Frank Field (British politician)
Frank Ernest Field Member of Parliament (MP) for Birkenhead from 1979 to 2019, serving as a Labour Party MP until August 2018 and thereafter as an Independent, later forming the Birkenhead Social Justice party.(born 16 July 1942) is a British politician who was the
|Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee|
18 June 2015 – 6 November 2019
|Preceded by||Dame Anne Begg|
|Succeeded by||Stephen Timms|
|Minister for Welfare Reform|
2 May 1997 – 28 July 1998
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Peter Lilley|
|Succeeded by||John Denham|
|Member of Parliament|
3 May 1979 – 6 November 2019
|Preceded by||Edmund Dell|
|Succeeded by||Mick Whitley|
|Born||16 July 1942|
Edmonton, Middlesex, England
|Political party||Birkenhead Social Justice (2019–present)|
|Alma mater||University of Hull|
From 1997 to 1998, Field served as the Minister of Welfare Reform in Tony Blair's government. Field resigned following differences with the Prime Minister, and as a backbencher soon became one of the Labour government's most vocal critics.
In August 2018, he resigned the Labour whip citing anti-semitism in the party, and a "culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation" in parts of the party, including in his own constituency. Field lost a confidence vote in his constituency party a month before his resignation, after siding with the government in Brexit votes. His resignation of the whip also led to his departure from the wider membership of the Labour party, according to the Labour National Executive Committee, although Field disputes this.
Field was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, on 16 July 1942, the second of three sons. His father was a labourer at the Morgan Crucible Company's factory in Battersea, and his mother a teaching assistant. His parents were Conservatives "who believed in character and pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps".
Field was educated at St Clement Danes School, then in Hammersmith, before studying economics at the University of Hull. In his youth he was a member of the Conservative Party, but left in 1960 because of his opposition to apartheid in South Africa and joined the Labour Party. In 1964, he became a further education teacher in Southwark and Hammersmith.
Field served as a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow from 1964 to 1968. He was Director of the Child Poverty Action Group from 1969 to 1979, and of the Low Pay Unit from 1974 to 1980.
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 remained the constituency's MP until November 2019.
In Parliament, Field was made a member of the Opposition frontbench by the 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 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 Major went on to become Prime Minister.
Minister for Welfare ReformEdit
Following the 1997 election, with Labour now in power, Field joined the government led by Tony Blair as its Minister for Welfare Reform, working in the Department of Social Security (DSS). Blair has said Field's mission was to "think the unthinkable".
Field thought that the state should only play a small direct role in the provision of welfare and he disliked means-testing and non-contributory entitlement to benefits, which he believed should only be received after claimants had joined Continental-style social insurance schemes or mutual organisations such as friendly societies. There were clashes with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, and the Secretary of State for Social Security, Harriet Harman – the Treasury was concerned about costs, while Brown himself was in favour of the poor being entitled to working-age benefits without having first paid National Insurance contributions. According to The Guardian, Field resigned his ministerial position in July 1998 rather than accept a move away from the DSS as part of a wider reshuffle; the newspaper suggested at the time that Blair had been "disappointed" by Field's ideas for welfare reform. Harriet Harman also returned to the backbenches. In his autobiography, Blair wrote about Field:
The problem was not so much that his thoughts were unthinkable as unfathomable.
The following year, Downing Street briefed the press that "harsh and authoritarian" measures were in store for welfare recipients and plans were made to abolish the DSS.
At the end of Blair's second term of office, the BBC reviewed his record on welfare reform up to that point:
Thinking the unthinkable on the welfare state has been one of the New Labour mantras since before the party was elected in 1997. So it has been a disappointment [...] that, eight years later, the thinking has still to produce any concrete results.
The welfare reform most closely associated with Blair was not introduced for a further three years: the replacement of Incapacity Benefit (IB) by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The think-tank Reform, on whose advisory board Field sits, said in its 2016 report on changes to out-of-work sickness benefits that ESA had "replicated many of the problems of IB" and had therefore "failed to achieve its objective".
Return to the backbenchesEdit
After leaving ministerial office, Field continued with his duties as an MP and joined the ecclesiastical and the public accounts select committees in the House of Commons.
From the backbenches, he was a vocal critic of the government, voting against Foundation Hospitals in November 2003. In May 2008, he was a significant critic of the abolition of the 10p tax rate and this led to Field describing Prime Minister Gordon Brown as "unhappy inside his own body". He later apologised in parliament for the personal attack. In June 2008, Field joined calls for the establishment of a devolved parliament for England.
On 8 June 2009, Field wrote in his 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 MPs to back Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt's calls for a secret ballot of the Parliamentary Labour Party on the leadership of Gordon Brown. The ballot could have led to a leadership contest.
In May 2009 Field announced his candidature for Speaker of the House of Commons, but later withdrew his candidature, citing lack of support from within his own party. John Bercow was elected as the new Speaker.
In the 2010 general election Field retained his Birkenhead seat with an increased majority. In June 2010 he was appointed by David Cameron's coalition government to head an independent review into poverty, which proposed adopting a new measure centred around life-chance indicators and increasing funding for early years education. In an interview in September 2012, Field considered the government to have ignored his report, saying "nothing had been done about it" and that it was "very disappointing".
In October 2013, along with Laura Sandys, Field established the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger and Food Poverty, which he went on to chair. He also chaired a parliamentary inquiry into hunger commissioned by the APPG which reported in December 2014. Field became the chair of trustees of Feeding Britain, a charitable organisation set up in October 2015 to implement the recommendations made by the APPG.
Following the 2015 general election, it was announced in June 2015 that he had been elected to the chairmanship of the Work and Pensions Select Committee. He was re-elected unopposed to the role following the 2017 general election.
Field nominated Jeremy Corbyn as a candidate in the Labour leadership election of 2015, stating that while he did not think Corbyn could win a general election, he hoped his candidature would force the party to confront its 'deficit denial'.
In June 2016, Field wrote in The Guardian that he supported Brexit, emphasising the need to control immigration due to it creating excessive demands on public services, roads and housing stock. He argued the EU model suited big businesses who wanted cheap labour, and supported agricultural interests creating high prices for food, rather than families. The Liverpool Echo has reported that Field is "a long-time Brexiteer".
In December 2017, during a debate on Universal Credit, Field described the impact that Universal Credit changes had had on his constituents. His observations moved Work and Pensions Select Committee member Heidi Allen to tears. Field spoke of how he had talked a man out of suicide and how one claimant felt "lucky" his family was invited to eat food leftovers from a funeral.
Resignation of the Labour whipEdit
On 17 July 2018, a vote was held on a rebel amendment to a trade bill, which aimed to force the British government to join a customs union with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann, and Graham Stringer were the only Labour MPs to oppose the amendment, which was lost by 307 votes to 301. Field lost a confidence vote in his constituency, after siding with the government in these Brexit votes. On 30 August 2018, Field resigned the Labour whip because, he said, Labour was "increasingly seen as a racist party" and due to the "culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation" in parts of the party, including his own constituency. Some commentators suggested that he had "jumped before he was pushed."
He described himself as an "independent Labour MP". Field said that he would not trigger a by-election and would remain an MP. However, on 2 August 2019 he announced that he was forming a new party, the Birkenhead Social Justice Party.
Field voted for Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal in the "meaningful vote" on 15 January 2019, which May lost. Subsequently, Field voted for the Conservative party-supported Brady amendment calling on the Government to renegotiate the Northern Ireland backstop part of the deal, and abstained on the Labour party-supported Cooper-Boles amendment to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Birkenhead Social Justice PartyEdit
In August 2019, Field stated that he would stand in the next general election as a candidate for a newly-formed Birkenhead Social Justice Party. The party stated that it would stand on a social justice, localist, and pro-Brexit platform.
Awards and honoursEdit
In March 2015, Field was awarded the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Honouree for the co-founding of environmental organisation Cool Earth, a charity that works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction as a bottom-up solution to an ageing problem.
Field's political stance has been somewhat at odds with that of the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and he has embraced more social conservative ideas ("faith, family and flag") associated with Blue Labour. He is a member of the advisory board of Reform and of the generally conservative but also "broad church" 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."
In 1999, based on his belief that Britain should find a sustainable non-political way to fund retirement, Field helped set up the Pension Reform Group, which promotes the Universal Protected Pension as the best means to reform pensions.
Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success. In 2008, Field was named as the 100th-most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by The Daily Telegraph. 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. In May 2010, Field endorsed Ed Miliband to become leader of the Labour Party to replace Gordon Brown.
Field believes strongly in fighting climate change. 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. Field was the instigator of the idea of a global Commonwealth network of protected forests, though he failed to raise political interest for a number of years; when the Queen came to hear of the idea she supported it enthusiastically, and the initiative was launched as the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy in 2015.
In 2010 he chaired the Liverpool City Region Poverty and Life Chances Commission to create a new strategy for the Government in order to abolish child poverty.
Field believes in reducing the time-limit within which women can have an abortion, and in stripping abortion providers such as Marie Stopes of their counselling role and handing it to organisations not linked to abortion clinics. With the Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, he has been vocal in two defeated attempts to legislate for such a reform in Parliament. He was a prominent Eurosceptic within the Labour Party, and declared on 20 February 2016 that he would campaign to leave the EU. In January 2019, the supporters page of the Labour Leave website listed only two MPs, Labour's Kate Hoey and Field.
Field is an active member of the Church of England, a former chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust and a member of the Church of England General Synod. Field's political and religious views are most clearly expressed in his book Neighbours From Hell where he discusses what might replace the "largely beneficial effect" of evangelical Christianity. Between 2005 and 2015, Field was chairman of the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England – the national body that controls the care, conservation and repair or development of cathedrals. In 2007 he was appointed as chairman of the 2011 King James Bible Trust, which was established to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Field has never married and has described himself, because of that, as incomplete. He is said by friends, however, to have "a full life outside politics".
- 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
- Working Welfare: Contributory Benefits, the Moral Economy and the New Politics by Frank Field, 2013, Politeia, ISBN 978-09926340-1-8
- "Chair nominations for Work and Pensions Committee". Parliament.uk. 7 July 2017. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
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- Aida Edemariam (3 July 2010). "Frank Field: 'Labour has always been conservative' | Politics". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2010.
- Rayner, Jay (2 July 2006). "Frank Field: Still thinking the unthinkable". The Observer. London. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2007.
- Field, Frank (8 December 2016). "2: The Dangers of Forgetting". In Miller, John (ed.). Speaking of Faith. Canterbury Press. pp. 20–39. ISBN 978-1-84825-920-1.
- "Profile: A holy man in a wicked world: Frank Field, maverick champion". The Independent. Archived from the original on 30 August 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
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- Michael White "Blair balances the power", Archived 2 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian, 28 July 1998
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- "Blair thinks the unthinkable?". BBC. 2 February 2005.
- "Working welfare: a radically new approach to sickness and disability benefits" (PDF). Reform. February 2016. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 February 2016.
- "Frank Field: Frank – but so sorry". The Independent. London. 18 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008.
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- "Where do Labour MPs stand on call for leadership ballot". BBC News. 6 January 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
- Merrick, Bob (21 May 2009). "Wirral MP Frank Field keen to lead reform as new Speaker". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 26 May 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
- Watt, Nicholas (4 June 2010). "Frank Field to lead independent review into poverty in Britain". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- Wintour, Patrick (2 December 2010). "Frank Field's poverty report challenges 'welfare state sacred cows'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- "Review on Poverty and Life Chances". Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- Field, Frank (2010). The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults (PDF). HM Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2011.
- Gentleman, Amelia (23 September 2012). "Poverty tsar Frank Field plans own pilot project after coalition 'ignores report'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- Butler, Patrick (7 December 2014). "'Confront simple fact hunger stalks Britain' urges church-funded report". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 11 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- "Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland" (PDF). 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 November 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- "About us – Feeding Britain". Feeding Britain. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
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- "Who nominated who for the 2015 Labour leadership election?". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
- Field, Frank (23 July 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership contest". Archived from the original on 1 June 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
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- "Abortion and the 'Right to Know' – or, why we should link to our sources". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 March 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "Frank Field: Why I joined Nadine Dorries to reform abortion counselling laws". Liverpool Echo. 6 September 2011. Archived from the original on 4 December 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Quinn, Ben; Curtis, Polly; Stratton, Allegra (2 September 2011). "Anti-abortion bid in disarray as critics rally". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
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- Field, Frank (10 May 2007). "6: Building on the Past". In Chartres, Caroline (ed.). Why I am Still an Anglican. Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-8312-6.
- Neighbours from Hell, page 8
- "Dame Fiona Reynolds to be Chair of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England". Cross Keys Magazine. Archived from the original on 17 December 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
- "Patron & Trustees of the King James Bible Trust : King James Bible Trust". beta.kingjamesbibletrust.org.websitelive.net. Archived from the original on 17 December 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
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- Frank Field MP official site
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- ePolitix.com – Frank Field MP
- Guardian Unlimited Politics – Ask Aristotle: Frank Field MP
- Frank Field MP, Grassroot Diplomat
- BBC News – Frank Field MP profile 14 February 2005
- Cool Earth
- BBC Radio 4 Profile
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Birkenhead