George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock

George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock PC (born 21 January 1942) is a Scottish politician and life peer who served as Minister of State for Scotland from 2001 to 2002. A member of the Scottish Labour Party and Co-operative Party, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, formerly South Ayrshire, from 1979 to 2005. He was later a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), as one of the additional members for the Lothians region, from 2007 to 2011.

The Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Official portrait of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock crop 2, 2019.jpg
Foulkes in 2019
Minister of State for Scotland
In office
26 January 2001 – 29 May 2002
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byBrian Wilson
Succeeded byAnne McGuire
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development
In office
5 May 1997 – 26 January 2001
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byChris Mullin
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Lothians
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
3 May 2007 – 22 March 2011
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
16 June 2005
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley
South Ayrshire (1979–1983)
In office
3 May 1979 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byJim Sillars
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
George Foulkes

(1942-01-21) 21 January 1942 (age 79)
Oswestry, Shropshire, England
Political partyLabour and Co-operative
Elizabeth Anna Hope
(m. 1970)
Children2 sons, 1 daughter
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh

Born in Shropshire, Foulkes was educated at Keith Grammar School in Moray and privately at The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire and studied Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He served as President of the Scottish Union of Students before being elected to City of Edinburgh District Council and Lothian Regional Council. After unsuccessfully contesting Edinburgh West in 1970 and Edinburgh Pentlands in October 1974, he was elected for South Ayrshire at the 1979 general election and for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley at the 1983 general election following boundary changes.

Appointed to the Opposition frontbench in 1983, Foulkes served as a shadow Europe minister, shadow foreign and Commonwealth affairs minister and shadow defence minister respectively. He was forced to resign from the latter role in 1993, after striking a police officer and being convicted of being drunk and disorderly. He rejoined the frontbench in 1994 as a shadow overseas aid minister. After the Labour Party won the 1997 general election, he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to 2001, Minister of State for Scotland from 2001 to 2002 and a UK delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Assembly of the Western European Union from 2003 to 2005. He stepped down from Parliament at the 2005 general election.

Foulkes joined the House of Lords in June 2005 and was appointed to the Privy Council in July. Elected at the 2007 Scottish Parliament election on the Lothians regional list, he was critical of the conduct of the minority Scottish National Party (SNP) government and campaigned for presumed consent for organ donation. He stood down from the Scottish Parliament at the 2011 election. In the Lords, he continued to be loyal to the New Labour government and supported the ongoing Iraq War and proposals for mandatory identity cards. During the 2009 expenses controversy, he accused presenters who questioned MPs' expenses of undermining democracy. He was a critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for failing to tackle antisemitism in the party and made calls for Richard Leonard to resign as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Early life and careerEdit

Foulkes was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, and raised in Banffshire, later Moray, where he was educated at the state secondary Keith Grammar School. He later attended the independent, fee-paying Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Edinburgh, where he was Senior President of the Students' Representative Council in 1963. He later became the full-time President of the Scottish Union of Students, after which he was elected as a City of Edinburgh district councillor for the Sighthill ward and then as a member of Lothian Regional Council.[1]

House of CommonsEdit

Before gaining election to the House of Commons, Foulkes unsuccessfully contested Edinburgh West in 1970, being beaten by the Conservative Party candidate Anthony Stodart. In October 1974, he stood for Edinburgh Pentlands but was beaten by Malcolm Rifkind. He was first elected in the 1979 general election, as Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire. After the constituency's abolition in boundary changes, he was elected in the 1983 general election for the new constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

In 1981, Foulkes drafted a political bill called the "Control of Space Invaders (and other Electronic Games) Bill" in an attempt to ban the game for its "addictive properties" and for causing "deviancy". The bill was debated and only narrowly defeated in parliament by 114 to 94 votes.[2][3] He introduced the first-ever proposals for a smoking ban in public places in 1982 and legislation against age discrimination in 1985, both through private member's bills. A supporter of Scottish devolution, he was involved in the drafting of "A Claim of Right for Scotland" in 1988.

After serving on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Foulkes was appointed to the Opposition frontbench in 1983, serving as a shadow Europe minister and later a shadow foreign and Commonwealth affairs minister. In 1992, he was made Shadow Minister for Defence, Disarmament and Arms Control.[1] He was forced to resign in 1993, after being convicted of being drunk and disorderly during an incident in which he struck a police officer.[4] He returned to the frontbench in 1994, serving as deputy to Overseas Aid spokespersons Joan Lestor and Clare Short until 1997.[5]

When Labour won the general election in 1997, Foulkes was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the new Department for International Development. He was then Minister of State for Scotland from 2001 until a May 2002 cabinet reshuffle. From 2003 to 2005, he was a UK delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Assembly of the Western European Union. He stepped down from office at the 2005 general election.

House of LordsEdit

Foulkes in 2006

On 13 May 2005, it was announced that Foulkes was to receive a life peerage. On 16 June 2005, he was created Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, of Cumnock in East Ayrshire.[6] He was made a member of the Privy Council in July of that year.[1] He continued to be an "ultra loyalist" to the 1997–2010 Labour government.[7] He was a strong supporter of 2006 government proposals for mandatory identity cards.[8] He also continued to support the Iraq War and described Tony Blair's conduct of the war as clearly intentioned, carried through brilliantly and resulting in much improvement for the people of Iraq. Commenting on Sir Christopher Meyer's testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in 2009, he described the inquiry as "a procession of primadonnas and the usual suspects grandstanding for the TV".[9]

Official parliamentary portrait, 2017

Foulkes was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee in the Cabinet Office from 2007 to 2010 and the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy from 2010 to 2015. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Board of Governors of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Since March 2011, he has been a member of the Lords EU Select Committee and Lords EU Sub Committee on Social Policy and Consumer Protection.

Foulkes is very active on Caribbean matters, serving as president of the Caribbean Council, chair of the Belize and Dominican Republic All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), and vice-chair of the Trinidad and Tobago and British–Central America APPGs. He is also a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[10]

In April 2008, Foulkes was criticised for his expenses claims, which included around £45,000 over a period of two years for overnight subsistence to stay in a flat he had inherited. Between April 2007 and March 2008, he claimed £54,527 in expenses from the House of Lords but, in January 2009, was shown to have one of the lowest expenses claims in the Scottish Parliament.[7][11][12] During the 2009 expenses controversy, he attacked media presenters in an exchange with the BBC's Carrie Gracie. He said some presenters, such as Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys, were being paid to "sneer at democracy and undermine democracy".[13] However, in August 2009, Foulkes made a series of Freedom of Information requests about the expenses of retiring British Army head General Sir Richard Dannatt. He was accused by Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox of leading a New Labour smear campaign.[14]

Foulkes was one of the fifty signatories to a letter published in the Guardian in 2010, which called for Pope Benedict XVI not to be given a state visit to the UK, and accused the Catholic Church of increasing the spread of Aids and promoting segregated education.[15] On 24 August 2011, The Scotsman reported that he had announced he would table an amendment to the Scotland Bill with the intention to make it impossible for the Scottish Government to sustain free university education for students in Scotland.[16] On 2 February 2012, he tabled a motion calling for the Scottish independence referendum to contain no extra question on increased devolution, and proposing a separate referendum be held on the subject in the event independence were rejected and Scotland voted to stay in the UK.[17]

Foulkes in July 2019 was among 67 Labour peers to lend their names to an unauthorised advertisement in The Guardian which criticised Jeremy Corbyn for failing to effectively tackle antisemitism in the party.[18] In August, he said Richard Leonard and Lesley Laird should resign as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party respectively, accusing Leonard of having "no charisma and no leadership credentials" and saying "almost anyone would be better" than Laird.[19] He repeated calls for Leonard to resign in July 2020.[20]

Scottish ParliamentEdit

Foulkes returned to electoral politics in 2007 when he was first on Scottish Labour's Lothians regional list in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. He appeared in place of leader Jack McConnell on a February 2007 Question Time special and accused Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond of acting in a "xenophobic way" for saying Gordon Brown was an example of "London Labour".[21] Former Scottish Labour leader Henry McLeish joined others calling on Foulkes to apologise for the claim.[22] He was elected as a Member of the Scottish Parliament on 3 May 2007. After his election, he appeared on the BBC's Scotland at Ten radio program and criticised the SNP for "trying to build up a situation in Scotland where the services are manifestly better than south of the border in a number of areas" in an interview. When asked by presenter Colin Mackay "Is that a bad thing?", Foulkes responded, "No, but they are doing it deliberately."[23]

In the Scottish Parliament, Foulkes was part of Labour's opposition to the minority SNP government, regularly tabling parliamentary questions scrutinising the Scottish Government's conduct. He highlighted several supposed irregularities, including the taxpayer-funded entertaining of wealthy SNP backers at Bute House and preferential treatment for Stagecoach in the Forth hovercraft project, after their co-founder Brian Souter donated £500,000 to the SNP.[24][25] Foulkes became a target of criticism by SNP bloggers, whom he branded "Cybernats".[26][27] He was also part of a campaign for presumed consent on organ donation.[28]

Foulkes did not seek re-election in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, with the Lothian list instead returning Sarah Boyack, Neil Findlay and Kezia Dugdale. Dugdale had previously served as his constituency agent and would go on to become Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.[29][30]

Personal lifeEdit

Foulkes married his wife Elizabeth Anna Hope in 1970 and they have two sons and one daughter together.[31] He was chairman of Heart of Midlothian football club from April 2004 until his resignation in October 2005. He resigned in protest at the majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov dismissing Hearts chief executive Phil Anderton.[32] He later failed to be elected Rector of the University of Edinburgh on 12 February 2009, securing 31% of the vote to the 69% taken by Iain Macwhirter.[33]


  1. ^ a b c "Rt Hon George Foulkes MSP". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2020.
  2. ^ "30 Great Gaming World Records". Computer and Video Games. 14 February 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  3. ^ "Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games".
  4. ^ Mp, Labour (18 October 2002). "George Foulkes". BBC News. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  5. ^ Duff, Oliver (22 January 2007). "Baron Zebedee should have a spring in his step". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  6. ^ "No. 57681". The London Gazette. 22 June 2005. p. 8113.
  7. ^ a b Peterkin, Tom (28 December 2008). "Lord Foulkes caught in £54,000 expenses row". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh: Johnston Press. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  8. ^ Treneman, Ann (16 November 2005). "To ID cards and back – via Caracas". Times Online. London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  9. ^ Newsnight (26 November 2009)
  10. ^ "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  11. ^ Hutcheon, Paul (26 April 2008). "Foulkes claimed £45,000 to stay in own London flat". Sunday Herald. Newsquest (Sunday Herald). Retrieved 2 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Maddox, David. "Toilet paper adds to MSPs' £10m expenses". Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  13. ^ "Peer turns fire on BBC presenter". BBC News. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  14. ^ Kirkup, James (20 August 2009). "Lord Foulkes requested information about General Sir Richard Dannatt's spending". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 9 January 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  15. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  16. ^ David Maddox (24 August 2011). "Peer's bid to outlaw fees for English students only". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2011 – via Highbeam.
  17. ^ "Scottish independence referendum: two-ballot referendum proposed by Labour peer". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 2 February 2012.
  18. ^ "'This is your legacy Mr Corbyn': 67 Labour peers' advert on antisemitism". LabourList. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Scottish Labour registers lowest level of income in nearly two decades". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Labour peer urges Richard Leonard to put his party first - and resign". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  21. ^ "Foulkes attack draws SNP rebuff". BBC News. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Foulkes snubs McLeish's call to apologise for SNP 'racism' claim". The Scotsman. Edinburgh: Johnston Press. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  23. ^ "Scottish Labour must stop treating nationalism as a virus to be cured". New Statesman. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  24. ^ Evans, Elisabeth (19 November 2007). "Salmond under scrutiny for costly dinners". The Journal. The Edinburgh Journal. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  25. ^ "Row After Forth Hovercraft Plan Shelved". Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  26. ^ "Cybernats and cyberbrits: How do they affect mainstream political debate?". STV. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  27. ^ "Labour MP calls for independence supporters to be barred from debates". 24 January 2014. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  28. ^ Swanson, Ian (3 November 2007). "SNP 'can lead UK in opt-out organ donation'". Edinburgh Evening News. Johnston Press. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  29. ^ "Foulkes to quit Holyrood for Lords". The Herald. Glasgow. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
  30. ^ "Kezia Dugdale: Mentor urges her to consider comeback as leader". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  31. ^ "BBC NEWS | VOTE 2001 | CANDIDATES". Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  32. ^ "Foulkes brands Romanov a dictator". BBC News. 1 November 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  33. ^ "Iain Macwhirter chosen as Edinburgh's 50th Rector". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 3 October 2019.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Sillars
Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Tyler
Baron Foulkes of Cumnock
Followed by
The Lord Hamilton of Epsom