Wicks gets top learning job

August 6, 1999

Former university lecturer Malcolm Wicks has been promoted to lifelong learning minister. He replaces George Mudie, who returns to the backbenches.

Mr Wicks (MP for North Croydon), who lectured in social administration at Brunel University from 1970 to 1974, was promoted in last week's reshuffle of the government's junior ranks.

He was previously chairman of the Commons' education sub-committee.

The sub-committee, half of the education and employment select committee, is emerging as the choice job for ambitious MPs. Margaret Hodge, Mr Wicks's predecessor as sub-committee chair, became an employment minister in the last reshuffle.

Mr Mudie held his post for a year. His ministerial style relied on his local government experience as leader of Leeds City Council, then as MP for Leeds East.

However, many observers in further and higher education were unimpressed by his grasp of detail in his lifelong learning brief.

Mr Wicks, with his academic and civil service training, has been chosen to drive forward the increasingly important lifelong learning agenda. He will have much to do following the restructuring of post-16 finance to create a single national funding body.

Announced in the Learning to Succeed white paper five weeks ago, teh restructuring will see the creation of a national Learning and Skills Council with a budget of about Pounds 5 billion. Below this will be sub-regional local learning and skills councils. Mr Wicks could be involved in setting up these new structures and in the drive to raise the quality of post-16 provision promised by the white paper.

Other moves in the reshuffle include the promotion of Charles Clarke (MP for Norwich South) from junior minister for school standards to minister of state at the home office with responsibility for the police and crime. He is replaced by former teacher Jacqui Smith, who was elected to Parliament in 1997 as member for Redditch. Michael Wills (MP for North Swindon) was appointed junior minister for the DFEE's policy on information and communications technology, with special responsibility for the National Grid for Learning and the University for Industry.

Secretary of state David Blunkett and minister of state Baroness Blackstone remain in post.Former science and energy minister John Battle has moved from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Foreign Office.People, page 9

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