Margaret Hodge

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For the American writer, see Margaret Hodges.
The Right Honourable
Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge.jpg
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Assumed office
9 June 2010
Preceded by Sir Edward Leigh
Minister for Culture and Tourism
In office
22 September 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Barbara Follett
Succeeded by John Penrose
In office
27 June 2007 – 3 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by David Lammy
Succeeded by Barbara Follett
Minister for Work
In office
9 May 2005 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Jane Kennedy
Succeeded by Jim Murphy
Minister for Children
In office
11 June 2001 – 9 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Office created[1]
Succeeded by Maria Eagle
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department for Education and Employment (Minister for Disabled People)
In office
29 July 1998 – 11 June 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Paul Boateng
Succeeded by Maria Eagle
Member of Parliament
for Barking
Assumed office
9 June 1994
Preceded by Jo Richardson
Majority 16,555 (36.5%)
Personal details
Born Margaret Eve Oppenheimer
(1944-09-08) 8 September 1944 (age 70)
Cairo, Egypt[2]
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Andrew Watson (1968–1978, div)
Sir Henry Hodge (1978–2009, his death)
Children 4 (1 son, 3 daughters)
Alma mater London School of Economics (LSE)
Occupation Politician
Profession Economist
Religion None (atheist)[3]

Margaret Eve, Lady Hodge, MBE, PC (born 8 September 1944) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Barking since 1994. She was the first Minister for Children in 2003 and was Minister of State for Culture and Tourism at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. On 9 June 2010 she was elected Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. She was born Margaret Eve Oppenheimer,[2] and was known as Margaret Eve Watson from 1968 to 1978.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Eve Oppenheimer was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1944 to Hans Oppenheimer and his wife Lisbeth (née Hollitscher).[2][4] Oppenheimer left Stuttgart, Germany, in the mid-1930s to join an uncle in his metals trading business based in Cairo and Alexandria, where he met his fellow-emigrant Austrian-born wife. Married in 1936, the couple had five children, four girls and a boy.[5]

After the start of World War II, the couple and their eldest daughter were left stateless, and stranded for the duration of the war in Egypt. The couple decided to leave Egypt as anti-semitism had increased in the Middle East during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The family moved to London, where Oppenheimer started family-owned steel-trading company Stemcor, today the world's largest privately owned steel-trading corporation and the sixth largest British company in private hands, with an annual turnover of over £6 billion in 2011.[6][7] Hodge is a shareholder, and lists her holdings in the MPs Register of Interests.[8]

Hodge's mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and died in 1953.[5] Hodge was educated at boarding school, first at Bromley High School and then Oxford High School. She then studied at the London School of Economics, from where she gained a third class Government Studies degree in 1966.[9]

Hodge worked in market research from 1966 to 1973, and from 1992 to 1994, she was a senior consultant to Price Waterhouse.[10]

She married Andrew Watson in 1968; having a son and daughter. The couple divorced in 1978 and she married Henry Hodge (later Sir Henry), with whom she had two more daughters. Her second husband was a fellow Labour Borough Councillor and Chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties and subsequently a High Court judge; Sir Henry died in 2009.

Islington Council[edit]

Hodge was first elected as a councillor for the London Borough of Islington in 1973. She soon became chairman of the Housing Committee (opting to use "chairman" rather than "chair"). This was a critical post in an authority with one of the worst sets of housing statistics in London and in a period when London boroughs were expected to be housing providers and managers. Hodge's tenure as housing chairman saw the continuation of a large new housing programme. There was a change of emphasis to the refurbishment of sound older buildings (e.g. Charteris Road, Alexander Road areas), in response to a paper published by the local Islington Housing Action Group.[11] At one point, Hodge's deputy chairman was Jack Straw, subsequently a Cabinet member during Tony Blair's time as prime minister.

The Islington Labour Party was badly affected by the defection of members and elected representatives to the Social Democratic Party but, when the dust had settled, Hodge had emerged as Council Leader, in 1982, a post which she held until 1992.

Hodge was appointed MBE in 1978. However, the end of her period at Islington, before taking up her parliamentary career, was marred by the emergence of serious child abuse allegations concerning the children's homes in Islington.

Child abuse controversy[edit]

In 1985, Demetrious Panton wrote to Islington Council to complain about the abuse that he had suffered while in the council's care in the 1970s and 1980s. He did not receive an official reply until 1989, in which the council denied responsibility.[12]

In 1990, Liz Davies, a senior social worker employed by the borough and her manager, David Cofie, raised concerns about sexual abuse of children in Islington Council care. Correspondence between Hodge and the director of social work indicates that she declined a request for extra resources to investigate. Instead, Cofie and Davies investigation was ended by council officials in May 1990; this appears to have been after the Police said they had found no evidence of abuse, although the two social workers continued to work on the allegations in their own time.[13] In early 1992, Davies (not to be confused with the barrister and former Islington councillor) resigned from her post and requested that Scotland Yard investigate the allegations.

The Evening Standard, again in 1992, then began reporting on the allegations of abuse in Islington's children's homes, the initial article of which Hodge described as a "sensationalist piece of gutter journalism", although she has since apologised for this outburst, asserting that her officials had given her false information.[14] Shortly afterwards Hodge resigned to pursue a career with Price Waterhouse. In 1995, the "White Report" into sexual abuse in Islington Care Homes reported that the council had failed adequately to investigate the allegations and blamed its doctrinaire interpretation of equal opportunities and fear of being branded homophobic.[13][14]

In 2003, following Hodge's appointment as Minister for Children, Panton went public with his allegation that he was abused in Islington Council care and had repeatedly raised this issue with no effect. He accused Hodge of being ultimately responsible for the abuse that he suffered. Davies also went public with the issues that she had raised concerns about while working for the council.[15] Following a media campaign conducted by several national newspapers calling for her to resign from her new post, she responded to Panton by letter, in which she apologised for referring to him as 'an extremely disturbed person' in an earlier letter to the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, which was broadcast on Radio 4's Today programme.[15] A formal apology to Panton was made in the High Court on 19 November 2003 by Hodge's barrister, along with a payment of £30,000.[2]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Hodge has been Member for Barking since a by-election on 9 June 1994 caused by the death of Jo Richardson. As a new MP, she co-nominated the candidature of Tony Blair, a former neighbour in Islington, to be the new leader of the Labour Party[2] after the sudden death of John Smith.

Hodge became a Junior Minister in 1998 and was appointed Minister for Universities in 2001, where she sponsored the controversial Higher Education Act 2004, and remained there until 2003 when she was named as Children's Minister. She was appointed to the Privy Council on 22 June 2003.[16]

First Children's Minister and after[edit]

Hodge was the first person to be Children's Minister when the post was created in 2003 but suffered difficulties after the Islington controversy; her resignation was called for on several occasions by the press and parliamentary opposition.

She was later transferred to less visible posts. Usually viewed as a strong supporter of Tony Blair, she appeared to have retained his support despite the hostility of the press.

Privacy International awarded Margaret Hodge the 2004 Big Brother Award for "Worst Public Servant" for her backing of controversial initiatives including the Universal Child Database. At a keynote speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research on 26 November 2004, Hodge strongly defended the idea of greater state regulation of individuals' choices, stating that "some may call it the nanny state but I call it a force for good".[17]

In the same year Fathers 4 Justice campaigner Jonathan Stanesby handcuffed Hodge, stating he was arresting her for child abuse.[18] Fathers 4 Justice targeted Hodge because she was the "bogeywoman of family law, who doesn't even believe in equal parenting".[19] Stanesby and colleague Jason Hatch were later cleared of a charge of false imprisonment after claiming that it was part of a reasonable political protest.[20]

In 2005 she was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions with primary responsibility for Work. On 17 June 2005 was criticised for saying that the former workers of MG Rover would be able to obtain jobs at Tesco, a local supermarket. Later, she claimed that this was not what she meant, rather that she had empathy for those losing their jobs, and pointed to a new Tesco supermarket as an example of new jobs being created in the face of the redundancies at the car manufacturing plant.[21]

Hodge and the BNP[edit]

In April 2006 she commented in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that eight out of ten white working class voters in her constituency might be tempted to vote for the British National Party (BNP) in the local elections on 4 May 2006 because "no one else is listening to them" about their concerns over unemployment, high house prices, and the housing of asylum seekers in the area. She said the Labour Party must promote "very, very strongly the benefits of the new, rich multi-racial society which is part of this part of London for me".[22]

There was wide media coverage of her remarks, and she was strongly criticised for giving the BNP publicity in the local election campaign. The BNP went on to gain 11 seats in the election out of a total of 51, making them the second largest party.[23] Local Labour activists blamed Hodge, and it was reported that moves were under way to deselect her.[24] The GMB wrote to Hodge in May 2006, asking for her to resign as a result of the election.[25]

Later, the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, accused Hodge of "magnifying the propaganda of the British National Party" after she said that British residents should get priority in council house allocation. In November 2009, the leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, announced that he intended to stand for election in Barking against Hodge at the next General Election, in 2010.[26]

Hodge was returned to her seat at the 2010 general election, doubling her majority to over 16,000, with Griffin coming third behind the Conservatives. The BNP lost all 12 of its seats on Barking and Dagenham Council.

Remarks on Tony Blair's foreign policy[edit]

On 17 November 2006 it was reported in the Islington Tribune that she described the Iraq war as a "big mistake in foreign affairs". The newspaper, whose content was reported on BBC News, claimed that Hodge had doubts about Blair's "moral imperialism" and had doubted Blair's attitude to foreign affairs since 1998.[27]

Housing policy[edit]

In an article for The Observer on 20 May 2007[28] Hodge argued that established families should take priority in the allocation of social housing over new economic migrants. These comments were condemned by the Refugee Council and other bodies working in this field.[29]

Richmond and Bushy Parks controversy[edit]

In January 2010, Margaret Hodge announced that Royal Parks, which manages Richmond Park and Bushy Park in the Borough of Richmond on Thames, would be allowed to charge drivers £2 per visit. This announcement caused mass protests across the borough and was deplored by local politicians such as Vince Cable, Zac Goldsmith and Baroness Kramer.[30][31]

Alternative medicine[edit]

Hodge is a supporter of homoeopathy, having signed an early day motion in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service.[32]

Gordon Brown's government[edit]

On 27 June 2007, Hodge was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.[33] As Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, she criticised Britain's foremost classical music festival, the Proms, for not being sufficiently inclusive, instead praising television shows such as Coronation Street.[34]

Following the Cabinet reshuffle of 3 October 2008, it was announced that Hodge was "temporarily leaving Government on compassionate grounds of family illness and will return to Government in the spring".[35] While she was caring for her terminally ill husband, Sir Henry, she was replaced as Minister of State by Barbara Follett. On 22 September 2009, Hodge was reappointed Minister of State, as Minister for Culture and Tourism.[36][37]

Public Accounts Committee[edit]

Lady Hodge's role as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has not been without controversy. Under her leadership, the committee has questioned witnesses vigorously, and has insisted on holding civil servants to account.[38]

There have been concerns raised by some in the national Press over the fact that as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Hodge is leading an investigation into the controversial tax arrangements of a number of US companies operating in the UK when her own family company "pays just 0.01pc tax on £2.1bn of business generated in the UK", according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.[39] However, the same newspaper subsequently apologised to her, stating that "there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy in Ms Hodge criticising other companies for tax avoidance and [we] apologise to her for any contrary impression".[40] In a May 2013 interview with Sky News Hodge stated that her family company paid 'every penny' of the tax it owed although later she admitted that she did not know how much tax it actually paid.[41] She has also been accused of lacking understanding of how the taxation system operates, both the existing statute and the process involved for amending it.[42] Hodge was criticised for demanding HMRC launch an "absolutely thorough investigation to make sure that UK taxpayers receive the maximum to which they are entitled" when the Vodafone sale of Verizon Wireless was announced in September 2013.[43][44] This was despite the fact that no UK companies were involved in the transaction, and even if there had been then no UK corporation tax would have been payable due to the 'substantial shareholdings exemption'. This was a deliberately designed exemption that Hodge herself voted in favour of in the Finance Act 2002, introduced by the Labour government of the time.[45]

Stemcor, Hodge's family company, was founded by her father Hans Oppenheimer more than 60 years ago. Analysing Stemcor’s latest accounts in the same way as the PAC has approached other multinational companies shows that the business expected to pay UK corporation tax of just £157,000 on revenues in the UK of more than £2.1bn in 2011. The UK tax payable on the group's global profits of £65m was only £743k, reduced further by £586k in respect of tax that had been overprovided in prior years. The company explained that the low effective rate of UK tax was because they incurred a loss in the UK in 2011 due to difficult trading conditions.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Margaret Eve Hodge: Biography, Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sarah Hall (21 November 2003). "The Guardian profile: Margaret Hodge". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Rachel Cooke "Margaret Hodge: 'I don't want scalps, I want to get at the truth'", The Observer, 21 July 2013
  4. ^ " news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Hans Alfred Oppenheimer". Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  6. ^ "About Us". Stemcor. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "Griffin vs Hodge: the Battle for Barking" The Guardian, 13 March 2010
  8. ^ . London  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  9. ^ Lee Elliot Major "Lifelong learner", The Guardian, 19 June 2001
  10. ^ "Hodge, Rt Hon. Margaret (Eve)". Who's Who. Oxford, England: A&C Black. November 2011. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Timeline: Margaret Hodge row". London: The Guardian. 19 November 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Harris, Paul; Bright, Martin (6 July 2003). "The whistleblower's story". The Observer (London). Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Eileen Fairweather "Jimmy Savile sex abuse: 'Islington is still covering up'", Sunday Telegraph, 6 April 2014
  15. ^ a b "Hodge apologises to abuse victim". BBC News. 14 November 2003. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Privy Council appointments, Prime Minister's Office, 22 June 2003
  17. ^ "Nanny State knows best, Hodges says"
  18. ^ "Justice fathers 'handcuffed MP'". BBC News. 24 September 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "Activist 'arrests' British cabinet minister". CBC news. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "Handcuff protesters cleared – News". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  21. ^ Get a job at Tesco, 6,000 Rover workers are told Times Online, 17 June 2005
  22. ^ "Minister says BNP tempting voters". BBC News. 16 April 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  23. ^ "BNP doubles number of councillors". BBC News. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  24. ^ Will Woodward, Hugh Muir and Steven Morris (5 May 2006). "BNP rears its head as Labour loses heartland seats". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "MP 'should go' over BNP comments". BBC News. 24 May 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Walker, Peter (15 November 2009). "BNP leader Nick Griffin to take on Margaret Hodge in Barking". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2009. 
  27. ^ "Minister 'attacks Iraq mistake'". BBC News. 17 November 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  28. ^ Margaret Hodge "A message to my fellow immigrants" The Observer, 20 May 2007; Retrieved on 20 May 2007
  29. ^ Press Association "Call for migrant housing rethink", The Guardian; Retrieved on 20 May 2007
  30. ^ Helen Clarke (1 February 2010). "Hundreds turn out to oppose park charges". Hounslow Chronicle. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  31. ^ "Police close Pembroke Lodge car park as Richmond Park rally draws huge crowd". Richmond and Twickenham Times. 30 January 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  32. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion No. 342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". 
  33. ^ "List of Her Majesty's Government". Prime Minister's Office. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  34. ^ "Proms not inclusive, says Hodge". BBC News. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  35. ^ Ministerial appointments and full list of Government, Prime Minister's Office, 6 October 2008
  36. ^ Ministerial appointments, Prime Minister's Office, 22 September 2009
  37. ^ Our ministers Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Retrieved 22 September 2009
  38. ^
  39. ^ Helia Ebrahimi and Harry Wilson "Margaret Hodge's family company pays just 0.01pc tax on £2.1bn of business generated in the UK", Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2012
  40. ^ "Margaret Hodge MP - apology", Telegraph website, 12 December 2012
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Vodafone shouldn't be pilloried for not paying tax on its mega-deal". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2 September 2013. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ Barking MP defends family firm’s tax bill on day she grills companies Barking and Dagenham Post, 13 November 2012

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jo Richardson
Member of Parliament for Barking
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Boateng
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Department for Education and Employment (Minister for Disabled People)
Succeeded by
Maria Eagle
Preceded by
Office Created
Minister for Children
Succeeded by
Maria Eagle
Preceded by
Jane Kennedy
Minister for Work
Succeeded by
Jim Murphy
Preceded by
David Lammy
Minister for Culture and Tourism
Succeeded by
Barbara Follett
Preceded by
Barbara Follett
Minister for Culture and Tourism
Succeeded by
Ed Vaizey
Preceded by
Edward Leigh
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Succeeded by