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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 November, 2003, 09:09 GMT
Shadow ministers begin first day
The new shadow cabinet
The new shadow cabinet have taken their places
The shadow ministers appointed by new Tory leader Michael Howard are starting the first day in their new jobs.

The shadow cabinet, more than halved to just 12, includes several "super shadows", covering several departments.

Oliver Letwin left home affairs to be shadow chancellor. Ex-chairman Theresa May got the environment and transport, and Tim Yeo health and education.

Mr Yeo said the smaller team would be "more efficient" and "more in control" of the battle against Labour.

"I think it will be able to react much more quickly to events," he said.

"I think it will be able to deliver more effective opposition. It is going to meet every day. It really will be in control."

'Wise men'

Mr Howard, who was made leader last Thursday, is reportedly planning another break with tradition - by selling the long lease on the party's Westminster headquarters.

He could raise 6m for the party's election war chest by selling Conservative Central Office, according to The Times.

Shadow chancellor - Oliver Letwin
Home affairs - David Davis
Health and education - Tim Yeo
Transport and environment - Theresa May
Local government secretary - David Curry
Joint chairmen - Liam Fox and Lord Saatchi
Chief whip - David Maclean
Shadow Lords leader - Lord Strathclyde
Shadow foreign secretary and deputy leader - Michael Ancram
Head of policy co-ordination - David Willetts

The senior ministers will be backed by teams of junior "shadow secretaries".

A council of "wise men" made up of former leaders John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, along with former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, has been set up to advise Mr Howard.

One notable asbentee from that list, Lord Heseltine, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he would not have expected to be included in such a group and was encouraged by the start Michael Howard had made.

"What he has done and the way the announcements have come through is one of the most encouraging things that has happened in the Conservative Party for a very long time.

"I believe that he has recognised the fundamental fact about the Tory Party, which is that it is a broad church and to work, to be effective, to appeal widely, you have to represent a spectrum of opinion and mould it together into a fighting force," the former deputy prime minister said.

'Radical departure'

Explaining the changes to the top Tory team, Mr Howard said: "This shadow team is a radical departure from past practice.

"The role of Opposition is very different from the role of government. There is therefore no reason for the Opposition to mirror the structure of government."

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Liam Fox
New co-chairman

He said the new advisory council demonstrated his determination to use the "full array of talent" inside the party.

"This team extends well beyond the shadow cabinet," he added.

The Tory chairman role has been split between Lord Saatchi, the advertising guru who helped Margaret Thatcher towards her historic 1979 election victory, and former health spokesman Dr Liam Fox.

Lord Saatchi will be focusing on making Conservative Central Office a "premier political machine" once again.

Dr Fox will instead be the public face of party headquarters, taking charge of campaigning, policy and media issues.

Tory big-hitter Kenneth Clarke told Channel 4 News the new "balanced cabinet" represented a "sensible consensus across the party".

'Wrong priorities'

Labour chairman Ian McCartney accused Mr Howard of downgrading the health and education portfolios.

That reflected a desire to cut public services and force families to pay for their healthcare, he claimed.

"While it takes two shadow cabinet members to run a declining Tory Party, apparently it takes only one to deal with the whole of the NHS and the schools system," added Mr McCartney.

That critique was echoed by Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor.

"Michael Howard has appointed the same old faces to promote the same old faded and unpopular policies, redirecting NHS and education funds towards subsidising those able to afford private treatment and private education," he said.

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