Hard hitting Helen

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
Helen Liddell made an explosive impact with her arrival as economic secretary to the Treasury under the new Labour Government. Her first task has been to resolve the pensions misselling scandal, and encourage recalcitrant pension firm bosses to compensate their victims.

The scandal has cost pensioners up to pounds 4bn. Under the previous Conservative regime, progress at rectifying this running sore had been painfully slow. Mrs Liddell's answer was to introduce the concept of naming and shaming, a tactic she proceeded to use with gusto. It was a radical approach, and one which, once companies recognised she would keep her word, galvanised many laggards into action.

She will be hard-pressed to find another act to keep her so firmly in the public eye. Her biography, however, throws up one intriguing possibility. She is also the minister at the Treasury responsible for women.

The furore over lone parents' benefits will lead to some tough thinking for Mrs Liddell in the coming months. Just what does it mean to be responsible for the economic concerns that apply uniquely to British women as we head towards the millennium? So far, she has said little about where she stands on this subject. It could be a far greater challenge than the pensions scandal - and one where the problems are far more intractable.