Frank Field (British politician)

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The Right Honourable
Frank Field
Rt Hon Frank Field MP at 'Towards a Better Child Poverty Target'.jpg
Field speaking in 2012
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 15,195 (42.8%)
Personal details
Born (1942-07-16) 16 July 1942 (age 73)
Edmonton, Middlesex, England
Nationality English
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Hull
Occupation Politician
Religion Anglican

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, before leaving the Government, following differences with Prime Minister Tony Blair. He went on to become one of the Labour Government's most vocal critics from within the party on the backbenches. After Labour's defeat in the 2010 election, he was given the role of "poverty czar" in David Cameron's coalition government.[1] Field now holds the chairmanship of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

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, London, 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 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.

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 be Prime Minister.[4]

Nigel Dodds, Nelson McCausland and Frank Field

Following the 1997 election, with Labour in power, Field joined the government of Tony Blair as the Minister of Welfare Reform at the Department of Social Security with the rank of Minister of State. He was also made a member of the Privy Council. Field viewed his task as "thinking the unthinkable" in terms of social security reform, but others report that Prime Minister Blair wanted some simpler vote-winning policy ideas.[3] Blair writes that: "the problem was not so much that his thoughts were unthinkable as unfathomable".[5]

There were clashes with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the Secretary of State for Social Security, Harriet Harman. 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. It was reported that Field had argued for Blair to promote him to Secretary of State for Social Security.[6]

After holding office, he was a member of the ecclesiastical and public accounts 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[7] and this led to Field describing Gordon Brown as "unhappy inside his own body".[8] He later apologised in parliament for the personal attack.[9] In June 2008, Field joined calls for the establishment of a devolved parliament for England.[10]

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 leaders to back Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt's calls for a secret ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party in regards to the leadership of Gordon Brown. The ballot could have led to a leadership contest.[11]

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.[12] John Bercow was eventually elected as the new speaker.

In the 2010 General Election Field retained his Birkenhead seat with an increased majority. He was given the role of "poverty czar" in David Cameron's coalition government - the first member of the Labour Party to have a role within Cameron's team.[1]

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.[13]

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 aging problem.[14]

In October 2011 he was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside.[15]

Frank Field was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015.[16]

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."[7]

Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success.[17] In 2008, Frank Field was named as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by the Daily Telegraph.[17] 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.[18] However, in May 2010, Field endorsed left-wing candidate and eventual winner Ed Miliband to become leader of the Labour Party to replace Gordon Brown.

Field believes strongly in fighting climate change.[19] 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.[20]

Field is a practising Anglican, a former chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and a member of the Church of England General Synod.[21] 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 also believes that moral and civic duties should be enforced by legislation and sanctions. Citizen Contracts should be the basis for receiving all state benefits and failure to meet the Contract would lead to benefit sanctions applied only by the police. Private views thought to be damaging to public conduct, and expressed in public, would be monitored and suppressed.[citation needed]

Field believes in reducing the time-limit within which women can have an abortion,[22] and in stripping abortion providers such as Marie Stopes of their counselling role and handing it to organisations not linked to abortion clinics.[23][24] With the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, he has been vocal in two defeated attempts to legislate for such a reform in Parliament.[25]


  • 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 Oakeshott, Isabel (16 May 2010). "Frank Field given role as poverty czar by Cameron". The Times (London). Retrieved 16 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Aida Edemariam (3 July 2010). "Frank Field: 'Labour has always been conservative' | Politics". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  3. ^ a b Jay Rayner (2 July 2006). "Frank Field: Still thinking the unthinkable". London: The Observer. Retrieved 30 July 2007. 
  4. ^ Ben Wright (10 September 2009). "Thatcher joins Field's 30th bash". BBC News Online. Retrieved 11 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Tony Blair: A Journey (2010), p. 217.
  6. ^ Michael White "Blair balances the power", The Guardian, 28 July 1998
  7. ^ a b "Frank Field: Frank – but so sorry". London: The Independent. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  8. ^ "Frank Field on Brown's 'rage'". BBC News (BBC). 12 May 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "Frank Field's apology to PM". BBC News (BBC). 13 May 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Lorraine Davidson (3 June 2008). "Gordon Brown pressed on English parliament". Times Online (London: Times Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  11. ^ "Where do Labour MPs stand on call for leadership ballot". BBC News. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  12. ^ Merrick, Bob (21 May 2009). "Wirral MP Frank Field keen to lead reform as new Speaker". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  13. ^ "Winning candidates for select committee Chairs announced". UK Parliament. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who". Grassroot Diplomat. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 59945. p. 20160. 21 October 2011.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b Dale, Iain; Brivati, Brian (26 September 2008). "Top 100 right wingers: 100-76". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 31 August 2009. 
  18. ^ "'Cure yob culture and bring back National Service'". Metro. 9 November 2009. 
  19. ^ "How you can save the rainforest". Times Online (London). 8 October 2006. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  20. ^ Who we are Cool Earth
  21. ^ "Why I am Still an Anglican", Continuum 2006, page 57
  22. ^ "Abortion and the 'Right to Know' – or, why we should link to our sources". London: The Daily telegraph. 29 March 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "Frank Field: Why I joined Nadine Dorries to reform abortion counselling laws". The Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  24. ^ Quinn, Ben; Curtis, Polly; Stratton, Allegra (2 September 2011). "Anti-abortion bid in disarray as critics rally". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Nadine Dorries bill debated". BBC. 7 September 2011. 

External links[edit]

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