WHENEVER THERE is a reshuffle at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the general rule has been to cut the pack from the top, as its record of 17 secretaries of state in 20 years demonstrates. The latest reshuffle, however, has left Stephen Byers intact but rearranged most of the ministerial ranks beneath him.
Five junior ministers have gone, including the embattled Energy Minister, John Battle, and Lord Simon, who never quite made the same impression in politics as he did in business. In their place are four newcomers.
The fact that the DTI is now one minister lighter might suggest that it has been downgraded in the Whitehall pecking order. Moreover, some of the changes in personnel appear the byproduct more of Tony Blair's determination to clip John Prescott's wings at the sprawling Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.
But then again, look at the calibre of the new arrivals, notably Helen Liddell from Transport and Patricia Hewitt, one of the brightest of Labour's 1997 intake. Perhaps Mr Blair really is taking the DTI seriously as our second most important economic ministry outside the Treasury.