Frank Field (British politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Right Honourable
Frank Field
Field in 2017
Chairman of the Work and Pensions
Select Committee
Assumed office
18 June 2015
Preceded by Dame Anne Begg
Minister for Welfare Reform
In office
2 May 1997 – 28 July 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Peter Lilley
Succeeded by John Denham
Member of Parliament
for Birkenhead
Assumed office
3 May 1979
Preceded by Edmund Dell
Majority 25,514 (58.4%)
Personal details
Born (1942-07-16) 16 July 1942 (age 76)
Edmonton, Middlesex, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Other political
Conservative (before 1964)
Alma mater University of Hull
Occupation Politician

Frank Ernest Field, DL (born 16 July 1942) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead since 1979. From 1997 to 1998, he served as the Minister of Welfare Reform; he left the Government following differences with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Field went on to become one of the Labour government's most vocal critics from within the party on the backbenches.

In June 2015 Field was elected Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, and following the 2017 general election, he was re-elected unopposed.[1]

Early life[edit]

Field was born in London, the second of three sons. His father was a labourer in Morgan Crucible's factory in Battersea and his mother was a teaching assistant. His parents were Tories "who believed in character and pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps".[2]

Field was educated at St Clement Danes School which was then located in Hammersmith, before studying economics at the University of Hull. In his youth, he was a member of the Conservative Party but left because of his opposition to South Africa's apartheid system.[3] In 1964, he became a further education teacher in Southwark and Hammersmith.

Field served as a Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow from 1964 to 1968. He was a Director of the Child Poverty Action Group 1969–79, and of the Low Pay Unit (a body that campaigned to ensure wages councils protected the rights of workers in certain industries) during 1974–80.[4]

Political career[edit]

Field unsuccessfully contested the constituency of South Buckinghamshire at the 1966 general election, where he was defeated by the sitting Conservative MP Ronald Bell. He was selected to contest the safe Labour seat of Birkenhead at the 1979 general election on the retirement of the sitting MP Edmund Dell. Field held the seat with a majority of 5,909 and has remained the constituency's MP since then.

In Parliament, Field was made a member of the Opposition frontbench by the then Labour leader Michael Foot as a spokesman on education in 1980, but was dropped a year later. Following the appointment of Neil Kinnock as the Labour leader in 1983, Field was appointed as a spokesman on health and social security for a year. He was appointed the chairman of the social services select committee in 1987, becoming the chairman of the new social security select committee in 1990, a position he held until the 1997 election.

Two nights before the Conservative Party leadership election in November 1990, he visited then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street. He advised her that her time as Prime Minister was drawing to a close and that she should back John Major to take over the role. His reason for doing so was that he felt that her Conservative colleagues would not tell her straight that she could not win a leadership contest. Following this meeting, he was smuggled out of Downing Street's back door. Two days later Margaret Thatcher supported John Major for the post, and Major went on to become Prime Minister.[5]

Minister for Welfare Reform[edit]

Following the 1997 election, with Labour now in power, Field joined the government led by Tony Blair as its Minister for Welfare Reform, working in the Department of Social Security.

Field believed in mutual organisations such as friendly societies; he thought the state should only play a small role in the provision of welfare; and he disliked means-testing and non-contributory entitlement to benefits. There were clashes with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the Secretary of State for Social Security, Harriet Harman: Brown was in favour of means-testing and non-contributory entitlement to working-age benefits — the opposite of Field's approach.

Blair has said that Field's task as a minister had been to "think the unthinkable". Much later, in his autobiography, Blair said about Field that: "the problem was not so much that his thoughts were unthinkable as unfathomable".[6] Others claim that at that point in time Blair preferred short-term ideas to anything more substantial,[3] and it was another decade before the inception of Blair's major reform to welfare — the replacement of Incapacity Benefit by Employment and Support Allowance.

Field resigned his ministerial position in 1998 rather than accept a move away from the Department of Social Security offered by Blair in a reshuffle.[7]

Return to the backbenches[edit]

After holding ministerial office, he became a member of the ecclesiastical and the public accounts parliamentary select committees.

From the backbenches, he was a vocal critic of the government, voting against Foundation Hospitals in November 2003. In May 2008, he was a significant critic of the abolition of the 10p tax rate[8] and this led to Field describing Prime Minister Gordon Brown as "unhappy inside his own body".[9] He later apologised in parliament for the personal attack.[10] In June 2008, Field joined calls for the establishment of a devolved parliament for England.[11]

On 8 June 2009, Field wrote on his internet blog that he believed that the Labour Party would not win the next election with Gordon Brown as leader. On 6 January 2010, Field was one of the few Labour MPs to back Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt's calls for a secret ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party with regard to the leadership of Gordon Brown. The ballot could have led to a leadership contest.[12]

In May 2009 Field announced his candidacy for the Speaker of the House of Commons but later withdrew his candidacy citing lack of support from within his own party.[13] John Bercow was eventually elected as the new speaker.

In the 2010 general election Field retained his Birkenhead seat with an increased majority. In June 2010 he was appointed by David Cameron's coalition government to head an independent review into poverty,[14] which proposed adopting a new measure centred around life-chance indicators and increasing funding for early years education.[15][16][17] In an interview in September 2012, Field considered the government to have ignored his report, saying "nothing had been done about it" and that it was "very disappointing".[18]

In October 2013, along with Laura Sandys, Field established the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger and Food Poverty, which he went on to chair. He also chaired a parliamentary inquiry into hunger commissioned by the APPG which reported in December 2014.[19][20] Field became the chair of trustees of Feeding Britain, a charitable organisation set up in October 2015 to implement the recommendations made by the APPG.[21]

Following the 2015 general election, it was announced in June 2015 that he had been elected to the chairmanship of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.[22] He was re-elected unopposed to the role following the 2017 general election.[1]

Field nominated Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015,[23] stating that while he did not think Corbyn could win a general election, he hoped his candidacy would force the party to confront its 'deficit denial'.[24][25]

In December 2017, during a debate on Universal Credit, Field described the impact that Universal Credit changes had had on his constituents. His observations moved Work and Pensions Select Committee member Heidi Allen to tears. Field spoke of how he had talked a man out of suicide and how one claimant felt “lucky” his family was invited to eat food leftover from a funeral.[26]

On 17 July 2018, a vote was held on whether the UK should remain in the customs union in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer were the only Labour MPs to oppose the amendment, which was voted down by 307 votes to 301.[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

In March 2015, Field was awarded the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Honouree for the co-founding of environmental organisation Cool Earth, a charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction as a bottom-up solution to an ageing problem.[28]

In October 2011 he was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside.[29]

In 2017, he was awarded the Langton Award for Community Service by the Archbishop of Canterbury "for sustained and outstanding commitment to social welfare".[30]

Personal beliefs[edit]

Field's political stance has been somewhat at odds with the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party in recent years, and he has embraced more social conservative ideas.[citation needed] He is a member of the advisory board of the free-market think tank Reform, and of the generally conservative but also "broad church" magazine Standpoint. In May 2008, he said that Margaret Thatcher "is certainly a hero" and that "I still see Mrs T from time to time – I always call her 'Mrs T', when I talk to her."[8]

Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success.[31] In 2008, Frank Field was named as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by the Daily Telegraph.[31] Field supports the return of national service to tackle growing unemployment and instil "a sense of order and patriotism" in Britain's young men and women.[32] However, in May 2010, Field endorsed Ed Miliband to become leader of the Labour Party to replace Gordon Brown.

Field believes strongly in fighting climate change.[33] He co-founded the charity Cool Earth with Johan Eliasch. Cool Earth protects endangered rainforest and works with the local communities to combat climate change.[34] Field was the instigator of the idea of a global Commonwealth network of protected forests, though he failed to raise political interest for a number of years; when HM The Queen came to hear of the idea she supported it enthusiastically, and the initiative was launched as the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy in 2015.[35]

Field is a practising Anglican, a former chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and a member of the Church of England General Synod.[36] Field's political and religious views are most clearly expressed in his book Neighbours From Hell (see publications list). Here he calls for a modern replacement for evangelical Christianity. He believes that respect for people in authority is no longer ceded just because of a person's position. However he feels that celebrities, such as Princess Diana, do get respect inappropriately.

Field believes in reducing the time-limit within which women can have an abortion,[37] and in stripping abortion providers such as Marie Stopes of their counselling role and handing it to organisations not linked to abortion clinics.[38][39] With the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, he has been vocal in two defeated attempts to legislate for such a reform in Parliament.[40] He is a prominent Eurosceptic within the Labour Party and declared on 20 February 2016 that he would campaign to leave the EU.[41]

Field was hospitalised after collapsing during a meeting in March 2015.[42][43]

Field has never married and has described himself, because of that, as 'incomplete'. He is said by friends, however, to have "a full life outside politics."[44]


  • Twentieth Century State Education: Readings for General Studies by Frank Field and Patricia Haikin, 1971, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-913006-X
  • Black Britons: Readings for General Studies by Frank Field and Patricia Haikin, 1971, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-913007-8
  • One Nation: The Conservatives Record since 1970 by Frank Field, 1972, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN B0000E9CMI
  • Abuse and the Abused by Frank Field, 1972, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-9500051-3-4
  • Low Pay by Frank Field, 1973, Arrow Books, ISBN 0-09-908240-3
  • Incomes Policy for Families by Frank Field, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-07-8
  • Unequal Britain by Frank Field, 1974, Arrow Books, ISBN 0-09-909820-2
  • Housing and Poverty by Frank Field, 1974, Catholic Housing Aid Society, ISBN 0-903113-07-4
  • Poor Families and Inflation by Michael Brown and Frank Field, 1974, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-12-4
  • The Stigma of Free School Meals: Welfare in Action by Frank Field, 1974, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-23-X
  • Low Wages Councils by Frank Field and Steve Winyard, 1975, Spokesman Books, ISBN 0-85124-118-2
  • Social Contract for Families: Memorandum to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by Frank Field and Peter Townsend, 1975, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-21-3
  • Unemployment: The Facts by Frank Field, 1975, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-22-1
  • Poverty: The Facts by Frank Field, 1975, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-24-8
  • Back to the Thirties for the Poor?: A Report on the Living Standards of the Poor in 1975 by Frank Field, 1975, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-27-2
  • Education and the Urban Crisis Edited by Frank Field, 1976, Routlegde, ISBN 0-7100-8536-2
  • To Him who Hath by Frank Field, 1976, Penguin Books Ltd, ISBN 0-14-021976-5
  • The new Corporate Interest by Frank Field, 1976, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-28-0
  • Conscript Army: Study of Britain's Unemployed by Frank Field, 1977, Routlegde, ISBN 0-7100-8779-9
  • Are Low Wages Inevitable? by Frank Field, 1977, Spokesman Books, ISBN 0-85124-165-4
  • Wasted Labour: Call for Action on Unemployment by Frank Field, 1978, Child Poverty Action Group, ISBN 0-903963-58-2
  • Rising Tide of Poverty: A Challenge for Political Parties by Frank Field, 1978, Low Pay Unit, ISBN B0000EDRIP
  • The Wealth Report by Frank Field, 1979, Routledge, ISBN 0-7100-0164-9
  • Fair Shares for Families: Need for a Family Impact Statement by Frank Field, 1980, Study Commission on the Family, ISBN 0-907051-02-2
  • Inequality in Britain: Freedom, Welfare and the State by Frank Field, 1981, Fontana, ISBN 0-00-635759-8
  • Poverty and Politics by Frank Field, 1982, Heinemann Education, ISBN 0-435-82306-X
  • The Wealth Report 2 by Frank Field, 1983, Routledge, ISBN 0-7100-9452-3
  • Policies Against Low Pay by Frank Field, 1984, Policy Studies Institute
  • The Minimum Wage by Frank Field, 1984, Ashgate, ISBN 0-435-83300-6
  • What Price a Child?: A Historical Review of the Relative Costs of Dependants by Frank Field, 1985, Policy Studies Institute, ISBN 0-85374-251-0
  • Freedom and Wealth in a Socialist Future by Frank Field, 1987, Constable, ISBN 0-09-467380-2
  • The Politics of Paradise: A Christian Approach to the Kingdom by Frank Field, 1987, Fount, ISBN 0-00-627114-6
  • Losing Out: Emergence of Britain's Underclass by Frank Field, 1989, Blackwell Publishers, ISBN 0-631-17149-5
  • An Agenda for Britain by Frank Field, 1993, Harper Collins, ISBN 0-00-638226-6
  • Making Sense of Pensions by Matthew Owen and Frank Field, 1993, Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0557-7
  • Private Pensions for All by Frank Field and Matthew Owen, 1993, Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-3016-4
  • Europe Isn't Working by Frank Field, 1994, Institute of Community Studies, ISBN 0-9523355-0-6
  • Beyond Punishment by Frank Field and Matthew Owen, 1994, Institute of Community Studies
  • National Pensions Savings Plan by Frank Field and Matthew Owen, 1994, Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-4018-6
  • Making Welfare Work: Reconstructing Welfare for the Millennium by Frank Field, 1995, Institute of Community Studies, ISBN 0-9523355-2-2
  • The Measurement of Poverty and Low Income at the Millennium by Frank Field, 1995, Manchester Statistical Society, ISBN 0-85336-130-4
  • Who Gets What, How and for How Long? by Frank Field and Paul Gregg, Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-4021-6
  • How to Pay for the Future by Frank Field, 1996
  • The Operation of the Child Support Agency by Frank Field, 1996, The Stationery Office Books, ISBN 0-10-207596-4
  • Reflections of Welfare (Discussion Paper) by Frank Field, 1998, The Social Market Foundation, ISBN 1-874097-32-1
  • Stakeholder Welfare by Frank Field, Alan Deacon, Pete Alcock, David G. Green, Melanie Phillips, 2000, Civitas ISBN 1-903386-93-4
  • The State of Dependency: Welfare Under Labour by Frank Field, 2000, The Social Market Foundation, ISBN 1-874097-52-6
  • Capitalism, Morality and Markets by Brian Griffiths, Robert A Siciro, Norman Berry and Frank Field, 2001, Institute of Economic Affairs ISBN 0-255-36496-2
  • William Temple: A Calling to Prophecy by Stephen Spencer and foreword by Frank Field, 2001, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, ISBN 0-281-05437-1
  • Debating Pensions: Self-Interest, Citizenship and the Common Good by Frank Field and Alan Deacon, 2002, Civitas ISBN 1-903386-24-1
  • Welfare Titans by Frank Field, 2002, Civitas, ISBN 1-903386-20-9
  • Neighbours from Hell: The Politics of Behaviour by Frank Field, 2003, Politico's Publishing, ISBN 1-84275-078-X
  • Working Welfare: Contributory Benefits, the Moral Economy and the New Politics" by Frank Field, 2013, Politeia, ISBN 978-09926340-1-8


  1. ^ a b "Chair nominations for Work and Pensions Committee". 7 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  2. ^ Aida Edemariam (3 July 2010). "Frank Field: 'Labour has always been conservative' | Politics". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Jay Rayner (2 July 2006). "Frank Field: Still thinking the unthinkable". The Observer. London. Retrieved 30 July 2007. 
  4. ^ "About Frank Field MP". Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Ben Wright (10 September 2009). "Thatcher joins Field's 30th bash". BBC News. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  6. ^ Tony Blair: A Journey (2010), p. 217.
  7. ^ Michael White "Blair balances the power", The Guardian, 28 July 1998
  8. ^ a b "Frank Field: Frank – but so sorry". The Independent. London. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "Frank Field on Brown's 'rage'". BBC News. 12 May 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "Frank Field's apology to PM". BBC News. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Lorraine Davidson (3 June 2008). "Gordon Brown pressed on English parliament". The Times. London. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  12. ^ "Where do Labour MPs stand on call for leadership ballot". BBC News. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  13. ^ Merrick, Bob (21 May 2009). "Wirral MP Frank Field keen to lead reform as new Speaker". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  14. ^ Watt, Nicholas (4 June 2010). "Frank Field to lead independent review into poverty in Britain". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Wintour, Patrick (2 December 2010). "Frank Field's poverty report challenges 'welfare state sacred cows'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  16. ^ "Review on Poverty and Life Chances". Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  17. ^ Field, Frank (2010). The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults (PDF). HM Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2011. 
  18. ^ Gentleman, Amelia (23 September 2012). "Poverty tsar Frank Field plans own pilot project after coalition 'ignores report'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  19. ^ Butler, Patrick (7 December 2014). "'Confront simple fact hunger stalks Britain' urges church-funded report". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  20. ^ "Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland" (PDF). 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  21. ^ "About us – Feeding Britain". Feeding Britain. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  22. ^ "Winning candidates for select committee Chairs announced". UK Parliament. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  23. ^ "Who nominated who for the 2015 Labour leadership election?". The New Statesman. 
  24. ^ Field, Frank (23 July 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership contest". Archived from the original on 1 June 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  25. ^ Field, Frank (22 July 2015). "I nominated Corbyn but he can't win a General Election, writes Frank Field". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 1 May 2016. 
  26. ^ Bowden, George (5 December 2017). "Tory MP Heidi Allen Moved To Tears After Heartbreaking Universal Credit Speech". Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 December 2017. 
  27. ^ Crerar, Pippa (17 July 2018). "May sees off rebellion on customs union as amendment is defeated". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2018. 
  28. ^ "Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who". Grassroot Diplomat. 15 March 2015. Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "No. 59945". The London Gazette. 21 October 2011. p. 20160. 
  30. ^ "The Archbishop of Canterbury's Awards: Citations in Alphabetical Order" (PDF). Archbishop of Canterbury. 9 June 2017. Archived from the original (pdf) on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  31. ^ a b Dale, Iain; Brivati, Brian (26 September 2008). "Top 100 right wingers: 100-76". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 31 August 2009. 
  32. ^ "Cure yob culture and bring back National Service". Metro. 9 November 2009. 
  33. ^ "How you can save the rainforest". The Times. London. 8 October 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  34. ^ Who we are Archived 19 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Cool Earth
  35. ^ Terry Payne (16 April 2018). "How the Queen is putting politicians to shame with her Commonwealth Canopy project". Radio Times. Retrieved 19 April 2018. 
  36. ^ "Why I am Still an Anglican", Continuum 2006, page 57
  37. ^ "Abortion and the 'Right to Know' – or, why we should link to our sources". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  38. ^ "Frank Field: Why I joined Nadine Dorries to reform abortion counselling laws". The Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  39. ^ Quinn, Ben; Curtis, Polly; Stratton, Allegra (2 September 2011). "Anti-abortion bid in disarray as critics rally". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  40. ^ "Nadine Dorries bill debated". BBC. 7 September 2011. 
  41. ^ "A vote to leave is the only way to achieve major EU reform". 
  42. ^ "Birkenhead MP Frank Field in hospital after collapse". 14 March 2015 – via 
  43. ^ "Birkenhead MP Frank Field rushed to hospital after collapsing at public meeting". Lancashire Telegraph. 
  44. ^ Rayner, Jay (2 July 2006). "Frank Field: Still thinking the unthinkable". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edmund Dell
Member of Parliament for Birkenhead