|Chair of the Backbench Select Committee|
15 June 2010
|Preceded by||Office Created|
|Member of Parliament
for North East Derbyshire
5 May 2005
|Preceded by||Harry Barnes|
9 April 1967 |
West Berlin, West Germany
|Alma mater||King's College London,
University of Westminster
|Profession||Translator; trade union official|
Natascha Engel (born 9 April 1967) is a German-British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for North East Derbyshire since 2005. She has extensive involvement in the trade union movement and is the current Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. For her work in Parliament she was awarded Parliamentarian of the Year in 2013 by the Political Studies Association.
Personal life and education
Natascha Engel was born in Berlin, Germany to a German father and an English mother. She was educated at Kent College in Canterbury, and at The King's School, Canterbury. She later trained as a linguist in German and Portuguese at King's College London and at the University of Westminster where she obtained a Master's degree in Technical and Specialised Translation. In addition to her political career, Engel has done postgraduate work in translation: she speaks English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
While living in Madrid, Spain, Engel worked as a volunteer for two years in the local office of Amnesty International while earning a living as a teacher of English. After returning to Britain to work as a Teletext subtitler, Engel joined the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU). She was among the first join the Organising Academy of the Trade Union Congress, serving with the Graphical, Paper and Media Union; she worked on political fund ballots in persuading trade union members to retain their financial backing for the Labour Party.
Engel joined the Labour Party staff as a Trade Union Liaison Officer organising marginal seats campaigning at the 2001 general election. She later became policy co-ordinator for the Trade Union Liaison Office, before leaving to work as programme director of the Smith Institute. Her work there included researching on skills and the needs of working women. In October 2002 through the Smith Institute she co-authored the book Age of Regions: Meeting the Productivity Challenge.
She was an assistant to John Healey in February 2003, and the two have co-written a pamphlet, published by the TUC, and an article, published by the New Statesman, arguing that unions should offer learning opportunities in order to recruit more members.
Following the decision to stand down of sitting MP Harry Barnes, she was selected as the Labour candidate for North East Derbyshire at the 2005 general election, "easily" overcoming local candidates though she denied this was due to her connections with Gordon Brown. In the election, Engel took the seat with a majority of 10,065. She bought a house at Barrow Hill in her constituency in July 2006.
In the May 2010 elections, the swing to the Conservative party in her constituency was 8.6% compared to an East Midland average of 6.7%
When the MP participation in Select Committees was formalised in the new Parliament, Engel was appointed to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. She made her maiden speech on 20 October 2005, the last of the incoming Labour MPs to do so. In the speech Engel concentrated on constituency affairs, supporting devolution of power and resources to local communities and highlighting examples in Staveley and Grassmoor which are both within her constituency. She defined socialism as "the simple idea that if someone helps their neighbour, their neighbour will help them".
In 2006, Engel's name was included on a list of up and coming MPs compiled on behalf of News Corporation. The MPs, 15 from each of the Conservative and Labour parties were to be invited to "Rising Star" dinners and asked to comment on Sky's broadcasting policy. Engel became Secretary of the All-Party Media Literacy Group in 2006. She backed Peter Hain for the Labour Party deputy leadership in the 2007 election, and served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Hain from July 2007 until Hain resigned from the Government in January 2008. Engel left the Work and Pensions Committee in November 2007. She performed the same role for Liam Byrne from October 2008, transferring to work for John Denham from January 2009. Engel was appointed to the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons when it was set up in July 2009.
She did not agree with the committee's report, which contained proposals for the creation of a committee to schedule backbench business, the establishment of a committee to set the Commons' agenda and the election of select committee chairs by secret ballot. She felt those three changes would transfer power 'from one elite—in this case, the Executive—and handing it to another—a group of senior Back Benchers'. She also said they would be 'a step in the wrong direction' because they were small changes that would risk standing in the way of more sweeping reforms as MPs would essentially be telling themselves and the public 'we've done [reform], we will move on'. Engel drafted a minority report that proposed restarting the committee's work after the 2010 election, when it would have more time to investigate and deliberate.
On 15 June 2010, the House of Commons voted to create a Backbench Business Committee, and one week later, Engel defeated Sir Alan Haselhurst 202 to 173 in a secret ballot of MPs to become its first chair. On 6 July 2011 she was named "Backbencher of the Year" for her work with the committee. Interviewed in the April 2012 edition of Total Politics, Engel expressed surprise at her status in being pictured alongside that of the Coalition leaders and the Speaker in an exhibition on democracy.
Her role is to allocate roughly one day per week parliamentary debating time between competing backbenchers by a process described by Quentin Letts as akin to Dragons' Den. Engel has expressed pride in the committee which is "a powerful check on the executive". Debates are allowed on any topic and unless they are against party policy, the whips don't interfere. The most contentious debate was the EU referendum debate held on 24 October 2011. She is producing an ‘end-of-term’ report on the performance of the committee and recommendations for improvement—a review is required as part of recommendations of the Wright Committee. Engel was re-elected, unopposed, to the chair of the committee May 2012. 
Middle East and Defence
In February 2007 Engel introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill which proposed to require doctors to supply free condoms at their surgeries, noting that the Bill had the support of the Family Planning Association, Terrence Higgins Trust, Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Royal College of Nursing. She took a period of maternity leave from December 2007. Engel was one of the fifteen MPs to formally nominate John Bercow as the new Speaker of the House of Commons in the election in June 2009. She became chair of the All Party Insolvency Group in 2009.
Engel collaborated on a chapter in the Institute for Public Policy Research book Politics for a New Generation in 2007 which was titled "Moving on up: Progression in the Labour Market". In October 2008 Engel called for Labour MPs to be given a free vote on the issue of banning smacking of children, complaining that she was put in an "impossible position of choosing between party loyalty and a reform that we believe in passionately".
Engel represents the Labour Party on the Board of Trustees of the UK Youth Parliament and has worked to encourage young people to participate in democracy. With her local council she set up a 'Question Time' event for local pupils to question a panel including then-cabinet member Geoff Hoon and the leader of the council. In December 2007 she was a sponsor of a Private member's bill introduced by Julie Morgan which would have reduced the voting age to 16. Engel became chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Youth Affairs in 2008. In a Fabian Society survey of some Labour MPs in Autumn 2007, her suggestion for the Labour manifesto for the next general election was that sex and relationship education should be compulsory in all schools and taught by a professional.
At the ePolitix Charity Champion awards in November 2007, Engel was named "Children and Youth Champion" for her work. At the 2007-08 annual general meeting of the British Youth Council, she was chosen as an Honorary President of the council.
In May 2009, during the expenses scandal the Derby Telegraph contacted all the MPs in Derbyshire and Engel responded by providing the paper with all her claim forms. The paper subsequently invited other MPs to do the same but only Judy Mallaber accepted. The Sunday Telegraph, published ten days later, showed that after her election in 2005 Engel claimed £158.45 incidental expenses for "political history" items some of which she told the paper she would repay. Also in 2005 she advised the Fees office of above limits second home claims, paying the excess though £1,666 worth of kitchen goods were paid in full. She admitted that with hindsight she would not have claimed for some kitchen items which were "the letter... not the spirit, of the law." However, she cited costs of setting up a second home and a constituency office, and said she'd paid out the money and hadn’t acted corruptly, so she wouldn't be repaying it.
Following the publication Engel set up meetings to answer questions though these were not well attended.
The Sunday Telegraph's claim that Engel came low on the list of 'value for money' MPs was itself criticised by The Guardian for failing to mention that Engel had two periods of maternity leave whilst Engel herself wrote an article linking the expenses and hours of Parliament to the difficulties of raising a young family. "The expenses debate... has forced MPs to talk to the people they represent... Only when people realise that we split our time between constituency and Westminster can they begin to understand why we even have a second-home allowance."
The Legg Report showed that 343 MPs had been asked to repay money, including several from Derbyshire. Engel repaid £1,934 of which she said £1,339 was a mortgage claim the Fees office paid twice which she repaid immediately whilst £595 was a refund of a house rental deposit.
- "Director presents Awards at PSA Ceremony". University of Edinburgh Academy of Government. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Natascha Engel, Ed Balls, John Healey MP, Alan Johnson MP, Rt. Hon. Nick Raynsford MP, Richard Samuda, Tom Riordan, Nigel Costley, Samantha Gemmell and Dr Peter White, "Age of Regions: Meeting the UK Productivity Challenge", Smith Institute, 2002. ISBN 1-902488-50-4
- John Healey and Natascha Engel, "Learning to organise", TUC, 2003. ISBN 1-85006-659-0
- John Healey and Natascha Engel, "Everybody out . . . for training!", New Statesman, 10 March 2003, supplement p. xiv–xv.
- Francis Elliott, "Blair allies lose ground to the Brown babes", The Independent on Sunday, 8 February 2004, p4
- "The UK General Election 2010 in depth p19". Electoral Reform Society. May 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2012.
- Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 437, cols. 1012-1013
- Paul Murphy, "How Murdoch plans to win friends and influence people", Media Guardian, 2 February 2006
- Media Literacy Group, Ofcom.
- "Peter Hain's backers", Guardian Unlimited, Thursday, 17 May 2007.
- "House of Commons Order of Business" Thursday, 8 November 2007
- "Reform of the House of Commons Committee". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (2010-02-22). "House of Commons Debates 22 February 2010 v 506 c 71". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- Formal Minutes. 12 November 2009. Committee on Reform of the House.
- "Election for Chair of Backbench Business Committee—Result" (PDF). House of Commons.
- "Natascha Engel Recognized As "Backbencher Of The Year"". The Chesterfield Post (The Chesterfield Post). 7 July 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
- Amber Elliott (27 March 2012). "Engel: ‘The last two years have been hell on earth’". Total Politics. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- "EU referendum: Rebels lose vote in Commons". BBC news. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- "Natascha Engel Elected Chair of the Backbench Business Committee". House of Commons. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
- "Natascha Engel:Labour MP for North East Derbyshire". TheyWorkForYou.com. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- Hansard, 6 February 2007, vol 456 cols 711-3.
- Jennifer Ivers, "MP Natascha looks to the future", Derbyshire Times, 25 October 2007
- "Speaker nominees", John Bercow official website.
- "Insolvency Group". Beatmydebt.com. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- Natascha Engel, Sonia Sodha, Mike Johnson, "Moving on up: Progression in the Labour Market" (pp 191–214) in Nick Pearce, Julia Margo (eds.), "Politics for a New Generation: The Progressive Moment, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, ISBN 0-230-52493-1.
- Emily Garnham, "Backbenchers Push For Outright Smacking Ban, Daily Express, 8 October 2008.
- "Solar Pyramid". Edmi.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- What is 'Question Time'? North-East Derbyshire District Council
- Voting Age (Reduction) Hansard, 5 December 2007 : Column 855
- Register of All-Party Groups
- Youth Affairs Group, British Youth Council.
- "Dear Ed: Manifesto suggestions", Fabian Review, Autumn 2007.
- Charity award winners announced, 28 November 2007.
- Derbyshire Times, 13 December 2007
- BYC Honorary President.
- "This has damaged the integrity of Parliament". thisisderbyshire.co.uk. 20 May 2009.
- Jennifer Ivers (21 May 2009). "MP Natascha goes public with expense claims". Derbyshire Times.
- Patrick Sawer (31 May 2009). "Natascha Engel claimed for DVDs of own speech in Parliament". Sunday Telegraph.
- Rosa Prince (21 May 2009). "Judge me now, Natascha Engel tells her constituents". Daily Telegraph.
- "I've not made a profit out of taxpayers: MP". Lancashire Evening Post. 17 June 2009.
- Madeleine Bunting (5 June 2009). "When women can't win". The Guardian.
- Natascha Engel (29 May 2009). "It's no fun being an MP and a mother". The Independent.
- "Review of past ACA payments" (PDF). House of Commons Members Estimate Committee. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "MPs told they should repay thousands in expenses row". Derby Telegraph. 14 October 2009.
- Official website
- Profile (Parliament of the United Kingdom)
- BBC Politics
- Constituency Report 2008 (pdf)
- Guardian Unlimited Politics - Ask Aristotle
- journalisted (Automated listing of Engel's journal articles)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire