Government comms chief departs for senior policy role

Sam Lister, the director of comms at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has left his job to take on a senior cross-government policy role, PRWeek has learned.

Sam Lister: The long-serving government comms chief has left to take on a senior policy role
Sam Lister: The long-serving government comms chief has left to take on a senior policy role
Lister’s job is now director of industrial strategy; a cross-government programme focused on the challenge of increasing the UK’s productivity, investing in skills and infrastructure and helping businesses to create jobs, against the backdrop of impending Brexit.

Lister will continue to be based at BEIS where he will co-ordinate the programme across government.

His new role will be to implement the policies agreed in last autumn’s Industrial Strategy White Paper and develop an engagement and advocacy strategy to create confidence in the UK as a global leader in the industries of the future.

He will also co-ordinate work on the four ‘Grand Challenges’ set out by Prime Minister Theresa May last month in a speech at Jodrell Bank about harnessing AI and data, reducing emissions and future forms of transport.

Government experts have identified these areas as having huge potential for the UK economy and its strengths in science and innovation.

His move will be seen as an unusual shift in government, from a professional comms function into a senior policy role.

Lister, regarded in Whitehall as somebody who delivers, took on the role earlier this month as maternity cover and he is expected to be in post for around a year.

However, PRWeek understands that Lister requested that his former role as director of comms at BEIS be advertised to be filled permanently and an advert was put out earlier this week.

Lister, one of the longest serving directors of comms in government, was a journalist at The Times newspaper for more than a decade, rising through the ranks to become its health editor.

He joined the Department of Health as its director of comms in 2011 and led the Government’s comms around the Ebola crisis as well as managing a raft of issues around the NHS, including contractual disputes with junior doctors.

He was also instrumental in setting up the nascent Government Communication Service, with Alex Aiken.

Lister joined BEIS, then a new department, in 2016 as director of comms with the task of delivering campaigns, such as the Living Wage and GREAT, to support the growth of UK businesses.

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