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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 13:33 GMT
Profile: John Hutton
John Hutton
Mr Hutton is seen as ultra-loyal to Tony Blair
Despite already being a Cabinet minister the man chosen to replace David Blunkett as work and pensions secretary, is not exactly a household name.

John Hutton is known at Westminster as ultra-loyal and has been described as an "uber-moderniser" and, like Mr Blunkett, a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite.

He is a friend and former flatmate of key Blair ally Alan Milburn, whom he succeeded as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr Milburn had used the role to play a key role in Labour's general election campaign, while Mr Hutton was tasked with driving through the "delivery" of Mr Blair's reforms.

A sign of how close the pair are was shown by Mr Milburn being best man at Mr Hutton's wedding last year to Heather Rogers, an official in Mr Milburn's private office.

Mr Hutton, 50, MP for Barrow-in-Furness, in Cumbria, since entering parliament in 1992, has four children from his first marriage.

He was educated at Westcliff High School for Boys, in Essex, and Magdalen College, Oxford, going on to become a law lecturer at Northumbria University.


Before being appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in May 2005, Mr Hutton was Mr Milburn and then John Reid's deputy at the department of health, working closely on Foundation Hospital proposals which caused so much unrest on Labour's backbenches.

Mr Hutton, who lists his hobbies as football, cricket, films, music and history, has a reputation as an able, if rather low profile, minister from his six years working as a health minister.

His profile is sure to be raised now, although he says he is looking forward to the "challenge" of his new role.

The government wants to get a million of the 2.7 million incapacity benefit claimants into work and is considering delaying the age of retirement from 65 to alleviate the state pensions shortfall.

Incapacity benefit

Such proposals will prove controversial for many in the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Mr Hutton promised, on taking over the brief, to continue the "government's radical welfare reform agenda so that rights are properly matched with responsibilities".

Mr Blair said: "John is very tough, he's very intelligent and he's part of the modern Labour Party.

"He believes in giving people the help they need, but he also believes that if people able to work, they should be working and not on benefits, and I believe that's the way it should be."

Incapacity benefit plans face opposition from Labour backbenchers who are concerned vulnerable people may be forced off them, even if unfit for work.

The issue is said to have caused tension between Mr Blunkett and Mr Blair, who is reported to feel that the proposed reforms do not go far enough.

The final report of Adair Turner's Pensions Commission is due at the end of the month, which is likely to say Britons must save more or work longer to avoid poverty in old age.

Mr Hutton may face the difficult task of pushing forward legislation delaying the official retirement age or introducing compulsory saving for pensions.

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