Primarolo is replacement for Robinson

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GORDON BROWN compensated for the loss of Charlie Whelan at the Treasury last night with one of his junior ministers, Dawn Primarolo, being promoted to replace Geoffrey Robinson, who quit as the Paymaster-General in the furore over his pounds 373,000 loan to Peter Mandelson.

Tony Blair had wanted to appoint Geoff Hoon, a more Blairite minister, to replace Mr Robinson, but Mr Brown and senior colleagues were opposed to the move amid reports that the Chancellor was resisting having Mr Blair's "spies" put into the Treasury.

Downing Street denied that Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, had blocked the promotion of Mr Hoon, his minister in the Commons, because he was needed to deliver some forthcoming legislation.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said there was a delay in replacing Mr Robinson because the Prime Minister was on holiday in the Seychelles. Ms Primarolo, 44, once nicknamed "Red Dawn", was an active member of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs under Tony Benn until her promotion to the front bench, and is now a trusted member of Mr Brown's team.

Michael Wills, another ally of Mr Brown, was also promoted to the Government as a junior Department of Trade and Industry minister. Mr Wills was appointed by Mr Brown only a month ago to chair an important cross-party group on preparation for the single currency.

A strong supporter of the Chancellor's policy on the euro, Mr Wills accepted the post from Tony Blair by telephone but he was told he will be an unpaid minister. "We didn't reverse the charges," said Mr Blair's spokesman.

Mr Blair was forced to juggle with an unpaid portfolio because Mr Robinson took no salary and the Government had reached the limit of 110 paid ministers allowed under Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975. Mr Wills was a policy adviser to the Chancellor on tackling the so-called "fat cats" in the privatised utilities and reducing VAT on fuel.

He is a former broadcasting chief - who was once Peter Mandelson's boss at LWT - and entered Parliament after the 1997 general election as MP for Swindon North. There were claims in the constituency that as a strong supporter of New Labour he was parachuted into the seat by the Labour leadership ahead of a local union choice.

Mr Wills replaces Barbara Roche, who is being moved from the DTI to the Treasury, to take up the vacancy left by Ms Primarolo.

Stephen Timms was moved up a rung at the Department of Social Security to replace John Denham, moved in last week's reshuffle to become Minister of Health. Mr Timms's place will be taken by Hugh Bayley, the parliamentary aide to Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health.

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