Rishi Sunak supporter Greg Hands has been named as trade minister by Liz Truss in a move that appears to be intended to heal divisions in the Conservative Party. It marks a return to government for Mr Hands, who has held various ministerial positions since 2010.
The appointment comes after the Prime Minister sacked Conor Burns and withdrew the Tory whip from him, following allegations of misconduct at the party’s conference in Birmingham. Mr Burns denies the allegations and has vowed to “clear his name”.
The former minister and Boris Johnson ally has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour by Spice Girls singer Mel B. Again, Mr Burns has denied the claims. Despite these allegations, Conor Burns is still reported to be on course for a knighthood.
So, who is Conor Burns’s replacement Greg Hands? Here’s everything you need to know.
Who is Greg Hands?
Greg Hands, 56, is the Conservative MP for West London constituency Chelsea & Fulham. He was first elected to Parliament in 2005 when his constituency was known as Hammersmith & Fulham.
Like Liz Truss’s predecessor Boris Johnson, Mr Hands was born in New York to British parents. He lived in the US with his family until the age of seven.
When he returned to the UK, he went to selective school Dr Challoner’s Grammar in Amersham, Buckinghamshire before heading to the University of Cambridge to study modern history. It was Hands’s stint at university that saw him join the Conservatives.
He was in the same college as future Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and has claimed that Mr Clegg was also a one-time member of Cambridge University Conservative Association.
After leaving education, the future MP moved into finance and worked on trading floors in both London and New York. However, according to a ConservativeHome profile by prominent political biographer Andrew Gimson, he was always destined for a life in politics.
In 1998, he became a local councillor in Fulham. Between 1999 and 2003 he served as leader of the Conservative group who were in opposition on the borough council. He stepped down in 2006 after having become an MP.
While known to be a Thatcherite, Greg Hands’s politics are hard to fully read into because he has never rebelled against the Conservative Party in House of Commons votes - largely because he has been on the government payroll for much of the past 12 years.
He was a shadow treasury minister from 2009 until the 2010 general election. Upon David Cameron’s coalition government getting into power, he became then-Chancellor George Osborne’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, or bag carrier.
In October 2011, he moved over to the Tory whips office, which is responsible for maintaining party discipline. By 2013, he had become deputy chief whip.
Hands gained a more senior role after the Conservatives won a majority at the 2015 general election, becoming George Osborne’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury. It was his first cabinet role.
However, it was a short-lived stint at the top table. With David Cameron resigning after the 2016 Brexit referendum (Hands voted remain), he lost key ally George Osborne.
Theresa May kept him on as a minister and moved him into the newly created Department for International Trade, which was set up to secure post-Brexit trade deals. He served as a Minister of State for Trade Policy - the role he has now moved into again under Liz Truss.
Hands quit in June 2018 as a result of his opposition to the expansion of Heathrow airport. Over the next 18 months, he became a major advocate of the UK securing a post-Brexit deal with Brussels and sought to find alternatives to the Irish backstop.
During this time, he also became the subject of a Parliamentary standards investigation after he was found to have used House of Commons stationary to send out a constituency newsletter - something that is forbidden under the MP code of conduct. In May 2020, he was forced to apologise to the House of Commons for the breach.
Despite opting for Jeremy Hunt in the 2019 Conservative leadership race, Boris Johnson reappointed Hands to his former trade policy minister role in the February 2020 cabinet reshuffle that led to Rishi Sunak becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer.
From September 2021 until Boris Johnson formally resigned as PM in September 2022, he served as Minister of State for Climate Change, Clean Growth and Energy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
During the 2022 Conservative leadership race, he backed Rishi Sunak. Like most other Sunak supporters who previously served in government, Hands was left out in the cold by new Prime Minister Liz Truss.
But with big Conservative divisions over economic policy threatening to undermine her leadership, Ms Truss is clearly banking on her new minister’s loyalty to the Conservative Party and position as a Sunak supporter to unite the Tories.
Greg Hands has a Russian-German wife - Irina - and two children. On his website, he claims to be fluent in both German and French, and to be able to speak Czech to a good standard.
What does a trade minister do?
Greg Hands has become a Minister for Trade Policy in the Liz Truss government. It is one of the key roles in the Department for International Trade, which is run by former leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch.
The new minister will provide Ms Badenoch with support on free trade agreements (FTA), import and export policy, as well as engagement with key industry groups. His US links may well prove an asset on the FTA front given the UK’s recent troubles in securing a coveted trade deal with the world’s biggest economy.
His predecessor, Conor Burns, was also used on broadcast media rounds to defend government policy. Whether Hands will be used in the same way is unclear.