Irene Ward

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Irene Mary Bewick Ward, Baroness Ward of North Tyneside, CH, DBE (23 February 1895 – 26 April 1980) was a British Conservative politician. She was a long-serving Member of Parliament (MP).


Ward was educated privately and at Newcastle Church High School. She contested Morpeth in 1924 and 1929 without success and was elected to the House of Commons in 1931 for Wallsend, defeating Labour's Margaret Bondfield. A strong advocate for Tyneside industry and social conditions, she lost her seat in the 1945 general election, which Labour won by a landslide.

In 1950, Ward returned to Parliament for Tynemouth, again defeating a female incumbent, Grace Colman. An active backbencher, she introduced the bill that became the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act, 1954. She promoted a Bill to pay pocket money to the elderly living in institutions. She also promoted the Nurses (Amendment) Act, 1961, and the Penalties for Drunkenness Act, 1962. She served on the influential Public Accounts Committee from 1964.

She is remembered in some quarters for an incident which caused amusement on both sides of the House when she threatened to "poke" the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Having received an evasive answer to a parliamentary question, she responded with the words: "I will poke the Prime Minister. I will poke him until I get a response."[citation needed]

Ward retired from the Commons in February 1974, having served a total of almost 38 years. She was the longest-serving woman MP (Mother of the House) until that record was broken by Gwyneth Dunwoody in 2007. Aged 79 at her retirement, Ward was the oldest-ever serving female Member of Parliament, the oldest-ever woman to be re-elected, and also the oldest sitting member at that time.[citation needed]

Life peerage[edit]

She was created a life peer as Baroness Ward of North Tyneside, of North Tyneside in the County of Tyne and Wear, on 23 January 1975.[1]


Ward was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1929[2] and promoted to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1955,[3] and was appointed a Companion of Honour in 1973.[4]


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Margaret Bondfield
Member of Parliament for Wallsend
Succeeded by
John McKay
Preceded by
Grace Colman
Member of Parliament for Tynemouth
Succeeded by
Neville Trotter
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John Rankin
Oldest sitting member
1973 - 1974
Succeeded by
David Weitzman