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Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 17:51 GMT 18:51 UK

Ministers get down to work

Tony Blair is spending the weekend at his country residence as his ministers get to grips with their new responsibilities.

The prime minister and his family arrived at Chequers on Saturday where he will finalise the line-up of his junior ministerial team.

New Cabinet

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair
  • Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
  • Chancellor Gordon Brown
  • Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
  • Home Secretary David Blunkett
  • Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg
  • Leader of the Commons Robin Cook
  • Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
  • Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris
  • Health Secretary Alan Milburn
  • Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett
  • Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell
  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Smith
  • Work and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling
  • Transport, Local Government and the Regions Secretary Stephen Byers
  • Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt
  • Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong
  • Labour Party Chairman Charles Clarke
  • Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell
  • Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy
  • Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
  • International Development Secretary Clare Short
  • Leader of the Lords Lord Williams of Mostyn
    Meanwhile, the reshuffled cabinet went to Buckingham Palace to be introduced to the Queen.

    But many had already moved to stamp an early mark on their new departments.

    Home Secretary David Blunkett announced a fresh government crackdown on crime and drugs within hours of switching from the education department.

    Mr Blunkett said: "My own priorities, apart from listening and learning, will be crime, and particularly violent crime, and those who are trafficking in drugs, people and weaponry, and pulling the community together to be part of the solution."

    Speaking outside the Home Office in London, he described drugs as the "key corrosive element in dysfunctional families and within communities" and vowed to crack down on drug pushers and "the traffickers behind them who are making millions of pounds in profits out of the misery of others".

    Margaret Beckett, who heads up the new department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pledged a new strategy for the countryside.

    The former leader of the House of Commons said: "I don't think there's any doubt that after the problems in the countryside people are feeling very bruised and unhappy.

    "We need to try and create a new stroke of confidence. We have to develop a new strategy to give people in the countryside new hope."

    Arts pledge

    Tessa Jowell, who replaced Chris Smith as culture secretary, pledged to broaden the scope of the arts.

    "My goal is to ensure that everyone, at every stage of their life, gets the chance to enjoy the best of what our rich culture and heritage have to offer."

    Ms Jowell has also been given extra responsibilities including gambling, licensing, censorship and video classification, horse racing and planning for the Golden Jubilee.

    With the main details of the Cabinet reshuffle finalised on Friday, the biggest surprise came with the demotion of Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to the job of leader of the House of Commons.

    His place at the Foreign Office has been taken by former Home Secretary Jack Straw.

    Mr Cook put a brave face on his new role, saying that he welcomed his return to the heart of British parliamentary politics.

    "I have always been first and foremost a parliamentarian and have missed the House of Commons over the past four years."

    Former Foreign Office Minister Tony Lloyd, said on Saturday that his former boss would be feeling "bruised" by the surprise move.

    But the new Trade and Industry Secretary and Minister for Women, Patricia Hewitt said there have never been "jobs for life in politics"

    Tory post-mortem

    The Conservatives - fresh from the shock of their massive second defeat and the subsequent resignation of William Hague - have already begun their post-mortem examination.

    Tory former health secretary Stephen Dorrell has attacked Mr Hague's "populism".

    And former party chairman Chris Patten has blamed the defeat on its move from the middle ground to the right.

    But most senior Tories are refusing to speculate on who might take over from Mr Hague, saying they need a weekend of "reflection".

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