PM accused of creating his own department in Downing Street

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has created a "Prime Minister's department" in Downing Street in all but name, the chairman of an MPs group said yesterday.

The Commons Public Administration Committee urged Mr Blair to break with precedent and face questions about the power of Number 10 staff after it released the first "map" showing the structure of power within Downing Street. The diagram outlines who does what within the Number 10 communications, policy and government relations directorates, widely thought to have been set up to counter the power of the Treasury and other Whitehall departments.

The details of the Number 10 staff will revive claims that Mr Blair has centralised power in Downing Street, and that his style of government is increasingly presidential.

Tony Wright, chairman of the committee, said: "What this confirms is that there is a Prime Minister's department in all but name, with a growing capacity to drive policy from the centre. We will be renewing our invitation to the Prime Minister to attend the select committee to account for the structure and operation of the new Downing Street."

Mr Blair has always refused to give direct evidence to the select committee, instead sending Sir Richard Wilson, head of the Civil Service. The "organogram" produced by Downing Street highlights the role of 19 advisers and civil servants at the heart of power within Number 10.

The Downing Street staff are divided into three secretariats: the communications and strategy secretariat, managed by Alastair Campbell, which includes the Number 10 press office; the policy and government secretariat, headed by Mr Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell; and the government and political relations secretariat, headed by Baroness Morgan, formerly Mr Blair's political secretary.