Kieron Flanagan, professor of science and technology policy at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, had expressed doubts, saying it could just be “a case of crossed wires between the respective ministers and Number 10”.

Ghani has been approached for comment.

Beis and No 10 are yet to confirm the briefs.