Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Three Ministers Face the Sack in Reshuffle

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Three Ministers Face the Sack in Reshuffle

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Chief Political Correspondent

GORDON BROWN was under pressure today to carry out a major reshuffle as three Cabinet ministers faced renewed questions over their expenses.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon and Work and Pension Secretary James Purnell were hit with criticism over their property dealings while Communities Secretary Hazel Blears mounted a rearguard action to save her job.

Mr Hoon and Mr Purnell faced allegations that they saved thousands of pounds by not paying capital gains tax on the sale of properties which they at one stage declared to the Commons as second homes.

Both men strongly deny any wrongdoing and insist the taxman has confirmed that no capital gains tax was due. They gave detailed explanations of their property transactions.

Ms Blears went on the offensive to persuade Mr Brown not to ditch her. She has repaid [pounds sterling]13,000 for capital gains tax she claimed on the sale of a London flat. Mr Brown has denounced her second home claims as "totally unacceptable", appearing to earmark her for the axe in a reshuffle after the 4 June European and local elections.

Speaking in her constituency yesterday, she said: "You heard the Prime Minister's spokesperson say the Prime Minister had full confidence in me, he thought I was doing a great job."

Whitehall mandarins expected a minor reshuffle, with Home Secretary Jacqui Smith reportedly set to leave to defend her Redditch seat where she has a majority of just 2,716.

Ministers now believe the Prime Minister may order a far bigger Cabinet shake-up. Sources close to Mr Brown have suggested Lord Mandelson could become Foreign Secretary, with Children's Secretary Ed Balls taking his post as Business Secretary.

Mr Brown would also have to consider promoting more female MPs if Ms Smith goes and Ms Blears is demoted. …

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