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TONY BLAIR has slimmed down the role of transport secretary so that more ministerial time can be devoted to delivering the 10 year transport plan.

At the same time he has broken up the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR), putting deputy prime minister John Prescott in charge of delivering manifesto promises and leading negotiations on climate change.

Blair has stripped the DETR of its environmental remit to allow it to focus on transport, housing, regeneration and urban and regional policy. The DETR has been renamed the Department for Transport, Local Government & the Regions. It will now be led by secretary of state Stephen Byers, formerly trade and industry secretary.

Special responsibiliy for transport will go to cabinet newcomer John Spellar, a former defence minister, and Labour's fifth transport minister in four years.

Former construction minister Nick Raynsford has been moved to the post of local government minister.

He will also be minister for London.

The construction portfolio has moved to the Department of Trade & Industry, now led by secretary of state Patricia Hewitt. As NCE went to press it was unclear which DTI minister would take on the construction portfolio. This is the first time construction will be without its own dedicated minister for over a decade.

Blair has also appointed Baroness Symons to the newly created minister of trade post to champion export promotion. She will work in the Foreign Office as well as in the DTI and is expected to promote construction overseas.

Government environment policy will now switch to the new Department of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs, headed by secretary of state Margaret Beckett. Michael Meacher will retain his role as environment minister within the new department.

Culture secretary Chris Smith and sports minister Kate Hoey have fallen victim to the scandal over delays to the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium. They have been replaced by Tessa Jowell as secretary of state and Richard Caborn as sports minister.

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