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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 16:27 GMT
Blair names new security supremo
A police officer on duty outside Parliament
Security has become one of the top political issues
The head of the immigration service is to take over as Tony Blair's security and intelligence supremo.

Bill Jeffrey will replace Sir David Omand, who retires at Easter.

Mr Jeffrey's office was involved in fast-tracking the visa application which prompted Home Secretary David Blunkett's resignation last month.

As the new security and intelligence co-ordinator, he will work on counter-terrorism efforts across government and the intelligence agencies.

'Ground-breaking'

The head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, William Ehrman, will also report to him.

During his time in the job, Sir David gave evidence to the Hutton inquiry after being involved in meetings about how to handle government weapons inspector David Kelly, who later committed suicide.

Announcing Mr Jeffrey's appointment, Tony Blair said: "I regard this post as one of the most important in government.

"I am very grateful to Sir David Omand who has worked tirelessly with his colleagues to develop and realise the UK's ground-breaking counter-terrorism strategy.

"But there are still many challenges ahead. Bill is an extremely talented official with huge experience of government and he is well-equipped to make a success of this post."

Northern Ireland experience

Mr Jeffrey has been director general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate since September 2002.

The married 56-year-old began his civil service career in the Home Office, before working at the Cabinet Office between 1994 and 1998.

He was then political director of the Northern Ireland Office, advising the secretary of state and Mr Blair about the peace process.

The inquiry into whether Mr Blunkett speeded up a visa application for his ex-lover's nanny revealed emails between the ex-home secretary's officials and Mr Jeffrey's private secretary.

'No favours'

In one message about the case, Mr Jeffrey's official says the nanny's case was pulled out of a queue and a decision made.

"No special favours, only what they would normally do - but a bit quicker," said the e-mail.

Mr Blunkett said he had not realised the case had been speeded up and stressed that Home Office officials had only done what they thought had been right.

Mr Jeffrey was not mentioned by name in Sir Alan Budd's inquiry into the visa row.

Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer said: "This is without doubt one of the most challenging and difficult appointments and we wish Bill Jeffrey well.

"However, if the government wanted to take security seriously then Mr Jeffrey would be working directly to a dedicated minister for homeland security and not having to look in the several different directions that he will have to under the current arrangements."




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