Norman Baker: I'll fit in at Home Office and work well with Theresa May

David Kelly leaving the House of Commons in 2003 The MP has called for a fresh public inquiry into Dr Kelly's death in 2003

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The new Lib Dem Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, has said he is looking forward to working with Home Secretary Theresa May, despite their differences.

As a backbench MP, Mr Baker claimed government scientist David Kelly was murdered in 2003 and said this may have been hushed up by the UK authorities.

Home Secretary Theresa May is reported to be unhappy with his appointment.

But the MP described his views on Dr Kelly as "history" and his relations with Mrs May as "friendly".

Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme whether he stood by the views he published in his book The Strange Death of David Kelly, he said: "You're talking about events of 10 years ago, when we had the Blair government and their fictional weapons of mass destruction.

"That's history: we've moved on; it's ten years on, and what I'm doing now is looking forward to contributing to the government's anti-crime policy in the Home Office."

'Spitting tacks'

Mr Baker's promotion from the Department of Transport, where he had been a minister for the past three years, to the Home Office was a surprise feature of Monday's government reshuffle.

He has replaced Jeremy Browne, previously regarded as one of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's closest allies.

Start Quote

He will be a great Home Office minister, with a great track record on civil liberties issues and standing up for the rights of people in this country”

End Quote Danny Alexander Chief Secretary to the Treasury

His new role as minister of state for crime prevention hands him responsibility for policy on drugs, organised and violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

In his book, the Lib Dem MP claimed Dr Kelly had been killed by Iraqi dissidents opposed to Saddam Hussein and his murder may have been passed off as suicide by the British security services for "reasons of political expediency".

But Mr Baker said: "I entirely respect the work of MI5 and the security services, who are doing a great job protecting us from terrorism."

On whether his new boss was happy with his appointment, he was asked if it was true that she had been "spitting tacks". He replied: "No, or if she was, then I didn't notice it. I had a very friendly chat with Theresa last night."

He continued: "Theresa and I come from different places, but we'll work together.

"The coalition works well. We're a mature bunch of people. We understand where we're coming from, where our differences are, and there's no reason why we shouldn't work in a consensual way.

"I'm looking forward to working with her and her colleagues."

'Sluggish'

The Lib Dems have said the minister's views on the death of government scientist David Kelly in 2003 are irrelevant to the job.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said Mr Baker had proved he could be trusted with sensitive information.

Mr Alexander, one of the most senior Lib Dems in government, said his colleague's views on the death of Dr Kelly were "well explained" and he personally did not agree with them.

But he added: "It is an excellent appointment. As we enter the last third of this government, there are a whole range of areas that we, as Liberal Democrats, need to sharpen our campaigning edge."

The Home Office represented one such area, he said.

Dr Kelly, a weapons expert, was found dead in an Oxfordshire wood after he was named as the source of claims about Iraq's weapons capability which triggered a furious row between the then Labour government and the BBC.

Mr Baker spent six months investigating the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death, stepping down from his frontbench role at the time. He has maintained his calls for a fresh public inquiry.

The 2004 Hutton Inquiry concluded that Dr Kelly committed suicide.

A formal inquest has never been held but Attorney General Dominic Grieve has rejected calls for the case to be reopened, saying the evidence about the causes of death was "overwhelming".

The Lib Dem Voice website - which is read by party activists - quoted a source close to the party leadership as suggesting Mr Browne had failed to leave a "liberal imprint" during his time at the Home Office.

Stephen Tall, the website's co-editor, said Mr Baker's appointment could also be explained by the party's "sluggish" response to the "Go Home Vans row" where billboards were driven around parts of the UK warning illegal immigrants to either leave the country voluntarily or face arrest.

The Lib Dems claimed they were not consulted about the policy, with Mr Browne saying he was away at the time.

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