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Dawn Primarolo, Baroness Primarolo, DBE, PC (born 2 May 1954) is a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Bristol South from 1987 until 2015, when she stood down.[1] She was Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families at the Department for Children, Schools and Families from June 2009 to May 2010 and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons from 2010. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for political service.[2][3] She was nominated for a life peerage in the 2015 Dissolution Honours.[4]

The Baroness Primarolo

Dawn Primarolo Official Portrait.jpg
Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
In office
9 June 2010 – 8 May 2015
SpeakerJohn Bercow
Preceded byMichael Lord
Succeeded byNatascha Engel
Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families
In office
5 June 2009 – 11 May 2010
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Sec. of StateEd Balls
Preceded byBeverley Hughes
Succeeded bySarah Teather (Children and Families)
Minister of State for Public Health
In office
29 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Sec. of StateAlan Johnson
Preceded byCaroline Flint
Succeeded byGillian Merron
Paymaster General
In office
4 January 1999 – 28 June 2007
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byGeoffrey Robinson
Succeeded byTessa Jowell
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
2 May 1997 – 4 January 1999
Prime MinisterTony Blair
ChancellorGordon Brown
Preceded byMichael Jack
Succeeded byBarbara Roche
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
26 October 2015
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Bristol South
In office
11 June 1987 – 8 May 2015
Preceded byMichael Cocks
Succeeded byKarin Smyth
Personal details
Born (1954-05-02) 2 May 1954 (age 65)
London, United Kingdom
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Ian Ducat
Alma materUniversity of the West of England
University of Bristol

Early life and careerEdit

Born in London, Primarolo was raised in Crawley, West Sussex, where she attended Thomas Bennett comprehensive school.[5] She then studied at Bristol Polytechnic as a bookkeeper and legal secretary. Returning to London, in 1973 she joined the Labour Party whilst employed as a legal secretary in an east London Law Centre.[6]

After marrying, she moved back to Bristol to raise her son.[7] She then studied for a social science degree at Bristol Polytechnic, where she gained a BA (Hons). Whilst working, she then continued her studies at the University of Bristol, where she registered for a Ph.D research into women and housing. She did not finish the Ph.D, but was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 2016.[8]

Becoming involved in her local community, Primarolo belonged to various women’s groups and was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a founder member of Windmill Hill City Farm, and a school governor.[9]

Active in her local Labour Party, in 1985 she was elected to Avon County Council,[10] where she acted as vice chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee.

Parliamentary careerEdit

Primarolo was first elected to Parliament at the 1987 general election,[11] after the constituency party de-selected Michael Cocks, the sitting MP.[12] She gained attention in 1989 by asking Margaret Thatcher if the only hope for low-paid women was "to follow her example and find herself a wealthy husband". She was reading out a question on behalf of Ann Clwyd, at the time, who had "lost her voice".[13]

At the time she was first elected, Primarolo was considered to be on the hard left, but later became a New Labour loyalist,[14] leading Andrew Roth of The Guardian to say she has "changed from 'Red Dawn' to 'Rosy Pink'";[15] As part of this change, she shifted from support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the rise of which originally led her into politics, to voting for the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent.[16]


Primarolo has held the following positions:

  • 1992–1994: Opposition Spokesman for Health
  • 1994–1997: Opposition Spokesman for the Treasury
  • 1997–1999: Financial Secretary to the Treasury
  • 1999–2007: Paymaster General
  • 2007–2009: Minister of State for Public Health
  • 2009–2010: Minister of State Children and Young People

Despite campaigning against the first Gulf War in 1991, she voted in favour of the Iraq War in 2003, and against any investigation into the invasion after it had taken place.[14][17] On other 'key issues' (as described by TheyWorkForYou), she has voted in favour of ID cards and increased university tuition fees.[17]

As Paymaster General, Primarolo was responsible for the administration of the Tax Credits system, which was a system that contributed to raising millions of children out of poverty. However, the administration of this system received some criticism, including allegations that some families were left less well off as a result.[18] In 2003, a Treasury select committee member accused her of "losing control of [her] department"[19] after it became known that Inland Revenue buildings under Primarolo's purview had been sold to tax-haven companies.[19] This came shortly after she had "insisted ... the Child tax credit scheme was a 'success'", despite Inland Revenue staff walking out in protest against the pressure under which they were placed.[19][20] She was also responsible for introducing the controversial IR35 tax rules which were designed to tax "disguised employment" at a rate similar to employment. The measure was controversial as it was seen by some as unfair.[21][22] Primarolo was also the longest serving Paymaster General in the office's 200-year history.[23] Primarolo was named Chairman of the Code of Conduct Group upon its establishment by ECOFIN in March 1998.[24]

In 2005, PM Tony Blair was forced to apologise after a report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman that Primarolo had failed to give Parliament accurate information. Primarolo admitted at the same time that she had been fully aware "about the extent of the problems".[25]

As Minister of State for Public Health she was responsible for health improvement and health protection issues including such areas as tobacco, obesity, drugs and sexual health, as well as international business, pharmacy and research and development.[26]

On 5 June 2009 Primarolo was moved, this time succeeding Beverley Hughes as Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This gave her the right to attend cabinet when her responsibilities were on the agenda.[27]

Primarolo's abilities as a minister have been questioned, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealing in his autobiography A Journey that he did not think she was "right for government" but had to give her a job because she was one of Gordon Brown's key allies;[28] and political commentator Danny Finkelstein arguing that she was "contender no. 1" for title of "Labour's worst Minister".[29] Jonathan Powell, Blair's Chief of Staff, is reported as saying "We fired Dawn Primarolo about ten times. And each time Gordon (Brown) insisted we put her back."[30]

Deputy SpeakerEdit

Primarolo joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Children when Labour entered opposition in May 2010.[31] In June 2010 she became a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. In November 2011 she announced her intention to stand down from Parliament at the next general election.[1]

Primarolo was created a life peer taking the title Baroness Primarolo, of Windmill Hill in the City of Bristol on 26 October 2015.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Primarolo married UNISON regional secretary Ian Ducat in Bristol in 1990.[33] On 13 May 2007, it was alleged that John Reid "sexually harassed" Primarolo during her early years in Parliament.[34]


  1. ^ a b "Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo to stand down in 2015". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media Limited. 11 November 2011. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  2. ^ "No. 60895". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2014. p. b8.
  3. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours for Bristol people". BBC News. 14 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Dissolution Peerages 2015". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  5. ^ Wilce, Hilary. "An interview with Education Minister Dawn Primarolo". Early Years Magazine. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Tax Collector". Politico. 21 July 1999. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  7. ^ "Rt Hon Dame Dawn Primarolo". National Assembly for Wales. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  8. ^ "The Rt Hon. The Baroness Primarolo, DBE, PC". University of Bristol. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Dawn Primarolo MP". Bristol South Labour Party. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Children first". Guardian. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  11. ^ "The Rt Hon. The Baroness Primarolo, DBE, PC". University of Bristol. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  12. ^ Roth, Andrew (27 March 2001). "Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe". Guardian.
  13. ^ Parrish, Duncan (8 January 1999). "Instant Expert Kit - Dawn Primarolo". New Statesman. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  14. ^ a b Mp, Labour (21 October 2002). "Dawn Primarolo". BBC News. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Dawn Primarolo: Electoral history and profile". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  16. ^ Paul Barltrop (9 March 2007). "Pursuit of a politician". BBC News. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Dawn Primarolo MP, Bristol South". Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  18. ^ Citizens Advice Archived 7 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b c "Tax credit minister 'lost control'". BBC News. 1 July 2003. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Tax credits scandal". BBC News. 5 June 2003. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Fury at Primarolo IR35 stand". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  22. ^ "IR35 'confusion': Primarolo responds to Times". Contractor UK. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  23. ^ Ross, Philip (2012). Freedom to Freelance...The fight against IR35. p. 331. ISBN 9781471735752.
  24. ^ Taxation and Customs Union - Harmful tax competition - Code of Conduct
  25. ^ "Blair apologises for tax blunders". BBC News. 22 June 2005. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  26. ^ "The Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo MP". Department of Health. 30 April 2009. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  27. ^ "In full: Brown's new cabinet". BBC News. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  28. ^ "Tony Blair: Cherie shouldn't have bought flats in Bristol". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media Limited. 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 8 October 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  29. ^ Finkelstein, Daniel (16 June 2010). "Labour's worst minister: contender no. 1". The Times. Archived from the original on 21 August 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  30. ^ "The End of the Party" (Page 322) ISBN 978-0-670-91851-5, Andrew Rawnsley
  31. ^ "Lords Mandelson and Adonis leave shadow cabinet". BBC News. 21 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  32. ^ "No. 61395". The London Gazette. 30 October 2015. p. 21334.
  33. ^ "Marriages England and Wales 1984–2005". Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  34. ^ Simon Walters The day leadership rival John Reid propositioned the young Brown ally Dawn Primarolo – and never drank again Daily Mail, 13 May 2007

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Cocks
Member of Parliament for Bristol South
Succeeded by
Karin Smyth
Preceded by
Michael Lord
Second Deputy Chair of Ways and Means
Succeeded by
Natascha Engel
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Jack
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Barbara Roche
Preceded by
Geoffrey Robinson
Paymaster General
Succeeded by
Tessa Jowell
Preceded by
Caroline Flint
Minister of State for Public Health
Succeeded by
Gillian Merron
Preceded by
Beverley Hughes
Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families
Succeeded by
Sarah Teather
as Minister of State for Children and Families