Freeman ‘happy’ to return as science minister

George Freeman has said that he is “happy” to continue as UK science minister in Boris Johnson’s caretaker administration, barely 24 hours after resigning.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Freeman said: “In light of PM’s announcement of his resignation, and the huge issues that need managing this summer I’ve said to No 10 [and the] Chief Whip…I’m happy to return to work [through] this summer.

“Our university, science, research [and] innovation sector needs ministerial leadership.”

Whether the offer would be accepted by No 10 was not immediately clear.

Mr Freeman’s offer came a day after his resignation had been among a final flurry of ministerial departures which forced Mr Johnson to confirm that he would step down once a new Conservative leader was elected.

In his resignation letter, Mr Freeman told the prime minister that “the culmination of your lack of transparency and candour with Parliament (and willingness to ask your ministers to mislead Parliament), your removal of key pillars of the ministerial code, your handling of your appointment of a deputy chief whip who it turns out you knew had a history of sexual abuse allegations, is too much”.

Later Mr Freeman called on Mr Johnson to hand power over immediately to a caretaker prime minister, saying that the country needed “ministers back at their desk”.

But following the new Cabinet’s agreement that Mr Johnson could stay in power until a successor is selected, Mr Freeman has decided that he would be prepared to return to work under a leader he had criticised so strongly only a day before.

The next few months could prove crucial for the UK’s science sector, with negotiations over the UK’s post-Brexit participation in the Horizon Europe research funding programme deadlocked, and the Treasury reportedly reluctant to commit funding to a domestic alternative.

Also expected in coming months are a review of sector architecture led by Sir Paul Nurse, an independent review of UK Research and Innovation under Sir David Grant, and a review of research bureaucracy led by University of Birmingham vice-chancellor Adam Tickell.

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