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Sir David is being made a peer in order to take up his post

BP Chairman made Minister

Tony Blair has appointed one of Britain's most prominent businessmen to a top government position. Sir David Simon, who is currently the Chairman of British Petroleum, has been named as Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe, a post created by the new Labour government.

Sir David, who is 57, will serve as a junior minister at both the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry. He was described by the Prime Minister as one of Britain's "most distinguished businessmen". Mr Blair said: "He has led BP with distinction, and has deservedly been Businessman of the Year for the past two years."

Sir David will chair an inter-departmental taskforce on competitiveness in Europe. This will concentrate on Labour's manifesto pledges as they affect the single market and flexible labour markets across the EU. According to Mr Blair, it will "cover the whole competitiveness agenda in Europe".

The appointment of Sir David is an important symbol of Labour's intention to build links with business. A Labour Party spokesman said that Sir David, a strong pro-European, had been "head-hunted" by Mr Blair, who had been deeply impressed by their first meeting. Sir David is not a member of the Labour Party.

The Queen has agreed to confer a life peerage upon Sir David, in order to enable him to carry out his role. This arrangement was also made for Lord Young, who served in Margaret Thatcher's government.

However, Sir David - who is used to six-figure salaries - will not be paid the 31,125 which comes with a Minister of State's post, as there are only a limited number of ministerial salaries available from the public purse.

Sir David has a tough reputation. BP is now worth $41.5 billion, almost double its value in 1995, when he became chairman. At the same time, he has dramatically restructured BP's refining business and axed 60,000 jobs at the company.

Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

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