Leader – Blair’s tsar faces tough challenge

As the dust settled on the government’s reshuffle this week, it became clear Tony Blair had created an ‘accounting tsar’.

With the elevation of trade minister Ian McCartney to the Cabinet Office, Kim Howells, already a familiar face as DTI minister, added responsibility for accounting regulation and company law to his insolvency brief. It makes sense to bring the three areas together as there is considerable overlap. But accountants know change usually heralds delay.

While the new regulatory framework for the profession should not be affected by the reshuffle, the new Companies Act could be held up as Howells comes to terms with his new brief and attempts to convince the profession he is someone it can work with.

There is a lot riding on the appointment for the profession and Howells, a plain-speaking Blairite who has moved from the left of the party. After two reshuffles he is still on the fringes of the cabinet and may not survive a third.

That should give him an incentive to ensure legislation in what is a complicated area is effective, strikes a balance between consumer and business interests and finds space in a crowded parliamentary programme.

He will have to work hard to compete with more glamorous consumer-led legislation from within the DTI, legislation that is likely to win more friends within a government concerned about delivery and the impact of legislation on ordinary voters.

Let’s hope he can deliver.

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