Lord O’Neill, the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed today that he stepping down and also resigning as a Conservative Peer in the House of Lords. O’Neill had been central to the Government’s Northern Powerhouse policy and had been close to George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Lord O’Neill wrote to the Prime Minister earlier today saying:
“I have decided to resign as a minister in the government.
This morning I returned from New York where I had the pleasure of witnessing the UN high level agreement on antimicrobial resistance, which is essentially the end goal of the review that I was asked to lead in the spring of 2014. This part of my role in government has come to its natural end, although of course, I was asked initially to lead the review, independent of government.
Leading this review has been one of the most stimulating roles I have ever undertaken and I am very grateful to all those involved, especially my review team, and all those across government that allowed the UK to take such a global leadership position in this key threat to the world. It goes without saying that our success is symbolic of the way that the UK can be influential in a post-Brexit world.
I joined the government with the AMR review already well developed in terms of our ideas and influence, but entered office, believing its goals would be enhanced by being a minister. I primarily joined however for the specific purpose of helping deliver the Northern Powerhouse, and to help boost our economic ties with key growing economies around the world, especially China and India and other rapidly emerging economies.
The case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention. I am leaving knowing that I can play some role supporting these critical initiatives as a non-governmental person.
I look forward to moving to the cross benches of the Lords, and wish you every success with the exciting challenges and opportunities ahead, and thank you for allowing me the privilege to serve in government”.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, replied:
“I was sorry to receive your letter of resignation. I would like to thank you for your service to the government over these last 2 years, both as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and as chair of the review on antimicrobial resistance.
You have made a significant contribution to driving forward the government’s work on delivering growth beyond the South-East through the Northern Powerhouse and on promoting stronger economic links with emerging economies, including China and India. You have laid important foundations in these areas and the government will build on them.
I would particularly like to pay tribute to your groundbreaking work on anti microbial resistance. You should take great pride in seeing your review culminate this week in the UN high level agreement. You have played a vital role in building global consensus on this important issue which will have long-lasting benefits.
I wish you well for the future”.