Business View: Never mind the single-currency kerfuffle, what about the Cabinet reshuffle?

How come we cannot have a Trade Secretary who stays in the job long enough to get good at it?

Forget tomorrow. The five economic tests are not news. It's just a matter of which ones the Treasury chooses to fail and what concessions Tony wrings out of Gordon. The big news will come later in the week. The rumours in Westminster are of a good old Cabinet reshuffle.

Down at the Department of Trade and Industry this is bad, bad news. After the majorly misplaced Margaret Beckett, the financially forgetful Peter Mandelson and improbably incompetent Stephen Byers, the department finally got a minister who seemed to have some sympathy with the task. But two years on, the music must start up again and a new chair has to be sought. So it is bye bye Patricia Hewitt and hello to ... er ... are you ready? ... er ... Geoff Hoon.

Now I have no axe to grind with Mr Hoon: the business pages are no place to discuss the rights and wrongs of the Iraq War. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Victoria Street - we rely on Brussels to deliver those. But there are some major issues here.

First, how come we cannot have a Trade Secretary who stays in the job long enough to get good at it? It's not just Labour who are guilty of the DTI revolving-door policy. Under the Tories it was just as bad. Cecil Parkinson, Norman Tebbitt, Leon Brittan, Paul Channon, Lord Young, Nick Ridley, Peter Lilley, President Heseltine and Ian Lang - all passed through during 14 years of power. And you wonder why we have such a disjointed trade policy?

(And it's not just the top minister. The under ministers chop and change all the time as well. Expect to see Nigel Griffiths and Brian Wilson given the Order of the Boot this week. Mr Wilson's bailiwick, energy, is particularly prone to individual whims. John Battle was pro-coal while Mr Wilson is pro-nuclear. The result: the disaster that is our energy policy.)

Second, how is Mr Hoon going to get on with Britain's lar- gest private sector employer, BAE Systems? At the MoD he pre-sided over virtual war with our prime defence contractor. This may not have been all his doing, but he didn't do a lot to stop it. Ms Hewitt recently put her weight behind BAE's bid for the new training jets for the RAF, while the MoD wants a cheaper Italian option. Mr Hoon will find himself changing horses just as this race is reaching the finishing post.

Third, we lose a Trade Secretary who has actually got her hands dirty in commerce. It may have been at a management consultants, and it may not have been for long, but she followed a trade unionist, a spin doctor and an academic. Mr Hoon is, Lord help us, a lawyer.

On the plus side he has the trust of Tony Blair, and he has shown himself willing to stand up to Gordon Brown (essential as the Treasury's tanks regularly park on the DTI's lawn). And it seems that the backbone of the DTI team - Melanie and Alan Johnson, Stephen Timms, Baroness Symons and Lord Sainsbury - will be staying.

Until the next reshuffle, that is.

The legend of Camelot unravels

In another part of Whitehall, something is stirring. It is the beads of sweat on the brows of the officials in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. They are worried that they may have made a mistake in giving the National Lottery licence back to Camelot.

Last week Camelot admitted its sales had fallen 5.4 per cent last year, with its core Lotto game suffering a 12 per cent decline. This means the Lottery delivered about £1.59bn for good causes. But April's sales, which were not in these figures, were even worse. Camelot sold just £343m of tickets - an average of about £80m a week, down from £88m last year - and this delivered a paltry £102m to good causes, the lowest monthly figure for eight years.

Now there could be all sorts of reasons for this, but the worry is that the National Lottery's next relaunch will be just as unsuccessful as the last. The hope that Camelot can raise £750m to help pay for London's bid for the 2012 Olympics will not prove to be an expectation.

j.nisse@independent.co.uk

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