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The Right Honourable
 Frank Field

In office
2 May 1997 – 24 October 1998
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Peter Lilley
Succeeded by Jonathan Shaw

Member of Parliament
for Birkenhead
Assumed office 
3 May 1979
Preceded by Edmund Dell
Majority 12,934 (46.5%)

Born 16 July 1942 (1942-07-16) (age 67)
Edmonton, London, UK
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater University of Hull
Occupation Politician
Religion Church of England

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


Early life

Born in London, Field was educated at St Clement Danes Boys Grammar School in west London, before studying economics at the University of Hull. In his youth, he was a member of the Conservative Party, but left due to his opposition to South Africa's apartheid system.[1] In 1964, he became a further education teacher in Southwark and Hammersmith. Field served as a councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow from 1964-8. He was a Director of the Child Poverty Action Group 1969-79, and of the Low Pay Unit (a body which campaigned to ensure wages councils protected the rights of workers in certain industries) from 1974-1980.

Political career

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 he would go on to be Prime Minister.[2]

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, however others report that the Prime Minister Blair wanted some simpler vote-winning policy ideas.[1] 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.

After holding office, he was a member of the ecclesiastical and public accounts committees. Since the 2005 General Election, he has remained on the backbenches. He is now a vocal critic of the government from the backbenches, notably voting against Foundation Hospitals in November 2003. He was a significant critic of the abolition of the 10p tax rate.[3] In June 2008, Field joined calls for the establishment of a devolved parliament for England.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] John Bercow was eventually elected as the new speaker. In December 2009, a group of senior Conservative backbenchers would try and oust Bercow after the 2010 general election and vote to replace him with Field due to him being "unpopular with Labour MPs for criticising the Government."[7]

Personal beliefs

Field's political stance has been somewhat at odds with the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party in recent years. He is a member of the advisory board of the free-market think tank Reform, and of the new conservative 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."[3] Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success.[8] In 2008, Frank Field was named as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by the Telegraph.[8] 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. [9]

Field believes strongly in fighting climate change.[10] 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.[11]

Field is a practising Anglican, and is chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and a member of the Church of England General Synod.[12]


  • 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


  1. ^ a b Jay Rayner (2006-07-02). "Frank Field: Still thinking the unthinkable". The Observer.,,1810702,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-30.  
  2. ^ Ben Wright (2009-09-10). "Thatcher joins Field's 30th bash". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2009-09-11.  
  3. ^ a b "Frank Field: Frank – but so sorry". The Independent. 2008-05-18. Retrieved 2008-05-18.  
  4. ^ Lorraine Davidson (2008-06-03). "Gordon Brown pressed on English parliament". TimesOnline (Times Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 2008-07-14.  
  5. ^ "Where do Labour MPs stand on call for leadership ballot". 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2010-01-07.  
  6. ^ Merrick, Bob (2009-05-21). "Wirral MP Frank Field keen to lead reform as new Speaker". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2010-01-07.  
  7. ^ Shipman, Tim (2009-12-30). "Conservatives plot to ditch John Bercow for Frank Field". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2010-01-07.  
  8. ^ a b Dale, Iain; Brivati, Brian (26 September 2008). "Top 100 right wingers: 100-76". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 August 2009.  
  9. ^ "'Cure yob culture and bring back National Service'".  
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Why I am Still an Anglican, Continuum 2006, page 57

External links

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


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