Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 14:23 UK

Lord Jones to leave in reshuffle

Lord Jones
Lord Jones: Says it was well known he was going to stand down

Lord Digby Jones will be stepping down as a government minister in Gordon Brown's reshuffle, which is expected to take place in the next few days.

The former CBI chief was one of the outside experts brought in by Mr Brown when he became prime minister.

He told the BBC he had always intended to do the trade minister's job for a limited time, and said it was not a judgement on Mr Brown's performance.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly is also leaving in the reshuffle.

I've no idea when the reshuffle is, but when the reshuffle comes I would expect to go away
Lord Jones

The appointment of Lord Jones was controversial at the time because he was not a member of the Labour Party.

He countered that criticism by saying that the job of promoting trade and investment "should transcend the factionalism of party politics".

He told the BBC that it was already well known that he was going to step down, saying he had only taken the role on for a "finite period".

"I said when I took the job fifteen months ago... I'd do it for the country, for the government, for my prime minister," he said.

'Leisurely chat'

"And that time is coming up to an end and it's public knowledge that whenever he wanted to reshuffle, he could count me in it and I would slip away.

"It's not a comment on him - I think his leadership is very, very good indeed, it's not a comment on government.

"This is a comment on the terms and conditions on which I took the job. I've no idea when the reshuffle is, but when the reshuffle comes I would expect to go away."

Lord Jones has been involved in some controversy during his time in the job - notably when he expressed concerns about plans to tax "non-domiciled" foreigners in Britain.

It emerged during the Labour Party conference that Ms Kelly had asked to leave the government at the next reshuffle because she wanted to spend more time with her family.

The BBC understands Ms Kelly was in Downing Street on Thursday morning for a "leisurely chat" at Mr Brown's suggestion.

The reshuffle is expected to be more limited than had been expected, given the current economic crisis and the relative success of Labour's conference last week.

There had been speculation it would happen on Thursday, but Downing Street appeared to play down that possibility, telling reporters the prime minister was "very focused on other issues".

It is still expected that the reshuffle will take place before Monday, when MPs return to Parliament after their lengthy summer recess.

The strong speculation at Westminster is that immigration minister Liam Byrne will be elevated to the cabinet, possibly directly into the transport portfolio vacated by Ruth Kelly.

Downing Street sources also say that at a time of financial crisis, more 'outside experts' like Lord Jones may be appointed - though not necessarily to the post he is vacating.

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