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The Right Honourable
 Liam Byrne 

Assumed office 
5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Yvette Cooper

In office
3 October 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ed Miliband
Succeeded by Tessa Jowell

In office
3 October 2008 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ed Miliband
Succeeded by The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

In office
22 May 2006 – 3 October 2008
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded by Tony McNulty
Succeeded by Phil Woolas

Member of Parliament
for Birmingham Hodge Hill
Assumed office 
15 July 2004
Preceded by Terry Davis
Majority 5,449 (19.2%)

Born 2 October 1970 (1970-10-02) (age 39)
Warrington, United Kingdom
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Sarah Byrne
Alma mater University of Manchester
Harvard Business School

Liam Dominic Byrne (born 2 October 1970) is a British Labour politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill since 2004, and is currently the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.


Early life

Born in Warrington, Byrne was educated at Burnt Mill School in Harlow and the University of Manchester, where he obtained a First class honours in Politics and Modern History and became the Chief communications officer of the University of Manchester Students' Union. He also holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He has acted as an advisor to Tony Blair. He is founder of the computer company e-Government Solutions Ltd, a provider of e-commerce solutions to government, and is an associate research fellow at the Social Market Foundation. Before working in Parliament, he worked for the multi-national consulting firm, Accenture and merchant bankers, N M Rothschild & Sons, before co-founding a venture backed technology company, eGS Group, in 2000. Between 1996 and 1997 he advised the Labour Party on the re-organisation of Millbank, and helped lead Labour's business campaign under the 'New Labour' scheme.

Parliamentary career

He was selected to contest the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election following the resignation of the veteran Labour MP Terry Davis to become the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. After a very close contest, on 15 July 2004, the same day as Labour lost Leicester South in another by-election, Byrne held on with a majority of just 460. He made his maiden speech on 22 July 2004[1]

Following his re-election with an increased majority on 5 May 2005, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, an unusually fast promotion to ministerial rank. Just a year later, following the 2006 local elections, he was promoted to Minister of State for policing, security and community safety at the Home Office, replacing Hazel Blears, one of the highest-profile roles in the government outside the cabinet. However, just a fortnight later Home Secretary John Reid moved him to the immigration role, switching portfolios with Tony McNulty. McNulty had been connected with the foreign prisoners scandal that caused Tony Blair to sack Charles Clarke in May 2006. Byrne's move was seen as an attempt by Reid to establish an entirely new team to sort out the immigration system. During this period he was also Minister for the West Midlands. Gordon Brown named him Minister for the Cabinet Office in October 2008, replacing the promoted Ed Miliband. He was sworn into the Privy Council shortly afterwards.


The Muslim veil

Concerning the debate about the immigration of women wearing veils, on 26 October 2006 he stated that in accordance with the Immigration Act 1971 all persons arriving in the United Kingdom must satisfy an immigration officer as to their nationality and identity. Where there are sensitive or cultural reasons why it is not possible for a person to remove a veil or other garment at the immigration control, they will be taken to a private area where, in the case of a woman, a female officer will ask them to lift their veil so that their identity can be verified. Most people are usually content to do this but there are powers to refuse entry to persons who cannot be satisfactorily identified.[2]

Immigration/taxi driver controversy

In November 2006 Byrne was responsible for a change to the UK's immigration rules preventing migrants who had entered under the UK's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) having their permission to remain in the UK extended unless they could show both that they had been earning at least £32,000 pa while in the UK and that they had a good knowledge of English. This change was controversial because it applies retrospectively to immigrants who had entered the UK under the old rules, meaning the UK Government had "moved the goalposts" - a degree is effectively now an essential requirement, regardless of the skills or economic contribution that an individual can demonstrate.[3][4] In their report into the changes, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights said that "The changes to the Rules are so clearly incompatible with Article 8, and so contrary to basic notions of fairness, that the case for immediately revisiting the changes to the Rules in Parliament is in our view overwhelming."[5] Appeal cases have been won on appeal on the grounds that applicants had a legitimate expectation that the rules would not change to their detriment.[6] A judicial review has been successfully brought against the government, with their actions when applying the new HSMP rules to those HSMP holders already in the UK as at 7 November 2006 being ruled as unlawful.[7]

Byrne is in favour of legislation for a Migration Act similar to the 1958 immigration law in Australia which is administered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

In 2007, Byrne was criticized by London's cab drivers for his remarks that they were "low-skilled". This ignored the fact that the cabbies study the details of London's streets for an average of eighteen months before becoming licensed.[8]

Road safety

As well as his role in the Home Office, Byrne has been a vocal campaigner for road safety and has handed in a petition in to Parliament in 2005 demanding tougher punishments for dangerous drivers.

He sat on the parliamentary committee which shaped the 2006 Road Safety Act, which increased fixed penalty fines for driving while using a mobile. On 2 November 2007 he himself was fined £100 and received a fixed penalty notice for using his own mobile telephone while driving.[9]

"British Day"

In June 2008, Byrne suggested the "August bank holiday" to be made a weekend of national celebration (the so-called "British Day") in a speech to a New Labour think tank. However, Scotland's August bank holiday is at the beginning of the month. He later retracted this - after pressure from the Scottish National Party - saying he was merely trying to "get the debate started".[10]

Cabinet reshuffle

In a cabinet reshuffle on 3 October 2008 he was promoted to Minister for the Cabinet Office.[11]

Leaked staffing requirements memo

In November 2008 an 11-page memo written by Byrne entitled "Working With Liam Byrne" was leaked to the press. In the memo, Byrne listed his demands from his staff, memorably including his requirement for a cappuccino on his arrival in the office, an espresso at 3 PM, and soup between 12:30 and 1 PM. Byrne also instructed officials to tell him "not what you think I should know, but you expect I will get asked." He warns staff that they should "Never put anything to me unless you understand it and can explain it to me in 60 seconds... If I see things that are not of acceptable quality, I will blame you."[12] Conservative MP Philip Davies commented that "This is not a briefing note for civil servants, it’s a briefing note for slaves."[13] Although The Guardian described Liam Byrne as an "eager diva",[12] a spokesman for Byrne commented that the memo had been written in 2006, and that "He is a highly efficient Minister but has become more flexible since then. Some days, he has his soup at 1.30pm."[13]

Personal life

He married in June 1998. He and his wife, Sarah, reside in Birmingham, having previously lived in Hertfordshire. They have three children. Liam is of Irish ancestry.


  1. ^ "Debates for 22 July 2004 - 2:23pm". Hansard. 2004. Retrieved July 22, 2004. 
  2. ^ "Immigration staff can ask Muslim women to remove veils". 2006. Retrieved October 26, 2006. 
  3. ^ Comment is free: Moving the goalposts mid-game
  4. ^ Rule change ‘cheats’ skilled migrant workers - Times Online
  5. ^ Joint Committee On Human Rights - Twentieth Report
  6. ^ UK tribunal sides with HSMP visa holder denied extension under new rules
  7. ^ HSMP Forum Ltd, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department
  8. ^
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | Politics | Byrne fined over car mobile use
  10. ^ BBC News | Politics | Minister in 'British Day blunder'
  11. ^ "Government reshuffle: Profile: Liam Byrne". Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  12. ^ a b "Leaked demands portray minister as an eager diva". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  13. ^ a b "Gordon Brown's control freak enforcer and his 'cappuccino and soup' instruction manual for civil servants". Retrieved 2009-01-13. 

External links

News items

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Terry Davis
Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill
Political offices
Preceded by
Tony McNulty
Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
Succeeded by
Phil Woolas
Preceded by
Ed Miliband
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Succeeded by
Tessa Jowell
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
Preceded by
Yvette Cooper
Chief Secretary to the Treasury


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