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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Hodge is minister for children
Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge's brief will be wide
The government has created a new post of minister for children - and has appointed Margaret Hodge to the job.

The former minister for higher education will take on a range of different units and initiatives which relate to children and family life.

Policies on the under fives, childcare, teenage pregnancy, family law and children at risk will all be overseen by her.

They are currently scattered across various departments.

The changes come partly in response to the Laming report into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

Lord Laming pointed to failures by social services, medics and the police and said this was partly because there was no proper chain of accountability for children.

He called for the creation of the post of children's minister which, he said should be answerable to Cabinet.

Mrs Hodge will report to the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.

She leaves behind the difficult job of pushing through the government's changes to higher education.

From 2006, universities in England will be allowed to charge higher tuition fees - top-up fees - a move which has come in for a lot of criticism.

Sensitive positions

Her job is being taken on by the former employment minister Alan Johnson.

A former postman and leader of the communication workers' union, he has no higher education qualification.

Estelle Morris - who quit as education secretary last autumn in the middle of the A-level crisis - is back in government.

She has been made an arts minister.

At the time of her resignation, Ms Morris said she did not think she was up to the job of education secretary.

'Challenging'

Margaret Hodge said she was delighted with her own new appointment.

We are putting children at the heart of the services we provide
Charles Clarke, Education Secretary

"I know this will be an extremely challenging role. But I am convinced we can achieve an approach to children's services that provides the best support they need for a happy and secure childhood and the foundations for a successful adult life," she said.

"Lord Laming's inquiry into the Victoria Climbie tragedy highlighted the need for better coordination of services.

"Today's changes foreshadow proposals for far reaching reforms which will be set out in a Green Paper to be published before the parliamentary summer recess."

Charles Clarke said the change would make the government more responsive to the needs of children, their parents and carers.

"By bringing all of children's services together under one roof it is a clear signal we are putting children at the heart of the services we provide.

"In many local authorities we have seen how we can secure better outcomes for children by bringing the services together under one roof," he said.

"The time is right to mirror these structures nationally so we can work better with local authorities to secure a holistic approach to tackling children's issues."

Shadow education secretary Damian Green criticised Mrs Hodge, but not the new post.

"A new minister for children is one of the most sensitive positions in government," he said.

"It needs to be occupied by someone with robust common sense.

"We can only hope that her views have matured since she launched a booklet discussing a ban on skipping ropes, musical chairs and GCSE grades below C."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Margaret Hodge
"We're putting the child at the centre of everything we do"



SEE ALSO:
Profile: Estelle Morris
13 Jun 03  |  Politics
Morris returns to government
13 Jun 03  |  Politics
Climbie tragedy 'not the last'
27 Mar 03  |  England



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