The Lord Mandelson-fronted Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) is to merge with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), government has announced.
Together, the departments become DBIS – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The move “combines BERR’s strengths in shaping the enterprise environment, analysing the strengths and needs of the various parts of British industry, building strategies for industrial strength and expertise in better regulation with DIUS’s expertise in maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK’s science base and shaping skills, policy and innovation,” said a Downing Street statement.
“It also puts the UK’s Further Education system and universities closer to the heart of government thinking about building now for the upturn.”
The key roles of DBIS will be to represent private businesses in government, encourage innovation, design policy based on future business needs, aid training and skills needs, expand apprenticeships, collaborate with regional development agencies, create good business conditions for British companies in Europe, expand exports and drive inward investment.
Lord Mandelson is to head the combined departments.
The move was welcomed by the National Union of Students (NUS), with current president Wes Streeting highlighting the chance for students to gain a more prominent voice in business and a more sympathetic ear for their needs.
But the move has not found favour all round though, with Steve Radley, director of policy for EEF, the manufacturer’s organisation, accusing government of “re-inventing the wheel at a time when business is looking to it for a clear steer on the economy.”
“These are badly timed changes to the machinery of government and risk diverting energy and focus from vital programmes to support investment in skills and innovation,” said Radley.
Radley and the EEF were pleased that Mandelson is to stay on however, saying that his retention, along with Chancellor Alistair Darling’s, will inspire a sense of “reassurance and continuity”.