The new ministers

May 9, 1997

JOHN BATTLE: MINISTER OF STATE FOR SCIENCE, ENERGY AND INDUSTRY

JOHN BATTLE, the bearded Irish Catholic MP for Leeds West, has returned to his former stamping ground to become minister of state for science and technology, writes Julia Hinde.

Born in Bradford, he studied for the priesthood, before graduating as a mature student from Leeds University with a first in English.

Elected to Leeds City Council in 1980, he entered Parliament in 1987, moved through the opposition ranks and became a whip in 1989, but resigned in 1991 in opposition to the Gulf war. From 1992 to 1994 he was housing spokesman, taking up the science mantle in 1994, before moving to energy in 1995.

Married with three teenage children, he lists poetry, medieval and folk music as his interests and is described by one colleague as "quiet, reserved, thorough and a true professional".

Called "not a wildly exciting appointment" by one scientist, he is regarded by others as "energetic and interested in science", but also as "a bit of an unknown".

Despite his background outside the sciences, he is likely to be welcomed by the community to his new all-encompassing role which takes in manufacturing and services, science and technology, and includes telecommunications, energy and environment issues.

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