David Cameron dramatically replaced his energy minister John Hayes today.
Downing Street insisted that Mr Hayes, who clashed with Energy Secretary Ed Davey over wind farms, had not been sacked.
But his sudden departure from the Department of Energy came as a surprise at Westminster.
Mr Hayes will become senior parliamentary adviser to the Prime Minister and a minister without portfolio based in the Cabinet Office.
Sources at No 10 insisted that it was a promotion which would give the Tory Right-winger direct access to the Prime Minister at daily meetings. A senior source said: “He has not been sacked. He is going to take up a role as a parliamentary greybeard.”
But the departure of Mr Hayes, who has also been made a member of the Privy Council, will inevitably be seen as a victory for Lib-Dem Mr Davey.
Business minister Michael Fallon will take up the key duties of energy minister. Mr Fallon, who will have a dual role at the business and energy departments, had previously himself done the role as a senior adviser to the PM.
A source said Mr Fallon’s appointment would give energy “a stronger business focus”.
The change was said to have been instigated from Downing Street, rather than the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Insiders rejected talk of a new bust-up between Mr Hayes, who will keep his ministerial salary, and Mr Davey, his departmental boss.
Mr Hayes challenged Mr Davey last year over energy policy, calling for an end to wind farms “peppering” the countryside.
His intervention delighted many Tory MPs and activists, particularly those with rural communities.
But Mr Davey is reported to have taken legal advice over whether Mr Hayes had “prejudiced himself” with his statements.
“I did think there was a question mark over whether he should even continue to have responsibility for renewable energy deployment,” said Mr Davey in an interview.
He is also said to have written to Mr Cameron over his concerns about Mr Hayes. But the Prime Minister refused to strip the Conservative minister of the renewable energy policy last year.
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