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Construction turnstile admits another minister

Gardiner tipped for ministerial role in Department for Productivity, Efficiency and Trade

THE NAME of the fourth construction minister in as many years was being finalised on Tuesday afternoon with Blairite loyalist Barry Gardiner tipped for the post.

The Scottish MP for Brent North, the north London constituency that includes the site of the new Wembley stadium, was expected to be named as successor to Nigel Griffiths as Construction News went to press.

He will move across from his junior minister role at the Northern Ireland Office to the former Department for Trade and Industry, which has been renamed the Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry.

At the Northern Ireland Office he had responsibility for a number of briefs including enterprise, trade and investment. Listed among his strong areas of interest are trade and industry and economic policy.

Mr Gardiner was also parliamentary private secretary to Beverley Hughes when she was at the Home Office.Ms Hughes worked alongside former construction minister Nick Raynsford, who was bumped up to a minister of state in 1999.This meant Ms Hughes effectively became the day-today construction minister until she was replaced by Brian Wilson in 2001.

Speaking before news of Mr Gardiner's responsibilities were confirmed, Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said: 'We don't know him, like a lot of the new ministers filling the new roles, but we look forward to meeting them.'

But some are concerned that Mr Gardiner's likely appointment will mean construction's clout in Government has been reduced further.

Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts said: 'The new department only has one junior minister and unless the portfolio is shared out he will have a very large brief. Our concern is who will fight our corner against unnecessary regulation?

'It looks like construction will go to Mr Gardiner rather than minister of state Alun Michael.

The thing the new man has to recognise is that construction is the key to delivering better hospitals and schools. Nigel Griffiths realised this pretty quickly.'

Following the prime minister's Government reshuffle, construction bodies can now expect to deal with a host of new faces. These include changes at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister which have seen Yvette Cooper replace Keith Hill as housing and planning minister and Jim Fitzpatrick replace Phil Hope as a junior minister whose responsibilities will include building regulations.

Mr Griffiths, who took over from fellow Scot Mr Wilson as the construction, small business and enterprise minister in summer 2003, has been promoted to deputy leader of the House of Commons.

Mr Wilson, whose responsibilities included the much larger energy brief, stepped down from politics at the last election and has joined the board of his beloved Celtic Football Club as a non-executive director.