Anti-terror role for official in Blunkett row

A civil servant at the heart of the visa row that forced David Blunkett to resign from the Cabinet was appointed by Tony Blair yesterday to head the Government's anti-terrorism strategy.

Bill Jeffrey's promotion to Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office comes after two turbulent years as director general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). He succeeds Sir David Omand, who retires at Easter. He will run counter-terrorism and crisis management work across Whitehall.

During Mr Jeffrey's spell in charge of IND, asylum applications reached a record high and controversies over visa applications led to the resignation of Beverley Hughes as Immigration Minister and of Mr Blunkett as Home Secretary.

Mr Blunkett resigned after an official inquiry uncovered contacts between his private office and Mr Jeffrey's office over an application by Leoncia Casalme, his lover's nanny. There is no suggestion of any wrong-doing by Mr Jeffrey, who has been a civil servant for 33 years.

Mr Blair said that his new post was one of the most important in the Government, adding: "Bill is an extremely talented official with huge experience of government and he is well equipped to make a success of this post."

Mr Jeffrey, 56, began his civil service career in the Home Office. He moved to the Cabinet Office between 1994 and 1998. He then became political director of the Northern Ireland Office and took a central role in the province's peace talks.

Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, said: He had a very difficult task at IND. With the best will in the world, it's probably beyond the scope of any civil servant to sort out a mess like that."

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