Margaret Hodge

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For the American writer, see Margaret Hodges.
The Right Honourable
Dame Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge.jpg
Rt Hon Dame Margaret Hodge DBE MP
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
In office
10 June 2010[1] – 30 March 2015[2]
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Edward Leigh
Succeeded by Meg Hillier
Minister of State for Culture and Tourism
In office
22 September 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Barbara Follett
Succeeded by John Penrose
In office
27 June 2007 – 3 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by David Lammy
Succeeded by Barbara Follett
Minister of State for Work
In office
9 May 2005 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Jane Kennedy
Succeeded by Jim Murphy
Minister of State for Children
In office
13 June 2003 – 9 May 2005
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Office created[3]
Succeeded by Maria Eagle
Minister for Universities
In office
11 June 2001 – 13 June 2003
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Succeeded by Alan Johnson
Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People
In office
29 July 1998 – 11 June 2001
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Paul Boateng
Succeeded by Maria Eagle
Member of Parliament
for Barking
Assumed office
9 June 1994
Preceded by Jo Richardson
Majority 16,555 (36.5%)
Personal details
Born Margaret Eve Oppenheimer
(1944-09-08) 8 September 1944 (age 71)
Cairo, Kingdom of Egypt[4]
Nationality  United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Andrew Watson (1968–1978, divorced)
Sir Henry Hodge (1978–2009, deceased)
Children 4 (1 son, 3 daughters)
Residence London
Alma mater London School of Economics
Occupation Politician and parliamentarian
Profession Economist

Dame Margaret Eve Hodge, Lady Hodge DBE MP (born 8 September 1944) is a British Labour politician, who has served as Member of Parliament for Barking since 1994.[5]

Hodge was created Minister for Children in 2003 before becoming Minister of State for Culture and Tourism in 2005. On 9 June 2010 she was elected Chairman of the influential Public Accounts Committee, in succession to Sir Edward Leigh MP.

Born Margaret Eve Oppenheimer,[4] she was known as Margaret Eve Watson from 1968 to 1978, and styled Lady Hodge from 2004, after her second husband was knighted until her appointment as DBE in 2015.

Early life[edit]

Margaret Eve Oppenheimer was born in 1944 at Cairo, Egypt to Jewish refugee parents[6] Hans Oppenheimer and his wife Lisbeth (née Hollitscher).[4][7] Oppenheimer left Stuttgart in Germany during the 1930s to join his uncle's metals business trading based in Cairo and Alexandria, where he met his fellow émigrée Austrian-born wife. Married in 1936, Lisbeth and he had five children, four girls and a boy.[8]

At the outset of World War II, the couple and their eldest daughter were rendered stateless, effectively being stranded in the kingdom of Egypt for the duration of the War. The couple decided to leave Egypt as anti-semitism had increased in the Middle East during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The family moved to London where the Oppenheimers started the family-owned steel-trading corporation Stemcor, a privately held company with an annual turnover of over £6 billion in 2011.[9][10] Dame Margaret is a major shareholder, and lists her holdings in the Parliamentary Register of Members' Interests.[11][12]

Her mother died from stomach cancer in 1953,[8] before Hodge was sent to boarding school, being educated first at Bromley High School before Oxford High School. She then studied at the London School of Economics, graduating with a third-class Government Studies degree in 1966.[13]

Hodge worked in market research from 1966 to 1973, and from 1992 to 1994, she was a Senior Consultant to Price Waterhouse.[14]

She married Andrew Watson in 1968; having a son and daughter. The couple divorced in 1978, and she married secondly Henry Hodge (later Sir Henry) by whom she had two more daughters: he was a solicitor, fellow Labour Borough Councillor and Chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties, before being appointed a High Court Judge as Mr Justice Hodge (who died 2009).

Islington Council[edit]

Hodge was first elected as a Councillor for the London Borough of Islington in 1973. She soon became Chairman of the Housing Committee (preferring "Chairman" to "Chair", however un-PC) - this was an important post in an local authority with one of the worst sets of housing statistics in London during a period when London boroughs were expected to be housing providers and managers. Hodge's tenure as Housing Chairman oversaw the continuation of a large new housing programme. There was a change of emphasis to the refurbishment of sound older buildings (e.g. Charteris Road, Alexander Road areas), in response to a paper published by the Islington Housing Action Group.[15] At one point, Hodge's Deputy Chairman was Jack Straw (later Foreign Secretary), both becoming key members of PM Tony Blair's government.

The Islington Labour Party was badly affected by the defection of members and elected representatives to the Social Democratic Party but, when the dust had settled, Hodge emerged as Council Leader in 1982, a post she held until 1992.

Hodge was appointed MBE in 1978. However, the end of her Islington political service prior to her entering Parliament, was marred by the emergence of serious child abuse allegations concerning the Council-run children's homes in Islington.

Child abuse controversy[edit]

In 1985, Demetrios Panton wrote to Islington Council to complain about abuse suffered while in Council care during the 1970s and 1980s. Panton received an official response in 1989, wherein the Council denied all responsibility.[16]

In 1990, Liz Davies, a senior social worker employed by the Borough with her manager, David Cofie, raised concerns about sexual abuse of children under Islington Council care. Correspondence between Hodge and the Director of Social Work indicates that she declined a request for extra resources to investigate. Instead, the Cofie and Davies investigation was dismissed by council officials in May 1990; this appears to have been after the police declared they had found insufficient evidence of abuse, despite which the two social workers pursued further enquiries on their own.[17] In early 1992, Davies (not to be confused with the barrister and former Islington Councillor) resigned from her post and requested again that Scotland Yard investigate the allegations.

The Evening Standard, in 1992, then resumed reporting allegations of abuse in Islington Care Homes, its initial submission being slated by Hodge as a "sensationalist piece of gutter journalism", although she has since apologised for this outburst, claiming that her officials had given her false information.[18] Shortly afterwards Hodge resigned to pursue a career with Price Waterhouse. In 1995, the "White Report" into sexual abuse in Islington Care Homes reported that the Council had failed to investigate adequately these allegations and blamed its doctrinaire interpretation of equal opportunities claiming a fear of being branded homophobic.[17][19]

In 2003, following Hodge's appointment as Minister for Children, Panton went public with his allegations that he had been the subject of abuse in Islington Council care which although he had repeatedly raised the matter he had been ignored. He accused Hodge's complacency as being ultimately responsible for the abuse that he alleged to have suffered. Moreover, Davies simultaneously went public regarding the concerns she had previously raised while working for the Council.[20] Following a media campaign conducted by several national newspapers calling for her to resign from her new post, she responded to Panton by letter, in which she apologised for referring to him as "an extremely disturbed person" in an earlier letter to the BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies, which was broadcast on Radio 4's Today programme.[20] A formal apology to Panton was made in the High Court on 19 November 2003 by Lady Hodge's barrister with a settlement of £30,000.[4]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Hodge has served as the Member for Barking since the by-election on 9 June 1994 following the death of Jo Richardson. While still a new MP, she endorsed the candidature of Tony Blair, a former Islington neighbour, for the Labour Party leadership,[4] after the sudden death of John Smith.

Hodge was appointed a Junior Minister in 1998 and was promoted Minister for Universities in 2001, in which capacity she piloted the controversial Higher Education Act 2004, remaining there until 2003 when she became the inaugural Children's Minister. She was sworn of the Privy Council on 22 June 2003.[21]

Children's Minister[edit]

Hodge was appointed Minister for Children when the post was created for her in 2003, but she soon ran into difficulties when the Islington controversy erupted again; her resignation was repeatedly requested by the media and parliamentary adversaries.

She was later transferred to less visible posts, but retained Downing Street support despite press hostility.

Privacy International awarded Lady Hodge the 2004 Big Brother Award for "Worst Public Servant" for her backing of controversial initiatives including the Universal Child Database. At a keynote speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research on 26 November 2004, Hodge defended the concept of greater state regulation of individuals' choices, asserting only that "some may call it the nanny state but I call it a force for good".[22]

In the same year Fathers 4 Justice-campaigner Jonathan Stanesby handcuffed Hodge, stating he was arresting her for child abuse.[23] Fathers 4 Justice targeted Hodge perceiving her as the "bogeywoman of family law, who doesn't even believe in equal parenting".[24] Stanesby and collaborator Jason Hatch were subsequently acquitted by the English Courts, of the charge of false imprisonment which they successfully defended as being a reasonable form of political protest.[25]

In 2005 Hodge was transferred to Minister of State in the Department for Work and Pensions with primary responsibility for Work. On 17 June 2005 was criticised for saying that the former workers of MG Rover would be able to obtain jobs at Tesco, a local supermarket. Later, she claimed that this was not what she meant, rather that she had empathy for those losing their jobs, and pointed to a new Tesco supermarket as an example of new jobs being created in the face of the redundancies at the car manufacturing plant.[26]

Lady Hodge and the BNP[edit]

In April 2006 Hodge commented in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph that eight out of ten white working-class voters in her constituency might be tempted to vote for the British National Party (BNP) in the local elections on 4 May 2006 because "no one else is listening to them" about their concerns over unemployment, high house prices, and the housing of asylum seekers in the area. She said the Labour Party must promote "very, very strongly the benefits of the new, rich multi-racial society which is part of this part of London for me".[27]

There was widespread media coverage of her remarks, and Hodge was severely criticised for giving the BNP publicity. The BNP went on to gain 11 seats in the local election out of a total of 51, making them the second largest party.[28] Local Labour activists attempted to blame Lady Hodge, and it was reported that moves were under way to deselect her (as PPC).[29] The GMB wrote to Hodge in May 2006, demanding her resignation as a scapegoat for those election results.[30]

Later, the then-Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, accused Hodge of "magnifying the propaganda of the British National Party" after she said that British residents should get priority in council house allocation. In November 2009, the Leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, announced that he intended to contest Barking at the 2010 General Election.[31]

In spite of the Unions' perceived politically-correct bullying, Hodge's plain-speaking and commonsense-approach appealed to Barking constituents and Hodge was returned as Member for Barking in 2010, doubling her majority to over 16,000, whilst Griffin came third behind the Conservatives. The BNP lost all 12 of its seats on Barking and Dagenham Council.

Remarks on Blair's foreign policy[edit]

On 17 November 2006 it was reported by the Islington Tribune that Hodge described the Iraq War as a "big mistake in foreign affairs". This local newspaper, whose story was promptly relayed by BBC News, appeared to cast doubt about Hodge's confidence in Tony Blair's "moral imperialism" citing [her] grave concerns over British foreign policy ever since 1998.[32]

Housing policy[edit]

Writing in The Observer on 20 May 2007[33] Hodge argued that established families should take priority in the allocation of social housing over new economic migrants. Her comments, however well considered, were roundly condemned by the Refugee Council and other representative bodies in this field.[34]

Richmond and Bushy Parks controversy[edit]

In January 2010, Hodge announced that Royal Parks, which manages Richmond Park and Bushy Park in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (and elsewhere), was to be allowed to charge drivers £2 per visit. This announcement sparked mass protests throughout South West London and was opposed by local politicians including as Zac Goldsmith, Sir Vince Cable and Baroness Kramer.[35][36]

Alternative medicine[edit]

Hodge signed an Early Day Motion supporting the continued funding of homoeopathy on the National Health Service.[37]

Gordon Brown ministerial appointments[edit]

On 27 June 2007, Hodge was reappointed Minister of State in the Department for Culture by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.[38] As Minister of State for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, she was quick to criticise Britain's foremost classical music festival, The Proms, for not being sufficiently inclusive, instead praising popular television shows such as Coronation Street.[39]

Following the Cabinet reshuffle of 3 October 2008, it was announced that Hodge was "temporarily leaving Government on compassionate grounds of family illness and will return to Government in the Spring".[40] While she was caring for Sir Henry Hodge, her terminally ill husband, Barbara Follett replaced her as Minister of State.

On 22 September 2009, Hodge was reappointed Minister of State responsible for Culture and Tourism.[41][42]

Public Accounts Committee[edit]

Hodge was elected by MPs to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee on 10 June 2010 in the fifth round of voting using the single transferable vote system.[1] According to Peter Riddell, under Hodge's leadership, the PAC has held Civil Servants to account running against earlier established practice.[43]

Stemcor was founded by Hodge's father, Hans Oppenheimer, and was run by her brother, Ralph, until September 2013.[44] Helia Ebrahimi, The Daily Telegraph's then City Correspondent, raised the issue in November 2012 of Hodge's suitability as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, leading an investigation into the tax arrangements of a number of US companies operating in the UK given her family's company "pays just 0.01pc tax on £2.1bn of business generated in the UK".[12]

In was reported in late April 2015 by The Times that Hodge had benefited from the closure in 2011 of a Liechtenstein foundation which held shares in Stemcor using the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, a legal means of returning undisclosed assets to the UK with reduced penalties. Hodge said she had played no part in administering or establishing the scheme.[45] Hodge gained 96,000 shares worth £1.5 million as a result. She explained: "All I could do as a shareholder in a company not run by me, and over which I had no influence or control, was to ensure that any shares I held were above board and that I paid all relevant taxes in full. Every time I received any benefit from the company this happened."[46]

Shortly after the 2015 general election it emerged that Hodge would not be standing for re-election to the PAC.[47] Hodge was succeeded in June 2015 by Meg Hillier.[48]

Titles, styles and honours[edit]

DBE insignia
  • Miss Margaret Oppenheimer (8 September 1944 – 1968)
  • Mrs Andrew Watson (1968 – 1973)
  • Cllr Mrs Andrew Watson (1973 - 1978)
  • Cllr Mrs Henry Hodge (1978 – 1978)
  • Cllr Mrs Henry Hodge, MBE (1978 - 1992)
  • Mrs Henry Hodge, MBE (1992 – 1994)
  • Mrs Henry Hodge, MBE, MP (1994 – 2003)
  • The Rt Hon. Margaret Hodge, MBE, MP (2003 - 2004)
  • The Rt Hon. Lady Hodge, MBE, MP (2004 – 2015)
  • The Rt Hon. Dame Margaret Hodge, DBE, MP (2015 onwards)

Hodge was appointed Member (MBE) in 1978 and promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the Dissolution Honours List of 27 August 2015.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Polly Curtis "Margaret Hodge named head of public accounts committee", The Guardian, 10 June 2015
  2. ^ dissolution of parliament
  3. ^ Margaret Eve Hodge: Biography, Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sarah Hall (21 November 2003). "The Guardian profile: Margaret Hodge". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Debrett's People of Today
  6. ^ "Margaret Hodge: The granny with Sir Humphrey in her crosshairs" by Oliver Wright, The Independent on Sunday, April 1, 2012.
  7. ^ " news, business, sport, the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Sunday". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Hans Alfred Oppenheimer". Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "About Us". Stemcor. Retrieved 9 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Griffin vs Hodge: the Battle for Barking" The Guardian, 13 March 2010
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Helia Ebrahimi and Harry Wilson "Margaret Hodge's family company pays just 0.01pc tax on £2.1bn of business generated in the UK", Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2012
  13. ^ Lee Elliot Major "Lifelong learner", The Guardian, 19 June 2001
  14. ^ "Hodge, Rt Hon. Margaret (Eve)". Who's Who. Oxford, England: A&C Black. November 2011. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Timeline: Margaret Hodge row". London: The Guardian. 19 November 2003. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  17. ^ a b Harris, Paul; Bright, Martin (6 July 2003). "The whistleblower's story". The Observer (London). Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  18. ^ Eileen Fairweather "Jimmy Savile sex abuse: 'Islington is still covering up'", Sunday Telegraph, 6 April 2014
  19. ^ Eileen Fairweather "WITNESS: Stalinist reluctance to study the facts", The Independent, 30 May 1995
  20. ^ a b "Hodge apologises to abuse victim". BBC News. 14 November 2003. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  21. ^ Privy Council appointments, Prime Minister's Office, 22 June 2003
  22. ^ "Nanny State knows best, Hodges says"
  23. ^ "Justice fathers 'handcuffed MP'". BBC News. 24 September 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  24. ^ "Activist 'arrests' British Cabinet Minister". CBC news. 19 November 2004. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Handcuff protesters cleared – News". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Get a job at Tesco, 6,000 Rover workers are told Times Online, 17 June 2005
  27. ^ "Minister says BNP tempting voters". BBC News. 16 April 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  28. ^ "BNP doubles number of councillors". BBC News. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  29. ^ Will Woodward, Hugh Muir and Steven Morris (5 May 2006). "BNP rears its head as Labour loses heartland seats". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  30. ^ "MP 'should go' over BNP comments". BBC News. 24 May 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  31. ^ Walker, Peter (15 November 2009). "BNP leader Nick Griffin to take on Margaret Hodge in Barking". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 November 2009. 
  32. ^ "Minister 'attacks Iraq mistake'". BBC News. 17 November 2006. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  33. ^ Hodge "A message to my fellow immigrants" The Observer, 20 May 2007; Retrieved on 20 May 2007
  34. ^ Press Association "Call for migrant housing rethink", The Guardian; Retrieved on 20 May 2007
  35. ^ Helen Clarke (1 February 2010). "Hundreds turn out to oppose park charges". Hounslow Chronicle. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  36. ^ "Police close Pembroke Lodge car park as Richmond Park rally draws huge crowd". Richmond and Twickenham Times. 30 January 2010. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  37. ^ Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion No. 342 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy". 
  38. ^ "List of Her Majesty's Government". Prime Minister's Office. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  39. ^ "Proms not inclusive, says Hodge". BBC News. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  40. ^ Ministerial appointments and full list of Government, Prime Minister's Office, 6 October 2008
  41. ^ Ministerial appointments, Prime Minister's Office, 22 September 2009
  42. ^ Our ministers Department for Culture, Media and Sport; Retrieved 22 September 2009
  43. ^ Rt Hon Peter Riddell CBE FRHistS "The Hodge question: to whom are civil servants accountable?", Institute for Government, 19 March 2012
  44. ^ Jim Armitage and Mikkel Stern-Peltz "Margaret Hodge’s fortune hammered as vulture funds swoop on father’s Stemcor steel empire", The Independent, 17 December 2013
  45. ^ Vanessa Houlder, Jim Pickard and George Parker "Labour’s Margaret Hodge accused of hypocrisy over tax affairs", Financial Times, 29 April 2015
  46. ^ Joe Mills "Anti-tax avoidance campaigner Margaret Hodge 'given £1.5m shares from tax haven' Liechtenstein", IB Times, 28 April 2015
  47. ^ Rajeev Syal "Margaret Hodge stands aside as head of spending watchdog", The Guardian, 20 May 2015
  48. ^ "Frank Field elected Work and Pensions Committee chairman", BBC News, 18 June 2015
  49. ^

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jo Richardson
Member of Parliament for Barking
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Boateng
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People
Succeeded by
Maria Eagle
Preceded by
Office created
Minister of State for Children
Succeeded by
Maria Eagle
Preceded by
Jane Kennedy
Minister of State for Work
Succeeded by
Jim Murphy
Preceded by
Barbara Follett
Minister of State for Culture and Tourism
Succeeded by
Hon Ed Vaizey
Preceded by
Sir Edward Leigh
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
Succeeded by
Meg Hillier
Party political offices
Preceded by
Chris Smith
Chair of the Fabian Society
1998 – 1999
Succeeded by
Tony Wright