Prime Minister puts faith in Lord Irvine

Tony Blair's old head of chambers, Lord Irvine of Lairg, has emerged alongside Peter Mandelson as one of the new Prime Minister's key trusted lieutenants following his appointment to seven of Labour's 19 cabinet committees, three of which he will be chairing.

By contrast, Irvine's predecessor as Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, sat on only three cabinet committees and chaired none of them.

Perhaps most significantly, Lord Irvine is chairing the committee on Queen's speeches and future legislation, a role which John Major gave to leader of the House Tony Newton.

In keeping with his position as the person responsible for guiding the Government's constitutional changes through Parliament, the Lord Chancellor is also chairing two new committees: devolution to Scotland, Wales and the English regions; and incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Irvine will also sit on four other committees: constitutional reform policy, chaired by Tony Blair; home and social affairs, and local government, both chaired by John Prescott; and public expenditure, which is chaired by Gordon Brown.

In Major's cabinet, Mackay only sat on three committees – home and social affairs, the Queen's speeches and future legislation, and legislation. All three of them were chaired by Newton.

Mandelson, often seen as the power behind Blair's throne, is on 11 of the 19 committees, but chairs none of them.

Richard Thomas, Clifford Chance's head of public policy, said: “These appointments are entirely consistent with the widespread recognition that Lord Irvine has been a considerable influence on Blair's political development.

“I don't think too much could or should be read into it regarding the constitutional position of the Lord Chancellor.”