Sir Patrick Vallance joins Labour government as science minister

Covid-era chief scientific adviser backed party’s Great British Energy plan during the election campaign

July 5, 2024
10 Downing Street

Sir Patrick Vallance, who served as the UK’s chief scientific adviser during the Covid-19 pandemic, is joining the new Labour government as science minister.

He will receive a peerage, enabling him to sit in the House of Lords as a minister, having backed Labour’s plans for Great British Energy, a publicly owned company that would be charged with driving the net zero agenda, during the election campaign.

The appointment of Sir Patrick, who joins newly appointed science secretary Peter Kyle in the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, is likely to be warmly welcomed by the country’s research sector.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sir Patrick became a household name thanks to regular appearances at televised Downing Street press conferences.

He later said it was “disappointing” that Covid restrictions were not followed in Downing Street under Boris Johnson’s premiership, and stepped down as chief scientific adviser at the end of his five-year term in April 2023.

Prior to taking on the advisory post, Sir Patrick was president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline, and before that he was professor of medicine and head of the Division of Medicine at UCL, with his expertise lying in diseases of blood vessels and endothelial biology.

Sir Patrick will bring much-needed scientific expertise and policy clout at a time when new prime minister Sir Keir Starmer is expected to look to the research sector to help drive much-needed economic growth.

And the appointment of a political outsider to ministerial office brings back memories of Gordon Brown’s “government of all the talents”, with Sir Keir also appointing as prisons minister James Timpson, chief executive of the family-owned service retailer and chair since 2016 of the Prison Reform Trust.

Writing on X, Joe Marshall, chief executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business, hailed “a government of many talents and experience”.

“Brilliant to see Sir Patrick Vallance back inside and championing science at the heart of government. Unfinished business realising the ambitions of the Science and Technology Framework,” Dr Marshall posted.

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