|First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means|
16 October 2013
|Preceded by||Nigel Evans|
|Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland|
19 May 2005 – 7 December 2005
|Preceded by||James Gray|
|Succeeded by||David Mundell|
|Shadow Minister for Women and Equality|
15 March 2004 – 7 December 2005
|Preceded by||Caroline Spelman|
|Succeeded by||Theresa May|
|Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest
1 May 1997
|Preceded by||Steven Norris|
1 February 1958 |
|Spouse(s)||Alan Laing (Divorced 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.
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. She was the first female President of the Edinburgh University Students' Association. She worked as a solicitor in Edinburgh and the City of London.
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.
Past and present positions
- 1999–2000 Opposition whip
- 2000–2001 Opposition spokesperson, constitutional affairs
- 2001–2003 Spokeswoman for education and skills
- 2003–2004 Opposition spokesman, home, constitutional and legal affairs
- 2005 Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
- 2004 Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
- 2007–2010 Shadow junior justice minister
- 2013–present First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Deputy Speaker)
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.
Laing sponsored the motion for lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16 in 1998, 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".
Laing however criticised the manner in which the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced, arguing "social change should come about by evolution, not by diktat from the top of government" , and subsequently abstained from voting on it.
Eleanor Laing complained about 38 Degrees for allowing members to send "clone emails". 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
In 2007 Laing voted against MPs' expense claims being made public. 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; nonetheless, she voluntarily repaid £25,000 as a "moral gesture". 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. The Telegraph subsequently published an apology for their reporting of the story.
Laing has one son, born in June 2001. She married Alan Laing in 1983 and the couple divorced in 2002.
- "Deputy Speaker election: Eleanor Laing elected". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- Watt, Nicholas (1 March 2013). "Cameron's 'social change by diktat' hurting Conservatives, Tory warns". Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
- MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing didn't pay capital gains tax on second home, The Telegraph, 30 May 2009
- "MPs who claimed for 'phantom mortages' [sic] should feel full force of the law, says Cameron". London: mailonline. 30 May 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.
- Hamilton, Fiona. The Times (London) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6875270.ece. Missing or empty
- Swaine, Jon (27 October 2009). "MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing reselected". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Eleanor Laing MP official constituency website
- Profile at the Conservative Party
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Becoming Shadow Scottish Secretary in 2005
- Eleanor Laing, BBC News, 10 February 2005[dead link]
- Sticking up for teenage mothers in 2004
- Abhorred at discrimination by academic fees between Scottish and English university students in 2000
- Discussing gender gap pay inequality in 2006 on The Westminster Hour
- Discussing Conservative conference in 2004 on Woman's Hour
- Discussing women in Westminister in 2007 on Women's Parliamentary Radio
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest
|First Deputy Chair of Ways and Means
|Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
|Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland