New Labour insider Patricia Hewitt was appointed today as the UK government's first 'e-minister' in a new role combining responsibilities for both the IT industry and the government's use of IT.
She replaces Michael Wills, who was junior IT minister for a little over six months. Wills moves to the Department of Education and Employment - despite describing his post last week as "the most exciting agenda in government."
Hewitt's key task as e-minister will be to ensure the passage of the electronic communications bill published in draft form on Friday.
The cross-departmental e-minister role is understood to have been recommended in a yet to be published Prime Ministerial report on ecommerce.
The idea emerged following former secretary of state Peter Mandelson¹s decision to create a digital envoy last autumn. It was felt that a 'digital envoy', subsequently renamed 'e-envoy', would have needed ministerial back up.
Hewitt's appointment marks a higher role in government for IT than previously. A minister of state, Hewitt is one level higher than the outgoing Wills.
Hewitt first became an MP in 1997 following spells at Andersen Consulting and as press secretary working for Neil Kinnock in his period as Labour leader.
The move marks the third move towards centralising government's IT strategy in under 6 months. Last week all government purchasing, including IT, was centralised in a new Office of Government Commerce. And in the March white paper on Modernising Government, it announced that government would develop a corporate IT strategy.
It is not yet clear how much responsibility Patricia Hewitt will have for these initiatives.
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