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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 June, 2003, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Blair warned over fresh revolt
Frank Dobson
Dobson says some MPs will now vote the 'right way'
Tony Blair's cabinet reshuffle has made a fresh revolt over NHS reform plans more likely, according to former Health Secretary Frank Dobson.

He said many backbenchers would be "irritated" that the Scottish MP John Reid had been put in charge of the NHS in England and would make their feelings clear at the first opportunity.

The Conservatives have renewed their attack on the changes, which they say are the result of Mr Blair "losing control" of his own cabinet.

But Lord Falconer, promoted to the cabinet as head of the new Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA), has strongly defended the reshuffle.

The changes mean the post of lord chancellor is being abolished and a supreme court set up.

The Scotland and Wales Offices are now becoming part of the DCA.

Scottish question

Mr Dobson told the Independent on Sunday newspaper that the prime minister could expect a backlash when the Health and Social Care Bill, designed to free hospitals from Whitehall control, returns to the Commons next month.

The issue of foundation hospitals prompted 65 Labour MPs to vote against the government last month.

Mr Dobson said: "There will be quite a lot of MPs who object that a Scot has been given the job of imposing on England what the Labour-run Scottish assembly has rejected."

Supreme court to replace the law lords
Independent body to appoint judges
Abolition of Lord Chancellor's role (much-criticised, as being both judge and cabinet minister)
New department of constitutional affairs - but not a full Justice Ministry

He said some MPs would think that government jobs are now beyond their reach and will start voting according to their beliefs, rather than to please Mr Blair.

Mr Dobson said: "Some of the dumped ex-ministers will start voting the right way now.

"And some of the Scottish and Welsh MPs who helped get the legislation through may vote against it now as their first chance to protest against what has been done to the Scottish and Welsh offices."

'Losing command'

David Davis, who shadows the deputy prime minister, said the reshuffle reflected the infighting now dogging Labour.

Mr Davis told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost: "Mr Blair no longer controls his Cabinet fully.

"You can see this because he was stopped in his attempt to reform the health service by Gordon Brown, he was blocked in his ideas for a Minister of Justice by David Blunkett ... and he was blocked again over appointment of a Minister for Europe in cabinet by Jack Straw."

Lord Falconer argued that people were judging the reshuffle on the basis of misplaced newspaper speculation ahead of the changes, he argued. Instead they should focus on the "substance".

He told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost: "It is a fundamental reform of the legal system, and that was very, very necessary."

The newly promoted minister insisted Scotland and Wales would still have a voice in cabinet through Peter Hain and Alistair Darling, who add speaking in the Commons on Welsh and Scottish issues to their other responsibilities.

Officials from the former Scotland and Wales Offices would be also kept on in units within his department.


Labour ex-minister, George Foulkes, is worried about the DCA changes.

He told BBC One's Politics Show programme, which is being screened on Sunday: "I think that was a little bit hazy for a while and that will have caused some confusion.

"I think the lack of trust in Tony Blair is not justified but I must say that, for those who don't trust him, the events of the reshuffle won't help to improve the situation."

"I think it - well can I use a Downing Street expression - it looked a wee bit hazy."

On Saturday the chairman of the Bar Council said the changes to the judicial system were "bold and imaginative", but that care must be taken to avoid politics influencing the legal system.

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