Lamb handed key role on Lib Dem benches

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has been handed one of the top jobs in his party in a reshuffle announced by Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has been handed one of the top jobs in his party in a reshuffle announced last night by Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Mr Lamb will take on the role of shadow health secretary, a key post in the party and one which reflects the close interest he has demonstrated in the subject in Norfolk.

The financing of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital through a private finance initiative deal and more recently the potential cuts to community hospitals have been two issues about which Mr Lamb has been vocal in recent years.

His move to the health role sees him relinquish his job as Sir Menzies' chief of staff, another top party job, but one which carries a significantly lower profile than his new post.

Announcing the Lib Dem reshuffle, which includes Ed Davey becoming chief of staff and Susan Kramer taking on the trade and industry portfolio, Sir Menzies paid a glowing tribute to Mr Lamb.

"Norman Lamb is one of our most effective spokespeople and will be formidable in taking the battle to Labour over the vital issue of reforming the NHS."

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Sir Menzies said the reshuffle was designed to prepare the party for the possibility of a snap general election next year.

Mr Lamb said last night: "I'm thrilled at the prospect of taking the health post, particularly at the time when the health service is faced with so many challenges."

He added: "Norfolk has had more than its fair share of challenges with health services. One of the issues I will be pursuing is the need to give local decision making more of a priority over the central model. For instance, if Norfolk wants to keep its community hospitals, Norfolk should be able to keep its community hospitals."

Mr Lamb will visit all six community and cottage hospitals in Norfolk from this week to gather the views of staff about potential closures.