Chancellor returns to work after death of daughter

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown returns to his desk at the Treasury today for the first time since the death of his baby daughter.

The Chancellor took almost three weeks off work to mourn the loss of 10-day-old Jennifer Jane, who died in her parents' arms on 7 January. Mr Brown and his wife, Sarah, have been staying at their home in Scotland.

Mr Brown has cancelled an address to Labour's spring conference in Cardiff next weekend and a planned appearance the week after at a Fabian Society conference. He will concentrate instead on a series of private meetings, with discussions on public services and the Budget top of his in-tray.

Ministers from the big spending departments, including Health, Education, Social Security and Transport, will be told to submit bids by 18 February for this summer's comprehensive spending review, setting out government budgets for the next three years.

Mr Brown will also chair meetings on the Budget, which has been pencilled in for early March. The Treasury refused to comment yesterday on suggestions that the Budget might be pushed back to the end of the month because of Mr Brown's absence from work.

While he has been away Mr Brown's workload has been handled by his deputy, Andrew Smith, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

The Chancellor's first major public appearance is due on 9 February, at a meeting of finance ministers from the leading industrialised nations in Ottawa, Canada. Three days later he is due at a gathering of European ministers in Brussels.

Jennifer Jane was bornseven weeks prematurely on 28 December, weighing 2lb 4oz, by emergency Caesarean section. She was sufferingfrom intra-uterine growth restriction, which causes an irregular heart rate. She was put in an incubator but suffered a brain haemorrhage and died in a specialist unit in Edinburgh.

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