Trade minister Jones ‘ready to quit’

Trade minister Lord Jones of Birmingham is prepared to resign before the next election to avoid refusing to publicly back Gordon Brown, according to reports.

It is believed that Lord Jones, the former director-general of the CBI, told a group of businessmen and lobbyists that he would resign before the start of an election campaign due to a desire to avoid being questioned about his support for Gordon Brown.

According to the Times newspaper, Lord Jones is unhappy at changes to capital gains tax and legislation for ‘non-doms’ – UK residents who are nondomiciled for tax purposes – believes his role would be more suited to a businessmen, rather than a politician.

Speaking at a private meeting on January 29th in London’s Great Smith Street, he was also said to be critical of the civil service – though not of his known civil servants – and of his functions in the House of Lords.

The minister’s – the first British minister ever appointed without membership of a political party – apparent unwillingness to offer his support to the embattled prime minister adds to a growing list of problems for Mr Brown whose approval ratings have tumbled over fears regarding the economy and seemingly-critical comments from other ministers.

A spokeswoman for UK Trade and Investment told the newspaper Lord Jones’ intention to resign at some point was “widely known”.

She said: “As a dedicated supporter of British business, who has spent years raising business issues from the outside, Lord Jones has said on many occasions how delighted he was to join the government as trade and investment minister, working as part of a successful team focused on maintaining the stability and competitiveness of the British economy.

“It is no secret that he does not wish to pursue a political career in the long term and he has always said he would continue in his ministerial role for a finite period.”

She added: “With a successful 30-year business career behind him and the benefit of a single focus on trade and investment, he will continue to use his ministerial position to deliver more intensive support for UK business internationally and to bang the drum for brand Britain around the world.”