Eleanor Laing

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Eleanor Laing
First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
Assumed office
16 October 2013
Preceded by Nigel Evans
Shadow Justice Minister
In office
Leader David Cameron
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
6 May 2005 – 7 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Peter Duncan
Succeeded by David Mundell
Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
In office
15 March 2004 – 7 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Caroline Spelman
Succeeded by Theresa May
Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Steven Norris
Majority 15,131 (32.5%)
Personal details
Born (1958-02-01) 1 February 1958 (age 57)
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Alan Laing (div. 2002)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh

Eleanor Fulton Laing, née Pritchard, (born 1 February 1958) is a British politician. Laing is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Epping Forest, a constituency she has represented since 1997. In October 2013 fellow MPs elected her as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, replacing Nigel Evans.

Early life[edit]

Laing was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1958 and raised in the nearby village of Kilmacolm, where she attended the local St Columba's School. In 1976 she left for the University of Edinburgh, graduating with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees.[1] She was the first female President of the Edinburgh University Students' Association. She worked as a solicitor in Edinburgh and the City of London.

Parliamentary career[edit]

Laing contested Paisley North in the 1987 general election.

When Laing was first elected to the Epping Forest constituency in 1997 general election, the seat was reduced to marginal status by the Labour landslide. Before her election she had been offered support by Sir Malcolm Rifkind and was generally considered to be a Europhile. Once in Parliament she appeared to sign up to the Eurosceptic-wing of the party, first supporting Michael Howard then William Hague for the Conservative leadership. After the election she sat on the Education and Employment Committee, chaired by Labour's Margaret Hodge. She was seen as a rising star in her early career, with good performances in the Commons and strong attacks against Labour.

She was a strong critic of devolution, and attacked the government on many of the details of the transfer of power. In December 2000 she was appointed as opposition Scottish spokeswoman.

In 2001 the seat returned to safe status with a 19.8% majority. In 2005, she increased that majority to 32%. She has an interest in education, transport, economic policy, constitution and devolution. In 2008 she was one of 172 MPs who voted to preserve what critics called a lax and over-generous system of Parliamentary expenses, which permits Members of Parliament to claim for expenses without producing receipts.

After the 2010 General Election, and the return of the Conservatives to power, Laing did not receive a post in the Government. On 16 October 2013 she was elected First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, the holder of which post is one of the Deputy Speakers.[2]

Past and present positions[edit]

All-women shortlists[edit]

Laing voiced her disagreement with all-women shortlists in 1997, calling it a "millstone round your neck" for those who were selected by that process.


In November 1997 she voted against a hunting ban in a Commons debate.

Gay rights[edit]

In a Commons debate in June 1998 Laing sponsored the motion for lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16, saying "Nothing that is being proposed tonight is in any way encouraging physical sexual activity among young people before they are sufficiently mature." She differed with many of her Conservative colleagues, saying "It is nonsense to say that there cannot be equality between 16-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls. Young people need protection, but young people are not protected by being made into criminals." She opposed fellow Tories such as Nicholas Winterton who said that "a homosexual act is unnatural", replying that the Bill did not challenge Christian teaching, and that it would not legalise anything which did not already go on.

When bishops were told to vote against an equal gay rights law in March 2007, Laing spoke in favour of the law arguing that that "her brand of Christianity" preached "live and let live".

38 Degrees[edit]

Eleanor Laing complained about 38 Degrees for allowing members to send "clone emails".[3] In a "Speaker's Debate", Laing complained that "we have to be very careful about who we are listening to out there... I always worry about that tyranny of the vocal minority against the silent majority, and last week I had some very nasty emails telling me that I didn't have the courage to vote against my government ... I'm talking about an organization called 38 Degrees which floods our systems with emails, the same email over and over again hundreds of times; people don't even put their full name and address so they cannot be identified as real people. It is cowardly to hide behind the anonymity of an email, which has been proposed by someone else for the purpose. 38 Degrees is for the purpose of bringing down the system."

MPs' expenses scandal[edit]

In 2007 Laing voted against MPs' expense claims being made public.[4] After details of MPs' expense claims were released in the press, it was shown that Laing had avoided paying £180,000 capital gains tax on the sale of her Westminster flat by declaring it as her primary residence. This was due to its having a higher value than her constituency home, making it her primary residence under CGT rules. However she had registered the flat as her second home with the Parliamentary Fees Office, and by doing so had claimed through her Additional Costs Allowance some of the interest due on her mortgage.

Her constituency is Epping Forest, which is close to London and less than an hour's journey by tube. When questioned she said that prior to the sale of the flat she had sought the advice of her solicitor. Laing was cleared by the Legg Inquiry;[5][6] nonetheless, she voluntarily repaid £25,000 as a "moral gesture".[7] As a result of the scandal she also had to face an attempt to deselect her by her constituency party, led by the Leader of Epping Forest District Council - which she survived.[8] The Telegraph subsequently published an apology for their reporting of the story.

Private life[edit]

Laing has one son, born in June 2001. She married Alan Laing in 1983 and the couple divorced in 2002.


External links[edit]

News items[edit]

Audio clips[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Steven Norris
Member of Parliament for Epping Forest
Political offices
Preceded by
James Gray
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
May 2005 – December 2005
Succeeded by
David Mundell