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The Independent Online
A Cabinet reshuffle was ruled out by the Prime Minister's office yesterday; lifting the threat of humiliating dismissal or demotion from some, and killing all hope of pre-election promotion for many more. John Major had already given a personal assurance that Douglas Hogg, the beleaguered Agriculture Minister, would be safe - in spite of rampant Westminster speculation that he was for the chop because of his mishandling of the BSE affair.

But there has also been further speculation about the fate of Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, and John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment. However, two middle-ranking ministers, Steven Norris and Tim Eggar, are both standing down from the Commons at the general election, and they have told Mr Major that they want to give up their Government posts this summer, opening the way for Mr Major to promote some backbenchers and give them their last chance of a taste of office before the election.

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