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Jeremy Heywood, Who Ran Britain's Civil Service, Dies at 56

FILE - (L-R) Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, International Development Secretary Justine Greening, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, Business Secretary Vince Cable, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Energy Secretary Edward Davey, (obscured), Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Culture Secretary Maria Miller, education minister David Laws, universities minister David Willetts, Leader of the House of Lords Thomas Strathclyde, (obscured), Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, Oliver Letwin, Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, Leader of the House Andrew Lansley, Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (hidden), Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander (hidden), Education Secretary Michael Gove, Justice Secretary Christopher Grayling, Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps, in 10 Downing Street in London.

The British government says Jeremy Heywood, who ran the country's civil service until illness forced him to step down, has died of cancer. He was 56.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Heywood, who died early Sunday, "worked tirelessly to serve our country" She called his death "a huge loss to British public life."

As Cabinet secretary, Heywood oversaw Britain's government bureaucracy. That made him a powerful figure, though little known outside the Whitehall government district.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said Heywood had advised politicians of right and left, and "none of us had the faintest idea what his politics were. He was just the perfect civil servant."

The government announced Oct. 24 that Heywood was retiring to fight his illness and granted him the title Lord Heywood of Whitehall.