Reid, Hodge and Ladyman to shape social care after Blair shuffles pack

John Reid, health secretary
Previous job: leader of the House of Commons
Career high: overseeing decommissioning of weapons
in Northern Ireland
Career low: six government posts in six years

The shock that greeted the news of Alan Milburn’s resignation
after four years as health secretary a fortnight ago was doubled
when it was reported that John Reid would take his place,
writes Sally Gillen.

A tough-talking Glaswegian, born in 1947 to a postman father and
factory worker mother, Reid seemed an unusual choice.

The pair may share what some would describe as time-dimmed
working class roots but their personal and professional styles
could not seem more different.

But, as his CV testifies, Reid has proved a worthy successor to
another of Blair’s most loyal ministers once before. In 2000, he
took over one of the government’s toughest briefs when he replaced
Peter Mandelson as secretary of state for Northern Ireland. He kept
the job for two years and counted among his successes the
decommissioning of weapons.

It was a high point in a career that began as an interest in
politics in 1973 when, as a student, Reid joined the Communist
Party. Six years later he became a research officer for the Labour
Party and was political adviser to Neil Kinnock from 1983-5.

In 1997, he was appointed minister of state for defence, a
position he stayed in for a year. Next was a job as secretary of
state for transport for a year, followed by secretary of state for
Scotland for another year. Before his appointment as health
secretary, Reid had been minister without portfolio between October
2002 and April 2003. He then became leader of the House of

Much has been made of the fact that Reid has had six portfolios
in as many years. Especially worrying is that none of his
short-stay roles is even vaguely linked to health.

The rumoured reluctance with which he is said to have accepted
his new appointment is unsurprising given that its timing coincides
with the introduction of a raft of unpopular health reforms in the
shape of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Among Reid’s first jobs will be to guide through parliament
plans to introduce foundation hospitals, which are opposed by many
in the Labour Party.

But, like every decision that Reid makes in his new role, his
own constituents in Hamilton North and Bellshill will not be
affected as the NHS in Scotland is devolved. This in itself has
drawn criticism from those who question why a minister can have
influence on health matters in England but none on his own patch in

But with his famed ability to ride out a political storm such
attacks are unlikely to worry him. Known for his ability to
bulldoze others, his appointment is perhaps not such a surprise at
a time when Blair needs someone with the verbal might to defeat the
many dissenting voices.

Stephen Ladyman, community care minister
Previous job:
parliamentary private secretary to the
armed forces minister
Career high: securing £2.5m from the
government to research the causes of autism
Career low: supported plans to limit access to
incapacity benefits and cut lone parent benefits

Stephen Ladyman arrives in his role as community care minister
with a background as a campaigner in social care issues, writes
David Craik

The new post could hardly be in greater contrast to his last one
– parliamentary private secretary to the armed forces minister Adam
Ingram – but he is now in familiar territory. For the MP for South
Thanet, Kent, made his mark as chairperson of the all-party
parliamentary group on autism.

His work on the group, which he helped set up in 2000 with the
aim of securing a governmental review into the causes and
occurrence of autism, has been aggressive. In May of that year he
secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons urging the
government to increase support available to autistic people and
declaring that it was a duty of government to initiate studies to
determine whether the incidence of autism was increasing.

The work of the parliamentary group has been a success, with the
government pledging £2.5m in 2002 to investigate the causes of

Ladyman’s work has also encompassed other areas of social care.
In September 2000 he secured government funding for the Thanet
Basic Skills Initiative to provide training for adults who lack
basic skills. The same month, Ladyman took part in a wheelchair
basketball game to promote the work of the Association of Spina
Bifida and Hydrocephalus.

In November 2000 he visited then health minister Gisela Stuart
to press her into accepting a joint bid by Kent social services and
east and west Kent health authorities to ensure that domiciliary
care and step down beds in nursing homes were available that
winter. More recently, he condemned “the tendency of certain
councillors at Kent Council to blame asylum seekers for

But Ladyman is also willing to support tough unpopular
decisions. In 1999 he voted against a rebel motion to block
government plans to limit access to incapacity benefits. And in
1997 he opposed an attempt to block plans to cut lone parents

Before becoming an MP, Ladyman was a Thanet councillor and,
before that, head of computer user support at pharmaceuticals
company Pfizer. He has a doctorate in isotopic abundances in soil

Margaret Hodge, minister for children
Previous job:
minister for lifelong learning and higher
Career high: good track record in fighting for
pre-school services
Career low: row over safety of Islington’s
children’s homes while she was leader of the council

With more than 20 years’ experience in local politics and a
background in education and early years services, Margaret Hodge is
seen by many in the social care sector to be well equipped for her
role as minister for children, writes Amy Taylor.

Daughter of millionaire Jewish refugee Hans Oppenheimer, Hodge
began her political career in 1973 as an Islington councillor in
London. She became council leader in 1982 and was still there when
social workers went on strike in 1992.

In October 1992 Hodge became embroiled in a dispute with London
newspaper the Evening Standard after it was alleged that
young people were left exposed to prostitution and drug taking at
two of the council’s children’s homes. Hodge retaliated by
describing the story as “gutter journalism”. Virginia Bottomley,
then health secretary, called in the Social Services Inspectorate
to look at the case files of the children involved.

A separate independent inquiry found serious problems at the
homes. At the end of 1992, Hodge resigned from the council to join
accountancy firm Price Waterhouse as a public sector

In 1994 she became MP for Barking, London. Her interest in
education and children’s issues was recognised in her appointment
as the joint chairperson of the education and employment select
committee and chairperson of Labour’s task force on policy for the

This interest was further rewarded in 1998 when she became
parliamentary under-secretary of state for employment and equal
opportunities at the then Department for Education and Employment
with a brief for child care, nursery education and disabled

Child care charity the Daycare Trust highlights Hodge’s
introduction of a single regulatory system for child care and
pre-school education under Ofsted as an example of her “great track
record in fighting for child care and early years services”. The
charity also welcomed the improvement of child care funding for
students in further and higher education and an initiative for
registered childminders to provide child care and parenting support
to teenage parents, both of which took place under Hodge’s

After the 2001 election, Hodge became minister for lifelong
learning and higher education. But she came under fire for her
comments about “Mickey Mouse” university courses and was recently
heckled by students over top-up fees.

In her new role, still in the DfES, Hodge has a range of
responsibilities from children’s social services to family law.
Although her appointment has been welcomed by many social care
professionals, her actions will be scrutinised to see whether the
goal of co-ordinated children’s services can be delivered. 

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