Parliament: Hague appoints five peers to team

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM HAGUE turned to the grandson of the former Labour prime minister Clement Attlee last night as he made five appointments to his depleted frontbench in the House of Lords.

Earl Attlee, a hereditary peer who switched from the independent cross benches to the Tories two months before last year's general election, becomes an opposition spokesman on Northern Ireland. He was previously a Tory whip.

The promotion of the 42-year-old Territorial Army officer was part of the Tory party leader's attempt to restore a sense of order to his troubled troops in the Lords. Four Tory peers resigned from his frontbench team on Thursday in protest at the sacking of Viscount Cranborne as opposition leader in the Lords for conducting secret negotiations with Tony Blair in an attempt to reach an all-party consensus on reform of the second chamber.

Also promoted to the Tory team is Baroness Denton of Wakefield, a former racing and rally driver who was a minister at the Northern Ireland, trade and environment departments in John Major's administration. She becomes a trade and industry spokeswoman. She left the front bench last year, when she was diagnosed as having a malignant brain tumour, but has now recovered after an operation a year ago.

The other appointments announced by Mr Hague last night were Lord Cope, a former Treasury minister and Conservative Party treasurer, who becomes a home affairs spokesman; Lord Dixon-Smith, a farmer, who becomes a local government spokesman; and Lord Astor of Hever, who is made a whip working on the health and social security briefs.