Major puts family man in charge of divorce

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A minister committed to moral issues and the family was yesterday put in charge of the divorce law reform Bill by John Major in a reshuffle aimed to kill speculation over a further sex scandal in the Government.

Gary Streeter, 40, was the whip on the Family Law Bill during its committee stage, and his mettle will be tested later this year when Labour and Tory rebels join forces to attack the Bill's final stages.

The decision to put Mr Streeter in charge of one of the Government's most important flagship Bills was taken by Mr Major during an impromptu walk with the Government chief whip, Alastair Goodlad.

Mr Major acted quickly in an effort to avoid lasting damage from the resignation of Rod Richards, a junior minister in the Welsh Office, following newspaper allegations that the minister had an affair with a 28-year- old divorcee, Julia Felthouse, the public relations officer for the National Canine Defence League.

Jonathan Evans, who had been in charge of the Family Law Bill in the Commons, was moved to the Welsh Office. Mr Streeter was promoted toParliamentary Secretary in the Lord Chancellor's Department, replacing Mr Evans. The re-shuffle will be completed by the appointment of a whip to replace Mr Streeter, a former solicitor who lists "the family" as one of his interests in a Parliamentary guide.

The Richards affair could still haunt Mr Major, in spite of these damage limitation exercises. Mr Richards' constituency party in Clwyd North West is expected to summon him to a meeting following the reports of his affair. Mr Richards' wife of 21 years, Liz, is popular in the constituency.

Teresa Gorman, the MP for Billericay, has questioned Mr Major's judgement in ordering Mr Richards to resign. Writing in the Daily Express, she asked: "Do we want real human beings for politicians, or celibate, sanctimonious humbugs?

"Politicians," she went on, "live very unnatural lives. Separated from their families for most of the week, it is inconceivable that men living on politically-charged adrenaline should confine their sexual urges to Friday and Sunday."

The sacking, she warned, could reinforce demands for a privacy law.