U.K. scientists returned from their vacation this week to find a new face in charge of science in the government. Stephen Byers has been appointed secretary of state for trade and industry following the resignation of Peter Mandelson 2 days before Christmas. Mandelson had been accused of impropriety over an undisclosed loan of £373,000 that he received from fellow Member of Parliament Geoffrey Robinson.
Byers was a senior lecturer in law at Newcastle Polytechnic before entering politics. He was elected to Parliament in 1992 and served as a junior minister for education and schools before moving to his next position, chief secretary to the Treasury. He is close to Prime Minister Tony Blair and has a reputation for being an ambitious high-flyer who has progressed quickly up the Cabinet ranks.
Byers was welcomed to his post by Peter Cotgreave of the lobby group Save British Science, who said, "We look forward to working with him and hope he is as enthusiastic about science as Mr. Mandelson."