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Tuesday, 12 October, 1999, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
For the defence: Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon succeeds George Robertson (right) as defence secretary
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has been one of the rising stars in Tony Blair's government.

Although he may not be a household name yet, Mr Hoon has moved three times within the government in the last six months.

In May he was promoted from the Lord Chancellor's Department to the Foreign Office, following the sudden death of Derek Fatchett.

And in the July reshuffle, Mr Hoon was moved again within the Foreign Office, to take over as minister for Europe.

Mr Hoon comes to the MOD from the Foreign Office
The latest upwards transfer sees him in the Cabinet as defence secretary, succeeding George Robertson, who has become the new secretary general of Nato.

He inherits a department which has been involved in the international air strikes against Serbia and one which finds its resources stretched from Kosovo to Northern Ireland.

But it will also give him the opportunity to make his mark on a large and important government department.

Mr Hoon was born in 1953 in Derby and was educated in Nottingham and Cambridge.

Before entering politics, he worked as a lecturer at Leeds University and in Kentucky before becoming a barrister.

Ambitious and able

Mr Hoon joined the Labour Party in 1977 and was elected MEP for Derbyshire and Ashfield in 1984, a position he held for a decade.

He was elected MP for the safe Labour seat of Ashfield in 1992, following the retirement of the sitting MP Frank Haynes.

Cabinet reshuffle
Within years, Mr Hoon had established himself as an ambitious and able politician.

He was awarded The Spectator award for "ingenious use of parliamentary procedure" in devising a trap which forced the Major government into the 1993 debate and vote on the Maastricht treaty, known as "Hoon's hurdle".

The following year, Tony Blair promoted him to the whips office and a year later Mr Hoon became an opposition spokesman on trade and industry.

When Labour took office in 1997, Mr Hoon initially became parliamentary secretary in the Lord Chancellor's Department, which included becoming the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine's, spokesman in the Commons.

At the Lord Chancellor's Department, he named the 20 highest earning barristers receiving most legal aid and also expressed sympathy for the suggestion that barristers should discard their wigs.

He was promoted to minister of state in Lord Chancellor's Department in last year's reshuffle, despite suggestions that he could replace the controversial millionaire MP Geoffrey Robinson as paymaster general.

When Mr Robinson resigned last December over his secret loan to the then Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson, it was seen as an opportunity for Mr Hoon's advancement.

But promotion was not to be his, as the lord chancellor needed the able minister to enact legal aid reforms.

Derek Fatchett: Died in May
It was the sudden death of Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett that eventually led to Mr Hoon's promotion.

Mr Fatchett, a well respected and well liked minister, died following a massive heart attack in his Leeds' constituency in May.

Mr Hoon took on his responsibilities at the height of the Kosovo conflict.

Three months later, Mr Hoon was moved again. This time he was promoted within the Foreign Office, to become minister for Europe.

It was seen to be an ideal position for the pro-European minister, especially one who had first hand experience of the workings of the European Union.

The new position also gave Mr Hoon responsibility for defence and security issues, a prelude to his new position within the cabinet.

Although few people predicted Mr Hoon's promotion in this reshuffle, his rise to the Cabinet has not received the surprise that other moves have.

It is being accepted as another step in the career of the talented, intelligent and ambitious Mr Hoon.

He is described as tall and sophisticated and is an avid Derby County supporter.

Mr Hoon is married with three children.

See also:

11 Oct 99 | UK Politics
12 Oct 99 | Cabinet Reshuffle
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