Cabinet reshuffle: West MPs in spotlight and the firing line
David Cameron continued his reshuffle yesterday, bringing mixed fortunes for MPs from the West.
Liberal Democrat Bath MP Don Foster and South West Wiltshire Tory Dr Andrew Murrison joined the Government, but Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose lost his job.
Meanwhile, Yeovil MP David Laws, who dramatically returned to the Government on Tuesday, found himself in the spotlight.
He unexpectedly attended the first Cabinet meeting of the revamped top team, but was also attacked by Labour leader Ed Miliband at Prime Minister’s Questions.
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Mr Miliband seized on the fact Mr Laws was forced to resign as Chief Treasury Secretary in May 2010 over his Parliamentary expenses.
He said: “He brought back David Laws, he promoted the Culture Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) who should have been sacked, and he left in place the part-time Chancellor that the whole country knows should have been sacked.
“It is the same old faces, the same old policies, a no-change reshuffle.”
But among the new faces promoted to ministerial positions was Mr Foster, who becomes a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department of Communities & Local Government, replacing his party colleague Andrew Stunell.
He had been the party’s spokesman on culture, media and sport, and many at Westminster were surprised he did get a promotion after the 2010 general election.
Dr Murrison, who had been Parliamentary aide to former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, becomes a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in defence.
He served for 18 years as a medical officer in the Royal Navy, leaving as a Surgeon Commander, and was recalled in 2003 to serve in Iraq.
Mr Penrose said he had stood down as Tourism and Heritage Minister, as the PM had reduced the size of the Culture, Media & Sports Department now the Olympics were over.
The Tory MP said: “I’m very proud of the work I did as part of the DCMS team, boosting the tourism industry, cutting red tape and helping with a highly successful Olympic Games as well. Now I’ll be able to fight even harder for our areas – I’m looking forward to it hugely.”
Meanwhile, David Heath has been discussing his role as Minister of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where he will work with new Secretary of State, Owen Paterson.
The Somerton and Frome Liberal Democrat, who switched from his role of Deputy Leader of the Commons, said: “I am delighted to take on these new responsibilities, representing as I do one of the most rural constituencies in England and one of the most important dairy farming areas in the country.
“There is an enormous amount of work to do to ensure a fair deal for rural communities and a fair return for primary producers.
“At the same time, we need to protect rural services, grow the economic opportunities in countryside areas, and balance the needs of often fragile environments.”
Geoff Sheppard, a dairy farmer from near Frome, said there was no one better for the job.
“David comes from the most populated area in Europe, in terms of dairy cows, and has an insight and sympathy for farmers and farming that make him ideally suited to the job.”
Mr Laws, whose constituency abuts that of Mr Heath, rejoined the Government in the reshuffle – attending Cabinet on advice from Nick Clegg, No 10 said – Minister of State in both education and the Cabinet Office.
He is also a member of a new Cabinet committee set up to ensure the many Government programmes to boost growth have a real impact.
Chancellor George Osborne will chair the Growth Implementation Committee, which will meet monthly to slash red tape, streamline planning rules and get big infrastructure projects moving.
The committee of six is equally divided between the coalition parties, with Mr Laws joined by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, from his party, with West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and former Justice Secretary Ken Clarke also appointed.
The PM’s spokesman denied claims it reflected panic that the Government had failed to lift Britain out of the double-dip recession.
With Downing Street continuing to announce junior posts, a number of young West Tory MPs were waiting to hear if they had secured jobs.