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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 22:16 GMT 23:16 UK
Milburn adviser 'is privatisation expert'
Alan Milburn
Mr Milburn's new adviser may be a source of controversy
Health Secretary Alan Milburn's newly appointed special adviser is the husband of Labour Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong and, it is claimed, an expert on privatisation issues.

Professor Paul Corrigan will work on the delivery of government plans to reform the public services, the Department of Health said.

The most worrying aspect of this appointment is... that Professor Corrigan is an expert in the privatisation of public services in local government

Evan Harris
But the decision to appoint Prof Corrigan has come under fire from Liberal Democrat health spokesman Evan Harris.

He said he was more concerned by Prof Corrigan's record on privatisation than his relationship with Ms Armstrong.

Dr Harris said: "The most worrying aspect of this appointment is not that it was based on marital connections, but that Professor Corrigan is an expert in the privatisation of public services in local government.

"Professor Corrigan does not represent expertise in the area of weighing up the merits of privatisation in whatever format.

"He is a 'how' rather than a 'whether' to privatise man."

Hilary Armstrong
The professor is the chief whip's husband
He added that the appointment epitomised the government's attitude to the question of public-private partnerships: "privatise the future, public outdated".

The news could add to tension between Labour's traditional backers in the trade unions and the government.

On Wednesday, Mr Blair hosted a dinner for union leaders at 10 Downing Street in an attempt to calm fears over plans for private firms to become more involved in the NHS and other public services.

Ms Armstrong said she had no comment to make on the appointment.

'Appointed on merit'

A Health Department statement said that Professor Corrigan had been appointed "on merit for his knowledge and experience of public service reform".

It added: "His appointment reflects the importance of delivery in the government's public service reform agenda."

According to the statement, Prof Corrigan has been working as a consultant assisting in the modernisation of public services.

For the last year he has been executive director of the Public Management Foundation, a research charity involved in developing modern public management.

And since 1995 he has been a visiting professor of public policy at the University of North London.

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See also:

26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Union accuses privatisation 'freaks'
25 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blair seeks to cool privatisation row
09 Jun 01 | Features
Sisters are doing it
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