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Kwasi Kwarteng fills BEIS board vacancy with former Financial Times chief Stephen Hill

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A former boss of the Financial Times Group will this week be named as a director of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), as Kwasi Kwarteng continues to tackle the backlog of appointments at boards overseen by his department.

Sky News understands that BEIS will on Thursday announce that Stephen Hill, who ran the FT’s immediate holding company during a 15-year career there which ended in 2002, is joining as a non-executive director.

Mr Hill, who has also sat on the boards of Channel 4, Ofcom and Royal & Sun Alliance, will effectively replace Nigel Boardman, who has relinquished his role at BEIS to spearhead the government-commissioned inquiry into the Greensill lobbying affair.

Whitehall sources said on Wednesday that Mr Kwarteng would also name Vikas Shah, the chief executive of Manchester-based textiles and commodities trading firm Swiscot Group, to the BEIS board.

A sign at the offices of Ofcom (Office of Communications) in Southwark, London.
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Mr Hill’s previous work has included a stint on the board of the media regulator

Mr Shah, who was awarded an MBE in 2018 for services to business and the economy, is also a non-executive director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The duo’s appointments come nearly four months after Mr Kwarteng ended a long vacuum at the helm of the BEIS board by naming Mastercard executive Ann Cairns as the department’s lead director.

Government departments began appointing external directors from the private sector under the coalition government led by David Cameron in 2010.

Some ministers – notably Michael Gove, now the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – have faced accusations of cronyism over their persistent appointment of close associates to the roles.

Others, however, have welcomed the insight provided by business leaders as they target improvements in the operation of the machinery of government.

The government’s overall lead director is now Lord Nash, who was appointed last July.

One source close to BEIS said the addition of Mr Hill and Mr Shah would “help the department tackle key issues facing the UK, such as the economic recovery from coronavirus and efforts to combat climate change”.

Since being appointed as the replacement for Alok Sharma, Mr Kwarteng has signed off the appointment of a new chair of the Insolvency Service, a chief executive of Innovate UK and a new small business commissioner.

Searches are underway for new chairmen at the Competition and Markets Authority and the audit watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council.

Mr Kwarteng has also chosen to scrap BEIS’s industrial strategy council, which included prominent figures such as Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the former Virgin Money chief, and Sir Paul Marshall, the hedge fund tycoon.

A BEIS spokesman declined to comment.

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