Norwich MP Chloe Smith lands new job in government shake-up

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has tonight landed a new job in the treasury, working for chancellor George Osborne, after the resignation of defence secretary Liam Fox sparked a government shake-up.

Miss Smith, 29, who was an assistant whip, is promoted to economic secretary to the Treasury.

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond was this evening appointed Defence Secretary, following the resignation of Liam Fox.

And Justine Greening took Mr Hammond's place as Transport Secretary, becoming the fifth woman in David Cameron's Cabinet.

The appointments came in a mini-reshuffle forced upon the Prime Minister by Dr Fox's decision to hand in his resignation after more than a week of controversy over his links with defence lobbyist Adam Werritty.


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It is understood that the changes will be officially confirmed by 10 Downing Street later today.

mfl Mr Hammond's promotion to one of the most high-profile posts in the Cabinet comes after 17 months as Transport Secretary in which he gave the go-ahead to the controversial High Speed 2 rail link and faced down critics of the decision to award the contract for Thameslink rolling stock to Siemens rather than UK-based Bombardier.

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He flirted with controversy by describing the railways as 'a rich man's plaything', but has otherwise been regarded as a safe pair of hands.

Aged 55 and MP for Runnymede and Weybridge in Surrey since 1997, he served as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury in opposition, winning a reputation as a implacable trimmer of departmental budgets. He was expected to be appointed Chancellor George Osborne's deputy if the Conservatives had won an outright majority.

With a background in property and business, he will be regarded by some as an unlikely choice for Defence Secretary. But Tory MP and former Army officer Patrick Mercer gave the appointment his seal of approval, saying there were 'few safer or more trusted hands than his''.

Ms Greening joins the Cabinet at the age of 42, six years after entering Parliament as MP for Putney in 2005. Her elevation follows a solid performance as economic secretary to the Treasury since the formation of the coalition Government.

Mr Cameron was clearly determined not to use the reshuffle forced upon him by Dr Fox's resignation to execute a wholesale shake-up of his top team.

He kept changes to the absolute minimum, in keeping with his belief that ministers need time to impose themselves on their departments and see their legislative programmes through.

In his eyes, many of the failings of Tony Blair's administration can be traced back to his predecessor's fondness for regular - and often botched - reshuffles.

Apart from the forced resignation of David Laws due to an expenses scandal after just 17 days as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Cameron had lost none of his top team until today.

Although the PM was annoyed by a series of leaks from the Ministry of Defence - all of which were suspiciously helpful to the military's case for a generous funding settlement - there was no suggestion that Dr Fox's position might be at risk until the allegations about his links with defence lobbyist Adam Werritty surfaced.

To an extent, Cabinet stability was imposed on Cameron by last year's coalition deal, which allotted ministerial posts to Conservatives and Liberal Democrats according to a formula which can only be amended through awkward negotiations with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Cameron will not relish seeing his former leadership rival, who is a darling of the Tory right, on the backbenches where he can become a focus of discontent with the coalition Government.

Tory MPs were queuing up today to pay tribute to Dr Fox and make clear that they believe his absence from the Cabinet should be only temporary.

He was given strong backing in the Commons on Monday from a string of Tory MPs, including influential grandees like Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Defence Committee chairman James Arbuthnot and former leadership contender David Davis.

Dr Fox's stock has risen among traditionalist Tories since he achieved a creditable third place in the 2005 leadership contest, and it is likely that he will be seen as a standard-bearer for the right on the backbenches.

He has left little doubt of his distaste for coalition with Liberal Democrats and has been seen as one of the 'neo-con'' hawks within Cabinet on issues like the renewal of Trident, relations with Israel and sanctions on Iran.

Mr Cameron will be concerned that in losing his Defence Secretary, he may have created a powerful backbench voice challenging the compromises of coalition and demanding a more authentically Conservative policy agenda.

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