Caroline Nokes

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Caroline Nokes
Picture of Caroline Nokes MP 2013-08-08 19-46.jpg
Chair of the Advisory Committee on Works of Art
In office
8 July 2015 – 17 July 2016
Preceded by Frank Doran
Member of Parliament
for Romsey and Southampton North
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by Sandra Gidley
Majority 17,712 (36.60%)
Personal details
Born Caroline Fiona Ellen Perry
(1972-06-26) 26 June 1972 (age 44)[1]
Lyndhurst, Hampshire, England[2]
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Children 1 daughter
Alma mater University of Sussex

Caroline Fiona Ellen Nokes[3] (née Perry[4]; born 26 June 1972) is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. She is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Romsey and Southampton North in Hampshire, and from 2014-2015 was Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions.[5] In July 2016 Nokes was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the DWP

Early life[edit]

Caroline Nokes is the daughter of Roy Perry, former Conservative MEP for the Wight and Hampshire South constituency.[4]

Nokes was born in Lyndhurst Hospital, but raised in West Wellow, the Hampshire village in which she still lives, and represents in Parliament. She was educated at The Romsey School, La Sagesse Convent in Romsey and then Peter Symonds' College, Winchester, going on to read politics at the University of Sussex from 1991 to 1994.[6]

Early career[edit]

After graduating, Nokes became a policy adviser for her father, a Member of the European Parliament.[4] Prior to her election, she was Chief Executive of the National Pony Society, an animal welfare charity promoting and supporting the traditional native breeds of ponies through education, training and competition.

Nokes was a member of Test Valley Borough Council from 1999 until 2010, when she was elected as a Councillor for the Romsey Extra Ward, serving as the Leisure Portfolio Holder. She stood down as a Councillor when she was elected to Parliament in May 2010.[7]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Nokes was the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the Southampton Itchen constituency in the 2001 general election; and Romsey constituency in the 2005 general election.[8] She was elected MP for the new seat of Romsey and Southampton North having defeated the former Liberal Democrat MP for the Romsey seat, Sandra Gidley, by 4,165 votes in the 2010 election.[9][10] Nokes made her maiden speech on 17 June 2010 on the subject of a High Skilled Economy.[11]

In June 2014, Nokes was independently and secretly assessed as coming first out of the UK's 650 MPs in responding to constituents, with Nokes’ response rate at 100 per cent. The data was analysed by Think-Tank My Society, who commented Nokes was the most "responsive MP" in Parliament.[12] based on over 58,000 responses to 96,000 messages sent to MPs.[13]

In July 2014, Nokes was given a Government role as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, as an aide to the Minister with responsibility for disabled people [5]

Nokes is a member of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme,[14] has spoken in 37 separate debates in the twelve months to March 2013, and has an above average voting record.[15] Nokes lists her particular interests as international development, sport, the equine industry, the environment, energy, animal welfare, family law, local government and planning.[16] She has recently spoken in debates on planning policy, reforming the Child Support Agency, Family Based Agreements,[17] Adoption,[18] and the closure of the Ford plant in her constituency.[19] She has also introduced legislation on Dangerous Dogs, and in January 2011, the Consumer Protection Bill.[20] With her professional background in equine welfare, Nokes is an expert on equine issues.

Parliamentary Select Committees, and All Party Groups[edit]

Nokes is a member of two Parliamentary Select Committees, the Environmental Audit Select Committee,[21] and the Education Select Committee.[22] Nokes is a member of a Parliamentary group for equine welfare,[23] the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children,[24] is Vice Chairman of All Party Parliamentary 'Save the Pub' Group [25] and a member of the Parliamentary Beer Group.[26] In October 2012 Nokes became an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image,[27] which campaigns to raise awareness of body image, eating disorders, nutrition and health issues within the advertising industry, the health and fitness sector, media, youth organisations and Government.[28]

Parliamentary Bill Committees[edit]

Nokes sat on the Scrap Metal Dealers Bill Committee,[29] and was a member of the Justice and Security Bill Committee.[30] She also sat on the Children and Families Bill Committee[31][32] which scrutinises a bill designed to improve legislation affecting fostered and adopted children, children in care, children with Special Educational Needs, and the family justice system.[33] Nokes was also a member of the Deregulation Bill Committee [34] and the Modern Slavery Bill Committee,[35] a subject she had previously expressed a constituency interest in[36] and questioned Government on.[37]

Equatorial Guinea[edit]

In August 2011, Nokes joined a Parliamentary delegation to Equatorial Guinea, an African country criticised for its human rights record. The decision to visit the country was criticised by the Labour MP Paul Flynn.[38] Others commended the delegation for its bravery in going, and for publishing a balanced report which was critical of the regime.[39] Nokes said her decision to go was because Amnesty International were no longer active in the country, and information about Equatorial Guinea was possibly outdated.[38] The delegation had Foreign Office support, and was asked to assess if historic reports of the country were still valid. The delegation met with the country's Prime Minister, whom the delegation challenged about the country's human rights record. Nokes went on to call for the country's President to instigate proper democracy and permit press freedom.[38][39]


EU Referendum[edit]

Nokes was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum.[40]

Religious Issues[edit]

Nokes was reported to be one of the parliamentary candidates who signed a pledge to "respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience".[41] She has also stated she was 'broadly supportive' of same-sex marriage providing religious organisations are not forced to act against their theology.[42] In February 2013, she cited her support for stable and secure relationships, both gay and straight, but also referenced her previous pledge to Christians, and voted against The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Second Reading, saying she was 'not convinced the safeguards sought by the Church of England have been guaranteed'.[43]

Planning Policy[edit]

Nokes was a member of the Southern Area Planning Committee on Test Valley Borough Council for ten years[44] and was a critic of a number of developments in the Test Valley area, in particular where plans to develop were not subject to a proper environmental survey.[45] Nokes is a regular speaker on planning issues, advocate for greater planning controls to protect green field spaces, and to better manage planning in rural areas. Nokes criticised the National Planning Policy Framework, saying "communities need to be treated differently. Good quality affordable housing is of course the key issue, but so is sympathetic development and ensuring the rural economy can grow through planning regulations which do not disadvantage rural business".[44] She criticised the Government for "not delivering localism"[46] and said the most important aspect of planning "is the voice of the local resident".[47]

Body Image & Eating Disorder Awareness[edit]

Nokes is the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, which exists to "monitor on an ongoing basis the causes of body image anxiety. To explore what steps can be taken to promote body confidence, working with advertisers, the media, fashion industry and youth organisations".[48] Nokes also campaigns on the related issues of eating disorders, working closely with charities, researchers, clinicians and others to raise awareness of the dangers posed by eating disorders.[49]

Parliamentary Expenses[edit]

In her first year in Parliament Nokes claimed £87,000 less than her predecessor.[50][51] In 2011/2012, Nokes claimed £108,000 for staff salaries, office expenses and accommodation, and in 2012/13 claimed under £120,000, compared to her predecessor's highest claim of £187,000. Nokes has consistently been one of the least expensive MPs in Hampshire.[52]

Conflict with Fathers4Justice[edit]

In April 2010, Fathers4Justice members backed Caroline Nokes as her party had supported its campaign for change to family law, promising legislation if they won the 2010 General election.[53] However, at the election, the Conservatives did not win an overall majority, and formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats,[54] based upon a 'Coalition Agreement',[55] which included aspects of the Fathers4Justice agenda. In accordance with the Coalition Agreement, the Government initiated a number of reviews, including the Family Justice Review (The Norgrove Report)[56] and the Co-operative Parenting Consultation.[57] After the consultations, the Government brought forward the Children & Families Bill.[58] Whilst legal experts agreed these proposals were a considerable improvement on the previous situation[59] it did not fully reflect the position of Fathers4Justice, and the group criticised the Coalition. In March 2013 Nokes announced she would sit on the 'Bill Committee' responsible for scrutinising the Bill, Fathers4Justice called upon her to resign and organised a demonstration in Nokes' constituency.[60]

Caroline Nokes stated that Fathers4Justice were encouraging their members to visit Nokes' family home at night, post late-night Tweets saying they were driving around her village 'looking for' her, asking members to send the MP their dirty underwear, demanding to see a Court Order outlining her daughter's living and contact arrangements, and falsely alleged her ex-husband was having difficulty having contact with his daughter. Fathers4Justice denies these allegations[61]

Nokes commented in her local newspaper;

"I have been accused of...being an obstructive mother who denies her ex-husband access to our child. This is a completely baseless fabrication which nevertheless they repeat ad nauseam. I have even had to involve the police over concerns for my daughter's safety. If F4J really want to deliver for their members, bullying, vandalising portraits of HM the Queen and harassing my constituents will not deliver it. They should have engaged with the legislative process when they were asked, and are now in danger of losing what little credibility they have left as a campaign group. The only people betrayed are F4J members who have been let down by the O'Connors."[60]

Following a barrage of abusive tweets directed at Nokes, Twitter shut down the accounts of Fathers4Justice and Matt O'Conner, which F4J referred to as "political censorship"[62] The local media reported the group had been engaged in a 'witch hunt' against Ms. Nokes, who pointed out she had "....repeatedly offered to help Fathers 4 Justice with the tabling of amendments for the Children and Families Bill, but none were forthcoming, just comments, which Twitter agreed constituted abuse and harassment. I am aware other political parties and individuals have also complained to Twitter and indeed to the police." She also stated "I remain committed to improvements to the family justice system, which the Children and Families Bill goes some way towards delivering, and it is a pity F4J chose not to engage constructively with the deliberations of the Bill Committee.".[63][64]

In February 2014, Nokes criticised a Lords' amendment to the Children & Families Bill which she said 'watered down' the commitment to shared parenting,[65] and spoke against the amendment in the House of Commons, arguing strongly in favour of shared parenting, saying shared parenting arrangements were in the best interests of children.[66][67]

In October 2014, The Independent reported allegations the group may have put a tracking device on Nokes' car, and a security consultant claimed he had been approached by Nadine O'Connor about placing the MP under surveillance.[62] Police were said to regard the group as a "fixated threat" which led to security enhancements at Nokes' home. When Mrs O'Connor confronted the Hampshire Police & Crime Commissioner making allegations about Nokes, the Commissioner stated O'Connor had "made things up".[62] A person claiming to be a supporter of the group later sent Nokes a Facebook message which stated the wish that Nokes be "violently raped", and stated "there are a lot of people who wish you serious harm, torture and death. Watch your back".[68]

Another national newspaper later published an article in which Nokes said the harassment was causing her to consider leaving Parliament on a weekly basis due to the impact it was having on her and her daughter. In return, the O'Connors claimed Nokes was waging a campaign of harassment against them, and took her and a friend whom they also claimed was harassing them to court to seek an injunction.[69] However, at court the judge refused to grant the injunction because of "a total absence of evidence", with the judge criticising the O'Connors for seeking to prejudice the court by making "generalised assertions" and concluding "there's no sufficient evidence before me to support a finding that there's even an arguable case for a claim for harassment." The O'Connors were ordered to pay costs.[70]

Personal life[edit]

Nokes is divorced, and lives with her daughter.[71]


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External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sandra Gidley
Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North