For Liam Byrne, 2007 was the year he inherited a second poisoned chalice.

The MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill began the year as the Minister responsible for immigration - possibly the single most difficult issue facing the Government.

He ends it in the same post. But now he has a second task to add to his list of responsibilities - representing the region as Minister for the West Midlands. It is a role he enjoys, but it does mean he has inherited the problem of New Street station.

What should have been a triumph, when the Government finally announced that £128 million would be made available to rebuild Birmingham's main railway terminal, has become the source of bitter wrangling.

The Government has not yet approved the full £550 million rebuild, known as the Birmingham Gateway project, and Mr Byrne has been caught in the middle as the city council and the Department for Transport blame each other for the delay.

When the year began, Tony Blair was still Prime Minister and Gordon Brown was quietly drawing up plans for the day he took over.

Although he is a relative newcomer to the House of Commons, becoming an MP in 2004, Mr Byrne was widely tipped for the top.

Not only is he a formidable intellect and a successful businessman, but he successfully stayed out of the Blair-Brown wars which tore through the Labour Party in 2006.

Instead, he was part of a staunchly New Labour group of young and talented MPs known as Blairites for Brown, which also included James Purnell and Andy Burnham.

Mr Byrne's contribution to the party's internal conflicts was limited to a series of essays arguing that Labour must continue to appeal to the middle classes once Mr Blair eventually quit - sentiments the Brownites were queuing up to agree with.

Once Mr Brown came into office, Purnell and Burnham were both offered cabinet posts.

But Mr Byrne was asked to stick where he was - as a Minister of State in the Home Office, responsible for reforming immigration policy.

This was a bigger vote of confidence than it appeared. Immigration is one of the most important and most difficult issues facing the Government.

Back in 2005, Conservative leader Michael Howard attempted to raise immigration as an election issue - but this may have done him more harm than good, as it allowed critics to suggest there was something vaguely unpleasant about the Tory campaign.

Since then, the mood has changed.

When Michael Howard said "it's not racist to talk about immigration," not everyone believed him. Now, it's taken for granted that immigration is a legitimate subject for debate.

So it could be a major issue at the next poll, and it's a policy area where the public trusts the Tories more than Labour.

Mr Byrne's task has been to reverse the perception that the Conservatives are the party to sort out immigration.

In the past 12 months, he has introduced a new Australian-style immigration system, designed to reassure voters that only people with the skills the economy needs are invited to settle here.

He has also set up two panels of experts to consider immigration levels - one looking at the needs of employers recruiting staff and one looking at the strains placed on public services by a rapid influx of people.

At the same time, Mr Byrne has been forthright in calling for immigrants to learn about British culture - and in pushing the case for identity cards, although this has been under-mined by the Government's loss of CD roms containing the bank details of seven million families receiving child support.

But Mr Byrne's job, difficult as it is, is made even harder by the Prime Minister's decision to appoint him Minister for the West Midlands.

The creation of regional ministers was Gordon Brown's attempt to make the various regional quangos such as Advantage West Midlands democratically accountable.

It also tied in with his plans to beef up the role of Parliament - by creating a Minister who would oversee regional bodies and could be held to account by backbenchers in the House of Commons. Receiving the job was obviously an honour for Mr Byrne, who has concentrated on improving the region's skills base and its image to the outside world.

But it also made him a lightning rod for criticisms of Government policy in the West Midlands.

This was seen most clearly when it came to New Street station. Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced the first wave of funding for the long-awaited rebuild in July - but the rest of the money has yet to be agreed.

As the public face of the Government in Birmingham, Mr Byrne is the person blamed by the city council and opposition MPs for the delay.

He also faces the challenge of holding down two very difficult jobs at the same time.

This was illustrated when he was quizzed by the Home Affairs Select Committee in November.

Taunton MP Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) had to ask him four times which role took up most of his day, before Mr Byrne reluctantly admitted: "My job as Minister for Borders and Immigration consumes the lion's share of my time."

Mr Byrne is still seen as a rising star. This was confirmed again last month when The Spectator magazine named him "Minister to Watch" in its annual Parliamentarian of the Year awards.

Even his conviction for using a mobile phone while driving, for which he was fined £100, is unlikely to do his career much lasting harm.

But he has not yet succeeded in his task of convincing the public that immigration is under control.

And while there are hopes that a final decision on New Street will be announced in January, this is by no means assured.

2008 is set to be at least as challenging for Mr Byrne as 2007.