Charles Clarke has been made home secretary and Ruth Kelly takes over at education in the reshuffle prompted by David Blunkett's resignation.
Mr Clarke says he strongly supports plans for ID cards
Former Education Secretary Mr Clarke said he was exhilarated to have the job and shared many of Mr Blunkett's views.
The move marks a promotion to the top table of government for Ms Kelly, who will be replaced as Cabinet Office Minister by David Miliband.
Ms Kelly becomes the sixth woman in Tony Blair's Cabinet.
Mr Clarke said it was an honour to return to such an exciting department and paid tribute for the "outstanding" job done by his "close friend" Mr Blunkett.
"The challenge I see is absolutely exhilarating," he said. "It is to ensure that every citizen in every community feels confident that they live in a secure community and one which they can live in safety."
Handling immigration and asylum, the criminal justice system, effective policing and tackling anti-social behaviour would be among the issues in his in-tray, he predicted.
Asked if he would be as "authoritarian" as Mr Blunkett, Mr Clarke said he would not go into policy details yet.
But he said he held similar views to his predecessor, ensuring continuity, and he strongly believed in the controversial plans for national identity cards.
Mr Clarke entered Parliament in 1997 but served as chief of staff to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock. He first entered the Cabinet as Labour chairman.
His experience at the Home Office in charge of policing will help him get to grips with one of the biggest briefs in government.
But his task will be made harder by the fact that law and order measures dominated the programme set out by Labour in last month's Queen's Speech.
He was one of the ministers criticised in a new biography by Mr Blunkett, who said Mr Clarke had gone "soft" on schools standards.
Seen as a political heavyweight, Mr Clarke also recently accused the Prince of Wales of holding outdated views on education.
Both Ms Kelly, who has also worked in the Treasury, and Schools Minister Mr Miliband have been seen as rising stars of the current crop of more junior ministers.
There will be further changes announced among the junior ministerial ranks - Mr Miliband's successor at education has yet to be named.