Dominic Raab will keep playing an “important senior role” in the government despite being moved in Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle, Downing Street has said.
He was also given the title of deputy prime minister, which some interpreted as an attempt by the prime minister to placate Mr Raab.
Number 10 insisted on Thursday that the change was a “planned move” and Mr Raab’s new title demonstrating Mr Johnson’s continuing trust in him.
But the prime minister’s spokesman would not comment on reports the former foreign secretary had resisted the move during tense talks with Mr Johnson on reshuffle day.
“This formalises Dominic Raab’s position as the prime minister’s deputy – he will stand in for him at PMQs; it demonstrates his seniority within government and the trust the prime minister places with him,” the spokesman said.
“You can expect him to be involved in cross-governmental work when that is necessitated. It is clear he will play an important senior role in government.”
Mr Raab came in for heavy criticism for his handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, including for being on holiday as Kabul fell to the Taliban.
Having shaken up his top team on Wednesday – including sacking Gavin Williamson as education secretary and Robert Buckland’s departure as justice secretary – the prime minister is continuing to change his junior and middle-ranking ministers.
Penny Mordaunt has been appointed as minister of state at the Department for International Trade, while John Whittingdale is no longer a media minister.
Elsewhere, Greg Hands has been moved from international trade minister to become a business minister, Kemi Badenoch is now both a housing minister and a Foreign Office minister and Nick Gibb – who has held the schools brief both as a minister and shadow minister for more than a decade – has been removed from his post.