Geoff Hoon

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The Right Honourable
Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon Headshot.jpg
Secretary of State for Transport
In office
3 October 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ruth Kelly
Succeeded by The Lord Adonis
Chief Whip of the Labour Party
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
28 June 2007 – 3 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Jacqui Smith
Succeeded by Nick Brown
Minister for Europe
In office
5 May 2006 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Douglas Alexander
Succeeded by Jim Murphy
In office
28 July 1999 – 11 October 1999
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Joyce Quin
Succeeded by Keith Vaz
Leader of the House of Commons
Lord Privy Seal
In office
6 May 2005 – 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Deputy Phil Woolas
Nigel Griffiths
Preceded by Peter Hain
Succeeded by Jack Straw
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
11 October 1999 – 6 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by George Robertson
Succeeded by John Reid
Member of Parliament
for Ashfield
In office
9 April 1992 – 6 May 2010
Preceded by Frank Haynes
Succeeded by Gloria De Piero
Personal details
Born (1953-12-06) 6 December 1953 (age 61)
Derby, Derbyshire, England, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Elaine Dumelow
Alma mater Jesus College, Cambridge
Religion Anglicanism

Geoffrey "Geoff" William Hoon (born 6 December 1953) is a British politician who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashfield from 1992 to 2010. He is a former Defence Secretary, Transport Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Government Chief Whip.

Early life[edit]

Hoon was born in Derby, England, and is the son of Ernest Hoon and June Collett.

Education[edit]

Hoon was educated at Nottingham High School before going on to read law at Jesus College, Cambridge and graduated in 1976.

Career before entering politics[edit]

Hoon was a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Leeds from 1976 to 1982 and was a sub-warden at Devonshire Hall. He was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1978, and was also a visiting Law Professor at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, from 1980 to 1981. In 1982, Hoon became a practising barrister in Nottingham.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Hoon was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Derbyshire in 1984 and served in Brussels and Strasbourg for ten years. He was elected to the House of Commons at the 1992 general election for Ashfield, making his maiden speech on 20 May 1992, following the retirement of the sitting Labour MP, Frank Haynes. He held the seat with a majority of 12,987 and remained the constituency's MP until the 2010 general election.

Shadow Cabinet and early government posts[edit]

In Parliament, Hoon was promoted by Tony Blair in 1994 when he was appointed as an opposition whip, and in 1995 he joined the frontbench team as a spokesman on Trade and Industry. Following the 1997 general election he became a member of the government of Tony Blair as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Lord Chancellor's Department, being promoted to the rank of Minister of State in the same department in 1998. In 1999, he was briefly a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, before entering the cabinet later in the year as the Secretary of State for Defence, at which time he became a member of the Privy Council. He served as the Lord Privy Seal and the Leader of the House of Commons from the 2005 general election until 5 May 2006, when he was appointed on that day as Minister for Europe.

Secretary of State for Defence[edit]

Geoff Hoon (right) at Pentagon briefing with Donald Rumsfeld

In a 2003 interview on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost, Hoon asserted that the UK was willing to use nuclear weapons against Iraqi forces "in the right circumstances, namely in "extreme self defence""[1][2]

On 23 June 2003, Hoon, in common with all western politicians at the time, continued to claim that two trailers found in Iraq were mobile weapons laboratories.[3] This was in spite of the fact that it had been leaked to the press by Dr David Kelly[4] and other weapons inspectors that they were nothing of the sort. The trailers were for filling hydrogen balloons for artillery ranging and were sold to Iraq by a British company, Marconi.[5]

In an April 2004 interview, Hoon said that more could have been done to help David Kelly, who committed suicide on 17 July 2003 after being named as the source of Andrew Gilligan's disputed Today programme contribution.[6]

On 19 January 2010, Hoon gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry about his time as Defence Secretary.[7]

Comments on cluster bombs[edit]

Shortly after the US/UK led invasion of Iraq began in 2003, following an admission by the Ministry of Defence that Britain had dropped 50 airborne cluster bombs in the south of Iraq and left behind up to 800 unexploded bomblets, it was put to Hoon in a Radio 4 interview that an Iraqi mother of a child killed by these cluster bombs would not thank the British army. He replied "One day they might." Hoon continued "I accept that in the short term the consequences are terrible. No one minimises those and I'm not seeking to do so," he said. "But what I am saying is that this is a country that has been brutalised for decades by this appalling regime and that the restoration of that country to its own people, the possibility of their deciding for themselves their future ... and indeed the way in which they go about their lives, ultimately, yes, that will be a better place for people in Iraq."[8]

HMCS Chicoutimi comments[edit]

In 1998, Canada purchased four Upholder-class submarines and a suite of trainers from the Royal Navy to replace their decommissioned Oberon-class submarines. The Upholder class entered Royal Navy service from 1990 to 1993 at the end of the Cold War, and were deemed surplus as part of the Peace Dividend and refocus on a nuclear submarine fleet. They were placed into storage until Canada purchased them.

On 5 October 2004 HMCS Chicoutimi, sailing from Faslane Naval Base to Nova Scotia declared an emergency north-west of Ireland following a fire on board.[9] The fire was caused by seawater entering through open hatches in rough seas. It soaked electrical insulation which had not been sufficiently waterproofed (since it conformed to an older specification than the three other submarines), starting a fire. The Chicoutimi lost power and was rescued by Royal Navy frigates HMS Montrose and Marlborough on 6 October. Lt(N) Chris Saunders died subsequently from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Following claims made in the Canadian media about the cause of the fire, blaming the UK for supplying an unsafe vessel, Hoon accompanied his condolences for Saunders stating that Canada as the buyer had to beware. In Canada, many World War II veterans were outraged by his comments, considering Canada's sacrifice for Britain during both World Wars.[10]

Comments on Extraordinary Rendition[edit]

Hoon was condemned by an international delegation of European MPs for evading questions about Britain's co-operation with the CIA's so-called 'extraordinary rendition' programme.[11] Hoon, then Minister for Europe, was being quizzed in the wake of Dick Marty's Council of Europe report which found extensive involvement of European countries, including Britain, in the US kidnapping and torture programme.

Secretary of State for transport[edit]

In the reshuffle after the sudden resignation of the Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly during the Labour Party Conference, Hoon became the Secretary of State for Transport on 3 October 2008. His old post of Labour Chief Whip was given to Nick Brown.[12]

In January 2009, Hoon gave the official go-ahead for the controversial expansion of Heathrow Airport.[13]

Backbench MP[edit]

Hoon resigned from his post as Transport Secretary on 5 June 2009 during a Cabinet reshuffle, claiming that he wanted to spend more time with his family.[14] On 6 January 2010, he and fellow ex-minister Patricia Hewitt jointly called for a secret ballot on the future of the leadership of Gordon Brown.[15] The following day, he said that it appeared to have failed and was "over". Brown later referred to the call for a secret ballot as a "form of silliness".[16] After the failed coup there was a backlash against Hoon which flowed over into his Ashfield constituency in Nottinghamshire where some Labour party members wanted to deselect him.

During the Iraq Inquiry, Hoon said that the first he knew of the 45-minute Iraq weapon claim was when he read it in the dossier on Iraq's weapons in September 2002.[17]

Hoon had said that he would defend his seat at the 2010 general election but according to the Financial Times he had "finally bowed to pressure" and on 11 February 2010, he announced that he would stand down as an MP at the next election.[18] Since his retirement from politics he has set up a consultancy firm "TaylorHoon Strategy". He is now Managing Director of Business at helicopter-maker Agusta Westland.[19]

Expense claims[edit]

In April 2009, it emerged that Hoon had rented out his London home and claimed expenses on his constituency house. While doing so, he had lived in state-owned, rent-free housing at Admiralty House.[20] He asserted that he had only claimed what he was entitled to under the rules of the House of Commons. But the financial arrangements were heavily criticised in the media.

Dispatches lobbyist investigation[edit]

Hoon was one of the MPs named in the 2010 sting operation on political lobbying by the Channel 4 Dispatches programme. Hoon told an undercover reporter that he wanted to translate his knowledge and contacts into something that "frankly makes money".[21] On 22 March 2010 it was announced he had been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party, alongside Patricia Hewitt and Stephen Byers.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "UK restates nuclear threat". BBC News Online. 2 February 2003. 
  2. ^ Geoff Hoon, interview by David Frost, Breakfast with Frost, BBC News, 23 February 2003
  3. ^ Hansard (23 June 2003). "Hansard – Written Answers – Column 696". House of Commons Hansard. Retrieved 16 January 2008. 
  4. ^ Hutton (24 September 2003). "Hutton Inquiry Hearing Transcripts – Peter Stuart Beaumont". The Hutton Inquiry. Retrieved 16 January 2008. 
  5. ^ Peter Beaumont, Antony Barnett and Gaby Hinsliff (15 June 2003). "Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds". London: The Observer. Retrieved 24 July 2007. 
  6. ^ "Hoon admits mistakes over Kelly". BBC News Online. 24 April 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  7. ^ "Iraq inquiry: 45-minute weapon claim 'new' to Hoon". BBC News Online. 19 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "Hoon is 'cruel' for claims on cluster bombs By Paul Waugh and Ben Russell". London: The Independent. 5 April 2003. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "Rescue ship reaches sub crew". BBC News. 7 October 2004. 
  10. ^ "Chicoutimi fire could have been worse: report". CTV News. 18 October 2004. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Hoon 'unhelpful and evasive' about American rendition flights, say MEPs, by Ben Russell. The Independent, 7 October 2006.
  12. ^ Swaine, Jon; Porter, Andrew (3 October 2008). "Peter Mandelson 'returns to Government in Gordon Brown's reshuffle'". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  13. ^ "Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway". BBC News Online. 15 February 2009. 
  14. ^ "Walkouts and a Wipeout, But Brown Clings On". Sky News. 5 June 2009. 
  15. ^ Kettle, Martin (6 January 2010). "Hewitt and Hoon's great gamble". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  16. ^ "Gordon Brown says leadership challenge was 'silliness'". BBC News Online. 10 January 2010. 
  17. ^ "Iraq inquiry: 45-minute weapon claim 'new' to Hoon". BBC News Online. 19 January 2010. 
  18. ^ "Hoon bows to pressure to step down as MP". The Financial Times. 11 February 2010. 
  19. ^ Agusta Westland Corporate Comms
  20. ^ "Geoff Hoon 'claimed expenses for third home'". Politics.co.uk. 5 April 2009. 
  21. ^ Insight: Jobseeker Geoff Hoon plans to cash in Sunday Times, 21 March 2010
  22. ^ Labour Suspends 'Cash-For-Lobby' MPs Sky News, 22 March 2010

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Frank Haynes
Member of Parliament for Ashfield
19922010
Succeeded by
Gloria De Piero
Political offices
Preceded by
Joyce Quin
Minister for Europe
1999
Succeeded by
Keith Vaz
Preceded by
George Robertson
Secretary of State for Defence
1999–2005
Succeeded by
John Reid
Preceded by
Peter Hain
Leader of the House of Commons
2005–2006
Succeeded by
Jack Straw
Lord Privy Seal
2005–2006
Preceded by
Douglas Alexander
Minister for Europe
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Jim Murphy
Preceded by
Jacqui Smith
Chief Whip of the Labour Party
2007–2008
Succeeded by
Nick Brown
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
2007–2008
Preceded by
Ruth Kelly
Secretary of State for Transport
2008–2009
Succeeded by
The Lord Adonis