What to expect from Rees-Mogg as energy secretary

Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg has been appointed secretary of state for energy, business, and industrial strategy, much to the dismay of climate advocates who warn he has an “alarming lack of understanding” of environmental regulation. Here is what we can expect.

Jacob Rees-Mogg; Source - Gov.UK


Jacob Rees-Mogg will take on the portfolio for the department for business, energy and industrial strategy from the new  chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. 

This role notably includes “ensuring that the country has secure energy supplies that are reliable, affordable and clean”, according to the government role description. 

It recently emerged that Rees-Mogg has been meeting oil and gas companies in recent days, including Shell, in a “bid to boost North Sea supplies”. Earlier this year Rees-Mogg also said in a LBC radio interview that the UK needed to “be thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea”.

The Conservative MP for North East Somerset will also be responsible for keeping the UK “at the leading edge of science, research and innovation”. This includes managing the UK’s membership of Horizon Europe, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, the Innovation Strategy and R&D People & Culture Strategy, the Office for AI, and the European Space Agency membership. 

He will also be responsible for managing the government’s business relationships, and responsible for the steel and metals, critical minerals and the maritime, automotive and aerospace sectors.

On the appointment, Rees-Mogg tweeted: “It is an honour to be appointed as the new secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy.  I look forward to serving the Prime Minister and the country during the challenging times ahead.”

Previous roles

Prior to Rees-Mogg’s appointment as energy secretary, he acted as minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency from February 2022. 

In this role he has become infamous for his pledges to slash the civil service, recently pledging to cut 25% of department jobs over the next three years. 

Earlier this year, Rees-Mogg ordered his Cabinet colleagues to submit proposals to shut down or merge their departments’ arm’s-length bodies by 24 June. 

Rees-Mogg has also been "pushing for the laws carried over after Brexit to expire by a 'cliff-edge' deadline of 23 June 2026, marking 10 years since the EU referendum". The precautionary principle is reportedly on Rees-Mogg list of top ideas to axe.

He has also been reported as being among the MPs pressuring DEFRA to drop environmental land management schemes (ELMS). 

He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for North East Somerset since 2010, previously holding a career in banking in London and Hong Kong.

Voting record 

Rees-Mogg’s voting record shows he is not one to champion green policies. According to parliamentary monitoring website TheyWorkForYou, Rees-Mogg has toed the party line and:

  • Generally voted against financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods
  • Consistently voted for new high speed rail infrastructure
  • Voted a mixture of for and against greater regulation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract shale gas
  • Generally voted against measures to prevent climate change

Rees-Mogg also voted in line with the majority of conservatives not to require public authorities to act in accordance with the following principles in relation to the environment: preventative action to avert damage; the precautionary principle; rectifying damage at source and "polluter pays" in January 2021. 

That same month, he  voted with the conservatigve majority not to require the Financial Conduct Authority to have regard to the target of reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2050 when setting capital and risk related requirements for investment firms.

READ MORE: How green is Liz Truss’s new cabinet?

Registered interests 

On Rees-Mogg’s register of interests, updated fortnightly, a number of roles and assets are listed. He has listed ownership of a residential property, land and related farm buildings in Somerset, and a property in London, each at a value of over £100,000 and/or giving rental income of over £10,000 a year.

He has also declared shareholdings of over 15% of issued share capital in Saliston Ltd, a London based holding company that listed £9.79m in shareholder funds as at March 2021, according to companies. His wife Helena de Chair, daughter of aristocrat Somerset de Chair, is listed as one of the company’s directors. 

In other shareholdings, valued at more than £70,000, Rees-Mogg has listed Somerset Capital Management LLP; investment management as of April 2021, a firm he co-founded before becoming a politician. He is also an unpaid partner at this firm, since July 2019. Earlier this year, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner raised national security concerns about Rees-Mogg’s dealings with Russian gas giant Novatek PJSC-GDR  through Somerset Capital Management. He made an estimated £600,000 in dividends in 2021 according to the Mirror. 

Key concerns 

Head of politics at Green Alliance Chris Venables raised concerns about Rees-Mogg’s apparent plans to boost fossil fuel production in the UK.  

“Approving new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, or once again wasting millions of taxpayer money on a doomed-from-the-start fracking mission, won't bring down bills or improve UK energy security,” said Veneables.

Veneables also said he had concerns about Rees-Mogg's  “alarming lack of understanding” of environmental regulation, and said: “if I were an investor, I'd certainly be worried about the business secretary's commitment to net-zero and UK plc.”

Green Alliance executive director Shaun Spiers said: “There is no reason to feel positive about Jacob Rees-Mogg being appointed as business secretary.

“[Former energy secretary] Kwasi Kwarteng understood the need for the government to deliver net zero. I hope Jacob Rees-Mogg will come to the same conclusions.” 

READ MORE: What Liz Truss has said about tackling the energy crisis so far and what this means for net zero

Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, Dave Timms also raised concerns about Rees-Mogg’s new appointment. He said: “Putting someone who recently suggested "every last drop" of oil should be extracted from the North Sea in charge of energy policy is deeply worrying for anyone concerned about the deepening climate emergency, solving the cost-of-living crisis and keeping our fuel bills down for good.

 “We need a forward-looking, modern energy strategy based on better home insulation and unleashing the full potential of the UK’s homegrown renewables power – not one rooted in dirty fossil fuels of the past.”

Liz Truss’s government is expected to lift the ban on fracking, which has been in place since 2019, within just a few weeks as prime minister, according to the Telegraph.

READ MORE: Fracking and North Sea exploration: What to expect from Liz Truss as PM

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics for Greenpeace UK, said: “Rees-Mogg is the last person who should be in charge of the energy brief, at the worst possible moment.”

She described the appointment as an “own goal” and accused the new business and energy secretary of adding £150 to every energy bill by pushing ex prime minister David Cameron to cut incentives for solar, wind and energy efficiency.   

“Appointing him to the brief now suggests the Tories have learned nothing from some years of energy policy incompetence,” she added.  

READ MORE: Truss must deliver on Conservative manifesto environmental commitments, say campaigners