Minister given divorce Bill task

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The ministerial team of Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, has been strengthened to take the controversial divorce Bill through the Commons. In a reshuffle announced yesterday, Jonathan Evans, a solicitor, has been appointed as the junior minister representing Lord Mackay in the Commons, changing places with John Taylor, who takes Mr Evans's job at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr Evans, MP for Brecon and Radnor, was well-regarded in his previous post, and the Lord Chancellor's Department is keen to draw on his experience as managing partner of Leo Abse and Cohen, the Cardiff solicitors' firm. The firm's founder, Leo Abse, is the Labour MP whose private member's Bill on divorce was taken over by the Government to become law in 1985. Mr Taylor, MP for Solihull, is less well regarded, and is divorced.

Lord Mackay's attempt to reform divorce law, the Family Law Bill, is under siege from Tory MPs who say it undermines the family. The provisions on domestic violence were postponed after an ambush in the last parliamentary session.

The reshuffle saw David Willetts, the former Thatcherite thinker, become a public services minister at the Cabinet office, as the total number of ministers increased to 86. The growth was the result of the creation of a new junior post at the Home Office for Tom Sackville, to deal with the "pressure of parliamentary business", including the Asylum Bill. The Home Office now has six ministers, the same as the newly merged Department for Education and Employment and the Department of the Environment.

Mr Sackville will be replaced at the Department of Health by John Horam, a junior transport minister in the last Labour government. Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, appointed Sebastian Coe,the former athlete and MP for Falmouth and Camborne, as his parliamentary private secretary.