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The Right Honourable
 Phil Woolas 

Assumed office 
4 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Liam Byrne

Member of Parliament
for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Assumed office 
1 May 1997
Preceded by New constituency
Majority 3,590 (8.3%)

Born 11 December 1959 (1959-12-11) (age 50)[1]
Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, England[2]
Birth name Philip James Woolas
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Children Two sons
Residence Lees, Greater Manchester
Alma mater Victoria University of Manchester
Occupation Television producer

Philip James Woolas (born 11 December 1959) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament for Oldham East and Saddleworth since 1997, and currently is the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration in the Home Office, as well as the Minister of State for the Treasury.


Early life

He went to Nelson Grammar School on Oxford Road in Nelson, Lancashire, which became Walton (Lane) High School when the Local education authority (LEA) went comprehensive in 1972. The school is now Pendle Vale College since 2006 when the former buildings were demolished and re-developed for housing. After O levels, he went to Nelson and Colne College. He received a BA in Philosophy from the Victoria University of Manchester.

Woolas joined the Labour party at the age of 16 and became involved in student politics through the Anti-Nazi League.[3] Before entering Parliament, Woolas was Head of Communications at the GMB trade union (1991-7) and previously a television producer for the BBC (on Newsnight) from 1988-90 and ITN (Channel 4 News) from 1990-1.[4] From 1984-6 he was President of the National Union of Students.[2][4]

Parliamentary career

He first won his seat for Labour in the 1997 general election, having contested the predecessor Littleborough and Saddleworth seat at a by-election in 1995,[2] which was marked by Labour's particularly vicious and personal campaign, attacking the Liberal Democrat candidate, Chris Davies, as, "high on tax and soft on drugs".[5] He became parliamentary private secretary to Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, a Transport Minister in 1999, and became a whip in 2001.

In 2003 he was made Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, and in 2005 moved to the ODPM to become Minister of State with responsibility for local government, later moving to the newly-created Department for Communities and Local Government with the same responsibilities. During this time he acquired a reputation for evading any questions surrounding the failings of the Local Government Ombudsman.[6]

On 29 June 2007 he became Minister for the Environment at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He had responsibility for climate change, energy and sustainable development.[4]

In October 2006 Woolas was involved in the United Kingdom debate over veils, particularly the case of Aishah Azmi, a Muslim teaching assistant who wore an Islamic veil in class.[7] In February 2008 he raised the question of inter-cousin marriage as a cause of the high incidence of disability within predominantly Pakistani culture. The debate was welcomed by Ann Cryer MP who cited incidences in her own constituency.[8]

Following the cabinet re-shuffle of 3 October 2008 he was made Minister of State for Borders and Immigration at the Home Office and Minister of State for the Treasury.[9]

In Spring 2009, Woolas was involved in a controversy regarding the rights for Gurkhas to settle in the United Kingdom. On 24 April 2009, Woolas proposed a new settlement for Gurkhas who were discharged before 1997. According to The Economist:

Veterans would be allowed to settle only if they met one or more conditions based on length of service, gallantry or related illness. Many of the requirements seemed designed to frustrate: for example, one way to qualify automatically was by soldiering for at least 20 years, though most rank-and-file Gurkhas serve for only 15. Another was to prove that a long-term medical condition was caused or worsened by active service; a tall order for those whose injuries were sustained decades ago.

These proposals later were denounced in a vote at the House of Commons, with many Labour MPs voting across party lines.[10] Woolas was later confronted at the BBC Westminster studios by the actress Joanna Lumley (the face of the Gurkha Justice Campaign) about the issue. After Ms Lumley pursued him around the studio, the pair held an inpromptu press conference in which she pressured him into agreeing to further talks over the settlement rights of Gurkhas.[11] On 21 May, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.[12] Gurkhas serving after 1997 had been given UK settlement rights in 2004.

In the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal of 2009, Phil Woolas reportedly claimed expenses for ladies' clothing, tampons, comics and nappies. Woolas said the items were on a receipt he submitted under food claims, but were not claimed themselves, and threatened a newspaper with legal action.[13][14]

In November 2008 Woolas attacked lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, accusing them of undermining the law and "playing the system" by taking legal action.[15]

Personal life

Woolas, a Manchester United F.C. and Lancashire County Cricket Club supporter,[2] lives in Lees, Greater Manchester, and has done so since 1997.[16] He is married with two sons.


  1. ^ Phil Woolas, BBC News, 2006-03-30,, retrieved 2007-07-28  
  2. ^ a b c d Phil Woolas; Biography,, 2007,, retrieved 2007-07-28  
  3. ^ Phil Woolas - Labour,,, retrieved 2007-07-28  
  4. ^ a b c Phil Woolas: Minister for the Environment,, 2007-07-04,, retrieved 2007-07-28  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Deputy Prime Minister - Local Government Ombudsman Written answers from Phil Woolas, 2005-10=19,, retrieved 2008-09-12  
  7. ^ Veil teacher 'should be sacked',, 2006-10-15,, retrieved 2008-09-12  
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | Birth defects warning sparks row
  9. ^ Brown's government Guardian
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Lumley in public clash on Gurkhas". BBC News. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2009.  
  12. ^ "Gurkhas win right to settle in UK". BBC News. 21 May 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2009.  
  13. ^ "MPs' expenses claims - key details". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  14. ^ Beckford, Martin (2009-05-09). "Daily Telegraph: Phil Woolas". Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  15. ^
  16. ^ Woolas, P. (2007-07-27), "Letters to the editor; Woolas lives locally", Oldham Evening Chronicle: 6  

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Oldham East and Saddleworth
Political offices
Preceded by
Neil Stewart
President of the National Union of Students
Succeeded by
Vicky Phillips
Preceded by
Liam Byrne
Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
and Minister of State for the Treasury



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