CABINET RESHUFFLE: VILLIERS TO STAY AT NIO

NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers delivers her key note . PIC: KELVIN BOYES/PRESS EYE

NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers delivers her key note . PIC: KELVIN BOYES/PRESS EYE

THERESA Villiers is to stay in her post as NI Secretary of State.

Informed sources at Westminster have told Belfast Daily that Prime Minister David Cameron wants her to remain at Stormont Castle in an effort to sort out the impasse over flags, parades and the past.

“He also wants to keep up the number of female MPs on his front bench team before the next election,” said the Westminster watcher.

“She has important work to do in Belfast in the coming weeks and months.

“It would have been suicidal to parachute in a new SoS at such a critical stage.”

Ms Villiers is due to meet Orangemen and Unionist political leaders next week in a bid to resolve their grievances over the banned Ardoyne march and the Parades Commission.

The Prime Minister has wielded the axe across his cabinet as he eyes up next May’s General Election with Labour breathing down his neck.

Liz Truss joins the cabinet as environment secretary.

The 38-year-old education minister is one of several women tipped for top jobs as the PM freshens up his team.

Ken Clarke is among the old guard to have stood down and Foreign Secretary William Hague has moved to a lower profile role as Commons leader.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is being tipped to take over from him.

A string of retirements were announced overnight, with their replacements expected to be unveiled during the course of the morning.

Women tipped for promotion include Treasury minister Nicky Morgan, work and pensions minister Esther McVey, whips Claire Perry and Amber Rudd and Priti Patel.

Among other changes, it has been reported that former defence secretary Liam Fox could return to the government although this has yet to be confirmed.

Conservative MPs to have lost or left their ministerial jobs include:

David Jones, ex-Welsh secretary

David Willetts, ex-universities minister

Sir George Young, ex-chief whip

Nick Hurd, ex-minister for civil society

Hugh Robertson, ex-Foreign Office minister

Greg Barker, ex-energy minister

Alan Duncan, ex-international development minister

Andrew Robathan, ex-Northern Ireland minister

Damian Green, ex-policing minister.

But the biggest name in the changes has been William Hague, who announced late on Monday that he had decided to step down as an MP at next year’s general election after 26 years – including four turbulent years as Conservative Party leader.

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