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Rory Stewart: Time for ministers to serve two years minimum

Ministers should stay in their positions for a minimum of two years and be trained for three weeks before they begin, former Conservative MP Rory Stewart has urged.

Stewart himself held five ministerial jobs between 2015 and 2019, and he argued it’s farcical for MPs to have to speak confidently on their new briefs in public before they develop the expertise.

This week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak undertook a ministerial reshuffle, appointing James Cleverley as home secretary after sacking Suella Braverman, while ex-PM David Cameron returned as foreign secretary.

In the housing space there was a lot of frustration, as housing minister Rachel Maclean was sacked and replaced by Lee Rowley, who became the 16th housing minister in 13 years.

Speaking on the popular The Rest is Politics podcast, which he presents with former New Labour strategist Alastair Campbell, Stewart called for an end to this culture of ministerial pass the parcel.

He said: “In reshuffles remember how bizarrely amateur the system is. Within two days of your new job you could be standing in the House of Commons answering questions on your new brief.

“I want to change the system, and I’d like Keir Starmer to sign up for this, to say ‘people should spend a minimum of two years in their role as minister and that when they take over there should be a three-week training period to get them up to speed’.

“Somebody has pointed out that James Cleverley has gone from foreign secretary to home secretary, so he will have had to, when he became foreign secretary, very rapidly learn about 150 countries that he knew next to nothing about. He would have had to try to memorise the names of their presidents, find out how big they are.

“Now he’s responsible for the whole of the police, the whole of the security service, all of immigration, terrorism responses in the UK, and he’s going to be standing up within two or three days having to be confident in all of those things.”

While in government Stewart was environment minister, minister of international development in the Middle East and Asia, minister of foreign office and international development in Africa, prisons and probations minister, and secretary of state for international development.