Former Culture Secretary Chris Smith has been appointed to the Board of the National Theatre. The MP joins other recent appointments - including Really Useful Group chief executive André Ptaszynski and novelist Ben Okri - on the now 14-strong Board.

Commenting on the appointment, the chairman of the NT Board, Sir Christopher Hogg, said: "I warmly welcome Chris Smith as a member of our Board. His wisdom and standing and his experience as a Member of Parliament and a former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will be of the greatest value to us in our deliberations. We all look forward to working with him in the years ahead."

Smith served as Culture Secretary from 1997 until this past June 1997, when a post-General Election cabinet reshuffle brought Tessa Jowell to the fore and returned Smith to the backbenches. Though not always popular within the theatre sector disgruntled by many years of standstill funding, Smith - an avid opera and arts lover and one of the country's most prominent gay politicians - was generally viewed as effective in the position.

Smith was instrumental in revamping the previously titled Department of Heritage into the modern and forward-looking Department of Culture, Media and Sport. And he has, reportedly, also been crucial in ensuring that the department's brief remains intact rather than being carved up between other Whitehall interests. Smith's achievements in office include free entry to museums and, earlier this year, a £25 million increase in funding for theatres. He remains an MP for Islington South and Finsbury, a seat he has held since 1983.

Speaking about his new role, Smith said he was delighted to join the NT board. "I love the National and have always had the greatest admiration for its consistently high standard of work - not just in London, but also in its touring and education programmes. I find the chance to contribute to its work very exciting."

The NT Board is responsible for the general oversight of the work of the theatre. Artistic responsibility belongs to the director. The current artistic director, Trevor Nunn, will hand over to Nicholas Hytner in April 2003.

- by Terri Paddock