Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 19:59 UK

Cameron 'expecting great things' after cabinet meeting


Prime Minister David Cameron holds his first cabinet meeting

David Cameron has said he is "expecting great things" as he toured Whitehall departments after chairing his new cabinet's first meeting at Number 10.

The prime minister told Department for Business staff they had a "huge job" on to get the economy moving again.

He called Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable "an absolute star".

Earlier, ministers said the new cabinet got "straight down to business", with Education Secretary Michael Gove saying there was a "sense of common purpose".

Mr Cameron told business department staff that the civil service was "an incredible machine", adding "I am expecting great things of you" and saying he wanted them to get Britain back "open for business".

Mr Cameron then went on to give a similar speech to staff inside the Home Office.

He is also announcing a string of junior government posts. So far, for the Conservatives, Nick Herbert is Policing Minister, Damian Green is Immigration Minister and Grant Shapps is Housing Minister.

Nick Gibb has been named Schools Minister, Chris Grayling is a Work and Pensions Minister and Greg Clark will be Minister for Decentralisation at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

More Lib Dems have been appointed, including Sarah Teather as Education Minister, Jeremy Browne as Foreign Office Minister and Steve Webb as Work and Pensions Minister.

'Great opportunity'

In Thursday's first cabinet meeting, Mr Cameron told his colleagues: "I think we have a great opportunity to think for the long term.

Mr Clegg said there was "a huge overlap, a shared agenda and a common purpose between the two parties".

PM: David Cameron
Deputy PM: Nick Clegg
Foreign Sec: William Hague
Chancellor: George Osborne
Business/banking: Vince Cable
Defence: Liam Fox
Health: Andrew Lansley
Energy/Climate: Chris Huhne
Justice Sec: Ken Clarke
Chief Sec to Treasury: David Laws
Scottish Sec: Danny Alexander
Communities Sec: Eric Pickles
Culture/Olympics: Jeremy Hunt
Work and Pensions: Iain Duncan Smith

"One of the things that has been a real problem in recent years is the sense there might be a general election - well, I certainly felt it - there might be a general election at any moment, [which] meant that government didn't think for the long term and I think we have a great opportunity to do that."

Mr Cameron talked about Afghanistan and said he "couldn't stress how high it was on the new government's agenda". Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he would be updating parliament much more frequently on the situation in the war zone.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was pleased that the government appeared to have been well-received internationally.

The BBC News channel's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said cabinet members were encouraged to keep their differences quiet and told that a special coalition committee would be set up, co-chaired by Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, to provide a forum in which to thrash out any disagreements.

She also said the first new rule issued to the cabinet this morning was that members were banned from having their mobile phones and Blackberrys with them during meetings.

Chancellor George Osborne told the meeting that the deficit "overshadows everything" and confirmed that all ministers would take a 5% pay cut, saving some £3 million over a five-year parliament.

There was room for some levity, however, with a joke from Mr Cable. He said his Indian in-laws had always told him that arranged marriages were sometimes better than those born out of love.

Mr Cameron remarked that someone had told him he and Mr Clegg seemed to be getting on better than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He replied that they had "not set the bar very high".

Home Secretary

There are expected to be 20 Liberal Democrat ministers at all levels across many departments, meaning more than a third of their 57 MPs will be members of the government.

The majority of cabinet ministers carry on with the briefs they held in opposition but there was a return to frontline politics for former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who becomes work and pensions secretary.

After the meeting, Mr Duncan Smith said it was "a wonderful feeling" to see Mr Cameron in the prime minister's chair. Mr Gove said it was "a really constructive meeting" and it was "great" to be sat alongside his new Liberal Democrat colleagues. Universities Minister David Willetts said ministers were "getting straight down to business".

Theresa May was a surprise appointment as Home Secretary and she has already spoken of the challenges ahead as she tries to square the conflicting priorities of the coalition partners and deliver their jointly agreed programme.

Every penny that is saved by doing things better can be reinvested for the benefit of patients
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley

She told BBC News: "We will be scrapping ID cards but also introducing an annual cap on the number of migrants coming into the UK from outside the European union."

She said there was a "process to be gone through" to decide the annual limit. The coalition government was committed to introducing elected police commissioners and cutting police paperwork to "give the police more time on the streets," she added.

On the DNA database, she said: "One of the first things we will do is to ensure that all the people who have actually been convicted of a crime and are not present on it are actually on the DNA database.

"The last government did not do that. It focused on retaining the DNA data of people who were innocent."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the BBC the new government would go further than Labour's planned £20bn of health service efficiency savings over the next three years.

"Of course we do need to do that, and we may need to do more because we have increases in demand in the NHS and a need to improve the outcomes. Every penny that is saved by doing things better can be reinvested for the benefit of patients."

Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the economy was the top priority, but played down suggestions that there might be shock among cabinet members now they had seen the true state of the country's finances. "We were all aware of the seriousness of the situation," he said.

Labour leadership

One junior government post was revealed on Wednesday evening, when Dame Pauline Neville-Jones took her seat as Security Minister at the first meeting of the National Security Council.

The body, made up of senior ministers, military chiefs and the heads of the security services, discussed the military situation in Afghanistan. It was also briefed on the UK's wider strategic and security position.

David and Samantha Cameron at No 10

The Labour Party has meanwhile started the process of choosing a new leader after the resignation of Gordon Brown, who stood down as prime minister on Tuesday when it became clear that the Lib Dems had decided to join the Tories in a coalition.

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband became the first potential candidate to announce plans to stand, saying he hoped others would follow suit. He has the backing of heavyweight figures including former home secretary Alan Johnson, who has ruled himself out of the running. Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman has also ruled herself out but has said she will remain neutral during the contest.

Backbench Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who came third in Labour's 2007 deputy leadership contest, has also said he is thinking about standing.

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