Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has chosen Lincolnshire MP, and former financial secretary to the Treasury, Victoria Atkins as new health secretary. Anna Colivicchi looks at her track record
Victoria Atkins, who worked as a criminal barrister before standing as an MP, has been appointed to succeed Steve Barclay as health secretary at a tumultuous time for the NHS (and the Government).
She is appointed to the role in the midst of industrial action negotiations with the BMA over pay and will be the seventh health secretary since 2018.
In a statement on her parliamentary website, she said she hoped to put her experiences in the criminal courts ‘to good use in the political world’. Before becoming an MP, she specialised in prosecuting serious organised crime.
During a radio interview with LBC in 2018, when she had worked as a junior minister in the Home Office for a few months, she came under fire as she said she couldn’t remember the number of police officers in the country because it ‘had slipped her mind’.
She made the headlines again in the same year when as drugs minister she was accused of ‘hypocrisy on a grand scale’ and of a ‘massive conflict of interest’ over her husband’s involvement in a legal cannabis farm. Her husband Paul Kenward is managing director of British Sugar, which started growing substantial amounts of marijuana in Norfolk, under a licence issued from the Home Office in 2016.
She stepped down from the part of her brief relating to cannabis despite the Home Office stating at the time that Ms Atkins had declared her husband’s business activities when she was appointed, and previously when she was a backbencher.
Nevertheless, in 2019 the Telegraph named her as one of the ‘rising female Tory stars’ set for promotion under Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Professionally, she is one of only 30 advocates in England and Wales appointed to the Attorney General’s Regulators Panel and the Serious Fraud Office’s List of specialist fraud prosecutors.
Ms Atkins said: ‘It was a privilege to represent the decent, law-abiding majority in my work prosecuting hardened criminals.
‘I have prosecuted international drug trafficking rings, gun-runners and fraudsters who steal £100s million from British taxpayers.’
She has said she was one of the first member of her family to go to university, reading law at Cambridge.
However, she has political ‘pedigree’, being the daughter of former Tory MP and MEP Sir Robert Atkins. She was born in London but was raised in Lancashire and went to school in Blackpool.
She has held several positions in Government since she became the MP for Louth and Horncastle in 2015, including minister for women, minister for prisons and probation, and minister for Afghan resettlement.
Ms Atkins’ voting record on health:
- Voted for reforming the NHS so GPs buy services on behalf of their patients
- Has never voted on allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life
Picture credit: UK Parliament