UK PM Rishi Sunak may announce mini cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday -source

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends the Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons in London, Britain, February 1, 2023. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak may announce a mini reshuffle of his Cabinet on Tuesday and is considering breaking up the government's business department into three separate ministries, a source familiar with the discussions said on Monday.

The reshuffle of ministers comes just over a week after Sunak sacked Conservative Party chair Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs, and as the government has fallen further behind the main opposition Labour Party in opinion polls.

Sunak is also under pressure from opposition parties and even some lawmakers in his own party to sack deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who is facing an internal investigation over allegations of bullying.

Sunak's office declined to comment on the possible reshuffle, which was first reported by The Sun.

The government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) could be broken up to see a new energy department, with business and trade merged. There would be a new science and digital department too, the Sun reported.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport could also be broken up with culture and sport as their own standalone departments, the newspaper said.

Some Conservative lawmakers were taken by surprise by reports of an impending reshuffle, questioning the timing because, they said, new prime ministers usually set about changing their teams sooner than after 100 days in power.

Sunak has said his government will focus on tackling five priorities from cutting inflation to reducing illegal migration as he seeks to win the next election, expected to be held before the end of next year.

Some of the changes could reflect Sunak's priorities, particularly around technology and innovation, after he pledged in January to increase public funding in research and development to 20 billion pounds ($24.06 billion).

The governing Conservative party is currently around 20 percentage points behind Labour in most polls.

($1 = 0.8312 pounds)

(Reporting by Muvija M, Elizabeth Piper, Shadia Nasralla and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Deepa Babington, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

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