The Cabinet Reshuffle: Right advances in middle ranks as women miss out: Patricia Wynn Davies looks at the effects of the reshuffle among the junior posts

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The Independent Online
CHANGES to the middle and lower ranks of government see 16 new appointments as Minister of State, nine of them promotions.

The entire non-Cabinet reshuffle package of 54 names sees advancement for only three women.

Alongside the most right-wing Home Office team in memory and a further right-wing bastion at Employment, the Welsh Office is downgraded with the exit of Sir Wyn Roberts as minister of state.

There was speculation that Rod Richards, the MP for Clwyd North-West - reprimanded last week for calling a Labour MP a 'liar' - was in line to replace Sir Wyn, but he only gets the job at Under-Secretary level.

The changes see a big jump for John Watts, the ultra-loyal, sensible MP for Slough. Until now chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, he leapfrogs the Under-Secretary of State rung to enter the Government as Minister for Transport.

David Davis, formerly parliamentary secretary at the Office of Public Service and Science, moves up to Minister of State at the Foreign Office, where he is likely to take on responsibility for Europe. A former whip in charge of the Maastricht Bill, his promotion is a reward for his part in manoeuvring the controversial measure through the Commons.

Mr Major's injection of new female talent is confined to Angela Browning, MP for Tiverton, who becomes parliamentary Under- Secretary at Agriculture, and Baroness Miller of Hendon, a Lords' whip with a track record in local government. Seven more MPs enter government for the first time at this rung, along with four more who become whips. Mark Lennox- Boyd, Patrick McLoughlin and Robert Key leave the Government. In a less than inspired decision, David Willetts, the MP for Havant and one of the party's original thinkers on health and social security, is appointed a government whip. He was widely thought to be overdue for a junior departmental job and is now effectively barred from speaking out on policy.

In the only minister of state promotion for a woman, Ann Widdecombe moves from Under- Secretary at Employment to Minister of State. A right-winger, she is likely to prove an invaluable partner to Michael Portillo.

Hard-line influence at the Home Office will be even greater, with the acquisition of Michael Forsyth, former employment minister, and the Tory right's favourite up-and-coming big hitter. His co-minister, Baroness Blatch, switched from Education, garnered high praise for competent handling of her old brief, but has shown reactionary tendencies on some social issues.

Nicholas Scott, the long-serving beleaguered minister for disabled people, is consigned to the political history books along with Peter Lloyd from the Home Office. But the overall political complexion of the Treasury is effectively retained with the sideways move of left-of- centre Sir George Young from Housing to Financial Secretary.

Tim Sainsbury, Minister for Industry, and Sir John Cope, Paymaster General, had both made clear that they wished to resign.