Yeovil MP David Laws returns to Government after two years on sidelines
Yeovil MP David Laws made a sensational return to Government yesterday as David Cameron started his only major reshuffle before the next election.
The Prime Minister kept many senior figures in their jobs, but replaced Health Secretary Andrew Lansley with controversial Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
With middle-ranking Minister of State jobs still being announced, there were big moves for West MPs including Mark Harper, Jeremy Browne and David Heath.
Other West Ministers were waiting to hear their fate last night, while the reshuffle continues today with Junior Ministerial posts.
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Several rising Tory stars first elected at the last election are hoping to get their first Government jobs, including Devizes MP Claire Perry, Bristol North West’s Charlotte Leslie and Chris Skidmore (Kingswood).
Mr Laws returns to the ministerial ranks as Schools Minister, and Cabinet Office Minister with responsibility for coordinating policy.
Both Mr Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg were keen to bring him back into the Government, which he served for 17 days after the election as Chief Treasury Secretary.
But it is a controversial appointment, as he resigned from that job over his parliamentary expenses, and last night he was being targeted by Labour MPs, who said he should have faced the voters before being brought back.
Downing Street confirmed Lib Dem Somerton & Frome MP David Heath as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), after impressing as Deputy Leader of the Commons.
There was speculation he had landed the vital job of Agriculture Minister in succession to Jim Paice, which would put him at the centre of a number of key issues.
Pilots of badger culling are due to being in the West this autumn to combat bovine TB, while the dairy industry is battling to survive, and there are continuing problems with the Rural Payments Agency.
Mr Heath will work with Owen Paterson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, who becomes Defra Secretary after Caroline Spelman was sacked.
Forest of Dean Tory MP Mark Harper was promoted from Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform to Immigration Minister.
And Taunton Lib Dem Jeremy Browne, who as a Foreign Office Minister represented Britain at the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War this year, gets a plum job at the Home Office.
But there was disappointment for North Devon Lib Dem Nick Harvey, who was sacked as Armed Forces Minister.
He said he was a victim of complex coalition politics, amid horse-trading over which ministerial jobs the Lib Dems should have.
“Nick Clegg made it clear that the decision was not a reflection on my performance in the job, which he said was widely regarded as having been excellent, but rather a strategic political decision to ‘trade’ this post for one in another department.”
The PM axed five Cabinet Ministers including Ms Spelman, Commons Leader Sir George Young, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, International Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi. However she was given what was described as a “senior” ministerial role at the Foreign Office, while Mr Mitchell becomes Chief Whip.
Veteran Ken Clarke loses his job as Justice Secretary but stays in the Cabinet, as Minister Without Portfolio advising on economic issues.
The PM was accused of weakness after losing a fight to move Iain Duncan Smith from his Work and Pensions post.
And switching Transport Secretary Justine Greening to International Development angered London Mayor Boris Johnson, who said it paved the way for a massive U-turn to build a third runway at Heathrow. There was surprise at the promotion of Mr Hunt to Health Secretary, just months after demands for his sacking because of his contacts with Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
Mr Lansley, who was behind the controversial NHS reforms, becomes Commons Leader. Former miner Patrick McLoughlin moves from Chief Whip to Transport Secretary despite being scared of flying.