Her promotion from junior foreign office minister came after Clare Short quit the international development brief, accusing the Prime Minister of breaking promises over Iraq’s future.
Lady Amos was already versed in the many issues and sensitivities involved in the global diplomatic splits over the Iraq conflict, having canvassed African leaders in the run up to the war.
She was the first UK minister on the scene in Bali, visiting embassy staff in the aftermath of the bombing in which more than 200 people were killed.
In addition to being a very forceful figure in her own right, BBC correspondents say Lady Amos has the huge asset of being black, taking all the defences away from countries like Zimbabwe who see Britain as a post-colonial country.
She was the government whip from 1998 to 2001 and a co-opted member, European Union Sub-committee F (Social Affairs, Education and Home Affairs) from 1997-98.
She was spokeswoman for social security 1998-2001, international development since 1998, women’s issues 1998-2001, and foreign and commonwealth office 2001.
Born in Guyana, Valerie Ann Amos began her career in local government, working in various London boroughs from 1981 to 1989. She was educated at Townley Grammar School for Girls before completing a degree in sociology at Warwick University in 1976, a masters degree in cultural studies from Birmingham University in 1977 and doctoral research at University of East Anglia.
She was chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission from 1989 to 1994, and then director of Amos Fraser Bernard from 1995 to 1998.
She became a life peer in 1997, taking the title Baroness Amos of Brondesbury in the London Borough of Brent.
She was deputy chair of the Runnymede Trust, a trustee of Institute of Public Policy Research and involved in Project Hope, an NGO which promotes healthcare. Her charity work involved being the chair of the board of governors at Royal College of Nursing Institute from 1994 to 1998 and one of the directors of Hampstead Theatre.