Civil servant's quiet rise through ranks

JOHN MICHELL, the under- secretary responsible for oil and gas at the Department of Trade and Industry, is new to his present job, as is Clare Spottiswoode at Ofgas.

Previously, in charge of the department's Radiocommunications Agency, Mr Michell, 51, recently moved across to head the DTI's response to the coming break-up of British Gas's monopoly.

The similarities with Ms Spottiswoode do not end there. Like her, he was at Cambridge and he worked at the Treasury from 1977 to 1980.

But unlike her, he is a career civil servant. As she departed to pursue a business career, he continued his quiet but inexorable rise through the Whitehall ranks.

Educated at Marlborough, he began on the civil service ladder at the old Ministry of Aviation and worked in the former Concorde division before going to the Treasury. He returned to the DTI in 1984 to run the air division and four years later, was promoted to the grade three post at radiocommunications.

He has been married twice and has four sons. His hobbies are tapestry, glass collecting and gardening.

Along with Ms Spottiswoode, he is credited with being behind the improved relations between Ofgas and the Government.

A former senior Ofgas official said yesterday that Mr Michell was an unknown quantity at the regulator until Ms Spottiswoode joined and his name was openly discussed.

However, he attributed his new-found prominence to a desire on Ms Spottiswoode's part to abolish the mutual distrust fostered under the regime of her predecessor, Sir James McKinnon, rather than to any especially close friendship.

(Photograph omitted)

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