Brown buys off Miliband with green ministry

Gordon Brown would establish a green ‘super-ministry’ if appointed prime minister, in a move that would reduce Whitehall bureaucracy and combine energy and the environment.

According to reports, Mr Brown would disband the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and hive off responsibility for oil and gas to a new environment super-ministry, most likely headed by current environment minister David Miliband.

The DTI’s remaining responsibilities could be shared between existing departments: The Department for Work and Pensions could absorb employment, business interests would go to HM Revenue and Customs and regional development would become the responsibility of communities secretary Ruth Kelly.

The Liberal Democrats, who called for the DTI’s abolishment in 2002, supported the proposals. Trade and industry spokeswoman Susan Kramer said: “After a decade in power, the government is finally waking up to the benefits of eliminating a layer of unnecessary bureaucracy by scrapping the DTI.”

“It is crucial that any move reduces government interference in areas it shouldn’t be involved in rather than just reallocating red tape to different departments.”

It is thought the move would be part of Mr Brown’s package for his first 100 days as prime minister, if he succeeds in replacing Tony Blair at Number Ten.

With anti-Brown Labour MPs increasingly calling for Mr Miliband to himself stand for the Labour leadership, there is speculation the planned super-ministry could also be an attempt to guarantee Mr Miliband’s support with a substantial role in a Brown government.

The two men are not thought to have discussed the proposed ministry, but Mr Miliband has reiterated denials he will challenge Mr Brown for the leadership.

The chancellor is an “excellent prime minister in waiting,” Mr Miliband insisted in an interview with GMTV.

He confirmed some Labour MPs have encouraged him to stand but insisted he is “not going to be seduced” into running.

“It’s very flattering, but it’s important that you don’t let flattery go to your head,” Mr Miliband added.

According to reports, anti-Brown MPs may attempt to force a nomination on Mr Miliband by launching a write-in campaign via the Labour party website.

The website intends to update hourly showing MPs’ support for the leadership candidates, in a bid to boost interest in the campaign and website traffic.

Sources told the Guardian that some MPs plan to declare support for the environment minister. If he receives the necessary 45 MPs’ backing he will be forced to decide whether to accept or decline the nomination.

Such a strategy would enable Mr Miliband to continue his claims that he backs Mr Brown as prime minister. However, some MPs have said it may backfire, as many will be reluctant to back Mr Miliband if he is likely to refuse the nomination.