New PPS for PM

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John Holmes, a career diplomat, was last night named by Downing Street as the Prime Minister's new principal private secretary, to replace Alex Allan. Mr Allan (left), who was the principal private secretary under John Major, is to become the new British High Commissioner - the Commonwealth equivalent of ambassador - in Australia.

The Cabinet secretary, Sir Robin Butler, blocked Jonathan Powell, the Downing Street Chief of Staff, from taking the post.

Mr Allan, 46, takes up his appointment in mid-November, succeeding Sir Roger Carrick. He formerly held posts at the Treasury, including Principal Private Secretary to the former chancellor Lord Lawson.