Page last updated at 19:12 GMT, Thursday, 24 January 2008

Purnell heads reshuffle changes

James Purnell
Mr Purnell had been the culture secretary for the past seven months

James Purnell has been appointed work and pensions secretary in the reshuffle following the resignation of Peter Hain from the cabinet.

Mr Purnell has been succeeded as culture secretary by Andy Burnham, who said he had moved into his "dream job".

Mr Burnham's position as chief secretary to the Treasury has gone to Yvette Cooper, with Caroline Flint succeeding her as housing minister.

Paul Murphy takes over from Mr Hain as secretary of state for Wales.

As culture secretary Mr Purnell oversaw several high-profile projects, including the successful bid for London's Olympics in 2012, the switch from analogue to digital television, and the renewal of the BBC's charter.

Before that, he was pensions minister in the Department for Work and Pensions - which he now heads - working on the development of a national pensions saving scheme.

But the 37-year-old faced embarrassment last year when it emerged an NHS trust had superimposed a picture of him into a promotional photograph.

Andy Burnham
Work and Pensions Secretary: James Purnell
Culture Secretary: Andy Burnham (pictured)
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Yvette Cooper
Housing Minister: Caroline Flint
Secretary of State for Wales: Paul Murphy

He will not be taking on Mr Hain's second job as Welsh secretary, which goes to Paul Murphy.

For the Conservatives, shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling congratulated Mr Purnell on his appointment, saying he hoped he would "be able to take a firm grip on a department that is clearly losing its way".

Mr Purnell said he was "very sorry" for Mr Hain but "honoured to be continuing the work of welfare reform that he and John Hutton have started".

"Welfare reform is a key part of any new Labour government. It's key to aspiration. It's key to tackling poverty.

"And my priority is to give everyone the chance to be self reliant in old age, to make the right to work a reality, but also for everybody who can work, to make sure that they all know that they have a responsibility to work."

Mr Burnham said it was "a fantastic time" to become culture secretary, "with the thriving cultural and arts sector in the country, preparations for the Olympic Games well under way and of course my family's home city this year is crowned as European City of Culture".

"Anybody who knows me knows that I will put my heart and soul into this job," he added.

He also referred to the new culture secretary - with whom he once shared a flat - by saying: "I would like to pay full tribute to my good friend James Purnell who has made a real impact here and I will be very much picking up where James left off."

Brown allies

In other changes, Yvette Cooper will join her husband Ed Balls in the cabinet by succeeding Mr Burnham as chief secretary to the treasury. Caroline Flint becomes the housing minister.

Among the junior ministerial ranks, Tom Watson - who quit the government in September 2006 after an "attempted coup" against then-Prime Minister Tony Blair - returns as parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office.

There is also a promotion for another Brown ally, Baroness Vadera, who becomes under secretary of state at the department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne is given an additional role at as a junior minister at the Treasury, boosting his efforts to clamp down on illegal working and migration.

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