All change for mandarins

Sir John Chilcot's hot seat as permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office is to be occupied by an adminstrator from the Department of Health in a series of changes at the top in Whitehall by Tony Blair.

The Prime Minister yesterday announced he was apppointing Joe Pilling, in charge of finance at health, to take over from Sir John. Educated at Rochdale Grammer School and King's College London before going to Harvard University, Mr Pilling, married with two sons, is a career civil servant.

He has worked in various departments including the Northern Ireland Office, and the Home Office, with a spell as director-general of the Prison Service.

David Omand, the head of GCHQ at Cheltenham, is to be the new permanent secretary at the Home Office. He succeeds Sir Richard Wilson, who is replacing Sir Robin Butler as Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service from January.

Chris Kelly, head of the Policy Group at the Department of Social Security, is to succeed Graham Hart as permanent secretary at the Department of Health, who is retiring.

- Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent

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