Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 19:13 UK

Sir George Young replaces Duncan

David Cameron explains his decision to replace Alan Duncan with Sir George Young

David Cameron has appointed Sir George Young to replace Alan Duncan as the shadow leader of the House of Commons.

The 68-year-old North West Hampshire MP was transport secretary from 1995-1997.

He has also chaired Commons committees and stood for Speaker. He will now head Conservative moves to reform the House of Commons and expenses rules.

Mr Cameron said Sir George would bring "great talent, depth and experience" to the role and said the changes would add to his top team's strength.

BBC political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue said Mr Cameron's speech on Tuesday on cutting the cost of politics may have influenced the timing of the announcement.

In August it was revealed Mr Duncan had been caught on camera the previous month, complaining that MPs were expected to live "on rations". At the time Mr Cameron said he would not sack him.

Mr Duncan was also among shadow cabinet members who faced questions about their expenses claims and agreed to repay £5,000 claimed for gardening costs.

'Long standing reformer'

Mr Cameron said Mr Duncan had "quite rightly retracted what he said" but it "made sense" to put Sir George in place as "one of the most long standing reformers of Parliament" who was "respected across the House of Commons".

He said Sir George had "huge experience" and who would bring "strength, experience and depth" to a Conservative cabinet, if they won the next general election.

Asked why he had not demoted Mr Duncan sooner following his comments in early August, Mr Cameron told reporters he had "had time to think about it" ahead of the new Parliamentary season.

He had also had to consider whether he had "the right people in the right positions as a strong opposition and as an alternative government".


"And I think on that basis I came to the decision it was right - and Alan agreed actually - that it was right for him to move from that job to another job, outside the shadow cabinet but an important job.

"And it was right to put a new person to take the issues of parliamentary reform, reform of expenses, pay and pensions - all of those issues- through our parliament, it made sense to have a new person in place."

Mr Duncan said it was a "sensible decision" to move him from the shadow Commons leader role: "You have to be realistic about how difficult the expenses issue has been.

"What matters most is winning the election and David Cameron becoming the prime minister.

"I don't want to be a brake on that by making a difficult issue more problematic. I am very happy to get stuck into another job."

Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant, a previous deputy leader of the Commons, said: "This is hardly a progressive appointment. George Young's record shows that he is a roadblock to reform whether it is on MPs' expenses or on any progressive ideas."

Mr Duncan replaces Edward Garnier as shadow prisons minister. Mr Garnier has moved to the post of shadow attorney general, a position that had been held by Dominic Grieve, in addition to his main role as shadow justice secretary.

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