Prime Minister Tony Blair is "deeply aware" of people's desire to know when he will quit Downing Street, a Cabinet colleague said yesterday.

Amid speculation that Mr Blair might announce his intentions before the Labour Party conference in September, Alistair Darling suggested the issue was in the premier's thoughts.

The Trade and Industry Secretary, who is regarded as a close ally of Gordon Brown, also flagged up the Prime Minister's pledge to give his successor "plenty of time" to bed in.

"We are in an unusual position that the Prime Minister announced he was proposing to stand down some two years ago now," he told the BBC News 24 Sunday programme.

"I think he's made it very clear that he wants to see an orderly transition to a new leader and he wants to make sure the new leader has plenty of time to establish himself before the general election. I think the Prime Minister is well aware that people will obviously want to know what his intentions are, but it is for him to make that announcement in his time and I'm sure he will do that."

Asked whether Mr Blair ought to disclose his plans before the party conference, he added: "It's for the Prime Minister, who is deeply aware of people's interest in what he's proposing to do, to make an announcement in his own time."

Mr Darling also denied suggestions that the Chancellor was "keeping his nose clean" in troubled times for the Government.

Mr Brown was spending time with his two sons, he said. "Personally I think it's a good thing he does that because I happen to know Gordon has a very heavy workload this autumn," Mr Darling added.