Byers quits

TRANSPORT Secretary Stephen Byers has resigned, he announced today.Mr Byers told a hastily-convened news conference at Downing Street he was leaving because it was the "right thing to do for the Government and the Labour Party".

By Paul Geater

TRANSPORT Secretary Stephen Byers has resigned, he announced today.

Mr Byers told a hastily-convened news conference at Downing Street he was leaving because it was the "right thing to do for the Government and the Labour Party".

Mr Byers had been underfire since civil war broke out in the Department of Transport, Local Government, and the Regions (DTLR) in the wake of the the September 11 crisis.

His special advisor, Jo Moore, sent an e-mail saying it was a "Good day to bury bad news."

This caused outrage and she was forced to make a public apology – but she stayed in her job.

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In February it was reported she was planning to bury more bad news on the day of Princess Margaret's funeral, and this prompted a new row which led her and the department's press chief, Martin Sixsmith, to resign.

Mr Byers announced Mr Sixsmith's resignation before it had been agreed, a fact which only emerged during Parliamentary Questions last month.

He has also been underfire over his dealings with Railtrack and the government's handling of the rail industry in general.

Recently he was attacked again because of his decision, when he was trade secretary, to allow soft-porn publisher Richard Desmond to buy Express Newspapers.

It seemed for a time that every government crisis was being blamed on Mr Byers – who was being described as the government's "lightning conductor," deflecting bad news away from his boss.

Mr Byers today said he stood by his major policy decisions and he insisted he was not a liar.

But he added: "I know I have made mistakes.''

Mr Byers said he recognised that he had become a distraction and that by remaining in office he would "damage the Government''.