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Reshuffle renews fears of lack of focus for contruction and design

Full details of Tony Blair's newlook government have now been finalised in a reshuffle of MPs that continues to carve up responsibility for architecture and the built environment.

One of the biggest unknowns is Streatham MP Keith Hill, who replaces Lord Rooker as planning minister. At the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Nigel Griffiths becomes the minister for small business and enterprise, where he oversees one of the largest sectors, construction.

Meanwhile, former education secretary Estelle Morris stole the headlines when she replaced Baroness Blackstone as minister for the arts, museums and galleries and cultural property.

CABE commissioner and Egan agenda champion Robin Nicholson said of the reshuffle: 'The biggest worry is that construction is still spread across several ministries.' The split lands the culture ministry with architecture, the DTI with construction and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) with planning.

'The focus is diluted and this does not help those trying to do urban management. Yet the Prime Minister's shortlist for the Better Building awards shows we still have good leadership from the top.'

He said he regretted the resignation of construction minister Brian Wilson, who 'understood the importance of joining design quality with values contained in Rethinking Construction'. But Nicholson said Estelle Morris was 'extremely positive' as education secretary and he had every confidence in her.

RIBA head of government affairs Jonathan Labrey also welcomed Morris' appointment, saying education was George Ferguson's major thrust as new RIBA president and her background would be useful.

He said: 'Keith Hill is highly regarded and it means planning and regeneration matters will come from the House of Commons from a ministerial level.

Lord Rooker debated from the House of Lords.'

However, Labrey said Nigel Griffiths' appointment marked a downgrading from minister of state to a junior minister. He said he was also worried that the word 'construction' was not part of his title of minister for small business and enterprise.

Within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Lord McIntosh becomes minister for the historic environment and takes over chairing the ministerial design champions.

This was headed by Lord Falconer, who has now become secretary of state for constitutional affairs.

Other changes within the ODPM see Lord Rooker move from planning to regeneration and the regions, and Nick Raynsford switch from local government, regions and fire to local governance and fire.

Minister for energy Stephen Timms handles the areas of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility.

Another major new mover is Barbara Cassani, who chairs the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games. She will form the bid company, to work at armslength from the DCMS, which reckons the bid alone could cost £30 million. Cassani is a former chief executive of the airline Go Fly.

ESTELLE MORRIS

The minister of state for the arts is described by political pundit Andrew Roth as 'widely admired or tolerated and only rarely criticised'.

She is the highest-profile appointment to affect architecture, having walked out of her post as education secretary last October, saying she was not up to the job.

The former teacher, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, replaces Baroness Blackstone and has responsibility for museums, galleries and libraries, cultural property, heritage and the government art collection.

The 51 year old is a keen advocate of teaching creative skills in schools and told a Tate Britain seminar last year that poets, artists, actors and museums should be more involved in education.

Last week she was back at Tate Britain in a muchpublicised opening of the exhibition of work by British abstract painter Bridget Riley.

NIGEL GRIFFITHS

The minister for small business and enterprise oversees the construction industry as well as small business and social enterprise.

The 46-year-old MP for Edinburgh South has no ministerial experience of architecture but lists it as a keen interest.

One of his biggest claims to fame is his work in setting up the Competition Commission when he was a DTI minister for consumer affairs.He also worked with Body Shop tycoon Anita Roddick to found the Big Issuemagazine in Scotland.

Before entering parliament he built a reputation as chair of Edinburgh's housing committee, spearheading bold schemes to clean up bad housing and help the homeless.

Between 1999 and 2001, Griffiths was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the House of Commons.

KEITH HILL

The minister for housing and planning takes over from Lord Rooker and is a former Home Office minister.

Described by Simon Hoggart in The Guardian as a 'kindly man full of common sense, good humour and merry banter', the 59-year-old MP for Streatham in London was once an officer for the RMT transport union and has been a politics lecturer and a researcher.

He is strong on urban issues, using his maiden speech in the House of Commons to call for a 'constructive relationship between central and local government and the public and private sectors to improve the conditions of the inner city'.

A member of Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, he was a deputy chief whip until recently and is a former undersecretary at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. His leisure interests include reading, cinema, concerts and walking.

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